Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Golden Rule Among the Ancient Greeks: Isocrates Struggling against Vergeltungsdenken

AS WE NOTED IN OUR LAST POSTING, THE GREEKS WERE ENCUMBERED by a particularly strong social inheritance of Vergeltungsdenken, "repayment thinking." Their culture is not the only one that suffered from it; it is rather common corruption in the moral make up of man. Indeed, it was found alive and well in Palestine well after Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle engaged with it in battle in ancient Greece. Jesus himself mentions this common, popular norm of morality only to reject it: "You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust." Matt. 5:43-44.

But the Word of God made flesh did not walk about in ancient Athens or Sparta to combat their Vergeltungsdenken. But there did come a time where the Greeks, using reason, questioned their cultural and religious inheritances, and the values they presupposed. All things were subjected to the reasoning, the Socratic method of unremitting questioning (elenchus) by the Philosopher. The writings of the poets, in particular Homer, were considered quasi-scriptural. Positively, the Greeks had the system builders Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle who, though critical of convention, believed that reason, at least in a limited way, could come to grips with objective truth. Negatively, the Greeks had the relativistic attackers of conventional morality: the Cynics and their cousins, the Sophists. Though both Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, in their way, and the Sophists, in their way, tried to overcome or at least challenge the popular Vergeltungsdenken, their influence was insufficient to fully reverse the moral inertia they faced. As Jeffrey Wattles summarizes Albrecht Dihle's view of it in Die Goldene Regel, despite some success at ameliorating the worst of this ethic, "the Greek golden rule remained captive to repayment thinking." Wattles, 197, n. 5.

The Sophists are painted poorly by Socrates and Plato. Their insights (for example their distinction between law as convention, nomos, and nature, physis) were poisoned by their relativist ethic founded on a skeptical view of the world. They distinguished between convention and nature, and so contributed to progress in the notion of the natural moral law, but their rejection of objective truth, and their dishonesty with words, is what makes even today the term "sophistry" full of negative connotations:
But all was false and hollow; though his tongue
Dropp’d manna, and could make the worse appear
The better reason, to perplex and dash
Maturest counsels.
So Milton, in his Paradise Lost (II.112). There is a certain irony, then, the Golden Rule was first ushered into the Greek intellectual scene by the Sophist Isocrates (436-335 B.C.). It was Isocrates "who, more than anyone else, was responsible for the burst of golden rule thinking that entered the fourth-century Greek culture." Wattles, 27.

Not particularly convincingly, Wattles suggests that there are glimmers of the Golden Rule in Calypso's promise to Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey [V.184-91[, in Thales's teachings as found in Diogenes Laertius [Lives, IX.1], and in the story of King Maendrius of Samos in Herodotus [III, c. 142]. But the first seems an individual promise, not a general principle of morality. The second appears to be an injunction against hypocrisy, and not a rule of behavior in the treatment of others. The last appears to be an expedient political principle, less moral than civil or political in nature.

Bust of Isocrates (Pushkin Museum)

The great sophist rhetorician and son of a flute maker, Isocrates (436-338 B.C.), appears, at least superficially, an exception. Isocrates enunciates the Golden Rule ethic implicitly in various of his works, including the Agineticus (Αιγινητικός), To Demonicus (Πρὸς Δημόνικον), and To Nicocles (Πρὸς Νικόκλεα). In one of his works in particular, his Nicocles or the Cyprians (Νικόκλης ἢ Κύπριοι), the formulation of the rule is particularly strong. But these should be understood within their context and in light of his master work, the Panegyricus published circa 380 B.C. Read as a whole, one has to agree with an early commentator and translator of Isocrates's works, J. H. Freese, made in reference to Isocrates's To Demonicus, but which is equally true of Isocrates's works as a whole.
[T]he standard of morality--at times not a very lofty one but curiously mixed-- adopted by the author, which may be assumed to have been at least on a level with the average standard of the age. Sagacious and worldly reflections worthy of Lord Chesterfield stand side by side with the precepts of an exalted morality
The Orations of Isocrates, J. H. Freese, trans. (London: Forge Bell & Sons, 1894), 2. In other words, Isocrates the Sophist may, from a moral standpoint, be too practical to be ideal.

Aegineticus: At the close of his argument to the jury in his Aegineticus Isocrates pleads the jurors before whom he argues, τῶν ἄλλων τῶν εἰρημένων τὰ δίκαια ψηφίσασθαι, καὶ τοιούτους μοι γενέσθαι δικαστάς, οἵων περ ἂν αὐτοὶ τυχεῖν ἀξιώσαιτε, "to give a just verdict, and prove yourselves to be for me such judges as you would want to have for yourselves." (George Norlin, trans.) Isocrates, Aegineticus, 51. Though limited to the external forum of a lawsuit, the plea sounds very like at least a shade of the principle behind the Golden Rule.

To Demonicus: This speech, which appears to be a moral exordium of sorts, is addressed to the Cyprian Demonicus, son of Hipponicus. Amidst, his hotchpotch of advice and moral maxims, Isocrates makes the following statement.
Conduct yourself toward your parents as you would have your children conduct themselves toward you.

τοιοῦτος γίγνου περὶ τοὺς γονεῖς, οἵους ἂν εὔξαιο περὶ σεαυτὸν γενέσθαι τοὺς σεαυτοῦ παῖδας.
To Demonicus, 14. (George Norlin, trans.)

To Nicocles:, This oration was given in honor of Nicocles, son of the King of Salamis Cyprus, Evagoras. It aims at giving advice to the prince who would be king regarding the duties of a monarch to his subjects. Here, Isocrates extends beyond the familial economy and the relationship between parent and child, to the larger forum of relationships between states.
Whatever advice you would give to your children, consent to follow it yourself.

μιμοῦ τὰς πράξεις. ἃ τοῖς αὑτοῦ παισὶν ἂν συμβουλεύσειας.

Deal with weaker states as you would expect stronger states to deal with you.

οὕτως ὁμίλει τῶν πόλεων πρὸς τὰς ἥττους, ὥσπερ ἂν τὰς κρείττους πρὸς ἑαυτὸν ἀξιώσειας.
To Nicocles, 38, 24. (George Norlin, trans.)

Perhaps the strongest phrasing of the Golden Rule is in Isocrates's Nicocles or the Cyprians. This is a speech aimed at the aristocracy of Cyprus, apparently following the accession of Nicocles to the thrown of that island. Its purpose is, in a sense, the opposite of the earlier speech, as it seeks to give advice to the subjects in their relationship to their king.
Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you. Practice nothing in your deeds for which you condemn others in your words.

ἃ πάσχοντες ὑφ᾽ ἑτέρων ὀργίζεσθε, ταῦτα τοὺς ἄλλους μὴ ποιεῖτε. περὶ ὧν ἂν ἐν τοῖς λόγοις κατηγορῆτε, μηδὲν τούτων ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις ἐπιτηδεύετε.
Nicocles or the Cyprians, 61. (George Norlin, trans.)

The Good Samaritan by Jean-Francois Millet


Wrested from their context, these maxims appear to advance noble thoughts, but Isocrates's moral advice also seems at time shallow and opportunistic. As a whole, as a moral teacher, Isocrates pales before the sages Confucius and the Buddha, and the religious leader Rabbi Hillel, and, a fortiori, the Man-God Jesus. One perceives the truth of Wattles's observation regarding the Golden Rule:
Since the golden rule does not specify a particular moral standard, it can consort with social conventions whose mediocrity will evident only to a later age or another culture.
Wattles, 27. The Golden Rule requires a companion or corollary foundation, either in virtue and rite (such as in Confucianism), or upon a sort of moral idealism, reason, or friendship (as in Plato or Aristotle and the Stoics), or upon Scripture (as in Hillel's formulation or in example, as in Christ). This quality of the Golden Rule also explains why the liberal philosopher John Rawls's (1921-2002) formulation of the Golden Rule (his "veil of ignorance" theory) can lead him blindly to believe that abortion falls within his version of the rule. Abortion, it may be observed, is a reassertion of the Vergeltungsdenken ethic. In this instance, the fetus is being viewed as an "enemy" which therefore allows harm to be done to it. The fetus is an "enemy" that threatens the convenience or whatever other good or apparent good the mother (or anyone else which is putting pressure on her to made the decision, including a culture that has invested too much in a sexual revolution and seeks to avoid the natural social costs of such lack of strictures on sexual behavior) seeks to advance.

Finally, let us turn to Isocrates's Panegyricus. This political speech to be given within the context of a great public festival (hence the name, Panegyreis = public festival) was designed to persuade the warring Greek city-states, at a time when Sparta and Athens and their allies were at odds, to unify against their common Persian enemy. During the course of his speech, Isocrates praises the great statesmen of Athens who, in the exercise of their power held back their hand against the weaker, and he praises that virtue in terms clearly redolent of a "Golden Rule" ethic:
[T]hey exulted less in the exercise of power than they gloried in living with self-control, thinking it their duty to feel toward the weaker as they expected the stronger to feel toward themselves.

οὐχ οὕτως ἐπὶ ταῖς δυναστείαις μέγα φρονοῦντες, ὡς ἐπὶ τῷ σωφρόνως ζῆν φιλοτιμούμενοι, τὴν αὐτὴν ἀξιοῦντες γνώμην ἔχειν πρὸς τοὺς ἥττους ἥνπερ τοὺς κρείττους πρὸς σφᾶς αὐτούς.
Panegyricus, 81 (George Norlin, trans.)

While Isocrates applies a "Golden Rule" type thinking to praise the Athenians in the exercise of their political power over the other Greek poleis, one must keep in mind the context of his speech. That very context suggests that the moral principle he advises is limited by his intense parochialism, albeit one that looks beyond the polis of Athens and the polis of Sparta, or any other Greek polis, and advocates a larger pan-Hellenism. "I am here," he says, "to advise you concerning war against the barbarians, and harmony among ourselves." Panegyricus, 3. In other words, his Golden Rule applies within Hellas, but not outside of it. In this sense, Isocrates's formulation of the Golden Rule is as limited as any Golden Rule may be within traditional or fundamentalist Islam, which distinguishes between the moral treatment of the Muslim, the "People of the Book" (the ′Ahl al-Kitāb أهل الكتاب‎), and those outside those two categories.

In summary, if one expects to find a "Golden Rule" in any real sense in Isocrates, one will be disappointed. At best, we have a "blending of the golden rule with the pursuit of personal or factional advantage." Wattles, 31. We should remember, further, in assessing Isocrates, that he is comrade to sophists Callicles and Thrasymachus, who (in Plato's dialogue Gorgias and the first book of his Republic) advanced the rule law of might over right, which is nothing but amoralism. One wonders if such an ethic, though remaining suppressed in his speeches on the grounds of rhetoric, may not have been present in the heart of hearts of Isocrates. For the Greeks, any real effort at overcoming the Vergeltungsdenken, "repayment thinking" must wait until Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and even there, such teaching is fraught with inconsistency.

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell

22 comments:

  1. First off, I would like to mention, and for your consideration, that the this Greek Vergeltungsdenken is akin to the "Eye for Eye, Tooth for Tooth, Life for Life" saying. I think what Dihle/Wattles conception is synonymous with "Eye for an Eye" methodology of Justice.

    That is Justice. This is also the idea of the Asian Indian "Karma".

    That is the basic meaning of Justice. This is true Justice. It is from the Code of Hammurabi, that was absorbed by the Hebrews and is in the OT! "Eye for an Eye" is part of Scripture and is okayed by the Holy Spirit. It is there and there is nothing essentially wrong with it.

    Again, this is Dikaios--Righteousness. That if someone took my eye, the only way of recompense is to take his eye. I am NOT allowed to take his leg, his hand or his life. The measure taken must be the same measure requited. It is the basis of righteousness. The Same measure.I see an affinity between the two.

    Second, I have run up against this in my reading of Greek Classical texts many times especially in Xenophon on his writings of the Spartans. Their whole "Political" (modern sense of politics, not the ancient meaning of sociological, or society) was based on that.

    I didn't see that as "repayment" at all. It was based on Trust and Loyalty and In a sense of payback, or reward to friends for their support. That people could trust Spartans in their political dealings. From what I get from Dihle and Wattles is maybe a hint of revenge theory which I don't see in Greek society. Friendship was rewarded. In one Spartan dealings with a Persian Prince, the Spartan reiterates that command. But then the Persian Prince betrays that trust and then becomes an enemy. An enemy is to be treated as an enemy and the Prince's countryside was wasted. If the Prince showed a sign of friendship, all was forgiven, and the deepest loyalty was shown by the Spartans to that. One can see that in the Anabasis of Xenophon where the Greek Mercenary force showed great loyalty to Cyrus.

    This Vergeltungsdenken is just what "basic" justice is.

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  2. The first rule of philosophy is that "Truth does not counterdict Truth". What may be hinted in these posts is that "Eye for an Eye" is wrong and the Golden Rule nullifies that.

    "Eye for an Eye" is also, I would think, part of the Natural Moral Law! If it is a Truth, and the first Truth, It can not be nullified. Truth is always the Truth. The Golden Rule is about common decency not about "Justice" in a sense.

    Both "Eye for an Eye", Vergeltungsdenken, is a Truth and the Golden Rule is a Truth. They do not counterdict each other. One is not to be exaggerated over another, or to the exclusion of the other. There is to be a harmony, a golden mean between the two.

    In talking philosophy, doing philosophy, we must always be cognizant of the first Rule "Truth does not counterdict Truth".

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  3. On the "Greeks should rule Barbarians".

    In a previous post, I quoted Cicero who said, which is part of the Natural Law, "The Better should rule the worse". This is the Natural Law. Again, "Truth does not counterdict Truth". Going to extremes, is not the path of knowing Truth. The Golden Rule of the Natural Moral Law, does not countermand the Natural Law! I don't think this is right. The Golden Rule has no say over Reality.

    Again, going to the system/principle of Macrocosm/microcosm. If the better is NOT to rule the worse, then our appetites should have equal say over our reason? Should it not? Is not the whole of Greek Socratic/Platonic/Aristotelian philosophy based on having "Reason ruling the Appetites"? Then, the Better, which is Reason, should rule over the Appettites, which is the worse. Then, in the system of the Natural Law of Macrocosm/Microcosm, the Better, which are the Greeks, should rule over the Barbarians, such as a Man should rule over Woman, Parents over children, Master over slaves, God over Man.

    Aristotle writes that "All things are EITHER in Authority or in Subjection". All Things. What I think you are intimating in the first post of this series is that the Golden Rule nullifies this most basic of the Natural Laws, that of "Authority/Subjection".

    Nature will have her way. This can not be nullified and God does not nullify himself! God created the Natural Law and then God, can not, nullify later, himself by countermanding what he has commanded before!

    If you think that Man and Woman are equal, Nature does not allow that. Either Man rules or Woman Rules. Either you have Patriarchy or Matriarchy--but Nature DOES NOT allow an in-between! If you disallow a true aristocracy in a society, Nature will create a psuedo-aristocracy in its place. There will always be an authority. There can not be any sharing between Reason, and the Appetites. One must rule the Other.

    The Golden Rule does not nullify "Authority/Subjection", the Ruling of the Better over the Worse. Aristotle writes, "there is ALWAYS found a ruling and a subject factor". (Politics, I, ii, 9; 1251a 30; Loeb, pg 19) If man negates that, Nature recreates another.

    Self-government is always a sign of superiorness over autocracy. Greek Military prowess and fighting abilities combined with their self-government showed their superior abilities over their barbarians that had none of this. The Best should rule over the worse. It is Righteousness (the word "meet" conveys that in the English translation). The Golden Rule does not negate Righteousness. Truth does not counterdict Truth.

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  4. On the "Greeks should rule Barbarians".

    In a previous post, I quoted Cicero who said, which is part of the Natural Law, "The Better should rule the worse". This is the Natural Law. Again, "Truth does not counterdict Truth". Going to extremes, is not the path of knowing Truth. The Golden Rule of the Natural Moral Law, does not countermand the Natural Law! I don't think this is right. The Golden Rule has no say over Reality.

    Again, going to the system/principle of Macrocosm/microcosm. If the better is NOT to rule the worse, then our appetites should have equal say over our reason? Should it not? Is not the whole of Greek Socratic/Platonic/Aristotelian philosophy based on having "Reason ruling the Appetites"? Then, the Better, which is Reason, should rule over the Appettites, which is the worse. Then, in the system of the Natural Law of Macrocosm/Microcosm, the Better, which are the Greeks, should rule over the Barbarians, such as a Man should rule over Woman, Parents over children, Master over slaves, God over Man.

    Aristotle writes that "All things are EITHER in Authority or in Subjection". All Things. What I think you are intimating in the first post of this series is that the Golden Rule nullifies this most basic of the Natural Laws, that of "Authority/Subjection".

    Nature will have her way. This can not be nullified and God does not nullify himself! God created the Natural Law and then God, can not, nullify later, himself by countermanding what he has commanded before!

    If you think that Man and Woman are equal, Nature does not allow that. Either Man rules or Woman Rules. Either you have Patriarchy or Matriarchy--but Nature DOES NOT allow an in-between! If you disallow a true aristocracy in a society, Nature will create a psuedo-aristocracy in its place. There will always be an authority. There can not be any sharing between Reason, and the Appetites. One must rule the Other.

    The Golden Rule does not nullify "Authority/Subjection", the Ruling of the Better over the Worse. Aristotle writes, "there is ALWAYS found a ruling and a subject factor". (Politics, I, ii, 9; 1251a 30; Loeb, pg 19) If man negates that, Nature recreates another.

    Self-government is always a sign of superiorness over autocracy. Greek Military prowess and fighting abilities combined with their self-government showed their superior abilities over their barbarians that had none of this. The Best should rule over the worse. It is Righteousness (the word "meet" in the English conveys the idea of righteousness). The Golden Rule does not negate Righteousness. Truth does not counterdict Truth.

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  5. Notes on the first post of this series: Things to consider

    Can not forget, that Hospitality was one of the Greatest Greek Virtues. They prided themselves on that. Hospitality, even today in Greece, is a big thing. Any stranger was given Hospitality. A stranger is neither friend nor foe. Hospitality is/was always given.

    Second, the Virtue of Magnanimity. It is under the term "Greatness of Spirit" in the psuedo-Aristotelian Virtues and Vices in Loeb Vol #285. There it is written "The great-spirited man is simple and noble in character, able to bear injustice and not revengeful". (pg 497)

    Though the Greeks did not have the Golden Rule, they separated out Hospitality and Magnanimity from one general rule.

    The Spartans on several occasions exhibited Magnanimity. One being at the conclusion of the Peloppenesian War when the Corinthians asked that the city be destroyed and the Spartans refused. There are other occasions. Even though they had strongly had this Vergeltungsdenken, they also showed great acts of Magnanimity.

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  6. According to Christ, the Golden Rule is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. I would suppose that to mean the Natural Law. At the same time, it seems clear that, in his formulation of the Golden Rule, Christ is calling us to something beyond justice, beyond law, without at the same time contradicting law or justice.

    At the same time that Christ's ethic must be viewed as ideal, and to some extent eschatological, and perhaps even impracticable (as all sacrifice or love is impracticable), it cannot be intended to have been so impracticable as to be a pipe dream. It must be well moored in the natural law, and that includes recognizing the realities of differences in talent, culture, etc. among men, while also recognizing our ontological equality.

    I'm still sorting out in my mind the difference between Vergeltungsgedenken and the Lex talionis (which, as you point out is really a rule of proportionality), revenge, and justice. Tentatively, I suspect that Vergeltungsgedenken would be something beyond justice and the lex talionis, and more akin to revenge, and perhaps even beyond revenge. Perhaps the distinction is simply the presumption to be the ultimate judge of right and wrong, so that right is right because it is to my good, and wrong is wrong because it is to my harm. It may be the improper focus of self as foundation of norm.

    I agree that the Golden Rule does not fully sit comfortably with the natural law, but this is not as a result of contradiction, but perhaps as a result of a natural tension between nature and supernature, law and grace, reason and faith, justice and mercy. Maybe we are in the area of either/or, and not both/and.

    It is obvious, at least to me, that the issue of justice and vengeance, which the Lord has ultimately reserved to himself, must be reconcilable with the Golden Rule. God is the God of justice, as he is of mercy. Mercy and justice have kissed in Christ, and like all kisses, it may be hard for us to describe the event with reason.

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  7. I might also add that in some of this we may be mixing up boundaries between what traditionally has been called a counsel and what traditionally has been called a precept. There is a marked distinction, really a difference in kind than in degree, between a life lived consonant with the evangelical counsels, and that lived with the evangelical and natural law precepts. I should think that the natural law issues relate entirely to issues of precept, and that some of the inconsistencies or tensions or seeming contradictions you mention are not between natural law and natural law, but between the natural law and evangelical counsels.

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  8. On Slavery.

    This is going to shock the socks off you but Slavery is an Institution. It is not morally wrong. First, the Eastern Orthodox have never condemned Slavery. The Old Testament condones it. Now, many have a lot of opinions about slavery in the OT, but the Old Testament has TWO types of Slavery, chattel and indentured servitude. Slavery existed before Moses in the Hebrew tradition. All the Patriarchs of the Hebrews, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were slave owners before the Mosaic Law was established. God commands the taking of slaves from foreign nations. The Hebrews were forbidden to take slaves of their fellow kinsmen. (See the difference--rules of difference between ones kinsmen and foreigners) but they were allowed to enslave their fellow Hebrew/Kinsmen for a set period of time, and the whole family was given their freedom.

    This is allowed by Divine command in the Scriptures. If God allowed it,--it is NOT intrinsically morally wrong. That is a big mistake. St. Paul returns a slave to his master. If slavery is wrong, then, why return him? St. Paul commands that coming to the Faith, they are to remain at their stations of life, if a soldier, remain a soldier. If a slave, remain a slave.

    Third, A fourth Ecumenical council anathemitizes anybody that teaches a slave to run from his master. It upholds the institution of slavery.

    I've been in the military. The Military institution is kind of an indentured servitude. If slavery is wrong, military is wrong to. It is wrong for Switzerland and Orthodox Greece to command conscription! If one nullifies slavery, one nullifies military conscription as well.

    As a farm laborer, I've worked the hard life. Ancient life and leisure is impossible without slavery. No slavery----No philosophy. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are all products of a slave society. Leisure was provided by the slaves doing the manual labor. To use philosophy is stand on the shoulders of the institution of slavery.

    That is one of the greatest errors of the modern age, to consider that slavery is a moral evil. It is NOT! It is an Institution.

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  9. I appreciate your comments on magnanimity. It would seem that this is an exception to the Vergeltungsgedenken, sort of proof that man sometimes goes beyond his social milieu. It brings to mind Julius Caesar's merciful treatment of his enemies, though that may have been driven by pragmatism, and not nobility of soul.

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  10. Lex, Thanks for your responses! You have hit the nail on the head with this:

    "...but perhaps as a result of a natural tension between nature and supernature, law and grace, reason and faith, justice and mercy."

    Notice this "a natural tension". The Greeks have a word for this. This is part of the Natural Law. There is a Tension between Strife and Peace, a Tension between Male and Female, A tention between Parent and Child, a Tension between God and Man. The Orthodox call it Holy Tension, but the Ancient Greeks called this Tension as well. There is this push and pull. In this talk of the Natural Law one point can not be exaggerated over another.

    You are going to have to look for that in texts.

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  11. Slavery is simply too large a topic to tackle via comment. What you say about slavery as an institution is, historically true. The Old Testament sanctions it, virtually approves of it. The New Testament is ambivalent, and seems to suggest that, if part of the positive law, it may, at least be tolerated. The fact that something is sanctioned in the Old Testament, however, is not determinative. Otherwise, polygamy would be considered an institution, and the Church, or at least her theologians, has taught that polygamy is in contradiction to the natural law. Christ kind of cleaned things up by bringing things back to the beginning. Perhaps he sort of did the same thing with slavery as he did with marriage?

    It's true that slavery is a very broad word. I think the Church has condemned slavery, in the sense of pure chattel slavery, where the slave is viewed as property pure and simple, and subhuman. But where in between military service, the gray area of indentured servitude, and a pure and inhuman chattel slavery the condemnation reaches is very difficult to tell.

    There is the further problem that one can, at least hypothetically, imagine a situation where a slave/master relationship is more just than a employer/employee relationship, where there is theoretical and legal equality. Many slaves in Greece and Rome enjoyed better, more human lives than many an employee in the Industrial Revolution.

    The issue is not simply as easy as: slavery bad, freedom good. That is true at the extremes, and somewhere towards the middle one gets into areas of prudence and grays.

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  12. Holy Tension. Now that's a concept. There are paradoxes, or seeming paradoxes. I like the notion of holy tension because it is more dynamic than the notion of paradox, which seems static.

    Can you give me some direction on this "Holy Tension" concept? Where can I learn something about it?

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  13. I'm trying to look that up for you on Holy Tension.

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  14. I'm looking that up for you. I'm also having trouble with my internet connection at the moment.

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  15. In Greek Classical history, I believe Tension is mentioned in Heraclitus and/or Pythagoras. Also, I used to have a monograph from the "Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies" from the St. Gregory Palamas Monastery in Etna, CA called "Holy Tension". I seem to have lost my copy or can't find it.

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  16. Bad Habits in Theology and Philosophy.

    The bad Habit is taking things to an extreme. Erik von Kuenhelt-Leddihn notes that taking things to an extreme is a Spanish Catholic form; moderation was considered evil. It is very much a Latin characteristic. Rome and Greece are anti-poles; they are very different creatures. Greeks naturally think in the Golden Mean and Romans took things to their extreme.

    The Golden Rule and the Eucharist share a commonality in their application in reality. They are both good--high goods. Spanish Catholicism, because of their zealousness, took Papal supremacy to an extreme. The Eucharist has been taken to an extreme as well. So much so that it has pushed the Divine Office, its cathedral practice, to extinction. Only the Mass has worth. People have taken it to an extreme and has caused the extinction of the practice of the Divine Office.

    The Golden Rule has also been taken to an extreme. It has nullified other things.

    The Doric Greeks had a saying carved on the Temple of Delphi---"Nothing too much". This is the Natural Law--that all things must be done in Proportion. I have a saying, "Even Good, taken to an extreme, does evil". This is a truth. Yes, The Golden Rule is golden but taken to an extreme, that it negates other necessary things--becomes evil. All things exist in Proportion. I must take my food in proportion. I must take my sleep in proportion. I must have the right proportion of lime and ash in my concrete mix. I must have the right proportion of yeast in my bread.

    So must be Ethical and Religious maxims. The Golden Rule must also be held in proportion. "Nothing too much". Even very good things has to be limited.

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  17. Socrates in Plato's Republic talked about the education of the philosopher kings. In the Jowett translation, in the paperback edition, Jowett has little synapses in the margins. In one piece on the Socrates teaching of music is this: "Too much music effeminizes the man". It is a paraphrase of the context of this.

    It can be reiterated to Confucius and the teaching of compassion. "Too much compassion effeminizes the man".

    We are running into a huge problem. That Christianity is feminizing its male members. This is not my opinion but a careful study by Leon Podles in his book, The Church Impotent, The Feminization of Christianity. The Golden Rule is fine, but taken to an extreme and everday maximum, it will cause the effeminization of men. Sometimes a Man must order his wife to do something. An Officer must order his privates to charge a machine gun nest. A Parent must discipline his child.

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  18. There is big reason why the Greeks made a distinction between East and West. They were quite aware of this difference because they saw it, lived it. Their societies exhibited quite different things that Eastern societies exhibited.

    I point to two Christian academics/philosophers; Edith Hamilton and Jacques Maritain. Both of them in the beginning of their books point and emphasize the difference between East and West. Edith Hamilton in her book, The Greek Way and Jacque Maritain in his book The Introduction to Philosophy, both of these are excellent witnesses to this dichotomy.

    Another is Charles H. Cosgrove, "Did Paul Value Ethnicity", The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 68,2006. pg 270.

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  19. "Eye for an eye,
    Tooth for tooth,'
    Life for life."

    I don't think it right to dismiss this in lieu of the Golden Rule or even sleight it. "Eye for an eye" is basic Justice. It is Dikaios. This is why sin is terrible. Without "Eye for an eye" there is no concept of Hell, Judgement Day, Christ's atonement sacrifice. This "Eye for an eye" is the basis for Judgement Day. All sin, "Eye, Tooth, Life" will be punished. And Justice, pure perfect Justice, embodied in the Father God Creator, will demand satisfaction for every dot and tittle offense against Justice. All sin is based on "Eye for an eye". This is why Christ is d#$%m important. Because none of us can repay the piper. And this is why Hell exists. If one is not covered by the Blood of the Lamb, Justice demands satisfaction and no human can pay that.

    Therefore, we can not dismiss, belittle, sleight, "Eye for an eye". This is the reason for the coming of Jesus! It should be a basic lesson for Justice and that all injustice shall be requited. Everything will be paid. I'm glad I'm a Christian. It is a grand mistake to nullify it or make the Golden Rule overrule it or substitute it out of place. "Eye for an Eye" is the core of Moral teaching. It is the core of Moral reality. It is the reason for the season of Jesus.

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  20. W Lindsay WheelerApril 25, 2010 at 6:26 PM

    "And all men are from the ground, and Adam was created of earth. In much knowledge the Lord hath divided them, and made their ways diverse. Some of them hath he blessed and exalted, and some of them hath he sanctified, and set near himself; but some of them hath he cursed and brought low, and turned out of their places." LXX, Ecclesiasticus, 36 10-12

    How does the Golden Mean fit into this? Did God differentiate the races? How come He "made their ways diverse"? If everything is equal, how does God himself, make a people "cursed and brought low"? Is this Universalism? Cosmopolitianism?

    Erik von Kuenhelt-Leddihn, my favorite author and my political mentor, quotes Aristotle's saying, "To treat unequal things, equally, is unrighteousness (adikia)". Von Kuenhelt-Leddihn, a traditional orthodox Catholic, used this verse as a basis of his book, Liberty OR Equality. The Golden Rule is being interpreted by some to negate righteousness here. To use the Golden Rule to promote unrighteousness is an evil. We are not to treat women as men. We are not to treat children as adults. We are not to treat slaves as freemen. Nor the vulgar class as aristocracy. Regardless of slave, freeman, aristocrat or king, we do not defraud, we do not cheat, we do not bear false witness against, we do not kill. This is the meaning of the Golden Rule but I would think that the Golden Rule is not about ending the institution of slavery, nor about treating inferiors as equals. That is not the teaching of the Golden Rule.

    God did not treat all humans the same; some of them hath he blessed, some he hath sanctified, and others he as cursed.

    If these verses in the Bible, how come they are never preached, taught, or exposed to the people? Does this not this Biblical teaching back up what the Greeks say? Did not Aristotle teach that some men are born slaves? Does not Aristotle and the Bible agree? The Bible is divine revelation and Aristotle writes on the Natural Order and the Natural Law. Isn't there a coincidence? Is there not a consistency between the two? Do not they teach the same thing? Divine Revelation and the Natural Law are the two witnesses that proclaim truth. The Golden Rule is not meant to negate reality.

    I wonder why I have never heard a Roman Catholic quote this biblical verse. Does this not undermine Catholic Social Justice? Do Roman Catholics really know the Natural Law/Natural Order?

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  21. W Lindsay WheelerApril 25, 2010 at 6:43 PM

    Now comes a real doozy. Jesus meeting the Syro-Phonecian woman in today's Lebanon. Jesus went to Tyre. There a woman begged him to heal her daughter. Jesus did nothing. She then came up to him and asked him to heal her daughter.

    Jesus refused by saying: "It is not right to give the food of the children to the dogs".

    First, Jesus refuses her request! Is this the Golden Rule? Is this Universalism? Who are the "children"? Are they not his kinsmen? Is not Jesus King Of Jews? (the Jews being his children since he is Monarch?) He is refusing to help her! Moreover, he is using a racial epithat! "Dogs" is a Hebrew slang for the Indo-European who kept dogs. (By the way the animal moniker for the tribe of Judah is the Lion, {from the cat family}).

    She humbles herself, and she beats Jesus in a game of wits when she says, "Even the dogs lick the crumbs that fall from the Children's hands".

    Jesus makes a special point to say, "FOR THIS SAYING". He only healed her daughter, because she humbled herself by acknowledging first that she is a dog and second, she beat him in a game of wits. She is entirely right in using something in the Natural Order, like Aesop and Jesus himself, to prove a point.

    How does this square with the Golden Rule? Shouldn't, under the current intrepretation of the Golden Rule, have cured her daughter unconditionally? You would think so! But no. Jesus did not. He only did because of HER SAYING. His gifts and his miracles were for his children, not for foreigners. In the healing of the centurion's servant, Jesus did that on the behest of Jews who asked him to grant the centurion's wish.

    Jesus was racially conscious. He reserved his work for his people. Again the lesson of this situation is missed by most and sundry in the Christian Church. While the Church preaches against racism---it seems Jesus practiced it! Jesus followed the Natural Law in which he is the author! All Hail to the Christ!

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  22. This is the virtue of Righteousness:

    "To righteousness it belongs to be ready to distribute according to desert, and to preserve ancestral customs and traditions and the established laws, and to tell the truth when interest is at stake, and to keep agreements. First among the claims of righteousness are our duties to the gods, then our duties to the spirits, then those to country and parents, then those to the departed; and among these claims is piety, which is either a part of righteousness or a concomitant of it. Righteousness is also accompanied by holiness and truth and loyalty and hatred of wickedness".

    "Duty to Country" and Loyalty. One's duty is to his kinsmen first. Loyalty is to one's group. Jesus practiced this. We are all to practice this. The Golden Rule does not abrogate the virtue of righteousness.

    I don't think that anybody can have "loyalty" to mankind; one has loyalty to his tribe, clan, race, nation, but not to Universalist mankind. And yet, what I see is that we are taught social justice that teaches that it is wrong to be loyal or to have duty to one's kinsmen. Something is very wrong. I'm afraid that the Golden Rule is being used out of context to destroy what Johanes Herder meant by "Belonging" and "volkenhaas" that all racial groups have to some certain extent.

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