Who is wise?

by Andrea Elizabeth

Almost through the fourth lecture of the Leo Strauss audio tapes, I feel the need to regroup. The first recording was pretty packed with information and some interpretation. The pace has slowed down considerably since then, and seems to be dwelling on harder to come by hints and suggestions on whether Socrates was an atheist or not and whether he was wise or not, and why he was accused of the former. My understanding is that the accusations were brought by unknown people who cannot be cross-examined. The prosecutors are those prejudiced by them. Socrates is defending himself because he feels it his duty to defend the truth, not because he thinks he will persuade. He thinks persuasion is for Sophists who use rhetoric to manipulate people with lies.

I am looking forward to seeing if there is a more subtle point (or maybe it’s considered obvious? or maybe I’m wrong) being made about the nature of atheism and wisdom. What if wisdom (things “aloft”) was thought only to be available to the gods who spoke through the Delphic oracle? Pure revelation. Therefore Socrates would be blasphemous if he thought himself wise, which he did because he thought he was the only one wise enough to know he didn’t know anything. He found that politicians thought they knew more than they did, poets didn’t even know how to interpret their own transmissions of inspiration, but craftsmen at least knew what the shoes they made were for. I’ll make the point that one can use reason to know what physical things can do, but ideas are much more opaque. If one sees the heavenly realm of ideas as opaque, then one sort of denies heaven, or the comprehension of it, so then one can be sort of atheist in an apophatic sense. Perhaps these are the wise ones.

This sort of wisdom can make one worry about denying revelation and our ability to know God. I’ll go ahead and lean towards it while writing this sentence because apophaticism can realize that knowledge of the divine came from a source other than man. But the pagan idea of going to a prophet in a drug induced trance to hear from God doesn’t suit either. Orthodox truth is more relational than that, and requires more engagement of our minds. I think atheists put up too many blocks, others not enough. Socrates denied being an atheist. He liked Apollo, which didn’t suit the Greeks much. I can see why after reading the Iliad. I think I’ve heard that the philosophers introduced monotheism and killed the lesser gods. That is a sort of atheism if you think about ADS’ elimination of anything other than the divine essence, to the detriment of the divine persons. It also eliminates the physical, which nullifies the wisdom of craftsmen.

More on the “Spirituality Confusion” is found in A Vow of Conversation,

Indeed, it is the uniting of the polarity between knowing and unknowing that is the heart of faith, and those who insist on the limitation of human language to speak of God, are the first to lay down their lives to defend its expressions. For faith has a name, and a concrete history. It is the revelation of God in Christ and His continued presence in His Body the Church.

Macrina even quotes St. Maximus!

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