jeudi 17 janvier 2013

Richard Carrier Claimed Critical Thinking was Rare Back Then ...

1) somewhere else : History vs Hume

2) Creation vs. Evolution : More on the Hume Rehash by Richard Carrier

3) somewhere else : Richard Carrier Claimed Critical Thinking was Rare Back Then ...

4) Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : Did St Irenaeus Know Who Saint John was and What he Wrote?

Plato finishes his Republic with a fable about Er, coming back to life after being twelve days clinically dead as far as could be verified, and telling his near death experience, which brings on what Plato is really about: Cicero sees this was received with a stupid reaction, so he finishes his Republic with an account of Scipio waking up after a dream. And telling simply the dream.

Now, here are the actual words of Macrobius, when he wants to tell of why Cicero wrote what he wrote in Somnium Scipionis. I quote book I, chapter 1, paragraph 9, but some words are missing:

Hanc fabulam Cicero licet ab indoctis quasi ipse ueri conscius doleat, exemplum tamen stolidae uitans excitari narraturum quam reuiuiscere maluit.

On Richard Carrier's view, what happened must have been that the poor benighted people did not understand that Plato meant the fable as a fable, they took it literally because they had too little critical thinking. And Cicero wanted to avoid stupid credulity (having himself the then rare faculty of critical thinking, no doubt). And that is why he wanted his "teller" of the hidden things to wake up rather than return to life.

Are the missing words "ut reuera factam creditam" and "credulitatis"?


Here I fill in the blanks and then translate:

Hanc fabulam Cicero licet ab indoctis quasi ipse ueri conscius doleat irrisam, exemplum tamen stolidae reprehensionis uitans excitari narraturum quam reuiuiscere maluit.

"Although Cicero is at pain as being himself conscious of the truth that the fable was laughed at by the untaught, even so avoiding the example of stupid criticism he wanted his about-to-tell rather to wake up than to return to life."

So on Macrobius' view - and Cicero's too if Macrobius got him right - the untaught were not stupidly credulous, but stupidly critical. So far from believing a story of one risen from the dead because they lacked critical thinking, they laughed at it because they lacked an attitude of understanding and sympathy (one might venture: an attitude of peace, love and understanding) to what Plato had undertook.

Have we any reason whatsoever to doubt Cicero and Macrobius were right about the reception of Plato's risen Er? None that I can think of.

Critical thinking is not a rare achievement. It is what untaught people start out with. People back then were not willing to believe a miracle like that because a good man told it and good men don't lie. The reaction would have been a guffaw and something like:

"OK, you're a nice guy and all that, and don't take it personally, I'd like to believe in your god and all that, but raising someone from the dead is just plain ridiculous! That's not how the gods act. They may raise a dead to the stars, they may raise a dead to the Olympus, but they don't raise a dead to live again among men and be seen and touched by them. Sorry, better luck with the next guy!"

On top of that the Pagan back then was quite as allergic as AronRa to exclusive claims of any kind of god. So, let's take the Bayesian test for Christ's Resurrection: could it have been believed even if there was not any extremely good evidence for it, could it have been believed even if not true?

Heck no, of course.

If Christ did not rise from the dead, it is a miracle that a religion as exclusive against other gods as Judaism, and clearly related to it (and believe me, Judaism was ridiculed, when Horace was subpoenad as a witness he tried to wringle out of it with the worst excuses ever - one of them being he was now of the "curti Judaei" and had to observe some Sabbath or Newmoon*) could take over the Roman Empire and an even greater it could do so by the claim of someone having risen from the dead.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
BU** Nanterre
Saint Rosaline

*Ibam forte via Sacra ... I happened to be walking on Sacra Via ... Actually I misremembered, Horace takes the subpoena as the final release from someone even more annoying, a man wanting to be introduced to Maecenas.

For English translation click here, scroll down to IX, IBAM FORTE VIA SACRA

**BU = Bibliothèque Universitaire = University Library (Nanterre is the Paris X site).

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