Monday, January 29, 2018

Plato and the Enlightenment: Truth is More Real than Science

"[Plato] saw himself embroiled in a crisis of the Greek state that was all the more radical because it included also a crisis of the soul, a crisis of humanity itself, which, in many respects, resembled that deep inner restlessness that today affects our whole existence to its very core... Like his teacher Socrates before him, Plato encountered a radical enlightenment, the keen rationality of which had led to the conviction that, strictly speaking, truth as such is in no way accessible to man. Whenever such a rejection of truth occurs, humanity experiences an extreme crisis because conscience becomes meaningless and the only standard that endures in the end is naked power. Such situations occur whenever a sophisticated form of technical knowledge becomes the standard of knowledge as such.

"Granted, with regard to the ultimate questions of who God is or what good is, we can never achieve the degree of certainty we can achieve in the realm of mathematics and technology. But when all knowledge that does not take the form of technical knowledge is declared to be nonknowledge, then we are cut off from the truth. We cannot, for instance, decide whether what Jesus said is true but can only dispute whether or not he said it. But that is ultimately an idle question Our defenselessness before the spiritual demands of dictators and our own inner strife are due to the situation in which we find ourselves today: wisdom--that is, knowledge of truth itself--cannot become scientific in the real sense of the word; but if only scientific knowledge counts as knowledge, it seems to be an unenlightened naiveté even to speak about truth. But if that is the case, then there are no universal values that are binding on all of us. And if that is the case, then there is no law except that which is called law at any given moment--the order imposed by those who have put themselves in power. There is then no qualitative difference between the power exercised in the name of the law and that exercised by him who breaks the law; the concept of a constitutional state becomes empty. That is our situation. It was also the situation created by the 'enlightened' Sophists of Plato's Greece. We might describe it in these worlds: by its exactness, exact knowledge bars the way to wisdom, which asks about the most profound depths of our existence."

Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1982, 359-360 (from an essay written in 1975, the entire volume being comprised of a compilation of articles written by the author during his hears at the University of Regensburg [1969-1977]).

Truth, God's Possession, Can't be Had Without God

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