The Truth about Sophists
Subtitled: Aristotle, Hitler, and
I am a man of inadequate talent for inappropriate ambitions. I would prefer to think of dreams than ambitions but in either case I will not let go of them. In spite of the various wrong turns and unfortunate incidents of my life I have never given up my original dreams. One such dream has been to create or be a part of the creation of wonderful music. My musical career has had its moments of magic and wonder and I thank those who have shared these gifts with me from the bottom of my heart. It was pure joy in spite of conflicts and my unqualified rudimentary abilities. Music can take you places that words alone cannot go. I always say, “Creating music gives me a ‘feeling’ I can’t experience any other way”. But words do have tremendous power. I have also dreamed of creating a philosophy, the ideas of which are profound yet presented clearly enough that all men understand it and make it their own, hopefully changing the world for the better.
The problem is, I am a poor poet, a worse wordsmith, and a sorry storyteller. One would need to be ‘great’ at one or more of these if you are to ever weave a tale that captures the minds and hearts of anyone. Nevertheless I continue writing in the hope that someday, someone will read it and be helped by it.
Truth told boringly is just…boring! To present an idea in such a way that the ‘audience’ ‘experiences’ the truth of it, that is Art. Art has the power to change people, when the Art is created by the touch of genius. However, neither Art or genius have any inherent moral standard, which may lead to gifted but dangerously evil ‘artists’ such as Hitler, whom by the ‘Art’ of rhetoric inflamed a whole nation of bright educated people to destroy themselves and a whole continent with them.
This ‘dangerous power’ within 'rhetoric' is part of the reasons sophism obtained a disreputable spin from ‘Dr.’ Aristotle that continues to this day. Yet is can be shown that ‘sophist’ was as general a term as ‘philosopher’ is today and encompassed as much diversity of opinion. Even though there was a substantial school of moral relativists that flourished in that day, whom were known as sophists, there were many others known as sophists for whom the acknowledged relativity of perception and perspective merely hid an encompassing absolute from which all that is ‘visible’ arises, as represented by Socrates/Plato’s ‘Ideal Forms’. Aristotle knew this of course but he had other motives behind his denigration of rhetoric, and by association, sophists. He was starting a Church! Reason founded on Aristotle’s cold, sterile laws of logic was to commandeer, to usurp the place held by rhetoric within the foundation of the weltanschauung. He had to knock down the old Church to build a new one, or so he thought. Rhetoric, instead of being The tool (Art) by which men were brought to ‘experience’ Truth now was to become A minor tool used to support logic (Dialectics) through which men would deduce truth (Truth).
Gone would be impassioned speeches that stir men’s hearts, gone too, the superstitions about spiritual realities and God (they cannot be proven logically)!
Gone would be credence for intuition, dreams, visions, prophecies, feelings, faith, hope, even love will be ‘deduced’ to be a mere evolutionary imperative! Spirit, mind, and soul all become nothing but chemicals in our brains. Now true, without rhetoric there would be no Hitlers, but all that is left for man is a cold lifeless ‘science of truth’ that can little move men to virtue, excellence, and good over evil. Ironically, the most important fact here is that the Church of Reason has no morality whatsoever and has actually enthroned the relativists it purported to condemn!
So much to say and so little time…perhaps we’re almost out of time…the world as we know it, the everyday world of our normal perceptions is a world that seems to run like an autonomous machine, without the need for spirits, gods, or miracles. Throw in a little chaos theory and you can ‘logically’ explain the majority of our everyday experiences at the macrocosmic level, i.e. our frame of reference. Yet most people at sometime in their lives have what can only be called extranatural, unexplainable experiences that defy our scientific logic. Things such as meaningful coincidences (Synchronicity of Carl Jung), dreams that come true, de-ja vu, thinking of someone and the phone rings and its them. Strong feelings of danger that prove true, even visions and voices of those who have passed away are more common than recognized, all of which are relegated to the anecdotal trash bin by science.
Yet if you were to ask people who had such experiences, they will usually tell you the experience was one of the most meaningful of their lives. Evidence is evidence. These are witnesses. Proof enough for me. And I know I am not alone in this belief. There are many that see the current ‘interpretation’ as narrow and incomplete. Go get on the Internet and use the ‘Google’ search engine. Browse the categories Science/Physics/Relativity/Alternative for a startling radical array of ‘reinterpretations’.
These theorists plus the ‘en vogue’ string theory of Witten, Schwartz, Greene, et al, will provide you a glimpse of the possible future direction of physics. Somewhere in/out of time the whole inclusive truth lays waiting for us to find it if we have the courage and insight the old sophists sought to instill in their charges, if we are inspired by words or song to reach beyond our grasp, beyond the familiar, beyond the norm, to higher aspirations, if we have the vision that comes from an unwavering intuition that there is more to life than the eye can (normally) behold.
©2007 Thomas Theodore Welborn