This is a good, brief listen for a big education:
Identity politics are a game that can probably only be eschewed by the people who are going to lose.
Pointing out that identity politics is unfair and unreasonable to the people who play/live by those rules just means that they automatically win.
An example of this would be expecting parent not to prefer their child over other children in parent teacher conferences or school administrative meetings. People side with the group they identify with and maybe they’re obligated to do so (maybe not) absent violations of truth, goodness, and beauty. But it seems that many of the Americans who reject identity politics as tool for political power or ethical reasoning still watch various versions of sports and have deep emotional attachments to those teams. They also tend to show a lot of loyalty to their alma mater.
Epictetus, the former slave turned stoic philosopher, made an eccentric argument for God’s providence in the smallest of human affairs. He argues by reducing to absurdity, as far as he can manage, four the five following views:
- There is no god.
- There is a god who is unconcerned for the cosmos.
- There is a god who cares for the heavenly sphere only.
- There is a god who cares for the general affairs on earth, not the details.
- There is a god who cares for the affairs of men.
“Concerning gods, there are first those who say there is no divinity. Secondly, that there is but he is lazy (inactive) and unconcerned; and he makes no plans concerning anything. Thirdly, there are those who say that he exists and makes plans, rather only for the great and heavenly things, but for those of earth, nothing. Fourthly, there are those who say he makes plans for things upon the earth and the things of humanity, but in general and not for each one. Fifthly, there are those like Odysseus and Socrates who say, “Whither I move, I escape not your notice.”Epictetus 1.121. Epictetus. Epicteti Dissertationes Ab Arriano Digestae. Medford, MA: B. G. Teubner, 1916. Print. 1.12, “Περὶ θεῶν οἱ μέν τινές εἰσιν οἱ λέγοντες μηδʼ εἶναι τὸ θεῖον, οἱ δʼ εἶναι μέν, ἀργὸν δὲ καὶ ἀμελὲς καὶ μὴ προνοεῖν μηδενός·  τρίτοι δʼ οἱ καὶ εἶναι καὶ προνοεῖν, ἀλλὰ τῶν μεγάλων καὶ οὐρανίων, τῶν δὲ ἐπὶ γῆς μηδενός· τέταρτοι δʼ οἱ καὶ τῶν ἐπὶ γῆς καὶ τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων, εἰς κοινὸν δὲ μόνον καὶ οὐχὶ δὲ καὶ κατʼ ἰδίαν ἑκάστου·  πέμπτοι δʼ, ὧν ἦν καὶ Ὀδυσσεὺς καὶ Σωκράτης, οἱ λέγοντες ὅτι οὐδέ σε λήθω Κινύμενος.”
So those are the five positions. His arguments against them, at a first pass, seem rather empty. They hinge on one assertion, “One ought to follow the gods.” But if there are no gods, then the assertion is worthless, or worse, because it isn’t harmless but harmful, as one who follows the gods follows delusions rather than wisdom. Here’s his refutation:
Therefore, before anything else, it is necessary to inquire into each to these, [to determine] if it is sound or unsound to affirm it. For is there are no gods, how is it our purpose to follow them? 2. Epictetus simply assumes that following the gods is the standard human goal for any thoughtful person. If then, on the other hand, they [the gods] exist and are unconcerned, how can this [to follow them] be sound? But if in fact, they exist and they care, but if there is no communication to humanity from them, and for that matter neither any to me, how is it [to follow them/the life of ethics] sound? Therefore, all these things considered, the good and beautiful man intends to submit himself to the one who manages the whole just as the good citizens submit themselves to the law of the city-state.Epictetus 1.12 3. Πολὺ πρότερον οὖν ἀναγκαῖόν ἐστι περὶ ἑκάστου τούτων ἐπεσκέφθαι, πότερα ὑγιῶς ἢ οὐχ ὑγιῶς λεγόμενόν ἐστιν. ειʼ γὰρ μὴ εἰσὶν θεοί, πῶς ἐστι τέλος ἕπεσθαι θεοῖς;  ειʼ δʼ εἰσὶν μέν, μηδενὸς δʼ ἐπιμελούμενοι, καὶ οὕτως πῶς ὑγιὲς ἔσται;  ἀλλὰ δὴ καὶ ὄντων καὶ ἐπιμελομένων ειʼ μηδεμία διάδοσις εἰς ἀνθρώπους ἐστὶν ἐξ αὐτῶν καὶ νὴ Δία γε καὶ εἰς ἐμέ, πῶς ἔτι καὶ οὕτως ὑγιές ἐστιν;  πάντα οὖν ταῦτα ὁ καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθὸς ἐπεσκεμμένος τὴν αὑτοῦ γνώμην ὑποτέταχεν τῷ διοικοῦντι τὰ ὅλα καθάπερ οἱ ἀγαθοὶ πολῖται τῷ νόμῳ τῆς πόλεως.”
Now, in many places, Epictetus argues for God’s existence, as the one who orders all things (and he from this appears to infer the existence of gods as well) from the order of all things and from the rational mind of humanity. But he does not refer to those arguments here. He basically says, “If one is to follow the gods, it cannot be true that they do not exist, do not care, or do not communicate with us. Since we must follow the gods, these propositions cannot be true.” So what gives? What makes “following the gods” an axiom of rational life? I think I have five answers:
- In Stoic philosophy, there were three orders of discourse: ethics [right, wrong, happiness, politics, etc], logic [the laws of thought, nature of consciousness, rhetoric, grammar, etc], and physics [the nature of things, cause and effect, etc]. Ethics was conceived of as simultaneously the art of discovering right from wrong and the art of flourishing. “One ought to follow the gods” is a necessary postulate for moral reasoning. So it’s as if Epictetus was saying, “If one is obligated to do right/be happy, then god must be real.”
- The gods were seen as either interminably separated from us or that but condescendingly kind to our nature. This is taken to the nth degree in Christian theology. Epictetus, elsewhere says that human beings bear the image of God in their minds [Discourse 2.8]. So the idea is that a monotheistic God [orderer of all things] and the various minor gods represent the ideals of human nature. So much so, by the way, that elsewhere Epictetus says that the human mind is equal to Zeus’ mind in its capacity to avoid evil and choose goodness.
So if we accept that gods are, at the least, mythic representations of indispensable human ideals, then maybe the gods are indispensable. But this argument doesn’t quite satisfy unless we grant the gods some existence outside of the human mind, as that existence is precisely the point. But if God is the necessary postulate of moral science because otherwise moral imperatives have no force behind them, then his argument is at least reasonable, if not sound. “We must as good as possible, only the gods are consistently as good as possible, therefore we must follow the gods. Corollary: If there is such a state as, “as good as possible,” there must be gods to emulate.”
I find Epictetus’ view of God’s providence to be enriching if slightly anemic as Satan is a missing figure. But his view of providence allows for comparing any man seeking to do the right thing in the face of trouble to Hercules fighting the boar and overcoming the challenges before him. This view is harder to hold in the teeth of the evils of the world that harm children, but Epictetus knew the evil of this life and perhaps better than any who live today. Either way, whatever faces us is a challenge from God to do the good, somehow, even Satan in all his anti-providence, becomes for us an obstacle to overcome and finally, being overcome, simply a step along to path of Christ to God who makes us more than conquerors.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Epictetus. Epicteti Dissertationes Ab Arriano Digestae. Medford, MA: B. G. Teubner, 1916. Print. 1.12, “Περὶ θεῶν οἱ μέν τινές εἰσιν οἱ λέγοντες μηδʼ εἶναι τὸ θεῖον, οἱ δʼ εἶναι μέν, ἀργὸν δὲ καὶ ἀμελὲς καὶ μὴ προνοεῖν μηδενός·  τρίτοι δʼ οἱ καὶ εἶναι καὶ προνοεῖν, ἀλλὰ τῶν μεγάλων καὶ οὐρανίων, τῶν δὲ ἐπὶ γῆς μηδενός· τέταρτοι δʼ οἱ καὶ τῶν ἐπὶ γῆς καὶ τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων, εἰς κοινὸν δὲ μόνον καὶ οὐχὶ δὲ καὶ κατʼ ἰδίαν ἑκάστου·  πέμπτοι δʼ, ὧν ἦν καὶ Ὀδυσσεὺς καὶ Σωκράτης, οἱ λέγοντες ὅτι οὐδέ σε λήθω Κινύμενος.”|
|2.||↑||Epictetus simply assumes that following the gods is the standard human goal for any thoughtful person.|
|3.||↑||Πολὺ πρότερον οὖν ἀναγκαῖόν ἐστι περὶ ἑκάστου τούτων ἐπεσκέφθαι, πότερα ὑγιῶς ἢ οὐχ ὑγιῶς λεγόμενόν ἐστιν. ειʼ γὰρ μὴ εἰσὶν θεοί, πῶς ἐστι τέλος ἕπεσθαι θεοῖς;  ειʼ δʼ εἰσὶν μέν, μηδενὸς δʼ ἐπιμελούμενοι, καὶ οὕτως πῶς ὑγιὲς ἔσται;  ἀλλὰ δὴ καὶ ὄντων καὶ ἐπιμελομένων ειʼ μηδεμία διάδοσις εἰς ἀνθρώπους ἐστὶν ἐξ αὐτῶν καὶ νὴ Δία γε καὶ εἰς ἐμέ, πῶς ἔτι καὶ οὕτως ὑγιές ἐστιν;  πάντα οὖν ταῦτα ὁ καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθὸς ἐπεσκεμμένος τὴν αὑτοῦ γνώμην ὑποτέταχεν τῷ διοικοῦντι τὰ ὅλα καθάπερ οἱ ἀγαθοὶ πολῖται τῷ νόμῳ τῆς πόλεως.”|
Steinem argued in the 1980s that opposing abortion is actually a secret form of Nazism, and she repeats the argument in an interview below:
Well, the new generation of reader is instructing me by saying that these essays are still relevant …. on a more serious note, to put it mildly, is why Hitler was actually elected, and he was elected and he campaigned against abortion. I mean, that was — he padlocked the family planning clinics. Okay, so that is still relevant in the terms of the right wing. So there were very few things, actually, that I had to take out.
Forget the historical improprieties. The main thing is this: Some people feel that you can argue against literally any idea by citing the Holocaust.
Here’s another example:
In a discussion of the symbols and/or actuality of transcendent being, Rebecca Goldstein says that Jordan Peterson’s use of Christian symbols and William Craig’s belief in a transcendent God make her very nervous because…the Nazis felt transcendent. As she begins to say it, she obviously feels it is nonsense but says it anyway. But the idea is basically that, “You guys are basically Nazis.”
So what’s my point: Godwin’s law is actually an iron clad counterpoint for anything. You’re against abortion: Hitler. You believe in God or symbolism: Hitler. You’re a Zionist: Hitler. You think Islam is wrong: Hitler.
This sourthpark skit is our reality now:
A great deal of “the literature” about ancient Sparta includes the citizens of that great city in the numbers of those ancient Greek perverts who practiced pederasty.
Paul Cartledge is among the many academicians who have accepted this myth:
One particularly striking instance of this displaced or surrogate fathering was the institution of ritualized pederasty. After the age of twelve, every Spartan teenager was expected to receive a young adult warrior as his lover – the technical Spartan term for the active senior partner was ‘inspirer’, while the junior partner was known as the ‘hearer’. The relationship was probably usually sexual, but sex was by no means the only or even always the major object. The pedagogic dimension is nicely brought out in the tale of a Spartan youth who made the mistake of crying out in pain during one of the regular brutally physical contests that punctuated progress through the Agoge.Paul Cartledge, Sparta: An Epic History
But where are the sources for this? Well, I found two ancient sources that mention adult to child relationships in Sparta:
I think I ought to say something also about intimacy withXenophon, The Polity of Sparta 2:12-14
boys,since this matter also has a bearing on education. In other Greek states, for instance among the Boeotians, man and boy live together, like married people; elsewhere, among the Eleians, for example, consent is won by means of favours. Some, on the other hand, entirely forbid suitors to talk with boys.
The customs instituted by Lycurgus were opposed to all of these. If someone, being himself an honest man, admired a boy’s soul and tried to make of him an ideal friend without reproach and to associate with him, he
approved,and believed in the excellence of this kind of training. But if it was clear that the attraction lay in the boy’s outward beauty, he banned the connexion as an abomination; and thus he caused lovers to abstain from boys no less than parents abstain from sexual intercourse with their children and brothers and sisters with each other.
I am not surprised, however, that people refuse to believe this. For in many states the laws are not opposed to the indulgence of these appetites. I have now dealt with the Spartan system of education, and that of the other Greek states. Which system turns out men more obedient, more respectful, and more strictly temperate, anyone who chooses may once more judge for himself.
So, while Xenophon speaks of ideal friendship, here, it can in no way mean anything sexual. This, by the way, is a major theme in the Memorabilia of Socrates. Now, one could make the case that Xenophon is not the greatest of historians, but the source we have is the source we have. And he claims that among the Spartans, ideal friendship was encouraged among old men and their wards, but that pederasty was an abomination. There is a ring of plausibility to this because Xenophon notes that the Spartan laws were unique among the Greek states, and this is a theme in other writers as well.
The other key source is quite late, but it may nevertheless be valuable. From the Historical Miscellany of
Of the Lacedemonian Ephori I could relate many excellent things said and done; at present I shall only tell you this: If amongst them any man preferred in Friendship a rich man before another that was poor and virtuous, they fined him, punishing his avarice with loss of money. If any other that were a virtuous person professed particular friendship to none, they fined him also, because being virtuous he would not make choice of a friend ; whereas he might render him he loved like himself, and perhaps divers ; for affection of friends conduces much to the advance virtue in those whom they love, if they be temperate and virtuous. There was also this Law among the Lacedemonians; If any young man transgressed, they pardoned him, imputing it to want of years and experience ; yet punished his friend, as conscious and overseer of his actions.Book III, X
The passage above, while almost certainly too late (third century) to be considered a key piece of evidence about Spartan friendship, is used as a moralizing tail about the nature of friendship. Now, Claudius leaned Stoic in his outlook, and the Stoics, at least as far back as Musonius Rufus thought homosexuality was against nature. What this means is that he was almost certainly not writing with a nodding approval toward pederasty here. He was, rather, using the culture of friendship in a unique and powerful city as an example for his curious readers. Scholars, for reasons I dare not speculate upon, take the passage above to be evidence of Spartan friendship being pederastic. The evidence is entirely against such a perspective.
Historian Helena Schrader does a good job further ripping the Myth of Spartan Pederasty to shreds from a similar but distinct angle:
In conclusion, contemporary sources suggest that Sparta was not a particularly homoerotic society, and certainly there was no institutionalized pederasty or homosexual behavior prior to the mid-5th century BC. On the contrary, in Sparta women’s sexuality was not only recognized but respected and to a degree encouraged. Spartan artifacts furthermore suggest that Sparta was indeed more prudish than other Greek societies. The evidence suggests that sex in Sparta was a private matter, sought inside marriage, rather than public entertainment pursued at symposia and on the streets as in Athens. The Spartan ideal of sex was an activity between equals, not an act of domination by an adult male upon a child, a slave, or an illiterate and powerless wife.