Wednesday 11 January 2017

Now What?

There has been coverage in the media about the School of Oriental and African Studies; the University of London and the choice of philosophers in their courses on philosophy. Persons there want the "Europeans" out and others in because in the last handful or so of generations Europe had its Empires etc.

Down the centuries with philosophers there have been a lot of them about, wittering on about the meaning of life and all that. Opinions vary strongly and the debates can be bitter.

My theories that Karl Marx was simply retreading the ideas of Morgan Kavanagh to get the cash to pay the rent and Lenin was influenced by the views of Henry Hook VC, attendant at the British Museum and late of Rorke's Drift have not had much support.

Had I been in Eastern Europe a while back and uttered these ideas it would have been off to the Gulag sharpish to be taught the official versions. In my travels I have encountered senior members of the Order of the Dominicans, men of Rome and you had better believe it.

One I knew was clear in his mind that something like philosophy should not be taught either in schools or indeed universities. He felt strongly that it only gave people ideas that they were better off without and it was the good of their souls, as defined by The Dominicans, was the only thing that mattered.

The younger generations today might be influenced more by Marvin the depressed computer from "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" than others and it is arguable that the mobile robot was more right than wrong, Artificial Intelligence in practice perhaps. I wonder if the only true philosophers of our age are the software engineers.

Of course, it is poor Plato who gets it in the neck again. I have a soft spot for the old boy. When a few days after leaving the Army I was asked to think about Plato by Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990 see Wikipedia) it was much nicer than dealing with senior NCO's and Brigadiers who disagreed with my opinions, they were not Platonic in their view of the world.

The oddity in complaining about Plato is the idea that he is a Euro geek bent on the supremacy of Europe and its race or races. The archaeologists and paleontologists today with the aid of science and extensive research are discovering that the human story is a great deal more complicated than we have believed. In what we thought were primitive societies things are turning up which mean extensive contact over wide areas in trade.

So ancient Greece, notably Athens, was not just a centre for trade but one of many meeting places for people from far and wide and they in turn would have had other connections. In short, someone like Plato at the time may have simply been trying to make sense out of a flood of ideas and opinions from far afield. Ultima Thule, (Glasgow?) at one end and perhaps China etc. at the other?

One source would have been Ancient Egypt and going back  many centuries before Plato. Imhotep was as far from Plato as Plato is from the present day. The trading and meeting places of southern Egypt would have extended far and wide and into deepest Africa from a time when we have no written records of so much of the world.

Greece may now be seen as "Europe", but this is a modern entity. Long ago it was literally in another world of its time and place. It was a one time a major centre and before then a part of extensive complexes of human interaction, trade and thought, much of which is lost and forgotten apart from the few remains that we are busy wrecking.

Is it possible that if we knew a lot more than we think we know at the moment that Plato might be a thinker of his time who was toying with and suggesting ideas that came to the agora from many places which we are not aware of. It is possible that if some were from Egypt and its vicinity then these might derive from the further south.

That is, what we now refer to as Africa. I wonder what Confucius would make of all this?


  1. Interesting. Rather like the idea that Homer compiled stories from other sources.

  2. Yes, we can only build histories around what we have but what we don't have may be more significant than we will ever know.

  3. it would have been off to the Gulag sharpish to be taught the official versions

    Black Moriah at Midnight.