Accepting Ideas from the Past

June 22, 2017
By Caitlin Roberts BRONZE, Anchorage, Alaska
Caitlin Roberts BRONZE, Anchorage, Alaska
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Humans in this age cannot be docile listeners and accept what the great minds’, or great philosophers of the past, have said and yet they are not competent judges of these philosopher’s ideas. This creates a problem because if there is a need to judge, but no one is able to, it creates a situation in which the desired outcome is impossible to attain because of the qualifications needed to obtain it. This situation could be described as a catch-22.
It would be easier if people could completely forgo the idea of trying to judge these ideas, and just choose one to accept. However, this is not possible because as Leo Strauss has said, “Since the greatest minds contradict one another regarding the most important matters, they compel us to judge their monologues; we cannot take on trust what any one of them says.” If these great minds are not agreeing, then how will people know if they have put their faith in the correct idea? It would be like choosing one of many dark tunnels to follow, not knowing what lies at the end of the one you have chosen. It would be a risk that could ultimately lead to the misconception of many important matters.


If humans cannot be submissive and accept just any idea, then they come to the conclusion that, like Strauss said, they must judge. This judging process is not as simple as choosing an idea that seems correct. It involves comparing and contrasting different philosophers’ ideas and trying to piece them together to form a conclusion. Strauss describes this by saying, “We must transform their monologue into a dialogue, their ‘side by side’ into a ‘together.’” People are responsible for creating the conversation of the great minds, because on their own, the great minds only speak of what they believe. They don't contrast their ideas with the other minds of the highest order. According to Strauss, even well-known philosophers, such as Plato, seemed to feel they could not write dialogue between two men of the highest order, who have equally high intelligence. People in this age, should be able to complete this task given that they have accesses to all of the great minds’ work. However, this does not necessarily mean that they are qualified to do so.

Facile delusions keep humans from being qualified and competent judges of the great minds’ ideas. One of these main delusions is that they believe their point of view to be superior. Yes, people in this age have technology and more access to knowledge, but they are only able to have these things because of the knowledge they have learned from our ancestors. Without them, people would be lost. People must also understand that each idea that someone had, could be right from their own perspective. Even though it may seem wrong to someone else, the person who created the idea may believe it's right because of where they are in their life, and what they have experienced. People see through a narrow pane of glass that is only their own, and no matter how hard they try, can never truly broaden it to see other’s perspectives. Since humans do not have the ability to experience another human’s life, they can never truly understand how someone else views things. If everyone's view is different depending on their experience, then it is hard to create a universal truth that applies to everyone's view. For these reasons we cannot judge and pick through the great minds ideas since we can never truly comprehend every part of them.

So, if people truly are not able to understand and judge the great minds’ ideas, then it brings them back to the never ending cycle of needing to comprehend something they can’t. Just because they are not qualified though, does not mean they will stop trying to judge. It seems impossible for them to accept there is something they can never truly comprehend. This is a good thing, though, because if they were to just give up on trying to understand these important ideas, then they would be affecting what philosophers in this time do, and they would be hurting liberal education. Strauss has said that philosophizing and liberal education consist of listening in on the conversations of great minds. If people were to stop trying to listen to these conversations, then what would happen to these philosophes? Though people will never be able to fully comprehend the great minds’ ideas, and create universal truths, they will continue to try. As long as they realize they will never completely succeed, it is good they continue to try and unravel the conflicting ideas that the great minds of the past have left them.

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