Xenophon on the Turn from Presocratic Philosophy: Memorabilia I. 11- 16

 Blog Preface

  At the root of our theoretical attempt to reset the foundation of psychology is the suggestion that we simply follow Socrates in making the turn from pre-Socratic to Socratic philosophy. Our effort is to redirect psychiatry within a new comprehensive context- as distinct from dismissing what has been learned in the attempt to imitate the physical sciences. We assume a narrative: That modernity involved the attempt to turn to nature for an account of the fundamental causes of things, amounting to a Renaissance repetition of the ancient Greek discovery of nature. But the methods and models fail when addressing the human things, demonstrating a fundamental limitation of our science. Regarding man, simply put, our psyche-ology, does not attain knowledge. It addresses accidents and symptoms, while making itself a servant to the baser ends that usually govern mankind. What we say is that the science of the soul is no such slave. The obvious suggestion- if there has been a Renaissance repetition of the ancient Greek discovery of nature- is that we also follow ancient Greece in the emergence of Socratic from pre-Socratic philosophy. The following account of Xenophon allows one the best access to a direct account of the principle shown in the Socratic turn at the root of a psychology that may do more good than harm.

The full original is in the Menu above, accessible by hovering over “Philosophy.”

III. The Second Part of the Answer of Xenophon                        (original, pp. 15-23)

a) On I, i .10 The Impiety of the Other Philosophers in Conversation

b) On I, i .11-15  The Objections of Socrates to the Conversation of the Other                                                 Philosophers

c) On I, i .16 Socratic Conversation

1) The turn of Socrates to the Human Things

2) That Socrates Continued to study the Nature of All Things

3) The “What Is” Questions

4) Conclusion on Socratic Sophia and Phronesis

[From p. 15…

   …In attempting to show that Socrates was rather worthy of great honor from the city, Xenophon distinguishes Socrates from those who study the nature of all things, now called Pre-Socratic. In the second of three sections of the answer of Xenophon to the impiety charge in the indictment, he turns from the lack of impiety in the deeds to the lack of impiety in the speeches of Socrates. The account of the speeches aims to show that the jury “erred in judging what it is not manifest how they knew (I,i, 17).” At least part of the error of the citizens is to suppose that Socrates is the same as others, those who talk about nature. Like the answer of Socrates to the old accusers in Plato’s Apology (18 a-24b), the account of Xenophon here serves to distinguish Socrates from the atheistic tendency  of the natural philosophers. This has been prepared by the discussion of Socrates’ daimon, which surely distinguishes him from the atheistic natural philosophers. It will be our aim here to follow out the theoretical section* of the account of this difference.

   Xenophon begins by saying that Socrates was always in the open, in the gymnasium or marketplace, speaking much to all who would hear, but never was he known to be impious in deeds seen or words heard:

…For he never spoke considering about the nature of all things in the manner of most of the others, as the sophists call the nature of the cosmos and the necessities by which each of the heavenly things comes to be.

                                                                                 (Memorabilia I,i,10)

Those who talk openly about the nature of all things are impious because the discovery of nature at the beginning of philosophy undermines the conventional beliefs in the mythic opinions of the first and most fundamental things, the origin or man and the way of the cosmos. Natural philosophy gives an account of the “necessities by which each thing comes to be” without reference to the gods, in terms of elements and motion. Jaffa gives a good example in his study of Lear: the belief that Zeus will punish human injustice by throwing lightening bolts is undermined by the account of the cause of lightening in terms of electricity. So is the belief that the care of the gods for men ensures that there is no disproportion between one’s just deserts and one’s fortunes (Mem. IV, iii,14; Hesiod, Works and Days, 238-285; Aristophanes, Clouds, 395-97). Men’s sight of the heavens and the earth is purged of the imagination. In the turn from the opinion of the city to natural philosophy, it is found that the gods have fled.

   In Plato’s Apology, Meletus asserts that Socrates believes the sun to be not a god, but a stone (26d). Socrates responds that Meletus has mistaken him for Anaxagoras. The atheism of the pre-Socratic thinkers is much like that of modern scientific “empiricism.” This seems to have emerged through a Renaissance repetition of the ancient Greek discovery of nature. It is the emergence of philosophy as such, rather than Socratic philosophy in particular, that undermines custom and is fundamentally at odds with pious belief. Yet, Socratic philosophy is a kind of philosophy.

   Upon the discovery of nature, it appears that justice or right is not natural, but exists only by human convention and agreement. Justice seems to be without trans-political support in the more general cosmos. Hence, Plato’s Republic. In his description of the discovery of nature at the origin of philosophy, Leo Strauss states:

   It is not surprising that philosophers should first have inclined toward conventionalism. Right presents itself, to begin with, as identical with law or custom or as a character of it.; and custom or convention comes to sight, with the emergence of philosophy, as that which hides nature.

                                                                           Natural Right and History, p. 93)

   According to Xenophon, Socrates, for three reasons, held that even to give thought to such things as the nature of all things, is madness. These reasons are two practical considerations surrounding a central theoretical objection. First, Socrates considered whether such thinkers came to give thought to such things upon believing themselves to see the human things sufficiently, or whether they were “roused from the human things to consider the divine things (ta daimonia) as leading them to what is fitting to do.”

   The question of what is fitting to do is more urgent for men than the question of the nature of all things. Do these thinkers then know this- what is fitting to do- sufficiently from the human things, or do they turn to the divine things in order to learn this? Natural philosophy is criticized for being useless, and for not seeking a good that is human (as is theoretical wisdom, Aristotle, Ethics, vi, 1141b 2-8). The natural philosophers  disregard the human things, which lead to a knowledge of what is fitting to do, knowledge of right action. It is possible that the natural things are called divine in accordance with the beliefs of the city. But again, one wonders if there is not some kind of contemplation of the nature of things that is not useless but leads to what is fitting to do.

   Secondly, Socrates wondered that “it was not manifest to them that human beings were not empowered to discover these things.” (I,i, 13). The evidence of this limitation of humans is that even the “greatest thinking” [Note 11] or hubristic, of these talkers did not agree with one another, but took extreme opposite positions on questions of the nature of all things. In this, they behaved madmen. For as madmen exhibit extremes regarding fear, shame and worship (some even worshiping wood (hule), so these talkers exhibit extreme opinions. Worrying about the nature of all things caused…

…some to believe being to be one, others, infinitely many, and some (to believe) all always to move, others never to move and some (to believe) that all comes to be and passes away, others that nothing ever comes to be and passes away.

                                                                                              I,i, 14

   The extremes of the madman regarding piety are analogous to the extremes in thought of those who give thought to the nature of all things. Aspects of the regard of humans toward the gods are thus set in analogy with thought, corresponding to the distinction between characters of the passions and reason. This pattern of the presentation of the central objection of Socrates points to the question of whether or not the mean regarding piety is likewise analogous to the mean in thought regarding the first principles.

   The third objection of Socrates is, like the first, a practical objection. Socrates considered whether as those learning about the human things hope they are led by what they learn to do what they choose for themselves and others, those who pry into the divine things (ta thea) think that when they know the necessities by which each comes to be, that they will make wind (Aristophanes, Clouds, 385-395; Hippocrates, lost fragment), water seasons and other things when they need these things? Or are they satisfied only to know how each of these things comes to be (I,i, 15)? Do the natural scientists seek to apply their knowledge of the causes to produce the effects of these causes according to need, mastering fortune and the elements as one obeyed by wind and sea? Or are they satisfied with knowledge for its own sake? Is the contemplation of these material and efficient causes, the theoretical wisdom of an Anaxagoras or Thales (Aristotle, Ethics, VI, 7, 1141 b 4-5), the same as that self-sufficient and thus satisfying activity which is the health of the best part of reason (Ibid., 1141 a 4)?

   Socrates own conversation was rather of the human things (I, i, 16). Through this kind of conversation one hopes to learn both what is fitting to do (.12) and to be able to do what one chooses for oneself and others (.15). “Xenophon in the Memorabilia (I,i, 16) links this knowledge to being kaloi te k’agathoi,” noble (beautiful) and good. Xenophon presents the difference of Socrates as that of one who is concerned with an entirely different subject matter than that of the natural philosophers. Xenophon is silent, though, regarding the commonality of Socrates with the other natural philosophers as philosophers. It will be helpful to follow the account of Leo Strauss in attempting to follow the account of Xenophon of the revolution or “turn” by which Socrates was different and yet similar, or the same in part, to those who converse about the nature of all things.

   By the turning from the divine or natural things to the human things, Socrates is said to have been the founder of political philosophy (Leo Strauss, NRH, p. 120, HPP, p. 4). [Note 12] Socrates is said to have been the first who called philosophy down from heaven and forced it to make inquiries about life and manners and good and bad things” NRH, p. 120). According to the most ancient reports, Socrates, after this turning, “directed his inquiry entirely into the human things” (HPP, p. 4). It seems that Socrates was induced to turn away from the study of the divine or natural things by his piety (HPP, p. 4). The account of Xenophon here (I,i,10-16) of the founding of political philosophy appears to agree with these ancient reports in ascribing the complete rejection of natural philosophy to the origin of Socratic or political philosophy.

   But Strauss emphasizes that Socrates continued the study of the nature of all things, even if he did not do this openly. While Socrates was always in the open, Socratic natural philosophy may yet be hidden, even in or through this open conversation. It is not itself open or apparent to all. Strauss reveals an excellent example of this character of Socratic conversation when, in interpreting the central objection of Socrates to the natural philosophers, he finds a piece of Socratic cosmology. Strauss writes that the list of the opinions of the natural philosophers would seem to imply…

That according to the sane Socrates, the beings are numerable or surveyable; those beings are unchangeable while the other things change, and those beings do not come into being or perish, while the other things come into being and perish.

                                                                Xenophon’s Socrates, p. 7

The Socratic cosmology is presented as the silent mean between immoderate extremes, analogous to the mean regarding fear, shame and worship neglected by the madman. Strauss states that “Socrates seems to have regarded the change which he brought about as a return to sobriety and moderation from the madness of his predecessors (NRH, p. 123). “Socrates did worry about the nature of all things, and to that extent, he too was mad; but his madness was at the same time sobriety: he did not separate wisdom (sophia) from moderation” (Xenophon’s Socrates, p. 7; Memorabilia III. 94). The cause of the turn of Socrates to the human things may have been his pursuit of wisdom rather than his piety.

   In describing Socratic conversation, Xenophon presents a list of questions which Socrates would consider. Xenophon, famously, writes:

   His own conversation was always considering the things of humans, what is pious and what impious, what is noble and what is base, what is just and what unjust, what is moderation and what madness, what is courage and what cowardice, what is a city and what a statesman, what is the rule of humans and what is a ruler of humans and what is a ruler of humans, and others, of which knowing would lead one to be noble and good, but ignorance (of which) is justly called slavery.

                                                                                 (Memorabilia, I,i, 16

   The “What is” question points toward the form or idea (eidos) of a thing and identifies this with its nature. Contrary to both custom and pre-Socratic natural philosophy, the nature of a thing is shown not in that out of which a thing has come into being (Memorabilia I,i, 12) but by the end which determines the process of its coming to be (NRH p. 123). Particular examples at their completion are those which most fully show the nature or class character of a thing. Because the kinds or classes are parts of a whole, the whole has a natural articulation, the natural logos. [Note 13] An example of a point of this natural articulation is the fundamental twofold division between the “beings” and the “things” in the conjecture of Strauss of the silent Socratic cosmology presented above. In Book VI of Plato’s Republic, there are two kings, one the king of the intelligible and another king of the visible.

   Through the human things, Socrates discovered a new kind of natural philosophy and a new kind of being. It is due fundamentally to this difference in object that Socratic philosophy differs from pre-Socratic philosophy, and from our natural history and science. Strauss states:

Socrates, it seems, took the primary meaning of the word “nature” more seriously than did his predecessors; he realized that “nature” is primarily form or “idea.” If this is true, he did not simply turn away from the study of natural things, but originated a new kind of the study in which, for example the nature of the human soul or man is more important than, for example, the nature of the sun (HPP, p. 5). Contrary to appearances , Socrates’ turn to the study of the human things was based, not upon disregard of the divine or natural things, but upon a new approach to the study of all things.

                                                                             (NRH, p. 122)

[In Plato’s Apology, Socrates distinguishes between divine wisdom, which belongs not to men but to “the God,” and his own human wisdom, which consists in part in knowing he does not have divine wisdom. There too, though, he claims not to know how to cultivate the human as well. It is strange that we should know the human without knowing the divine, but this is true in one sense, that the human is accessible, or, “first for us”.]

   Socratic philosophy presupposes and emerges out of pre-Socratic natural philosophy. Before turning to the human things, Socrates himself studied natural philosophy (Phaedo 99) Socratic philosophy emerges when the appeal from custom to nature regarding the causes is transferred from the direct inquiries of the natural philosopher into the divine or natural things, to be combined with the political concerns of man with right or justice. Socratic philosophy appeals from customary beliefs to nature in asking the “What is” questions, which are parts of the question of the nature of man and how men should live. [Note 14] The asking of the what is questions implies the attempt to ascend from opinion to knowledge regarding the nature of man. By asking what is the best life for man, Socrates discovered natural; right, and in this founded political philosophy. Strauss writes that ” the distinction between nature and convention which marks the emergence of natural philosophy retains its full significance for Socrates and for classical natural right in general” NRH, p. 121).

   From the inhuman madness of natural philosophy, not unlike the attempt to know “Being” directly in metaphysics since Aristotle, Socrates returns to begin from the things that are first for us” NRH, p. 123-4), from opinion, (NRH, p. 124), from [page 22] the visible looks eidos), or from common sense (NRH, p. 123). Socratic philosophy begins from custom or from the beliefs of the city (Mem. IIV, iv, 30-31; Aristotle, Ethics, 1096 b1-12), regarding the way of the cosmos and the things good and bad for man. This teaching of custom is embodied in “visible” poetic images for apprehension by the human imagination. Conversation regarding the most important things ascends from opinion because opinion proves to point toward knowledge and truth as an artifact points toward its original. Strauss states:

   The opinions prove to be solicited by the self subsisting truth, and the ascent to the truth proves to be guided by the self subsistent truth which all men always divine.                                                                                        (NRH, 124).

   But upon returning to the human things, Socrates does not hold conventional beliefs conventionally, as axioms taken as known from which to reason downward toward a conclusion. For example, he does not begin as do his accusers by assuming that they know what piety is and what Socrates thought, and conclude from this that Socrates is guilty of impiety for not believing in the gods of the city. Believing in the gods in which the city believes may not be the whole of piety. Socratic philosophy rather turns the opinions into “steppingstones and springboards to reach what is free of hypothesis at the beginning of the whole” (Republic 511 b5). Trust in the visible things is transformed into dialectical insight. [Note 15] Socrates cannot believe the conventional opinions as these are conventionally held any more than one could believe the shadows of visible artifacts to be real things (Ibid, 514 b5).

   Strauss writes: We have learned from Socrates that the political things are the key to the understanding of all things” (Thoughts on Machiavelli, p. 19. Also, Xenophon’s Socrates, p. 8). Socratic philosophy replaces the activity of the poet of making myths with the construction in speech of the best regime. On the principle that the political things are the key to the understanding of all things, the most thorough account of the good life and of the highest beings is presented by Socrates not in a dialogue on questions of metaphysics or epistemology, but rather, as in Plato’s Republic, in a dialogue on the regime (politea) which asks the question “What is justice,” and is answered by the theme of the best regime. The just and unjust are the central pair above which the good form has a what and an opposite. The Socratic cosmology is seen reflected in the nature of the soul, which is in turn reflected in the political things, and especially the articulation of the best regime. (501 b1-7; also 506 e1-507 a3, 490 b4-5; 484 c2-d6,540 a8-b1; 368c6-369 a1).


 Socrates held that seeing the things of which the what is question is asked would lead one to be “noble and good (I,i .16). Socratic phronesis and sophia are joined in this activity. In the Socratic work of unfolding and going through the treasures which the ancient wise men have left written in books, Socrates seemed to Xenophon to lead those hearing into the noble and good (I, vi .14). Socrates is one who by his thought is the cause or source of eupraxa, well-doing or right action (Aristotle Politics VII.iii; Memorabilia I, iv .15). By Socrates’ contemplation, he is enriched with virtue (IV, ii. 9), which is wisdom (III, ix, 5), and thus blessed. By the activity of his well ordered soul among his companions (Strauss, XS, p. 116-117), they are led into the virtues, or into the noble and good (NRH p. 128, Aristotle, Ethics, 1144b12, 1145 a1-2).

   Because Socrates goes beyond the beliefs of the city regarding the highest beings, we find again that he is in a way guilty as charged, and that Xenophon hides his account by hiding the wisdom of Socrates. Xenophon hides the wisdom of Socrates because the city cannot judge correctly regarding the whole of wisdom from the appearances which can be made visible to all. The citizens cannot see the difference between Socrates and the natural philosophers which makes his similarity with them an aspect of his virtue. Socrates brings conventional piety to its completion in his contemplation of the beings, his moderate cosmology, just as Socratic foresight is the fulfillment of conventional divination. The attempt to reconcile the city to philosophy is limited to opinion. The philosopher can be reconciled to this limitation. After the ascent from opinion or law to nature, “It appears more clearly than ever before that opinion, or law, contains truth…” (Strauss, HPP, p. 4) It is possible for Xenophon to veil his account of the philosophic activity of Socrates in an account given in terms of opinion because of the analogous relation of opinion to knowledge, or because the many opinions point toward the philosophic life.

Postscript on Modern Psychology

   “What is sanity and what madness” is one of the Socratic questions, showing the place of psychology within Socratic political philosophy. Psychology as a separate science was just emerging, as in the direct essay of Aristotle of the title Psyche, a study of dreams, and of course his Ethics, his “structure and dynamics” of the soul. He follows the fundamental division of the two parts of the soul, distinguishing “ethical” from intellectual virtue so well that it must be argued that the Good is still king of the intelligible, and that there is par excellence good and evil regarding intellectual virtue. The intellectual virtues are the measure of the practical and theoretical faculties disturbed in madness, not so that all the imprudent and unwise might be quickly drugged for the great benefit of the whole, but so that we have any scientific measure at all. The neurons and chemicals cannot provide this. The right functioning of these faculties is not the normal, though the symptoms, say, of what is called “schizophrenia,” or the symbols mis-produced in “psychoses,” cannot be understood without reference to the right functioning, and indeed, we say, the knowledge within. In addition to ethical vice, there is intellectual vice, understood in the collective shadow figures of literature and history. But that Justice is the good of the soul, and either is or is necessary to human happiness, while the unjust soul is in faction with its own true nature and within and with the outside world- this ground is shown most clearly through the best regime beginning from the three part soul, before moving to the two and the transcendent one. The three part city and soul: where three elements appear in a type represented by Monarchy, Aristocracy and Polity, seeking reason, honor and pleasures or compassion- is the basis in thought of the common model or archetype that connects political science and psychology. These arise in each city due to the dominance of the elements of the spirited pursuit of honor and beauty, the wisdom of its assembly, and the baser concerns of the many, as written by Plato at the opening of Book VIII of his Republic.

   Our psychology and psychiatry must now follow the Socratic turn, or the destruction of our civilization is likely. The very science that unleashed these powers has hitherto made it impossible for us to inquire into how these powers might be used well, even telling us that it is impossible to know anything about these matters most important to man, while profiting by the sophistic spread of drugs and first principles hardly better than what is available to the common man. By showing us the Socratic turn to follow the Renaissance repetition of the discovery of nature, Xenophon’s Socrates shows a way to subordinate the new technologies within a genuinely scientific pursuit that is appropriate to the faculties of man, rather than the instruments of science extending the bodily senses.

P. S.: The whole of the paper from which this blog is derived may be typed out from the original printed copy in the Philosophy section, available in the menu above.

Notes [to III, a] pp. 15-

Note 11: Under custom, it is impiety to think big or great thoughts, a hubris the opposite of moderation, punishable by the gods. But Socratic philosophy seems to follow a path that is both great thinking and yet not immoderate toward the gods in the way that the sophists or natural philosophers are, because Socrates did not separate wisdom from moderation (III, ix, 4-6).

Note 12 NRH will be used to refer to Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History, HPP to The History of Political Philosophy.

Note 13: There is a similarity between the Socratic turn toward the eidai and the statement of John 1: 1 that the word (logos) was in the beginning.

*Taken from a 1985 paper for the class of Wayne Ambler on Xenophon, at the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas. The Socratic turn has also been described in “Philosophic Psychology” and the Introduction to Philosophy essays in the menu at the top of the page.

Genesis on Man [commentary, draft blog]

The updated version of this essay is available in the menu at the top of the page,under “Revelation.”

   Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is easily among the ten or so greatest books possessed by mankind. As with the book of Revelation, and scripture generally, more so than other books, the reading of the text unfolds anew each time we take up the work, so that comment is inexhaustible, yet always insufficient. Even while we are dependent upon the stewards of the text for access to the original language, Genesis in English may be the most influential of all books, so that some understanding is required for the study of man and history, having now set the principles of Western Civilization. Having then recently attended a course of taped classes, and needing to come up with a term paper, I will write an essay as best able. For, As Steven Rowe professor at Grand Valley, would say, “no impression without expression.” We learn better by trying to write, regardless of deficiency.

   Abraham, with Melchizedek, swears by “God Most High, the maker of heaven and earth (14:19; 22; 12:1).” Genesis is unique, or nearly so, in presenting the transcendent God, above and beyond anything in heaven or on earth. The same is God, directing Christians, Israel and Islam. Genesis tells the history of Israel from the beginning, through Noah, to the distinction from the rest of mankind of Israel as the twelve tribes of the sons of Jacob. It is entirely possible that Moses, writing Genesis, retained an oral teaching of the Creation from Abraham, who may have had this from a source common with the Gilgamesh tradition of Babylon, Ur and Erech, even passed on from those who spoke to Noah, only 292 years prior to the birth of Abraham. Written Hebrew seems to come after the captivity in Egypt, related to Arabic and Egyptian alphabet and script, but the story of the flood does not come from Egypt (Plato, Timeaus 22c). Spoken Hebrew is from Eber, the son of Shem, prior to the division of languages after the flood, and so it may be original language, at least from Noah.

I. Chapter One

  Leo Strauss writes: The first account (of creation) ends with man; the second account begins with man.”[Note 1]. So in considering Genesis on man, we may approach the account of the creation. The second account, in Chapters 2-3, is a drawing out of 1:26: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” That is, the story of Eden is an explanation of what it means that man is made in the image and likeness of God, drawing out the account of the male and female, leading up to the account of how man became “like one of us, knowing good and evil.”

   The first chapter leads up to the distinction of man among the beings. Its summary is the work of reading and commentary. Strauss writes:

“The clue to the first chapter seems to be the fact that the account of the creation consists of two main parts…” “The first part begins with light, the second with the sun,…” “Only on the third and sixth days were there two acts of creation.” (p.11)… The creatures of the fourth to sixth days are “able to separate themselves from their places…” “The principle of the second half, the fourth to sixth day, is local motion. It is for this reason and for this important reason that the vegetative world precedes the sun; the vegetative world lacks local motion.”

                                                           On the Interpretation of Genesis, p. 11

   Except that the green world precedes the sun, the order of the creation is astonishingly like the account we have from modern science. The author knows that the birds and fish are as if creatures of a different day, and the same day as the creeping things, just as we distinguish the age of the dinosaurs from that of the mammals. As has been noted, the first three chapters set something like the places to be inhabited by the beings created on the fourth through sixth days, vegetation too making something like a garden [Note 2]. The Fourth day makes the Sun, moon and stars, which move, and then on the fifth day, it is beings which change their courses. Then on the sixth day, in the second speaking, man. Strauss draws out this teaching:

Local motion is separation of a higher order, …to be set off against a background” of what is not moving…Local motion is followed by life. Life too must be understood as a form of separation…animals can change not only their places, but also their courses. From this it follows that the being created last, namely man, is characterized by the fact that he is a creature which is separated in the highest degree; man is the only being created in the image of God…finally, a being which can separate itself from its way, the right way (p.11-12). Man “can move or change his place to the highest degree. But this privilege, this liberty, freedom, is also a great danger. Man is the most ambiguous creature; hence man is not called good, just as heaven is not called good…(p. 17).

   As Jung too notes, there is a medieval commentary which notices that unlike the other days of creation, on the second day, the text does not say that God “saw that it was good (Maimonides, Guide, II. 50, p. 353″ Similarly, on the sixth day, after the creation of the animals and man, it does not say that God saw that it was good, but says that he saw the whole was “very good.” Heaven, it is said, or “sky,” is incomplete, as is man, the one to be completed by the ascent or redemption of man.

II. The First Sentence

   Maimonides explains that the correct translation of the first sentence is: “In the origin, God created what is high and what is low” (Guide, p. 352). “En Archae” is the Greek written by John for In the beginning when he repeats the opening of the Bible (John 1:1). An archae is a ruling principle or first principle. The word “Baro” is used uniquely of Gods’s creating. Barashis Elohim Baro’…Is the Hebrew, “In  the Beginning, God created…” It is said that heaven is demoted as the focus of interest, but it is quite possible, we think, that the account of heaven is simply set aside, turning to the earth, which was “without form and void.” Augustine, too, notes that the coming into being of the angels, assumed by the text to exist, is not described, unless it is included in the light created on the first day (City of God, XI.9). The first sentence may be a chapter summary rather than an act of creation without a word. It is indicated that this book, like other ancient books, was titled later, not by the author, so that the first sentences functioned as a title. The text does not decide the question later introduced (Sacks, The Lion and the Ass, p. ), of creation “out of nothing.” What exists when God speaks first is the formless earth and the wind of God moving on the face of the deep.” We imagine sea, but what the earth as formless is becomes clear as the waters are separated and the dry land appears. Water is not created, but separated out. There is also motion or “energy,” even before light. “Saw,” or seeing, and “good,” too, are not brought to be with the light, but must be assumed to just ” be.” Sacks note too that evening and morning are not brought to be, but simply result from the creation of “day,” or, what we call “light” and its separation from “darkness” or “night.” The heaven and earth of the first sentence, the earth that is formless, cannot be the same as the  sky and earth of the second day, as dry land has not yet been separated out. Earth in the first sentence might mean the whole visible world that we distinguish from the intelligible, not the planet, which appeared not even as round to the view of the writer, nor even the ground beneath the sky. Is it possible that he did not see that days depend upon sun, or are caused by the sun rising? Did he think there are waters above because rain falls, as when the windows of the deep are opened? Could the author have seen the sun as rather inhabiting than causing the day? But, it seems, there must also be space and time, which may as well be permanent or eternal, as Aristotle teaches, so far as Genesis is concerned. It surely does not say that time itself was created, introducing the contradiction of a time before time. The six days of the creation might from another view be seen as ongoing, as light too is even now still being created, ontological precedence being set in in a temporal articulation. There is also “face” and “the deep.” “Word,” too, is in or before the beginning, and the trinity is hence said to be present in the first three sentences of scripture. It does not say otherwise what the creation is “out of,” but that it is “by his word (Psalm; Note 3]” When Jesus turns water into wine, he need not begin with nothing. When he heals the blind man, he uses clay. From the image of God in man, one suggestion would be “out of himself,” even as Eve springs from the rib of man.



Note 1 “On the Interpretation of Genesis,” p. 17.

Note 2 The New American Bible, Reading Guide.

Note 3 There is no scriptural teaching of creation “out of nothing.” The closest is Maccabees 7:28 …God did not make them out of things that existed.” Hebrews 11: 1-3 “By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.”


The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Oxford University Press, 1973, 1977.

The New American Bible. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.

Anastaplo, George. Class at the Clearing in Wisconsin, 1990.

Augustine. The City of God.

Maimonides, Moses. Guide of the Perplexed. Translated by Shlomo Pines. Chicago: University of Chicago APress, 1963.

Keller, Werner. The Bible As History. NY: William Morrow and Company, 1956.

Sacks, Robert. The Lion and the Ass. Interpretation.

Strauss, Leo. On the Interpretation of Genesis.

________. Athens and Jerusalem: Some Preliminary Reflections. In Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy. Edited by Thomas Pangle. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

_____________. Progress or return? The Contemporary Crisis.

More Lao Tzu

[69] There is no greater catastrophe than underestimating the enemy.

[8] The highest good is like water

Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive.

It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.

[34] The great Tao flows everywhere, both to the left and to the right…

Ben Carson, too, expresses centrist politics as the two wings of the eagle.-CLC!


Therefore, “Tao is great;

Heaven is great;

Earth is great;

The King is also great.”

These are the four great powers of the universe,

And the King is one of them.

Man follows earth.

Earth follows heaven.

Heaven follows the Tao.

Tao follows what is natural.

[5] …The space between heaven and earth is like a bellows…

[62] Why does everyone like the Tao so much?

Isn’t it because you find what you seek and are forgiven when you sin?

Translated by Guy-Fu Feng and Jane English. Preface:

…according to ancient legend, as he was riding off into the desert to die-sick at hearty at the ways of men-he was persuaded by a gatekeeper in Northwestern China to write down his teaching for posterity.

It is not said whether the action of the gatekeeper saved his life (604-531 B.C.).

This was the time of the Babylonian exile of the Jews and the beginnings of Greek philosophy with Thales. The rest of the “White” guys were still, like eating their relatives!

Dakota Access Pipeline

   Does it not seem that builders of the pipeline should have gone around the Sioux land? Are we to begin the next administration with another violation of treaty rights, and perhaps even another violent massacre, just so that all the sins of history might be repeated in the end times? One thing very disturbing to me is when the government is about to forcibly remove the protesters from federal land and says it is for the welfare of the protesters. That is maybe the third time I have heard that line, that government intrusion is for our welfare and benefit. An example is when the echo on my phone indicated that it was being tapped by a mobile unit through the cell phone tower, and I went outside to read my license plate and two county cars were there on the road. They too assured me they were there “for my welfare.” At first I was, like, good someone is taking care of me. But then I realized that it was a lie, and that if they cared at all especially about my mental welfare, they would not be spying on me, and if any trustworthy power wanted to know anything they would ask me. Today, I was trying to comment on a constitution website (though I am not allowed to do so because I am not “on” Facebook and will not give them information). My comments to my Representative are signed by the owner of the computer, because it has decided who I am. Oh, yea, and of course the matter has been reported and no one cares. My cursor began to misbehave, and then a square sign came over my sentence that said “Anti-Bannon,” as though someone were flagging things in the comments and accidentally left the flag visible to the writer. Sue, we can trust the government and the elections!

   What is the connection? Our government will no more respect the treaty rights of the Sioux than they will respect the social contract made with each of the citizens, because we have not insisted that they uphold their side of the agreement and obey the fundamental law that is the Bill of Rights. We are about to get the tyranny we have allowed to occur, and if one thinks it is just those other people that are about to be trampled, Dietrich Bonhoeffer will tell you, by the time they came for him, there was no one left to help.

   I won’t even try to do anything about the anti-Bannon flag- no one cares. No one cared when they stuck a virus on my box claiming top destroy my hard drive, apparently for reading the article “So, Trump was a Putin Puppet after all.”

Flint: Bottled Water Verses Rainwater

   It is very expensive to deliver bottled water to people’s homes. Rainwater is delivered quite regularly already. We, here at McDonald Philosophy, have been working on methods of rainwater collection. If a sufficient filter can be attached to any of seven models, rainwater can be collected even for drinking. But that we are not collecting rainwater for washing defies belief. In Bermuda, where the ground does not hold water any better than Americans hold new ideas, they have been collecting and drinking even roof rainwater for a century.

   Does everyone simply assume that rainwater is dirty? When we used lead in the gas, one might expect lead in the rainwater east and north of a city, but now the air is fairly clear in most places. And the water coming out of the pipes, where do we think that came from? And we think it best to first run it through the poisoned ground in Flint, then down the poisoned river and through the poisoned pipes, then try to filter it? We seem to have this image that water must be “treated” and made artificial by some government controlled process. And is bottled water tested, say, for plastic after it has sat in the sun? The challenge in inventing water collection systems is keeping the collection system clean, as roofs are exposed to bird droppings. If I leave mine out, I have to wash it good before a rain, usually washing it with well water. We have one model that folds up, so that it is covered, and unfolded before a rain. This, and my plastic and dowel on a frame model, I would have produced and delivered for sale in Flint, but there are no investors. One cannot do these things by oneself, especially if blacklisted and ostracized for having new ideas.

   With the method pictured on the Inventions page in the menu of this website, I have for nearly a year collected almost all my own drinking water. If I could afford to test it, I would, and if I could afford a sand and charcoal or graphite filter, I would have one. I use coffee filters, which work fine for the big stuff, But for the most part, my water is pristine, and leaves no film on the containers, as the well water does. That, too, we want to test, as no one has looked into the spread of poisons from Mount Salem under the ground toward Northville Township. And we watch collecting water when the wind blows from the south.

Wild Grape Juice Recipe

Here is a new discovery, which I will be sure to fail to find a way top market, though it is equally sure to be a lot of fun. The Wild Grapes are growing very well this yea, but, as everyone ? knows, it is very difficult to turn them into food, so that they usually go to waste. The seeds are just too big, and the skin unedible, though they are deliciously sour. These must be the grapes Leif Erickson found when visiting Newfoundland, which he called “Vinland, after the grapes.”My Grampa used to grow concord grapes and make juice, as my mum says, by pouring boiling water into a canning jar with one cup of grapes and one cup of sugar, then sealing the jar by putting the lid on tight, loosening it, and turning the jar over. So I did this with wild grapes. The flavor is astonishing. It is like that very expensive cherry juice, only better. One can feel that red wine stuff good for the heart going into one’s cells. Then I backed off the sugar to 3/4 and then 2/3, and it is even better. Next I will try 1/2 and 1/3, and when I get enough, I will replace half the sugar with honey.After I pour in the boiling water, I squish the grapes against the side of the canning jar with a big fork.

The result is a gourmet or luxury juice, a rare flavor even the rich cannot afford unless they make it themselves. I climbed the apple tree where the grapes grow, picked a bunch then separated the stems and floated off the green grapes and the junk, so that 5 quarts too 3 hours, the first time. I will freeze some cleaned grapes to make juice all winter. The ultimate will be wild grape wine and Cunjac.

I could start a business with this nitche in the market, even patenting the sale of wild Grape juice products. These weeds grow quite well in low and and aound damp areas. But for now, for all you poor, this juice costs just a few cents per gallon, and is well worth making. It will be especially artsy made with rainwater.

Rainwater Collector #1: A Picture

Here is a picture of my simplest rainwater collector. Again, it is a 6 x 10 piece of plastic spread over a frame with a rock in it and a hole off-center, with a coffee filter and funnel underneath catching the water into a five gallon Absopure bottle set in a trough for overflow or any we miss. The edges of the plastic are rolled in dowels and a staple gun secures the system up to about a fifty mph wind. Pouring the trough water through the funnel manually takes more time. A graphite or charcoal filter would help. The hole off center collects anything solid and heavy, and pouring off the top when it is full, or overfilling the bottle, clears off anything that floats, but we get very few impurities. I collected 11 gallons in the storm before last, before the headwind of the one after that blew a frame board aside. I would like to start a company of water inventions, but cannot even afford a patent, so I am trying to find an investor or someone who will give me the twenty percent of profits usual for a good invention. But mostly, I want people to do it and have clean water!

   I have seven different models based on this idea, all patentable inventions. The second is to sew a filter pocket onto the plastic collector. The third is to make the same shape out of sheet metal like a coffee table with a top that opens and closes to keep it clean between rains. A fourth is to make interlocking plastic sections about 4 x 4 that flow into one another and are set in the ground with stakes. A fifth is made of granite like a counter top, but shaped to collect water. A sixth is out of formed mortar, and a seventh is a sculpture out of stone such as marble. Different materials like cotton are being considered for the first and simplest model. The shapes must be cleanable, and this is the great advantage compared to roof rainwater collection. 60 square feet yields enough drinking water for one person, (including 3/4 gallon per day for coffee!). I would like to test my water, but again, it appears quite clean or, pristine. If the plastic is left out, it must be washed before a rain.

Again, I am watching the people of Flint cart bottled water and drink leaden tap water. They did not even figure out to use rain barrels for washing and bathing water. They first must run the rainwater through the ground, down the river, through the pipes, then the filter. These inventions could supplement our bottled water delivery system, already over-taxed. Finally, if the system could be kept clean, this could be done in a big way, even on the roof of the factory where they bottle drinking water. Bottled rainwater would surely sell because of the beauty of the idea. Our water problems are only beginning, with road salt melting the pipes and many areas poisoned for groundwater. But there is no reason first to run the water through the ground, if only we filter it as the ground once did. Thirty percent of the world lacks clean drinking water, and how many there watch the rain go into the gutters and dirty ponds, then try to drink it?



Dar Bass of Imagine Trash.org on NPR Stateside

The very day after I wrote about the Sheeny man, Stateside reviewed the Kent County Sustainable Business forum and Dar Bass, who is also connected to the Kent County Public Works. He has thought a bit about trash, and viewed what goes into landfills. They have focused on things like getting businesses to bunch their corrugated cardboard together so there is enough to bother with recycling. He notices how many returnable pop cans are thrown away. The balance is always the value of time and attention in our daily priorities, but Mr. Bass is full of good and worthwhile ideas. I wonder if he likes my idea for a sheeney man at Mount Salem and perhaps a store of reclaimed items- the sheeney man would make a fortune, though I would not want the job. The key is to have someone watch and remind people about hazardous house waste, stuff we do not want to be drinking down the river.

It is a shame that the yard waste collected is full of Chemlawn and roundup, so that it may be the last thing one would want to use on one’s garden. They might test for this and consider the wide ranging effects.

Mount Salem: The Sheeny Man

Mount Salem is of course the giant trash dump everyone in Salem loves because they get free dumping and local taxes. Long ago, though, we noticed that no one cares about the dumping of toxic waste. Everyone just throws batteries into the trash, not to mention other chemicals. This of course goes into the ground water and flows probably into Northville Township, where no one cares because they think drinking bottled water keeps them safe. I myself have not made the one hazardous waste day in the past three years, and do not even know what day this is on. But when I worked at the factory by the dump, there was a sign not the drink the water, though they would not admit it was because it was poisoned by the dump.

So I was thinking (Who, me?) what if we had a sheeny man, a trash-picker, who was allowed to set up by the dump, reclaim and sell good stuff, even sell stuff he had fixed up, and at the same time reminded people not to dump poison? What if they had a hazardous waste day right there at the dump every day? The Sheeny man is an old word, from my mother’s childhood, when he used to go around the neighborhood picking up good trash. There are lots of sheeny men who would like such a job, and at the dump they could make a fortune if they could stand the air, and of course, bring their own water.

It is a shame too that all the compost from yardwaste is poisoned from Chemlawn and Roundup and a thousand other things.

Wash, Rinse, Dry

I was maybe in my thirties or forties before I realized two things about cleaning that make our work more efficient. I was going to post it with the fifteen things about work on the ALK3R reblog, back a few posts, but this theme can justify its own blog, and I do not have much to say today. So, it is not smart to dip our dirty cleaning rag back into the soap water bucket. If we keep the wash water separate it lasts like ten times longer. So after one dips the rag in the soapy water, and washes the ditty surface, then you squeeze out the dirty water before dipping into the soapy water again. Then the rag takes on soapy water rather than gets dirt in the soupy water. Then you have a separate system for rinse, like a separate bucket and rag, and do the same with the rinse water, squeezing the dirty out into the drain and taking on only clean rinse water. Then, if one just lets the surface dry, the water leaves a residue, cause its only like 97% clean, So you have a third separate dry rag, and the surface is shiny. Wash, rinse, dry. After a while, the dry rag becomes the rinse rag, and the rinse rag becomes the washrag. I know this stuff is right, ’cause Mrs. Emrick would let me clean her bathroom, and would say I did it the best. She was 94, and maybe 91 when she said that.

Another great tip for cleaning is the painter’s five-in one (now they have like the seven in one). To wrap a rag around a five in one gives you a soft but sharp edge for cleaning cracks and lines that others have not got to. In painting, this system is great for wiping an error along a sharp lined edge. With errors, the rag is dry-wet-dry: First wipe wet paint with a dry rag, then a wet rag then a dry rag (I’ll just keep a rag that’s half wet and half dry, or a dry rag and a cup of water to dip it in). It is the same with spilled paint: first with a dustpan get the bulk, moving it toward the center of the spill instead of smearing it, then its dry-wet-dry, keeping the paint moving off the surface. This is to consider how the stuff your cleaning up flows. It may seem simple, but I figured this stuff out in my thirties, I think. So if the rag around the five in one is first dry, then damp, then dry, any errors can be made to vanish. Drier spots, ya just let em soak wet for fifteen minutes, then they come off, same as dirt when cleaning.

We used to joke that the test for applicant to a painting labor job is “What are the five uses of the five -in -one! Then for a raise, you gotta answer the seven uses of the seven-in-one!