Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Head and/or Heart: The Ping Pong Theory of Western Intellectual History

       Peter Kreeft argues that Western intellectual history can be seen as a ping-pong match between head and heart (reason and will),  eventually deteriorating (or hardening) into logic and feeling/sentiment/emotion.  I've tried to capture his argument in this image. On the left is the "head/reason/ ratio-logic" stream, and on the right is the "heart/will/feeling-emotion" stream. I've tried to use cooler colors to represent the periods tending toward the "head" stream, and warmer colors to represent the periods tending toward the "heart" stream. The closer a period is to the center of the page, the more balanced it is between the poles of head and heart. The further to the left it is, the more it tends toward the head; the further right it is, the more it tends toward the heart. Following this diagram is an explanation of the "ping-pong" theory.
Peter Kreeft's Ten Periods of Human History

Head -------------------------------------------------------Heart
                                                                   {--------1) Myth ------ }

                                                          { ---------2) Axial period--------------}

  Reason understood as
"Ratio &a Intellectus




            3) Hellenism                                                                                4) Hebraism 
                                                  JESUS CHRIST:
                       Logos + Son of David              
                                                      5) Medieval Christian Synthesis



                            6) Renaissance

                                                                                                    7) Reformation

 Reason as

         8) Enlightenment                              

                                                          will understood as  "Feeling"
                                                                                                                         9) Romanticism   


         10)  Postmodernism ………………………………………………..........................10)  Postmodernism 


Adapted from Peter Kreeft’s Back to Virtue
                                                (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1992) pp. 47-56

1.  Myth
       time of the pagans, poets: Homer, Hesiod
         myth attempts to explain origins of things; but are not meant to be rational or moral.

2.  Axial Period:  6th century, B.C.
       Period of great ferment; men were beginning to become aware of their powers and
3.  Hellenism
       Classical Greek and Roman philosophers pursue TRUTH
         The truth they search most for is the truth about virtue/goodness
         Emphasize centrality of intellect, theory  (HEAD)
         Head judges heart “Live according to reason.”
         >virtue is a matter of knowledge:  if we know what is good, we will do it
              vice is a matter of ignorance:  we do wrong out of ignorance

4.  Hebraism
       The Judeo-Christian stream; prophets pursuing the GOOD
         Introduce two critical categories of human existence:  sin  and faith
         Emphasize centrality of will, choice, action  (HEART)
         Faith comes first, then virtue, then knowledge.
         Just knowing what is good is no guarantee that we will do it.
         Heart judges head. “Above all else, guard your heart; it is the wellspring of life”  (Proverbs 4:23)
5.  @ 500-1500:  Medieval Christian Synthesis  (Basic Christian Theism)
       managed to find a way of combining Hellenism and Hebraism
                                                                           head and heart
                                                                          intellect and will               
                                                                         faith and reason
         “a profound reinterpretation of Greek philosophy and morality.”
         The apex of philosophical realism, which holds that there is a real external world that can be known;
          Human beings created below God, angels; above animals, plants
6. 16th century: Renaissance
       an attempt to return to Hellenism, getting rid of medieval scholastic philosophy and theology;
         a return to the intellect exclusively,   "Man the measure of all things." Nominalism spurs the  
         Scientific Revolution, and further fuels reason.

7. 17th century: Reformation
       an attempt to return to Hebraism, to simpler pre-medieval NT Christianity:
       getting rid of Greek rationalism, Roman legalism; return to the will
        Nominalism becomes the default metaphysic of the west; views God as pure Will. The Reformers 
        are influenced by this idea of God and declare "sola fides."  Thus human beings 
        can only obey Him; they cannot understand Him.  Faith eclipses reason.
8. 18th century :  The Enlightenment /Deism
       reaction against reformation faith; scientism and rationalism as replacements triumph of head over heart, but  this head is trimmed down, secularized

         “Enlightenment rationalism cut the top off Greek ideals and kept the bottom;
                  cut off wisdom and kept logic; transformed reason into reasoning.”
         Scientific method became the method for achieving the summum bonum: the conquest of nature;
                  things are real insofar as they are measurable
         This period is now often referred to as “modernism.”
                  Hume’s skepticism= the logical conclusion of modernism

KANT:        attempts to reply to Hume, provide foundations once more for science, reason;
                   Result is a Copernican revolution in philosophy: the death of philosophical realism.
9.  19th century: [Romanticism], Nihilism, Existentialism
       reactions against Enlightenment rationalism; fallout from Kant's "Big Bang"
         Romanticism=triumph of heart over head, but a trimmed down, secularized heart
         “Romanticism’s heart was sentiment instead of will, and it was in relationship to nature, rather than 
         to God.”  Existentialism exalts the will; Nietzsche deifies it. 

10.  20th century:  Postmodernism/ Naturalism, Eastern Pantheistic Monism, New Age
         Postmodernism(or as some call it, hyper-Modernism) has come into its own in the past decade.
         It repudiates the rationalism and universal truth of  modernism, preferring individual perspectives 
        andrelativism (metaphysical, epistemological and moral.)  This opens the Pandora’s Box of 
        worldviews, but the main contenders seem to be falling out, and  they are naturalism; Eastern 
        Pantheistic monism and its half-breed stepchild, New Age thought; and finally, Christian Theism. 
         (Though one could argue whether it should rather be Theism in general, or Theisms in particular—
        Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.)

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