Friday, January 21, 2011
Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly on the need to attune ourselves.
The Homeric Greeks were open to the world in a way that we, who are skilled at introspection and who think of moods as private experiences, can barely comprehend. Instead of understanding themselves in terms of their inner experiences and beliefs, they saw themselves as beings swept up into public and shareable moods. For Homer, moods are important because they illuminate a shared situation: they manifest what matters most in the moment and in doing so draw people to perform heroic and passionate deeds. The gods are crucial to setting these moods, and different gods illuminate different, and even incompatible, ways a situation can matter. The goddess to whom Helen was most attuned was Aphrodite; she illuminates a situation’s erotic possibilities and draws one to bring these out at their best. Achilles, by contrast, is sensitive to Ares' mood—an aggressive mood in which opportunities to shine as a ferocious warrior become the most important aspects of the situation at hand. Other gods call forth other attunements. The best kind of life in Homer’s world is to be in sync with the gods. As Martin Heidegger puts it:

[W]e are thinking the essence of the [Homeric] Greek gods...if we call them the attuning ones. [P. 111]

At the center of Homer's world, then, is the sense that what matters is already given to us, and that the best life is the one that manages to get in sync with it. This vision speaks eloquently to our own modern needs. Homer’s Olympian gods give his Greeks a sense of the sacred that underwrites the joys and sorrows of a truly meaningful existence. To lure back these Homeric gods is a saving possibility after the death of God: it would allow us to survive the breakdown of monotheism while resisting the descent into a nihilistic existence.

Pp. 60-1
Doc Dreyfus with war helmet, in his chariot of Fire!

Classicist Im not but it's difficult not to ponder the sections in the Republic criticizing the older dynastic-aristocratic greeks. Socrates in effects says...Bastante! Enough of Callicles. Or so it seems. Plato opposes the Heracliteans and/or Nietzscheans of the day. Yet that's sort of..procedural, reasonable and dull, and not nearly as sexxay as Achilles, etc. Anti-rationalism moves product.
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