The Circularity of Dialectic

Many Platonists in the ancient world thought of the circle as the most perfect shape since it is complete, continual and has no begining and no end. It is perpetual activity. This is one reason the ancients thought of the planets as the gods, since they were in perfect motion-they went in all directions. Reason is circular since via opposition something new can always be bought forward. This is why for any argument in philosophy or any objection to an argument there is always some new crafty version lurking. It is very hard to settle a matter.

There are a number of significant discussions taking place that some of you will find helpful. They will be helpful not because I believe they produce consensus or the right answers but are rather illustrative of the continuing problems in theology. In light of these discussions I think what we discuss here as the proper relation between free will and goodness in the Christology of Maximus the Confessor will be seen to be all the more profitable. (Don’t worry, ADS is operative in the discussions as well!) Or another way of saying the same thing, the attentive reader will notice how each side affirms some trtuh at the expense of some other truth, articulated by the opposing side and yet neither are able to bring these two truths together into a single vision or understanding to bring rest to their souls. Consequently the importance of what Maximus has to offer us, both intellectually and existentially is appropriately magnified.

So take a look at the discussions here and here. Round and round they go.

4 Responses to The Circularity of Dialectic

  1. Keith Buhler says:

    I’m reminded of Chesterton’s observation that modesty in the modern age somehow came to mean ‘being confident about yourself, and meek about your ideas,’ when true modesty is exactly the opposite. ‘Fight for the truth as for life and death; but take yourself lightly.’

  2. Joseph Schmitt says:

    But Perry, that would almost require people to actually do some work. Ad hominem is much easier on the ole’ noggin.

  3. Matt,

    No things are not going well. But that aside, what I meant is that by providing a solution to these kinds of debates, I am no longer vexed by worries over the goodness of God, providence and free will.

    I posted this because the usual problems of the relation of revelation to reason, simplicity, necessary or free creation, etc are all in play, quite independently of anything I wrote or anyone from the Eastern tradition. It is a good illustration of the rather constant debates in the western tradition.

    Sure there are smart folks that think I am wrong. But by the same token that I might be wrong,so might they be. It cuts both ways, which leaves that kind of skepticism idle. Further, while I might be wrong, that isn’t a reason for thinking I am in fact so. And it isn’t a matter of being sure, as one can be sure and be wrong and be right and not be sure or certain. the question of whether the arguments are good ones or not is independent of my being sure. This forces us back onto the arguments and that is hard work. People would prefer to appeal to skepticism I think because it appears easier to them than doing the hard intellectual work of moving through the arguments and ideas. I think some thought will show that in the end skepiticism is a much harder to live with than people first imagine.

    As for arrogance, I sure am. It is not a surprise. I have flaws and sins like well…everyone else. Do people really want me to list all my sins in grissly detail? Really? And even if I did, what would that imply about the arguments themselves? Nothing.

    What bothers me is when people argue from the fact that I am a sinner to the conclusion that my arguments are therefore bad ones. If my arguments are that bad, it should be easy to just point out the logical flaw rather than looking at the defects in my character.

  4. Matt says:


    I haven’t posted here in quite a while (though I still read often) and I hope things are going well for you.

    I was wondering if you could explain a little more how avoiding dialectic provides peace to your soul? I mean there are still plenty of smart folks who disagree with you; don’t you worry they might be right? Are you just that sure of yourself? I’m not trying to imply that your arrogant; it’s just an honest question.

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