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The myth of "Plato v. Aristotle"

► SUB-MYTH: LaRouche is a "Leibnizian"

'''LaRouche has developed during the 1977-78 interval a new Manichean world-outlook. The pre-1978 period was characterized by a classical opposition between "socialism" and "fascism". After 1978, there was no "left" vs. "right" opposition anymore but a "higher" one; that of two "irreconcilable" philosophies: Plato vs. Aristotle. ''' LaRouche keeps saying:

"the entirety of the history of European culture from the third century A.D. has centered on an irreconcilable conflict between the republican heritage of Plato and the oligarchical heritage of Aristotle" (7)


"All modern study of the universe, including mathematical physics, has been divided into two irreconcilable fundamental views. The Aristotelean outlook and its degenerate offshoot, nominalism or empiricism, has defined the universe as axiomatically composed of (...) particles (...). Opposed to this has been the contrary axiomatic view emanating from neo-Platonism ..." (8)


"Through three millennia of recorded history to date, centered around the Mediterranean, the civilized world has been run by two, bitterly opposed elites, the one associated with the faction of Socrates and Plato, the other with the faction of Aristotle. During these thousands of years, until the developments of approximately 1784-1818 in Europe, both factions' inner elites maintained in some fashion an unbroken continuity of organization and knowledge through all of the political catastrophes which afflicted each of them in various times and locales." (1)


"Unbroken continuity"? Although LaRouche never explained where this "revelation" came from, consequently his adepts thought this revealed "secret knowledge" was the mark of his "genius".
In reality, LaRouche picked this from his then-beloved philosopher Immanuel Kant!
Indeed Kant wrote in his CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON (Chapter IV, The History Of Pure Reason) this:

1. In respect of the object of all our 'knowledge through reason', some have been mere sensualists, others mere intellectualists. Epicurus may be regarded as the outstanding philosopher among the former, and Plato among the latter. The distinction between the two schools, subtle as it is, dates from the earliest times; and the two positions have ever since been maintained in unbroken continuity. Those of the former school maintained that reality is to be found solely in the objects of the senses, and that all else is fiction; those of the latter school, on the other hand, declared that in the senses there is nothing but illusion, and that the understanding knows what is true. The former did not indeed deny reality to the concepts of the understanding; but, this reality was for them merely logical, whereas for the others it was mystical. The former conceded intellectual concepts, but admitted sensible objects only. The latter required that true objects should be purely intelligible, and maintained that by means of the pure understanding we have an intuition that is unaccompanied by the senses - the senses, in their view, serving only to confuse the understanding.

2. In respect of the origin of the modes of 'knowledge through pure reason', the question is as to whether they are derived from experience, or whether in independence of experience they have their origin in reason. Aristotle may be regarded as the chief of the empiricists, and Plato as the times followed chief of the noologist. Locke, who in modern Aristotle, and Leibniz, who followed Plato (although in considerable disagreement with his mystical system), have not been able to bring this conflict to any definitive conclusion. However we may regard Epicurus, he was at least much more consistent in this sensual system than Aristotle and Locke, beyond the inasmuch as he never sought to pass by inference limits of experience. This is especially true as regards Locke, who, after having derived all concepts and principles from experience, goes so far in the use of them as to assert that we can prove the existence of God and the immortality of the soul with the same conclusiveness as any mathematical proposition - though both lie entirely outside the limits of possible experience.


Typically LaRouche later on demonized Kant as "The Most Evil Man Of the Last 200 Years" (even though Schiller was an avowed Kantian!). LaRouche didn't want the source of his "secret knowledge" to be revealed and be exposed as a plagiarist!

Historical background of the "Plato-Aristotle Controversy":

The whole "controversy" between the partisans of Plato against those of Aristotle's occurred during the 15th C. in Italy. It took place in a very limited time and place.
This quarrel began when Gemistus Pletho (1355-1450), a Greek Byzantine, who came to Florence for the Council (1438-45), wrote, at the command of Cosimo de Medici a small book in which he reproached Aristotle with holding the notion of an inactive and impersonal God, and with being too attached to terrestrial things. This called forth a reply from Georgius Scholarius, a countryman of Pletho's.
They had other exhanges. Pletho entirely missed the originality of Aristotle, calling him "ignoramus" and "sycophant."
In 1450, Nicholas of Cusa who could read Greek and was known for his theological "Union of the Opposites" stance, tried to find an agreement between both parties in his Idiota De Mente where he wrote that "there seems no difference between them (Plato and Aristotle, note) except in the way they considered the matter". The battle of the books carried on however. In 1461 late Pletho was again attacked by one Theodore Gaza of Thessalonica and then defended by Bessarion (De natura et arte), a Greek cardinal who studied philosophy under Gemistus Pletho and by Michael Apostolius. In 1464 the quarrel gathered new fire, following the Comparatio Platonis et Aristotelis, in which Georgius Trapezuntius (George of Trebizond) accuses Pletho of not being a Christian and of wanting to found a new religion which would establish Neo-Platonism. Trebizond was a Greek Aristotelian who fell in love with Latin philosophy and translated Plato. "He thought Plato's influence would be the ruin of the church." Trebizond was the enemy of Bessarion and was devastated by the idea that he might become Pope.
This Trebizond's book provoked Bessarion's In Coluimniatorem Platonis (1469), which had great success. Bessarion was a mediator, who professed equal love for both Greek thinkers. The second and third parts of his book demonstrate that Plato is a precursor of Christianity. Bessarion's work did not, however, end the quarrel, for in 1470 Trebizond took up the cudgels for Aristotle again, in his Annotationes. This called forth an answer by Nicholas Perotto and Bessarion (1471). The following year Bessarion died, and the quarrel seemed to have come to the end.

Neo-Platonist Pico della Mirandola (1463 – 1494)'s work would no doubt have been a new point of departure for the argument. Pico was a member of the "Platonic Academy" (also known as the "Florentine Academy"), a 15th century discussion group in Florence. It was founded after Gemistus Pletho reintroduced Plato's thoughts to Western Europe during the 1438 - 1439 Council of Florence. Pico della Mirandola became the first Christian scholar to master the Jewish mystical theology of Kabbalah. He attempted to develop a form of syncretism whereby different systems of thought could be harmonized based on shared elements of truth. Pico asserted that even though Platonism and Christianity had different views, they held some truths in common. An important aspect of Pico’s philosophical thought was his defense of the dignity and liberty of the human being, set forth in (1486), which has been called the "Manifesto of the Italian Renaissance".

In 1491 he wrote Of Being and Unity (De Ente et Uno) in defense of reconciling Plato and Aristotle's philosophies.

You were telling me lately of the dispute which you and Lorenzo de' Medici had concerning being and unity, and how, taking his stand with the Platonists, that man of a genius so powerful and versatile that he seems made for all things, who finds (wonderful to relate!) even in the incessant occupations of the State leisure for some literary study or conversation, argued against Aristotle, whose Ethics you expounded publicly this year. And since those who estrange Aristotle from Plato estrange themselves also from my point of view -- for I hold to the concord of both systems --, [...] Without waiting for the developments which will come to the subject in my future "Concord of Plato and Aristotle".

From "Of Being and Unity" (1491)


Pico never completed his "Concord of Plato and Aristotle" as he and Poliziano (another member of the Academy) died under very mysterious circumstances in 1494. The "Platonic Academy" was dissolved soon after the death of Lorenzo Medici in 1492.

But, his treatise De ente et uno is followed in the edition of the Opera of 1519 by a series of Objections and Responses which indicate that the controversy was resuming even after Pico's death.

This reconciliation between the two philosophers was celebrated by Raffaello Sanzio's "School Of Athens" fresco painted between 1509 and 1510. This fresco seems to settle the so-called controversy, very much along the lines of "Neo-Platonists" like Pico della Mirandola, Bessarion or Nicholas of Cusa.

Indeed, both Plato and Aristotle are walking while discussing philosophical matters. This was the typical method of the peripatetics (aka Aristotelians)! The "message" was that there was no contradiction between the two philosophers. The irony is that Plato is the one who is really walking ahead, that he is the "real Aristotelian"... He is moving forward, towards the opposite Fresco where Jesus-Christ is portrayed... while pointing his finger upwards, towards... a female figure representing Knowledge, seated upon a chair supported by the goddess Cybele... clearly reminding us Plato still belongs to the Pagan world while leading the way towards... Christianity.

So... the LaRouche's "Plato v. Aristotle" IS A MYTH!

In conclusion and according to the Neo-Platonists themselves, there was NO contradiction or "irreconcilable conflict", between the "Top-Down" method of Plato and the "Bottom-Up" method of Aristotle!
This is very far off from LaRouche's Manichean simplistic view on that question! In fact, it is fair to say that most of the Neo-Platonists considered Plato as the resolution of this quarrel, very similar to a Leibniz's. Even Leonardo da Vinci was an avid reader of Aristotelian literature.

Interestingly, LaRouche has conceded that even Plato used mythologies to control the masses!!

"...both the Platonics and Aristotelians adhered, for opposite reasons, to the doctrine of controlling the masses of people through mythologies."(1)

So, is this a slip of the tongue, a half-confession? This is precisely what he was doing whith this "Plato v. Aristotle" mythology... to control his "masses", aka the larouchies...

In reality, this "Plato v. Aristotle" battle to save Civilization was just a concocted myth, a "noble lie" by LaRouche et al.

Note: The "Aristotelian" method being more concerned with "categories" and "opposites"... the LaRouche's method, in this sense, should be considered as Aristotelian rather than Platonist (anybody who tried to engage a Socratic/Platonic "dialogue" with him would understand...)
On LaRouche's Aristotelian method, see his Hereditary Principle.

 

Plato and Totalitarianism

Sources:
 
1. THE SECRETS KNOWN ONLY TO THE INNER ELITES; by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.; in The CAMPAIGNER, Vol. 11, n°3-4; May-June 1978.
2. OF BEING AND UNITY (De ente et uno), PICO DELLA MIRANDOLA, introduction by Victor Michael Hamm, Marquette University Press, 1943
3. Pulling at the "Threads of Renaissance History" by Greta Petry (March 4, 2005)
4. The School Of Athens by Raffaello Sanzio
5. Plato vs. Aristotle at american_almanac
6. LaRouche: Aristotle is the root of the evil we confront today, EIR, September 13, 1991.
7. "EUROPE IN A NEW DARK AGE"; preface to "The Final defeat of Ayatollah Khomeini," 1982, by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., Sept. 1981.
8. Italy Lectures: "WHAT ONLY THE COMMUNISTS KNOW", by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.; in the CAMPAIGNER, Vol.9, n°3; January 1976.
 
Other references:
Nazi ideologue A. Rosenberg's defense of Plato/Socrates
A defense of Plato against Aristotle in "Plato and Platonism" By H. P. Blavatsky (founder of Theosophy and author of "Isis unveiled"), an incarnation of the "Evil/Feminine Principle" according to LaRouche. Yet she defended Plato against Aristotle... and the Aryan race!
PLATO AND ARISTOTLE In THEOSOPHY, Vol. 27, No. 11, September, 1939
LaRouche's 'Neo-Platonism' Is Recycled Nazi Occultism Unpublished report (circa 1981) by a former member of LaRouche's intelligence staff at lyndonlarouche.org (D. King)
Plato's Dialectic v. Hegel and Marx: An Evaluation of Five Revolutions by (revisionist) David L. Hoggan (Spring 1986) at ihr.org
Does Lyndon LaRouche Understand Anything About Plato? by Molly Hammett Kronberg
 
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Page last modified on December 17, 2012, at 11:43 AM