Monday, January 30, 2006

Undignified Immortality

According to the perspective of the archaic Greeks, mortality gave man his dignity. The childish and ridiculous nature of the Homeric gods was an implicit warning, in addition to the many explicit ones, that human beings were not to take the gods as models. “Seek immortality,” it whispered, “only at the cost of your own nobility.” It is unclear why in the end the Greeks adpoted the assumption that the gods were objects of imitation, but Plato bans the poems of Homer from his ideal republic on the grounds that they portray gods who are inappropriate models of human behavior. Apparently he had a different idea of what a god was, or at least what a god ought to be. We are taking an essential step here toward Christianity, one that might contribute to a Christian’s belief that Plato had some sort of prior knowledge of Christ. Was the dignity of man advancing at this point, too, or did the archaic Greeks see something that was out of the scope of Plato’s famous foresight?

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