Authors
Christos Evangeliou
Towson University
Abstract
The appellation “Western” is, in my view, inappropriate when applied to Ancient Hellas and its greatest product, the Hellenic philosophy. For, as a matter of historical fact, neither the spirit of free inquiry and bold speculation, nor the quest of perfection via autonomous virtuous activity and ethical excellence survived, in the purity of their Hellenic forms, the imposition of inflexible religious doctrines and practices on Christian Europe. The coming of Christianity, with the theocratic proclivity of the Church, especially the hierarchically organized Catholic Church, sealed the fate of Hellenic philosophy in Europe for more than a millennium. Since the Italian Renaissance, several attempts primarily by Platonists to revive the free spirit and other virtues of Hellenic philosophy have been invariably frustrated by violent reactions from religious movements, the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, and the bloody wars which followed their appearance in Europe. Modern science succeeded to a certain extent, after struggle with the Catholic Church, in freeing itself from the snares of medieval theocratic restrictions. Thus, it managed to reconnect with the scientific spirit of late antiquity and its great achievements, especially in the fields of cosmology, physics, mathematics, and medicine, which enabled modern science to ad-vance further. But it seems that the mainstream European philosophy has failed to follow the example of science and to liberate itself, too. As in the Middle Ages, so in modern and post-modern times the “European philosophy” has continued to play the undignified and servile role of handmaiden of something. In addition to the medieval role of “handmaiden of theology” (ancilla theologiae), since the seventeenth century philosophy in Europe assumed the role of “handmaiden of science” (ancilla scientiae) and, with the coming of the Marxist “scientific socialism,” the extra role of ‘handmaiden of ideology” (ancilla ideologiae). In this respect, the so-called “Western philosophy,” as it has been historically practiced in Christian and partially Islamized Europe, is indeed a very different kind of product from the autonomous intellectual and ethical human activity, which the Ancient Hellenes named philosophia and honored as “the queen of arts and sciences.” In this historical light, Hellenic philosophy would appear to be closer to the Asian philosophies of India, China, Japan, and Korea than to Western or “European philosophy.” So as we stand at the post-cold war era, witnessing the collapse of Soviet-style Socialism and the coming of the post-modern era; as we look at the dawn of a new millennium and dream of a new global order of freedom and democracy, the moment seemspropitious for reflection. We may stop and reflect upon our philosophical past as exemplified in the free spirit of Hellenic philosophy and its misfortunes, its great “passion” in Christian Europe in the last two millennia or so
Keywords Conference Proceedings  Contemporary Philosophy
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DOI wcp22200821184
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