A Very Sudden and Underdeveloped Thought: Or, a Masonic Pyramid in My Mind

A Very Sudden and Underdeveloped Thought: Or, a Masonic Pyramid in My Mind

March 12th, 2019

I was reading the most recent edition of Pascal-Emmanuel Grobery’s email briefing, “Policy Sphere,” (worth a signup if you want an unconventional—i.e. a Frenchman’s and not full-time swamp creature’s—look at what’s going on in D.C.) this morning.

PEG concluded with a quote from Israeli philosopher Yoram Hazony’s The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, which I have not read yet but is rapidly moving up my to-read pile. Professor Hazony has, like his fellow Rutgers alumnus Patrick Deneen, jumped into the public eye recently with a timely book, his being The Virtue of Nationalism (which I have read; you can read my essay on it here). Both those thinkers are men of generous warmth and sincerity, and though I have not been a student of theirs apart from reading their books, the gracious gifts of their time and earnest conversation I’ve had leave me sure their students are very blessed. Anyway, back to Professor Hazony’s quote:

"In {Enlightenment-era} Germany, especially, it was common to speak of the classical Greeks almost as a kind of super-race, and to hold them up as the sole example of a segment of humanity worthy of serving as an ideal for contemporary Germans. . . . The elevation of the Greeks to the sole source of learning and knowledge announced a profound reconfiguration of Christian Europe's self-understanding--a reconfiguration in which the old Judeo-Hellenic synthesis was declared to have been, in retrospect, a mistake; and all that was Jewish in the history and thought of Europe would henceforth be deemed as having been, in fact, detrimental and unneeded." – Yoram Hazony, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture

That would have been just another reminder to read that book sooner rather than later, and something for my semi-conscious mind to chew on for a bit before filing it away, but that process was arrested when I began reading an essay on Communist historian Eric Hobsbawm’s work in the Times Literary Supplement recommended by this morning’s Prufrock, which you can sign up for here.

Referring to The Age of Revolution: Europe, 1789–1848:

“...page 250, the magisterial, class-oriented statement that ‘German classical philosophy was, it must always be remembered, a thoroughly bourgeois phenomenon’...”

So that set off “the loud alarum bells — Brazen bells!” in my brain, with the two quotes forming a triangle of Hebrew Scripture, German classical philosophy, and Marxism.

As that masonic-looking (mostly just visually) pyramid still slowly rotates in my mind here’s an obliquely derived proposition—an as of yet evidence-free and untested, but perhaps not baseless, historical hypothesis:

The Enlightenment abandonment of the Old Testament and Jewish roots of the New Testament as foundational—alongside Hellenic thought—to German intellectual life most directly created the conditions in which Marx could read Aristotle without the lens of, if not Thomas Aquinas, Protestant Scholastics.

This is a blog so I get to just leave that there.

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