Tags: Western | Universities | Contribute | Western | Survival?

Do Western Universities Contribute to Western Survival?

Thursday, 07 June 2007 12:00 AM

The so-called "war in Iraq" (the inept attempt "to get control of Iraqi oil," as the presidential candidate Mike Gravel put it on "Sunday Spotlight," CNN, May 20) has demonstrated how inept (and hence self-destructive) is the West (as exemplified in this particular case by the United States and Britain) outside the sciences and technologies, used in the production of commercial goods and services.

We have witnessed the ineptness of the U.S. and British governments, the U.S. Congress and British parliament, the CIA and the British Secret Service, the media of both countries, and last but not least, their military, who seem to have been unaware that they have been trying to suppress the Sunni guerrilla war and thus help the Shia establish dictatorship as it now exists in Afghanistan and is called "democracy," since political illiteracy is so common in the West today that no distinction is made between "democracy" (universal suffrage in general elections) and "constitutionalism" (as in the "constitutional monarchy of Britain" or the "constitutional republic of the United States").

But what about the universities? Surely, working behind those old thick walls are sages — wise lovers of wisdom?

Originally, the word "university" meant a site where certain goods like clothes or iron utensils were made and taught to be made. In medieval Europe, there also appeared a need to be taught Latin and Greek, for culture was assumed to have existed in ancient Athens and Rome, and those who could not read, write, and speak Latin and Greek were illiterates.

Hence at the beginning of the millennium there appeared universities, which taught not how to make clothes or iron utensils, but how to write, read, and speak Latin and Greek, and they were called "universitas magistrorum et scholarium," the word "magister" meaning, in particular, "teacher" in Latin, and the word "scholarium" obviously comes from "school."

Ironically, the word "school" is kindred to the Greek word "schole" meaning "leisure," since in ancient Athens and in post-Roman European aristocratic culture, leisure was regarded as a necessary companion to creativity, while slaves or serfs did the manual work. Plato's academia, that is, the grove in which he and other "lovers of wisdom" (philosophers) strolled, made their leisured love of wisdom even more leisurely. Contrariwise, "school" in post-Roman Europe implied beatings and other punishments, worthy of slavery, for insufficiently hard study.

Among the Athenian lovers of wisdom, the universities of the post-Roman Europe chose Plato for a thousand years of worship. Allan Bloom, who "studied and taught" at U.S. universities, published in 1987 a book about them, and its title points to its content: "The Closing of the American Mind." You see, the American mind (and this is its "university mind") is closing because the American universities have ceased to treat Plato as reverently as they had been doing it for a thousand years.

Indeed, Karl Popper, an Austrian, and, after Hitler's Anschluss of Austria, British scholar, published in 1945 in Britain his two-volume study "The Open Society and Its Enemies." He had failed to find a U.S. publisher of it in 1943 — so scandalous the study was. Volume II "The High Time of Prophecy: Hegel, Marx, and the Aftermath" explains how the Communist ideology originated from Hegel and Marx. So far so good: Marxists and Communists were too rare among U.S. academics to stage a revolt.

But Volume I was subtitled "The Spell of Plato," and it explained that Plato's "ideal state" is "an horrific totalitarian nightmare of deceit, violence, master-race rhetoric, and eugenics." This invokes Nazi Germany, but Hitler's state did not go as far in eugenics as did Plato's "ideal state" in which the breeding of the population was like that of cattle on a farm to produce the best animals — and destroy all others.

Volume I is subtitled "The Spell of Plato," since "Plato interpreters through the ages" (Western university professors for about a thousand years) had been under his "spell."

Popper's discovery, with about 1,000 years' delay, that Plato was a "victim of his own vanity" — the utopian Hitler ("the Supreme Philosopher King") of his utopia, met with such academic wrath that Popper began to apologize for his freethinking by explaining that he had been traumatized by Nazism in Germany, its capture of his native Austria, and the war against it.

Ironically, the name of Plato's "ideal state" was translated into English as "Republic," a Latin word, which appeared in the English language in 1604, while Plato lived in 428 to 348 B.C. and spoke Greek, not Latin, and was certainly hostile to such notions as "republic," which means "belonging to the public."

I placed an ad in The New York Times for a typist. A young lady responded and asked me what she would have to type. I told her how many pages I write daily and that my key subject was: the defense of the West against the Sino-Russian threat. Here I heard a moan. I thought that she bemoaned the demise of the West. But she said: "I should write all this — I am a Ph.D.!"

I had thought that the value of what I wrote partly stemmed from the fact that my "university" had been Soviet Russia up to the age of 40. Thus I learned that the Soviet dictators regarded nuclear weapons as obsolete (owing to their inability to avert Mutual Assured Destruction), and in the 1960s, they switched over the Lebedev Institute of Nuclear Physics to the development of post-nuclear super weapons.

On May 26, I received an e-mail from Ram Narayanan, which began: "Lev, You are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT in warning about the China threat. As an Indian, I am worried about it too. All 1 billion Indians are too."

Ram was the first propagator of the life-or-death importance of the U.S.–Indian alliance to ward off the threat of China, a country of a comparable size of population with India, but while China is a dictatorship as it was 4,000 years ago, India is a democratic and constitutional federal republic.

But unless Ram is a Ph.D., his Indian experience and his propagation of a vital U.S.–Indian alliance are as useless as my Russian experience, for surely only a Ph.D. can know and propagate geostrategic truth.

In Athens, "philosophers," that is, "lovers of wisdom" were individuals, just as were "thinkers" in the West up to the 19th century. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), possibly the greatest political thinker of post-Roman Europe, never attended school, to say nothing of university. But who is a great American political thinker today? The urge to de-individualize thinking and to create "academia" has become irresistible.

In the medieval Europe all sciences and "academic disciplines" outside theology, medicine, and law were placed under the broad heading of "philosophy," and a scientist or any other practitioner of any such field was a "doctor of philosophy."

The word "doctor," the Latin word meaning "teacher" (from "docere," "to teach"), has replaced the word "teacher" in "academia."

Philosophiae doctor is not only a universal genius in all fields except theology, medicine, and law, but is also omniscient: he or she knows, precisely due to his or her "academic rank," what is going on geostrategically in the world.

In Soviet Russia, to write and publish books, one should be a member of the Union of Soviet Writers. Here I discovered that to write and publish something serious (not pop), one should better be a doctor of philosophy; that is, should teach (docere) "philosophy" at a "university."

This is how it came about that Plato, the utopian Hitler of his own barbaric utopia, which far surpassed Hitler's Germany in its (fortunately, utopian) cruelty, has been worshiped in the Western universities for about a thousand years, and a criticism of Plato in 1945 was met as a criticism of Marx would have been met by orthodox Communists in Soviet Russia or in the post-World War II France and Italy.

It would be naïve to expect that the genius needed to protect the endangered democratic and constitutional West would come from "academia."

You can e-mail me at navlev@cloud9.net.


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The so-called "war in Iraq" (the inept attempt "to get control of Iraqi oil," as the presidential candidate Mike Gravel put it on "Sunday Spotlight," CNN, May 20) has demonstrated how inept (and hence self-destructive) is the West (as exemplified in this particular case by...
Thursday, 07 June 2007 12:00 AM
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