Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The theoros journeys forth as an official witness to a spectacle

The Data and Methodologies of Integral Science Kurt Koller
As Andrea Wilson Nightingale explores in her recent work, Spectacles of Truth in Classical Greek Philosophy: Theoria in its Cultural Context (2005), theoria was the name of a practice undertaken by individuals (called theoros, “theorists”) consisting of a pilgrimage to religious or oracular sites to bear witness to sacred truths. From her introduction:
“Plato, who was the first to conceptualize philosophic 'theorizing', made full use of the model of traditional theoria, with its journey abroad, viewing of a spectacle, and subsequent return home. In the Republic 5–7, the most detailed account of theoria in the Platonic corpus, Plato models philosophic theoria on the traditional practice of civic theoria. In this kind of theoria, the theoros journeys forth as an official witness to a spectacle, and then returns as a messenger or reporter: at the end of the journey, he gives a verbal account of a visual, spectacular event. The journey as a whole, including the final report, is located in a civic context.
In Plato's account of philosophic theoria in the Republic, theoretical activity is not confined to the rational contemplation of the Forms; rather, it encompasses the entire journey, from departure to contemplation to reentry and reportage. The intellectual 'seeing' at the center of the journey, which I call 'contemplation,' is thus nested in a larger context which is both social and political. As Plato claims, the philosophic theorist will, when he returns, 'give an account' of his vision which is open to inspection and to questioning. In addition, he will translate his contemplative wisdom into practical and (under certain conditions) political activities: his theoretical wisdom provides the basis for action. In the good city, moreover, the theoretical philosophers will rule the polis: here, Plato places the philosophic theorist at the very center of political life.
According to Plato, the philosopher is altered and transformed by the journey of theoria and the activity of contemplation. He thus 'returns' as a sort of stranger to his own kind, bringing a radical alterity into the city. When the philosopher goes back to the social realm, he remains detached from worldly goods and values even when he is acting in the world. Even in the ideal city, the philosopher is marked by detachment and alterity, he possesses a divine perspective that is foreign to the ordinary man. This peculiar combination of detachment and engagement allows the Platonic theorist to perform on the social stage in a fashion that is impartial, just, and virtuous.”

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