Western Rationalism and the Problem of Socrates

Dissertation, University of California, Santa Cruz (1980)

But a detailed examination of Thucydides' History leads one to doubt that this science is a "realism." Instead, Thucydides seems to have taught that certain phenomena transcend in kind or quality or "form" the material causes of their generation, in particular human "moral" phenomena. . . . UMI ;The great wars of this century are thought to be symptomatic of a crisis in the modern West. The West is unsure of itself because its guiding tradition seems to be in a state of decay and decline. But looking at the evidence, it is difficult to be sure of what kind of evidence would indicate decline. ;The best analysis of Western decay and decline is that of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche's critique of Western values is based on the belief that rational moral science and the "rational" Judeo-Christian doctrine have robbed Western man of his ability of act in a "great" manner. Ultimately, Nietzsche's critique of Western values rests on his understanding of "the problem of Socrates" because Socrates was the real father of Western moral rationalism. But Nietzsche's critique of Socrates is itself clearly within the "rationalist tradition" of philosophic analysis. This procedure may be justified because Nietzsche believed that there exists a legitimate type of rational science which is not a moral "idealism." This science began with the Greek sophists and Thucydides and is a type of "realism." ;This study is an attempt to establish the following compound thesis: that the major contemporary schools of moral and political philosophy begin with the assumption that the "Western tradition" is in decline, which they base on the belief that certain "rationalist" attitudes of this tradition are no longer tenable; that these contemporary intellectuals may be mistaken about what, precisely, this rationalist tradition consists of because they are mistaken about the beginnings of this tradition; that a preliminary evaluation of the Greek origins of Western rationalism in the human sciences shows that the contemporary understanding of these beginnings is indeed questionable, and therefore; that the contemporary rejection of traditional "rationalist" moral and political philosophy is unjustified, as is the assumption of Western decline. ;This general thesis is established through the following line of argument
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