Friday, August 27, 2010

Lecter series - unified analysis - part 31: Plato/Augustine vs. Aristotle/Aquinas


Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), a detail of The School of Athens, a fresco by Raphael. Aristotle gestures to the Earth, representing his belief in knowledge through empirical observation and experience, while holding a copy of his Nicomachean Ethics in his hand, while Plato gestures to the heavens, representing his belief in The Forms.[a] [Image from the Wikipedia 'Aristotle' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.]

"Plato and Aristotle! These are not merely two systems; they are also types of two distinct human natures, which from time immemorial, under every sort of cloak, stand more or less inimically opposed. But pre-emininently the whole medieval period was riven by this conflict, persisting even to the present day; moreover, this battle is the most essential content of the history of the Christian Church. Though under differing names, always and essentially it is of Plato and Aristotle that we speak. Enthusiastic, mystical, Platonic natures reveal Christian ideas and their corresponding symbols from the bottomless depths of their souls. Practical, ordering Aristotelian natures build up from these ideas and symbols a solid system, a dogma and a cult. The Church eventually embraces both natures - one of them sheltering among the clergy, while the other finds refuge in monasticism; yet both incessantly at feud."

--H. Heine, Deutschland (from Jung's Psychological Types in V.S. de Laszlo ed., The Basic Writings of C.G. Jung, Modern Library, 1993, p. 230.)

The above quote immediately brings to mind Augustine (a follower, to some degree, of Plato, in the sense that he was influenced by the works of some Neoplatonists), and Aquinas (a follower of Aristotle). In the analysis of The Silence of the Lambs, there was a certain amount of going 'back and forth' between Augustine and Aquinas; what must be the case is that the movie-makers intend this to come about when one interprets the movie, that is, this mental going back and forth, with the idea being that each person interpreting the movie will discover for himself or herself, which of the two ways of thinking predominates in his or her own psyche. Note that we're engaging in some 'meta-analysis' here.

a. Wikipedia, 'Aristotle'. Web, n.d. URL =


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