My Response to the “Third Man” Argument

***I will leave this up, but there is a much better and more scholarly response on this issue above. If you only have time to read one, I’d recommend that one***

 

Hey guys, so I don’t know if I mentioned this, but I am studying in Scotland for a semester. I must say, the philosophy department here is very different from the one at my school, but I like the fact that I am getting a completely different perspective on pretty much everything. At any rate, this came up in one of the lectures, so I am going to try to give a response to it.

The Argument

This is taken from Plato’s Parmenides. The point is that there seems to be an infinite regression when talking about Forms. Let’s take the sum total of all large things (we are going to look at the ‘Form of Largeness’). Let’s call this set F. So, set contains all large things in the Universe. Now, a Platonist would say that these are instantiations of the ‘Form of Largeness.’ The problem seems to be that the ‘Form of Largeness’ is large, too, so the argument says that it should be grouped with large things as well and that there should be a now Form to describe this second set, say ‘Form of Largeness 1,’ which would in turns also be large and so on and so forth ad infinitum. If this argument is correct, then Plato’s Metaphysics becomes so cluttered that it is a better choice to have no Metaphysics than to uphold this belief.

My Response

It is worthy of note that this argument appears in the Platonic corpus. Philosophers are divided in what it means, i.e. is it there as the issue Plato cannot solve and is left up to future generations to figure out, is it something that Plato did solve and is leaving as an exercise for his students, or is it Plato’s ‘good bye’ to the theory of the Forms? I think it is the second one. However, I think that most people who are committed Platonists are not advanced enough to answer this question the same way as Plato would have answered it. For myself, I am going to cheat and use in the response tools which Plato would not have available to him (i.e. proper descriptions, etc, early 20th century stuff), as to how he would have answered it, I have no clue, but I hope I can reach that level at some point in my life. Alright, the response proper:

Let’s first define our terms clearly so that we may not be confused about what we are talking about. First, our set, let’s call this F(x). This is the set of all things in the Universe which are large. Second, ‘the Form of Largeness.’ This is the Form by which all things that are large are instantiated by in respect to their largeness.

Now, speaking in proper descriptions, all the members of F(x) are things or beings which have the quality of being large. That is to say, they are all the things in which the ‘Form of Largeness’ has instantiated. However, the ‘Form of Largeness’ does not have the quality of being large, it is large in that it is that which both gives large things that quality and the principle of discrimination by which large things are recognized as such. But, surely, the principle of discrimination and the products which are discovered through it cannot fit in the same set. Therefore, it is preposterous to say that the ‘Form of Largeness’ and large things can ever fit into the same set.

Now, a point about the ‘Form of Largeness.’ I presented the argument with using that example because it was the way it was presented to me. However, the reason why I put it in quotations is because I do not think Plato would affirm a ‘Form of Largeness.’ If (as the professor who presented it to me asserts) Plato were to say that every plurality you can think of corresponds to a Form, then there would be things like the ‘Form of the chair.’ However, both Plato and Aristotle are very clear in pointing out that a chair does not have objective ‘Form,’ in that it is not a chair in itself, but wood, or steel, or plastic, or whatever. So, it is not that every plurality corresponds to a Form, but rather those things which are found in nature.

In addition, specifically about largeness, it is not even an objective quality. Things are large in relation to other things. The same thing can be large in comparison to a thing much smaller than it, but not large in comparison to a thing much bigger than it. If largeness were a static/objective/innate quality, then that would mean that the Law of Non-Contradiction would be broken. In addition, you can quite easily imagine in your head a scenario where one thing is larger than the other but smaller than the third. Take for example a cot (presumably you slept there when you were a baby) and your twin size bed, which say you had when you were a teenager, and the queen size bed you sleep in now. The twin bed is ‘large’ when compared to the cot, but it is not ‘large’ when compared to the queen size you have now. However, try to imagine a ’round square’ for example, no matter how much you try, you cannot, because that utterance breaks the Law of Non-Contradiction and you mind is wired to work logically, so try as you might, you cannot imagine a proper round square. His reason for choosing to use the ‘Form of Largeness” may have been to make the issue easier to understand, but it actually makes it harder. Let’s change the scenario from largeness to Justice. Is the Form of Justice just? Well, it’s the criterion of Justice, so I do not know by what criterion you would judge that, because that’s the criterion itself.

At any rate, that’s my stab at it, but I think it does offer a good argument against what some people see as the knock ’em down, drag ’em out argument against Platonism (which I guess Plato was so stupid he put in his own work).

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Osho Part II: “Constantine Did It”

Hi everybody, this is in response to one of the comments in my post “Osho: Mystic or Moron.” Sorry for not uploading this earlier, but as I mentioned in one of my comments, I recently moved to Glasgow, Scotland (I am studying there for a semester) and I first did not have wifi and then needed a little bit of time to settle in. You can see the opposing argument if you go over to that post, but a basic sum-up of it is: Constantine added things to the Bible to make Christianity what it is, Osho has the ability to differentiate the original material from the one added on, therefore, the version of Jesus the West knows is wrong.

My response to this argument is going to be along the following lines. First, what Osho claims is not only unsupported by anything in the Bible, but medically wrong. Second, neutral historical accounts claim do not corroborate Osho’s claim. Third, it is very hard to explain the spread of Christianity in Europe if the story is not like the Bible says. Fourth, it is not true that Constantine edited the Bible, for the following four reasons: 1. The dating of the style of the Gospels rules out this possibility, 2. The Christians, having withstood persecution before, had no reason to bow down to Constantine if it meant compromising their faith, 3. Constantine had nothing to gain by espousing Christianity, 4. The argument for Jesus’ divinity in the Western sense predates Constantine. Fifth, I will present the aforementioned argument as it relates to Osho’s claim.

First, what Osho claims about the apparent death of Jesus are incorrect not only based on the Bible, but also based on medicine. Osho claims that Jesus did not, in fact, die on the cross, but only “fainted” and was later shipped to India, where he lived to be 112. If we ignore the accounts of the Gospels for a second and take up only neutral sources in history, we will see that it is rather preposterous to take this view. If non-sympathetic Romans nailed Jesus upon a cross, He would be in immediate excruciating pain. The process by which crucifixion kills is suffocation; basically, it is like being full Nelson until death (if you do not understand how that would work, stand up and push your arms back as far as you can for about 30 seconds, you’ll see). The other part is the fact that His wrists would have been nailed. Of course, best case scenario, it did not hit any arteries or veins, but still, those wrists would have had to carry the full weight of His body for a prolonged amount of time, needless to say, that part of His body would need some patching up (that’s not to mention the rather problematic point about the “holes,” they would need to be cauterized to stop the bleeding).

Of course, one would wonder if we are to include the account of the spear in Osho’s theory, but if we are, then, if the results are also reported correctly (according to Osho’s theory), the fact that blood and water came out means that, at the time of the incision, the heart had burst and the lungs were collapsed (that’s why they were filling up with water), which would make survival impossible (you can’t live without a heart or lungs). If the report of the results is held to be incorrect, then, on top of being on the cross for a while, the injury to the wrists (and feet, but that’s less problematic medically) and now the fact that a spear was thrust up His side (at the very least collapsing a lung) would make it impossible for a man to survive. Perhaps He could have been nursed back to life in a modern hospital, but not in 33 AD.

Second, neutral historical accounts do not corroborate Osho’s claim. There are three main sources that mention the fate of Christ that are not Christian and all three do not seem to support an escape to India. First off, Cn. Tacitus, who talks about the death sentence given to Christ in Book XV, Chapter 44 of the Annals (written ca. 116 AD), when talking about Nero blaming the burning of Rome in 64 AD on the Christians (please remember this fact, too, it will be relevant for the next point). Scholars generally agree that his description proves Jesus’ execution under Pilate[1]. Of course, one could claim that Constantine, in his way to revising all history for the past three centuries, changed this detail as well, but the fact that there is more than two hundred years during which the Annals are in circulation and, more importantly, being quoted by other authors, it would be ridiculous to think that Constantine would even have the time to make sure that every single copy of the original Annals would be destroyed (that still would not explain how we have copies of this passage of the Annals which predates Constantine). We can see that, in ancient times, destroying every copy of any document was nearly impossible. As evidence for this stand the non-Canonical Gospels, also known as the Gnostic Gospels, which the Church did try to destroy, but which still ended up in our hands. However, Constantine (in addition to all the Christian documents that he would have to alter and destroy) would also have to destroy the account of Flavius Josephus, who also mentions the account of Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent death (in fact, he also seems to assert His Resurrection)[2]. Based on these two accounts, which, as I mentioned above, are not Christian, it would seem that there is no historical record of Jesus traveling to India.

Third, and in line with the aforementioned evidence, it seems that Christians, i.e. followers of Christ, spread in Europe during the first century AD. If it is true that Jesus went to India after His “botched” crucifixion, then who and why spread Christianity to Europe. The Church holds that it was His faithful Apostles, but, if Osho’s view is correct, either they were misguided in that they did not know that Jesus was to leave for India, or they knew and they chose to disregard that fact, not follow Him, and instead preach the Gospel in Europe. One thing is for sure, in the first century AD, there was a Christian community in the Roman Empire. We know this because Nero persecuted them in 64 AD because of the burning of Rome (the Tacitus source point to this). In addition, the letters of Pliny the Younger point to a Christian community in Asia Minor[3]. It would seem that, if it was not the continuation in earnest of Christ’s work that the Apostles were doing, they were insane, because for their devotion to the Gospel, they got nothing but abuse. This is because the Romans considered Christianity superstitio, which, different from its modern cognate “superstition” meant excessive or mistaken worship under Roman pagan rules. On top of that, Christians refused to worship the Emperor (the Romans could care less if they wanted to worship Jesus, all they wanted was for them to offer sacrifices to the Emperor and Jupiter and the Christians would not). This is the reason why Pliny persecutes them.

Now, this fact is important, because it shows that, even in the first century, the Christians accepted Jesus as God, but no one else. He was not one among many; He was the only One. This goes radically against the claims of Osho and it predates Constantine, so it seems that there is a tradition within Christianity that regards Osho’s view as erroneous. If the Christ, in going to India, ditched the Apostles, then why would they spread the message that He was the Son of God (and that there was only one God) when they were persecuted for it? On the other hand, if they did know Jesus went to India and that He was not God in the way that they preached, why would they, first, not go to India with him and, second, why would they preach an intentionally erroneous message when, if they said that Jesus was merely a sage and that it would be fine to sacrifice to the Emperor, they could have kept their heads? It seems the only answer that would fit in all the facts would have to be that Osho’s view is incorrect.

Fourth, four reasons for why Constantine, whatever else, could not have edited the Bible. The first is that, empirically, the (Canonical) Gospels are dated to the first century AD. This is done, among other ways, through dating the approximate style of writing of a text to the larger style of a period. The way syntax is used is very important and words shift meaning as time goes by, so you can probably tell in which century a writer is writing by how they write (among other things). Even the most liberal Biblical scholars will put the date for the Gospel of Mark to the 70’s AD, but no further. This means that Constantine, empirically, could not have incised and replaced large sections of the Gospel of Mark, otherwise the radical difference in style would have been apparent (leading to a later dating).

Second, there seems to be no reason why the Christians, having withstood persecution before, would decide at this point to bow down to Constantine’s views. In fact, shortly after the First Ecumenical Council (the Council of Nicaea in 325), there was some scattered persecution of what is now considered “Orthodox Christianity” (back then it was the only, and right, option). For example, St. Athanasius, the “hero” in many ways of the first Ecumenical Council was exiled three times during his lifetime, shortly after the death of Constantine by the Arian Emperors for his views on Christ. He is one example among a multitude, because the persecutions continued well into the tenth century, where iconoclasm was the issue at hand. Another example, St. John of Damascus had one of his hands cut off to stop him from writing against the iconoclasts. It seems, therefore, that the Christian community withstood changes (it is worthy of note here to mention that these changes were in tradition and, though crucial, were not as basic as whether Christ died and resurrected or whether he went on vacation to India) to its doctrines well before and well after Constantine. To claim that there was just this one exception when they, three centuries into being persecuted for what they believed, decided to cave in, makes no sense. Of course, if they did, you would have to say that Constantine did not do it alone. At least, he would have needed help from Athanasius and Nicholas, both of whom played a large part in the First Ecumenical Council and in the writing of the Nicene Creed, coming to us later as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. The point about there being four Councils (Nicaea in 325, Constantinople in 381, Ephesus in 431, and Chalcedon in 451) until the consolidation of the Creed used today (the Creed, which was in present form in 381 clearly states, “He suffered and was buried and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures…”), the last beginning 94 years after the death of Constantine, show that Constantine could not have been the person influencing a change if there were a change and that there could not have been a change because no one brought up an argument against it.

Third, one has to consider what Constantine would gain (since it goes without saying that he, according to your theory, was not enacting this change out of piety) by espousing and altering Christianity. By the time of the issuance of the Edict of Milan (313) about a tenth of the population of the Roman Empire was Christian. That’s right, one in ten people. Now, let’s suppose that half of that percentage (5%) would have accepted the rather substantial change that Constantine would have had to have brought to Christianity. He would now be fiercely supported by 5% of the Empire. I must say, I do not know your system of Math, but in my system that is a very bad move. This would make even less sense considering the fact that the pagan population of the Empire was left stupefied by the fact that their Emperor had converted to Christianity and tried to work it into the pagan cosmology[4]. In the aforementioned Panegyric, the author tries to look at Constantine’s conversion as some kind of philosophical connection to the gods that would only be available to the Emperor. In addition, even after his conversion, the pagan population was willing to dedicate temples in honor of him. We have record of one that he allowed to be built in Hispellum, with the condition that there would be no cult images in the temple and that there be no sacrifices going on in it[5]. So, clearly, it was not popular support that Constantine was looking for. Well, what then? The question remains open because it would be irrational for Constantine to be involved with Christianity for any other reason than earnest belief.

Fourth, the argument of Jesus’ divinity in the Western sense was in use long before Constantine was conceived. My source for this is Between Heaven and Hell by Peter Kreeft. I would provide a page, but I don’t have the book with me (I recently moved to Glasgow for a semester). It dates back to Justin Martyr (100-165 AD). The basic point of this argument is that either Christ was truly what He claimed to be (i.e. the Son of God), or a bad teacher (because He did not get His message that he was really a Hindu Guru across correctly), or a madman (modern psychology has found that there is a divinity complex) if He really thought He was the Son of God but wasn’t, or otherwise the most evil man to have ever lived (because He succeeded in fooling people into believing that He was the Son of God when He indeed was not). All these possibilities presuppose a Christian basis and a refusal of the Hindu metaphysic (i.e. the world is Lila, there is no real good and evil, because Brahman is the only one who reincarnates). It would seem, therefore, that Constantine would have needed to make up this piece of evidence, too, and then fooled modern science into dating it earlier than when it was written. In other words, if Constantine was able to do all this, we might as well worship him, because he would be the most brilliant man in the world.

Lastly, let us take up the aut Deus aut homo malus argument mentioned before and look at how it relates to the topic at hand. The relevant difference that we have to account for here is the fact that Jesus was a Jew, speaking to a Jewish audience. If he was speaking in India, it would have been perfectly fine for Him to have had a claim to divinity, after all TAT TVAM ASI (“That I am that.” i.e. Brahman) is the Holiest sentence in Hinduism, which marks one’s awakening. However, Jesus was put to death specifically for saying He was the Son of God, so it is clear that when the Jews said, “God” they meant something different than when the Hindus said, “God.” Now, if Christ was not able to get His point across about the fact that when He said “God,” He meant what the Hindus meant, then he must have been a very bad teacher. That is the best-case scenario, which leaves out the possibility that He was consciously deceiving the people, or that He was simply crazy. However, in all three of those possibilities, it would make little sense how He got so much else that was contradictory to Jewish custom across and seemingly failed on this single respect. In addition, how much of His teaching was concerned with morals and the idea that there is an eternal Hell would also be a problem, since Hindus believe that there is no eternal Hell (everyone eventually realizes they are Brahman) and since they do not believe in a true distinction between good and evil (because everyone and everything is Brahman).

In conclusion, for more than one reason it seems that it would be impossible that the story of Jesus Christ was so radically edited and, if anything, even if it were, there is no chance that Constantine could have done it. It seems, therefore, that the argument mentioned at the beginning of this paper would make any sense.


[1] Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies by Craig A. Evans 2001 (pg. 42); Mercer dictionary of the Bible by Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard 2001, (pg. 343); Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation by Helen K. Bond 2004, (pg. xi); Eddy, Paul; Boyd, Gregory (2007). The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition Baker Academic, (pg. 127)

[2] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Bk XVIII, Chptr. 63

[3] Pliny the Yonger, Epistulae, X, 96

[4] Panegyric 12, delivered at Trier, 313 CE

[5] Rescript of Constantine I on Hispellum, AD 326-327