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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Problem of Plato and Aristotle

Recently, I've run across several economists whho causually term all religious belief "irrational," among them Douglas North and Bryan Caplan. I went to present two contrary cases I think should trouble them. When presented with someone like Aquinas, who surely was very rational by any yardstick, those promoting the "religion is irrational" view will often say someething like, "Sure, he was bright, but he was not immune to the prejudices of his culture." But that answer won't work for Plato and Aristotle, two of the most rational individuals in history, because the Greek traditions they inherited contained nothing at all like the concept of a transcendent God arrived at by both men. While their concepts were certainly not identical to the Judeo-Christian-Moslem concept of God, they were far closer to that concept than they were to anything from Greek mythology. And they were arrived at, against the current of their culture, by purely "rational," philosophical means.

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