Thursday, July 9, 2009

Seaford on our hostility to limit

"Among the ancient Greeks there is what I call a culture of limit. By contrast, our culture is characterized by hostility to closure (limit) in various spheres: economic, metaphysical, conceptual, narrative, and others.
"This opposition is related to an opposition in basic forms of life. For the Greeks, the realm of freedom (economic and ethical) was stable self-sufficiency; and this determined the manner in which they . . . reacted to the unlimitedness of money. But we react to it in a manner determined by the fact that for us the realm of freedom is constant exchange. . . . The same is true of the modern theoretical hostility to metaphysics, the postmodern fetishization of fragmentation, depthlessness, and indeterminacy, and its sublimation of the universe of free-floating images. . . .
"the Greek culture of the limit provides a place that allows us to see the oddness, the historical contingency of the lethally limiting unlimitedness in our economy, social practices, and theory. Hellenism is one of a number of precious resources--a way of being, understanding and perceiving--that can help to liberate us from the homogenized sensibility of our hyper-monetized, atomized, and self-destructive culture of the unlimited."

Richard Seaford, "World without limits: the Greek discovery that man could never be too rich" [Presidential address to the Classical Association, Glasgow, 2009], Times literary supplement no. 5542 (June 19, 2009): 15. "one of a number of precious resources" indeed. It was because I had just read "The usury prohibition and natural law: a reappraisal," by Christopher A. Franks (The Thomist 72, no. 4 (October 2008): 625-660), which is very fine, but which draws upon the sublimation of Aristotle by Aquinas, that this caught my eye and sounded so familiar.

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