Monday, July 07, 2008

Philo helps me communicate better

At the beginning of Philo's On the Confusion of Tongues there is a particularly tortured defence of the divine logic behind the Babel incident. In Conf. 33 Philo writes of ...

'those who hate virtue and who love learning, use speech as their ally for the exposition of doctrines which are disapproved; and again, on the other hand, virtuous men employ it for the refutation of such doctrines, and for establishing the irresistible strength of the better and true wisdom'

Step one: Memorise the above Philonic nugget. Step two: Enjoy various social conversations until you are contradicted and opposed by some disagreeable person. Step three: After the expressed disagreement, mutter Philo's words under your breath a few times so that it can just about be heard. Step four: When Philo's bombshell has carved a moment of silence in the conversation, flirt a self-righteous glance in the direction of your detractor. Step five: Walk away feeling rather smug that you quoted Philo from memory.


At 7/09/2008 5:36 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

Isn't Philo saying that the gift of fine speech suits both heretical intellectuals and also "the virtuous?" So all speech is a two-edged sword that can be used for either bad or good.

So why does Philo use such an argument to justify the confusion of tongues at Babel? It's obvious speech can go either way.

Of course I'm confused as to why Yahweh had to "come down" to see what a bunch of iron age brick layers were doing, and why it upset the deity so much that he confused the tongues of all humanity. If that same Yahweh "came down" today and saw what a modern technological society was doing wouldn't that upset Yahweh way more than what some iron age bricklayers were doing?

P.S. Today there are even fewer languages than ever before and more of them go extinct every year while electronic computing translating devices are on the rise. I even read about a recent computer program that is incredibly good at translating Spanish to English and back again.


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