Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Whether Aeneas should have killed Turnus

Whether Aeneas should have killed Turnus.

          “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death and judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” Addressing Frodo Baggins’ wish that the creature Gollum had been put to death, these lines were spoken by the wise wizard Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. Gandalf cautioned Frodo against assuming he possessed the wisdom to determine life or death, and the wizard’s words are relevant to a situation at the end in Virgil’s Aeneid. In the Roman epic, the Trojan Aeneas was fighting his arch-rival, Turnus, a man as dangerous as a bear, in single combat, to determine the outcome of a bloody war between Italians and the Trojans. Aeneas, after some delay, finally disarmed and wounded Turnus, who yielded victory to Aeneas. Aeneas contemplated sparing Turnus’ life, but ultimately decided to kill him after recognizing the belt of Pallas, one of Aeneas’ allies, and victim of one of Turnus’ combats.

     While it is widely accepted that both Aeneas and Turnus agreed to fight to the death, only some believe that Aeneas should have killed Turnus, whereas others believe the Aeneas should not have killed Turnus. Yet, Aeneas should have killed Turnus for three reasons: Aeneas killed Turnus in battle, Turnus slew many in the war, and Ascanius needed a future in Rome.

     The first reason why Aeneas should have killed Turnus was that Aeneas killed Turnus in battle. First, Aeneas and Turnus met on the field of battle, acting not as individuals, but as representatives of their respective peoples. Thus, the conflict was not merely personal, but also carried an impersonal aspect of embodying warring nations, which precluded Turnus’ death from being considered murder. Second, Turnus was also the aggressor in the war and commander-in-chief of the forces who attacked the Trojans, whereas Aeneas was the defender in war and the recipient of the attackers who assailed the camp,  thereby making Aeneas’ action self-defense. Third, Turnus’ death brought a swift end to a costly war, making it also expedient to kill Turnus.

     The second reason why Aeneas should have killed Turnus was that Turnus slew many in war. In the first place, being driven by his lust for war and destruction, Turnus killed a great many Trojans and their allies in his quest to destroy Aeneas. Unless stopped, Turnus might have killed more men repeatedly, and Aeneas might have fought him continually. In the second place, Turnus was also a friend and ally of Mezentius, a ruler as revolting as a rancid raisins. A prince such as Turnus who protects and tolerates the tyrannical oppressor of the Tuscans threatens the greater stability of the region. Finally, The point is only further strengthened by the fact that Turnus’ actions brought about much disorder to the region on account of his war with Turnus, and endangered the lives of not only the soldiers who fought with him, but the women and children of the Latins, who were drawn into the conflict.

     The third reason why Aeneas should have killed Turnus was because Ascanius needed a future in Rome. The future Rome granted to Aeneas and the the Trojans required a unified Trojan and Latin people that was not likely to be possible unless Turnus were dead. Just as anything with two heads must be a monster, so would the Latin people be with both Turnus and Aeneas vying for leadership. Secondly, Turnus’ death prevents him from siring sons who could continue to serve as a counter-weight to Aeneas and his family down through the centuries. Finally, Rome is Ascanius’ inheritance, not Turnus’, and so if only for the sake of granting quieter days to his son should Aeneas have killed Turnus.

     Yet, as Gandalf reminded the furry-footed Frodo, even the wisest of men may err in judging matters of life and death. Some do contend that Aeneas should not have killed Turnus because it was dishonorable, and because it was unpopular. Some consider it dishonorable because it is an act of revenge for the slain Pallas, because it made Aeneas no different than Turnus, and because Venus had previously warned Aeneas to rule his rage. Yet this counter-argument is not relevant since these actions happened in a time of war between two combatants fighting a previously agreed upon fight to the death.

     The second reason some give as to why Aeneas should not have killed Turnus is that it was an unpopular action with many influential people and groups. Firstly, the Latin people greatly admired Turnus and followed him into battle against the Trojans, and the Latin queen, Amata, also greatly loved him. Secondly, Turnus’ sister, Juturna, was very upset with her brother’s pending death that she attempted to intervene and delay Aeneas’ victory. As a nymph, Juturnal wielded supernatural power and could have become a great nuisance to Aeneas. Thirdly, Juno, a goddess as spiteful as Iago, favored Turnus and, as goddess of the home, desired Lavinia to wed him, not Aeneas. However, these reasons are insufficient because the Latins and the gods were fickle and inconstant.

     While some say that Aeneas should not have killed Turnus because it was dishonorable and unpopular, these reasons are not adequate because Aeneas killed Turnus in a time of war, and because popularity with fickle people is not a good basis for making decisions.

     In conclusion, Aeneas should have killed Turnus because Aeneas killed Turnus in battle, Turnus slew many in the war, and Ascanius needed a future in Rome. This issue matters to Romulus, the founder of Rome. If not for the death of Turnus, there may not have been a Trojan-Latin people from which Romulus could spring and found Rome.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Whether Odysseus should warn his men about Skylla and Charybdis

          In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus should have warned his men about Skylla and Charybdis for three reasons: Odysseus and his men resolutely and firmly survived many dangers together, Odysseus and his crew were able work together, and the crew was responsible for themselves.

      The first reason Odysseus should have warned his men about Skylla and Charybdis is that Odysseus and his men resolutely and firmly survived many dangers together. Odysseus and his men survived the destruction of their comrades on the journey home from Troy. Odysseus and his men are all tough and hearty Trojan War veterans. Odysseus and his men have even travelled to Hades and back together.

      The second reason Odysseus should have warned his men about Skylla and Charybdis is that Odysseus and his men were able to work together to get home. If he shared information about the coming danger, he would have shown trust and confidence in his men, thereby inspiring them to hold fast. He would not have had to carry the burden and worry of the dangers ahead all by himself. He would have also benefitted from any ideas his men may have had in order to survive the ordeal.

      The third reason Odysseus should have warned his men about Skylla and Charybdis is that the crew was responsible for themselves. Odysseus’ men were able to prepared themselves for the encounter with these foul, brash and vicious monsters. The men themselves were very motivated to go home, as was Odysseus. The men, not Odysseus, were responsible for how they react in times of danger.

      Therefore, Odysseus should have warned his men about Skylla and Charybdis because Odysseus and his men resolutely and firmly survived many dangers together, Odysseus and his men were able to work together to get home, and the crew was responsible for themselves.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Whether Brutus should have conspired against Caesar.

          “These conspiracies were not the work of the worst men, but of the noblest, most high-spirited, and most courageous, because such men are least able to brook the insolence of princes.” Though written some two hundred years before the death of Julius Caesar, the Greek historian Polybius noted that tyranny would cause noble men to rise up against them. As a noble man, Brutus should have conspired against Caesar for three reasons: the expediency of the conspiracy, the character of Caesar, and the character of Brutus himself.

     The first reason why Brutus should have conspired against Caesar is that the conspiracy to kill Caesar was expedient. Simply exiling Caesar was not enough to free Rome from his ambitions, as he might return once again in force and plunge Rome into yet another civil war. Also, death was a common penalty for those who plotted to replace the Republic with a monarch, so Caesar’s death was just. Finally, Cassius, known as a very shrewd and cunning Roman, organized and initiated the conspiracy against Caesar, and increased the likelihood of its success. Therefore, Brutus should have conspired against Caesar.

     The second reason why Brutus should have conspired against Caesar is that the character of Caesar demanded it. Caesar had already demonstrated his ambitions by marching on Rome in spite of the laws forbidding it. Further, he retained in his services Mark Antony, a violent, manipulative, and ruthless figure. Lastly, Caesar showed contempt for the people’s duly elected Tribunes by punishing them for their actions at the feast of Lupercal. Therefore, Brutus should have conspired against Caesar.

     The third reason why Brutus should have conspired against Caesar is that the character of Brutus himself demanded his participation. Brutus’ family honor demanded his participation because his ancestor Junius Brutus helped drive out the last king of Rome. Secondly, Brutus loved the Republic in his own right, and had already served in the Senate. Finally, Brutus was not afraid of dying for the sake of doing the right thing. Therefore, Brutus should have conspired against Caesar.

     Thus, Brutus should have conspired against Caesar because of the expediency of the conspiracy, the character of Caesar, and the character of Brutus himself.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Whether Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave

          In Aristotle’s Politics I.5, the noted philosopher wrote: “For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.” That some are fit to rule, while others to be ruled is a very controversial statement and has bearing on the broader question of who should receive an education. More specifically, it has some relation to the issue of Socrates and Meno’s slave. Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave for three reasons: Socrates was skilled at teaching, the slave was made in God’s image, and an educated slave was a benefit to Meno.

     Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave because Socrates himself was skilled at teaching. Meno respected Socrates and recognized the benefit of having a conversation with him about life’s most essential questions. Socrates was very capable of helping even the hostile Anytus better understand what virtue is and what it is not. Socrates demonstrated throughout the Meno dialogue his ability by helping Meno himself gain deeper insight into virtue.

     Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave because the slave was made in God’s image. God created the slave, and all men, with the capacity for reason, and the slave demonstrated this clearly. Socrates also revealed to Meno that his slave was not merely a soul, but a soul and a body that was able to observe the world around him. Finally, Socrates’ interactions elicited the slave’s capacity for language and speech, another critical human attribute associated with Imago Dei.

     Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave because an educated slave was a benefit to Meno. An educated slave had greater capacity and usefulness to their masters. This led to a slave saving more of his master’s time, as Meno would not have to laboriously explain exactly what he wanted accomplished. Together, the slave’s greater ability and economy with Meno’s time enabled the slave to make and save more of Meno’s money and resources.

     Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave because Socrates was skilled at teaching, the slave was made in the image of God, and an educated slave was a benefit to his master. This issue matters to all men because, independent or indentured, prosperous or poor, they were made in God’s image and flourish through the education of the soul.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Whether Evander should have allied with Aeneas.


           Imagine having to chose between sides in a titanic struggle between great and fearsome peoples. This is what Evander does in Book VIII of Virgil’s epic poem, The Aeneid. Though he was king of the Arcadians in Italy, Evander was an old man, too old to fight, whereas His son, Pallas, was a young man, too young to fight. When Aeneas reached Evander’s kingdom, he asked for aid in the war against the Rutulians and Latins. After hosting Aeneas for the night and pondering the matter, Evander chose to ally with Aeneas.

      The question remains whether this was the right choice. While everyone agrees that Evander was in a difficult position and wants him to make the right choice, some believe that Evander should have allied with Aeneas, and others believe that Evander should not have allied with Aeneas. Despite this disagreement, it is clear that Evander should have allied with Aeneas for three reasons: The gods supported pious Aeneas, Aeneas demonstrated good qualities, and the decision had good consequences.

     The first reason Evander should have allied with Aeneas is because the gods supported pious Aeneas. In fact, Aeneas is the son of Venus herself, who showed steadfast support for Aeneas’ quest to found Rome. Further, the Italian river-god, Tiberius, also supported Aeneas and directed the Trojan prince to seek out Evander for men and aid. Most importantly, Jupiter, the king of the gods, supported Aeneas, as he granted not only the founding of the Roman people to Aeneas, but to Rome herself “empire without end.”

      Secondly, Evander should have allied with Aeneas because Aeneas demonstrated good qualities. As already alluded, his support from the gods indicated that Aeneas was very pious, and Evander himself was very pious, as seen by his observance of rites in Hercules’ honor during Aeneas’ arrival. Aeneas also possessed prowess in battle, and would be able to teach the inexperienced Pallas by excellent example. Finally, Aeneas, being wholly of non-Italian stock, was qualified to lead not only Evander’s army, but also the Etruscan army as well. The Etruscan army sat encamped, waiting for the fulfillment of a prophecy about the coming of a non-Italian leader, such as Aeneas.

      Finally, Evander should have allied with Aeneas because the decision had good consequences. The combined arms of the Trojans, Etruscans, and Evander’s Arcadians defeat the Rutulians and Latins and end the war. The precincts of Arcadia encompass the future site of Rome itself, and so Arcadia becomes the Eternal City. Finally, the alliance with Aeneas was critical in his defeat of Turnus. This enabled Aeneas to fulfill his fate as founder of Rome in Italy, and allowed Rome to complete her destiny as bringer of law to the world.

      Some believe that Evander should not have allied with Aeneas because of the danger to Pallas, and the fact that the Trojans were already a defeated people. The young, inexperienced Pallas found himself in a fight with Turnus, a soldier as cunning as a wolf, that ultimately cost him his life and brought Evander great sorrow. Yet, it must be remembered that Pallas died with great glory and honor, and left a great name for himself among his friends and enemies alike, and Evander mourned not for his son’s chance at honor and distinction, but his youthful death before Evander’s own.

      Additionally, given that the Trojans had already been defeated by the Greeks, some question whether Evander was wise to ally with Aeneas. Not only had the Trojans been defeated, but their king was killed, they were exiled from their homeland, and few in numbers. Nevertheless, Jupiter himself had granted to Rome an endless empire, and it was Jupiter alone who decided the Trojan War in the favor of the Greeks.

      So, the danger to Pallas and the past defeat of the Trojans are not sufficient reasons to keep Evander from allying with Aeneas and joining the destiny of the Arcadians and Trojans.

     Evander should have allied with Aeneas because the gods supported pious Aeneas, Aeneas demonstrated good qualities, and the decision had good consequences. This issue was especially important to the Arcadians, because their fate became intimately tied up with that of Rome, a city that dominated first Italy, then the known world.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Abraham Kuyper, Part IV


This is the conclusion to my four-part introduction to the Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper. Read Part I, Part II, and Part III)
During all of his life, Kuyper never set down the pen, writing many different devotional and theological books. Following his term as Prime Minister, Kuyper was invited to Princeton to deliver the Stone Lectures. His lectures focused on the idea that Christianity is a life-system, or worldview, and that its distinctive stamp on reality makes it fundamentally different from its competitors, including Islam and Modernity. These ideas would come to shape the theological and philosophical minds in the United States, especially those in the Reformed and Presbyterian communities.

Kuyper understood that Christianity was an all-encompassing system of beliefs. He knew that he could not relegate his faith to one little box. Rather, Christian truth saturates everything. He articulated this in a series of talks published as Lectures on Calvinism. The extent to which Abraham Kuyper acted on what he believed is plainly seen in his involvement in so many different spheres of life and culture: in journalism and writing, in the Church as pastor and theologian, in government as a party leader and Prime Minister, and in education as a university founder.

The study of Kuyper and his writings is difficult since so few of his works have been translated into English. Further, since he is a relatively unknown figure, there are few secondary sources available. When I wrote a paper on him in college, this was a wall I constantly ran up against. Nevertheless, there are some books and essays that will give you a start:

Lectures on Calvinism
Since it was delivered in English this is the most popular and easily acquired book by Kuyper. He introduces the idea of life-systems, or worldviews, and shows how it affects art, science and many other "spheres" of life.

Principles of Sacred Theology
This is the only other work by Kuyper himself that I have been able to get my hands on. While I only had time to read parts, what I did read looked good and I’d love to finish it someday.

Worldview: A History of the Concept, by David Naugel
This is a book mentioned at the beginning of the series that introduces Kuyper by way the discussing the history of the "worldview."

“Abraham Kuyper and the rise of Neo-Calvinism in the Netherlands” by Justus M. Van der Kroef
This is a good biographical overview of Kuyper’s life and work. It comes from a periodical called Church History, Vol. 17, No. 4 December 1948.

"Dutch Reformed Philosophy in North America" by Thomas K. Johnson
This essay does a good job of showing the connections between Kuyper's thought and later thinkers. Most of the figures discussed are probably not familiar to most readers (or at least, I had never heard of them), but again, it shows the impact that Kuyper's ideas had on those who came after him.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Abraham Kuyper, Part III


In Part I, I introduced Kuyper as a forgotten figure who has played a key role in developing the intellectual tools that many Christians today take for granted when defending the faith. In Part II, I gave a short biographical overview of Kuyper. Today, we continue the biography and look at how he waged his war on modernism.
Abraham Kuyper once said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'” Since God is the creator of all things, all things belong to him. Thus, all areas of human existence owe homage to God. What he is expressing is the same idea found in Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” If all parts of reality belong to God, then his truth is supreme and affects all areas of life: philosophy, economics, education, government--everything.

Driven by this belief, Kuyper took the field against modernity in every sphere of life he could. He became involved in politics and helped found the Anti-Revolutionary Party, whose main aims were to resist the secular spirit of the bloody French Revolution. He also founded and edited two newspapers, De Heraut, and De Standaard. These papers allowed him to communicate and appeal to the people of the Netherlands. When the state-controlled church went too far, Kuyper helped found a new church. Not content to stop there, he was also instrumental in the founding of the Free University of Amsterdam. The university helped train and educate pastors in Christian doctrine, free from the liberal taint of the state-run universities, such as the one that Kuyper himself had gone to. Kuyper’s involvement in politics increased when he won a seat in Parliament, and culminated when the coalition he formed won control and made him Prime Minister.

In Part IV, I will conclude this introduction to Kuyper and focus on some of his ideas as well as list some resources for those interested in learning more.

Abraham Kuyper: Part I, Part II, Part IV