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Thought evolution on Logos


Along the history of Western Philosophy, Logos has been interpreted in many ways. In the Greek Antiquity, the pre-socratic thinkers thought Logos as the supreme and innermost principle of reality and the law of all processes that combines differences of being into an overarching unity. Socrates saw Logos as the methodical principle of finding the hidden truth that worked in and through dialogues or dialectics. His disciple, Plato, took Logos as hypostatic meta-physical “ideas” such as the good, the truth, beauty, equality, harmony and justice, that shines through all physical reality.

But Aristotle brought the transcendental principles down to the physical reality and saw Logos as the immanent forms of the physical beings. From this came the ideal of human education: to elaborate, represent, imitate and actualize the Logos and its corresponding order of being. This means, theoretically, nurturing rational consciousness; practically, nourishing ethical will and character; and poetically, constructing external culture. All this has undeniably formed the basis of western conception of world order later.

In the Middle Ages, under the influence of Jewish and Christian revelation, the cosmocentric image of the Logos changed into a theocentric one. The Logos was no more seen as anonymous energy, but rather, an omnipotent personal God who created the world. Logos was his personal Word by which he called all things into Being. Hence the Logos was not a part of the world. It was, instead, a personal divine reality. History of the world was then viewed in terms of the response to or the denial of the divine call towards freedom, reconciliation or eternal love.

In the modern scientific frame of reference, along with a new mode of dealing with nature, a new task was attributed to human reason, the task of taking the empirical reality as potentiality for the reason’s own intentions. Rationality was to form the material reality in accordance with either its innate ideas (Descartes), certain apriori forms (Kant) or certain interests of the society as in the case of Positivism.

In this connection, humans confronted themselves with nature, imposed themselves -as the determining and free subject- on the nature -as the determined object. Thereby the constitution of nature as a determined object served the self-constitution of human as the dominating and free subject. Logos was conceived here horizontally as logical-conceptual coherence and vertically as empirical correspondence between subject and object.

The primacy of human subject flourihed still further along with the development of science and technology with its quantifying character. The reduction of quality to quantity in natural sciences enabled the intellect to dominate reality as well as made possible the spirit to gain distance from concrete nature, hence to gain more freedom. Whereas the objectifying cognition of the unconscious psychic complexes in modern psychology made possible humans to be the free creator of their own psychic structure. Freedom, then, was the basic principle, the telos or the next development of the Logos of the late modern.

Kant proclaimed the free self-determination as the ideal state corresponding to the dignity of human as the autonomous subject of morality. Hegel saw in the victory of the lower class citizen in French Revolution a progress of the “Spirit of the World” and the “Logos of Being” towards greater freedom. Marx saw the development of freedom in the struggle of the proletariat against industrial capitalism towards an ideal society marked by equality and fraternity. In short, Logos here means freedom of self-creation or the Spirit of the World realising itself through the development of history towards greater freedom.

In the end of the twentieth century, however, all this has been revisited in terms of politics of discourse, in which Logos was then seen more as a product of ideological discourse formations. The impact of Foucauldian genealogy, Derridean deconstruction as well as Freudian-Marxist hermeneutics of suspicion (as represented by Critical Theory) is the demise of any foundation for legitimation of discourse and the invalidity of any form of Grand-narrative, as Lyotard would put it. Still worse, the human subject seems to disappear and the very term “Ideo-logy”, that is, “Idea” and “Logos”, turns pejorative and unreliable. While with Baudrillard everything turns out to be mere simulacrum.

The above history implies that at least in the cosmic, theological and ideological frameworks Logos used to be seen as extralinguistic substance, either as basic principle of reality and order, as divine call for dialogical relationship or as the nature of the Spirit of the world. Whereas starting from the scientific mode of thinking Logos had been seen more as intralinguistic substance, in that it appears especially in the form of logical coherence (and correspondence) of the scientific systems.

This is, above all, obvious in the discourse of Logical-Positivism, in which the truth is seen more as a matter of linguistic construct. And all this eventually ends up in the Postmodern political perspective in which Logos loses substance altogether, Logos without substance: mere effects of the play of texts and discourse (Derrida); the effect of ubiquitous yet anonimous power surveillance (Foucault); or the illusion produced by the play of simulacra (Baudrillard).
Published: 2007-03-03
Author: agustinus hartono

About the author or the publisher
Male, not married, fresh graduated in philosophy.I'm very interested in writing articles or books about philosophy or politic. On march of 2007, I publish my first book tittled "Skizoanalisis:Sebuah Genealogi Hasrat".In this book,i claim that the history based on ratio had produced an unconsciousness abnormality.Therefore,I invite you to live your life based on your desire to live the real life.nowadays,all of us can say that it's a new era of


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