Allan David Bloom Quotes

The university began in spirit from Socrates contemptuous and insolent distancing of himself from the Athenian people, his refusal to accept any command from them to cease asking, What is justice? What is knowledge? What is a god? and hence doubting the common opinions about such questions.

Allan David Bloom

The scholar cannot understand the will to power, not a cause recognized by science, which made Alexander different from others, because the scholar neither has it nor does his method permit him to have it or see it.

Allan David Bloom

From the outset [of the Enlightenment], scholars treated Greek philosophers more as natural scientists treat atoms than as they treat other natural scientists. They were not invited to join the serious discussion of the scholars.

Allan David Bloom

In antiquity there had also been mere scholars, studying Homer and Plato without knowing quite why, and without being interested in the questions the writers raised, fascinated by meters or the reliability of texts. But the objection to these scholars was that they lacked the urgent desire to know the most important things, whereas the modern objection to scholarship is that it lacks the urgency of commitment to action. If deeds are the most important thing, then the scholar is by definition inferior to the doer.

Allan David Bloom

Enlightenment presented the thinker not as the best man but as the most useful one. Happiness is the most important thing; if thinking is not happiness, it must be judged by its relationship to happiness.

Allan David Bloom

Professors represented an unsatisfactory halfway house between the two harsh disciplines that make a man seriouscommunity and solitude.

Allan David Bloom

Professors had made reason into a public prejudice and were now among the prejudiced.

Allan David Bloom

When a poet writes about a poet, he does so as a poet. When a scientist talks about scientists, he does not do so as a scientist. If he does so, he uses none of the tools he uses in his scientific activity, and his conclusions have none of the demonstrative character he demands in his science. Science has broken off from the self-consciousness about science that was the core of ancient science.

Allan David Bloom

Gullivers Travels is to early modern philosophy what Aristophanes The Clouds was to early ancient philosophy. Swift objects to Enlightenment because it encourages a hypertrophic development of mathematics, physics and astronomy, thus returning to the pre-Socratic philosophy that Aristophanes had criticized for being unselfconscious or unable to understand man. But, unlike pre-Socratic philosophy, which had no interest in politics at all, this science wished to rule and could rule. The new science had indeed generated sufficient power to rule, but in order to do so had had to lose the human perspective. In other words, Swift denied that modern science had actually established a human or political science. All to the contrary, it had destroyed it.

Allan David Bloom

The philosophers in their closets or their academies have entirely different ends than the rest of mankind. ... The moderns did not think, as did the ancients, that they would lose sight of the distinction between the two in identifying them. ... What the ancients almost religiously kept apart, the moderns thought they could join without risk.

Allan David Bloom

The necessary unity of power and wisdom is only a coincidence for the ancients, i.e., dependent on chance completely out of the philosophers control. Knowledge is not in itself power, and though it is not in itself vulnerable to power, those who seek it and possess it most certainly are. Therefore the great virtue for the philosophers in their political deeds was moderation. They were utterly dependent on the prejudices of the powerful and had to treat them most delicately.

Allan David Bloom

The ancients held that a man must never let himself be overcome by events unless those events taught something essentially new. They were more intent than were any men before or since on preserving the freedom of the mind.

Allan David Bloom

The form and content of the writings of men like Plato, Cicero, Farabi and Maimonides appear very different, while their inner teachings may be to all intents and purposes the same. Each had a different beginning point, a different cave, from which he had to ascend to the light and to which he had to return.

Allan David Bloom

The toleration of philosophy requires its being thought to serve powerful elements in society without actually becoming their servant.

Allan David Bloom

The world men incline to see is full of benevolent and malevolent deities who take their cases seriously. Poetry to succeed must speak to these passions, which are more powerful than reason in almost all men. Because poetry needs an audience it is, in Socrates view, too friendly to the enemies of reason. The philosopher has less need to enter into the wishes of the many or, as the wise of our time would put it, into the drama of history, or to be engag. This is why Socrates heightens the enmity between philosophy and poetry.

Allan David Bloom
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