[...] Even the fact that logical positivists are well-nigh extinct on the planet – and this is what it took me a long time to see – is not due only to the pressure of argument, and perhaps not due mainly to that pressure, but rather to the working of the Athenian factor. This is the fact that it is typical of philosophers, and not only of philosophers, but of proponents of other academic disciplines too, and of human nature more generally, to look, beyond the arguments, for something new. There is academic tiredness. Positions become well worn, and then worn out. There is nothing more to say: no papers to write, no seminars to be arranged, the topic, or issue, or person is played out, exhausted. Here’s the paradox. While the Oxford trio are passé, historical figures, philosophers such as Leibniz, say, or Thomas Reid, or Thomas Aquinas, dismissed by the trio, are now actively read and discussed.
People make their careers, as they make their fortunes, by being, accidentally at the right place at the right time, with their thesis topics and their book proposals. It’s that that has taken me some time to realise.
As I say, fashion affects us Christians, not only in academic life, but more generally. There’s much more that could be said. In all facets of life we are all prone to the influence of pressures of all kinds, and among these is the working of the Athenian factor. To become aware of this, sensitised to it, is, I believe, to win half the battle to limit its effects. But how, besides this, should we deal with it? I’m afraid that that must be a topic for another time.
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