Moltmann takes on Aristotle

Moltmann Monday is back after a few week hiatus, so why don’t we kick it off with a bang as Moltmann decides to take Aristotle to task. From God for a Secular Society, p. 135ff:

Ever since Aristotle, the principle of knowledge has been: ‘like is only known by like.’ Ever since Aristotle, the principle of community has been: ‘Like draws to like.’ The principle of correspondence in epistemology and the principle of homogeneity in sociology correspond precisely.

But are they true? Do they contribute to the knowing of ‘the others’? Do they lead to living fellowship with others? Are we not ourselves ‘the others’ for other people?…If I know only what is like me, or what already corresponds to me, then, after all, I know only what I know already. The fascination of knowing is missing. The interest in knowing is paralyzed. When two people say the same thing, says a Russian proverb, one of them is superfluous.

If, in social life, like draws only to like, is the result in a society not total stultification? The rich for themselves and the poor for themselves, the whites for themselves and the blacks for themselves, the men for themselves and the women for Online Pokies themselves…This would be the total segregation-society of unrelated ghettos, and in every ghetto death through boredom would hold sway.

If this is so, must we not try to start from the opposite principles, in order to arrive at knowledge of others and community with others?

In epistemology, must we not start from the principle ‘Other is known only by other’, and in sociology from the principle ‘The acceptance of others creates community in diversity’?


If the church/Church is to be a community, specifically one that embraces the life of Jesus, it cannot be founded or even maintained on Aristotle’s principles. Aristotle’s words can serve as critique or warning, but certainly not as a reality to which we are or ought to be resigned. Indeed, in the life of God, we see that life comes from the unique triune persons of God who are in living fellowship with one another that is anything but stagnant. Because God has opened up even the divine life to us, there is no possible way to end in ghettoized boredom. Only by employing the practice in which “other is known only by other” can we ever hope to evolve beyond our crudest form of self.

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