Published Humanitas, Volume XV, No. 2, 2002
Modernism is an ancient phenomenon. If prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, then modernism is the world’s oldest heresy. Modernism’s essential features were already understood long before the era of modernity. Plato reveals them in his dialogue The Euthyphro. The character of Euthyphro is a prototype of modern man. In the dialogue Euthyphro is prosecuting his father for the murder of a slave who had gotten drunk and killed another slave. Euthyphro’s father had bound the slave and thrown him into a ditch while he consulted the legal authorities about what to do. The slave died of exposure while they waited for a judgment. After hearing Euthyphro proudly describe his role in prosecuting his father, Socrates sarcastically comments that only someone with a refined understanding of piety would dare do such a thing.
Euthyphro readily agrees to the proposition that his understanding is exceptional. Accordingly, Socrates proceeds to examine Euthyphro concerning the nature of piety. He shows the frustrated and embarrassed Euthyphro that his action presumes an understanding of piety that he does not possess. In Ideas Have Consequences Richard Weaver argues that modern man’s offense is, in a word, impiety. He even calls modern man a “parricide.” Weaver is alluding to the fact that the human race as a whole is related to some things the way a child is related to his parents. All of us have…

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