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A Review of Agora from Le Monde

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  • vaeringjar
    The new film about Hypatia, Agora, is being shown at least in France now. Here is a review from LeMonde. Regardless of the quality of the plot - apparently it
    Message 1 of 22 , Feb 4, 2010
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      The new film about Hypatia, Agora, is being shown at least in France now. Here is a review from LeMonde. Regardless of the quality of the plot - apparently it has Hypatia having discovered the elliptical orbits of the planets before succumbing to the mob! - I am most curious to see it. From the review at least it appears a main them is the conflict between science and religion.

      And how often do we see Synesius cited in the review of any film?

      http://www.lemonde.fr/opinions/article/2010/01/21/agora-le-christianisme-comme-frein-a-la-science-par-eric-nuevo_1295077_3232.html#ens_id=977604

      Perhaps someone in the group from France will get to see this. I would be curious just to see the recreation of Alexandria in it, especially the temple of Serapis.

      Dennis Clark
    • Goya
      Hi Dennis, here s some comments I posted on another list: Just saw Almenabar’s Agora, his portrait of the life of Hypatia, and thought it was terrific, no
      Message 2 of 22 , Feb 4, 2010
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        Hi Dennis,

        here's some comments I posted on another list:

        Just saw Almenabar’s Agora, his portrait of the life of Hypatia, and
        thought it was terrific, no doubt the best film about Antiquity I have
        seen. It was well acted, with surprising understatement, and the
        computer-enhanced vistas of ancient Alexandria were beautiful. There may
        well have been historical howlers in there, but if so I missed them. It
        seemed to me a convincing portrayal of life among the elite of 5th-century
        Alexandria.
        The Christians are, of course, the bad guys, especially the bearded,
        black-clad Parabolani (Talibani?), a mob of ignorant thugs who eventually
        do in the virtuous Hypatia. Cyril of Alexandria might well sue for
        defamation if he were still in this veil of tears. But I saw nothing that
        contradicts what I think is known of that period, with perhaps two
        exceptions.
        First, H.’s student Synesius of Cyrene is depicted as a rather slimy
        individual and at one point defends a fundamentalist reading of Paul’s
        letters to the Galatians, which seems unlikely if one has read much
        Synesius (scholars can’t even agree he was really Christian). Secondly, H.
        herself, beautiful and impossibly virtuous, is depicted as a kind of
        Galileo avant la lettre, interested almost exclusively in science. In fact
        she taught Plato and Aristotle, and is likely to have been a fairly
        standard Neoplatonist.
        But I thought the positives far outweighed the negatives. Parts I
        particularly enjoyed were Michel Lonsdale’s lovely portrayed of H.’s
        father Theon ; H’s ambiguous relations with her slaves (Aspasius, her
        scientific collaborator, is petrified with fear when she hugs him), and
        especially the scenes of scientific discovery : although it is probably
        unlikely that H. discovered the elliptical form of the earth’s orbit 1200
        years before Brahe and Kepler, the scene where she discovers this is one
        of the most believable scenes of scientific discovery I have seen in film.
        Bravo.



        Michael Chase
        CNRS UPR 76
        Paris-Villejuif
        France
      • vaeringjar
        ... That s great news, glad to get your positive reactions - Lonsdale is a fine actor, so another indication this is a serious effort. If the spirit is right,
        Message 3 of 22 , Feb 4, 2010
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          --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, "Goya" <goya@...> wrote:
          >
          > Hi Dennis,
          >
          > here's some comments I posted on another list:
          >
          > Just saw Almenabar's Agora, his portrait of the life of Hypatia, and
          > thought it was terrific, no doubt the best film about Antiquity I have
          > seen. It was well acted, with surprising understatement, and the
          > computer-enhanced vistas of ancient Alexandria were beautiful. There may
          > well have been historical howlers in there, but if so I missed them. It
          > seemed to me a convincing portrayal of life among the elite of 5th-century
          > Alexandria.
          > The Christians are, of course, the bad guys, especially the bearded,
          > black-clad Parabolani (Talibani?), a mob of ignorant thugs who eventually
          > do in the virtuous Hypatia. Cyril of Alexandria might well sue for
          > defamation if he were still in this veil of tears. But I saw nothing that
          > contradicts what I think is known of that period, with perhaps two
          > exceptions.
          > First, H.'s student Synesius of Cyrene is depicted as a rather slimy
          > individual and at one point defends a fundamentalist reading of Paul's
          > letters to the Galatians, which seems unlikely if one has read much
          > Synesius (scholars can't even agree he was really Christian). Secondly, H.
          > herself, beautiful and impossibly virtuous, is depicted as a kind of
          > Galileo avant la lettre, interested almost exclusively in science. In fact
          > she taught Plato and Aristotle, and is likely to have been a fairly
          > standard Neoplatonist.
          > But I thought the positives far outweighed the negatives. Parts I
          > particularly enjoyed were Michel Lonsdale's lovely portrayed of H.'s
          > father Theon ; H's ambiguous relations with her slaves (Aspasius, her
          > scientific collaborator, is petrified with fear when she hugs him), and
          > especially the scenes of scientific discovery : although it is probably
          > unlikely that H. discovered the elliptical form of the earth's orbit 1200
          > years before Brahe and Kepler, the scene where she discovers this is one
          > of the most believable scenes of scientific discovery I have seen in film.
          > Bravo.
          >
          >
          >
          > Michael Chase
          > CNRS UPR 76
          > Paris-Villejuif
          > France
          >

          That's great news, glad to get your positive reactions - Lonsdale is a fine actor, so another indication this is a serious effort. If the spirit is right, a little historical inaccuracy is hardly the end of the world, and it is a film and not a documentary, after all. I like Rachel Weisz and she would seem a perfect choice for the role.

          Poor old Synesius - waits 1600 years for his "big moment" and then gets rather slimed!

          Isn't it Eunapius who complains about the gangs of black-hooded Christian thugs? They must have picked that up from him.

          I hope the film finds distribution here in America, but I won't hold my breath. Maybe if the pagans were shown as tall, purple-skinned, and all buffed and svelte...

          Dennis Clark
        • Thomas Mether
          It is supposed to be released here. We also already have it in our Netflix quene. ... From: vaeringjar Subject: [neoplatonism] Re: A
          Message 4 of 22 , Feb 4, 2010
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            It is supposed to be released here. We also already have it in our Netflix quene.

            --- On Thu, 2/4/10, vaeringjar <vaeringjar@...> wrote:


            From: vaeringjar <vaeringjar@...>
            Subject: [neoplatonism] Re: A Review of Agora from Le Monde
            To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
            Date: Thursday, February 4, 2010, 12:59 PM


             





            --- In neoplatonism@ yahoogroups. com, "Goya" <goya@...> wrote:
            >
            > Hi Dennis,
            >
            > here's some comments I posted on another list:
            >
            > Just saw Almenabar's Agora, his portrait of the life of Hypatia, and
            > thought it was terrific, no doubt the best film about Antiquity I have
            > seen. It was well acted, with surprising understatement, and the
            > computer-enhanced vistas of ancient Alexandria were beautiful. There may
            > well have been historical howlers in there, but if so I missed them. It
            > seemed to me a convincing portrayal of life among the elite of 5th-century
            > Alexandria.
            > The Christians are, of course, the bad guys, especially the bearded,
            > black-clad Parabolani (Talibani?), a mob of ignorant thugs who eventually
            > do in the virtuous Hypatia. Cyril of Alexandria might well sue for
            > defamation if he were still in this veil of tears. But I saw nothing that
            > contradicts what I think is known of that period, with perhaps two
            > exceptions.
            > First, H.'s student Synesius of Cyrene is depicted as a rather slimy
            > individual and at one point defends a fundamentalist reading of Paul's
            > letters to the Galatians, which seems unlikely if one has read much
            > Synesius (scholars can't even agree he was really Christian). Secondly, H.
            > herself, beautiful and impossibly virtuous, is depicted as a kind of
            > Galileo avant la lettre, interested almost exclusively in science. In fact
            > she taught Plato and Aristotle, and is likely to have been a fairly
            > standard Neoplatonist.
            > But I thought the positives far outweighed the negatives. Parts I
            > particularly enjoyed were Michel Lonsdale's lovely portrayed of H.'s
            > father Theon ; H's ambiguous relations with her slaves (Aspasius, her
            > scientific collaborator, is petrified with fear when she hugs him), and
            > especially the scenes of scientific discovery : although it is probably
            > unlikely that H. discovered the elliptical form of the earth's orbit 1200
            > years before Brahe and Kepler, the scene where she discovers this is one
            > of the most believable scenes of scientific discovery I have seen in film.
            > Bravo.
            >
            >
            >
            > Michael Chase
            > CNRS UPR 76
            > Paris-Villejuif
            > France
            >

            That's great news, glad to get your positive reactions - Lonsdale is a fine actor, so another indication this is a serious effort. If the spirit is right, a little historical inaccuracy is hardly the end of the world, and it is a film and not a documentary, after all. I like Rachel Weisz and she would seem a perfect choice for the role.

            Poor old Synesius - waits 1600 years for his "big moment" and then gets rather slimed!

            Isn't it Eunapius who complains about the gangs of black-hooded Christian thugs? They must have picked that up from him.

            I hope the film finds distribution here in America, but I won't hold my breath. Maybe if the pagans were shown as tall, purple-skinned, and all buffed and svelte...

            Dennis Clark











            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Curt Steinmetz
            ... Thanks for your very promising review, Michael! From what you say it sounds like the reports that Hypatia is portrayed as an atheist are not without some
            Message 5 of 22 , Feb 4, 2010
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              Goya wrote:
              > Hi Dennis,
              >
              > here's some comments I posted on another list:
              >
              >

              Thanks for your very promising review, Michael! From what you say it
              sounds like the reports that Hypatia is portrayed as an "atheist" are
              not without some foundation, but are nevertheless at least somewhat
              exaggerated.

              Curt Steinmetz
            • Goya
              ... M.C. Actually, it seems like they followed the account of Gibbon (Decline and fall ch. 47) right down to the details : the prefect Orestes wounded by a
              Message 6 of 22 , Feb 5, 2010
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                >>
                >
                > That's great news, glad to get your positive reactions - Lonsdale is a
                > fine actor, so another indication this is a serious effort. If the spirit
                > is right, a little historical inaccuracy is hardly the end of the world,
                > and it is a film and not a documentary, after all. I like Rachel Weisz and
                > she would seem a perfect choice for the role.
                >
                > Poor old Synesius - waits 1600 years for his "big moment" and then gets
                > rather slimed!
                >
                > Isn't it Eunapius who complains about the gangs of black-hooded Christian
                > thugs? They must have picked that up from him.

                M.C. Actually, it seems like they followed the account of Gibbon (Decline
                and fall ch. 47) right down to the details : the prefect Orestes wounded
                by a rock thrown by the Christian wonder-worker and rabble-rouser
                Ammonius, who is executed by the Romans and renamed Saint Thaumasius by
                Cyril.....etc.

                >
                > I hope the film finds distribution here in America, but I won't hold my
                > breath. Maybe if the pagans were shown as tall, purple-skinned, and all
                > buffed and svelte...

                M.C. It is kind of hard to understand why it's taken so long: the film is
                in English, after all, and came out in 2008. But as Variety writes: "This
                elaborately produced English-language Spanish production is consistently
                spectacular and features enough conflict and action to make it marketable,
                but a certain heaviness of style and lack of an emotional pulse could pose
                problems for mass audience acceptance, at least in the U.S.".

                In other words, I take it, there is enough violence, but not enough sex...

                As far as atheism is concerned, H. is an agnostic, not an atheist: the
                reason she gives for not converting to Christianity is that she can't stop
                doubting and asking questions. In a rather unlikely scene, she is asked
                "What then do you believe in?" and answers, "Philosophy". I don't believe
                any pagan philosopher would have answered that: philosophy was never an
                object of faith or belief, but a means to an end (happiness, assimilation
                to the divinity, etc.), rather than an end in itself.
                >
                Best, Mike

                Michael Chase
                CNRS UPR 76
                Paris-Villejuif
                France
              • vaeringjar
                ... IMDB.com also shows it as upcoming in 2010 here, but without a specific date. I just did a little online research on the Parabolani, and they are indeed
                Message 7 of 22 , Feb 5, 2010
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                  --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, "Goya" <goya@...> wrote:
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > >>
                  > >
                  > > That's great news, glad to get your positive reactions - Lonsdale is a
                  > > fine actor, so another indication this is a serious effort. If the spirit
                  > > is right, a little historical inaccuracy is hardly the end of the world,
                  > > and it is a film and not a documentary, after all. I like Rachel Weisz and
                  > > she would seem a perfect choice for the role.
                  > >
                  > > Poor old Synesius - waits 1600 years for his "big moment" and then gets
                  > > rather slimed!
                  > >
                  > > Isn't it Eunapius who complains about the gangs of black-hooded Christian
                  > > thugs? They must have picked that up from him.
                  >
                  > M.C. Actually, it seems like they followed the account of Gibbon (Decline
                  > and fall ch. 47) right down to the details : the prefect Orestes wounded
                  > by a rock thrown by the Christian wonder-worker and rabble-rouser
                  > Ammonius, who is executed by the Romans and renamed Saint Thaumasius by
                  > Cyril.....etc.
                  >
                  > >
                  > > I hope the film finds distribution here in America, but I won't hold my
                  > > breath. Maybe if the pagans were shown as tall, purple-skinned, and all
                  > > buffed and svelte...
                  >
                  > M.C. It is kind of hard to understand why it's taken so long: the film is
                  > in English, after all, and came out in 2008. But as Variety writes: "This
                  > elaborately produced English-language Spanish production is consistently
                  > spectacular and features enough conflict and action to make it marketable,
                  > but a certain heaviness of style and lack of an emotional pulse could pose
                  > problems for mass audience acceptance, at least in the U.S.".
                  >
                  > In other words, I take it, there is enough violence, but not enough sex...
                  >
                  > As far as atheism is concerned, H. is an agnostic, not an atheist: the
                  > reason she gives for not converting to Christianity is that she can't stop
                  > doubting and asking questions. In a rather unlikely scene, she is asked
                  > "What then do you believe in?" and answers, "Philosophy". I don't believe
                  > any pagan philosopher would have answered that: philosophy was never an
                  > object of faith or belief, but a means to an end (happiness, assimilation
                  > to the divinity, etc.), rather than an end in itself.
                  > >
                  > Best, Mike
                  >
                  > Michael Chase
                  > CNRS UPR 76
                  > Paris-Villejuif
                  > France
                  >

                  IMDB.com also shows it as upcoming in 2010 here, but without a specific date.

                  I just did a little online research on the Parabolani, and they are indeed the group which actually murdered Hypatia. They started out as a Christian brotherhood dedicated to the healing of the sick, but then by her time in Alexandria had degenerated into nothing much more than thugs used by the bishops as muscle. They continued on in this role in the 5th century and not just in Alexandria. Not surprising really for an age when other grandees would have their own private "security" forces, such as the bucellarii. So it was Cyril's Parabolani who no doubt at his behest did her in.

                  And this leads us to one reason the film may have problems in America. Hollywood is most loathe to offer anything even remotely critical of any religious group now, regardless of historical accuracy. But since it's a "foreign film" [sic] and set in Antiquity, perhaps that will be enough to let it fly under the usual radar. Though nasty decadent Romans do somehow still sell fairly well here, but I have always suspected that's because they fulfill all the sadistic fantasies rampant in the power hungry studio moguls' own feverish little brains.

                  Dennis Clark
                • Thomas Mether
                  Hello List,   While I have the movie in my Netflix (when released), I also have a local Nashville observation. We have a bunch of fundamentalist churches, of
                  Message 8 of 22 , Feb 5, 2010
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                    Hello List,
                     
                    While I have the movie in my Netflix (when released), I also have a local Nashville observation. We have a bunch of fundamentalist churches, of varying degrees of ignorance and much like the mob of ancient Alexandrian (e.g., when Mel Gibson's movie came out about the Passion of Christ and ... well never mind at this point), organizing a letter campaign against the American showing of this movie. Since this is "Music City", letters from Nashville churches seem to carry extra weight.
                     
                    My proposal: we institute a letter writing campaign to encourage the showing of the movie. Maybe even on university stationhead paper. As I see it (since we recently went through a long history of the SBC trying to take control of Belmont University -- thankfully the SBC lost), the movie is also indirectly about academic freedom and intellectual freedom.
                     
                    So, we write letters in favor of the movie being shown here in the United States. Now here is where I come up short. Who (actual addresses) do we send these letters to (assuming the proposal is agreeable)?
                     
                    Thomas Mether
                    --- On Fri, 2/5/10, vaeringjar <vaeringjar@...> wrote:


                    From: vaeringjar <vaeringjar@...>
                    Subject: [neoplatonism] Re: A Review of Agora from Le Monde
                    To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                    Date: Friday, February 5, 2010, 1:53 PM


                     





                    --- In neoplatonism@ yahoogroups. com, "Goya" <goya@...> wrote:
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > >>
                    > >
                    > > That's great news, glad to get your positive reactions - Lonsdale is a
                    > > fine actor, so another indication this is a serious effort. If the spirit
                    > > is right, a little historical inaccuracy is hardly the end of the world,
                    > > and it is a film and not a documentary, after all. I like Rachel Weisz and
                    > > she would seem a perfect choice for the role.
                    > >
                    > > Poor old Synesius - waits 1600 years for his "big moment" and then gets
                    > > rather slimed!
                    > >
                    > > Isn't it Eunapius who complains about the gangs of black-hooded Christian
                    > > thugs? They must have picked that up from him.
                    >
                    > M.C. Actually, it seems like they followed the account of Gibbon (Decline
                    > and fall ch. 47) right down to the details : the prefect Orestes wounded
                    > by a rock thrown by the Christian wonder-worker and rabble-rouser
                    > Ammonius, who is executed by the Romans and renamed Saint Thaumasius by
                    > Cyril.....etc.
                    >
                    > >
                    > > I hope the film finds distribution here in America, but I won't hold my
                    > > breath. Maybe if the pagans were shown as tall, purple-skinned, and all
                    > > buffed and svelte...
                    >
                    > M.C. It is kind of hard to understand why it's taken so long: the film is
                    > in English, after all, and came out in 2008. But as Variety writes: "This
                    > elaborately produced English-language Spanish production is consistently
                    > spectacular and features enough conflict and action to make it marketable,
                    > but a certain heaviness of style and lack of an emotional pulse could pose
                    > problems for mass audience acceptance, at least in the U.S.".
                    >
                    > In other words, I take it, there is enough violence, but not enough sex...
                    >
                    > As far as atheism is concerned, H. is an agnostic, not an atheist: the
                    > reason she gives for not converting to Christianity is that she can't stop
                    > doubting and asking questions. In a rather unlikely scene, she is asked
                    > "What then do you believe in?" and answers, "Philosophy" . I don't believe
                    > any pagan philosopher would have answered that: philosophy was never an
                    > object of faith or belief, but a means to an end (happiness, assimilation
                    > to the divinity, etc.), rather than an end in itself.
                    > >
                    > Best, Mike
                    >
                    > Michael Chase
                    > CNRS UPR 76
                    > Paris-Villejuif
                    > France
                    >

                    IMDB.com also shows it as upcoming in 2010 here, but without a specific date.

                    I just did a little online research on the Parabolani, and they are indeed the group which actually murdered Hypatia. They started out as a Christian brotherhood dedicated to the healing of the sick, but then by her time in Alexandria had degenerated into nothing much more than thugs used by the bishops as muscle. They continued on in this role in the 5th century and not just in Alexandria. Not surprising really for an age when other grandees would have their own private "security" forces, such as the bucellarii. So it was Cyril's Parabolani who no doubt at his behest did her in.

                    And this leads us to one reason the film may have problems in America. Hollywood is most loathe to offer anything even remotely critical of any religious group now, regardless of historical accuracy. But since it's a "foreign film" [sic] and set in Antiquity, perhaps that will be enough to let it fly under the usual radar. Though nasty decadent Romans do somehow still sell fairly well here, but I have always suspected that's because they fulfill all the sadistic fantasies rampant in the power hungry studio moguls' own feverish little brains.

                    Dennis Clark











                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • vaeringjar
                    ... They are already mobilizing locally against Agora being shown in Nashville? The movie can t be all that well known in America yet - or I I suppose it is,
                    Message 9 of 22 , Feb 6, 2010
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                      --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Thomas Mether <t_mether@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > Hello List,
                      >  
                      > While I have the movie in my Netflix (when released), I also have a local Nashville observation. We have a bunch of fundamentalist churches, of varying degrees of ignorance and much like the mob of ancient Alexandrian (e.g., when Mel Gibson's movie came out about the Passion of Christ and ... well never mind at this point), organizing a letter campaign against the American showing of this movie. Since this is "Music City", letters from Nashville churches seem to carry extra weight.



                      They are already mobilizing locally against Agora being shown in Nashville? The movie can't be all that well known in America yet - or I I suppose it is, if this has happened already there.

                      I think you would have to know who the likely distributor will be for the film, in order to write any letters. While it might help, I fear most those decisions are made with an eye to profit, and in some cases as I was saying also to avoiding "controversy" - I feel usually more commonly decided in a way to avoid a perceived negative from a group likely to effect other film attendance than to respond favorably to any positive advocacy, against the negative, pleaded solely on moral or philosophical grounds. If the film is suppressed, it would however most ironicially be a strong affirmation of the views it apparently expresses. QED.

                      Amazing. I was just talking to a friend last night who knows the entertainment business quite well, and he was sceptical because of its historical setting that the film would get much notice here either way, unless it had lots of gladiators thwacking away at each other.

                      Dennis Clark
                    • John Uebersax
                      But if the film perpetuates the stereotype that all Christians are fundamentalists, then, in a broader sense, doesn t it commit the very error it sermonizes
                      Message 10 of 22 , Feb 7, 2010
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                        But if the film perpetuates the stereotype that all Christians are fundamentalists, then, in a broader sense, doesn't it commit the very error it sermonizes against? 

                        While fundamentalist Christians do stereotype 'agnostics', there is a parallel mentality -- to which perhaps Mr. Almodovar falls prey -- which stereotypes Christians and Christianity.  The problem is prejudiced thinking; no single group holds a monopoly on this. To put this even more strongly: when certain, highly visible, self-righteous intellectuals see themselves as superior to Christianity, they are mostly projecting their own 'fundamentalist' mentality onto others.

                        Are Christians right to complain?  I suppose it depends on how and why they do so. I am reminded of Prof. Tarrant's recent review of "Ancient Commentators on Plato on Aristotle." He noted pointedly that, in the book, Plato was given short shrift.  My first reaction was that this issue with the book seemed minor -- something perhaps to note, but not to emphasize in a review.  But later I concluded that he was right, because, while the single instance was in itself minor, the larger issue is quite substantial:  will Plato and Platonism be given due weight in the history of ideas or not? 

                        I see this in similar terms.  Modern culture has been brainwashed into thinking that Christianity is devoid of philosophical depth.  That is simply not true.  Tremendous disservice is done to people by perpetuating this myth.  And if, as some would suggest, the spirit of Platonism lives today in, among other ways, Christianity, especially contemplative Christianity (and, I will not hesitate to add, the Orthodox tradition), then ridiculing and reducing Christianity to a caricature has, one might argue, the effect of drawing modern people further, not nearer, to the principles and values of Platonism. 

                        I wonder if the film conveys any hint of the theistic piety of Platonism?  One gathers from the description that Hypatia is presented as a kind of 5th century female Bertrand Russell.

                        John Uebersax


                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • leslie greenhill
                        Well said, John.   Les Greenhill P.O. Box 314 Mentone, Victoria 3194 Australia Email: neoplatonist2000@yahoo.com ... From: John Uebersax
                        Message 11 of 22 , Feb 7, 2010
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                          Well said, John.
                           
                          Les Greenhill

                          P.O. Box 314
                          Mentone, Victoria 3194 Australia
                          Email: neoplatonist2000@...

                          --- On Mon, 8/2/10, John Uebersax <john.uebersax@...> wrote:


                          From: John Uebersax <john.uebersax@...>
                          Subject: [neoplatonism] Agora: the movie about Hypatia
                          To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                          Received: Monday, 8 February, 2010, 12:04 PM


                           



                          But if the film perpetuates the stereotype that all Christians are fundamentalists, then, in a broader sense, doesn't it commit the very error it sermonizes against? 

                          While fundamentalist Christians do stereotype 'agnostics', there is a parallel mentality -- to which perhaps Mr. Almodovar falls prey -- which stereotypes Christians and Christianity.  The problem is prejudiced thinking; no single group holds a monopoly on this. To put this even more strongly: when certain, highly visible, self-righteous intellectuals see themselves as superior to Christianity, they are mostly projecting their own 'fundamentalist' mentality onto others.

                          Are Christians right to complain?  I suppose it depends on how and why they do so. I am reminded of Prof. Tarrant's recent review of "Ancient Commentators on Plato on Aristotle." He noted pointedly that, in the book, Plato was given short shrift.  My first reaction was that this issue with the book seemed minor -- something perhaps to note, but not to emphasize in a review.  But later I concluded that he was right, because, while the single instance was in itself minor, the larger issue is quite substantial:  will Plato and Platonism be given due weight in the history of ideas or not? 

                          I see this in similar terms.  Modern culture has been brainwashed into thinking that Christianity is devoid of philosophical depth.  That is simply not true.  Tremendous disservice is done to people by perpetuating this myth.  And if, as some would suggest, the spirit of Platonism lives today in, among other ways, Christianity, especially contemplative Christianity (and, I will not hesitate to add, the Orthodox tradition), then ridiculing and reducing Christianity to a caricature has, one might argue, the effect of drawing modern people further, not nearer, to the principles and values of Platonism. 

                          I wonder if the film conveys any hint of the theistic piety of Platonism?  One gathers from the description that Hypatia is presented as a kind of 5th century female Bertrand Russell.

                          John Uebersax

                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]









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                        • grimorn@sfr.fr
                          Mr Uebersax, it is not Pedro Almodovar, but Alejandro Amenabar, who is the director of Agora. As for the portraying of fundamentalists, not only are some
                          Message 12 of 22 , Feb 7, 2010
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                            Mr Uebersax, it is not Pedro Almodovar, but Alejandro Amenabar, who is the director of Agora.

                            As for the portraying of fundamentalists, not only are some christians depicted as such, but pagans also, who are a somewhat sorry bunch of woodenheads. In my opinion, this is the point of the whole movie : showing that the honest investigation of truth always suffers from politics, power-hungry thugs and spiritually blind people, from whichever persuasion.

                            And Hypatia is quite a platonist, a mix between a Plotinus contemplating the Heavens and a kind of professor Calculus. Not very russellian, I would say.
                            Her platonism is very incarnate ; almost paradigmatically so.

                            Regards

                            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                          • Goya
                            ... M.C. It s not clear how a film that depicts one specific historical period could have anything to say about all Christians (even if it were not the case
                            Message 13 of 22 , Feb 8, 2010
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                              > But if the film perpetuates the stereotype that all Christians are
                              > fundamentalists, then, in a broader sense, doesn't it commit the very
                              > error it sermonizes against? 

                              M.C. It's not clear how a film that depicts one specific historical period
                              could have anything to say about "all Christians" (even if it were not the
                              case than the only exemplary male character - the prefect Orestes - is a
                              Christian !

                              >
                              > While fundamentalist Christians do stereotype 'agnostics', there is a
                              > parallel mentality -- to which perhaps Mr. Almodovar falls prey -- which
                              > stereotypes Christians and Christianity.

                              M.C. It's even less clear why Pedro Almodovar appears in this post: he
                              had, as far as I know, nothing to do with this film.


                                The problem is prejudiced
                              > thinking; no single group holds a monopoly on this. To put this even more
                              > strongly: when certain, highly visible, self-righteous intellectuals see
                              > themselves as superior to Christianity, they are mostly projecting their
                              > own 'fundamentalist' mentality onto others.

                              M.C. That may be true: it seems true, in particular, of such militant
                              atheists as Dawkins, Hitchens, et al. Yet it seems to me totally
                              irrelevant to this film.



                              >
                              > Are Christians right to complain?  I suppose it depends on how and why
                              > they do so.

                              M.C. Perhaps. Does it also depend on whether or not they have actually
                              seen the film? I suspect most of those who complain have not. I also
                              suspect you have not. Topic for consideration: what is the relation
                              between the "prejudiced thinking" you so rightly condemn, and the practice
                              of condemning that which one knows only by hearsay?

                              <snip>

                              The point of the film is clearly not to denigrate *Christianity* - which,
                              the last time I checked, is not coextensive with Cyril of Alexandria or
                              with 5th century Alexandria - but to denigrate *fundamentalism*. But
                              perhaps the director - Amenabar, not Almodovar - is wrong: perhaps the mob
                              who pulled Hypatia from her carriage, stripped her naked, tore the flesh
                              from her bones with seashells, and burned what was left of her, were *not*
                              in fact fundamentalists, but were cultivated intellectuals who spent their
                              time performing works of charity and discussing the finer points of
                              trinitarian theology around a fine glass of Chardonnay.

                              It would in fact seem difficult to argue that no brutal, violent Christian
                              fundamentalists have ever existed (just as they have in every other
                              religion in recorded history). If they did, however, then it would also
                              seem hard to understand why it should be forbidden to make a film about
                              them.
                              >



                              Michael Chase
                              CNRS UPR 76
                              Paris-Villejuif
                              France
                            • yorghl
                              Mr Uebersax, it is not Pedro Almodovar, but Alejandro Amenabar, who is the director of Agora. As for the portraying of fundamentalists, not only are some
                              Message 14 of 22 , Feb 8, 2010
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                                Mr Uebersax, it is not Pedro Almodovar, but Alejandro Amenabar, who is the director of Agora.

                                As for the portraying of fundamentalists, not only are some christians depicted as such, but pagans also, who are a somewhat sorry bunch of woodenheads. In my opinion, this is the point of the whole movie : showing that the honest investigation of truth always suffers from politics, power-hungry thugs and spiritually blind people, from whichever persuasion.

                                And Hypatia is quite a platonist, a mix between a Plotinus contemplating the Heavens and a kind of professor Calculus. Not very russellian, I would say.
                                Her platonism is very incarnate ; almost paradigmatically so.

                                Regards
                              • John Dillon
                                ... That is a very fine riposte, Michael. I really must contrive to see this movie. JMD [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                Message 15 of 22 , Feb 8, 2010
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                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >> > But if the film perpetuates the stereotype that all Christians are
                                  >> > fundamentalists, then, in a broader sense, doesn't it commit the very
                                  >> > error it sermonizes against? 
                                  >
                                  > M.C. It's not clear how a film that depicts one specific historical period
                                  > could have anything to say about "all Christians" (even if it were not the
                                  > case than the only exemplary male character - the prefect Orestes - is a
                                  > Christian !
                                  >
                                  >> >
                                  >> > While fundamentalist Christians do stereotype 'agnostics', there is a
                                  >> > parallel mentality -- to which perhaps Mr. Almodovar falls prey -- which
                                  >> > stereotypes Christians and Christianity.
                                  >
                                  > M.C. It's even less clear why Pedro Almodovar appears in this post: he
                                  > had, as far as I know, nothing to do with this film.
                                  >
                                  >   The problem is prejudiced
                                  >> > thinking; no single group holds a monopoly on this. To put this even more
                                  >> > strongly: when certain, highly visible, self-righteous intellectuals see
                                  >> > themselves as superior to Christianity, they are mostly projecting their
                                  >> > own 'fundamentalist' mentality onto others.
                                  >
                                  > M.C. That may be true: it seems true, in particular, of such militant
                                  > atheists as Dawkins, Hitchens, et al. Yet it seems to me totally
                                  > irrelevant to this film.
                                  >
                                  >> >
                                  >> > Are Christians right to complain?  I suppose it depends on how and why
                                  >> > they do so.
                                  >
                                  > M.C. Perhaps. Does it also depend on whether or not they have actually
                                  > seen the film? I suspect most of those who complain have not. I also
                                  > suspect you have not. Topic for consideration: what is the relation
                                  > between the "prejudiced thinking" you so rightly condemn, and the practice
                                  > of condemning that which one knows only by hearsay?
                                  >
                                  > <snip>
                                  >
                                  > The point of the film is clearly not to denigrate *Christianity* - which,
                                  > the last time I checked, is not coextensive with Cyril of Alexandria or
                                  > with 5th century Alexandria - but to denigrate *fundamentalism*. But
                                  > perhaps the director - Amenabar, not Almodovar - is wrong: perhaps the mob
                                  > who pulled Hypatia from her carriage, stripped her naked, tore the flesh
                                  > from her bones with seashells, and burned what was left of her, were *not*
                                  > in fact fundamentalists, but were cultivated intellectuals who spent their
                                  > time performing works of charity and discussing the finer points of
                                  > trinitarian theology around a fine glass of Chardonnay.
                                  >
                                  > It would in fact seem difficult to argue that no brutal, violent Christian
                                  > fundamentalists have ever existed (just as they have in every other
                                  > religion in recorded history). If they did, however, then it would also
                                  > seem hard to understand why it should be forbidden to make a film about
                                  > them.
                                  >> >
                                  >
                                  > Michael Chase
                                  > CNRS UPR 76
                                  > Paris-Villejuif
                                  > France
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >

                                  That is a very fine riposte, Michael. I really must contrive to see this
                                  movie. JMD


                                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                • Curt Steinmetz
                                  ... While it is true, as Michael Chase already pointed out, that this is a film about a particular historical person and her death, nevertheless the question
                                  Message 16 of 22 , Feb 8, 2010
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                                    John Uebersax wrote:
                                    > But if the film perpetuates the stereotype that all Christians are fundamentalists, then, in a broader sense, doesn't it commit the very error it sermonizes against?
                                    >
                                    > While fundamentalist Christians do stereotype 'agnostics', there is a parallel mentality -- to which perhaps Mr. Almodovar falls prey -- which stereotypes Christians and Christianity. The problem is prejudiced thinking; no single group holds a monopoly on this. To put this even more strongly: when certain, highly visible, self-righteous intellectuals see themselves as superior to Christianity, they are mostly projecting their own 'fundamentalist' mentality onto others. ...< snip snip snip .....>

                                    While it is true, as Michael Chase already pointed out, that this is a
                                    film about a particular historical person and her death, nevertheless
                                    the question is raised: were those who murdered Hypatia in any way
                                    typical and representative of Christians and Christianity at the time?

                                    Many have concluded over the last 250 years that the murder of Hypatia
                                    was not an aberration, but was in fact indicative of Christianity qua
                                    Christianity. Among those who have reached that verdict are: David Hume,
                                    Voltaire, Edward Gibbon, Thomas Paine, J.B. Bury, Raffaele Pettazzoni,
                                    Ramsay MacMullen, Perez Zagorin, Charles Freeman and Jan Assmann.

                                    There are two distinct hypotheses concerning the causes of Hypatia's
                                    death, and the roots of such religiously inspired violence in general:

                                    (a) Only certain kinds of religion are innately intolerant and by their
                                    very natures seek to impose themselves on others. [This is the view
                                    supported by all those named above.]

                                    (b) Intolerance, and in particular the desire to impose one's own
                                    beliefs on others, is a potential lurking beneath the surface (equally)
                                    in all religions.

                                    There is in fact a great quantity of objective historical evidence
                                    showing that intolerance is not equally (or randomly) distributed among
                                    all religions, but is, rather, systemic in some religions and either
                                    absent or rare and incidental in others.

                                    Curt Steinmetz
                                  • Thomas Mether
                                    Hello Dennis,   Let me list a few of the letter writing campaigns down here in the South (I moved here 20 years ago from San Francisco and still suffer
                                    Message 17 of 22 , Feb 8, 2010
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                                      Hello Dennis,
                                       
                                      Let me list a few of the letter writing campaigns down here in the South (I moved here 20 years ago from San Francisco and still suffer culture shock).
                                       
                                      1. Protest of a 90s replay of an 80s film, "My Dinner with Andre" because it was too philosophical and makes people question their beliefs.
                                      2. Ambivalent protest of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia films because they promoted black magic and occultism. It was ambivalent because some love his religious writings.
                                      3. Protesting Harry Potter films (black magic, occultism, devil worship).
                                      4. Protesting the Al Gore film on Climate Change ("scientists should roast in hell for being so dishonest as to fabricate stuff in favor of a liberal lie").
                                      5. Ambivalent protests about Gibson's film (some fundamentalist churches around here arranged a boycott line, others sponsored it and some student organizations were suspended because they targetted Jewish and Muslim students with free tickets and a brochure -- after being told not to, while yet others protested it as "too Catholic and they ain't true Christians"). So, you can imagine the scenario for,
                                      6. Da Vinci Code (proof Catholics are evil),
                                      7. National Treasure (against, suggests the Foundaing Fathers were all Deists and not Christians -- and thus, the US is not a Christian nation).
                                      8. Agora (protests because it suggests Christians don't allow unbelievers the opportunity, out of the love of Jesus' blood, to find their salvation -- before killed). 
                                       
                                      I don't know where you reside, Dennis, but these are the types of political issues we confront in the South.
                                       
                                      Best, Thomas
                                       
                                       
                                      --- On Sat, 2/6/10, vaeringjar <vaeringjar@...> wrote:


                                      From: vaeringjar <vaeringjar@...>
                                      Subject: Letter Writing Campaign?? Re: [neoplatonism] Re: A Review of Agora from Le Monde
                                      To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                      Date: Saturday, February 6, 2010, 3:16 PM


                                       





                                      --- In neoplatonism@ yahoogroups. com, Thomas Mether <t_mether@.. .> wrote:
                                      >
                                      > Hello List,
                                      >  
                                      > While I have the movie in my Netflix (when released), I also have a local Nashville observation. We have a bunch of fundamentalist churches, of varying degrees of ignorance and much like the mob of ancient Alexandrian (e.g., when Mel Gibson's movie came out about the Passion of Christ and ... well never mind at this point), organizing a letter campaign against the American showing of this movie. Since this is "Music City", letters from Nashville churches seem to carry extra weight.

                                      They are already mobilizing locally against Agora being shown in Nashville? The movie can't be all that well known in America yet - or I I suppose it is, if this has happened already there.

                                      I think you would have to know who the likely distributor will be for the film, in order to write any letters. While it might help, I fear most those decisions are made with an eye to profit, and in some cases as I was saying also to avoiding "controversy" - I feel usually more commonly decided in a way to avoid a perceived negative from a group likely to effect other film attendance than to respond favorably to any positive advocacy, against the negative, pleaded solely on moral or philosophical grounds. If the film is suppressed, it would however most ironicially be a strong affirmation of the views it apparently expresses. QED.

                                      Amazing. I was just talking to a friend last night who knows the entertainment business quite well, and he was sceptical because of its historical setting that the film would get much notice here either way, unless it had lots of gladiators thwacking away at each other.

                                      Dennis Clark











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                                    • leslie greenhill
                                      Again - Well said, John.  (Except for the Almodovar bit). Les P.O. Box 314 Mentone, Victoria 3194 Australia Email: neoplatonist2000@yahoo.com ... From: leslie
                                      Message 18 of 22 , Feb 8, 2010
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                                        Again - Well said, John.  (Except for the Almodovar bit).
                                        Les

                                        P.O. Box 314
                                        Mentone, Victoria 3194 Australia
                                        Email: neoplatonist2000@...

                                        --- On Mon, 8/2/10, leslie greenhill <neoplatonist2000@...> wrote:


                                        From: leslie greenhill <neoplatonist2000@...>
                                        Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Agora: the movie about Hypatia
                                        To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                        Received: Monday, 8 February, 2010, 3:03 PM


                                         



                                        Well said, John.
                                         
                                        Les Greenhill

                                        P.O. Box 314
                                        Mentone, Victoria 3194 Australia
                                        Email: neoplatonist2000@ yahoo.com

                                        --- On Mon, 8/2/10, John Uebersax <john.uebersax@ yahoo.com> wrote:

                                        From: John Uebersax <john.uebersax@ yahoo.com>
                                        Subject: [neoplatonism] Agora: the movie about Hypatia
                                        To: neoplatonism@ yahoogroups. com
                                        Received: Monday, 8 February, 2010, 12:04 PM

                                         

                                        But if the film perpetuates the stereotype that all Christians are fundamentalists, then, in a broader sense, doesn't it commit the very error it sermonizes against? 

                                        While fundamentalist Christians do stereotype 'agnostics', there is a parallel mentality -- to which perhaps Mr. Almodovar falls prey -- which stereotypes Christians and Christianity.  The problem is prejudiced thinking; no single group holds a monopoly on this. To put this even more strongly: when certain, highly visible, self-righteous intellectuals see themselves as superior to Christianity, they are mostly projecting their own 'fundamentalist' mentality onto others.

                                        Are Christians right to complain?  I suppose it depends on how and why they do so. I am reminded of Prof. Tarrant's recent review of "Ancient Commentators on Plato on Aristotle." He noted pointedly that, in the book, Plato was given short shrift.  My first reaction was that this issue with the book seemed minor -- something perhaps to note, but not to emphasize in a review.  But later I concluded that he was right, because, while the single instance was in itself minor, the larger issue is quite substantial:  will Plato and Platonism be given due weight in the history of ideas or not? 

                                        I see this in similar terms.  Modern culture has been brainwashed into thinking that Christianity is devoid of philosophical depth.  That is simply not true.  Tremendous disservice is done to people by perpetuating this myth.  And if, as some would suggest, the spirit of Platonism lives today in, among other ways, Christianity, especially contemplative Christianity (and, I will not hesitate to add, the Orthodox tradition), then ridiculing and reducing Christianity to a caricature has, one might argue, the effect of drawing modern people further, not nearer, to the principles and values of Platonism. 

                                        I wonder if the film conveys any hint of the theistic piety of Platonism?  One gathers from the description that Hypatia is presented as a kind of 5th century female Bertrand Russell.

                                        John Uebersax

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                                      • vaeringjar
                                        ... I live near Seattle, and I was in myself in San Francisco for 10 years, so I have not been east of the Rockies now in 15 years, and my friends who have say
                                        Message 19 of 22 , Feb 9, 2010
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                                          --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Thomas Mether <t_mether@...> wrote:
                                          >
                                          > Hello Dennis,
                                          >  
                                          > Let me list a few of the letter writing campaigns down here in the South (I moved here 20 years ago from San Francisco and still suffer culture shock).
                                          >  
                                          > 1. Protest of a 90s replay of an 80s film, "My Dinner with Andre" because it was too philosophical and makes people question their beliefs.
                                          > 2. Ambivalent protest of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia films because they promoted black magic and occultism. It was ambivalent because some love his religious writings.
                                          > 3. Protesting Harry Potter films (black magic, occultism, devil worship).
                                          > 4. Protesting the Al Gore film on Climate Change ("scientists should roast in hell for being so dishonest as to fabricate stuff in favor of a liberal lie").
                                          > 5. Ambivalent protests about Gibson's film (some fundamentalist churches around here arranged a boycott line, others sponsored it and some student organizations were suspended because they targetted Jewish and Muslim students with free tickets and a brochure -- after being told not to, while yet others protested it as "too Catholic and they ain't true Christians"). So, you can imagine the scenario for,
                                          > 6. Da Vinci Code (proof Catholics are evil),
                                          > 7. National Treasure (against, suggests the Foundaing Fathers were all Deists and not Christians -- and thus, the US is not a Christian nation).
                                          > 8. Agora (protests because it suggests Christians don't allow unbelievers the opportunity, out of the love of Jesus' blood, to find their salvation -- before killed). 
                                          >  
                                          > I don't know where you reside, Dennis, but these are the types of political issues we confront in the South.
                                          >  
                                          > Best, Thomas
                                          >  
                                          >  
                                          > --- On Sat, 2/6/10, vaeringjar <vaeringjar@...> wrote:
                                          >


                                          I live near Seattle, and I was in myself in San Francisco for 10 years, so I have not been east of the Rockies now in 15 years, and my friends who have say it's been become very scary for the most part back there. For 40 years I lived in Texas, and you will find a number of my father's ancestors there buried quite near you, just south of Nashville, as the Clark's migrated to Tennessee around 1800, before some of them lit out for Texas in 1853. So I do know what you are experiencing, though Houston where I grew up was comparatively back then at least rather easy going, and Austin of course where I went to graduate school remains a oasis. Living in San Francisco and Seattle as you know is in some ways like being in a remote, protective bubble. And thankfully we are only a few miles to Canada here, in case one needs to flee and seek asylum! Vancouver - what a wonderful city, and those eminentally reasonable and friendly folks who live there.

                                          I am surprised those letter writers haven't demanded the copy of the Parthenon there in Nashville be torn down or the "demons" therin exorcised, and the goddess again removed from her throne. Til then you can still I guess at least go there and read Proclus in its shadow or some such! It's very hard living against the local grain, well I know after ten years in Dallas, and requires a lot of mental energy often just to ignore the pervasive meanness and closed-mindedness that seemed to permeate so much of life there. At least Ft Worth had the most beautiful Japanese garden in the park there, with a great Zen garden at its center. Sometimes that sort of physical refuge is the best defence, when the garden of the mind gets a little too threatened.

                                          Dennis Clark

                                          PS People who would actually protest <My Dinner with Andre> for any reason surely just have way too much free time on their hands.
                                        • John Uebersax
                                          Dear yorghl, ... Thank you very much for correcting this mistake. My point was not to criticize the movie -- which naturally one cannot do very well unless and
                                          Message 20 of 22 , Feb 10, 2010
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                                            Dear yorghl,

                                            > it is not Pedro Almodovar, but Alejandro Amenabar, who is the director of Agora.

                                            Thank you very much for correcting this mistake.

                                            My point was not to criticize the movie -- which naturally one cannot do very well unless and until one sees it.  My main point was that Christian churches have some genuine reasons to be sensitive to the issue of stereotypes.  How that concern is expressed, of course, is another matter.

                                            John Uebersax













                                            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                          • John Uebersax
                                            ... Okay, I made an easy mistake between two Spanish directors whose last names begin with A .  It seems to me if the situation were reversed and you made
                                            Message 21 of 22 , Feb 10, 2010
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                                              MC wrote:

                                              >  It's even less clear why Pedro Almodovar appears in this post: he
                                              >  had, as far as I know, nothing to do with this film.

                                              Okay, I made an easy mistake between two Spanish directors whose last names begin with "A".  It seems to me if the situation were reversed and you made the error, I'd would be pleased to have the opportunity to overlook it, especially inasmuch as it matters little for the main point -- and certainly not use it as a reason for sarcasm.

                                              >  M.C. Perhaps. Does it also depend on whether or not they have actually
                                              >  seen the film? I suspect most of those who complain have not. I also
                                              >  suspect you have not. Topic for consideration: what is the relation
                                              >  between the "prejudiced thinking" you so rightly condemn, and the practice
                                              >  of condemning that which one knows only by hearsay?

                                              Except that I'm not condemning anything.  I'm only suggesting that one shouldn't judge too quickly any complaints that Christian groups might raise against the movie -- provided they focus on the issue of stereotypes, and not free speech.

                                              I also thought I chose my words rather carefully, bracketing everything within the conditional "*IF* the film perpetuates a stereotype."

                                              >  The point of the film is clearly not to denigrate *Christianity* - which,
                                              >  the last time I checked, is not coextensive with Cyril of Alexandria or
                                              >  with 5th century Alexandria - but to denigrate *fundamentalism*.

                                              Example:  when they make shoot-em-up movies where Islamic characters are the
                                              bad guys, does that reinforce stereotypes?  What about cowboy movies where
                                              Native Americans are the villains?  Certainly the latter group has complained,
                                              and perhaps the former as well.  The problem of stereotypes and stereotyping
                                              exists as a psychological and cultural phenomenon.  For both of these examples, a similar argument could be made:  but the movie doesn't claim to represent *all* Muslims,
                                              or *all* Native Americans.  If stereotyping operated in a rational way, that would be a valid point.  But stereotypes operate at a non-rational level. 

                                              > But perhaps the director - Amenabar, not Almodovar - is wrong: perhaps the mob
                                              > who pulled Hypatia from her carriage, stripped her naked, tore the flesh
                                              > from her bones with seashells...

                                              Or perhaps Gibbons was wrong.

                                              > seem hard to understand why it should be forbidden to make a film about
                                              > them.

                                              Not forbidden -- just shallow.  Perhaps someone would be so kind as to point out how anything I wrote even remotely suggests I believe people should be forbidden to make this or any other film? 

                                              My reply came to a suggestion that professional philosophers draft a letter supporting the film.  Is that something you would like to do?  If so, I'd love to see it.  If not, maybe you shouldn't criticize me so harshly for supplying reasons not to do so.

                                              John Uebersax












                                              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                            • Goya
                                              ... M.C. It matters to the following extent: when you confuse directors names, or when you misspell Gibbon s name, as you do below, it suggests, at least to
                                              Message 22 of 22 , Feb 11, 2010
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                                                > MC wrote:
                                                >
                                                >>  It's even less clear why Pedro Almodovar appears in this post: he
                                                >>  had, as far as I know, nothing to do with this film.
                                                >
                                                > Okay, I made an easy mistake between two Spanish directors whose last
                                                > names begin with "A".  It seems to me if the situation were reversed and
                                                > you made the error, I'd would be pleased to have the opportunity to
                                                > overlook it, especially inasmuch as it matters little for the main point
                                                > -- and certainly not use it as a reason for sarcasm.

                                                M.C. It matters to the following extent: when you confuse directors'
                                                names, or when you misspell Gibbon's name, as you do below, it suggests,
                                                at least to me, that you may not be as familiar with the subject-matter as
                                                one might have wished. In other words, that you have not done your
                                                homework.



                                                > <snip>
                                                >
                                                >> 
                                                >
                                                > Example:  when they make shoot-em-up movies where Islamic characters are
                                                > the
                                                > bad guys, does that reinforce stereotypes?  What about cowboy movies where
                                                > Native Americans are the villains? 

                                                M.C. Your analogies are interesting, but I find them inept, for at least
                                                these two reasons:

                                                1. In order for a stereotype to be perpetuated, it must first *exist*. Now
                                                is it really true that movies are full of depictions of Christians,
                                                ancient or modern, as ignorant, intolerant and violent? I don't believe it
                                                is: I can think only of Buñuel's Simon del Desierto, a film made on a
                                                shoestring budget in Mexico, which can hardly be said to constitute a
                                                trend.

                                                2. Your example of Islamic characters is particularly interesting. In
                                                fact, Muslim directors have not shied away for portraying Islamic
                                                fundamentalists in a very negative light indeed: one thinks of the work of
                                                the great Egyptian director Youssef Chahine, and his depiction of
                                                Avicenna's struggles against narrow-minded clerics (Destiny/al-massir,
                                                1997). They made such films not to denigrate Islam, nor to perpetuate
                                                stereotypes, but to call attention to what, in their view, represented a
                                                danger to and a betrayal of Islamic ideals : fundamentalism, intolerance,
                                                and extremism.

                                                Now I don't know whether Almenabar is Christian or not. But he is a
                                                representative of a still largely-Christian culture, which, it seems to
                                                me, is perfectly justified in asking questions about the episodes of
                                                intolerance which have occasionally besmirched Christianity's past (in the
                                                view of all but its most rabid apologists)

                                                <snip> 
                                                >
                                                >> But perhaps the director - Amenabar, not Almodovar - is wrong: perhaps
                                                >> the mob
                                                >> who pulled Hypatia from her carriage, stripped her naked, tore the flesh
                                                >> from her bones with seashells...
                                                >
                                                > Or perhaps Gibbons was wrong.

                                                M.C. Ah yes. So much for that, then: the whole Hypatia story is simply a
                                                legend made up by Gibbon.

                                                This might almost be a credible possibility - if Gibbon were our only
                                                source. But of course he's not: we have ancient information from the Suda,
                                                Photius, Philostorgius, Damascius, Malalas, etc. Gibbon himself based his
                                                account primarily on the Ecclesiastical History by the 5th-century
                                                Christian Socrates of Constantinople (7, 15): Here's a translation
                                                (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/26017.htm) :

                                                There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the
                                                philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as
                                                to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to
                                                the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of
                                                philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive
                                                her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner,
                                                which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she
                                                not unfrequently appeared in public in presence of the magistrates.
                                                Neither did she feel abashed in coming to an assembly of men. For all men
                                                on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more.
                                                Yet even she fell a victim to the political jealousy which at that time
                                                prevailed. For as she had frequent interviews with Orestes, it was
                                                calumniously reported among the Christian populace, that it was she who
                                                prevented Orestes from being reconciled to the bishop. Some of them
                                                therefore, hurried away by a fierce and bigoted zeal, whose ringleader was
                                                a reader named Peter, waylaid her returning home, and dragging her from
                                                her carriage, they took her to the church called Cæsareum, where they
                                                completely stripped her, and then murdered her with tiles. After tearing
                                                her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron,
                                                and there burnt them. This affair brought not the least opprobrium, not
                                                only upon Cyril, but also upon the whole Alexandrian church. *And surely
                                                nothing can be farther from the spirit of Christianity than the allowance
                                                of massacres, fights, and transactions of that sort*. This happened in the
                                                month of March during Lent, in the fourth year of Cyril's episcopate,
                                                under the tenth consulate of Honorius, and the sixth of Theodosius.

                                                M.C. I couldn't agree more with the phrase I have placed within asterisks
                                                (ἀλλότριον
                                                γὰρ παντελῶς
                                                τῶν
                                                φρονούντων τὰ
                                                Χριστοῦ φόνοι
                                                καὶ μάχαι καὶ
                                                τὰ τούτοις
                                                παραπλήσια) and it is
                                                also a pretty good summary of what Amenabar's film is about. One wishes
                                                current protesters would imitate the frankness and objectivity of Socrates
                                                Scholasticus.


                                                P.S. Yes, I know Socrates and all the other ancient witnesses may have
                                                made the whole thing up, although their motives are impossible to imagine
                                                (they were almost all Christian!). For that matter, perhaps the Aeneid was
                                                in fact a fake written by a medieval monk....

                                                Michael Chase
                                                CNRS UPR 76
                                                Paris-Villejuif
                                                France
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