intellectual endeavor. In his book The Cave and Light, Arthur Herman traces the divide
back to Plato and Aristotle, and what he calls “the struggle for the soul of Western
Their influence extends from science, philosophy and literature, to our social life
and most cherished political institutions – and not just in the West but increasingly
in the rest of the world, too, including the Muslim world. And at the center of their
influence has been a two-thousand-year struggle for the soul of Western
civilization, which today extends to all civilizations: a struggle born from an act of
rebellion (Herman, 2013, preface).
To Herman, the clear hero in that struggle is Aristotle, whose realism slayed Plato’s
idealism and set the stage for the possibility of improving all mankind through experience
and scientific study. No longer is this the purview of the intellectual few - the “philosopher
kings”. The path to wisdom, which had been shrouded in Plato’s mysticism, was made
visible to the common man “through the sober eyes of science”, revealing “the power of
logic and analysis as tools of human freedom” (Herman, 2013, xxi). It was not until the
Renaissance, however, that man found that entrance and began the true journey out of
intellectual bondage – a quest that many believe was doomed from the beginning. Herman
has drawn criticism for what some, among them Roger Kimball, editor of the New
Criterion and book reviewer for The Wall Street Journal, calls a “frolicking trip” fraught
with “hyperbole” and, in some cases, a misinterpretation, if not an outright
misrepresentation, of the beliefs of Plato and Aristotle.
Between them, according to Mr. Herman, Plato and Aristotle divide the world.
Interested in modern science and technology? Aristotle’s your man. Meanwhile,