Diogenes Laertius has handed down to us some fascinating source material in his work Lives of Eminent Philosophers. The historical background he provides for Paul’s address on Mars Hill is extremely enlightening, and yet it seems to be completely ignored by most expositors of the book of Acts.
He also shares with us an account of Plato addressing his students on the subject of anthropology. Plato is said to have defined man as “a featherless biped” for which he was applauded. When Diogenes of Sinope heard this he quickly plucked a chicken and brought it into the lecture hall saying, “Here is Plato’s man.” Plato had to refine his definition by adding “…with broad flat nails.”
I thought of this story this week when we discussed in class the following quote from page 424 of Ferguson’s Church History. “As to method, the Scholastics employed dialectical reasoning, which historically meant oral discussion by question and answer. The scholastic method was a technique of interpreting texts and teaching that involved distinctions, definitions, and disputations. The method involved presenting a problem (quaestio), stating arguments for and against (disputatio), and proposing a solution (sententia).”
I just wanted to remind you that the scholastic method of “making a distinction when there is a confusion” is not original to them.
This technique was being employed by Plato and Diogenes of Sinope in the story above and we engage in it both intuitively and by design in our daily lives. It may be as systematic as in the consideration of both similarities and differences when we engage in the task of establishing the taxonomic rank of living organisms (species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom, domain, life) or as informal as the process we go through in selecting frozen yogurt rather than ice cream.
For those of you who are confused, I have embedded the following video which should clear it all up for you.