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The Archparadox of Death

Martyrdom as a Philosophical Category


Dariusz Karłowicz

The book deals with martyrdom understood as a philosophical category. The main question pertains to the evidential value of the Christian witness through death. The author approaches an answer through a philosophical interpretation of the belief in the evidential role of martyrdom. Numerous historical documents confirm that ancient martyrdom might have been considered as a kind of proof also by people unaffiliated with the Church. The author observes the theology and the reality of martyrdom through the perspective of the ancient philosophy of death and radical personal transformation. He believes that the Christian stance in the face of persecutions could have been understood as the realization of the unrealized ambitions of philosophy, thereby proving indirectly the veracity of the teaching revealed by Jesus Christ.
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Part II: Witness as Proof


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Part II:  Witness as Proof

The ancient observers of Christianity had good reasons not to protest the packaging of its call to repentance, conversion and transformation as a philosophical etiquette. Even ignoramuses, not to mention those shaping their lives according to the exercises of Plato, Zeno or Diogenes, accepted, without protest, the new topography of the old crossroads, which was always faced by the same Heracles.190 Despite that, the consensus with regard to the picture of philosophy as a path of totally transforming one’s life did not signify a lack of questions and substantial doubts. Trypho, one of the protagonists of Justin’s dialogue, tells his Christian interlocutor to follow Plato or some other philosopher when training in constancy, self-restraint, and moderation, rather than by following Christ, who nobody knows.191 In the preceding chapter we were concerned with establishing the Christian view of philosophy and philosophy’s relation toward Revelation. Trypho’s observation, coming from outside the Church, radically changes this perspective. Trypho knows that the Christians considered their teaching to be the most perfect variety of philosophy. However, in the eyes of Trypho and others (meaning, those looking at Christianity from the outside) this conviction will look like a symptom of simple-minded pride, until they get a substantial answer, formulated in philosophical categories, to the following question: why Christ and not, i.e., Plato, Aristotle or Pyrrho? In order not to fall into a position that is ahistorical in its bias toward Christianity, we should remember that...

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