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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 Numerous historical documents confirm that ancient martyrdom might have been considered as a kind of proof also by people unaffiliated with the Church.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 IV: Martyrdom as a Complete Conversion


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Part IV:  Martyrdom as a Complete Conversion

1.  Divinization

The Sage as God

For Greek religion the two most basic qualities of divinity are its omniscience and immortality.576 Philosophers usually supplement this list with one more attribute, namely, perfect goodness. These qualities establish the distance that separates a god from the mortals—people condemned to opinion and merely aspiring toward the good. E.R. Dodds rightly notes, if we distance ourselves from the Greek manner of thinking, then the conviction that man can become a god, not only after death, but already in life, that he can be, as Empedocles and Clement of Alexandria noted, “a god going about in flesh”577, will become totally incomprehensible and dumbfounding.578 What he means is that for the ancients the barrier separating gods from men was not totally impregnable. Rather, the real issue was the distance that divides man from his goal, rather than some unsurpassable separating the two. After all, the opposition god-man is written right into human nature. The difference between them is the distance separating what is encountered and what is assigned, that is, the distance between ordinary people and the sage. Thus, the discovery of a god is the discovery of human nature—it unveils what one must become in order to actualize one’s telos. Let’s add the following: the consequences of this discovery remain essentially independent of whether we accept or reject the conviction that a mortal human being...

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