Philia Sophia or Philia Nikia

There are two basic motivations for dialog: the love of wisdom (Philia sophia) and the love of victory (Philia nikia).

These motivations have been strategized over centuries and used in many forms to either win arguments or gain wisdom. I am sure you can deduct which will result in which.

I have found that these mindsets are key to understand the bible, or better, result in two absolutely different sets of interpretations of the bible.

In the Kabbalah, the top principle is wisdom, so one could argue that Philia Sophia is akin to the search for growth and God as the source. I do that neglecting the foundational different connotation that we have of wisdom and the Kabbalah has, and the ancient Greek understanding differs from both.

But what would an interpretation using Philia Nikia look like? You can see it when you hear a pastor say: “I have read the end of the book, and you know what? We win!”

A Philia Nikia interpretation will look at the bible as the battle between good and evil, right and wrong, and it will draw much satisfaction and comfort from the prospect of righteousness prevailing.

Winning as in Philia Nikia always includes losing. It is always based on a dualistic mindset thinking as in “us against them”. The typical categories would be strong and weak, saved and lost, successful and losers, tolerant and intolerant.

The love of wisdom does not think along these lines. But yes, over the course of history, dualism has been the driving worldview.

In dualism, the love of wisdom has always been open to listen, to be corrected, to grow and to change. The love of wisdom therefore is a major force in the development of human and humanity towards the vision God has for us.

In dualism, even the love of wisdom has been limited in its possibilities because of the established frameworks.

This is especially true because the love of wisdom in the short run always loses to the love of winning. This can happen in two ways: either the proponent of Philia Nikia overpowers the other, or the frustration of the situation has me resort to Philia Nikia myself.

We can see that in the ongoing culture war between tradition, modernity and post-modernity. Post-modernity has harmony as an ideal and looks for consensus to solve the problems it faces, but sacrifices its love for wisdom in the perceived urgency of these pressing problems and the observed unwillingness of other value memes to embrace their notion of wisdom.

The same can be said for any dualistic worldview. Modernists believe that wisdom lies in the markets and individual merit, and go to the trenches when they see post-modernists and traditionalists impose limitations on both for different reasons.

And we all know that traditionalism has invented apologetics, the ultimate form of Philia Nikia, a tool to prove somebody wrong and win. A tool I would argue that does not align with the new testament.

Am I proposing anything goes? What in all that I said would make you think that? (Paul was kinder in his response when he said: by no means.)

I am proposing dialog, the search for solutions, inclusion of other views and opinions. I am proposing non-dualism, which cannot show up in the form of compromise, but growing together, loving the other. This may slow down our problem solving as we cannot just power the other down either by force or majority decisions. But it will bring forth growth and a world worth living in.

And in the end, love will win. The ultimate form of Philia Nikia, and the best interpretation of the last chapter of Revelation. There need not be us vs. them, because there is no them. The line between love and fear goes through the heart of every human being, and love drives out fear.

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Accompanyist | Pastor in Exile | Iconoclast — I am a Gallup certified CliftonStrengths coach and a Spiral Dynamics practitioner.