• johnGould
    (1) When we people refer to Western civilization today, do you think it is fair to say that they typically have in mind Anglosphere countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, New Zealand.

    Do you think what we currently call "The West" is best represented by this group of Anglophone countries?

    I would be interested to hear what people's views are on these two questions.


  • Bitter Crank
    Clearly western civilization extends beyond the anglosphere to include the languages and history of all Europe and the Americas, Australia and New Zealand, and some additional territories. The anglosphere is not the paragon of western civilization; it's a piece of western civilization, going back in time before classical Greece.

    Why do you think western civ. would be limited to the Anglosphere? What about the French? Germans? The Italians? The Russians? The Greeks? The Spanish? Etc.

    When do you think western civ began? 4,000 BC? 2,000 BC? 500 AD? 1500 AD? 1956?

    It's an interesting question; clearly the several world civilizations have deep roots. Why do we have 360º in a circle; 60 minutes in an hour; 60 seconds in a minute? Where did that come from? What about the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE), mother of most European languages and more besides? PIE turned into both Sanskrit and Greek, Latin and Norwegian, Russian and Keltic, and more besides.
  • unenlightened
    do you think it is fair to say that they typically have in mind Anglosphere countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, New Zealand.johnGould

    "The Latin phrase civis romanus sum (cīvis rōmānus sum) (Classical Latin: [ˈkiːwɪs roːˈmaːnʊs ˈsũ], "I am (a) Roman citizen") is a phrase used in Cicero's In Verrem as a plea for the legal rights of a Roman citizen." (google)

    When I were dragged up, it were the Greeks and Romans that were the source, and the jolly old Englishman was the inheritor and perfecter. The semi-literate ex-colonies are not with mentioning in the context of civilisation.
  • unenlightened
    But I believe the French have a different view...
  • johnGould
    I am very interested in Oswald's Spengler's analysis of Western culture/civilization. Spengler refers to Western culture as "Faustian". I realise that Spengler's work in the philosophy of history, in particular, his major thesis,"The Decline of the West" (1922)" is very controversial, but I am fascinated by the account of the history/nature of "Faustian culture" ( which he argues first emerged in Europe around 900 AD) that is set down in "The Decline". I think that even the harshest of his critics would have to concede that Spengler's account of the nature and history Western/Faustian Culture is fascinating and compelling; especially in the sense that the empirical evidence he provides to develop and support his arguments is very concrete and easy to verify ( especially today in the era of the internet, where facts can be checked, and good quality images of historical/cultural objects called up at the touch of a button). .

    Spengler says little about the primordial origins of the "Faustian Spirit", he alludes very briefly (literally only 2 or 3 times) to the "Nordic" people Northern Europe, by which I think he is referring to either the ancient Germanic tribes ( the Saxons, the Jutes, the Angles, etc) or possibly, the Vikings of Scandinavia ( i.e. the countries we call Denmark, Sweden and Norway, today).

    The more I read on the topic of Spengler's conception of "Faustian Culture" ( and its hallmark characteristics both physical and psychological), the more I am inclined to feel that if Spengler were alive today to "fill in some of the gaps" for us , relating to his work, he would probably identify the Vikings, who appeared on the map of world history in the 7th (?) century, as the first genuinely Western (Faustian) people; that is, the first "fully fledged", bone fide Westerners.

    If anyone has an expert knowledge of Spengler's work ( the kind that I ,unfortunately, lack), and how it is interpreted by current experts in the mainstream academy, I would be very grateful if they could tell me whether or not the idea of the Vikings being the proto- (Spenglerian) Westerners seems a reasonable supposition.

    Thanks if you can help (!)

  • johnGould
    PS: Please don't think I am being lazy in requesting this advice. I have spent many hours reading scholarly critiques of Spengler's "Decline of the West", but it seems to me that no one has any decisive views on this particular matter ?


  • Jamesk
    But I believe the French have a different view...unenlightened

    they lost their right to an opinion when they revolted!
  • johnGould
    Bitter Crank,

    I had been very interested in discussing "The West" ( Western culture/civilization) as it was conceptualised and described by Oswald Spengler in his controversial, though well-known, major work, "The Decline of the West". In particular, I was hoping to discuss with you the primal (anthropological) origins of Western culture as Spengler seems to have understood them.

    Unfortunately, my post was deleted, probably because any discussion of Spengler's work as it relates to what he called Western ("Faustian") culture and civilization today has been prohibited (deemed "taboo"). The reason for this censorship is, I think (?), because Spengler is judged to have been a racist by the contemporary Liberal-progressive establishment, and thus, any mention of his work, especially as it bears on the topic of Western culture/civilization is now regarded as being "beyond the pale" of legitimate discussion in polite/civilized society. (Strangely, Spengler's formal conception of "race" was, as it happens, purely "metaphysical" and not at all rooted in any kind of deterministic (biogenetic) Darwinian evolutionary theory.) .

    This is a terrible shame, I think, because Spengler's analysis of the history and nature of "Faustian" (Western) culture and civilization in "The Decline of the West" is a fascinating exercise in the philosophy of history. "The Decline" has been roundly criticized over the years to date since the first fully revised edition of the text was published in 1922 for many good reasons ( e.g. the mysticism and intuitionism the author relies upon to ground some of the important claims made in the book. Equally, however, there is much Spengler had to say about Western culture/civilization in "The Decline" that is clearly very well-reasoned and logically coherent indeed (not to mention well-supported by an abundance of readily accessible empirical, historical evidence.

    It is frustrating that one cannot, it seems, even mention his name now on a philosophy forum; and especially for me in this instance, as I felt that you may well have been able to provide some material help for me with regarding the particular query I had about the history of "The West".


  • Ciceronianus the White
    it were the Greeks and Romans that were the source,unenlightened

    They still are. We've been trying to be what they were, or what we think they were, since the 5th century.
  • gloaming
    Although our roots go back to the ancients, I believe in the modern context that 'western civilization' means non-Muslim, non-Buddhist, etc, but since about the middle ages and on up to the present.

    When we talk about decrying or ruing the turns of events in modern times, "western civilization" means Europe, Great Britain, the 'colonies', or in general the (more) secular countries in the mid-20th Century and on to the present.
  • johnGould

    Dear CTW and/or anyone else who might be interested,

    I wanted to send a "link" to show you all something ( some photographs), in the context of this discussion of Western culture/civilization we are having, but my technical knowledge of computers/the internet is very poor unfortunately. (I am a stubborn, old, male Luddite in this respect !)

    Still, if you are interested in seeing what I wanted to post to you, tap in the words: "Carving on a 9th century Viking boat" on your google search engine and then press enter. This should bring up a Website with the title: "Carving on a 9th century Viking boat/Things/Viking ship, Vikings..." , now click on this heading. What should then come up is a series of good quality photographs that show details of the ornamental carvings the Vikings cut into the prow and keels of their wooden longboats. (Let me know if this doesn't work) Now spend some time having a close look at these designs and then get back to me. ( I am ultimately wanting to demonstrate something I think is quite interesting regarding Spengler's conceptualisation of the essence of Western culture. What I'm talking about is pretty much my own discovery, so I'm rather proud of it !!)

    Kindest Regards

  • Athena
    They still are. We've been trying to be what they were, or what we think they were, since the 5th century.Ciceronianus the White

    How could that possibly be? In the US they are ignorant of their heritage. They think Christians gave us democracy :lol: They do not know what the pagans had to do with the Enlightenment, nor what the Enlightenment has to do with democracy.

    Education in the US used to transmit a culture with its roots in Greek and Roman classics but since 1958 it has educated for a technological society with unknown values, and there ain't much culture left. :rofl: In the US the meanings of the important words are so distorted this isn't even close to the culture we inherited.
  • Ciceronianus the White

    Yes, there's a great deal of ignorance in this respect, currently. But I think it's true nonetheless, as even those who are ignorant ascribe what was obtained from ancient Greece and Rome to Christianity and other sources which borrowed them or assimilated them, often without attribution. Regardless, Greece and Rome are the sources.
  • johnGould


    I'll get back to you in a few hours time. Thanks for looking at the artwork the Vikings carved into the prow and keels of their wooden longboats that I referenced. I hope you'll find what I have to say about it in the context of the origins of Western culture/civilization of some interest.

    Kindest Regards,

  • Athena
    Yes, there's a great deal of ignorance in this respect, currently. But I think it's true nonetheless, as even those who are ignorant ascribe what was obtained from ancient Greece and Rome to Christianity and other sources which borrowed them or assimilated them, often without attribution. Regardless, Greece and Rome are the sources.Ciceronianus the White

    Ah yes, but here is the distortion. Much has been Christianized so we understand the beast as supernatural and therefore something to ignore. But the beast is what Rome became when military powers took control of Rome and destroyed the much older cultural controls that made Rome great. If we understood the beast as a military force that consumed Rome then we would understand the Military Industrial Complex and the huge changes in the US as the power of the beast. We would see the shift from individual wealth and power to state wealth and power and we would know this will come to no good and this is not the US democracy we defended in two world wars.

    We have a tyrant for a president for goodness sake we are so disconnected from our past, we think this is something new and just about democrats and republicans fighting for power, or perhaps we think God has allowed Satan control of earth and as the Christian Romans thought they were in the last days, so do good Christians today think we are in the last days. Without history, we are not seeing the chain of cause and effect that we are caught up in and without better reasoning, we can not resolve the problems.

    What was not Christianized was Americanized and uneducated Americans think they invented everything. Once again cutting them off from the wisdom and culture of the past and leaving them with a distorted understanding of reality. Add education for technology to this and we get the idea that technology is some of some kind of a god that will resolve all our problems and if we rely on the experts we will have power and glory. Yes, so did the Romans have power and glory, but the power and glory of the beast is not what raised the human potential in the days of Rome, nor in the present.

    What raised the human potential came out of philosophy, and science came out of that philosophy. Together science and philosophy raised the human potential and the military cannot defend our democracy. Only education can defend our democracy and create the conditions for resolving our problems. The Military Industrial Complex is destroying us as we educate our children to serve the Military Industrial Complex and pour all our resources into it. We drop million dollar bombs and leave our people without medical care and poorly educated.
  • ernestm
    1) When we people refer to Western civilization today, do you think it is fair to say that they typically have in mind Anglosphere countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, New Zealand.johnGould

    I would concur on the problem of ignorance. My example. Recently I published a blog article on the risk of civil war in thailand, which focuses on the fate of 67 million descendants of the Khmer empire in Eastern Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. Despite their unique Theraveda culture and one of the greatest poverty levels in the world, it attracted a total of 3 readers in the USA. Thankfully one of them worked for Amnesty International which is now trying to stop the Thai elections being rigged in February 2019. Other than that, it was the only article in the West about the Thai junta since it assumed military control in 2014. Almost no one knows Thailand has been under military dictatorship for four years, and even less care, preferring to think of it as still being a healthy example of democratic success. That is the level of ignorance one actually can expect: whirlwinds around isolated issues chosen for their impact on Western agenda, and otherwise, an indulgence of occasional scholars, and nothing else. It's not an isolated example; the Maoists took over Nepal in exactly the same way, which didn't even rate a Western breaking news report except in Australia.
  • johnGould
    Dear CTW (and Unenlightened),

    Before I discuss -(as I promised I would)- the matter of the style of the artwork the Vikings carved onto their longboats, and, what precisely this has to do with the primal essence of Western culture, I would like to object to the claims made by yourself and Unenlightened (above), namely, that the ancient Greeks and Romans were the sole source of Western civilization. I think you would find that position very difficult to defend in a debate with any professional historian/s who specialise in the field; or for that matter any reasonably well -read adult. I must say that I am extremely surprised that an ostensibly intelligent and literate, as yourself, could be possessed of such a profoundly mistaken notion as (quote):

    "They (the ancient Greeks and Romans) still are ( the sole source of Western culture/civilization). We've been trying to be what they were, or what we think they were, since the 5th century."

    When it comes to discussing the foundations of Western civilization, most historians and philosophers in the mainstream academy, regard the "Athens and Jerusalem" paradigm as having been validated. This is the notion that Western civilization was grounded in the two cities of Athens and Jerusalem. Though it is rooted in the historical reality of the two ancient cities of Athens and Jerusalem, the "Athens-Jerusalem" formulation is essentially symbolic. "Athens" represents a philosophical-scientific approach to actuality, while "Jerusalem" represents a scriptural tradition of disciplined insight.

    In terms of human goals, "Athens" represents cognition; "Jerusalem", spiritual perfection. From its very beginning, genuine, (bone fide) Western culture can be understood as the unique expression of a tense, vibrant dialectic operating between these two opposing poles. Over the centuries to date, the dialectic has swung back and forth, though "The West" has never chosen finally between "Athens" and "Jerusalem"; rather, it has always chosen BOTH. In fact, the maintenance of a dynamic tension between the two has indeed been absolutely essential to the West, because it is the existence of this tension which has always nourished FREEDOM. A choice entirely for "Athens" would be potentially totalitarian,and I seriously doubt that a philhellene like CTW would find life very congenial in Plato's Republic (!) ; while a choice entirely for "Jerusalem" would be potentially theocratic or monastic. Thus, it is the tense, dynamic interaction between the two, the ongoing dialectical struggle between the spiritual cities of "Athens"and "Jerusalem" that is precisely what is responsible for the unique and distinctive nature of Western culture and civilization. It is this dynamic, robust and vibrant bipolar dialectic that is the primal source of the key hallmarks of Western culture and civilization, namely: the inexorable, muscular will to overcome, and if necessary, destroy, any finite boundary or limit that would thwart an implicit expansionist yearning;
    an energised, intelligent striving for the infinite and eternal; an implicit desire to bathe that which is solely rational/technical/scientific/mechanical in a sublime light of divine beauty; a ceaseless, restive urge to infuse that which is finite and material with the essence of that which is infinite and ethereal, and, in turn, to endow that which is infinite and ethereal with properties of the concrete and material.

    One need only examine some of the great achievements of the West to confirm this. For example : the giant Skyscrapers of a city like New YorK; NASA's Apollo project which shot Neil Armstrong and his crew all the way up to the moon; the development of Quantum Mechanics as a new form of physical theory. In these things "Athens", (cognition and science) may seem foremost, but they are clearly also the representation of a spiritual aspiration ("Jerusalem"), a yearning for the infinite. THAT is what motivated the architects who planned the Empire State building, THAT is why the US was so determined, at any cost, throughout the 1960s to put a man on the moon. The realisation of these technical/scientific feats simultaneously bears witness to a deep spiritual yearning; a restless desire to reach up and "touch" the boundlessness of the heavens above, to reach out and challenge the infinite. The great medieval legend of the quest " 'cross all quarters of the globe" for the "Holy Grail", was ,likewise, a singularly and distinctively Western achievement. Neither the Greeks of ancient Athens, nor the Romans ever crafted a legend anything like that of "The Quest for the Holy Grail."

    One the other hand, in the majesty and splendour of , say, Chartres Cathedral and Canterbury Cathedral; in the poetry of Gerard Hopkins, T.S. Eliot and Percy Byssche Shelley; the spiritual aspiration of "Jerusalem" is foremost, but the mind of "Athens" remains a palpable presence. For example, there is a beautiful little passage Shelley wrote in 1821 - (one I always send in a card to friends who have lost a loved one) - where we see the dialectic illustrated very literally. Here it is...

    "Thou wert the morning star among the living,
    Ere they fair light had fled.
    Now, having died thou art as Hesperus,
    Bringing new splendour to the dead."

    Note Shelley's use of the ancient Greek ("Athenian") term"Hesperus"; in Athenian mythology, "Hesperus" was, Plato himself tells us, the planet Venus (the Evening Star).

    To continue. If I were forced to chose just one figure from Western history whom I felt exemplified the spirit of Western culture in what was closest to its most pure form, I think the figure I would have to chose would be Cervantes' immortal character, "Don Quixote" ( "The Man of La Mancha"). In second place- very close behind - would be our own era's brilliant, wheelchair- bound physicist, the late Stephen Hawking.

    When Cervantes sold the publishing rights to his novel "Don Quixote" 1604, he could never have imagined that the book's hero would be the inspiration for a major Broadway hit in America three and a half hundred years later. The Broadway musical "Man of La Mancha" ran for years (from 1965 into the early 1970s, if I recall) and is best remembered by many for its theme song, "The Impossible Dream", which the character of Don Quixote sings when he asked by his sweetheart, "Dulcinea", what the purpose of his quest is. For me, the lyrics of this song perfectly capture the essential soul - (the unique "metaphysic") - of the West . (And) because I am a Robert Goulet/"Camelot" tragic, I will now transcribe the lyrics of "The Impossible Dream" in their entirety for you to ponder....


    To dream the impossible dream
    To fight the unbeatable foe
    To bear with unbearable sorrow
    To run where the brave dare not go

    To right the unrightable wrong
    To love pure and chaste from afar
    To try when your arms are too weary
    To reach the unreachable star

    This is my quest, to follow that star
    No matter how hopeless, no matter how far
    To fight for the right
    Without question or pause
    To be willing to march
    Into Hell for a heavenly cause

    And I know if I'll only be true
    To this glorious quest
    Then my heart will lay peaceful and calm
    When I'm laid to my rest

    And the world will be better for this
    That one man scorned and covered with scars
    Still stove with his last ounce of courage
    To fight the unbeatable foe
    To reach the unreachable star

    As I suggested above, an individual like Stephen Hawking very much exemplifies the Quixotic dimension of the Western soul in that although bearing the burdens of a devastating medical affliction, he stubbornly refused to ever give up. He never ceased striving - reaching forth into the boundlessness of the cosmos in search of answers to some of humanity's greatest puzzles. He quite literally used mathematics ("Athens") as a lever to push himself out into the (spiritual) realm of infinite space ("Jerusalem").

    We gain some further insight into the authentic nature of the Western soul in a rather unlikely place, namely, a 4 -volume, American comic book mini-series that was published in 1986, it featured Batman and was called "The Dark Knight Returns". To "cut to the chase", there is a great line from Batman in one of these comic books, wherein he reveals his personal philosophy. To set the scene for you, Batman is lying on the ground with three broken ribs due to a fight he has just lost with Superman ( Clark Kent), he is in pain and cannot get to his feet.. We then read how he raises his head, looks up to Superman, (who is standing above him), and says...

    "You sold us out Clark. You gave them the power that should have been ours. Just like your parents taught you. My parents taught me a different lesson...lying on this street...shaking in deep shock...dying for no reason at all. The showed me that the world only makes sense when you force it to."

    Thus we see how Batman, - unlike Superman ( who, in "The Dark Knight Returns" series, is depicted as a privileged alien born with special super-human powers) -, knows that human beings are innately tragic, vulnerable creatures who are born to suffer and then die. And he knows as that for humans, death is finis (i.e. dead is dead) Batman, in short understands that nihilism is the brutal truth of human existence, that human beings are thrown, at birth, into an absurd, irrational reality, one that is without exception an utterly meaningless "vale of tears", where they are pre-destined to struggle and suffer continuously from cradle to grave for absolutely no reason ( at least no reason that they will ever comprehend) . He has learned that given the irrefragable truth of nihilism, there is only one real choice we have in life: either, to give up and concede defeat in the face of nihilism ( i.e. to die, spiritually, living out a life that is like a slow-motion, extended-release suicide) or, to decide we must (somehow) summon the personal, moral courage and strength to strive onward and upward regardless, which will, in turn, demand that we forcefully impose our own will upon the face of the terrifyingly absurd and completely meaningless reality of the world. He figures that choosing this later option is the only way we might ever have a chance to live a life that "makes sense". What really makes Batman a superhero is the fact that he knows FOR CERTAIN - (having, as a child, witnessed his own parents die painful and meaningless deaths in the gutter)- that nihilism is a terrible truth, but despite knowing this for a fact, he intentionally opts to defy it. This, of course, demands tremendous existential moral courage and that is what makes Batman the archetypically Western superhero that he is. Ditto individuals like Stephen Hawking, Columbus, Galileo, Edgar Alan Poe and George Gordon ( Lord Byron); they were all quintessentially quixotic Western heroes.

    What you fail to appreciate, Ciceronianus, is that were it not for the triumph of Christian Church in Western Europe in the 11th/12th century, there would BE NO Western civilization as we know it. There would be: no Chaucer; no Shakespeare; no Goethe; no medieval code of Chivalry championed by "Knights in shining armour"; no Crusades; no King John signing off on the "Magna Carta" in 1215; no Christopher Columbus setting forth to "Sail the Ocean Blue in Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two", no Galileo, no Copernican revolution;
    no Renaissance, no Rembrandt, no Michelangelo - no statue of "David"; no Wagner; no Immanuel Kant crying: "Sapere Aude !", no Robert Boyle inventing modern chemistry in a cramped, dimly-lit, backroom" laboratory", no Industrial Revolution in England, no Charles Darwin, no Albert Einstein, no nuclear energy; no Thomas Jefferson writing America's "Declaration of Independence", no Adam Smith jotting down his remarkable "Wealth of Nations" in 1776; no Henry Ford mass-producing motor cars for the people; no Jumbo Jets; no NASA -no Neil Armstrong walking on the moon in 1969 ( now THAT was amazing!); no Juno Probe sending close up shots of Europa to us on our iPhones; no "Silicon Valley; no Internet, and so on and so forth.

    In conclusion, let me explain it to you like this...

    If you look back at the history of mankind, you will find that there have been certain times - three or four of them, actually - when man has suddenly made the kind of giant-sized, "quantum leaps" forward that would have been unthinkable under ordinary evolutionary conditions. One such time was about the year 3000 BC when all of a sudden civilization appeared; not only in Egypt and Mesopotamia, but in the Indus Valley. Another was in the late 6th century BC when there was not only the miracle of Ionia and Athens where philosophy, poetry, science and art achieved a zenith that would not be reached again for some two thousand years, but also in India, where a great spiritual enlightenment took place, the like of which has never to date been equalled.

    A third radical "quantum- leap) forward in human progress - and the one to which I would now like to draw your focussed attention in some detail - took place in the year Eleven (11) Hundred. This third giant change shook the whole globe including India, China and Byzantium, but its strongest and most dramatic effect was in Western Europe. Here, it was like a monumental "Russian Spring" (I mean "Russian Spring" in the sense of a liberating Krushchevian "thaw"); in every major domain of human life activity: action, education, interpersonal relationships, philosophy, politics, organization, technology and so forth, there was, in short, an extraordinary unleashing and outpouring of energy and an intensification of the vitality, "espirit" and "elan" of human Being. I am not making all of this up, BTW, Ciceronianus, you will find these facts clearly recorded in any authoritative, mainstream historical reference text. At this particular time in Western Europe, Popes, Emperors, Kings, Bishops, Saints, Scholars and Philosophers all became larger than life characters; likewise the incidents of history - in great heroic dramas or magnificent symbolic acts that still fire the imagination of the West today. For example, the great Arthurian Legends...the immortal tales of Camelot, Avalon, the Knights of the Round Table, Excalibur, Merlin the magician and the "Lady of the Lake", Sir Lancelot du lac and his beloved Queen Guinevere - all cracking stuff that yet captures the hearts and minds of modern Western man today. (In the United States, for instance, the name "Camelot" is still a universally accepted sobriquet for John F Kennedy's administration; while in England today, every schoolboy still knows that the engines which powered the legendary British "Spitfire" aircraft in the Second World War were called "Merlins", a nod to their technical wizardry which gave the heavily outnumbered RAF Spitfires a critical edge in aerial combat against the invading sorties of German ME-109 "Messerschmitt" fighters throughout the desperate "Battle of Britain" (in 1940).

    Concrete, empirical EVIDENCE of this third heroic outburst of energy, this sudden, "seismic" surge in confidence, this rapid growth in man's strength of will and intellect that occured in Western Europe in the 11th century is still clearly visible today. All you need do to see it for yourself is travel to England and visit Canterbury Cathedral or Durham Cathedral. When you stand, for the first time, directly before these giant, complex, orderly, majestic mountains of stone you will be struck absolutely silent and still with a profound sense of reverential awe. For despite all of the modern West's mechanical skills and the grossly inflated scale of our current materialism, Canterbury and Durham Cathedral remain a most formidable proposition. These magnificent stone structures rose out of pretty much nothing, just a modest of small churches and wooden houses; and this, in itself, was not remarkable in any sense. What IS remarkable, what IS so absolutely extraordinary about the construction of these Cathedrals is something most people do not appreciate, namely, that these monumental buildings were fully completed from scratch very quickly, i.e;in a single life-time. Chartres Cathedral in France is another excellent example.( NB: If ever you want to totally "blow your mind" there is no need to use illicit psychedelic drugs; just travel to France, get on a bus to Chartres and walk inside that Cathedral. If this doesn't blow your mind within 5 seconds then you aren't a human being ( at least, not a normal one !).

    To continue.These kind of astonishing changes naturally imply the presence a new social and intellectual background. They imply amongst other things great wealth, stability, technical skill and above all else the CONFIDENCE and resolve to push through a long-term project. So how , exactly, did all of this suddenly appear in Western Europe in the 11th century ? Well, there are many valid answers to the question. But one is OVERWHELMINGLY MORE IMPORTANT than all of the others, and this is the triumph of the Church.

    It can very convincingly argued, CTW, that Western civilization was, first and foremost, a creation of the Church. When I say "the Church", I absolutely do not mean the Church in the sense of that which is a repository of Christian truth and/or spiritual experience. I mean "the Church" in the sense that Western Europeans in the 11th and 12th century would have thought of her, namely, as a POWER... as "ECCLESIA" ! - sitting like a mighty, sovereign Empress in absolute authority above her subjects. The Church at this time was - I hasten to add - powerful for some very positive reasons. Most men of intelligence naturally and normally took holy orders, and had ample opportunity to rise from positions of obscurity to immense influence. In short, the Church was a thoroughly and genuinely democratic institution where ability, be it administrative, diplomatic or purely intellectual was always able to make its way.

    Anyway, that's enough for now. I could ramble on forever, and this post is already too long. But I hope you have learned something, CTW, in particular, that Athenian/Roman culture and civilization to not equate to Western culture and civilization; also that Western civilization began in the 11th century in Western Europe, and were it not for the existence of the Christian Church what we refer to today as "Western civilization" (i.e; "The West" ) would never have existed.

    Interesting, isn't it !

    Kindest Regards,

  • Ciceronianus the White

    I have considerable respect, and a certain degree of (sentimental, I think) fondness for the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The fondness is in the nature of nostalgia as it is for the Church that was, which is to say more accurately the Church as I first knew it; the Latin Church, literally and figuratively. Sancta Mater Ecclesiae. I knew it for a time even after that, when guitar masses were (I suppose I must say it) celebrated. I've attended a mass now and then since that time, for weddings and funerals. There's no beauty left. It's relentlessly prosaic.

    That's the Church I think you refer to, even in its Anglican form. The Anglican Church retained much of the Latin Church despite the fact it came about largely because of the monstrous Henry VIII.

    But that Church was a kind of mish mash, or hodgepodge, of ancient Rome and through it ancient Greece (though the Orthodox Church is probably truer to the Church as it morphed in the Eastern Empire, which lived on until finally destroyed by the Latin West). What took place in the Church intellectually in 11th and 12th centuries was primarily the result of the rediscovery of Aristotle. What took place politically after the Western Empire is traditionally said to have fallen, was a continuation of the Empire in many respects in the form of Gothic and Vandal successor Roman states, which sometimes squabbled with, sometimes cooperated with, the Eastern Empire, and was even reclaimed by the East for a time during Justinian's principate. Then Charlemagne was crowned Emperor, and The Holy Roman Empire gradually took form, and actually lasted in progressively diminished form until 1806. The Renaissance was inspired by the works of the ancient pagans. Thus, for example, Dante chose Virgil as his guide, and populated his first level of Hell with the great pagan thinkers living in comfort and discussing great things, though necessarily existing apart from the Christian God. The Church, as others have noted, is a kind of ghost of the later Roman Empire in its organization, its ceremony, and even its vestments, and I don't doubt it contributed to the stability of Europe.

    Tertullian, who may have been the son of a centurion and a lawyer, was raised as a Roman in the Roman province of Africa. He's the one who said "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" Perhaps not much, but he was very much a Roman as were all the Church Fathers. He was just a Roman of his time. The question he asked could I think be asked as well of Christianity, which through Paul and his followers came to have less and less to do with Jerusalem. I'd say Christianity as we know it has been more influenced by pagan thought and religion than it has been by Judaism, with which it has always had a rather awkward and sometimes violent relationship.

    So I think I give the Church its due, in that I acknowledge that it kept a great deal of the pagan West alive through its assimilation of it. And I don't mean to contend that the "barbarians" as they were called by ancient Greeks and Romans didn't contribute to Western civilization. But I think Western civilization to the extent it can be said to be of the European tradition looks back to the Roman Empire and Republic.
  • johnGould

    Thank you for your thoughtful response to my last post. It is much appreciated as I find the topics we are looking extremely interesting.

    In concluding your post (above) you say that...

    "... Western civilization, to the extent it can be said to be of the European tradition, looks back to the Roman Empire and Republic"

    I'd like to begin my response by suggesting that we should make a point of clearly differentiating the terms "culture" and "civilization" as they are applied to "The West". Might I suggest the following criterion for "civilization", namely, a civilisation is created when a people and their culture construct large/extensive, stable, physical and organizational structures and facilities ( i,e buildings, bridges, roads, water supply and sanitation systems, etc.) that are intended to ( and indeed do) endure for long periods of time, like, for instance, the great pyramids, the Sphinx and the other great monuments that are hallmarks of the ancient Egyptian civilization.Similarly, the majestic stone architecture of the ancient Greeks in, for example: monuments like the Parthenon, giant, imposing temples like the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the massive Theatre of Dionysus (built in 600 BC to accommodate 20,000 persons and still standing today), the many, exquisite marble and bronze sculptures including: "The Winged Victory"; the "Venus de Milo"; "Laocoon and His Sons" that have endured to date over the past 3-4 millenia. All these things were crafted/built to last - and to last for a long time.Had they not been created/ constructed by the ancient Greeks, we could not really talk of an ancient Athenian civilizationper se. In the same way, it was the ancient Romans' planning and building of many great: amphitheatres (like the Colosseum); remarkable aqueducts; stone bridges; extensive systems of roads; baths, temples etc; that are the sine qua non of what we call the great ancient Roman civilization Other examples of great civilisations are : the Mayan-Aztec civilisation; the Chinese, in the Empire they established between 221 BC and 1912 AD; the medieval Arabic civilization that flourished between the 8th and 14th centuries in the era known as "The Islamic Golden Age.".

    There are very many different ethnic groups and tribes throughout history who have possessed quite unique, and distinctive cultures, but never managed to create a genuine civilizations. The Australian aborigines are just one example. The aboriginal tribes of Australia have occupied the continent for tens of thousands of years, and throughout this time they did manage to develop a rudimentary culture. The various different Aboriginal tribes have, for example: their own special styles of primitive art work; their own collections of myths and legends; music and dance, unique forms of spirituality/"religosity and so on. But the Australian aboriginals were a nomadic, stone-age, hunter-gather people, and thus when the first British colonists arrived on Australian shores the later half of the 18th century they noted that the indigenous Aboriginals had no metal and had not discovered the wheel or agriculture, let alone created anything at all in terms of any kind of substantial, sophisticated, "permanent" infrastructure intended to endure over long periods of time time Thus, the expression "aboriginal civilization" is clearly an oxymoron.

    I mentioned to you that I thought the German philosopher of history, Oswald Spengler, provided some very interesting insights into the history and nature of Western civilization in his major work, "The Decline of the West" (1922). Spengler argued that the Western civilization was unique and it was inspired by an unusually vibrant , dynamic and expansive culture. He called this Western culture, "Faustian" culture. Faustian (or Western) culture was, in turn, animated by a distinctive personality type - (a primal, inner psyche)- that had corresponding attributes. Spengler referred to this peculiar/idiosyncratic Western psyche as the "Faustian Soul" and he gave it the "prime symbol" infinity, meaning infinite extension, or as he put it. "pure and limitless space." Of the "prime symbol", Spengler writes...

    "...it does not actualise itself; it is operative throughout the culture at large, the form - sense of every man, every community, age and epoch and dictates the style of every life expression. It is inherent in the form of the state, the religious myths and cults, the ethical ideals, the forms of painting and music and poetry, the fundamental notions of each science - but it is not presented by these."

    Spengler saw in the "Faustian" soul of the West, a primeval-irrational will to power; it was not a calm, disinterested, rationalistic ethos that was at the heart of Western particularity, rather, it was a highly agonistic, energetic, goal-oriented desire to break through the unknown, to supersede the norm, and to achieve mastery. The "Faustian" ( Western) soul was, in short, governed by an intense urge to transcend the (finite) limits of existence, by a highly energetic, restless, fateful being, by (to quote Spengler), "an adamantine will to overcome and break all resistances of the visible." He used terms like: "fighting"; "progressing"; "overcoming of resistances", "against what is near, tangible and easy" to describe the fiery, agonistic, temperament of the Faustian soul's expansionist preoccupation/s.. And this fierce, combative dimension of the Western soul - its will to forcefully defy and overcome impediments and limitations, its restless desire to prevail, at any cost, in the quest for domination and, in particular, for personal glory and honour is clearly evident throughout the entire record of Western history. One of the great flaws with the 20th century's traditional accounts of Western history in our older university textbooks was that they limited Western distinctiveness solely to the intellectual and artistic spheres, the only achievements mentioned are in the form of great books and great ideas, These older texts retailed a peaceful, scholarly "grand narrative" whose central themes were "Great Works", written by "Great Men" in conditions of "Liberty" No attention was ever given to The West's achievements in warfare, conquest, exploration and heroic leadership. The reality of Western colonialism across the world, the comparatively higher frequency and broader scale of warfare among Westerners relative to the people of other civilizations, the invention of far more destructive military weapons, the international slave trade, the unprecedented destruction of the civilizations of the Americas, etc; all of this was conveniently filtered out of the traditional academic account of the accomplishments of Western culture/civilization..

    As I mentioned above, Spengler gave each of human history's major civilizations ( Egyptian, Chinese, Aztec, Babylonian, Classical, etc.) a "prime symbol". He spoke of a civilization's "prime symbol" inwardly binding together all of the different expression forms of all the different cultural branches of a civilization. Spengler gave the West/ "Faustian culture/civilization the "prime symbol" of infinity ( "infinity"in the sense of infinite extension in space). In other words the restless, impulsive yearning and striving for the boundless that characterises the "Faustian" soul was not restricted to the arts and sciences, but present in the culture of the West at large. Spengler wrote, for example, of the "bodiless music" of the Western composer ( e,g. Wagner, Mozart, Beethoven) in which he says: " harmony and polyphony bring (the composers) to images of utter "beyondness" that transcend all possibilities of visual definition"[/i].In the fine arts, the Baroque era landscapes of the French artist, Claude Lorrain are also used by Spengler to illustrate a uniquely Western cultural achievement ( on a personal note, I would have used Caspar David Friedrich's landscapes to demonstrate the point) To continue.. Spengler views the style of ancient Classical Athenian and Roman artwork as being the product of a culture that is very different to "Faustian"/Western culture and he uses Lorrain's painting to explain, noting how (quote):

    "The Classical relief is strictly, steareometrically set on a plane, and there is an interspace between figures but no depth, A landscape of Claude Lorrain, on the contrary, is nothing but depth. All bodies in it possess an atmospheric and perspective meaning purely as carriers of light and shade, every detail being made to subserve its illustration. The extreme of the disembodiment of the world in the service of space is Impressionism".

    In "Faustian" architecture, the soaring spaciousness of the West's medieval Gothic cathedrals with their "form-feeling" of (quote), "pure, imperceptible, unlimited space" is uniquely "Faustian". Equally, in Western literature, Spengler notes the unique temperament of the "Faustian" soul in its "infinity - wistfulness"; he sees this (distinctively Western) soul clearly manifesting itself in, for example: the ancient Nordic "Edda", "Beowulf", the heroes of the Grail, Arthurian and Siegfried sagas, and Cervantes' "Don Quixote, forever roaming in the infinite. In mathematics, the invention of differential calculus by Newton and Leibniz was, Spengler, argues, a quintessentially Western cultural achievement. He regarded this mathematics as an acute expression of the "Faustian souls "tendency toward the infinite" and he describes it using terms such as : "the infinite continuum"; the exponential logarithm and it's:"dissociation from all connection with magnitude" and transference to "a transcendent relational world." Finally, and very briefly, in science the West's development,( roughly one hundred years ago,) of Quantum Mechanics as a new form of physical theory is another very good example of how the irrepressibly determined "Faustian" soul restlessly strives ever toward the infinite/infinitesimal

    In the paragraph above, I have discussed only what might be described the peaceful/civilized/intellectual branches of Western culture: music, painting, mathematics, literature, and science, but, as mentioned above, Spengler argued that the achievements of the "Faustian" Soul were not restricted merely to the arts and science/mathematics - that is, to "Great Ideas" - but were present in Western culture/civilization at large. The point I would like to make is that:* (1) in the waging of offensive wars, such as the series of medieval Crusades; * (2) in the history of Western conquest and colonization from: the era of the Vikings of the 7th-9th century, to the 15th century Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire in South America by Cortes; to the British seizure of "The Union of South Africa" as a dominion of their empire following victories in the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer wars, in the Portugese "reconquista", the [email protected] military expedition in the African Congo, the British colonization of Australia and their subjugation of the native Aboriginal population in the late 18th century; * 3) the uncommonly violent history of Europe overall, i.e; the comparatively large number of brutal armed conflicts and fully-fledged wars that have been waged in Europe by Western Europeans;*(4) beginning in 1450, the West's creation of a brutal,; transatlantic African slave trade that would, over the coming centuries, develop into a massive international industry. All of these events are, it must be emphasised, uniquely Western, they are all accomplishments of precisely the same primal "Faustian" soul that inspired for example: the invention of differential calculus; the West's Impressionist and Baroque artworks, the boundless, polyphonic music of Wagner and Mozart; the masterpieces of medieval Romanesque and Gothic architecture like Chartres Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral and Durham Cathedral; the creation, in literature, of Shakespeare's famous character,
    the brooding prince,"Hamlet", Cervantes' immortal "Don Quixote", the timeless myth of King Arthur's Knights setting forth on a valiant, illimitable quest for the sacred Holy Grail ,and so on...

    It could be objected that medieval and modern Westerners are not uniquely militaristic and imperialistic; and that other great world civilizations have also engaged in warfare and territorial expansion. This, of course, is true; but the point Spengler stresses about "Faustian"/(Western) warfare and colonisation ( i.e. the forceful conquest, occupation and rule of distant lands and their peoples), is that history clearly demonstrates Western Europeans have always been more intensively militaristic and aggressively expansionist as well as more innovative and obsessive about improving the techniques, organization, tactics and strategies of warfare than have other great "high cultures"/civilizations. I agree.

    It seems to me that it has become very fashionable in the modern academy and increasingly in Western society at large, to criticize and denounce the West, - to condemn Westerners for their culture's long catalogue of wars, violent colonizations (conquest/subjugation/exploitation) of other cultures, persecutions and such like, that have "blighted" every stage of their civilization's history. As far as I am concerned Westerners today ought feel no need at all to apologise for the dynamic, expansionist disposition of their culture; because the fact is, in short, that the "Faustian" soul's restive, "adamantine" will to break through and innovate has proved absolutely indispensable to human progress over the past 6000 years to date. Rather than guilt, what the modern Western man is, I believe, well justified in feeling, and celebrating is a tremendous sense of pride in the great achievements of his culture and the power of his civilization.

    The expansionist disposition of the West was, as I say, indispensable, and it was, in turn, chiefly driven by an intensely felt desire to achieve great feats and heroic immortality. All of Western civilization's greatest men were impelled by a desire to perform unmatched deeds. Cortes, for example, was motivated by an immense ambition for glory and honour; he believed that (quote) " it is better to die worthily than to live dishonoured." David Hume the British philosopher, was likewise chiefly motivated by the pursuit of fame; "the love of literary fame" he confessed, is "my ruling passion". Napoleon too, was suffused with a grandiose temperament and an insistent will to accomplish great deeds. In his book entitled, "Thoughts", he writes..."I came to believe in myself as an unusual person and became consumed with the ambition to do the great things that until then had just been a fantasy." Also, Hitler, who fervently declared in 1931, two years before he seized power in Germany:"I intend to set up a thousand-year Reich and anyone who supports me in this battle is a fellow - fighter for a unique spiritual - I would say divine - creation ...", is a case in point.

    Briefly, in the personalities of all of the West's great military and political leaders, and in the majority of its greatest artists, scientists and philosophers we find present: a staunch individualism that is typically accompanied by an aloof, abstracted loneliness. Of this loneliness, Spengler writes:

    "The Faustian soul -whose being consists in the overcoming of presence, whose feeling is loneliness and whose yearning is infinity - puts its need of solitude, distance and abstraction into all its actualities, into its public life, its spiritual and artistic form-worlds alike."

    In conjunction with this, other hallmark characteristics of the "Faustian"/Western soul include: heroic-defiant, grandiose and "aristocratic" personality traits; a restless desire to "crash through", to vigorously challenge existing boundaries and limits, to forcefully "break through" established norms and achieve extraordinary feats of progress. This restless urge to transcend the limitations of the mundane and finite and strive toward the infinite was, in the case of the great men of Western history predominantly driven by an intense, obsessive, vainglorious lust for approbation and adulation - it was the means they used to win for themselves outstanding fame, great honour and glory, and thus secure their ultimate goal... personal immortality

    All in all I think Spengler's account of the nature of the "Faustian"/Western Soul is quite compelling in that it has astonishing explanatory power when it comes to making sense of our Western culture and ; civilization both throughout the era of modernity the era of the Renaissance and the early medieval period in Western Europe after the first stirrings of the Cluniac reform c.1000 ( named for Cluny Abbey in Burgundy, France) which also marked the very first emergence of Western architecture on the grand scale. This architecture then almost literally "went viral" throughout the 11th and 12th centuries in North Western Europe. Notable examples being: the Romanesque/Gothic Durham Cathedral (constructed between 1093 and 1133) and Canterbury Cathedral (built by Lanfranc between 1070 and 1077) as well as the magnificent Chartres Cathedral in France (constructed between 1194 and 1220). With respect to the definition of "civilization" that I proposed above, I think the giant , stone architecture (e.g. Cathedrals) that was rapidly erected just after the time of the Cluniac reform mark the true beginning of Western civilization ( at least in the sense that I defined the term at the start of this post). In saying this, I agree with Spengler that Classical Athenian and Roman culture/civilization ( which he calls "Apollonian") is very different in a number of important ways from "Faustian"/Western Culture/civilization. I can present the historical evidence for this claim in a separate post, if you are interested in knowing what it is?

    What to you make of Spengler's notion of the "Faustian"/Western soul, CTW? Do you think his thesis has merit ?

    To conclude. Personally. I find Spengler's account of the nature of the "Faustian" soul very compelling and very sound in that it clearly and consistently explains the origin and form of a tremendously diverse range of Western cultural achievements both past and present. Given this, the most intriguing and important question, for me, remains: "What was the original ground of the "Faustian" (Western Soul)" Here, unfortunately, Spengler is quite vague; for instance, he refers "a Nordic world stretching from England to Japan" and later, principally to the barbarian peoples of Northern Europe who lived in a"harsh"," very cold", "Nordic climate" I think when he refers to "barbarian peoples", Spengler actually means the ancient proto - Germanic peoples who are believed to have emerged during the Nordic Bronze Age in southern Scandinavia.

    Anyway, to "cut to the chase", I have a theory that the Vikings ( "Norsemen") of the 7th - 10th century played a pivotal role in the birth of our unique Western civilization and I would be happy to outline it for you in a separate post if you are interested (as I see I have already rambled on far too long in this post!)


  • Noah Te Stroete
    Did Spengler have the same normative slant that you do, or was he merely presenting an explanatory model? I couldn’t help but notice your frequent use of the term “accomplishments” in your essay, implying a sense of pride. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with pride in one’s culture per se, but ... well, I don’t know. It smacked of apologetics to me.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    Other than that, your essay was well-written.
  • johnGould

    No, I don't think one could say that Spengler had any kind of explicit "normative" agenda to press in his analysis of Western high culture and the nature of the Faustian"/Western soul, generally speaking. You are, however, right to note that I do. I knew that this would the first query I would receive when I referred to
    events in the West's history such as: the Spanish conquest and colonisation of the Americas; the waging of large-scale, offensive war in the form of Western Europe's medieval Crusades during 11th, 12th and 13th centuries; the bloody Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer wars that paved the way for the British conquest of South Africa in the late 19th century, as accomplishments.

    I view these violent, agonistic, European military campaigns and wars and the many others like them as uniquely Western events; as events that were, in turn, pure expressions of the "Faustian "soul: its primeval will to fame and glory through conquest; its restive, aggressive expansionist disposition that is fired by an intense lust for: fame; its intense urge to the proud display of outstanding heroism; its restive desire to realise the sacred creed of "death before dishonour" in combat on the field of battle and such like.

    As a modern -day Westerner I make no apology for this violent , agonistic aspect of Western culture, and, broadly speaking, I absolutely do not accept that I am obliged to feel any sense of guilt, shame or disgrace whatsoever for the conduct of my culture/civilization either in the past or present. So, in answer to your question, I certainly do see events in Western history like the rise of British imperialism as accomplishments. That is, for me the imperialist expansion of, say, the former British empire was a very good thing (I still view it as a very positive achievement, both in the normative/ moral sense and also in many other respects beside). Moreover, it was, in my opinion, a perfectly healthy, natural phenomenon.

    I have run out of time right now, so I will finish explaining my position (as I have set it out in the paragraph above) in detail, as soon as I am free to continue.


  • Noah Te Stroete
    No problem. I wasn’t implying that you should feel any guilt, as those events had nothing to do with you personally. As such, you can neither claim them as accomplishments having anything to do with you personally.
  • Rank Amateur
    I have considerable respect, and a certain degree of (sentimental, I think) fondness for the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The fondness is in the nature of nostalgia as it is for the Church that was, which is to say more accurately the Church as I first knew it; the Latin Church, literally and figuratively. Sancta Mater Ecclesiae. I knew it for a time even after that, when guitar masses were (I suppose I must say it) celebrated. I've attended a mass now and then since that time, for weddings and funerals. There's no beauty left. It's relentlessly prosaicCiceronianus the White

    Just an aside - so pardon the interruption. But just FYI the Tridentine mass is making a fairly strong comeback. Like you I am not a big fan of how V2 was implemented - and specifically missed the mass of my youth. Now most major areas have at least one church saying the Latin mass. Although I still go to my normal parish mass most weeks, I try at least every few weeks to attend the Latin mass. It is still, at least for me, the better representation of what mass actually is. And while there are plenty of gray haired folks there, there are also a surprising number of 20 - 30 somethings as well.

    Sorry the interruption
  • Noah Te Stroete
    I also noticed that you mention Stephen Hawking as a hero, and exclaim quantum mechanics as a great achievement (which he was and it was), but for some odd reason you leave out General Relativity and Albert Einstein. What would be the reason I wonder?
  • Mariner

    I don't have the time, unfortunately, to engage in writing the long posts that the topic deserves. So, I will just point to some books that will surely be of interest for vou.

    The easiest one to find is the multi-volume "History of Political Ideas" by Eric Voegelin. It discusses many of your themes -- and Spengler as well. His major work is "Order and History", which I highly recommend, too.

    One small and extraordinary book that looks at it from something closer to your "Gestalt approach" is perhaps still unavailable in English. It is the "Six Diseases of the Contemporary Spirit", by the Romenian philosopher Constantin Noica. Hard to summarize it.

    My two hurried cents...
  • DiegoT
    The West is civilization to the West of Islam, and The East is civilization to the East of Islam. Before Islam west and east were just the two ends of a single Old World Civilization. It was Mongolian empires first and Muslim later, that separated and made possible the great cultural divide that European colonization of the globe brought to an end. There is no West and East Civilizations, only Civilization and different cultural adaptations of the worldwide phenomenon derived from the development of cities connected through trade and communication technologies (especially writing). "Europe" did not exist prior to Muslim invasion of Spain and the North of Africa; it was this loss of the control of the Mediterranean and economic decline due to commercial isolation what made necessary to create a new political entity using De Civitate dei and Ancient Rome as models. Islamic expansion was counteracted with expansion to the North, to civilize (adapt to civilization) Germanic, Slavic and Norse tribes; this Christianization was a sort of Restoration of the Roman Empire, replacing the Mediterranean basin with the great rivers of Europe and the North seas. Remember that is not land, but water, what shaped and delimitated economic and cultural regions before trains and aircrafts.

    The construction of a global empire by Spain and Portugal, replaced the traditional routes to China and India and America provided the resources Europe needed to survive economically. All the gold Spain took from America is equal to the gold extracted by Perú at present in two years; however it meant a lot to build European financial networks to fund new enterprises.

    In return, America left the Stone Age, and new powers developed; in 1830, the U.S.A. was already strong and confident enough to help Europe re-conquer the "Mare Nostrum" and piracy and traffic of European slaves to the markets of Egypt and Arabia ended at last after twelve centuries. The West and East were joined again, and the sharing of ideas and customs brought about a cultural revolution in the world that characterized the XIX and XX century.
    Even the Islamized world was affected by the new world order; however, the new dependance of civilization on oil and the divide of the planet between totalitarian and liberal nations trumped the social and cultural development of the Islamized regions when it was just started.

    Therefore, the West no longer makes sense as a cultural category in a world in which people read Japanese manga in Wisconsin and Chinese businessmen sing Elvis Presley´s songs in karaokes. On the other hand, the division between totalitarianism and democratic liberalism makes more sense than ever, as societies in Europe and New-Europe (America) are trying to re-define themselves around liberal ideas, and that is why the literature and institutions of the English-speaking countries are still so relevant. Also, because people totally ignore that many of "Anglosaxon" liberal ideas are really derived from Spanish, Jewish and Italian authors in the Modern Age, that French an English authors co-opted (and that is great, but it would have been better to cite their sources). Christian faith is dying slowly, because it no longer serves its purpose of protecting nations from islamization and forward individual rights and social cohesion. So new religions and ideologies are being born to compete to be the new glue that protect civilization; the geographical frame for this new cosmovision can no longer be restricted to a continent or subcontinent. So again, the West is no longer a good category for analysis.
  • johnGould

    Thank you very much indeed for your advice re books dealing with this topic.


  • DiegoT
    I haven´t read Spengler, but his theory seems very odd. The Faustian spirit of Western culture is not attached to a particular ethnicity. It´s a way of thinking rooted in Judeochristian and Classical philosophy. It has to do with how ego and the human being are understood in the Mediterranean and European advanced societies, and it is the same notion that also gave us democracy and human rights. However, there is a dark side that also shaped how the world would develop and particularly economy, technology and science. I totally recommend the biography of John Dee and his adventures with Edward Kelly, as the two exemplify very strikingly how "natural magic" (Science was separated from Magic and Religion by Italian thinkers in Modern Age, and called it Magia Naturalis) was fated to follow to this Faustean path when it became emancipated from spiritual consciousness.
  • Bitter Crank
    I wanted to send a "@link" to show you all something (some photographs), in the context of this discussion of Western culture/civilization we are having, but my technical knowledge of computers/the internet is very poor unfortunately. (I am a stubborn, old, male Luddite in this respect !)johnGould

    Do not despair, for I bring you tidings of how to post pictures!

    Most pictures on the Internet picture (like one resulting from the Google search for "Carving on a 9th century Viking boat) have an internet address. Here is an example of an Internet address: irisharchaeology ie wp content uploads 2012 09 Oseberg viking bucket (punctuation removed) You don't have to remember the address. If you are using an Apple computer, position the mouse over the picture you want to post. Hold down the "control" button and then click and hold the mouse down. A menu will appear. Near the bottom of the menu you will see "copy image address". Click on "copy image address".

    Now, look at the tools at the top of the text box where you compose. There is a square icon with what sort of looks like an image inside it. click on that. It will tell you to paste the link to your image. Using your keyboard, hit Command - v. That will past the address of your image.

    You won't see the image you pasted until you post the comment. Like this:


    Now I'll copy and paste the caption under the picture:

    This bucket was one of several found on on the ship. Made out of yew wood it is surrounded by decorative brass fittings and held together with iron hoops. A wooden ladle and 6-7 wild apples were found inside it.

    It's been quite a few years, I don't remember how to copy/past internet addresses on PCs. Sorry. As I recollect it was sort of similar.
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