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Old 02-20-2007, 03:44 PM
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Civilization by occident

The Occidental Difference
by David Gress
Copyright (c) 2006 First Things (December 2006).
What Is the West? by Philippe Nemo Duquesne University Press, 155 pages, $18.95

Back in the late 1970s, Philippe Nemo was one of a group of young French philosophy graduates who turned against what was called the Generation of 1968. The intellectual culture of France was dominated in those days by a radical Marxist left that insisted liberal democracy was the fount of evil in the world-and universal revolution, spearheaded by intellectuals and students, was the only sure road to justice, peace, and an end to exploitation. Nemo’s group, which labeled itself "the new philosophers," included such diverse figures as Bernard-Henry Lvy and Andr Glucksmann. It is not unfair to say that however famous others in the group became, Nemo had the most important things to say.

The question Nemo poses in What Is the West? is this: By what series of historical encounters did Western civilization become the combination of "the rule of law, democracy, intellectual liberties, critical rationality, science, and economic freedom founded on private property?" The West evolved as a series of elements joined in a synthesis greater than its parts. Christianity, Nemo asserts, entered not as a religion but as an "ethical spirit within secular society." The West was never coterminous with its faith. Always the believers found themselves in a world they had partly made and partly inherited from the classical past. Always they were challenged to adapt to what they believed to be the exigencies of a political and social world they respected too much to want to subordinate to a theocracy.
The story begins with the Greeks, who invented scientific speculation and the ideal of the city, in which "individual lives are no longer submerged in a vast sea of humanity. . . . Each person now has individuality and character." To this-a point of capital importance-the Romans added their "invention of private law," whereby they "invented the individual human person."

The next stage, of course, is Christianity or, rather, the impact of biblical religion and spirituality on ancient culture, an impact that was crucial in transforming that culture into what we call medieval. Biblical religion introduced an ethical and an eschatological revolution, "cherishing the individual, morally responsible human being, by emphasizing human individuality as desired and created by God for all eternity." But, Nemo adds, that ethical revolution "might never have bestowed such theological significance on the individual person had these beliefs not taken root in a society that had already granted importance to the human ego." Without Christianity, there is no civilization of human rights, but without the Greek city, Greek science, and Roman law, there is no Christendom.

Nemo here uncovers a fundamental logic of western civilization. The West is a civilization of borrowings and mixtures, whose result, never fixed and never self-satisfied, is more than a mere function of those borrowings. The West, in fact, as Nemo’s colleague and friend Rmi Brague has written, is by definition a "secondary" culture, a culture of followers who know they are followers. Neither Greek political philosophy nor Christianity were western inventions, yet their confluence created the West.

Nemo is too good a scholar to point to any one encounter as the decisive one; all were necessary. He does, however, make a justified and welcome case that the so-called Papal Revolution of the late eleventh to thirteenth centuries was a time of remarkable and unusual ferment, and one on which modern democracy, science, and hope for progress directly rest. The Papal Revolution was, on the outside, the successful attempt to prevent temporal rulers from controlling church appointments and, as such, a struggle for libertas ecclesiae, the freedom of the Church. As Nemo reminds us, on the outcome of that struggle rests the modern separation of church and state and hence, ultimately, democracy itself.

more at: http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=5380

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Old 02-20-2007, 06:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Botnst View Post
...The Papal Revolution was, on the outside, the successful attempt to prevent temporal rulers from controlling church appointments and, as such, a struggle for libertas ecclesiae, the freedom of the Church. As Nemo reminds us, on the outcome of that struggle rests the modern separation of church and state and hence, ultimately, democracy itself.

more at: http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=5380
There, is a concept that seems to elude modern Islam.

In contrast to the main trends of the 'west' I found this from George Washington's farwell (inspired by best president thread):

"Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."
http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/milestones/farewell/text.html

I wonder as we waiver
Is there some balance, we have fallen out of
That lends weakness to our causes
And erodes our foundations
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Last edited by A264172; 02-20-2007 at 07:37 PM.
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Old 02-20-2007, 06:26 PM
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I'll need to read the book but from the review I have some serious questions. I have very deep respect for Anselm, enough that I have traveled to visit his abbey, but it is clear in his writings that for him faith precedes reason. Reason is a tool for the clarification of faith. I'm also very sceptical that his Cur Deus Homo justifies human political action in the world.
But, I might be convinced.
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  #4  
Old 02-22-2007, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by kerry edwards View Post
...I'm also very sceptical that his Cur Deus Homo justifies human political action in the world.
But, I might be convinced.
Well he does lay out the basis of the ideas. That rational thought is instilled/installed by god for the purpose that it allows the understanding of gods will, which must be the will of the man who is not activly sinning. There is a definition of politics that concerns:

"The often internally conflicting interrelationships among people in a society."

which is close to the way he defines rational thought:

BOOK II

CHAPTER ONE: Man was created just in order to be happy.

ANSELM. We ought not to doubt that God created rational nature just in order for it to be happy through enjoying Him. Indeed, the reason it is rational is in order to discriminate between what is just and what is unjust, between what is good and what is evil, between what is a greater good and what is a lesser good. Otherwise [i.e., could rational nature not make these discriminations], it would be the case that it was created rational in vain. But God did not create it rational in vain. Therefore, there is no doubt that it was created rational for the foregoing purpose. Similar reasoning proves that rational nature received the ability to make these discriminations in order that it would hate and shun evil, and love and choose good, and more greatly love and choose a greater good [than love and choose a lesser good]. For otherwise, it would be the case that God bestowed in vain upon rational nature this ability-to-discriminate, because rational nature would discriminate in vain if it did not love and shun in accordance with its discrimination. But for God to have bestowed in vain such a great capability would not be fitting. Thus, it is certain that rational nature was created for the purpose of loving and choosing the Supreme Good above all other things -- loving and choosing it for its own sake and not for the sake of anything else. (For if [rational nature loves the Supreme Good] for the sake of something else, it really loves not the Supreme Good but this other thing.) But rational nature is able to do this only if it is just. Therefore, so that it would not be rational in vain, it was created both rational and just at once. Now, if it was created just in order to love and choose the Supreme Good, then it was created just either for the further purpose of one day attaining what it loves, and has chosen, or else not for this purpose. But if it were not the case that rational nature was created just for the further purpose of attaining the thing it justly loves and chooses, then its having been created such as justly to love and choose this thing would have been in vain, and there would be no reason why rational nature ought ever to attain this thing. The consequence would be that as long as rational nature would do just works by loving and choosing the Supreme Good, for which it was created, it would be unhappy; for against its will it would be in a state of deprivation, since it would not possess what it desired. But this view is utterly absurd. Consequently, rational nature was created just in order to be happy through enjoying the Supreme Good, viz., God. Accordingly, man, who is rational in nature, was created just in order to be happy through enjoying God.
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Old 02-22-2007, 06:57 PM
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I can see where it might justify the application of political thought to the world in a kind of Platonic elite sense in which the rational rulers (Abbotts?) are justified in their authority. Is there something revolutionary in this?
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Old 02-22-2007, 07:02 PM
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Aside from the God-Man duality, in which Man is always the inferior, I see nothing that either supports or detracts from any sort of hierarchy or pure democracy. The one qualification is the acknowledgment of God's authorship of rational happiness.
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Old 02-22-2007, 07:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Botnst View Post
The Occidental Difference
by David Gress
Copyright (c) 2006 First Things (December 2006).
What Is the West? by Philippe Nemo Duquesne University Press, 155 pages, $18.95
http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=5380
CliffsNotes please........





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Old 02-22-2007, 07:08 PM
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.... Is there something revolutionary in this?
Not that I'm aware of, although I'm no student of the lineage of such thoughts, maybe at the time he was inserting something new into acceptable christian doctrine. Perhaps you have an idea or two along that line. What's the origional book about again anyway? Oh right, something about christianity seperating itself from the state for it's own purposes and thereby granting societys a bit of breathing room in in there own realms, is what I recall. Maybe I should go back and re-read the review.

Did you get a chance to pick up the book? I'd be interested in hearing about it if you do someday.
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Old 02-22-2007, 07:29 PM
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CliffsNotes please........





.
Unfortunately, due to pressure by islamic extremist groups, their publication has been temporarily suspended.
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Old 02-22-2007, 08:50 PM
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Aside from the God-Man duality, in which Man is always the inferior, I see nothing that either supports or detracts from any sort of hierarchy or pure democracy. The one qualification is the acknowledgment of God's authorship of rational happiness.
I see it as a pretty straightforward version of Christian Platonism, so I'm reading into it the general Platonic theory that the rational people who know the good are justified in ruling society. Anselm himself was first an Abbot, then the means of the Normans getting control of the English church, as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Since being rational means studying theology and philosophy, the only possible group that could accomplish this were the literate.
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Old 02-22-2007, 10:46 PM
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Originally Posted by kerry edwards View Post
I see it as a pretty straightforward version of Christian Platonism, so I'm reading into it the general Platonic theory that the rational people who know the good are justified in ruling society. Anselm himself was first an Abbot, then the means of the Normans getting control of the English church, as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Since being rational means studying theology and philosophy, the only possible group that could accomplish this were the literate.
But if the equality and inherant value of man is a gift from god to ALL his children (i.e. anyone can be saved and inherit the kingdom), isn't that different from the notion that of members of the state that occupy the land, or thoes in whom the academy has instilled rational abilitys or descendents of some such line are co-equal in a way that we all share the burden of our collective future as co-authors blah blah roughly.
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Old 02-22-2007, 10:53 PM
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But if the equality and inherant value of man is a gift from god to ALL his children (i.e. anyone can be saved and inherit the kingdom), isn't that different from the notion that of members of the state that occupy the land, or thoes in whom the academy has instilled rational abilitys or descendents of some such line are co-equal in a way that we all share the burden of our collective future as co-authors blah blah roughly.
I think it's an open question as to whether God gives the same gift to all his children. The idea of predestination had been around a long time, at least since Augustine. So some people are predestined to heaven and some to hell. I don't see anything in Anselm which changes that idea. Sinners still can't be rational from Anselm's point of view, as far as I can see.

It's on my list of books to read, but it may take a while to get to it.
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Old 02-22-2007, 11:07 PM
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I think it's an open question as to whether God gives the same gift to all his children. The idea of predestination had been around a long time, at least since Augustine. So some people are predestined to heaven and some to hell. I don't see anything in Anselm which changes that idea. Sinners still can't be rational from Anselm's point of view, as far as I can see.

It's on my list of books to read, but it may take a while to get to it.
What I mean is, with the Jews and the greeks (partial ecxeption to Alexander) you don't have them going into other lands and saying "accept our saviour, who has made us a place in 'heaven', and you will be on our team, and we will go forward together in his service" Which seems a big part of the spread of the 'west' to places like Japan and South Korea and so on where they have adopted a lot of western institutions.
This is only one facet of the whole piece of modern democracy, but might carry the germ of the idea that we can all rise to the greatest of heights and we are all equal, on a fundamental level, before god.
I'm not saying Anselm had this whole picture of things working, but that he may have brought some 'endowed by our creator' to the table of a good old fashion rational diet or vise versa.

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