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Monday, August 11, 2008 - 3:25pmSanction this postReply
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Objectivists still frequently use phrases such as “the Dark Ages” to describe the time between the fall of the Roman empire and that rediscovery of classical Greek culture by Europeans around the 15th century known as the Renaissance. For some reason, Rand and her followers romanticize this renaissance – or rebirth – as a “rebirth of reason” despite the overwhelming scholarly research proving that reason and logic had hit their high mark precisely during those so-called Dark Ages.

What follows is an excerpt from the introduction to a book by the noted medievalist, Oxford don, and acclaimed author, Clive Staples Lewis, known to most of us simply as C. S. Lewis. It should be pointed out that Lewis (along with J. R. R. Tolkien, and a few others) is considered one of the most important 20th century scholars of the middle ages (read “Inventing the Middle Ages” by Norman F. Cantor). Lewis’s book, “The Discarded Image”, is a study of the medieval mindset formed as it was by the mutual interaction of three intellectual systems: (i) the Ptolemaic model of the universe; (ii) Aristotelian physics, metaphysics, and psychology; and (iii) Christianity.

On closer inspection, the “Dark Ages” were anything but dark.

The Discarded Image (excerpt from the introduction)

The man of the Middle Ages had many ignorances in common with the savages of more modern times, and some of his beliefs would certainly suggest savage parallels to an anthropologist. But it would be very wrong to infer from this that he was at all like the savage. I do not only, chiefly, mean that such a view would depress medieval man beneath his true dignity. That’s as may be; some might prefer the Polynesian. The point is that, whether for better of for worse, he was different. He was in a different predicament and had a different history. Even when he thought or did the same things as savages, he had come to them by a different route. We should be quite on the wrong track if we sought the origin, at least the immediate origin, of even the strangest medieval doctrines in what some even call “prelogical thinking.”

Here is an example. In a twelfth-century English poem called the Brut we read the following: “There dwell in the air many kinds of creatures which shall remain there till doomsday comes. Some of them are good and some do evil.” These beings are mentioned to account for the birth of a child for whom no human father could be detected . . .Now, if we considered this passage in vacuo, we might very well suppose that the poet’s mind was working just like that of a savage, and that his belief in aerial daemons sprang as directly from a tribal culture as coarse grass from uncultivated soil. In reality, we know that he is getting it all from a book, from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Latin History of the Kings of Britain, and that Geoffrey is getting it from the second-century De Deo Socratis of Apuleius, who, in his turn, is reproducing the pneumatology of Plato. …He tells us about the aerial daemons neither because his own poetic imagination invented them, nor because they are the spontaneous reaction of his age and culture to the forces of nature, but because he read about them in a book.

Here is another. In a French poem of the fourteenth century Nature personified appears as a character and has a conversation with another personage called Gracedieu. ‘Grace-of-God’ would, for various reasons, be a misleading translation, so I will call her Supernature. And Nature says to Supernature ‘The circle of the cold moon truly marks the boundary between your realm and mine forever.’ Here again we might well suppose the savage mind at work; what more natural than to locate the houses of the gods at a reasonable distance and choose the Moon for the gate between their world and ours? Yet, almost certainly that is not what is happening. The idea that the orbit of the Moon is a great boundary between two regions of the universe is Aristotelian. It is based on a contrast which naturally forced itself upon one whose studies were so often biological and psychological, but also sometimes astronomical. The part of the world which we inhabit, the Earth, is the scene of generation and decay and therefore of continual change. Such regularities as he would observe in it seemed to him imperfect; terrestrial nature carried things on, he thought, not always but ‘on the whole’ in the same. It was clear from observing the weather that this irregularity extended a good way upwards above the surface of the Earth. But not all the way. Above the variable sky there were the heavenly bodies which seemed to have been perfectly regular in their behaviour ever since the first observations were made and of which none, to his knowledge, had ever been seen to come into existence or to decay. The Moon was obviously the lowest of these. Hence he divided the universe at the Moon; all above that was necessary, regular, and eternal, all below it, contingent, irregular and perishable. And of course, for any Greek, what is necessary and eternal is more divine. This, with a Christian colouring added, fully accounts for the passage we began with.

Both examples – and it would not be difficult to cite more – point to the same truth, and it is a truth basic for any understanding the Middle Ages. Their culture is through and through a bookish culture. Millions, no doubt, were illiterate; the masters, however, were literate, and not only literate but scholarly and even pedantic. The peculiar predicament of medieval man was in fact just this: he was a literate man who had lost a great many of his books and forgotten how to read all his Greek books. He works with the rather chancy selection he has. In that way the Middle Ages were much less like an age which has not yet been civilized than like one which has survived the loss of civilization.

Characteristically, medieval man was not a dreamer nor a spiritual adventurer; he was an organizer, a codifier, a man of system…Three things are typical of him. First, that small minority of his cathedrals in which the design of the architect was actually achieved…I am thinking of a thing like Salisbury. Secondly, the Summa of Thomas Aquinas. And thirdly, the Divine Comedy of Dante. In all these alike we see the tranquil, indefatigable, exultant energy of a passionately logical mind ordering a huge mass of heterogeneous details into unity. They desire unity and proportion, all the classical virtues, just as keenly as the Greeks did. But they have a greater and more varied collection of things to fit in. And they delight to do it. Hence the Comedy which is, I suppose, the supreme achievement: crowded and varied as a railway station on a bank holiday, but patterned and schematized as a battalion on a ceremonial parade.

I described them as a literate people who had lost most of their books. And what survived was, to some extent a chance collection. It contained ancient Hebrew, classical Greek, classical Roman decadent Roman and early Christian elements. It had reached them by various routes. All Plato had disappeared except part of the Timaeus in a Latin version: one of the greatest, but also one of the least typical, of the dialogues. Aristotle’s logic was at first missing, but you had a Latin translation of a very late Greek introduction to it. Astronomy and medicine, and (later) Aristotle, came in Latin translations of Arabic translations of the Greek. That is the typical descent of learning: from Athens to Hellenistic Alexandria, from Alexandria to Baghdad, from Baghdad, via Sicily, to the university of Paris, and thence all over Europe…A scratch collection, a corpus that frequently contradicted itself. But here we touch on a real credulity in the medieval mind. Faced with this self-contradictory corpus, they hardly ever decided that one of the authorities was simply right and the others wrong; never that all were wrong. To be sure, in the last resort it was taken for granted that the Christian writers must be right as against the Pagans. But it was hardly ever allowed to come to the last resort. It was apparently difficult to believe that anything in the books – so costly, fetched from so far, so old, often so lovely to the eye and hand, was just plumb wrong. No; if Seneca and St. Paul disagreed with one another, and both with Cicero, and all these with Boethius, there must be some explanation which would harmonize them. What was not true literally might be true in some other sense…And so on, through every possible subtlety and ramification. It is out of this that the medieval picture of the universe is evolved: a chance collection of materials, an inability to say ‘Bosh’, a temper systematic to the point of morbidity, great mental powers, unwearied patience, and a robust delight in their work. All these factors led them to produce the greatest most complex, specimen of syncretism or harmonization which, perhaps, the world has ever known. They tidied up the universe. To that tidy universe, and above all to its effect on the imagination, I now turn.


Lewis describes this “tidied up” universe in great detail. Here’s a brief summary:

The Earth is motionless resting in the absolute center of the universe. Earth, the realm of change and contingency, measures from the center of the physical Earth, up through the atmosphere (the realm of weather) and ends at the moon, which marks the boundary between “upper” and “lower.” The “lower” was called the “sub-lunary”, the realm in which Aristotelian physics had influence. “Above” the moon’s orbit, the science of astronomy held sway. This division between “physics” and “astronomy” endured until Newton.

The moon, planets, sun, and stars, were not independently moving objects; they were attached to their own individual transparent spheres. The spheres are concentric and rotated, which accounted for planetary movement. Above the moon were Mercury, Venus, the sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Above Saturn were all the stars (or, rather, a sphere attached to which were the “fixed” stars). Above the sphere of the stars was a sphere that carried no light but which merely imparted motion to the “lower” concentric spheres. This sphere, required by Aristotle, was the “prime mover” or Primum Mobile. Above the Primum Mobile was a sphere of fire called the Empyrean, which represented the end of the universe and the beginning of the true “Heaven.” So, starting from the periphery and moving in toward the center, the medieval mind divided existence into three meta-realms. The outer realm was “Heaven”, full of the Divine Substance. From the Empyrean downward to the moon was the realm of “Aether” which is the realm of “necessity” and “changelessness”. From the moon down to the Earth is the realm of “Air”, which is the realm of luck, chance, change, birth, death, contingence.

Medieval Christian theology was derived from Aristotelian notions of causality and the Ptolemaic model. According to Aristotle, the infinite is not actual. Hence, we cannot explain the movement of one body by the movement of another and so on forever. No such infinite series could exist. All the movements of the universe must therefore result from a compulsive force exercised by something immovable. Aristotle thought that such an Unmoved Mover could move other things only by being their end, object, or “target” – what Aristotle called their “Final Cause” – not as one billiard ball moves another, but as food moves the hungry man, as the mistress moves her lover, as truth moves the philosophical inquirer. He calls this Unmoved Mover “God” or “Mind.” It moves the Primum Mobile, which in turn sets the lower spheres in motion, by love. “Love” does not mean what we normally mean by the word. God or Mind in Aristotle moves the world by being loved, by being the supremely desirable object. This implies both consciousness and rationality on the part of that which is moved. Accordingly, in every sphere there is a rational creature called an “Intelligence” which is compelled to move by its incessant desire for God. The reason that “love” resulted in rotation was imitation: each Intelligence associated with each sphere desired to imitate God, i.e., to participate in His nature as much as possible. The nearest approach to His eternal immobility, the nearest second-best, is eternal regular movement in the most perfect figure, which for any Greek is the circle.

Hence, the universe is kept going by the continual effort of its different concentric parts (each a little slower and feebler than the one above it) to conform their behavior to God – a model of perfection in comparison to which they always fall short.

The three realms were also inhabited by different gradations of intelligent beings. Beyond the Empyrean was God; between the Empyrean and the sphere of the moon, in the realm of Aether, lived the various orders of Angels; between the sphere of the moon and Earth, in the realm of Air, lived various “aerial daemons” mentioned earlier in the medieval poem. Angels – from a Hebrew word meaning “messenger” – were associated with each planetary sphere; since there were nine planetary spheres, there were nine “orders” of angels arranged in three groups of three classes each: the top hierarchy comprised Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones, and were concerned exclusively with contemplation of God. The second class comprised the Dominations, Virtues, and Powers, and had responsibility for the general order of nature. The third and lowest class deals specifically with human affairs: Principalities (concerned with the destinies of nations), Archangels, and Angels (both concerned with individuals).

The main psychological difference between the medieval man and the modern could be summed up like this: if we look up at the stars on a clear night, a modern has the experience of looking out; out into a space that has no absolute direction. But the medieval felt he was looking in. Here on Earth is “outside”. The moon’s orbit is like a city wall; the clear night sky gave him the chance to ogle the high pomp that his Aristotelianism and his Christianity taught him were occurring inside that wall (that is, above the sphere of the moon and up to the Empyrean). Lewis makes the excellent point that the pomp associated with medieval social events – coronations, etc. – were, to the medieval, attempts to “live naturally”; to imitate his cosmology socially. Unlike Newton, Laplace, etc., as well as many moderns, the medieval did not think the orderly workings of the universe were like a machine. The motions of the universe were, rather, a dance, a festival, a ritual, a symphony, a carnival, or all of these rolled into one.

It is a point in both Aristotelianism and Christian theology that the physical universe just described is the material counterpart to a spiritualized/moral universe that is geometrically inverted from the one we see. Thus, in this spiritualized universe, God-in-His-Empyrean is truly at the center, the nine concentric orders of nature (spheres, planets, angels, etc.) moving outward from there, until we get to planet Earth…which truly is at the periphery. Now we see, too, how the Christian concept of Hell is rooted in the accepted Aristotelian-Ptolemaic cosmology: in the physical realm, if Earth is at the center, then the center-of-the-center – the center of Earth – corresponds in the spiritual/moral inverted model to the very outermost periphery; farthest from God-the-center; the extreme edge; the place at which all being and reality disappear. Hell is thus the last outpost, the place where being is nearest to not-being, asymptotically approaching zero.

Pedagogy, too, was subject to the same sort of minute division and subdivision as other “realms” and areas of study. The middle ages greatly expanded on a teaching system from ancient Greece called “The Seven Liberal Arts.” “Liberal” in this context refers to “liberate”, as “to free,” since the purpose of this education was seen as freeing the mind to pursue its own intellectual destiny, rather than being yoked to a trade in the service of having to make a living. In Greece, each of the liberal arts was symbolized by a tutelary spirit called a Muse. The middle ages expunged the pagan Muses but divided the course of study much more finely. We find in Dante’s work, “Il Convivio” (The Banquet), a short work the great poet wrote on education, that the seven liberal arts are to be divided into a 3-way curriculum (called the “Trivium”) and a 4-way curriculum (called the “Quadrivium”). The Trivium comprised grammar, logic, and rhetoric; the Quadrivium comprised music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. The first is dimly retained in some modern textbooks on “Composition”; usually there’s a short (and often incorrect) section on grammar (parts of speech, some principles of syntax); an even shorter section on formal reasoning; and a long section on essay writing (which, in reality, is only one very small part of classical rhetoric, which was more concerned with the Art of Persuasion, i.e., argumentation and debate).

The second course of study, the Quadrivium, may seem like an odd assortment until we understand the original purpose: music, for example, had nothing to do with studying an instrument and playing what we understand to be music. “Music” was more what we might call “music theory”; a study of the different intervals created by arithmetically dividing a vibrating string according to different ratios. Thus, dividing a string in half (1:2) gave the octave when the string was set in motion. Divided in thirds, each section of the vibrating string yields the fifth, etc. The relation of tone to ratio was understood to be an aspect of the Divine Mind (the middles ages were simply following Pythagorus here). The topic of astronomy, also part of the Quadrivium, comprised everything I’ve mentioned above regarding the structure of the universe given Aristotelian, Ptolemaic, and Christian assumptions.

While the Quadrivium taught those arts that allowed one to know, measure, or study the Divine Mind, the Trivium taught those arts that allowed one to know one’s own mind. If we crudely liken the mind to a conveyor belt transporting luggage (representing concrete instances of knowledge), then the Trivium was an almost total obsession with the smooth functioning of the conveyor belt.

Just like the non-existent “war between science and religion” that Objectivists and others are fond of mentioning, the propaganda about the middle ages – even the phrase “Dark Ages” – was started and spread by rationalists in the Enlightenment as part of their Great War against religion. As I pointed out some time ago, even Galileo’s problems with his support of the Copernican model came from the Aristotelians in academia, not from the Church. He was put under house arrest because he openly ridiculed a religious patron of his (who had since become Pope) in a book that he wrote.

You can see that when sympathetically studied, the Middle Ages emerge as something very different from those “Dark Ages” that Objectivists fantasize about.


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Monday, August 11, 2008 - 6:34pmSanction this postReply
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Another unsubstantiated lie. Post a link that shows a serious quote to support this. The Dark Ages are used universally to refer to the time between the fall of Rome and the crowning of Charlemagne. It is a shame, since much of what is said above is actually of interest. Using it to support a calumny is reprehensible.

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Monday, August 11, 2008 - 8:19pmSanction this postReply
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Post a link that shows a serious quote to support this.

Easy.

http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5240

This is the most fundamental reason why, where faith is culturally dominant--in the Dark Ages dominated by the medieval church or in the theocracy run by the ayatollahs of contemporary Iran--political/economic freedom is stifled.

I don’t see any finely-chopped parsing of the phrase “Dark Ages” to comprise merely the early middle ages up to the time of Charles the Great. Popular culture – and Objectivist scholarship rarely goes beyond popular culture – uses “Dark Ages” as a blanket term to cover the entire period between classical culture and the Renaissance. There may be some question as to when, precisely, that Renaissance began: some say the 14th century, some say the 15th. But that really doesn't matter.

And what about this from our very own Robert Malcolm:

The Dark Ages were dark on principle. There have been many apologists over the years who have strived to present that era as if it were accidental, or only co-incidental - that the period of history embracing Christiandom need not have been that way.

Now, why don't we ask Mr. Malcolm if his phrase "the period of history embracing Christiandom [sic]" comprises only the period from the fall of Rome to the year 800 when Carolus Magnus was crowned, or whether he didn't have in mind a period of at least a thousand years from the fall of Rome to the Italian Renaissance (and let us mark that latter date arbitrarily but not unreasonably as approximately the time of the discovery of the New World).

You lied about Mozart, Leonardo, Vermeer, and Hugo. Apparently, you’ll lie about anything, on any topic, on any thread, and then blame others for posting "another unsubstantiated lie." I’m shocked, Keer. Is this what they taught you in clown school? I thought they were on the Honor System there.

The Dark Ages are used universally to refer to the time between the fall of Rome and the crowning of Charlemagne.

Apparently not. As used by Objectivists, the phrase often refers to "the period of history embracing Christiandom [sic]."

It is a shame, since much of what is said above is actually of interest.

I'm glad you think so. You may be an incorrigible liar and a mediocre scholar but you're not as intellectually stifled as I originally thought.

By the way, the AynRand.org site is also incorrect about this:

America's Founding Fathers understood the threat posed by the introduction of religious dogma into politics. This is why they advocated a legal separation of church and state.

The framers did no such thing. There’s nothing in the Constitution about a “legal separation between church and state” or a “wall of separation between church and state.” The so-called “establishment clause” of the Constitution forbids the establishment of a state religion such as “The Church of England.” Thus, there can never be an official “Church of the United States.” That has nothing to do with some fantasized support for secularism.

I know that was off-topic but I wanted to show how unreliable Objectivists usually are when making apparently scholarly statements.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008 - 8:39amSanction this postReply
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To clarify the quote -


The Dark Ages were dark on principle. There have been many apologists over the years who have striven to present that era as if it were accidental, or only co-incidental - that the period of history embracing Christiandom need not have been that way. But ideas have consequences, and philosophical ideas, of which religions are variants, which espouse the "virtues" of the taking/tribal syndrome, which espouse a cry of justification, in its raw-naked essence, of acting like human-styled animals, on principle deliver that kind of consequence. A doctrine which viewed the world as a terrible place to be in; a doctrine which claimed that the joys of the world, such as they were obtainable, constituted glorifying the imperfect and thus depraved, at the expense of the spirit; a doctrine which conjured all manner of horrifying consequences to choosing material pleasures over spiritual ones, and then claimed that the spiritual pertained to another world, a hereafter; a doctrine which then proceeded to implement those horrors through coercions in this world, not content to let their god take care of the matter; a doctrine which then also claimed that this hereafter was at the grace of this God, a being which had damned humanity for even existing, under the cry of Original Sin - such a doctrine could have had no other consequence than the viciousness of stifling human growth.

 

 

 

 

 


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Tuesday, August 12, 2008 - 8:43amSanction this postReply
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I further go on to state -



In the realm of Art, this was as much a case of devastation as elsewhere. Where once there were concerns with the complexities of the world around, the intricacies of details, from the crevices of the flesh of old people, the dimpling of the flesh of the young, or the shimmering folds of windblown cloth - no more, only phantasms with barely human faces, all much alike, like peas in pods, shrouded to cover formless bodies. Where once attention had been given to types of the plants and animals, seeking to depicting them as specifics sufficient to fool birds and people, or just to delight in the images - no more, just vague shapes, if even that at all. It was not just that there were no longer any interests in realism [tho the religious fervor was so overwhelming that indeed there seemed little if any such interests], but that whereas what interests remained, such became forbidden, and very coercively so - an affront [or threat ?] to the stated doctrine.



Yet - tho this pestilence of anti-life virulently rumbled across the face of the European lands, it didn't do so with equal effects, especially along its edges of influence. There were, here and there, always a few humans who differed in the extent of the despair imparted on the view of the world. While a lot of the ancient writings had been lost during this upheaval, there were still a number of ancient works scattered among the landscape which kept some

memory of old time to persist. What remained visible, however, were throwbacks -the intellectual level of the Arts had reverted to the decorative level, skills reduced to the geometrics of design. True, tho there were some collectors of antiquity [Charlemagne was far and away the most important, even seeking to revive the old with a blending of Christianity with his Holy Roman Empire], these were alpha-male figures seeking to aggrandize their positions with authoritative symbols, and thus were acquiring already done works. The skills required of making more like them were largely lost and needing to be rediscovered. Throughout Europe, what aesthetic works were still being done were being done for the glory of the church, in large part in the building of cathedrals and monasteries, sculpture largely being confined to base reliefs. It was one thing, however, to be able to project images in base relief - quite another to be able to bring them out from the walls, to "release" them as it were, and still another level of expertise to be able to carve "in the round". In any case, whatever works were done were also done anonymously, part of group efforts, as "slaves of God".



Indeed, it would not be until the thirteenth century when some of the figures would "step out" from the cathedral walls - and it was also around that time that recognition of individual sculptors began to be granted. Even there, tho, in these outstepping figures, the emphasis was on the frontal view, and the figures displayed little of any knowledge of anatomy [no surprise - it was a forbidden subject] beneath the swathing robes. It would actually not be until the fifteenth century that the first life sized sculpture in Western Europe meant to be seen in the round was created - Donatello's David.





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Tuesday, August 12, 2008 - 8:48amSanction this postReply
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I further posed the question -



What caused the transformation? What began breaking up the sickness that was Christiandom? Several reasons. For one, the peak of religiousness came at the millenium and, when nothing happened, when no last judgment took place, a number began asking about the possibility of life becoming better than it was, if one had, after all, to live it. Another reason, in line with the first, was that in the course of the pestilence rolling across the lands, quite a number of people died from one cause or another, crops failed, and the petty local governments began losing their hold upon the locals. There was, as consequence, a shortage of labor and food. In line with this, was the fact that traders still abounded the landscape, tho often under cover of some sort or another, operating minimally or in different areas than before. With the breakdown of the totalitarian authority of the churches amidst much internal bickering of doctrinal interpretations, and the isolationism of the countryside, those who traded began to perceive that they had a better chance than before of enlarging their sphere of influence, especially with discoveries of new foods and ways of cultivating the lands, as well as other assorted products to sell.


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Tuesday, August 12, 2008 - 9:08amSanction this postReply
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The Dark Ages are to the Christians, what Berlin was to the Socialists - a real-world, living experiment exposing the natural results of applying their philosophies.

Do a side by side comparison of East and West Berlin, before the wall came down - or East and West Germany before the reunification, and you see, like a lab experiment, the horrors that applied socialism generate.

Look at the before and after of the Dark Ages, with Rome and Classical Greece before and the Renaissance after and everyone can see what a "Christian Era" looks like.

Christian apologists like to ignore the Inquisition as if it was some sort of misapplication - like Stalin was an accident - and the REAL Christianity and the REAL socialism would be different if just practiced 'properly.'

Sure makes for some highly motivated and frantic historic revisionism by those who have long believed that lies are okay when in service of justifying their calls for sacrifice.

And I suspect that, at a gut level, they KNOW that their philosophies are based upon death and that the destruction, the torture, and the chaos accurately portray a sense of life they can't admit to. The only thing that saves them from screaming with terror is their insane belief that if they can convince the rest of us with lies and fallacies that it will somehow change the universe and save them.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008 - 8:30pmSanction this postReply
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I note that ancient Ireland, a working anarchy at the time, was one of the islands of peace and relative rationality during the Dark Ages.  The Irish monks, in particular, collected and preserved much of the remaining wealth of knowledge from the Roman era.

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Post 8

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 - 9:02pmSanction this postReply
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The term Dark Ages has a specific technical and also a broad popular meaning. It is perverse to conflate the two, and to accuse those who use the term narrowly of making the same claims as those who use it broadly.

For those who care how actual academic and professional historians use the term, "Dark Ages" is now used to refer to the period in Western Europe after the fall of the Western Empire in 476 AD until the return of some level of historicity, usually with the crowning of Charlemagne circa 800 AD or the founding of the Universities, around 1,000 AD.

The term Dark Ages was not used during the Dark Ages, but was coined during the high Middle Ages by Petrarch. An age which produced Beauvais Cathedral, no matter how strong the anti-Christian animus of some, (who presumably prefered the spectacles of the Coliseum) can hardly be called dark. Of course there are some laymen who use the term Dark Ages non-technically to refer to the entirety of the Middle Ages, just as there are people who call all Native Americans "savages," whether they were hunter-gatherers with a mere threefold division of labor - woman, warrior, shaman - or whether they had empires with large-scale farming and irrigation, money, metallurgy, writing, and sophisticated calendars. Ignorance of the facts about Mediaeval Europe or pre-Columbian American history among some laymen is simply that - ignorance - and cannot be glorified with the name of "official" Objectivist policy.

(Edited by Ted Keer on 8/13, 1:36pm)


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Tuesday, August 12, 2008 - 9:27pmSanction this postReply
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Phil,

My understanding of Ancient Ireland does include any instances of "working anarchy" - there were Irish kings and lords and their fiefdoms and like everywhere else, lots of warfare.

Here is the Wikipedia description of the early period:

Early Ireland had an unusual government. The country was divided into many small kingdoms known as tuatha (sing. tuath). At the head of a tuath was ri tuaithe (local king), elected from a ruling lineage or sliocht by all the free men of the tuath. All men who owned land, all professionals, and all craftsmen, were entitled to become members of an assembly, known as a oenach. Each tuath's oenach decided policies, declared war or peace on other tuatha, and elected or deposed their 'kings'.

...there was often violent infighting among the kindred of ruling family or fine over succession issues. Clerics and Poets were also "sacred". Beneath this class were the free men, Boaires who owned the land and at the bottom of the social scale were the unfree class, who had no political rights and who did the labouring work. The conventions ordering early Irish society were written down in the Brehon Laws, most notably in the Seanchas Mor text, between 600 and 900 AD.


Those are governments with jurisdictional laws.

Then in the later years:

The later medieval period in Ireland ("Norman Ireland") was dominated by the Cambro-Norman invasion of the country in 1171. Previously, Ireland had seen intermittent warfare between provincial kingdoms over the position of High King. This situation was transformed by the intervention in these conflicts of Norman mercenaries and later the King of England. After their successful conquest of England, the Normans turned their attention to Ireland. Ireland was made a Lordship of the King of England and much of its land was seized by Norman barons.

Still no anarchy - just different governments.
(Edited by Steve Wolfer on 8/12, 9:31pm)


Post 10

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 - 10:22pmSanction this postReply
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Ted said, "The term Dark Ages has a specific technical and a broad popular meaning. It is perverse to conflate the two, and to accuse those who use the term narrowly of making the same claims as those who use it broadly."

I don't fully understand the thrust of that statement. Was it referencing my post, or Roberts (or both)?

I followed the link and I agree with the technical designation as a period of history and that the term "Dark" refers to a dearth of written history from the period. The provided link to Wikipedia article has a section on the "popular" meaning. In that section I sniff the tracks of the Christian apologist. (One DOES have to sniff the air when in Wikipedia. Take a look behind the curtain to see what is going on with the article's editors.) If I have been guilty of conflating two meanings I would like to know that, but I will need a more specific criticism... maybe with a quote where I am supposed to be doing that.

My Objectivist take on the very broad strokes of history have to do with seeing things from the prospective of humans possessing a rational faculty, and that humans are the creators and drivers of the cultures that then support and guide them. From that perspective I mark Ancient Greece as a turning point in history - a real burst of light in reason versus mysticism. Here was the birth of explicit logic, and the birth of formal, recognized natural laws as an explanation of phenomena.

I see Rome as riding on that glory that was Greece. They were carried forth on the power of reason but mostly applied to technical and administrative control of their world. You can only go so far on the energy and thought of others - hence a collapse.

Christianity was left the dominant philosophy and wedded to government - tightly and strictly and that was the Dark Ages. Again, I'm just painting the picture in broad strokes that deal with the force and flow of primary intellectual causes - ideas - not economic, technological, political or clash of cultures as causes or contributors.

People keep saying, "The term Dark Ages was not used during the Dark Ages..." Well, I'm sure the Ancient Greeks didn't refer to themselves as the Ancient Greeks. What does that have to do with anything?

Ted points out the beauty and grandeur of a cathedral built during the Dark Ages. I wouldn't deny that man's creative capacities were completely stifled by the church, by an oppressive philosophy, by a grotesque political system. The greatness that is man is like a beam of light that shines out of even the darkest and bleakest of landscapes. It is the Objectivist story of the individual and society and our need to say which societies best suit man.

My anti-Christian animus doesn't alter the fact that this was an ugly period for man. And pointing out the horrors of Rome's coliseum isn't an argument to the contrary - they don't exist as either-or's.

Post 11

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 - 11:05pmSanction this postReply
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Claude, in posts 0 and 2, is the perfidious "conflatrix," not you, Steve, or Robert. Claude is the one who complained about how Objectivists "misuse" the term, and then provided a link to a person using the term loosely as if it were being used technically. (Of course, I think that you and Robert have been missing the point, and are using the term in the broad sense - but neither of you is a professional historian, and each would, I hope, accept the technical usage without complaint, once it was explained to you.) But Claude's complaint was like someone claiming that Objectivists condemn bastardy (illegitimate birth) and who then uses Rand's colloquial use of the word in Atlas Shrugged as proof. There is no Objectivist Historian or work of Objectivist history that uses the term in the way that bothers Claude.

The Beauvais Cathedral is a product of the Middle Ages, (begun in the Twelve Hundreds) not the Dark Ages.

The issue here is minor. It is like railing against the popular misuse of "pilgrims" to refer to all early British settlers in America or calling indigenous Americans "Indians." The experts know better and make the proper distinctions. Objectivism proper has no stake in the misuse of technical terms.
(Edited by Ted Keer on 8/12, 11:12pm)


Post 12

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 - 12:12amSanction this postReply
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I stand relieved that it is Claude, and not I, in need of explaining himself. Shame on you, Claude.

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Post 13

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 - 12:14pmSanction this postReply
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 A point that Lewis documents amply in the quote that started this thread off, but whose importance neither he nor Shannon seems to grasp, is that this putatively sophisticated medieval mindset was a way of making do with the fact that nobody since Plato, Aristotle or Cicero had done anything important in the subject matters they addressed in the subsequent thousand years or so.  No amount of cleverness, bookishness or intellectual complexity on the medievals' part can get around this, and that is why Objectivists think badly of the era.

Side issue: did Rand herself or any other Objectivist worth taking seriously (a qualification that excludes the Peikoff / ARI inner circle) make this mistake about the Dark Ages?

(I love Beauvais.  Was there earlier this year.  Its American counterpart is Wright's Ennis house in LA.)


Post 14

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 - 1:44pmSanction this postReply
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The Ennis House was damaged by the recent L.A. earthquake.






(Edited by Ted Keer on 8/13, 6:54pm)


Post 15

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 - 5:49pmSanction this postReply
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Your photo overlapped yer writing, so could not read whatever about the Ennis house...

Post 16

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 - 7:02pmSanction this postReply
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The Meiji Hotel



See fixed image above, Robert.

The obvious connection between the Cathedral St. Pierre de Beauvais & Wright's works here is their fractal nature.

Now, if only they'd rebuild Baghdad...

Oh, BTW, Peter, Beauvais Cathedral has been my Mac's wallpaper for the last month.
(Edited by Ted Keer on 8/13, 7:05pm)


Post 17

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 - 8:45pmSanction this postReply
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Steve, re your objection to my use of "working anarchy" to describe ancient Ireland, the subject matter is a little too long to be simply quoted here, but I was able to instantly find the refutation via Google:

http://celticanarchy.org/?p=43

Rather a neat system they had. 


Post 18

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 - 8:56pmSanction this postReply
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Personally, I consider the Beauvais cathedral as putty paste puffry gone mad, another example of a building by committee.... nothing in common with Wright's works....  for one, the one was done out of otheristic manipulation, with anonymousness as the ideal, 'for the glory of god' of course - while Wright's came from the genius of the person, and the stated participation of the contractors who built them...

Post 19

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 - 9:51pmSanction this postReply
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No, Robert. Beauvais was designed by one man. In order that his idea be built, he had mad a model to represent his idea to those who would continue his work after he died. Having read a little Rand is no substitute for knowing the facts.

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