I think that there are and that they do create problems for our understanding. Either we stumble through tangles of cross-purposes, or else a rather minimal awareness of significant differences can lead us to draw far-reaching conclusions that are very far from the realities we seek to describe. Obviously, they would not be just like those in Christendom, but maybe the idea, rather than being locally restricted, can travel across borders in an inventive and imaginative way.
First, it was one term of a dyad. Certain times, places, persons, institutions, and actions were seen as closely related to the sacred or higher time, and others were seen as pertaining to profane time alone. It refers specifically, in this sense, to when certain functions, properties, and institutions were transferred from church control to that of laymen. These moves were originally made within a system held in place by the overarching dyad; things were moved from one niche to another within a standing system of niches. The word could go on being used, but its meaning was profoundly changed, because its counterpoint had been fundamentally altered.
Because many people went on believing in the transcendent, however, it was necessary for churches to continue to have a place in the social order. This shift entailed two important changes: first, it brought a new conception of good social and political order, which was unconnected to either the traditional ethics of the good life or the specifically Christian notion of perfection sainthood. This was the new post-Grotian idea of a society formed of and by individuals in order to meet their needs for security and the means to life.
This very clear-cut distinction is itself a product of the development of Latin Christendom and has become part of our way of seeing things in the West. We tend to apply it universally, even though no distinction this hard and fast has existed in any other human culture in history. What does seem, indeed, to exist universally is some distinction between higher beings spirits and realms and the everyday world we see immediately around us. But these are not usually sorted out into two distinct domains, such that the lower one can be taken as a system understandable purely in its own terms.
Rather, the levels usually interpenetrate, and the lower cannot be understood without reference to the higher. To take an example from the realm of philosophy, for Plato, the existence and development of the things around us can only be understood in terms of their corresponding Ideas, and these exist in a realm outside time.
Rethinking The Western Tradition series - ecejyredagij.ml
The clear separation of an immanent from a transcendent order is one of the inventions for better or worse of Latin Christendom. The new understanding of the secular that I have been describing builds on this separation. At first, the independence claimed on the part of the immanent was limited and partial. Jews have always seen humans as mortal beings. In the Garden, Adam and Eve were as children. Having eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they had to take responsibility for themselves, their decisions and their behaviour. The story of Adam and Eve was initially, then, a fable about the attainment of free will and the embrace of moral responsibility.
It became a tale about the corruption of free will and the constraints on moral responsibility. Not till the Enlightenment was the bleakness of that vision of human nature truly challenged. What we now think of as the Judeo-Christian tradition has been created as much despite the efforts of the Christian Church as because of them. This is often seen as a period ushered in by the barbarian invasions of the fourth and fifth centuries that brought down the Roman Empire.
In fact the intellectual darkness was ushered in also by the policies of the Church itself. The collapse of the Roman imperial institutions under the weight of the myriad invasions left the Church as almost the only body capable of maintaining some semblance of social order in Western Europe. It also left the clergy as the sole literate class in the Western world and the Church as the lone patron of knowledge and the arts. But if the Church kept alive elements of a learned culture, Church leaders, particularly in Western Europe, were ambiguous about the merits of pagan knowledge.
So preoccupied were devout Christians with the demands of the next world that to study nature or history or philosophy for its own sake seemed to them almost perverse. The most significant casualty of the Christianising of learning was Aristotle whose empirical, this-worldly approach to knowledge was most at odds with the dictates of faith. Christian Western Europe rediscovered the Greek heritage, and in particular Aristotle, in the thirteenth century, a rediscovery that helped transform European intellectual culture.
But how did theologians and scholars in Western Europe find their way back to Greek thought? Primarily through the Muslim Empire. Centred first in Baghdad and then in Cordoba, in Muslim Iberia, Arab philosophy and science played a critical role not just in preserving the gains of the Greeks but in genuinely expanding the boundaries of knowledge, both in philosophy and in science.
Arab scholars revolutionsed astronomy, invented algebra, helped develop the modern decimal number system, established the basis of optics, and set the ground rules of cryptography. But perhaps more important than the science was the philosophy. The Rationalist tradition in Islamic thought, culminating in the work of Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd, is these days barely remembered in the West.
Ibn Rushd especially, the greatest Muslim interpreter of Aristotle, came to wield far more influence within Judaism and Christianity than within Islam, his commentaries shaping the thinking of a galaxy of thinkers from Maimonides to Aquinas himself. Christians of the time recognized the importance of Muslim philosophers.
Today, however, that debt has been almost entirely forgotten.
Rethinking immigration policy theory beyond ‘Western liberal democracies’
There is a tendency to think of Islam as walled-in, insular, hostile to reason and freethinking. Much of the Islamic world came to be that way. But the fact remains that the scholarship of the golden age of Islamic thinking helped lay the foundations for the European Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution. Neither happened in the Muslim world. But without the Muslim world, it is possible that neither may have happened. A complex debate has arisen about the relationship between the Enlightenment and the Christian tradition. The Enlightenment ideas of tolerance, equality and universalism, they argue, derive from the reworking of notions already established within the Christian tradition.
Others, more ambiguous about the legacy of the Enlightenment, argue that true liberal, democratic values are Christian and that the radicalism and secularism of the Enlightenment has only helped undermine such values. Both views are wrong. For a start, the historic origins of many of these ideas lie, as we have seen, outside the Christian tradition. It is as apt to describe a concept such as equality or universalism as Greek as it is to be describe it as Christian.
In truth, though, contemporary ideas of equality or universality are neither Greek nor Christian. Whatever their historical origins, they have become peculiarly modern concepts, the product of the specific social, political and intellectual currents of the modern world. In his book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe , Christopher Caldwell argues that Muslim migration to Europe has been akin to a form of colonization, threatening the very foundations of European civilization.
Those who decry Enlightenment secularism as being in some sense anti-Christian are right — but only because they hold on to a very particular notion of what constitutes Christian ideals. The mainstream Enlightenment of Kant, Locke, Voltaire and Hume is the one of which we know and which provides the public face of the Enlightenment. The two Enlightenments divided on the question of whether reason reigned supreme in human affairs, as the radicals insisted, or whether reason had to be limited by faith and tradition — the view of the mainstream.
This distinction was to shape the attitudes of the two sides to a whole host of social and political issues such as equality, democracy and colonialism. The attempt of the mainstream to marry traditional theology to the new philosophy, Israel suggests, constrained its critique of old social forms and beliefs. The moderate mainstream was overwhelmingly dominant in terms of support, official approval and prestige. But in a deeper sense, and in the long run, it proved less important than the radical strand. But the Christian tradition, and Christian Europe, is far more a chimera than a pure-bred beast.
The reason to challenge the crass alarmism about the decline of Christianity is not simply to lay to rest the myths and misconceptions about the Christian tradition. It also because that alarmism is itself undermining the very values — tolerance, equal treatment, universal rights — for the defence of which we supposedly need a Christian Europe.
The erosion of Christianity will not necessarily lead to the erosion of such values. The crass defence of Christendom against the barbarian hordes may well do. This is still an important theme for many — and once again an excellent piece. As you will realise if you consider this.
Not just partly — entirely. Each part is considered to be essentially independent and self-existent. Europe exists as a part of whole that is the entire planet and beyond — it does have distinctive features but these features have developed — and will continue to develop — within the context of, and influenced by, the entire planet.
Just like my index finger is distinctly an index finger and yet it is still part of my hand, arm and body. Interestingly we can be quite selective in choosing the things we feel compromise our identity. We seem to think ideas and beliefs change our culture more radically than human inventions.
I know we were already impaling each other on sarissas and the like but we do seem to have welcomed gunpowder with open arms. Is it because things like gunpowder can be used to shore up existing power structures I wonder? Maybe we all need to look at what bothers us about the encroachment of any other culture this would have to include American culture for Europeans on our own culture — and be open to the possibility of change for the better, as well as putting a value on our heritage. If that was true we should reintroduce slavery and blood-letting.
I found it interesting tha you point to the radical roots of the Enlightment in people like Diderot and Spinoza. Nietszche is saying that faith has been destroyed by Western thought. But what he also is saying, from what I can see, is that the core principle of seeking after truth, ie rationalism, is the real culprit in the murder, and that that rationalism has its source in Christian thought, which asks the believer to seek the True Way. In other words the seeds of the death of Christianity lie within the Christian tradition itself. Maybe I got it wrong, but from my point of view and the way for example how catholic church is running I have the impression that one is not encouraged to critically and for that matter rationally seek truth but rather to obey what u are told to, practice blind faith so to speak….
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Rethinking the Cultural History of Chinese Film: A Conversation with Dai Jinhua
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Rethinking public religion: Word, image, sound
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