Saturday, September 3, 2011

Response to an Apparent Critic of the Sophistic Enlightenment

A fellow who goes by Joseph Fouche said, "I find this historical reconstruction unconvincing." I disagree - I fully support all his points. His links are fantastic.

"If there was a point at which sophistry broke back into European society, it was in the 1100s with the revival of Classical learning in the “twelfth century renaissance”."
Neither do I buy this whole "everyone was dumb, and then suddenly VENICE!" narrative. It seems clear that, as a rule of thumb, everything considered good is much older than portrayed in modern times - I specifically avoided putting a date on this enlightenment. Also, Clark's arguments regarding the industrial revolution likely apply to several other revolutions. For instance, actually the enlightenment started with the Scholastics or thereabouts, but they were in the habit of reading and writing in Latin, containing the damage.

Rienzi studied Latin rhetoric, got infected with sophism, and then acted like a democratic politician. Well...yes, exactly. Also note that insofar as Rienzi was successful, it was an ad-hoc implementation of democracy.

Ha! La Wik even uses the phrase, "intoxicated his understanding," though not realizing how early that happened - they think it was due to 'power corrupts.' No, corruption corrupts, and then the corrupt seek power. (And win, because they're corrupt.)

And, more Ha! "Finally, layered on top of this was a popular ideological view of the time that property, wealth and inequality was against the teachings of God, as expressed through the teachings of the Franciscans." Progressivism - 1209 edition.

Using La Wik to support Sith talking points is a fun game.

It is tempting to tie together the Scholastics, the Franciscans, and the popular revolts. So tempting I'm going to actually do it.

Note that Francis crafted this anti-property sophism, and successfully used it to gather intellectual power. Having done so, the idea has survived as a fossil into modern minds. While it is necessary to pay tribute to the idea to get power, the idea itself barely serves anyone.

Francis got started a century after the Scholastics - it beggars the imagination to think he wasn't influenced.
"The 13th and early 14th centuries are generally seen as the high period of scholasticism. The early 13th century witnessed the culmination of the recovery of Greek philosophy."
Indeed? And when was that wave of popular uprisings again...? The first one was 1277, and they really got going in the 1300s.

At this point, as a reader, I'd be doubting that the author of the sophism->democracy thesis didn't already know about the causes of these revolts and their timing. But I didn't! Honest! (Though yes, you'll just have to take my word for it.) Until now, I was only vaguely aware of these revolts, and my only explanation was in line with La Wik's, regarding oppression

Returning to Joseph's summary, emphasis mine:
"Lowborn churchmen, educated but often barred by class from rising in the Church hierarchy, often provided the charismatic and rhetorical leadership for the masses. Often this was in the name of restoring the purity of the primitive Christian church as portrayed in the book of Acts where all believers were equal and all goods were held in common."
Precisely. Reading ancient philosophy is dangerous. The sophistic contaminants literally make you crazy. "In the end, they were almost always defeated and the nobles ruled the day." After the first few revolts, the peasants should have gotten tired of dying pointlessly and stopped. Their losses were easily predictable, but they failed to predict it. It is essentially a case of murder by ancient books.

Modern philosophy is vastly more dangerous. Pessimistically, atomic weapons have killed 240 000 people. Modern ideology has killed easily one thousand times that many.

As a bonus, most everyone is already steeped in it.

So what would a society purged of sophistry look like? Ironically, La Wik shows the way, (I call the three orders merchant, scholar, warrior; they seem to be natural human divisions, based on different preferred status hierarchies.)
"This was an entirely new social stratification from earlier times when society had been based on the three orders, those who work, those who pray, and those who fight, when being a peasant meant being next to God, just as the other orders."
A modern version wouldn't include God explicitly, because the scholar order has so much trouble taking God seriously nowadays, but it would the same idea of all three order having intrinsic and equivalent virtue.

No comments: