The World as Seen by the Greeks

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A fascinating article which, more than just an exploration of contrasting color theory between the ancients and the moderns, further confirms the analogical nature of the classical imagination:

https://aeon.co/amp/essays/can-we-hope-to-understand-how-the-greeks-saw-their-world

“So Goethe was right. In trying to see the world through Greek eyes, the Newtonian view is only somewhat useful. We need to supplement it with the Greeks’ own colour theories, and to examine the way in which they actually tried to describe their world. Without this, the crucial role of light and brightness in their chromatic vision would be lost, as would any chance to make sense of the mobility and fluidity of their chromatic vocabulary. If we rely only on the mathematical abstractions of Newton’s optics, it will be impossible to imagine what the Greeks saw when they stood on their shores, gazing out upon the porphureos sea stretching into the distant horizon.”

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From What is Left Over

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The following article from Remi Brague appeared in the recent August issue of First Things, and it bears reading for Christians reflecting on the state of secular culture and their own place in that culture, particularly given the penchant for ascribing to any of the various counter-cultural “Options” presented to us for our choosing.

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/08/from-what-is-left-over

“If we are not building a “Christian culture,” why are we, as people of faith, writing, painting, composing, and otherwise occupying ourselves with cultural matters? Let us go back to the monks. They never imagined their task to be “cultural.” Pope Benedict reminds us of what is well known, but not always understood in its depth: Monks worked and prayed. Their work was grounded in a positive view of labor. This stemmed from a vision of the world as created by a good God, hence as basically good and a fitting arena for human endeavor. 

What we imagine to be a post-Christian culture in the West carries this forward, after a fashion, so let me turn to the other monastic task, which is prayer. This concerns more than making petitions. Prayer is praise, especially in the Psalms, and praise stems from joy. To quote C. S. Lewis again: “Fully to enjoy is to glorify.” Here again we find an overflowing, which is very much in keeping with the overflowing—the superfluousness—of human creative action.”

Reflections on Beauty, from an unlikely source

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These are words you rarely hear, let alone to ever hear coming from a transport authority.  But John Hayes is not your typical transport authority.

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/transport-minister-speaks-at-the-backing-beauty-reception

The Rt Hon John Hayes CBE MP discusses good design in transport at an event hosted by ResPublica, the Woodland Trust and the National Trust.

Tonight (17 July 2017) I am going to speak of the future.

Truth is an absolute. And beauty the means by which it is revealed to us in its most comprehensible form. In John Keats’ words:

Beauty is truth, truth beauty — that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Through our connection with beauty, we enjoy a taste of the sublime and both an escape from and a compensation for the inevitable pains and trials of daily life.

Through beauty the common good is nurtured, for humans are spiritual creatures who need much more than their daily bread.

Our sense of place is inseparable from our sense of worth and so the places in which we live and the environment around us feeds our individual and communal well-being.

To believe that a government minister shouldn’t dare to speak of beauty is to assume that beauty is beyond politics or perhaps that politics is beneath aesthetics.

It is a misconception I want to confront this evening.

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Dario Fernández-Morera’s Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Spain

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In The Twilight of the Idols (1888), Friedrich Nietzsche expressed his wish to philosophize with a hammer, that is, to make smithereens of the false images that leeringly prevent a candid vision of life, the world, and history.  Nietzsche wrote that “there are more idols than realities in the world.”  He wished, with his instrument, preliminarily, to “test” the idols – expecting to detect “as a reply that famous hollow sound which speaks of bloated entrails.”  If that were the sign, the hammer might come fully into play.  Like the supreme iconoclast of the German language, Dario Fernández-Morera, a Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Literature at Northwestern University, has decided to test a certain gallery of idols, the much-revered ones connected with a persistent, but, in light of accessible knowledge, dubious legend.  The old legend of Islamic Spain (for that is the story in question), of its tolerance and enlightenment, and of its convivencia of all peoples, has gained new currency with the rise of the anti-Western, anti-Christian ideology known as multiculturalism.  The university departments of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, having transformed themselves into publicity businesses for the new militant phase of Islam, their acolytes, politically correct to the core, have propagandized the utopian narrative of the Umayyads, Almoravids, and Almohads in Spain.  Those same acolytes have either ignored the achievements of Visigothic Spain and its successor polities in the northern part of Hispania or have denigrated them by invidious, non-factual comparisons.  Honoring the facts, which he has patiently gleaned in a decade of impressively disciplined study, Fernández-Morera has written The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise (ISI, 2016), which, with its handsome dust jacket, is nevertheless a warrior’s cudgel.  The myth of that supposed paradise will not withstand its prodigious action…

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Dario Fernández-Morera’s Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Spain

René Guénon and Eric Voegelin on the Degeneration of Right Order [Part I]

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I. Introduction

The Diadochic Kingdoms

No area of Western history is quite as recondite as that of the Diadochic empires, the successor-kingdoms that sprang up in the wake of Alexander the Great’s meteoric campaigns (334 – 323 BC) to subdue Asia under militaristic Hellenism.  Educated people know that the unity of Alexander’s Imperium, ever tenuous and improvisatory, broke down immediately on his death, when his “companions” fell to bellicose squabbling over bleeding chunks of the whole.  Of Ptolemy’s Macedonian Egypt, most educated people also probably know something – largely because the realm’s newly built Greek metropolis, Alexandria, became culturally the most important polis of the Mediterranean world, and it retained its status even after Octavian conquered Cleopatra and brought her Macedonian rump-state into Rome’s emergent world-federation.  To make the transition from the historically known to the historically unknown requires, however, only that one switch focus from the Ptolemaic kingdom in the Nile Delta to its next-door neighbor, the Seleucid kingdom or state.  The equivocation is deliberate.  The prize that Seleucus grabbed in the wars of succession stretched in geographic space from Syria and Cilicia, and associated insular territories, eastward through portions of Mesopotamia and Asia Minor into the hinterlands of Parthia and Bactria.  Nominally a kingdom, the borders of the Seleucid realm, as distinct from those of the more stable Ptolemaic kingdom in Egypt, were, like the Heraclitean river, in perpetual flux.  Over the centuries, moreover, the Seleucid kingdom steadily withdrew in the direction of the sunrise, sacrificing its vulnerable western regions for the defensibility of its eastern keeps, until in its last act, as the remnant Greco-Bactrian principality, it attempted to perpetuate itself against political mortality by an exodus-through-conquest from Central Asia across the Hindu Kush into Northern India…

Continue reading at: René Guénon and Eric Voegelin on the Degeneration of Right Order [Part I]

René Guénon and Eric Voegelin on the Degeneration of Right Order [Part II]

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I. Guénon, Voegelin, and the Modern Crisis.

The concupiscent subject’s response to the Siren Song of the ecumene, to conquer and possess it, qualifies as Voegelin’s privative exodus in at least two senses. Pragmatically, the conqueror in going forth leaves home; he generally leaves it, moreover, with the cream of the young men and a significant portion of the collective wealth in the forms of his provisions and armaments. Very likely he leaves behind him a vacuum of confusion, and a fat opportunity for mischief. Philosophically or metaphysically, the conqueror in going forth demonstratively exempts himself from the wisdom that, like his homeland, he leaves behind; under the pomp and color of his banners he declares himself the heroic prime mover of reality, a gesture of hubris in the highest degree. For in declaring himself such, he declares nothing less than the abolition of reality, as though it were his prerogative to guarantee what is possible and what is not and so to make patent his success before it occurs. Homer knew this at the beginning of the polis civilization. Agamemnon goes forth to conquer but brings about only the reduction to rubble of the heroic world, including his own murdered corpse; Odysseus, involuntarily alienated from home, struggles back to his native ground to purge his household of uninvited mischief-makers. One sign of the rebellion against reality by the conquistadors of the Ecumenic Age, which entails the abolition of actually existing “concrete societies,” is their insistence on auto-apotheosis, as when Seleucus or Demetrius or Menander identifies himself on his coinage with Helios Aniketos, “The Unvanquished Sun,” or the equivalent. To paraphrase Voegelin: The ecumene is not only a graveyard of societies, but it is also a graveyard of the Helioi Aniketoi; and thus, amid the debris left by their late passage, of the innumerable victims of those self-appointed saviors…

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René Guénon and Eric Voegelin on the Degeneration of Right Order [Part II]

René Girard – Imitation and Life Without God

From Richard Cocks, Orthosphere contributor.

S y d n e y T r a d s

rene-girard-pointing René Noël Théophile Girard, French historian, literary critic, and philosopher of social science whose work belongs to the tradition of anthropological philosophy.

In preparation for teaching a literature course in the 1950s, René Girard reread some of the classic novels. In the process he realized that the novelists had had profound insights into aspects of the human condition and that to a large degree, they were the same insights. Not only that: they all ended the same way with the despised central protagonist recognized by the author, finally, as an aspect of himself. Thus, all the great novels end with a moment of transcendent self-revelation. This claim is certainly immensely provocative and intriguing.

Girard began his exploration of these novelistic insights in Deceit, Desire and the Novel.¹ The key insight is the role of imitation in human life. It accounts for the ability to read these words, cross…

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How Liberal Professors Are Ruining College

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liberal-professors-new-england

via How Liberal Professors Are Ruining College

“Last spring, Samuel Abrams, a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College, in New York, decided to run the numbers. From the start, he certainly expected liberal professors to outnumber conservatives, but his data—25 years’ worth of statistics from the Higher Education Research Institute—told a far more startling tale: In the South and throughout the Great Plains, the ratio of liberal to conservative professors hovered around 3 to 1. On the liberal left coast, the ratio was 6 to 1. And then there was New England—which looked like William F. Buckley’s worst nightmare—standing at 28 to 1. “It astonished me,” says Abrams, whose research revealed that conservative professors weren’t just rare; they were being pushed to the edge of extinction.”

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