Jan 8, 1705.
Jan. 5, 1696, in Parma.
THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF SECULAR SOCIETY
WITHOUT A TRANSCENDENT HORIZON, SOCIETY CANNOT ENDURE.
By Remi Brague
“There is no such thing as a secular society. My claim is a brutal and paradoxical one: The question about the possibility of a secular society resolves itself, or rather it dissolves itself.
To defend this claim I would like to submit two-and-a-half theses. First, a purely secular society simply cannot survive in the long run. As a consequence, leaving behind secularism is a necessary move, indeed a vital one. Second, the term secular society is tautological, because the ideal of secularity is latent with the modern use of the term society. Third is the half thesis, which I won’t develop here: Whatever comes after secularism, it won’t be a “society” any longer but rather another way for us to think about and give political form to the being-together of human beings.
The use of the term secularism in English began in the middle of the nineteenth century. George Jacob Holyoake (1817–1906) may have coined the word as early as 1846,and one of his main works, published in 1870, bears the title The Principles of Secularism. In 1859, the philosopher John Stuart Mill was still treating the word as a neologism. In On Liberty, after mentioning the religious principles that can motivate human action, he speaks of “secular standards (as for want of a better name they may be called).”
Mill used the term because he was eager to avoid atheistic, which is the more fitting term to describe the opposite of religious. But atheism was hardly the thing in Victorian Britain, and the word was felt to be rude. In the same intellectual atmosphere, the biologist T. E. Huxley, Darwin’s famous bulldog, coined agnosticism during a memorable discussion that took place at the Metaphysical Society in 1869. In present-day Britain, a third word, humanism, is often used with the same meaning and with the same intention: to evoke the possibility of a nonreligious basis for a morally animated society.
The debate for which the word secularism was coined is a false one. Advocates of secularism assume they are proposing a novel possibility, which is that moral precepts can be known without any particular revelation by God. Yet this is precisely what Christianity has taught, explicitly since Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and, implicitly, since Jesus himself. This was lost sight of in the modern era, when many Christians defended religion against skeptical and rationalist attacks by arguing that it is necessary for ensuring the moral basis of society. Men without religion, it was argued, could not be trusted to behave in an upright fashion. So advocates of secularism were drawn into the false debate.”
David Goldman in First Things:
“It is consoling to think that the emotions that music arouses in us have something to do with the makeup of the universe. The eternal relation of math and music has been a perennial question since Plato, from Boethius and Cassiodorus in late antiquity, through Dante’s celestial harmony in Paradiso and Shakespeare’s discussion in The Merchant of Venice. The deeper affinity between mathematics and music, though, is less consoling and more challenging: The modern concept of a higher-order number begins with St. Augustine’s fifth-century treatise on music, and a red thread links it to Leibniz’ invention of the calculus in the seventeenth.
Music employs number both in its harmonic foundation and its metrical presentation in time. But what sort of number is it? In the sixth book of his De Musica, Augustine asserted the existence of a higher order of number that in some way stands above the senses, the numeri iudiciales or “numbers of judgment” which “come from God” and enable the mind to judge what it perceives and remembers, as well as what it expects. Augustine’s assertion is arresting in all three of its parts: first, that neither our sense perception nor even our memory explains how we hear music; second, that the faculty by which we judge the numbers (rhythms or harmonies) of music is also a kind of number; and third, that this higher-order number comes from God.”
“An illuminating and convincing account of the enormous change in the whole conception of morals and human personality which took place during the centuries covered by Homer, the early lyric poets, the dramatists, and Socrates.” — The Times (London) Literary Supplement.
“European thinking began with the Greeks. Science, literature, ethics, philosophy — all had their roots in the extraordinary civilization that graced the shores of the Mediterranean a few millennia ago. The rise of thinking among the Greeks was nothing less than a revolution; they did not simply map out new areas for thought and discussion, they literally created the idea of man as an intellectual being — an unprecedented concept that decisively influenced the subsequent evolution of European thought.
In this immensely erudite book, German classicist Bruno Snell traces the establishment of a rational view of the nature of man as evidenced in the literature of the Greeks — in the creations of epic and lyric poetry, and in the drama. Here are the crucial stages in the intellectual evolution of the Greek world: the Homeric world view, the rise of the individual in the early Greek lyric, myth and reality in Greek tragedy, Greek ethics, the origin of scientific thought, and Arcadia.
Drawing extensively on the works of Homer, Pindar, Archilochus, Aristophanes, Sappho, Heraclitus, the Greek tragedians, Parmenides, Callimachus, and a host of other writers and thinkers, Snell shows how the Homeric myths provided a blueprint for the intellectual structure the Greeks erected; how the notion of universality in Greek tragedy broadened into philosophical generalization; how the gradual unfolding of the concepts of intellect and soul provided the foundation for philosophy, science, ethics, and finally, religion.
Unquestionably one of the monuments of the Geistegeschichte (History of Ideas) tradition, The Discovery of the Mind throws fresh light on many long-standing problems and has had a wide influence on scholars of the Greek intellectual tradition. Closely reasoned, replete with illuminating insight, the book epitomizes the best in German classical scholarship — a brilliant exploration of the archetypes of Western thought; a penetrating explanation of how we came to think the way we do.”
The Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo “almost certainly covered the cadaver of the same person.” This is the conclusion from an investigation that has compared the two relics using forensics and geometry.