We should not be satisfied. In my books The Uniqueness of Western Civilization and Faustian Man in a Multicultural Age I emphasized the "continuous creativity" of Europeans from ancient Greek times to the present. I also went back to the revolutionary contributions of pre-historic Europeans in the domestication and riding of horses, their co-invention of wheeled vehicles, their principal contribution to the "secondary-products revolution," their invention of chariots, their creation of the most dynamic language in history, the proto-Indo-European language, their nurturing of the only true aristocratic culture in history (in which rulers were not despots but first among equals), their origination of the first heroic and tragic literature, and, most important of all, their responsibility for the appearance of "self-consciousness" in history, which laid the foundations for the Greek Miracle.
I highlighted the scholars who wrote about the Greek invention of secular observation of nature, the invention of mathematical proof, the invention of artistic realism, the invention of prose writing, the invention of historical writing, the invention of politics, the invention of infantry warfare, the production of the highest sequence of the greatest thinkers in history, the Hellenistic Revolution in Science, not to mention technological and economic novelties.
I also mentioned the Roman contribution of the first rationalized legal system that recognized each citizen as a legal person, Rome's unsurpassed engineering, aqueducts, Latin literature, and rational infrastructure of war-making as well as the greatest empire in human history. I argued that the Middle Ages were one of the most creative periods in history as evidenced by the invention of universities, corporate autonomy of the church and towns coupled with the "first modern legal system," the invention of mechanical clocks, the scholastic method of investigation, the best water mills, Romanesque and Gothic architectural buildings unsurpassed in history, the three field system of agriculture, an entire Renaissance in the 12th century.
The West is filled with "origins," "transitions," "inventions," "renaissances," "discoveries," and "revolutions": the Printing Revolution, the Portuguese rounding of Africa, the discovery of the New World, Cartographic Revolution, the Italian Renaissance, the invention of perspective painting, the Copernican Revolution, the Newtonian Revolution, the Military Revolution, the Glorious Revolution, the French Revolution, the First Industrial Revolution, the Second Industrial Revolution, the German Philosophical Revolution(s) from Leibniz to Kant to Hegel to Nietzsche to Heidegger, the invention of the Novel, the Romantic Rebellion, the Darwinian Revolution — to mention a few.
Meanwhile, the Rest of the world remained stuck without any major novelties after the inventions of the Bronze Age that we associate with the rise of civilization as such. There was change, but no revolutionary novelties, no major thinkers, no major scientists, no major artists. There were a few philosophical reflections by Muslims out of their reading of Aristotle early in the Middle Ages, and some novelties in pharmaceutical ingredients and optics. The Chinese also produced a few trinkets by way of water clocks, firecrackers, and paper. But Chinese "development" consisted only in demographic expansion, intensification of rice farming, and the building of big ships called "junks."
Western Accomplishments Are Exponentially Greater
The immense and continuous breakthrough of Europeans in all fields of human endeavour can only be properly captured when we zero in on particular philosophers, painters, novelists, mathematicians, logicians, musical composers. Even the startling lists that Charles Murray produced showing, for example, that the giants for each of the natural sciences (the top twenty in astronomy, physics, biology, medicine, chemistry, earth sciences, and mathematics) consisted of Europeans with the exception of one Japanese, do not capture adequately the originality of European greatness. His statistical calculation that 97 percent of accomplishment in the sciences occurred in Europe and North America from 800 BC to 1950 is obviously revealing.
So is his observation that the sheer number of "significant figures" in literature in the West is 835, whereas in India, the Arab World, China, and Japan combined the number is only 293. The same is true of his observation that the West produced 479 major figures in the visual arts as compared to 192 for China and Japan combined (with no significant figures listed for India and the Arab World). And the observation that the West produced all the great figures of classical music.
It is also very revealing that, according to my estimations, 95 percent, and most likely 98 percent, of the great explorers in history were European.
Still, these numbers don't capture the qualitative originality of European greatness. Measuring European greatness has always entailed an evaluation of the way artists, novelists, philosophers, composers, mathematicians have occasioned a breakthrough, a new way of explaining history, a new style of poetic expression, a whole new philosophical outlook. In contrast, the measurement of non-European greatness tends to be about men who were good at following an existing tradition, perfecting an existing style of painting and poetic expression, reinforcing the unquestioned thoughts of sages.
The standards for Western greatness are far higher. Here is a glimpse of European greatness in classical music. We learn that in Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), pioneer of opera, "for the first time in history there was a complete unity between drama and music." We learn that "it is harmonic intensity above all that sets Bach's music apart from that of his contemporaries...In Bach's music a completely new harmonic language is forged [...] There is no music in the literature that has Bach's kind of rightness, of inevitability, of intelligence, of logically organized sequence of notes."
When Haydn started, "the new music — the music of the style galant — was in its infancy and Haydn put everything together. It is not for nothing that he is called the Father of the Symphony. With equal Justice he can be called the father of the String Quartet...Rococo is left far behind; this is Classicism of the purest kind, and the music is big." Beethoven, "from the beginning he was a creator, one of those natural talents, full of ideas and originality [...] Then came Eroica, and music was never again the same. With one convulsive wrench, music entered the nineteenth century."
Berlioz "was a natural revolutionary, the first of the conscious avant-gardists...Uninhibited, highly emotional, witty, mercurial, picturesque, he was very conscious of his Romanticism [...] he was in every way a revolutionary, fully prepared to throw established and even sacred notions into a garbage can." Chopin "was not only a genius as a pianist, he was creatively a genius, one of the most startlingly original ones of the century [...] For the first time the piano became a total instrument: a singing instrument, an instrument of infinite colour, poetry, and nuance, a heroic instrument, an intimate instrument." [The above citations are from The Lives of the Great Composers, 2006].
This kind of originality can be found in all the arts and sciences of the West. Actually, the entire history of physics, chemistry, biology, geology, historical writing, logic, archaeology, anthropology, sociology, economics, geography, is dominated by Europeans from beginning to end. After all, these disciplinary fields were all invented by Europeans.
Why this is so should be the mother of all historical questions. Yet even the thought that Europe was slightly greater terrifies an academic world obligated to push a multicultural mandate in education. This explains the hysteria against King. Talking about European greatness is now identified as "mentally stunted."
The only unique contribution Europeans are allowed, known as the "great divergence," is the Industrial Revolution, with perhaps permission to connect this revolution to the rise of modern science. But students are quickly reminded that China is now surpassing the West in industrial development. Jack Goldstone and Kenneth Pomeranz are two prominent names behind this historical revisionism. They say the West was merely different in reaching an industrial state first thanks to the exploitation of the Americas, the availability of coal in England, or the "fortuitous" development of an instrumentalist-engineering science in the 1700s. A few critics are begging for the inclusion of Western liberal institutions in the assessment of this divergence. But all in all, the uniqueness of the West is now suppressed.
Ricardo Duchesne, Reddit 5 Comments
[1/16/2018 3:14:16 PM]
Fundie Index: 4