The demise of western civilization?

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Opus132
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The demise of western civilization?

Post by Opus132 » Fri Nov 24, 2006 5:30 pm


Febnyc
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Post by Febnyc » Fri Nov 24, 2006 8:05 pm

That link opens up some interesting but, for me, convoluted ideas. I found it difficult grasping the thread of the discourse.

However, I am just finishing reading Gibbon's Decline and Fall...and the parallels between the (long) decline and eventual dissolution of the Roman Empire and our political situation (national and international) today are chillingly alike. The Barbarians kept up their attempts to undo Rome's greatness and their patience and the timelessness of their overall plan eventually degraded the ability of the Roman Senate to resist. Many parallels - including venality and misdirection from those in "the purple." Sound familiar?

burnitdown
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Post by burnitdown » Fri Dec 01, 2006 6:49 pm

Yes.

I don't think it's much of a secret anymore that the West is in decline. Some of us don't like this idea because well, we're comfortable in our culture and we like it.

If you've read Republic by Plato, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot, you are probably aware of the problem: a lack of ability for quality to win out over quantity in a distracted, consequentialist world.

The question is what to do about it? Part of my response is to re-affirm culture including classical music, classical literature, and traditional spirituality (not Religion). And I mail copies of Spengler, Toynbee and Santayana to ex-girlfriends.

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Post by living_stradivarius » Fri Dec 01, 2006 11:19 pm

burnitdown wrote: If you've read Republic by Plato, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot, you are probably aware of the problem: a lack of ability for quality to win out over quantity in a distracted, consequentialist world.
Instead, read some Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman ;)
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Post by anasazi » Sat Dec 02, 2006 2:50 am

The web site was pretty vague on two of the most consequential things at work in the modern world: 1. global economy 2. global warming.

This is not a Rome thing going on now. Politics and the military are just window dressing to the real events. It is true that civility is seemingly in decline in some places (but not all).

But I have little doubt that the rising economic tide in China and Japan will not like to see their biggest market (or their biggest debtor - us) falter.

If we can overcome the global warming and detach ourselves from being addicted to petroleum, perhaps the USA and Europe can survive. I admit it is disheartening when it appears that a lot of us would just rather go out in a blaze of Marguerittas than leave something for our great grand kids.
"Take only pictures, leave only footprints" - John Muir.

burnitdown
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Post by burnitdown » Sun Dec 03, 2006 2:31 pm

I don't think it's a question of technology or spirituality (as the whitman poster suggested). I think it's a question of loss of culture, and ideals, and the will to do better. Civilization is values. When those values erode, it collapses.

Clearly he was on a Toynbee/Spengler kick, but that was a continuation of the wisdom of the Greeks.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Dec 04, 2006 2:05 am

burnitdown wrote:If you've read Republic by Plato, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot, you are probably aware of the problem: a lack of ability for quality to win out over quantity in a distracted, consequentialist world.
Very trendy opinion, that quality over quantity thing. I'm doubtful. Look around you. Can you honestly say that the majority of people are worse off now than they were 60 years ago, when the West was as close to collapse as it has ever been since the end of the Roman empire? If you think you can, I'd like to see your stats, you know, evidence. By just about any measure you care to think of the majority of people are much better off now than they were in 1946. It may be galling to the philosophers and culture vultures, but health and prosperity are the only indices that count.
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burnitdown
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Post by burnitdown » Wed Dec 06, 2006 5:57 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:Very trendy opinion, that quality over quantity thing. I'm doubtful. Look around you. Can you honestly say that the majority of people are worse off now than they were 60 years ago, when the West was as close to collapse as it has ever been since the end of the Roman empire? If you think you can, I'd like to see your stats, you know, evidence. By just about any measure you care to think of the majority of people are much better off now than they were in 1946. It may be galling to the philosophers and culture vultures, but health and prosperity are the only indices that count.
Let's look at your statement point by point.

Your main assertion, "health and prosperity are the only indices that count," is a technological (health) and materialist (prosperity) assessment of utilitarianism.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/conse ... sm/#ClaUti

As the entry points out, this verges on pure materialism and hedonism. What is left out?

1. Threats to the wellbeing of nations
2. Cultural considerations
3. Psychological condition

As far as "trendy" goes ;) it seems to me the only enduring historical trend is complacency.

If you accept these premises, we can move on to the rest of the debate.

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Wed Dec 06, 2006 6:12 pm

[This book argues that] the death of Homer means an erasure of an entire way of looking at the world, a way diametrically opposite to the new gods that now drive America: therapeutics, moral relativism, blind allegiance to progress, and the glorification of material culture. The loss of Classical learning and the Classical spirit as an antidote to the toxin of popular culture has been grievous to America, and it can be sensed in the rise of almost everything antithetical to Greek ideas and values: the erosion of the written and spoken word; the rise of commitments, both oral and written, that are not binding; the search for material and sensual gratification in place of spiritual growth and sacrifice; the growing conformity of urban life at the expense of the individual and the ethos of individualism; ahistoricism and a complete surrender to the present; the demise of the middle class.

When Garry Wills claims that the “concept of a serene core of cultural values at the center of Western civilization is entirely false” (New York Times magazine [February 16, 1997], p40), he simplifies and misrepresents the debate. (Has any contemporary scholar claimed the core was “serene”?) Mr. Wills is unaware that everything he now takes for granted in his own life—his freedom, his ability to question, provoke and censure, his education, his material bounty, his safety and security, everything from his computer to his degree to his library—derive from a core of Western values that are quite different from other cultures and that began with the Greeks. Certainly the Classical worlds have been variously interpreted by different cultures at different times through the last two millennia, but to conclude from this comforting bromide that there was no real “core” to Greek culture itself, a set of values accessible even now to readers of Greek and of importance to all of us today, is simply a lazy nod to postmodern hypocrisy.

Hanson, Victor Davis and Heath, John – Who Killed Homer? [Encounter p158-159]


If physical health and material consumption are now the only indices that matter, Western Civ is lost already. It wasn't just toys and drugs, for some. The West was far richer in art, aesthetics, science and educated and civilized people fifty years ago than today - not merely as a percentage of the population or cultural output, but total numbers.

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