RISE AND FALL

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Asabiyyah: What Ibn Khaldun, the Islamic Father of Social Science, Can Teach Us About the World Today

Written by: Ed West 

Narrated by:  P. J. Ochlan

ED WEST (ENGLISH AUTHOR, JOURNALIST, BLOGGER)

ED WEST (ENGLISH AUTHOR, JOURNALIST, BLOGGER)

IBN KHALDUN (STATUARY SYMBOL OF ISLAMIC HISTORIAN BORN 1332, DIED 1406 AT 73 YEARS OF AGE.)

IBN KHALDUN (STATUARY SYMBOL OF ISLAMIC HISTORIAN BORN 1332, DIED 1406 AT 73 YEARS OF AGE.)

Ed West offers a brief introduction to the life of an ancient historian.  His name is Ibn Khaldun.  Khaldun describes the first known evolutionary theory of human origin.  West also notes this 14th century scholar creates the first known socio/political theory of the rise and fall of civilizations.

Khaldun explains life’s origin as a aggregation of chemicals and minerals that create organic life and, in turn, evolve into different species. 

DESCENT OF MAN

West notes that Khaldun suggests humankind evolved from monkeys. This is four centuries before Darwin’s “Origin of Species”.

Ibn Khaldun is considered by some to be the first person to write foundational theories for modern sociology, economics, and demography.  West notes that Khaldun explains how nations are formed, maintained, and destroyed by sociological, economic, and demographic forces.

Khaldun offers counsel to the great conqueror, Amir Timur (aka Tammerlane), who plans to resurrect the 13th century Mongol empire built by Genghis Khan.  

TIMUR (AKA TAMMERLANE, 1336-1405)

TIMUR AKA TAMMERLANE IS COUNCELED BY IBN KHALDUN  (1336-1405–(Timur is said to have caused the death of over 17 million people in the effort.)

West suggests that Khaldun explains how Timur and other rulers, from the Roman empire to Genghis Kahn to Timur successfully conquered great areas of the known world.  His explanation is “Asabiyyah” (aas-sah-bee-ah), a theory that all successful conquerors establish a social environment that creates solidarity among a group of people sharing understanding, purpose, and achievement.

West explains that Khaldun expands “Asabiyyah” to a theory of civilization’s rise and fall.  Humans proliferate based on family affiliations.  Religion widens family relationships to create tribes. Tribes become a congregation of different families with common beliefs.  Tribes come into conflict and eventual settlements that grow into larger groups based on evolved common beliefs. 

At each step of widening common interest, a leader rises from the ranks.  With an accretion of social ties, villages, towns, and cities are formed with a leader at its head.  As the ties that bind continue to expand, nation-states are formed.

RISE AND FALL OF CIVILIZATIONS

Ibn Khaldun’s explanation is “Asabiyyah”, a theory that all successful conquerors establish a social environment that creates solidarity among a group of people through shared understanding, purpose, and achievement.

West shows that Khaldun goes on to explain how civilizations decline. First, Khaldun notes that sons and daughters of great leaders rarely exceed their parent’s leadership success.  Khaldun posits the current social and scientific belief of “reversion to a mean”. 

REVERSION TO THE MEAN

Each subsequent offspring of a great leader comes closer to the average of a civilization’s population.  Leadership diminishes in succeeding generations.

Second, Khaldun suggests diminished common beliefs lessen a civilization’s cohesion.  Religious differences rise, economic circumstances change, social groups fracture, family ties reassert themselves as ties that are more important than community.  The example that Khaldun gives is Rome’s decline as a world power. West suggests the same may be said of the United Kingdom’s decline.

AMERICAN DREAM

Has the American Dream become a lie few believe in?  Are elected officials withdrawing to their families at the expense of nation-state’ leadership?

West’s “Asabiyyah” makes one think of America.  Does today’s political conflict reflect diminishment of commonly held nation-state belief?  Is the increasing gap between rich and poor destroying the social fabric of America?  Is the divisiveness of former President Trump a reflection of a nation in decline?

Is nationalism dead, or are we crossing a threshold where the principals of nation-state need to be expanded to include a wider community?  Is the next step reflected by the E.U. or some similar congregation of nation-states?

EUROPEAN UNION

According to West, Khaldun believes nationalism is critically important for a civilization to remain strong.  In the time of Khaldun, there was no vehicle for common beliefs except a leader’s influence over conquered nations. 

Today, there is an internet.  It seems the human family may once again be expanded.  Nation-states may not be prepared for “space-ship-earth” but there may be an interim step.

That interim step was tried during the cold war with the U.S.S.R.  It failed.  The E.U. is facing challenges today.

U.S.S.R. BREAK-UP

Trump’s America is regressing from comity to disparity with emphasis on making itself great again.  A leading question today is whether civilizations are competing to be in decline or ascendance?

Of course, leadership is key to any future.  Right now, there seem few leaders that can make civilizations grow beyond their borders. Khaldun seems as relevant today as he was in the 4th and early 5th centuries.

Psychological Unease

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Cosmic SerpentTHE COSMIC SERPENT

Written by: Jeremy Narby

Narration by:  James Patrick Cronin

JEREMY NARBY (AUTHOR, PHD ANTHROPOLOGY FROM STANFORD)
JEREMY NARBY (AUTHOR, PhD ANTHROPOLOGY FROM STANFORD)

Psychological unease accompanies Jeremy Narby’s erudite speculation about the meaning and origin of life in “The Cosmic Serpent”.  The unease comes in two forms.  One, is Narby’s seduction by hallucinatory experience.  Young people in America are choosing to overdose rather than face today’s perceived reality.  The other is Narby’s patterning of observations to create either a true or false belief.  It reminds one of the potential of Einstein’s discovery of matter and energy equivalence.  Einstein discovered falsifiable evidence of nuclear fission that holds a key to sustainable energy.  He also opened the door to Armageddon.

TIMOTHY LEARY (1920-1996)
TIMOTHY LEARY (1920-1996)

Narby, like Timothy Leary, is educated at some of the best universities in the world (Leary at Harvard; Narby at Yale).  Both have PhDs. Narby has a PhD in anthropology; Leary in Psychology.  Few, if any, believe LSD (Leary’s hallucinatory drug of choice) offers insight to the origin and meaning of life. However, like Leary, Narby suggests hallucinatory drugs may be a pathway to understanding.

Regarding hallucinatory experience, Narby does not appear to have slipped into the bizarre behavior of a Timothy Leary; at least not yet. Narby is 59 years old.  When Narby did his research, he was in his late 20s and early 30s.  “The Cosmic Serpent is published when Narby is still in his 30s.  Leary lived to be 76.  Each passing year exaggerated Leary’s belief in the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs.

MIND PATTERNINGPatterning is the human ability to see structure in disparate facts and events.  Some say this is the sign of genius.  Einstein is said to have formulated a theory of time by riding a train.  Einstein’s insight came from thinking (patterning) how time is relative based on a person riding a train and a stationary observer watching the train pass.  However, patterning also leads to incorrect conclusions like a person’s recollection of a crime.  Human brains are shown to manufacture events and facts to make stories complete rather than necessarily accurate.

SHAMANISM
SHAMANISM – Narby’s articulate presentation of Peruvian shamanism tempts seekers of knowledge and experience to try something new.

Narby’s articulate presentation of Peruvian shamanism tempts seekers of knowledge and experience to try something new.  The temptation comes from different sources.  One is genuine interest in understanding more about the world and our place and purpose in it.  Another is the desire to believe that there is something more important in life than wealth, power, or position.

“The Cosmic Serpent” suggests that native cultures around the world offer insight to the origin and meaning of life because of common hallucinatory experiences.  Narby suggests the hallucinatory symbol of a winding serpent is evidence of the configuration and importance of DNA; long before Watson’s and Crick’s discovery.  The inference is that shamanistic hallucinations are not mere symbols but a truth of life.  Narby’s inference is that seekers of life’s truth should listen to the experience of shamans and pursue shamanistic experience through the studied use of their methods.

SNAKE-DNA IMAGE
Narby suggests the hallucinatory symbol of a winding serpent is evidence of the configuration and importance of DNA; long before Watson’s and Crick’s discovery.

Narby argues that the scientific community needs to widen its view of the world. He believes DNA holds the secrets of nature’s existence.  The question is whether youth and science should accept the risk of Narby’s patterned belief?

At the least, Narby makes one appreciate the importance of native culture.  He may be opening a worthy field of scientific research.  On the other hand, Narby may be creating false expectations that offer ignorance and escapism, rather than research and science.

TODAY IS YESTERDAY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Age of Anger

Written by: Pankaj Mishra

Narrated by: Derek Perkins

PANKAJ MISHRA (INDIAN WRITER AND NOVELIST)

PANKAJ MISHRA (INDIAN WRITER AND NOVELIST)

Pankaj Mishra shows that today is yesterday in “Age of Anger”.  President Trump in America, Xi in China, Modi in India, Putin in Russia, and other world leaders, return their countries to the ritual of nationalism; i.e. societies’ position of “all against all”.  Mishra’s observations imply either enlightenment is nigh, or an end is coming.

To some, covid-19 heightens belief that an end is coming. A view of history suggests that is nonsense.

GLOBAL WARMING

Today’s tribalist anger (aka extreme nationalism) carries the imprimatur of an overheated world from the threat of covid-19, a nuclear holocaust, and climate change.

ANGER AMONG LEADERS

This is not a new “Age of Anger”.  It is the same anger from the same origin.  Its origin is human ignorance; i.e. an ignorance existing from the beginning of time.

It is revivified by Mishra’s recount of violence between and among competing cultures.

Mishra focuses on the origin of anger in the world.  He offers examples written in the blood of all nations at different times in history.  India, China, Japan, Russia, Great Britain, South Africa, America, and other nations with different governments, different religions, and different cultural norms create ages of anger.  It is an anger inherent in humankind.  Mishra argues that anger is revealed by science and exposed in philosophy.

KELLYANNE CONWAY

Mishra suggests the “Age of Anger” is reinforced when philosophical interpretation distorts facts (aka Kellyanne Conway’s alternative facts). More recently, Trump’s early comments on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Science can be distorted by philosophical interpretation; e.g. Herbert Spencer captures Darwin’s theory and falsely interprets it as a social construct.

HERBERT SPENCER (ENGLISH PHILOSOPHER, BIOLOGIST, SOCIOLOGIST)

Spenser argues that society evolves and advances because of “survival of the fittest”.  He implies it is the same mechanism described in Darwin’s “…Origin of Species”.  Darwin’s research and theory of evolution are distorted by Spencer.

Spenser creates alternative facts.  Spenser argues that progressive development of society is dependent on ethics, religions, economics, political theories, philosophies, and sciences that are the fittest to survive.  Spenser infers survival is the only criteria of what is good for humankind.  To Spenser, life is a competition for “all against all”.

Darwin’s theory of evolution has little to do with survival of the fittest.  Extinction or perpetuation of an evolutionary line is a matter of happenstance; not fitness for survival.  (Hairlessness does not make humankind more fit for survival; i.e. it makes the human body more environmentally vulnerable.)

Mishra explains how concepts of materialism and well-being are interpreted within and among nation-states.  As materialism becomes a measure of well-being–money, power, and prestige set a precedent for valuing human existence in a Spenserian creed of “all against all”. 

Mishra reviews the beliefs of Voltaire, Nietzsche, and Kant to show how materialism, supermen, and human perception control the course of history.  Voltaire ranks wealth; Nietzsche ranks power, and Kant ranks perception as measures of human worth.

Mishra suggests anger has risen through generations, within and among nations, that explain world wars, genocidal acts, and atrocities beyond imagining.  That anger exhibited itself in the murder of an innocent woman in Valle Verde Park, California in April of 2019.

Our former President exacerbates American anger that is exhibited by extremists who attack Asian Americans because of an ignorant belief that China purposely introduced Covid19 to the world. If all Americans are not ashamed, they should be.

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/assaults-on-asian-americans-spike-nationwide-during-pandemic/

Extremists embarrass themselves and America by believing Q Anon conspiracy theories.

Pittsburgh Synagogue Murders (11 Dead, 6 wounded in October 2018.)

Poway, Valle Verde Park, CA Synagogue–murder of one and injury to three in April 2019.

It is fair to say that there have been respites from this cycle of violence.  But, unless or until human beings see themselves as part of the same society, the world will end in the Armageddon of biblical imagination.

THE CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Consolation of PhilosophyTHE CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY

Written by: Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius

Narrated by: David Rintoul

BOETHIUS (480 A.D.- 524 A. D., ROMAN SENATOR, CONSUL & PHILOSOPHER)
BOETHIUS (480 A.D.- 524 A. D., ROMAN SENATOR, CONSUL & PHILOSOPHER)

This translation of “The Consolation of Philosophy” impresses all who listen to it because of the beauty of Boethius’s writing and Rintoul’s narration.  Though one may either agree or disagree with Boethius’s religious philosophy, the juxtaposition of his poetry with chapters of Socratic dialog are a pleasure to hear.

Boethius is born into a rich aristocratic Roman family and achieves high office and continued wealth, even when Rome is conquered by a Ostrogothic King, Theodoric the Great. In the beginning of Theodoric’s reign, Boethius is a court favorite but in 524 AD, he is arrested and imprisoned for (according to Bothius’s writings) defending the poor and powerless from the new Roman Ostrogothic government.  During Bothius’s imprisonment, just before his execution, he writes and completes “The Consolation of Philosophy”.

One may think of Bothius’s book from two perspectives.  One, “The Consolation of Philosophy” is a treatise to justify God.  Two, “The Consolation of Philosophy” is a rationalization for mistreatment by others; i.e. “others” defined as both God and Mammon.

ROMAN MONEY CHANGERS (EXPULSION FROM THE TEMPLE)
ROMAN MONEY CHANGERS (EXPULSION FROM THE TEMPLE)

Boethius is visited by a vision of the “Lady of Philosophy” in his cell.  The “Lady” has been Bothius’s companion since childhood.  She sees Bothius shedding tears over his plight and asks why he laments his station in life after having so dutifully followed in the steps of the great philosophers of antiquity.  As the “Lady” recounts Plato’s and Aristotle’s teachings, she berates Bothius for his lamentation over loss of wealth, power, and prestige.  In a Socratic dialog, the “Lady” recounts the folly of those who covet worldly ephemera when “happiness” has always been the goal of human life.  Bothius begins to recollect the teachings of Plato and Aristotle that explain wealth, power, and prestige are fleeting values in life and never the source of happiness because of the constant fear of loss and the insatiable lust for more.

BOETHIUS' LADY OF PHILOSOPHY
BOETHIUS’ LADY OF PHILOSOPHY (In a Socratic dialog, the “Lady” recounts the folly of those who covet worldly ephemera when “happiness” has always been the goal of human life.)

OMNISCEINCE
The “Lady” reminds Boethius of the omniscience of God. 

The “Lady” reminds Boethius of the omniscience of God.  He knows all, sees all, and loves all.  Both good and evil are part of earthly life and it is only those who choose moderation in all things good that will find earthly happiness.  Bothius creates a Socratic dialog between himself and the “Lady” to question how God allows evil to exist, and whether man can have free will when God is omniscient and knows each human being follows a known path in life.  Bothius asks “…is there not chance in every person’s life that leads them in one direction or another?”

Boethius implies these questions are answered to his satisfaction.  He accepts God as omniscient.  Every listener will have their own opinion after completing Bothius’s story.  To some, the answers are the machinations of a man who rationalizes his bereft state; to others, the answers are a guide to life in this world.

In any case, “The Consolation of Philosophy” is a literary work of art.

NECESSARY TRUTH

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A young Black Man’s Education

Written by: Mychal Denzel Smith

Narrated by: Kevin R. Free

MYCHAL DENZEL SMITH (AUTHOR)
MYCHAL DENZEL SMITH (AUTHOR)

Mychal Smith’s book is difficult to listen to for a white liberal; i.e. the difficulty is more because of what Smith sees than what he does not see.  The necessary truth of what Smith sees is that being black, female, homosexual, or any color but white disadvantages citizens who live, work, and love in America.  Smith correctly notes that Barrack Obama did not change that truth.  But, for a liberal, Smith’s criticism of Obama is heart-rending.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
No singular person will ever unwind history’s discrimination. That Obama is black and became the first black president of the United States proves being human is the best one can be.

Smith’s expectation is superhuman.  No singular person will ever unwind history’s discrimination.  Obama is an extraordinary human being by any standard of measurement.  That Obama is black and became the first black president of the United States proves being human is the best one can be.  Martin Luther King’s “arc of justice” still bends toward freedom and equal opportunity for all; despite the world’s, let alone Obama’s, failings.

The nature of humankind is an evolutionary work in progress.  Sadly, evolution is a chancy proposition that moves human nature both backward and forward.  Maybe, humanity will never get to a state of freedom and equal opportunity, but Obama’s “audacity of hope” is better than anger, and fear.

MALCOLM X (1925-1965)
MALCOLM X (1925-1965, Malcolm X’s life experience and intelligence led him to believe all people are human beings.)

Smith cites Malcolm X as his ideal of black resistance but fails to note that Mr. Little evolved to believe separate but equal is a fiction.  Malcolm X broke from the Nation of Islam because of its belief in Black separatism and superiority.  Malcolm X’s life experience and intelligence led him to believe all people are human beings.

TRAVON MARTIN (
TRAYVON MARTIN

In being human, there is good and bad in every race, color, and creed. None of this denies Smith’s recognition of the questionable murder of Trayvon Martin, or the Jena Six debacle in Jena, Louisiana where a white high school student is beaten by five black teenagers.  Both incidents are riven with racial hatred, lack of justice, and human failing.

Smith gravitates to violent lyrics to say the anger of rap artists appeals to his inner frustration.  Smith recounts the considered statements of Kanye West when President Bush fails to conscientiously respond to the Katrina disaster in New Orleans.  (West suggested Bush did not care about black people.)  Ironically, Kanya West appears to support President-Elect Donald Trump who was sued for discrimination under the fair housing laws of the United States.

KANYE WEST AND DONALD TRUMP
Ironically, Kanye West appears to support President-Elect Donald Trump who was sued for discrimination under the fair housing laws of the United States.

There are many incidents that Smith recognizes as the failure of white America to treat minorities fairly.  At the same time, Smith is introspective in acknowledging some of his own human failings.  He writes of his fears, his desire to be a great writer, and his earlier life failure to understand how important women’s rights are in the black community.  He writes of his father’s concern over his sexuality and how gender discrimination has some of the same hatred, lack of justice, and human failing as black discrimination.

Listening to Mychal Denzel Smith is difficult because his observations explain why he, if not most, black Americans are disgusted with white America.  It makes a white person feel guilty because white Americans are the majority; and, as a majority, white (particularly male) America has the bulk of the country’s money, power, and prestige.  Until all people are humans first, there seems little reason to believe there is much hope for the “arc of justice” to bend toward freedom and equal opportunity for all.

PRISONHope is not enough for black American’s suffering today.  That is Mychal Smith’s message–too many blacks are being murdered; too many blacks are denied equal opportunity; too many blacks are jailed, and too many black families are broken.

What Smith fails to fairly acknowledge is who is at fault.  All of us share the blame.  Human beings must recognize the humanity of all human beings.  If evolution is not the answer, then human will (in a Nietzschean sense) must come to America’s aid.

LIFE’S IMPERFECTION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

This is Your Life, Harriet Chance

Written by: Jonathan Evison

Narrated by: Susan Boyce

Johnathan Evison (Author)

This is a story for those who have reached a certain age.  Though written by a man, it is narrated by a woman.  In some respects, that is a weakness.  Having been written by a man, it may distort the measure of a woman’s life.  However, Jonathan Evison offers an excellent representation of what life and death looks like to a man.  The mistakes some men make in life are legion, both as a parent and husband.

JONATHAN EVISON (AUTHOR)

Evison speculates on an afterlife that says humans either die into nothingness or go to a place of peace and reconciliation.  Those are the only options in Evison’s story. 

The options are extreme but can be ameliorated by a gate keeper’s decisions about life’s led.  However, if you violate rules for a personal appearance to those left behind, you are doomed to the first extremity, nothingness.  Evison’s husband’ and father’ character chooses to violate the rules; in part because of his many guilt’s for living a selfish life.  It seems a penance he must pay to his wife, mistress, and children.

What makes Evison’s story good is the truth of what foolish, selfish men do in their lives.  Though life is ephemeral; either temporal or spiritual, many mistakes are made, both moral and ethical.

HARVEY WEINSTEIN

Harvey Weinstein charged with rape and sexual misconduct on May 25th 2018.

lolita

There is the horrid obsession of men with little girls described in Nabokov’s “Lolita”.  There is the vacuous life of Richard Ford’s main character in “The Sportswriter”. 

There is Russell Banks’ depiction of a morally bankrupt man/boy who prostitutes himself in “Lost Memory of Skin”.

Putting aside these extreme examples, Evison tells a story of the more common variety of male transgressions.  His observations ring true to listeners of a certain age.

INFIDELITY

Most men will see themselves in aspects of Evison’s story; not the extremes of Nabokov, Ford, and Banks but less than what a moral person should be.

Men who cheat on their wives.  Men who use work as an excuse for family neglect.  Men who fail to take responsibility for helping raise their children.  Men who demean their wives because they undervalue their contribution to life’s fulfillment.  Men who neglect their wives because of self-absorption.

HUMAN FAULTS

Evison notes many faults in the lives of women in his story but having been written by a man, his objectivity is suspect.  On the other hand, women do cheat on their husbands.  Women do neglect their children.  Women do drink out of boredom with house work and social isolation.  Women do demean their husbands because they undervalue their contribution to life’s fulfillment.  Women do neglect their husbands because of self-absorption.

Joe Biden (Candidate for President of the United States.)

Evison touches every human being’s faults in “This is Your Life, Harriet Chance”.  No one is exempt from human failing. 

Being of a certain age makes Evison’s story enlightening and entertaining.  Enlightening because a listener knows they are not alone.  Entertaining because a listener will enjoy Evison’s perspective on life’s journey.

GOD IS NOT DEAD

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Great Ideas of Philosophy

Written by: The Great Courses

Narrated by: Professor Daniel N. Robinson

DANIEL N. ROBINSON (DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF PHILOSOPHY AT GEORGETWON UNIVERSITY)

DANIEL N. ROBINSON (DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF PHILOSOPHY AT GEORGETWON UNIVERSITY)

A conclusion that might be drawn from Professor Robinson’s history of philosophy is–Amy Coney Barrett’s religion cannot be a basis for dismissal from U.S. Supreme court nomination. To Robinson, a judge’s deliberation is based on living life in a world where science and religion are compatible.

God is not dead in Professor Daniel N. Robinson’s erudite and entertaining survey of “The Great Ideas of Philosophy”.  Robinson’s choice and interpretation of philosophical ideas infers there is no contradiction of science in religion except in ignorant interpretation of one or the other.

In Robinson’s “Great Courses”, science and religion represent a marriage of necessity.  Atheists, religious scholars, skeptics, and scientists may be appalled but Robinson implies nothing in religion or science contradicts creation, evolution, free will, or an omniscient and omnipresent God.  Robinson concludes that it is beyond the ken of the human mind to approach an experimentally provable explanation of a prime mover; i.e. a source from which something came from nothing.

Robinson reviews the course of philosophy from the ancient Greeks to selected present-day philosophical ideas.  He argues that science and religion explicate and complement knowledge of existence. Early heroes of philosophy range from Homer to Hippocrates to Aristotle.  With storytelling and explanations of Stoic and Epicurean ideological movements, Robinson lays the foundation for philosophy’s growth.

PLATO'S REPUBLIC

Robinson recounts Homer’s tragic and triumphant stories of ancient wars, the medical philosophy of Hippocrates, and the testaments of Plato’s politics and Aristotle’s science.  He credibly and creatively builds the foundation of philosophy.  These great intellects pursue explanations for the unknown origin and nature of things and beings.  Each pillar rising from the foundation reveals more questions than answers but inevitably point toward life’s purpose and understanding.  Robinson argues that Aristotle is the first to develop a concept of scientific investigation through experimentation. ARISTOTLE'S SCIENCE

Aristotle owes some of the idea of science to Plato’s conceptualization of human nature in an idealization of a perfect city-state, or polis.  One of “The Great Ideas of Philosophy” begins with Plato’s “Republic”.  The scientific principle of Plato’s “Republic” is in investigating something bigger (the polis in this instance) to understand the nature of individual beings. It is a method of science for understanding the details of nature’s order by investigating a singular life within a social framework of something bigger.  A city-state, the polis, is defined and idealized in Plato’s book.

PLATO'S POLIS

Plato explains some citizens are born as warriors, as builders, as merchants, as slaves, and a few as philosopher Kings; each contributes to the well-being of a city-state.  The whole is greater than its parts but each part is benefited by the whole.  Every individual in a city-state, like every organ in the body, has a purpose based on what he/she does best.  Plato’s “Republic” categorizes members of the Polis into functional groups based on virtue.  Virtue is defined as being the best at what one does in their category of birth.

RULE OF LAW

Robinson notes that the Socratic method of investigation comes from stories written by Plato.  These stories are a precursor to Stoic philosophical development.  Plato’s story of Socrates’ choice of death and his idealization of government in “The Republic” remove passion from decision-making.  Virtue comes from dispassionately assessing the human condition and responding with a wisdom based on belief in justice, rule-of-law, and temperance.  Aristotle expands on these ideas in the “Nicomachean Ethics”.

PRINCIPLES OF THE NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

PRINCIPLES OF THE NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

Plato’s parable of the cave in which humankind is chained; facing a wall and seeing only shadows of reality, exemplifies the difficulty of clearly knowing the truth of nature.  Only in removing those chains can one begin to see and understand reality.  As Plato’s story goes, those who see the truth are unable to convince those who remain in the cave.  It is a story that is repeated in history as science progresses with fits and starts because of resistance from those who remain chained.  Science progresses as experimental proof removes the doubts of the cave dwellers.  However, Robinson notes that even when the truth is experimentally proven, doubt remains.  He notes Karl Popper’s observation that infinite experimentation is impossible; therefore truth, at best, is a probability; not a certainty.

PLATO'S CAVE

Robinson explains that the Stoic movement provides a bridge for religion to enter the secular life of the Roman Empire.  The principles of Christianity provide a foundation for law within the Roman Empire.  In offering a philosophical basis for dispassionate adjudication, Christianity becomes an essential part of Roman hegemonic influence.

THE RISE OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE

The discipline of religion and law leads to the creation of the university, a citadel of teaching.  The great religions of the world gravitate to this form of political and educational influence.  Inquiring minds are stimulated in this environment.

OLDEST UNIVERSITY

The principles of scientific investigation reappear with a stoic influence that moves humanity to a more secular view of life and its purpose.  Soon, the so-called Renaissance displaces the so-called Dark Ages.  Robinson takes issue with these categories of history because he finds growth of human understanding in both eras.  He also finds violation of human rights in both eras.

CHARLEMAGNE IMAGE (REIGN 12.15.800 TO 1.28.814, BORN 768, DIED 814)

CHARLEMAGNE IMAGE (REIGN 12.15.800 TO 1.28.814, BORN 768, DIED 814)

The Frankish Emperor Charlemagne is noted as a prominent leader during the “Dark Ages”.  He sets the stage for a modern Europe.  The Magna Carta is created to reduce the monopolistic power of European monarchs.

Robinson suggests the seeds for Enlightenment are sewn during the “Dark Ages”.  Influential monks like Benedict of Nursia became a model for most Western monasteries that dictated the lives of congregations.  Giant strides in science and math were made in the Islamic world during the “Dark Ages”.  Art and literature flourish during the rule of Charlemagne.  The Agricultural Age and the development of community settlements is born in the “Dark Ages”.

The brutality of the “Dark Ages” does not disappear in the Renaissance.  Though the Renaissance is characterized by great leaps in knowledge from men like Francis Bacon, Machiavelli, Galileo, Bruno, Montaigne, Hobbes, and others; witches were burned at the stake for being agents of the devil.

WITCH BURNED AT THE STAKE

WITCH BURNED AT THE STAKE

Witch hunting and condemnation aside, these early Renaissance men set the stage for Descartes, Newton, Locke, Hume, Voltaire, Thomas Reid and others.  Many of these Renaissance men are deeply religious; however, they explain the world and human nature in scientific terms.

The mysteries of life explained by religious fiat are systematically replaced by “I Think; Therefor I Am”, “We build too many walls and not enough bridges”, “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom”, or “There is no greater impediment to the advancement of knowledge than the ambiguity of words.”

AMERICAN CONSTITUTION

Robinson suggests that the American Constitution is a document created from the progress of Philosophy that began with the Greeks, and evolved through social experimentation; founded on religion and science. 

He particularly refers to the Federalist Papers and the participation of Madison, Hamilton, and to a lesser extent, Jay in writing the Papers to convince the American public of the need for democratic government.

Washington’s and Jefferson’s contribution to the establishment of an American government is founded on the tenants of religion and science.  Religion inculcated morality and ethics for equality and justice for all.  Science inculcated past social experiments to create a government of checks and balances.

Robinson offers more contemporary philosophical change wrought by Kant, Hegel, William James, Wittgenstein, and Turing but all revolve around two essential philosophical ideas.  One, know thyself, and two, recognize we are chained to a cave wall; with little hope of finding truth accepted by all.

These lectures are biased toward western civilization but they offer insightful commentary on where western progress came from; what it is, who shaped it, and where it may go.