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03 February 2017


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Babak Makkinejad

Richard Sale:

I think the English would call it the absence of Judgement.

I must admit that, overall, the Perfidious Albion seems to have had almost a complete monopoly on that quality for centuries.


Mr. Sale,
I have just read your post with interest as usual and can agree with much of it, but I find several thoughts and statements to be mistaken or misleading. I hope my reply is not mere pedantry.

In your fourth paragraph, you write, ‘The best of the Greeks pursued excellence (‘arte’’ [sic]), an honorable existence, but the din of the mob drove the excellent underground.” I believe ‘arte” should read aretē,’ the usual transliteration of αρετή in the Greek, which means virtue in a sense of the term not exactly excellence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_virtues As this Wiki points out, there are four cardinal virtues identified by the Greeks and adopted or inherited by the Romans. Christian theology added three.

In your final paragraph, you write, ‘Over time, the faultiness of a system begins to come clear.” He took s [sic] big drag on his cigarette “What we really need these days is a deeper kind of self-questioning, but no one is doing it, not in America these days.”’

What is your first quote here? You do not indicate where your first quote begins but indicate that it closes after clear. In addition, are we to read your reference to a male taking a drag on a cigarette as a reference to yourself?


Yet it was the Islamists (Babylonians initially) who took over the Greek knowledge in 700 AD, and drove it to heights the Greeks never realized, and moved it westward. [It was not the Romans.] Robert Briffault in his The Making of Humanity, 1919, describes this starting on page 182 (only have to read about 25 pages from there, pgs 182-185 are boring, but then it clips). The book is available on archive.org.

Briffault draws on the records of Christian monks and Jewish scribes (preserved in churches and synagogues) who made pilgrimages to Cordova starting in 800 AD to learn the tremendous advances in science, mathematics, jurisprudence, astronomy, medicine, botany, architecture, civil engineering, literature, art, and culture in that the Black North Africans and Islamists brought to the European continent, surpassing all knowledge that had been known in Europe before then. Briffault points out that (and I may be paraphrasing him incorrectly, so read it for yourself) that whereas the Greeks had proposed the theorems and ideas, it was Islamic science that did the heavy work proving what the Greeks did not.

For example, one guy spent 40 years doing the botanical work to prove one botanical claim the Greeks made by doing infinitely detailed that survives to this day. The Greeks didn’t do it. The Islamists were doing eye surgery in Cordova in the 9th C that utilized tools they created still in use today...as are the procedures. Ditto surgical operating tools. Every operating room in the country today still uses the surgical operating tools invented by Islamic Science, like the scalpel and others I forget. We use their pharmacology and diagnoses in western medicine--still. They discovered and initiated cut gut to sew sutures. While Europe, plunged in the Dark Ages, was still scratching its head trying to figure out Euclid’s Fourth Principle, the Black Africans and Islamists were using trigonometry and calculus on the streets of Cordova.

Another historian, whose name I’ve forgotten, expanded on Briffault’s work in 1936.

Briffault names the Italian monk who brought back translations of Arabic science from Cordova in the 1400s on man-made flight (which the Islamists invented in the 12th C) and the movement of the planets, made available to Leonardo da Vinci (flight), and Copernicus (heliocentric movement), the Polish monk we credit with discovering it (not). Islamic scientists in Cordova had been sneering at the Roman Catholic Ptolemaic view for over 400 years. Another tidbit: we think Nobel discovered TNT/dynamite. Nope. The Islamists had discovered it and shared its formulation with anyone who asked 800 years before. Of course, Islamic Science probably got it from the Chinese, their allies for centuries, who perfected it around the time they invented the printing press in 200 AD. [No one wanted a 5,000-character printing press in a language they didn’t understand ... .;-) ... so it didn’t catch on outside China.]

English Outsider

Nice piece. I'm usually a bit slow with these things but it didn't take me long to realise this wasn't an essay on Greek history. As for the "deeper kind of self questioning", I thought that didn't usually come until after the crash. In any case it would take a religious genius to put this lot back together, in America or in the West generally.

The last great religious genius, or prophet, was Joseph Smith. Understood myth and knew or intuited enough about the way science and rationalism was going to incorporate that in his vision. The doctrine of continuing revelation should have been the forerunner of a creative traditionalism. I don't know if Smith's premature death prevented a fuller development of that but for whatever reason it didn't become part of mainstream thinking and it's unlikely to now.

Now all we have to fall back on is common sense allied to a certain weariness with progressive foolery. That and the core values that are always with us. Scarcely a combination sufficient for that "deeper kind of self-questioning" but it would do for a start, wouldn't it?

Oh, and Babak Makkinejad, this "Perfidious Albion" thing. Please don't think that the English have or ever had much to do with English foreign policy. Chance'd be a fine thing but, as in America, that's done for us. Though once in a blue moon we get a say.


Godfree Roberts

China's governance model, designed by Confucius, anticipated and avoided these traps. It's still working fine after 2,000 years.


Nevertheless, as brought up as an RC, I joined the clergy and workers in laughing at the Islamic tourists weeping in the Cathedral of Córdoba when there two years ago. For those unaware, the Cathedral encompasses one of the finest mosques of the Moorish period.
The Cathedral is pretty poor, Mosque apart.


A very interesting article. Thank you.

The book reviewed in the link following is, for me, very persuasive in its rather offbeat take on Greek life in the Classical period. The review is fair.



pedantic point, but i think its very important to get the fact right in arguments like this

Copernicus was not plagiarizing moors in spain, but the persians and turks in Samarkand


"Beg determined the length of the tropical year as 365d 5h 49m 15s, which has an error of +25s, making it more accurate than Nicolaus Copernicus' estimate which had an error of +30s. Beg also determined the Earth's axial tilt as 23.52 degrees, which remains the most accurate measurement to date. It was more accurate than later measurements by Copernicus and Tycho Brahe, and it matches the currently accepted value precisely.[10]"

and i was plagiarized badly.


I concur w Haralombos that this portrayal mistakes and confounds a base conventional personal morality for higher virtue ethics of the kind expounded not only by Christianity but through thousands of years in Confucianism, Daoism, Vedic, and Buddhist traditions. Some of the best work on this was done last century by L Kohlberg in empirically establishing moral theory as an evolutionary stage process, which was picked up and developed in theology by Fowler and developmental psychology by Kolhberg's protege Kegan. (For a very brief overview of Kohlberg's moral stages, see intro pages of article http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethics/2010/12/22/restoring-mulasarvastivada-bhikṣuṇi-ordination/)

Social scientists Clare Graves and Don Beck showed w empirical studies the very key finding that any given group will not advance to more than 1.5 stages of moral and social evolution through the Kohlberg-like stages at any one time, and has to proceed through the intermediate stages. This explains phenomena like climate change deniers etc. Just shaming or promoting Green philosophy is insufficient. (See Beck's text Spiral Dynamics or Wilber's integral psychology).

The evolution also has to be integral. I.e., even though, as MRW points out, Arabs and the Vedic philosophers preceding Islam had advanced indigenous calculus and constructivist philosophy millennia before Europe, because the advance was constrained to elite intellectuals and not integral with a wider social evolution in governance (stuck in utilitarian moral conventions), it didn't translate into explicit social culture evolution in terms of self governance, democratic jurisprudence, and so forth.

Similarly, we see lack of integration of the latter in Western so-called post-modern culture, as evidenced in apparent present social regression in Western social culture. It is an apparent regression and not true because the evolution never took hold sustainably in the first place. Likewise, the past 25 years of obsession in West with utilitarian morality of economics and finance and funding valuation of only quantitative STEM professions (and their lawyers) betrays failed integration of moral and ethics advances in the public culture. We can code up a storm to go with our manufactured widgets and gadgets, but don't ask techies to explain, finance, or exemplify social etiquette, or fund humanities education where such things have been taught historically outside of religious institutions. Look to the Chinese not the West for 20 year plans for national development and humanities education funding!


Bravo, Richard! Well done. Part of my reflection went back to the old New England practice of "Leveling". I recall reading that it caused havoc with trying to organize coherent military organization in the Continental Army and had to be dealt with in organizing Maine units during the WBS.

Richard Sale

Correcting a mistake is not pedantry. I mauled that word, savaged it. I had difficulty inserting accent aigu. (French - for (acute accent.) I typed it five times and still got it wrong. I should have gone to Wikipedia as you did instead of making an ass of myself.

Thank you for the correction


Richard Sale

wonderful post. I have the flu but which get back to you.

The Arabs were vital in preserving Greek knowledge.



Richard Sale
Let us not confuse "Arabs" with "Muslims." the preservation of classical Hellenistic knowledge in the early centuries of Islamic rule in Syria, Iraq and Egypt was largely the work of convert communities among populations who had earlier been Greek speaking and largely Christian. pl

Richard Sale

Pat is right. I should have said Muslims

Babak Makkinejad

A thousand apologies English Outsider; only wrote that in an ironic manner.

Babak Makkinejad


And yet no one mentions the contributions of that beautiful but extinct civilization; Byzantium to both the Diocletian West and the nascent Muslim civilization.

Likely because the Muslim and the Diocletian civilizations extinguished Byzantium.

Cold War Zoomie

"What we really need these days is a deeper kind of self-questioning, but no one is doing it, not in America these days." Have we ever? I'm being serious. We have been arguing over the role of government since day one, and some of those early elections were even more brutal than this last one. Plus, we as a people tend not to look back and re-evaluate what we're doing. One of my coworkers is almost 60 years old and has no clue how our government works. He believed it was a pyramid, with the President on top "running the country." He is too ignorant (literally) to question or re-evaluate. And he is not alone.

The ancient Greece you describe was the example the Founders used for *not* expanding the franchise. As the franchise expanded, the pendulum has swung from elite rule closer towards mob rule. One article I read says that only 10-15% of the population could vote after the Constitution was ratified due to the franchise restrictions established in each state. And that would only be for their local legislature and House of Representatives since Senators were appointed. That was a mechanism to thwart mob rule.

But can we go back to the old ways? Not in my lifetime. Taxpayers should be allowed to vote based on the arguments of the early Republic, and the income tax meets that requirement. Human nature has remained constant since our founding but our society is very different from then - restricting the franchise based on race, religion and sex is unacceptable (as I believe it should be). Somehow we need to allow the pendulum to swing back towards elite rule. But first those elite need to be competent and trustworthy. And I'm not confident they are.


“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

― H.L. Mencken, On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe

Richard Sale

Digging through my notes.

Arête was a prize a reward for warlike valor, heroic strength, courage, intellectual ability, and later, a sense of duty. The origins of Greek culture were based on an aristocracy who admired superiority and outstanding ability. Surpassing strength and prowess in war were the basis of leadership of the Greek nobles.

A slave had half the arête of a nobleman. The ordinary man had no arête.


Cold War Zoomie

"Likewise, the past 25 years of obsession in West with ... funding valuation of only quantitative STEM professions (and their lawyers)..." This is a pet peeve of mine although I have made a fairly good living in high tech.

Our society has morphed into the view that a "higher education" means getting a degree that will make you money. They Liberal Arts are viewed as some inferior and colossal waste of time, effort and money. Universities are now viewed by many as trade schools. It is very difficult to argue with engineers and computer scientists that the arts matter. I feel it in my bones, but am no good arguing the point.


There some unnoticed "double entendre" in this:
- Shall we understand that the White House is now adorned by a downright moron.
- And... that this is the normal result of "perfect democracy"?

Dr. Puck

Forgive me in advance for deliberately entering a kind of sophistry, in compressing the implications of both Sales' and the committee's musings to bare minimums. (Thank you Richard, and also, thanks for the surprising entry of Graves and Beck!)

Still, in the background for me is the situation of over-generalizing, for example in describing the totality of the disagreeable opposition as constituting some utopian "ism."

Where there is an argument on behalf of self-questioning, in practice there come to rise an exemplification and estimation of superior and inferior.

Where there arises the superior and inferior there comes to rise an elite of the superior.

Where there arises an elite of the superior there comes to rise a utopian goal, a goal implicit in the aspirations of the superior.

Where there arises an elite utopia there soon arises an opposing--an equal opposite--estimation of the superior.

This opposition comes to constitute a utopian anti-utopia. And, soon enough its exemplars constitute a new utopian aspiration, and followed back down to sources, we find the ratification of self-questioning, and exemplars.

Missing in this is a bunch, yet I'll highlight the implicit requirement for compliance, thus the deplorables on both sides (are said to) need to yield to the superior prior self-questioning of some elite.

Pick your utopia. Guenon, (as against the 'reign of quantity,') Nishida, Habermas, Augustine, (immortality,) many many other self-questioning persons. (Men, verticality.)



Byzantium was rebuilt as Constantinople by the Emperor Constantine. I suppose we can use the modern pc language and say Mehmed II was just an immigrant.


"Somehow we need to allow the pendulum to swing back towards elite rule. But first those elite need to be competent and trustworthy."

Or, reduce the scope and role of the federal government to the intent of the Constitution. There has been much abuse of the "interstate commerce" clause.



I guess I am sorry for having been ill and not posting your comment immediately. pl

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