Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Rise of Greek Civilization

So, Russell left us last week with an oscillation -- the pitch between social-cohesion/tradition/authority/dogma and individualism/empiricism/science.
Which makes me think of Galileo, sitting before the Catholic tribunal, feeling convinced of what he had observed and reasoned, and yet perhaps also feeling sympathy for the concepts that the Catholic Church had draped her authority, and therefore her empire, over.
Perhaps the best image of this oscillation is the French Revolution. France swung, in a matter of ten years, from a Monarchical society, where Aristocracy and Clergy held places of power, to "forms based on the Enlightenment" -- individualism, science, democracy. Many hold that the conflict came because of the clash between the capitalistic bourgeoisie and the aristocracy -- which sounds again like this oscillation.
Russell chooses, I think, a middle way. He is all for science and subjectivity, but he also knows that Storming the Bastille might mean you get, along with a Republic, The Reign of Terror. You might get blood-thirsty mobs running through the streets.
Which makes me respect the original United States Government all the more -- for striking a delicate balance, or seeming to at least, between centralized power and individual freedom. But then, I have libertarian leanings.
Money -- so much has been said about it -- symbol of individualism, issued by a centralized power.

Which has nothing yet to do with the Rise of Greek Civilization.

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