4.28.2017 Day in History

Internationally, today is Workers Memorial Day and World Day for Safety & Health at Work, and in Canada, April 28th marks a National Day of Morning for workers who suffer occupational injury, illness, and death; in Palestine eight hundred twenty-five years back, the Italian Third Crusade leader, Conrad I, recently risen to ‘King of Jerusalem, died at the hands of indigenous Hashshashin; seven hundred sixty-four years prior to this precise point, a Japanese monk first advances the chant that underlies worship of lotus order in the universe, the foundation of Nichiren Buddhism; a quarter millennium hence, in 1503, the first battle that gunpowder enabled armaments won, in Southern Italy, took place at Cerignola when an Italian force half the size of their French and Spanish opponents prevailed; a hundred eight years subsequently, in 1611, Spain’s Catholic prelates established the University of Santo Tomas, which has become the world’s biggest Church-of-Rome university; two hundred sixty-five years ahead of our present day, a baby boy came into the world who would grow up as slaveowner, politician, and President James Monroe; two hundred twenty-eight years ago, rebellious sailors aboard the Bounty set ship’s captain Bligh and a score of his followers adrift on the Pacific, before they absconded with themselves and ended up on Pitcairn Island with women and provisions from Tahiti; three years later, in 1792, France’s forces invaded Austria’s dominion in present-day Belgium and initiated the French Revolutionary Wars; one hundred forty-eight years before the here and now, workers on the Central Pacific Railroad, primarily Chinese and Irish, complete ten miles of track in one day, a record still unbroken; twelve years subsequently, in 1881, William Bonney, now known as Billy the Kid, escaped from a lockup in Mesilla, New Mexico;  six years following that juncture, in 1887, across the Atlantic in Prussia, Germany’s Emperor William I ordered the release an Alsatian spy about whom France had threatened war if the alleged agent did not go free; one hundred eleven years in advance of today, a male infant was born who would mature as the philosopher and mathematician of uncertainty, Kurt Godel; ninety-seven years prior to the present pass, Azerbaijan became a Soviet Socialist Republic; a half-dozen years thereafter, in 1926, a baby girl took her first breath en route to life as writer and thinker, Harper Lee; a further six years down the road, in 1932, American researchers announced the creation of a vaccine against Yellow Fever; seven hundred thirty days more proximate to now, in 1934, a girl child came along in a wealthy milieu that fostered her abilities as writer and storyteller and scribe of scripts, Diane Johnson; seventy years back, a team of adventurers under 1024px-Australia_Present_Vegetation_Mapthe guidance of Thor Heyerdahl made the trip from the South Pacific to South America on a rudimentary raft, to demonstrate that such a route for transit may have been possible hundreds or thousands of years earlier; half-a-decade henceforth, in 1952, Eastward across the Pacific, the U.S. occupation of Japan came to an end as the Treaty of San Francisco took effect; a year later to the day, in Chile in 1953, a boy child uttered his first cry on his way to a life as the thinker, writer, and poet, Roberto Bolano; another three hundred sixty-five days onward, in 1954, five thousand miles Northeast in France, the Nobel Prize winner, union leader, and Buchenwald Concentration Camp survivor Leon Johhaux drew his last breath; a half century and two years ago, the United States orchestrated an invasion of the Dominican Republic to forestall an independent, erstwhile communist government’s taking power on the island; a dozen years beyond that conjunction, in 1977 in Budapest, the World Intellectual Property Organization oversaw the signing of a treaty that governed the protocols for patenting biological materials;nine years still closer to today, in 1986, the detection of elevated radiation levels in Scandinavia induced the Soviet Union to admit that a meltdown had occurred at Chernobyl. From Wikipedia Day in History

4.28.2017 Nearly Naked Links

From Thursday’s Files

"Gaius Caesar Caligula" by Louis le Grand cc 3.0
“Gaius Caesar Caligula” by Louis le Grand cc 3.0

Works of Weber – https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/weber.htm#s2

Moral and Spiritual Dimensions of Capital Punishment – http://dioscg.org/index.php/would-jesus-pull-the-switch/

Spiritual Political Activism – http://www.sisterhelen.org/the-imperative-to-speak-out/

War on Drugs – http://www.contributoria.com/issue/2015-01/54559901083e5e7b1a0000b5.html

On Learning Now – https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/fr/lyotard.htm

Legalizing Drug Illegality – http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/40282-it-s-time-to-legalize-marijuana-and-abolish-the-drug-czar

Marshall Plan –  https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IN10688.pdf

Westinghouse Impacts – https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/IN10689.pdf
Suicide or Not –  http://www.activistpost.com/2017/04/never-forget-hero-cop-blew-whistle-okc-bombing-not-commit-suicide.html

What is Russia What is Crimea – http://theduran.com/french-presidential-candidate-francois-fillon-says-that-crimea-is-russia/

New Inquiry –  https://thenewinquiry.com/what_is_the_new_inquiry/

Russian Spy Modules – http://fortunascorner.com/2017/04/20/is-there-a-russian-mole-inside-the-nsa-the-cia-or-both/

Economy and Arrogance – http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/against-false-arrogance-of-economic-knowledge.html

Persistent Caste in India – https://aeon.co/essays/how-india-deludes-itself-that-caste-discrimination-is-dead

Fascism Respendent –  http://www.blacklistednews.com/On_The_Left%27s_Descent_To_Fascism/58011/0/38/38/Y/M.html

French Presidential Candidate –   https://theconversation.com/profile-jean-luc-melenchon-the-far-left-candidate-shaking-up-the-french-election-76384

Who Is Really in Charge – http://www.defenddemocracy.press/caligulas-horse-who-is-running-the-united-states-of-america/

4.28.2017 Doc of the Day

1. Leon Jouhaux, 1951.
2. Roger Hart, 1999.
3. Rebecca Goldstein, 2017.

Numero Uno“It will certainly come as no surprise to you when I tell you that one of the most moving, as well as one of the happiest, moments of my life occurred on the evening of Monday, November 5, 1951. A reporter whose initiative I have already commended to the French Broadcasting System, eager to satisfy his professional conscience by extracting a sensational statement from me, came to inform me at a somewhat late hour that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee of the Norwegian Parliament had just bestowed on me one of the most renowned and flattering distinctions that this world can offer.

Perhaps he was disappointed by my reception and by the way in which I immediately identified myself with the working classes and their trade unions when I responded to the award of this prize, which reflects so much honour on its founder, on those whose mission it is to confer it, and on him who receives it. But I can assure you that not for the briefest instant did I believe that it was I alone who was the recipient of this great reward.

I have never ceased to do my utmost to be the faithful interpreter and devoted servant of the ideals of peace and justice upheld by out trade-union organizations, and at such a solemn moment it was natural for me to regard myself simply as their representative. I speak as their representative now as I review for you their constant efforts to hasten the advent of an era of peace for which all men long and in which, to borrow the words of Jean Jaurès1, “mankind, finally at peace with itself” will pursue its own destiny in joy and harmony.

My emotion was, nonetheless, great. Neither my friends nor my family, who should know me better than anyone else does, have ever doubted the strength of my nerves. They would be more likely to reproach me – and sometimes with less than kindly truculence -for a calmness that some of them call placidity. True enough, nature has endowed me with a fair measure of patience and composure, yet I should be lying if I told you that, having seen the reporter off on his way to make his deadline, I fell peacefully asleep. That evening, all that night, I waited in vain for a slumber that wouldn’t come.

And during those long hours I was assailed by many memories. I saw again the house where I was born, which disappeared in 1898 with the abattoir of Grenelle. I was not quite two years old when my parents left it and, after a brief stay in the country, made a home in Aubervilliers. This town so near Paris where I spent my youth was the Aubervilliers of the end of the last century. Being at that time more than half agricultural, it scarcely resembled the industrial city of today. It afforded us children wide-open spaces, covered with grain in the summer, and it gave us the clear waters of the Courneuve River flowing nearby where we spent many pleasant hours of bathing and swimming.

This almost rustic life made me a sturdy and stable man, and, despite the unpretentiousness of our family life and its hazards, I look back on those days with considerable pleasure.

However, it was at Aubervilliers that I felt for the first time the hard consequences of the struggle of the workers for improvement of their living conditions. These had a considerable influence on my future.

My father, a veteran of the Commune2, his convictions and his fighting spirit unbroken by the defeat of the workers in 1871, took an energetic and untiring part in the strikes which set the workmen of the match factory where he worked against the management of the company prior to its becoming nationalized. The courageous efforts of my mother, who resumed her job as a cook, were not enough to compensate us for the loss of my father’s wages, and it was during one of these strikes that I had to leave elementary school before I was twelve to work at the Central Melting House in Aubervilliers.

My parents, and especially my mother, encouraged by the director of the local school which I was attending, wanted in spite of everything to send me to a National School of Arts and Crafts so that I could later become an engineer. I was keen to study and had some natural mechanical ability, and so I entered the Colbert upper primary school. Less than a year later, because of a reversal of the family fortunes, I was forced to leave and go to work in the Michaux Soap Works. From this time on, except for one more attempt at schooling when I spent a year at the Diderot Vocational School, I was, at the age of fourteen, completely caught up in the hard life of the industrial worker.

When I was sixteen, I became a member of the trade union at the match works where I had rejoined my father. I did so without question. My father’s vigorous example and my own experience led me quite naturally to participate in the worker’s movement. I had suffered personally from the social order. My school work, my intellectual gifts, my eagerness to study, had all come to nothing. I had been brutally compelled to leave the upper primary school and even the vocational training school and to become a wage earner of the humblest order.

This day has been set aside for all countries to celebrate the anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights3. And with a passion fired by these memories of an adolescent deprived of the right to realize his full intellectual potential, I wish to express my own conviction that, thanks to the action of true trade unionists and sincere democrats, all the sacred and inalienable rights of man will henceforth be recognized without reservation and that man will be able to exercise these rights without hindrance.

The feeling of having been unjustly treated drove me to spend much time in the library of the Aubervilliers libertarian group, one of the few places where I could escape intellectually from my situation. Reading the books that I found there reinforced my feelings of rebellion against the established order and against social injustice.

I propose now to review the progress of trade-union activity for international peace. To this end I shall disregard all its other aspects, but first, in order to stress by a personal example its positive results with regard to the protection of the workers’ health, let me give you the reasons for the first strike in which I took part. I participated in this strike not simply as a member of the trade union but as its administrative secretary; in other words – to give you an exact idea of my functions and responsibilities in this humble office – I drafted the minutes of meetings of the trade-union council, of the general assemblies, and sometimes of delegations. I do not think that I owed this mark of confidence to my worth as a trade unionist; I owed it, more likely, to my having received a less sketchy education than that of my comrades: the great school reforms of the Third Republic had not yet been in existence ten years.

Instigated by the National Federation of Match Factory Workers4, itself adherent to the C.G.T. which had been established in 18955, this strike involved the whole trade corporation and aimed principally at prohibiting in the manufacturing process the use of white phosphorus, which constituted no small danger, particularly to the dental health of the personnel. The strike lasted over a month, but it led directly to the calling of the Bern Conference which prohibited the use of noxious substances6. This first success naturally could not fail to encourage me to persevere in trade-union action, which at the same time satisfied both my urge to work against iniquity and my youthful need for tangible achievements.

Another consequence of the same strike was the bringing into use of the “continuous” machine, as it was called, which increased production as it eased the drudgery of the workmen. This led me to understand that trade unionism, the instrument of working-class liberation and of social change could, and indeed should, be also an instrument of industrial progress. Nor did it take me long to see therein one of the most effective means for freeing the world of the always menacing specter of war.

Why should I not state openly, Ladies and Gentlemen, the fact that the first manifestation of the trade-union struggle for peace, and particularly the French trade-union struggle into which I threw myself with all the ardour of my youth, was antimilitaristic in thought and sometimes also in deed? Is not one of the greatest sins against the spirit that of knowingly concealing the truth? And would it not be ridiculous to reproach the trade-union movement with having confused cause and effect? Sociologists worthy of the name never make the mistake of reproaching primitive peoples for their belief that the sun moves round the earth. We too, through lack of knowledge and of sufficiently mature reflection, mistook the visible outward appearance of the phenomenon for the phenomenon itself. I would add that my memory of that period, perhaps because of the mirage which the passage of the years evokes, is that of a great enthusiasm, undoubtedly sparked more by irrational hope than by any constructive will; but that fervour makes me feel all the more bitter about the atmosphere of indifference, fatalism, and resignation that has persisted up to the present time on our continent, a continent which two wars seem to have ravaged morally as well as physically. An orator once exclaimed: “When war breaks out, its principal victims are always the people.” He was more right than he knew. Not only does war kill workers by the thousand, nay, by the million, destroy their homes, lay waste the fields which took them centuries of effort to cultivate, raze to the ground the factories they built with their own hands, and reduce for years the standard of living of the working masses, but it also gives man an increasingly acute feeling of his helplessness before the forces of violence, and consequently severely retards his progress toward an age of peace, justice, and well-being.

Oh yes! we were full of enthusiasm back in 1900. Nothing, no matter what it was, seemed impossible to us then, and we had every reason to believe it. We felt already that after Viktor Adler, Wilbur Wright was going to give us wings7.

On completion of my military service, I went back to the factory and to the trade union. From here on, however, I am going to take myself out of the story of the movement – not because our paths diverged, indeed they intermingle after 1909 – but because trade unionism, despite its close initial connections with libertarian individualism, is essentially and by definition a collective work.

A moment ago, I mentioned in passing the creation in 1895 of the Confédération générale du travail (C.G.T.). It replaced the National Federation of Trade Unions [Fédération des Syndicats et Groupes corporatifs ouvriers de France], which had been founded in 1886. Actually, unity of the workers under the C.G.T. was not completely achieved until 1902 when, at the Montpellier Congress, the Federation of Labour Exchanges (Fédération nationale des Bourses du travail) was incorporated in the C.G.T. as the Division of Labour Exchanges. However, during this period in which the unity of the working classes was being consolidated, the C.G.T., in its annual congresses, had already gone beyond questions of organization and corporate claims and as early as 1898 had taken its stand in favour of general disarmament:

“The Congress (the motion stated in a somewhat antiquated style) considering all peoples to be brothers and war to be mankind’s greatest calamity, [and]

Holding that armed peace leads all peoples to ruin through the increase in taxation required to meet the enormous expense of standing armies,

Declares that money spent on the perpetration of acts suitable only to barbarians and on the support of young, strong, and vigorous men for a period of years would be better used for work serving humanity, [and]

Expresses the wish [voeu] that general disarmament take place as soon as possible.”

In 1900 and in 1901, the C.G.T. progressed from theoretical declarations to practical considerations; it decided that “young workers about to undergo conscription should be put in touch with the secretaries of the Labour Exchanges of the towns in which they are to be garrisoned”, and agreed in principle to the setting up of a Serviceman’s Fund.

Today these declarations and decisions seem very mild. We must not forget, however, that they were accompanied by a significant antimilitaristic agitation which had found solid support in the impassioned propaganda for a retrial of the Dreyfus case8. This was opposed with equal vigour by militarists whose affinity with a discredited Council of War laid open the army and particularly its officers to fatal, if unfair, suspicion as far as democratic opinion was concerned.

All the C.G.T. congresses, which took place biennially after 1902, were deeply concerned with action in support of peace. At the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War9, the 1904 Congress, held at Bourges, declared: “At a time when two nations are at each other’s throats, re-enacting on a wider scale the slaughter of the past for the greater good of the ruling classes and exploiters who enslave the proletariat of the whole world, this Congress… censures the ignoble attitude of the governments of the two nations concerned, which, with the object of finding an outlet for the mounting discontent of the proletariat, appeal to chauvinistic passions and unhesitatingly organize the death and assassination of thousands of workers in order to safeguard their own privileged position.”

The international sky was increasingly overcast, and the attitude of the unions stiffened. The 1906 Congress approved “all programs of antimilitaristic propaganda”, and that of 1908 contemplated replying to a “declaration of war with a declaration of a revolutionary general strike”. The Congresses of 1910 and 1912 confirmed these resolutions and strongly protested against repression, but 1912 was the year of the Balkan War10and, in view of the rivalries which began to make themselves felt and which threatened to spread the conflict even farther, a special conference held on the first of October decided to call a congress whose sole objective would be to combat the menace of war. The motion passed was a true indication of the confidence of the trade-union organizations in their growing strength. To stop the governments from being drawn any further down the slope to the yawning chasm of fire and blood, the Congress affirmed its resolution to take revolutionary action in the event of military mobilization.

We would gain a false impression of the importance and effectiveness of labour action if we confined ourselves to the motions passed at its congresses. The trade unions, far from being content with these declarations, established international liaisons and supported every policy based on pacification and understanding. Between 1900 and 1901 the C.G.T. and the English working classes together contributed to bringing about the Entente Cordiale11. To gain an idea of the value of this contribution, it is necessary only to reflect upon the tension which followed the Fashoda incident12 and to thumb through the collections of satirical publications of those days.

At the time of the Agadir incident13, on July 22, 1911, a delegation from the C.G.T. left for Berlin, and in the following month a trade-union delegation from Germany arrived in Paris. The French and the German proletariat were uniting their efforts to try to avert war.

These occasional international contacts were not, however, the only ones to be established between the various national trade-union organizations. Several international workers’ congresses were held after the abolition of the workers’ International. One met in Zurich in 1895 and one in London in 1896, bringing together delegates of the trade unions and representatives of socialist-minded political parties. In London, the French delegation included, among other trade unionists: Fernand Pelloutier, the Guérard brothers, and Keufer14. The results of this cooperation – or confusion, as the more critical historians would have it – were not outstanding, and the idea of a purely trade-union international organization first came up at the Congress of Scandinavian Trade Unions in Copenhagen in 1901, thanks to the direct contact among fraternal delegations. The proposal came from Legien15 who represented the General Committee of German Trade Unions. It was decided to request the various national organizations to attend the Congress of German Trade Unions at Stuttgart in 1902. The organizations of Germany, Great Britain, Austria, Belgium, Bohemia, Denmark, Spain, France, The Netherlands, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland responded to the appeal and approved the proposal to organize international trade-union congresses which would take place at more or less regular intervals. Their mandate remained limited, at first extending only to the compilation of common statistics, the exchange of information on legislation affecting labour, and eventually to solidarity in the event of important strikes. Nevertheless, the first international link had been forged, and it was later strengthened in Dublin in 1903 by the creation of an International Trade-Union Secretariat.

Without formally withdrawing from the Secretariat, our French C.G.T. suspended the payment of its contributions in 1904 after the Secretariat had refused to include the question of antimilitarism in the agenda for the Conference of Amsterdam. I would not go so far as to say that the French trade unions attached greater importance to the struggle for peace than the others did; but they certainly seemed to take it more to heart.

Relations were renewed following the C.G.T. Congress in Marseilles in 1908 and the Secretariat’s acquiescence to the demand that the calling of truly international congresses be included in the agenda of the next conference.

This, the fifth Conference, took place in Paris and included some spirited debates – quite spirited, in fact. Having become its secretary, I was the spokesman for the C.G.T. I recently referred to this meeting in an article, and I think I can do no better than to quote its opening words, for they pinpoint not only our own position but also that of the representative of the American Federation of Labour.

“I saw Gompers16 again (I wrote) on the evening of September 1, 1909. It was the second day of the International Conference of Trade-Union Secretariats. All day I had been asking for a true international congress, and I had had to ask with a certain amount of vehemence. At the end of the afternoon session, after we had won the majority over to the argument of the French C.G.T., Gompers, who represented the American labour unions belonging to the A.F. of L. [American Federation of Labour], came over to me to express his deep satisfaction !”

There were two more conferences, the first of which was in 1911 at Budapest where this time the A.F. of L. participated officially and the Industrial Workers of the World17 unofficially. The second was in Zurich in 1913. An attempt at an expanded conference, leading to the international congresses which we had in mind, was made on the latter occasion by appealing to the International Vocational Secretariats. The resolution adopted in Zurich recommended that the trade-union organizations of all countries study the possibility of setting up an International Federation of Labour, whose aim “would be to protect and extend the rights and interests of the wage earners of all countries and” – I emphasize this last part of the sentence – “to achieve international fraternity and solidarity”.

The trade-union movement was emerging from its infancy and beginning to be aware of the magnitude of its future. In Zurich it no longer thought of itself as the expression of a single social class; the international solidarity which it was trying to bring about was already something quite different from the solidarity of workers in time of strike – all that had been envisaged up to that time. The dramatic events which its development precipitated were soon to hasten its maturity.

Men of my generation will never forget the last days of July, 1914, least of all those who tried to build a dike against the onrushing sea of blood. After July 27 our C.G.T. never ceased trying to achieve the impossible. To leaders still adhering in spirit to the old motto of “Ultimate Right”, which kings used to engrave on their cannons, it opposed the common sense of the man in the street. “War”, it cried, “is no solution to the problems facing us; it is, and always will be, the most terrible of human-calamities. Let us do everything to avoid it.” On Friday, July 30, the C.G.T. cabled the supreme appeal to the International Secretariat, beseeching it to intervene by “exerting pressure on the governments”.

Alas! As we all know, these desperate efforts were in vain!

This disaster did not force us to abandon our ideal; on the contrary, from the very first months of the conflict, it led us to define precisely the conditions for its realization.

In fact, at the end of 1914, the A.F. of L. took the initiative of proposing to hold “an International Conference of National Trade-Union Organizations on the same day and in the same place that the Peace Congress would be held, in order to help restore good relations between proletariat organizations and to encourage participation with the Peace Congress in laying the foundations of a definitive and lasting peace”. Le Comité confédéral of the C.G.T. accepted this proposal and itself issued a manifesto to all the trade-union organizations. I believe that the major portion of this text has become less dated than all of its predecessors. It concludes by demanding: the suppression of the system of secret treaties; an absolute respect for nationalities; the immediate limitation of armaments on an international scale, a measure which should lead to total disarmament; and finally compulsory arbitration for the settlement of all conflicts between nations.

These ideas were soon well on their way. The milestones were to be the Conference of Leeds in 1916, that of London in September, 1917, and those of Stockholm and Bern in June and October of the same year.

At Leeds the idea of an international labour organization appeared in a trade-union text which also drew attention to the danger to the working classes inherent in the existence of international capitalist competition. In the report made on behalf of the C.G.T. we affirmed that the Peace Treaty should, in accordance with the spirit of workers’ organizations, lay the first foundations of the United States of Europe. In London there was strong support for the idea of the League of Nations itself, along with all its corollaries: general disarmament preceded by limitation of armaments, and compulsory arbitration, both of which the C.G.T. had advocated three years previously.

At Stockholm in June, 1917, the representatives of the trade unions in the Central European and Scandinavian countries declared their complete agreement with the decisions taken at Leeds and even expressed their congratulations to the union organizations of the Allied countries and most particularly to the C.G.T. Another International Conference of Trade Unions was called at Bern for the beginning of October, 1917, by the Association of Swiss Trade Unions. The national organizations of Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland were represented, and they confirmed the resolutions adopted at Leeds and London.

The Inter-Allied Labour and Socialist Conference which took place in London in February of 1918 was perhaps even more important. Our French organization delivered a memorandum there containing, certainly, many ideas that had already been voiced before, but in it we also demanded the creation of a supranational authority, the “formation of an international legislative assembly” and “the gradual development of an international legislation accepted by all and binding all in a clearly defined way”. We were ahead of our time, far ahead in fact, since thirty-three years later these proposals have still not been put into effect. The Conference requested that “at least one representative of socialism and of labour should sit with the official representatives at the official Peace Conference”. This request, which was reiterated by the C.G.T. on December 15, 1918, in more or less identical terms, was granted by two governments; in consequence, Gompers and I were attached to the delegations of the U.S.A. and France in the capacity of technical experts. We collaborated in bringing our efforts in behalf of the trade-union movement to bear on the elaboration of the Treaty, particularly insofar as Part XIII18 was concerned. The working classes were becoming more and more sharply aware of the complex causes of international malaise.

I shall quote two clauses from that part of the Treaty which gave birth to the International Labour Organization and to its permanent instrument the International Labor Office whose activities and tangible results I need not recall here. The two clauses of the Treaty read as follows :

“Whereas, The League of Nations has for its object the establishment of universal peace, and such a peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice;

And whereas, Conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship, and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled; and an improvement of those conditions is urgently required…”

From 1918 on, trade unionists were to express from the platforms of their congresses the workers’ desire for peace through a rational organization of the world. The meetings of the International Labour Office and even the general Assemblies of the League of Nations, several of which were to have many sessions, were to excite universal interest in their proposals. The trade-union organizations nevertheless continued their autonomous activity. After the International Conference at Bern in February of 1919 and the Congress of Amsterdam in July of the same year, the International Trade-Union Secretariat was replaced by a true International Federation of Trade Unions19 which immediately acquired over twenty million members. One of its first acts was an appeal to International solidarity to alleviate the terrible misery prevailing within Austria; and the Austrian workers escaped famine, thanks to the many trainloads of supplies sent by various trade unions and cooperative societies. The second intervention of the F.S.I. was on behalf of the Hungarian trade unions, whose liberty was being threatened.

Some have forgotten – for forgetting is as blissful as ignorance – that the F.S.I. intervened with equal vigour on behalf of the Russian workers; its representatives, O’Grady, Wauters, and later Thomson, actually lived in Russia until 1923 in order to supervise the distribution of food and medicines sent by the Federation. Furthermore, it is not distorting history to say that it was largely through the efforts and propaganda of our International Federation that the government of the U.S.S.R. was recognized by the majority of the great powers.

However, the trade unionists did not confine themselves to mitigating the cruel consequences of war. They sought the means to establish a stable peace, emphasizing that it should be founded on a basis of worldwide economic and social stability. In fact, the majority of the proposals ultimately put before the League of Nations originated in the international congresses of the International Federation of Trade Unions and in the World Peace Congress which the latter convened at The Hague in 1922. We asked for the organization of exchanges, the circulation of manpower, the distribution of raw materials, and the prohibition of private manufacture of arms for international circulation.

It was at about this time that the League of Nations set up a Temporary Mixed Commission for the purpose of studying methods for dealing with international traffic in armaments, munitions, and war matériel20. The opinion of the workers now carried such weight that the Commission included three representatives of the workers from the Governing Body of the International Labour Office. A convention was drawn up on June 17, 1925, in which the principle of supervision, as opposed to that of simple propaganda, was recognized, thanks to the efforts of the labour members, of whom I was one. However, not all of our suggestions were followed; we had, for instance, requested internationalised supervision, the auditing of the books of business enterprises, proper measures designed to prevent influencing the press and the setting up of international cartels, together with the standardisation of national inspections.

It is curious to note – somewhat bitterly – that the principle of internationalised supervision always meets with strong opposition. Yesterday it came from the private manufacture of arms, today from armament itself I remain convinced, as do my comrades of the C.I.S.L 21, that we cannot talk seriously of general, or even of partial, disarmament, without accepting the need for effective international surveillance.

At the Economic Conference of 1927 I was again spokesman for the trade unions. The principal arguments in my statement of May 5, were as follows :


“On behalf of my comrades, representing the workers, I would like at this International Economic Conference to pay tribute to the recognition of the high ideals which the trade-union movement has always defended.

It is the opinion of the labour organizations that economic collaboration between peoples is a necessity. Immediately after the war during the armistice period – in February of 1919 – in examining the conditions necessary for peace and exploring the possible bases on which to found the League of Nations which was still on the drawing board, so to speak, the labour and socialist conferences, meeting simultaneously in Bern, emphasized the necessity of giving the League of Nations precisely that economic foundation which our chairman, Monsieur Theunis22, called for yesterday.

…In 1924, we declared that the organization of a definitive peace requires not only the institution of a law of peace but also that of an economy of peace… No true peace can be established… so long as quasi-military strategy is applied in economic relations. What is needed is a committee for economic cooperation.”


On May 23, the last day of the Conference, I voiced the sentiments of my friends when I said: “We have been bold in criticism, too timid in constructive action.”

Three years later, with the idea of concerted economic action in mind, the Conference sent a questionnaire to the member states of the League of Nations. The French government instructed the National Economic Council to work out the essentials of the French answer. I had been representing the C.G.T. on this council since its foundation in 1925, and I investigated the practical means of assuring the most satisfactory conditions for the distribution and optimum utilization of European raw materials among the various nations. Expressing the thoughts of my comrades, I suggested, among other means, the organization of an international information service on inventories, on production, and on the needs of the various countries for raw materials.

We also took an active part in 1931 on the Unemployment Committee of the Commission of Inquiry for European Union23, in 1933 at the Monetary and Economic Conference in London, and on the Comité des grands travaux internationaux, through which the International Labour Office and the League of Nations, taking up the proposals of the trade unions, sought to establish healthy collaboration among nations in the struggle against under-employment and toward the creation of new sources of wealth. But all these conferences, all these meetings, succeeded in doing nothing to rid the world of the prevailing economic crisis. The will to organize the world on a rational basis, or at least to modify its most apparent incongruities, had clearly not been strong enough to counteract the combined effects of inertia, egoism, and incomprehension.

Efforts to wrest weapons away from nations bending under the weight of so many instruments of death were equally futile. All the same, I cannot forget the first sessions of the Conference for the Limitation and Reduction of Armaments. Those early days of February, 1932, were days of hope for humanity. Millions confidently awaited the results of the proceedings of this conference, which was presided over by that veteran militant Laborite Henderson24, and we can claim, with justification, to have had a lot to do with the creation of this enthusiasm. The Socialist Workingmen’s International and the International Federation of Trade Unions, zealously vying with each other, had each collected thousands of petitions which the delegations presented to the conference. On February 6, after Vandervelde25 had spoken on behalf of the members of the Socialist Worker’s International, I conveyed to the conference the unqualified support of millions of trade unionists.

That day remains one of the highlights of my life. I was intensely aware that I was expressing not only the unanimous hope of the workers of an entire world, still bruised by the recent holocaust, but also their clear understanding of the real conditions necessary for disarmament. In their name, I assured the members of the conference of the complete readiness of the trade-union organizations to cooperate in making effective and sincere the procedures of national and international supervision, without which partial disarmament would be either illusory or inoperative.

The attempt to bring about disarmament was as fruitless as the efforts in the economic sphere, and a few years later, with empty stomachs as its excuse, Italian fascism launched itself upon Abyssinia. We trade unionists knew very well that peace was indivisible, and we had no doubt that the weakness of the League of Nations would render it powerless and herald a new period of massacre and destruction. We were insistent and even violent in our demands that the Covenant should be applied and that sanctions be put into effect. We were voices crying in the wilderness. The sanctions were not applied; war broke out in Ethiopia26; and it was followed fatally, logically, and inexorably by the intervention in Spain27, the reoccupation of the left bank of the Rhine28, the Anschluss29, the Munich agreements30, and the Second World War31.

I do not want to enlarge upon our opposition to this policy of weakness whereby the principle of collective security was abandoned. We know only too well what the lack of resolution on the part of the democracies has cost them.

Once more the earth was laid waste by war. Even so, we do not believe that action in the cause of peace is a Sisyphean labour; and that the deadly stone will forever keep on rolling back down to crush mankind. We will yet manage to lodge the stone firmly at the top of the hill.

As soon as the Fascists and Nazis had laid down their arms, the trade unionists began to rethink the problems of peace.

Toward the end of 1947, the C.G.T.-F.O32 revived the traditions and spirit of our old C.G.T., and in speeches, articles, and reports we again took up and specified the solutions which the C.G.T., along with the International Federation of Trade Unions, had offered to the world as a way to salvation.

We approved the Marshall Plan33 because it was a manifestation of international solidarity, because its benefits could be extended to any nation without discrimination, and because we could not see in it any expression of a policy of prestige or force of arms since it invested the beneficiary states with the right to use the credits as they saw fit.

We approved the propaganda in favour of European Unity and emphasized that we would regard such unification as the first step on the road to World Unity. In my capacity as a trade unionist, I was elected president of the European Movement in February of 1949, and in the following spring I opened the Westminster Economic Conference34 by expressing our common sentiment as follows:

“It is normal, it is logical, it is in conformity with the very spirit of history that the organized working class should have an active part in the construction of Europe. It has always proclaimed that it would not, could not, and had no wish to disassociate the struggle for its emancipation from the constant battle to maintain peace, because doing so would have set up barriers which international events would have swept away like piles of chaff.”

It is a matter of Europe’s consolidation, not of its isolation. This human mass, which has such a vast wealth of natural resources at its disposal and whose intellectual potential is the greatest on earth, is not willing to cut itself off from the rest of the world. It is ready to welcome all who wish to be associated with its efforts: “The Europe we are building will have more doors and windows than walls.”

In July, 1950, in an introduction to the reports on the Social Conference of the European Movement, I stressed again the importance of its objective of international peace and of social justice:

“We want to make Europe simply a peninsula of the vast Eurasian Continent, where for thousands of years war has been the only way to resolve conflicts between peoples. We want Europe to be a peaceable community united, despite and within its diversity, in a constant and ardent struggle against human misery and all the suffering and dangers that it engenders. We have no desire to make Europe into a larger, better entrenched, better armed fortress.”

We approved the Schuman Plan for a European Coal and Steel Community35. A few days after the declaration of May 9, 1950 – on May 31to be exact – in commenting on the Ruhr Statute36 in a C.I.S.L. Conference journal, I wrote :

“The promoters of the <Combinat> can take as their objective… only the progressive unification of Europe. However, this unification cannot be an end in itself.

The final and essential goal, the only valid goal, is to extend the well-being of the worker, to give him a more equitable share of the products of collective work, to make Europe a social democracy, and to ensure the peace desired by men of every race and tongue by proving that the democracies can bring about social justice through the rational organization of production without sacrificing the liberty and the dignity of the individual.

… The pool should be only one stage in a process of continuous creation. The C.I.S.L. has decided to follow its development closely in order to be in a position to give it effective collaboration.”

We recommended the organization of a worldwide market for raw materials and in this connection recalled just what it is that we intend to defend in defending democracy :

“What are we all trying to save? What are we trying to safeguard? Civil liberties: specifically, the right of all citizens to hold their own opinions and to express them freely on the great questions of moral, philosophical, political, and economic import, and the right to form associations. But democracy is not, nor can it be, merely a theoretical respect for these rights. It must give every man effective opportunities to enjoy them, and it must do so under the kind of moral and material conditions that will encourage him to exercise such rights.

One who must be constantly preoccupied with his own subsistence cannot be an alert citizen.

I said recently in a short address to the Economic Council that economic justice is one of the factors in the moral health of nations. There is no economic order in inflationist policies and in underemployment.”

The C.I.S.L. commissioned me to put before the U.N. Assembly at Lake Success a draft resolution whose main paragraph read as follows: “The General Assembly… recommends to the participating nations that they seek above all the means of establishing international regulation of the distribution and cost of raw materials and that, to this end, they contribute to the creation of a common stabilization fund.”

We have constantly defended the two inseparable principles of collective security and general disarmament, effected through the reassessment and international supervision of military strength and of all categories of instruments of war.

A synthesis of our doctrine was attempted on the occasion of the C.I.S.L. Congress at Milan in July, 1951, in the report on the role of the trade-union movement in international crisis.

In this report we have fixed our objectives: first and above all, to spare humanity the colossal ordeal of a third world war.

In it we have stated our principles : to act within the framework and under the aegis of the United Nations Organization, to develop a spirit of community and a spirit of cooperation, and to return to collective economic disciplines.

The free trade-union movement is called on to play an essential part in the fight against international crisis and for the advent of true peace.  The scope of the task is enormous, matched only by its urgency.  Our movement intends to devote its efforts to this task regardless of the cost.  I might add that it was enormously encouraged by the recent interventions of the government delegates on the Third Committee of the present General Assembly of the United Nations.  The Cuban delegate Mr. Ichaso, among others, showed that certain official circles had adopted the idea which we have been propagating for years and which we have already succeeded in putting into the Treaty of Versailles: the idea that economic disorder and misery are among the determinative causes of wars.

The decision of the Committee of the Norwegian Parliament, which, in awarding me the Nobel Peace Prize for 1951, has recognized and proclaimed the importance and the steadfastness of the pacifist efforts of the trade unionists, cannot but greatly assist the spread of these ideas and considerably extend their sphere of influence.  It strengthens the common will of those who have conceived and submitted these ideas to the consideration of men, and of those who have been convinced by them, to work ceaselessly to develop a society free of injustice and violence.

We know well, alas, that men and their civilizations are mortal.  We wish to leave to indifferent nature the responsibility of their demise and to free mankind at last from its remorse for having begotten Cain.”     Leon Jouhaux, “Fifty Years of Trade-Union Activity in Behalf of Peace;” Nobel Lecture, Peace Prize, 1951

CC BY by jimmiehomeschoolmom
CC BY by jimmiehomeschoolmom

Numero Dos“The contention that science is uniquely Western has never been presented as a thesis to be demonstrated historically–that is, stated explicitly, formulated rigorously, evaluated critically, and documented comprehensively.  Instead, throughout much of the twentieth century, variants on this theme frequently appeared in panegyrics for Western civilization (‘Science . . . is the glory of Western culture’), in the forgings of exalted origins for the West in Greek antiquity (‘science originated only once in history, in Greece’), and in accounts that confidently offered purported explanations for the absence of science in other civilizations–accounts thus unencumbered by any requirement to examine sciences already known to be absent.  As presented, these were hardly simple assertions of differential developments of specific sciences in particular geographic areas during particular historical periods.  Instead they asserted a Great Divide between the imagined community the West and its Other.  One particularly dramatic formulation was Ernest Gellner’s ‘Big Ditch”‘symbolizing the enormous differences separating ‘traditional’ societies from the scientific ‘Single World or Unique Truth’ produced by ‘one kind of man.”  Such assertions–although apparently about the West–should have depended for their validity on investigations of other cultures.   However, the historical evidence accompanying such claims related only to the uncontroversial half of the assertion–the existence of sciences in the West.  The substantive half–the assertion of the absence of science in every other culture–rested on little more than the ignorance of the sciences of other cultures, mistaken for the ignorance of other cultures of science.  The most important historical counterexample was China–research beginning in the 1940s increasingly provided considerable evidence that there were in China many forms of knowledges and practices similar to those that have been labelled ‘science’ in the West. This, then, is the reason that ‘Chinese science’ became a problem.Despite this evidence, claims that science is uniquely Western have continued to appear even in the most respected scholarly literature in the history of science; on the other hand, major research projects on Chinese science have often–up to the present–been framed within these disputes.  But rather than returning to take sides within these debates, this article will take the framework that has preconditioned these controversies as itself the object of historical analysis.  That is, this article will analyze what these accounts share: the assumption that the imagined communities China and the West are to be fundamental starting points in analyses of the history of science; that to the West and China we can then rigorously assign antithetical pairs of attributes (e.g., scientific versus intuitive, theoretical versus practical, causal versus correlative thinking, adversarial versus irenic, or geometric versus algebraic) that remain valid across historical periods, geographic locales, social strata, gender identifications, economic and technological differentials, and domains of scientific research along with their subdomains and competing schools; and that ultimately, studies of science can contribute to the further assignment of normative attributes in praise-and-blame historiographies of civilizations (e.g., the uniqueness of the West in producing universal science, the xenophobia of China, or the equality of all civilizations).


Science and Civilization

Perhaps it was the ambiguities in concepts as broad as civilization and science that encouraged such easy answers to questions about their relationship. With the existence of suprahistorical entities called civilizations established by assumption, the central question became to determine what exactly characterized them. What were the essential features that distinguished one civilization from another? Given an assumed Great Divide that existed between the West and its Other, this question was often posed in a very specific form: What made the West unique? Yet the very requirements that these essential defining features were supposed to fulfill presented something of a paradox: these features were to be transhistorical, existing across spans of hundreds or thousands of years; they were also to be unique–confined within the boundaries of a single civilization (for example the West)–and thus their antithesis was to characterize other civilizations, again over hundreds of years.[9] Moreover, although these distinguishing features were to define a single civilization, there was to be a sense in which it remained possible to compare them: all civilizations were by definition in some sense unique, yet the ultimate conclusions reached were often comparisons of civilizations along normative teleologies of moral, political, scientific, or economic progress. Some civilizations were more unique than others.

To answer to this conundrum, almost any research purporting to discover essential features of the West could be called into service. For some writers fundamental differences were linguistic: alphabetic versus allegedly ideographic scripts, the existence versus nonexistence of the copula, scientific versus poetic, theoretical versus practical, or abstract versus concrete; these traits were then linked to the development of rigorous scientific language or efficient bureaucracies.[10] In some accounts, the fundamental difference was capitalism, which itself ushered in modernity. In yet other accounts, the key was religion: Max Weber improbably connected the differences he alleged to have discovered between Protestantism and Chinese religions to the development of capitalism.[11] For others, the fundamental differences were philosophic: conceptions of natural law, causal versus correlative thinking, the ordering of time and space, demonstrative logic versus consensus;[12] China, one translator of Chinese philosophy proclaimed, lacked philosophy altogether.[13] For others, the fundamental difference was political–democracy versus Oriental despotism.[14] This list represents but a fraction of claims for the key features distinguishing the West from the Rest; the search continues to this day.[15]

In the context of this broader literature, “science” was then but one possible solution among many that have been offered to explain the purported differences. Comparative studies, however, rarely even attempted to offer any precise criteria for defining what they might mean by the term science. Often, science was simply left undefined (this was sometimes rationalized by scientistic claims that science was to be a primitive undefined concept); elsewhere science was defined by invoking equally amorphous terms such as reason or rationality.[16] In other accounts, the mere appearance of lexical terms was apparently sufficient to guarantee the existence of science (most often the word science itself, under proper translation, in Latin, Italian, or English); and then–again under suitable translation–the lack of the lexical term science in Chinese seemed to demonstrate that China lacked science. In other accounts still, it was a scientific methodology that defined science. At their least sophisticated, these asserted methodologies were little more than the familiar ideologies of scientists culled from selective readings of the early Greeks, Galileo, Bacon, or Newton. Elsewhere it was axiomatization that was held to differentiate scientific traditions;[17] sometimes it was deduction or logic, originating with the Greeks, or Descartes, or Galileo; sometimes it was preferred analogies–natural law, the book of nature, or the mechanical universe.

There are, however, good reasons to believe that the required definition of science cannot in fact be made, for it would require a rigorous philosophical criteria capable of demarcating science from non-science–criteria that remained both transhistorically and transculturally valid.[18] First, it has proven impossible to offer criteria to demarcate “science” from “non-science”:[19] the term science is not a “natural kind,”[20] nor can it be defined by a simple description or disjunction of descriptions; it has been impossible to offer a definition of science which could claim to both encompass all of the sciences and exclude what is not science.[21] The difficulty with defining science by some unified methodology is suggested by Feyerabend’s criticism that “the events, procedures and results that constitute the sciences have no common structure; there are no elements that occur in every scientific investigation but are missing elsewhere.”[22] Second, such a definition or criteria for science would have to be transhistorical–the definition would have to apply equally well to the present and to ancient Greece (in accounts which place the origin of science there) or seventeenth-century Europe (in the case of modern science).[23] Third, such a definition for science would have to be transcultural if it were to avoid the charge of simply circularly invoking the particular sciences in one or several localities (e.g., ancient Greece, early modern Europe) as its essential defining forms.[24]

These writers of the twentieth century, then, sought to provide answers to questions about the relationship between science and civilizations without any particularly clear formulation of either of the concepts that would serve as the framework for their inquiry. But rather than attempting to provide for these authors definitions that they themselves never used–definitions that arguably do not exist–this article will instead chart the history of debates in which it was the very ambiguities of these terms that became the site ideological contest. How did differing visions of civilizations and their relationships inflect conceptions of science and the writing of the history of science? What role did changing accounts of the fundamental defining features of science play in narrating the histories of civilizations?


The Scientific West and the Intuitive East

Accounts written in the early twentieth century often portrayed China and an undifferentiated “East” as lacking science entirely.[25] Bertrand Russell, after lecturing in China, wrote in 1922 in a chapter entitled “Chinese and Western Civilization Contrasted,” that “comparing the civilization of China with that of Europe, one finds in China most of what was to be found in Greece, but nothing of the other two elements of our civilization, namely Judaism and science. . . . Except quite recently, through European influence, there has been no science and no industrialism.”[26] In the 1940s, Filmer Northrop, a professor of philosophy at Yale University, posited suprahistorical differences between “Eastern intuitive” and “Western scientific” philosophical systems representative of entire civilizations, arguing that “a culture which admits only concepts by intuition is automatically prevented from developing science of the Western type.”[27] Similarly, Wilmon Sheldon, also a professor of philosophy at Yale, contrasted Eastern and Western philosophy, asserting bluntly that “the West generated the natural sciences, as the East did not.”[28] Albert Einstein, in a casual letter which was frequently quoted by later historians, stated in 1953 that the “development of Western science is based on two great achievements: the invention of the formal logical system (in Euclidean geometry) by the Greek philosophers, and the discovery of the possibility to find out causal relationship by systematic experiment (Renaissance). In my opinion one has not to be astonished that the Chinese sages have not made these steps. The astonishing thing is that these discoveries were made at all.”[29] These accounts then offer no analysis of Oriental sciences, presumably because there were not supposed to be any to analyze.

It was to disprove such claims that Needham began his Science and Civilisation in China, which soon developed into a multivolume series documenting the developments in China in chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, physics, and other sciences.[30] Needham too shared the assumption that civilizations were to be a fundamental starting point in studies of the history of science: in place of science versus non-science, he offered his own set of four major contrasts between China and the West (organic versus mechanical philosophies, algebra versus Euclidean geometry, wave versus particle theories, and practical versus theoretical orientations);[31] his “grand titration” was to redistribute credit for scientific discoveries among civilizations;[32] he proposed to restore for China its pride, correcting its slighting by making it an equal contributor among the tributaries that flowed into the river of modern science; ultimately, he sought to discover the social and economic reasons that Chinese civilization was more advanced than the West before the sixteenth century and later fell behind.[33] Needham’s project was from its inception formulated not as one component of, but rather in opposition to mainstream history of science which asserted that science was unique to Western civilization. Yet Needham’s project adopted many of the features of these histories of [Western] science of the period: against catalogues of scientific achievements claimed for the glory of the West, he offered achievements now claimed for the Chinese; against exaggerated claims of Western contributions to other civilizations, Needham asserted Chinese influence where the evidence was incomplete.

Historians of [Western] science, for their part, also often perceived Needham’s research not as one part of a larger project of the study of the history of science, but in opposition to their own work. In the late fifties and early sixties they continued to insist that science was exclusively Western: in response to studies of the sciences of other civilizations (and Needham’s in particular), the criteria defining science changed; however, the defining boundaries of science as exclusively Western did not. For example, in A. C. Crombie’s account, the Orient became differentiated into distinct civilizations, but the “achievements” of these distinct civilizations were undifferentiatedly dismissed as technologies. Western science was no longer defined solely in stark opposition to Oriental intuition. In its place, Western science was defined by an incongruous amalgam of “essential elements” culled from the tradition claimed for the West, including noncontradiction, empirical testing, Euclid, and logic:

Impressive as are the technological achievements of ancient Babylonia, Assyria, and Egypt, of ancient China and India, as scholars have presented them to us they lack the essential elements of science, the generalized conceptions of scientific explanation and of mathematical proof. It seems to me that it was the Greeks who invented natural science as we know it, by their assumption of a permanent, uniform, abstract order and laws by means of which the regular changes observed in the world could be explained by deduction, and by their brilliant idea of the generalized use of scientific theory tailored according to the principles of noncontradiction and the empirical test. It is this essential Greek idea of scientific explanation, “Euclidean” in logical form, that has introduced the main problems of scientific method and philosophy of science with which the Western scientific tradition has been concerned.[34]

In another account–even though the defining features of the “mainstream” of science were different–the defining boundaries of science as Western remained stubbornly constant. For de Solla Price, this “mainstream” was the emblem of scientific modernity–mathematical astronomy; instead of attributing the development of science to a scientific method, he appealed to “inspiration” as historically causal. Thus mathematical astronomy differentiated “our own high civilization” from its Other:

What is the origin of the peculiarly scientific basis of our own high civilization? . . . Of all limited areas, by far the most highly developed, most recognizably modern, yet most continuous province of scientific learning, was mathematical astronomy. This is the mainstream that leads through the work of Galileo and Kepler, through the gravitation theory of Newton, directly to the labours of Einstein and all mathematical physicists past and present. In comparison, all other parts of modern science appear derivative or subsequent; either they drew their inspiration directly from the successful sufficiency of mathematical and logical explanation for astronomy, or they developed later, probably as a result of such inspiration in adjacent subjects.[35]


Primitive versus Modern Science

The two views presented above–Crombie and de Solla Price–were in response to the discoveries of the sciences of other civilizations, and Needham’s work in particular; these views themselves elicited a response from Needham.[36] Needham noted that the increasing discoveries of the sciences of other cultures resulted not in the rejection of claims of European uniqueness but rather in the deprecation of the sciences of other cultures: “As the contributions of the Asian civilizations are progressively uncovered by research, an opposing tendency seeks to preserve European uniqueness by exalting unduly the role of the Greeks and claiming that not only modern science, but science as such, was characteristic of Europe, and of Europe only, from the very beginning. . . . The counterpart of this is a determined effort to show that all scientific developments in non-European civilizations were really nothing but technology” (41).

However, as attention to Needham’s phrase “not only modern science, but science as such” suggests, this criticism was not Needham’s central thesis. Needham presented two problems that became the central “Needham questions” defining the field of the history of Chinese science:

Why did modern science, the mathematization of hypotheses about Nature, with all its implications for advanced technology, take its meteoric rise only in the West at the time of Galileo? This is the most obvious question which many have asked but few have answered. Yet there is another which is of quite equal importance. Why was it that between the second century B.C. and the sixteenth century A.D. East Asian culture was much more efficient than the European West in applying human knowledge of nature to useful purposes? (16, emphasis in original)[37]

Critics who saw in Needham an exaggerated attempt to rehabilitate Chinese science ignored his ultimate reaffirmation of modern science as uniquely Western–Needham did not dispute the radical break between the scientific and nonscientific, but only the manner in which the boundary was drawn. For Needham, this break derived directly from accounts which asserted a radical divide in the West between the ancient and modern by appending to “science” the even more amorphous term “modern” (14-16): “When we say that modern science developed only in Western Europe at the time of Galileo in the late Renaissance, we mean surely that there and then alone there developed the fundamental bases of the structure of the natural sciences as we have them today, namely the application of mathematical hypotheses to Nature, the full understanding and use of the experimental method, the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, the geometrisation of space, and the acceptance of the mechanical model of reality” (14-15). And indeed Needham’s central concern is this supplemental term “modern”: “Hypotheses of primitive or medieval type distinguish themselves quite clearly from those of modern type. Their intrinsic and essential vagueness always made them incapable of proof or disproof, and they were prone to combine in fanciful systems of gnostic correlation. In so far as numerical figures entered into them, numbers were manipulated in forms of `numerology’ or number-mysticism constructed a priori, not employed as the stuff of quantitative measurements compared a posteriori” (15).[38] Thus against schemes that posited a radical difference between civilizations East and West, Needham insisted on preserving the uniqueness of modern Western science by claiming the premodern world–including China and Greece–“must be thought of as a whole” (16); the radical break for Needham was the boundary between the modern and the primitive.[39]

Despite Needham’s brief list of the characteristics of modern science–experimentalism, mathematization, geometrization, and mechanism–these were hardly the central features that animated his discussion of modern science. Instead, for Needham the central distinction between primitive and modern science was its universality: “Until it had been universalized by its fusion with mathematics, natural science could not be the common property of all mankind. The sciences of the medieval world were tied closely to the ethnic environments in which they had arisen, and it was very difficult, if not impossible, for the people of those different cultures to find any common basis of discourse” (15). Needham then incorporated science into this universal teleology: “the river of Chinese science flowed, like all other such rivers, into this sea of modern science” (16). And by the concluding paragraph, Needham’s “science” has become nothing more than an impoverished signifier in a teleology purely utopian: “Let us take pride enough in the undeniable historical fact that modern science was born in Europe and only in Europe, but let us not claim thereby a perpetual patent thereon. For what was born in the time of Galileo was a universal palladium, the salutary enlightenment of all men without distinction of race, colour, faith or homeland, wherein all can qualify and all participate. Modern universal science, yes; Western science, no!” (54, emphasis in original).


Scientific Revolutions and The Scientific Revolution

The most important response to the two Needham questions–why China was more proficient at technology before the sixteenth century and why modern science arose only in the West–was a series of criticisms presented by Nathan Sivin.[40] Against the former, Sivin argued that in the period from the first century b.c. to the fifteenth century a.d., science and technology were separate and thus Chinese superiority in technology was not indicative of more advanced science;[41] he also criticized attempts to compare the science and technology of civilizations in their entirety.[42] In response to the latter–Needham’s “Scientific Revolution problem”–Sivin critiqued several assumptions underlying the question of why China lacked a scientific revolution and pointed out fallacies of historical reasoning that discovered conditions that were asserted to have inhibited the growth of Chinese science.[43] Sivin’s ultimate response, however, was to assert that “by conventional intellectual criteria, China had its own scientific revolution in the seventeenth century.”[44] This revolution was not, Sivin argued, as sweeping as the Scientific Revolution in Europe.[45]

Sivin’s claim was part of his criticism of the received accounts of the rejection by a xenophobic, conservative, traditional China of modern Western science introduced by the Jesuits.[46] Against portrayals of the Jesuits as having introduced modern science, Sivin argued that the Jesuits withheld the Copernican system, instead presenting the Tychonic system as the most recent and misrepresenting the history of Western astronomy to disguise this.[47] Against claims that the lack of Chinese acceptance of early modern science was due to intellectual, linguistic, or philosophical impediments, Sivin argued that it was contradictions in the Jesuit presentation of Western astronomy–including these misleading characterizations of Copernican astronomy which the Jesuits were by decree forbidden to teach–that made it incomprehensible.[48] And against caricatures of the Chinese as xenophobic and conservative, Sivin argued that the Chinese did accept Western astronomical techniques, resulting in a “conceptual revolution in astronomy.”[49]

Sivin’s response, however, incorporated many of the assumptions within which the claims he critiqued had been framed.[50] Seventeenth-century European astronomy remained “modern science” posed against “traditional” Chinese science,[51] for example in Sivin’s assertion that Wang and his contemporaries did not succeed “in a mature synthesis of traditional and modern science.”[52] The West remained the source of modern science for the Chinese: “The character of early modern science was concealed from Chinese scientists, who depended on the Jesuit writings. Many were brilliant by any standard. As is easily seen from their responses to the European science they knew, they would have been quite capable of comprehending modern science if their introduction to it had not been both contradictory and trivial.”[53] The limited extent of the transformation of the scientific revolution in China remained the result of distorting nonscientific influences, blamed now not on the Chinese but on the Jesuits: “In short, the scientific revolution in seventeenth-century China was in the main a response to outmoded knowledge [transmitted by the Jesuits] that gave little attention to, and consistently misrepresented, the significance of developments in the direction of modern science.”[54] And ultimately, in Sivin’s critiques this episode remained framed as an “encounter in China between its cognitive traditions and those of Europe.”[55]

The key to Sivin’s argument was thus his redistribution of “scientific revolutions” among civilizations: by asserting that there was not one but two scientific revolutions–one Chinese and one European–Sivin implied that differences between China and Europe were of degree rather than kind.[56]However, by the criteria he used for scientific revolutions–shifts in a disciplinary matrix–there certainly have been many others.[57] Sivin’s account adopted from the histories of Western science the conflation of scientific revolutions in this technical sense with the mythologies of the Scientific Revolution–a difference that Sivin implicitly notes in his use of a capitalized “Scientific Revolution” for Europe.[58] This conflation was itself rooted in attempts by these histories to offer scientific revolutions as the historical cause of the radical break between the ancient and modern that the Scientific Revolution emblematized.[59] This radical break had then been translated to a radical difference between the modern scientific West (unique among civilizations in having had the Scientific Revolution) and traditional China. Sivin documented a scientific revolution in China–a change in the disciplinary matrix in Chinese astronomy which was itself a limited copy of the Scientific Revolution of Europe. But he denied to this scientific revolution the miraculous transformative powers claimed in the mythologies of the Scientific Revolution of the West.


Praise-and-Blame Histories of Civilizations

Much of the scholarly literature on the question of Chinese science written during the period when Sivin and Needham were publishing their work offered no study of any aspect of it. Instead, these works (sometimes presented against Needham by borrowing from earlier claims that science was uniquely Western, and sometimes following Needham’s call to find the social causes that modern science was uniquely Western) purported to offer explanations for the absence of science in China–philosophical, social, linguistic, logical, and political.[60] For example, Mark Elvin offered the metaphysical thought developed from Wang Yangming as “the reason why China failed to create a modern science of her own accord.”[61] Joseph Levenson explained the purported absence of a Chinese scientific tradition as the result of an “amateur ideal.”[62] Alfred Bloom asserted that the Chinese language had inhibited the ability of the Chinese to think theoretically.[63] Robert Hartwell argued that the major impediment was the absence of the formal logical system embodied in Euclidean geometry.[64] And Wenyuan Qian provided a “politico-ideological” explanation.[65]

Yet this literature was not about science. Levenson failed to cite a single primary source on Chinese science in his bibliography; instead he drew his conclusions on the nondevelopment of science and modernity by universalizing the ethics of Ming painting as exemplary of all of Ming culture, and comparing this with stereotypes of Western science and modern values.[66] Bloom made no pretense of citing historical materials, much less scientific materials from China or the West, in justifying his leap from measuring the testing skills of students in present-day China–presented in the language of the Sapir-Whorf hypotheses–to the development of Chinese science in the past. Elvin cited one scientist.[67] Hartwell’s explanation of the nondevelopment of Chinese science was appended to a study of trends in Chinese historiography.[68] And Qian’s dialogic narrative contained its own admissions of the historical falsity of central theses of the book.[69]These accounts–because the absence of [modern] science in China was known–could ignore the technical details specific to the sciences themselves and instead derive lessons on topics deemed more vital–whether political despotism, philosophical orthodoxy, linguistic inadequacies, or cultural stagnation.


Reiterating the Differences

The focus on comparisons of science in China and the West has resulted in enough research that several recent works have been written that attempt to synthesize or reevaluate the theses presented in this literature.[70] The most important recent comparative study is G. E. R. Lloyd’s Adversaries and Authorities.[71] Lloyd seeks to relate differences in the philosophy and science of China and Greece to fundamental differences in their respective cultures. He begins his analysis by reexamining differences in their social and political context, following one variant of the conventional view: “my starting point is . . . a common view of a fundamental contrast”–the view of Burckhardt and others–that “the Greeks exhibited highly developed agonistic traits in every part of their culture . . . philosophy and science included”; in contrast, “it has often been claimed that the Chinese were irenic rather than polemical and rejected aggressive adversariality of any kind” (20). His approach is to present evidence for this conventional view, subject it to a “severe critique,”[72] refine it, and finally seek explanations for the differences (21). Lloyd then analyzes the differences in the science of early Greece and China by reexamining several contrasts: techniques of demonstration (especially Greek axiomatization and deduction); “cause-oriented Greek culture and a correlation-oriented Chinese one” (93); the use of dichotomies in Greek and Chinese thought; Chinese and Greek views of the infinite; the Greeks’ emphasis on geometrical models and strict proof in astronomy contrasted with the Chinese political demand for accuracy in the prediction of portents (184); and views of the body and the state. These too are for the most part conventional theses, and in each case Lloyd essentially follows an approach similar to that outlined above–offering an outline of the thesis, a critique, a refinement, and finally relating the contrasts to differences in cultural context. Although Lloyd emphasizes “in the strongest possible terms, the difficulties and dangers of generalisation,” his ultimate conclusion on whether there is a fundamental difference between the science of early Greece and China is “clearly yes” (209); and his ultimate explanation for these differences–encapsulated in the title of the book–is the fundamental difference between the adversarial Greeks and the authority-bound Chinese which resulted from differing social and political institutions.[73]

The most important of the contrasts between Chinese and Greek science that Lloyd analyzes is the “three interrelated concepts of axiomatisation, certainty and foundations” exemplified by the Euclidean tradition of mathematics with “its insistence not just on deduction, but on axiomatic-deductive demonstration” (211-12): of the conventional views, this is both the most commonplace and the most plausibly significant;[74] it is also this contrast that Lloyd emphasizes in his concluding chapter (211-12, 214-15). Even here Lloyd’s argument remains filled with numerous qualifications and caveats: he notes that axiomatics in Greek mathematics is a style that is a “recurrent, but not a universal, one” (212); often, what in Greek geometry was claimed to be incontrovertible “turns out to be a proposition that is anything but” (63); and on the other hand, Chinese mathematics also offered proofs (212). Yet there is much more wrong with the conventional view than Lloyd’s critique suggests. Rigorously defined, axiomatization was not possible outside of geometry;[75] it makes little sense to identify axiomatization with the science of an entire civilization–whether the West or ancient Greece. Lloyd’s remaining contrasts fare no better. He notes that the Greeks “were no strangers to correlative thinking” (94), and “Chinese interest in the explanation of events is certainly highly developed in such contexts as history and medicine” (109). What all of Lloyd’s careful analysis, caveats, and reservations suggest is reevaluating the assumption that Lloyd does not question–that “Greece” and “China” are appropriate categories from which to generalize about science. For as long as it is assumed that it is “the divergent early histories of philosophy and science in those two ancient civilisations that are our chief explanandum” (223), the solutions can only lie in debates over which of the antithetical attributes asserted to characterize entire civilizations are the most significant.


Science and the Postmoderns’ West

Research in critical studies, particularly in the past twenty years, has questioned these grand narratives of both science and civilizations. However, in many poststructuralist works, it was often a cross-disciplinary credulity toward the West–equated with reason, science, logic, and rationality–that provided these critiques with their inflated urgency. For example, without this intensified essentialization of the West, the Derridean deconstruction of Western logocentrism becomes little more than a critique of the application of structuralist readings to literary and philosophical texts.[76] In a deflationary view, Foucault’s archaeology of madness silenced by the language of Western reason becomes no more than a genealogy of psychiatric practices traced to eighteenth-century moral therapies.[77]

If two central lacunae of poststructuralist analyses (as exemplified by the works of Derrida, Foucault, and Bourdieu) were science and non-Western cultures, more recent work in the cultural, gender, and social studies of science has turned toward the critique of science contextualized in culture. Against the view of science as coherent, teleological, and universal, recent microhistorical analyses in science studies have characterized the sciences as disunified, local practices inseparable from cultural context;[78] the tautological equation of good science with good culture was little more than the ideologies of the historical actors themselves in their advocacy of their own particular political programs, incorporated into earlier Whig accounts as historical conclusions.[79] However, one result of these studies of the relationship of science to culture and of culture to science has been the further identification of science with Western culture–studies of non-Western cultures have often focused not on non-Western science but rather on Western science in colonial settings.[80] Indeed, perhaps the most important critique of the assumptions about cultures in recent work in science studies is Bruno Latour’s provocative We Have Never Been Modern. Although Latour criticizes assertions of the Great Divide between the West and its Other,[81] he ultimately accepts the divide itself and questions only what constitutes it;[82] he asserts that the differences are only of size (of networks), yet to explain these differences Latour returns to claims of a fundamental difference in worldviews.[83] Thus Latour’s work, still framed within the assumption of a fundamental division between the West and its Other, can offer no alternative other than to posit yet another antithesis as an explanation.[84]

Similarly, recent work in cultural criticism has questioned conceptualizations of nations and civilizations as “imagined communities” constructed through complex historical and political processes.[85] Yet cultural criticism has too often been tempted to critique the West in its entirety by equating it with science portrayed now not as universal and liberating but instead as hegemonic, normalizing and disciplinary. Thus, perhaps because the critiques of science and civilization have too often proceeded separately, two key lacunae in contemporary critical studies are the problem of culture in science studies and the problem of science in cultural criticism.



The history of science is ostensibly a discipline united by the investigation of the single subject of science irrespective of geopolitical boundaries that construct cultures and civilizations. Yet much of the research literature on Chinese science has taken as its starting point a credulity toward the imagined communities China and the West, and the Great Divide that constitutes them. No satisfactory answer has ever been posed.

This article has analyzed debates about Chinese science which were framed within this broader context. In the first half of the twentieth century, authors asserted an absolute divide between the scientific West and an exoticized, intuitive East. In opposition, Needham proposed to redistribute credit for scientific discoveries among civilizations by a “grand titration”; against the assertions of a radical civilizational divide between China and the West, he revived claims of a radical temporal break between primitive science (which included that of China and equally ancient Greece) and modern science, which for Needham remained culturally universal yet uniquely Western in origin. Sivin criticized many of the excesses in Needham’s rehabilitation, and further questioned the uniqueness of the West by proposing that China had had its own, albeit limited, scientific revolution. Yet the scientific revolution Sivin discovered for China was the conversion to modern science from the West, incomplete because of Jesuit distortions; the Scientific Revolution Sivin compared it to in the West was itself only an emblem of the purported radical break between the ancient and modern. Other studies of this period, framed within the legacy of assertions of the Great Divide between China and the West, offered explanations–social, political, philosophical, or linguistic–for the assumed absence of science in a China which then became the anthropomorphized subject of a praise-and-blame historiography of civilizations. Most recently, the cultural turn in the history of science has further identified the culture of the West with science; the cross-disciplinary credulity toward the concept of the West–equated with science, reason, and rationality but now critiqued as hegemonic–which provided many poststructuralist and postcolonial critiques with their inflated urgency only further reinforced this identification of science and the West.

Moving beyond “science and civilizations” as a framework for analysis raises the important question of possible directions for future research. How is the study of sciences and cultures to proceed without civilizations as the central actors animating world history, and without a universal, teleological science to gauge the progress of those civilizations toward modernity? If nations and civilizations are imagined communities, if the sciences are disunified practices, how does one analyze their relationship? There is of course no formulaic solution. But it may be helpful to suggest ways that emerging research–by calling into question particular assumptions associated with the science and civilizations framework–is opening up new areas of study.

First, the rejection of China and the West as analytic categories itself entails several important implications. If essentialized, suprahistorical civilizations are not assumed at the outset, the first question becomes how to determine the appropriate units of analysis. The problem of cultures becomes a general one, requiring the historical analysis of changing cultures, sub-cultures, and sub-sub-cultures that often do not conform neatly to political or linguistic boundaries; political and linguistic identifications become but elements among others in the fashioning of these groupings. And if the performative act of attributing scientific discoveries to civilizations is not naturalized as a given fact, one must then analyze the ideological contests through which artifacts become identified with particular cultures, claimed for civilizations, and the consequences of those claims–including the role those claims themselves play in the formations of cultures. In other words, what role do products of the sciences–knowledges, technologies, and ideologies–play in the constitution of cultures, and how do cultures contribute to the constitution of sciences and their dissemination?

A second important direction for research proceeds from the rejection of the notion of a Great Divide that separates cultures. The traditional historiography often assumed an insuperable barrier between civilizations (whether imagined through claims of linguistic or conceptual incommensurability or accounts of xenophobic traditionalism) and–through mythologies of its unique origins in the West–placed science on one side of that divide. Translation was then conceptualized as the unidirectional flow of scientific truth from the West across that barrier and its imperfect reception or outright rejection by the non-West; the alternative was the wholesale adoption of this scheme now romanticized as local resistance to the global hegemony of the normalizing West. Studies of translation began with the assumption of the self-same identity of scientific facts (an assumption reinforced by stories of origins) supposed to remain constant in displacements across space and time; the question posed of translation was then one of fidelity–had truth been distorted by mistranslation, incomprehension, or cultural barriers? The alternative was the radical dissolution of truth and the impossibility of translation posited by some recent works in science studies that assert a radical locality of scientific practice. One possible approach that avoids the false dilemmas posed by these sets of alternatives is to analyze the circulations of cultural artifacts through material, discursive, scientific, technological, and ideological fields and cultural ensembles, tracing the proliferation and dissemination of copies and their further copies, transfigurations, and appropriations.

A third direction for research begins by recognizing the enormous historical efficacy of imagined communities and the claims made about science and civilizations, studying them as the ideologies of the historical protagonists and thus the object of analysis rather than as explanatory categories in which history itself is to be framed. That is, if cross-cultural study is no longer a project of forging the radical differences and transhistorical continuities of science used to represent the non-West as the antithesis of the West, the historical question remains of how claims of difference and continuity made by the actors themselves contribute to contests over the formation and legitimation of sciences and communities. A fourth direction is the historical contextualization and self-reflexive critique of this historiography itself–subjecting the project of comparison to analysis. For example, what was the role of narratives about science and civilization in the construction of the academic disciplines, ideologies of nations, and the rhetorics through which world history was narrated?

These directions are but a small sampling of the possible directions of future research, directions made possible by rejecting frameworks with trajectories for science and civilizations in which historical details too often contributed little more than producing a reality effect. Instead, this new research seeks to find within historical documents answers to the questions of constitutes science, culture, and their relationship. The prospect is then for histories that contribute not to grand narratives of the rise and fall of civilizations but rather to a historical understanding of the processes of the mutual constitution of knowledge and community.”     Roger Hart, “Beyond Science and Civilization: a Post-Needham Critique;” 1999

O'Regan, Gerard (2008). A brief history of computing. Springer. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-84800-083-4.
O’Regan, Gerard (2008). A brief history of computing. Springer. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-84800-083-4.

Numero Tres“In my essay “The New Humanists” (April 22, 2002), I wrote:

‘There are encouraging signs that the third culture now includes scholars in the humanities who think the way scientists do.  Like their colleagues in the sciences, they believe there is a real world and their job is to understand it and explain it.  They test their ideas in terms of logical coherence, explanatory power, conformity with empirical facts.  They do not defer to intellectual authorities: Anyone’s ideas can be challenged, and understanding and knowledge accumulate through such challenges.  They are not reducing the humanities to biological and physical principles, but they do believe that art, literature, history, politics—a whole panoply of humanist concerns—need to take the sciences into account.’

EDGE: You seem to have a strange collection of interests: mathematics and physics and philosophy, on the one hand, and fiction, on the other.  Why would a novelist teach philosophy of science and have enough of an interest in mathematics to write a book on Gödel’s incompleteness theorems?REBECCA GOLDSTEIN: To me the affinities are natural. It’s a matter of different forms of beauty. Mathematicians and physicists are just as guided by principles of elegance and beauty as novelists and musicians are. Einstein told the philosopher of science Hans Reichenbach that he’d known even before the solar eclipse of 1918 supported his general theory of relativity that the theory must be true because it was so beautiful. And Hermann Weyl, who worked on both relativity theory and quantum mechanics, said “My work always tried to unite the true with the beautiful, but when I had to choose one or the other, I usually chose the beautiful.” I would say the same thing about writing novels. The question comes up, when you’re using ideas in math or physics or philosophy in a work of fiction, just how far can you distort the idea to make it work in the novel, work as a metaphor. I try to keep as close to the truth as possible, but when I have to choose, then I choose Weyl-ly.

Mathematics seems to be the one place where you don’t have to choose, where truth and beauty are always united. One of my all-time favorite books is A Mathematicians’ Apology. G.H. Hardy tries to demonstrate to a general audience that mathematics is intimately about beauty. He gives as examples two proofs, one showing that the square root of 2 is irrational, the other showing that there’s no largest prime number. Simple, easily graspable proofs, that stir the soul with wonder. I read G.H. Hardy’s book the summer after graduating college, right before going on to graduate school. It was the same summer that I read Newman and Nagel’s lovely little book, Gödel’s Proof. It was great to read them at the same time. Nothing could have convinced me more of Hardy’s point about mathematics and beauty than reading at the same time about Gödel’s proof.

Hardy’s book is not only intellectually engaging but also moving, even elegiac, because he was mourning his loss of mathematical creativity. He was in his fifties, and, as he wrote, mathematics is a young man’s game. He wrote the book after his first suicide attempt and before his second—and successful—suicide attempt. C.P. Snow talked him into writing a book that would describe the special joys of mathematical creativity to those who had never experienced it. The book had a big impact on me, impressing me with the hollowness of bifurcating the intellect and the passions. The intellect is passionate.

And of course it was Snow, too, who coined the phrase that you’ve one-upped, the two cultures, warning that practitioners of the mathematical sciences, on the one hand, and the arts and humanities, on the other, are losing the ability to understand each other, to the impoverishment of all. Your idea of bridging the two cultures, creating a third culture, approaches the bridge primarily from the scientific side. A lot of your Edge scientists engage themselves with the kinds of questions that have traditionally been addressed by humanists, questions that have to do with what it means to be human. But there’s movement from the other direction as well. There are other other narrative artists —I’m thinking of the novelists Richard Powers, Alan Lightman, and Dan Lloyd, and the playwrights Michael Frayn and Paul Parnell (who wrote QED about Richard Feynmann) —who are integrating mathematical and scientific ideas into their work. It’s a hopeful spot in the culture.

I like to think that the shallower aspects of the intellectual scene of the last century have played themselves out. I mean in particular the assaults on objectivity and rationality, which often take the form of attacks on science. There’s nothing less exhilarating than reducing everything to social constructs and to our piddly human points of view. The pleasure of thinking is in trying to get outside of ourselves—this is as true in the arts and the humanities as in math and the sciences. There’s something heroic in the idea of objective knowledge; the farther away knowledge takes you from your own individual point of view, the more heroic it is. Maybe the new ideas that are going to revitalize the arts and humanities are going to be allied with the sciences. It’s not, of course, that novels will all address scientific themes—that would be ridiculously restrictive. But I hope that the spirit of expansiveness that’s associated with the pursuit of scientific truth can get infused into the arts and humanities.

EDGE: How do these connections between the sciences and humanities relate to Gödel, if they do?

GOLDSTEIN: One of the strange things that happened in the twentieth century was that results from mathematics and physics got co-opted into the assault on objectivity and rationality. I’m thinking primarily of relativity theory and Gödel’s incompleteness theorems.

The summer before entering college I had to read a book that was popular back then, by an NYU philosopher, William Barrett, called Irrational Man. It was, vaguely existentialist and it argued pretty strenuously that man constructs all truths. It spoke a lot about Nietzsche and Heidegger, but there were a few pages on relativity theory and the incompleteness theorems, arguing that the upshot of these results was that even in physics and mathematics there’s no objective truth and rationality: everything is relative to man’s point of view, and that the proofs of mathematics are incomplete because there’s no foundation for mathematical knowledge. Everything is infected with man’s subjectivity, leaving us no grounds for distinguishing between rational and irrational. I read this right before entering college and it took the wind out of my sails. I had been excited about learning the important things but now I was reading that the one important thing to learn is that there aren’t any important things, at least none that we haven’t made up, which seemed to undermine their importance. I liked making up things as well as anyone; after all, I was a future novelist. Still, the thought that this making-up business penetrated even to mathematics deflated me.

And the irony is that both Einstein and Gödel—who had a legendary friendship when they were at the Institute for Advanced Study—could not have been more committed to the idea of objective truth. Both were super-realists when it came to their fields, Einstein in physics, Gödel in mathematics. The irony is sharpened in Gödel’s case since not only was he a mathematical realist, believing that mathematical truth is grounded in reality, but, even more ironically, it was this meta-mathematical conviction that actually motivated his famous proofs.

Gödel was a mathematical realist, a Platonist. He believed that what makes mathematics true is that it’s descriptive—not of empirical reality, of course, but of an abstract reality. Mathematical intuition is something analogous to a kind of sense perception. In his essay “What Is Cantor’s Continuum Hypothesis?”, Gödel wrote that we’re not seeing things that just happen to be true, we’re seeing things that must be true. The world of abstract entities is a necessary world—that’s why we can deduce our descriptions of it through pure reason.

One of the interesting things about Gödel is that he became enraptured with Platonism when he was a student, an undergraduate at the University of Vienna. He took a course in philosophy with Heinrich Gomperz. When I read Gödel’s papers in the basement of the Firestone Library at Princeton, I discovered that later in life he was sent a questionnaire asking about his philosophical influences. The sociologists had listed a bunch of weighty philosophers, and Gödel disregarded almost all of them—(though he said that Kant was a little bit influential). According to Gödel, the greatest influence on his life was Professor Gomperz, who introduced him to philosophical position, Platonism. Gödel’s response was strong. He switched his major from physics to mathematics, specializing first in number theory, since he thought that it was there that he would find results closest to his Platonist heart. That shows you the philosophical orientation motivated his work. It seemed that Gödel hatched an audacious ambition while still a young student: to produce a mathematical result that would have meta-mathematical implications ­ implications, or at least suggestions, about the nature of mathematics itself. It’s as if a painter produces a picture that has something to say about the nature of beauty, perhaps even something to say about why beauty moves us. Mathematics forcefully raises meta- questions, since it is a priori, immune from empirical revision, necessary. How can we have knowledge of this sort? What’s it about? The truths we learn about the spatio-temporal realm are all ultimately empirical; and they’re contingent. They’re not immune to empirical revision, which is why physics requires expensive equipment for testing its predictions against the world. Mathematicians are cheap; they are thus cost-effective for universities —which is another way of saying that mathematics is a priori. But this aprioricity and necessity present problems. What can necessary, a priori truths be about? Maybe they’re about nothing at all, other than the formal systems we construct ­ mere consequences of manipulating symbols according to rules, as in chess. Platonism rejects this answer. It claims that mathematics is descriptive of abstract entities, of numbers and sets, that exist separately from our attempt to understand them through our mathematical systems

Platonism has always had a great appeal for mathematicians, because it grounds their sense that they’re discovering rather than inventing truths. When Gödel fell in love with Platonism, it became, I think, the core of his life. He happened to have been married, but the real love of his life was Platonism, and he fell in love, like so many of us, when he was an undergraduate.

Platonism was an unpopular position in his day. Most mathematicians, such as David Hilbert, the towering figure of the previous generation of mathematicians, and still alive when Gödel was a young man, were formalists. To say that something is mathematically true is to say that it’s provable in a formal system. Hilbert’s Program was to formalize all branches of mathematics. Hilbert himself had already formalized geometry, contingent on arithmetic’s being formalized. And what Gödel’s famous proof shows is that arithmetic can’t be formalized. Any formal system of arithmetic is either going to be inconsistent or incomplete.

On October 7, 1931, when he was 24 years old, he announced his result, a proof that showed that any formal system that is rich enough to express arithmetic will have a proposition which is true and unprovable. He actually showed how to construct, in each consistent formal system, a true arithmetical proposition that can’t be proved. It sounds paradoxical, because if he’s showing that it’s true, hasn’t he proved that it’s true? But it’s not paradoxical. The proof skirts the edge of paradox.

Part of the immediate background of Gödel’s Proof is not only Hilbert’s Program, but the Vienna of the late ’20s and early ’30s. When he was a student, Gödel had been invited by Hans Hahn, one of his professors, to attend the legendary meetings of the logical positivists, what came to be know as the Vienna Circle. Sometimes Gödel is categorized as a logical positivist because of this early association. And it’s true that Gödel didn’t argue with them while he attended their meetings, held in a dismal room in the basement of the University of Vienna. But just because he chose not to argue doesn’t mean he didn’t vehemently disagree with them. A passionate Platonist must be profoundly at odds with logical positivists.

Gödel mistrusted our ability to communicate. Natural language, he thought, was imprecise, and we usually don’t understand each other. Gödel wanted to prove a mathematical theorem that would have all the precision of mathematics—the only language with any claims to precision—but with the sweep of philosophy. He wanted a mathematical theorem that would speak to the issues of meta-mathematics. And two extraordinary things happened. One is that he actually did produce such a theorem. The other is that it was interpreted by the jazzier parts of the intellectual culture as saying, philosophically exactly the opposite of what he had been intending to say with it. Gödel had intended to show that our knowledge of mathematics exceeds our formal proofs. He hadn’t meant to subvert the notion that we have objective mathematical knowledge or claim that there is no mathematical proof—quite the contrary. He believed that we do have access to an independent mathematical reality. Our formal systems are incomplete because there’s more to mathematical reality than can be contained in any of our formal systems. More precisely, what he showed is that all of our formal systems strong enough for arithmetic are either inconsistent or incomplete. Now an inconsistent system is completely worthless since inconsistent systems allow you to derive contradictions. And once you have a contradiction then you can prove anything at all.

EDGE: Do you think that Godel’s proof reveals something about the relationship between language and reality?

GOLDSTEIN: Gödel’s did not see language as constructive of reality. Language rather is subordinate to reality. But that doesn’t mean that language isn’t important in the proof, that there isn’t something fascinating going on in the languages spoken, so to speak, within the proof. In fact, the proof is a layering of different kinds of language, and the way in which the proof links these layers is the essence of the proof’s strategy.

There’s the purely mathematical language, and then there is the meta-language that’s describing the formal systems themselves, the rules of the formal systems. The cunning is that he gets sentences which say something straightforwardly arithmetical to also say something about themselves. These sentences manage to speak on two levels, and this double-speak is accomplished through what we now call Gödel numbering. Each of the elements in the system has a number, and you can also assign numbers to the well-formed formulas composed of those element, and to the sequences of well-formed formulas, which are what proofs are—by combinatorial rules. Given any string of symbols you can derive the unique number that goes with that string, and vice-versa. Because of the Gödel numbering those propositions are saying something straightforwardly arithmetical but they’re also saying something about themselves, something about their own formal properties. This is the way in which self-referentiality—gets utilized in the proof.

Self-referentiality, which produces many devilish logical problems—the logician Raymond Smullyan has written particularly well about them in his entertaining books—goes back to the time of ancient Greece, when Epimenides, the Cretan, said that all Cretans were liars. This is a paradox. There’s nothing, strictly speaking, paradoxical in Epimenides’ statement, but it does lead to the following sentence, which is, famously, paradoxical: “This sentence is false”. What Epimenides was saying was: “I’m a Cretan, everything that Cretans say is false; this very thing that I’m saying is false”. And this last statement is indeed paradoxical. Because if it’s true then it’s false and if it’s false then it’s true. And the mind crashes.

Gödel appropriated this ancient form of paradox in order to produce a proposition which we can see is true precisely because we can see it’s unprovable. This proposition has a purely straightforward mathematical meaning but it’s also a proposition that speaks about itself. : The proposition is, in effect: “This very proposition is unprovable”. Is it true, or is it false? If it’s false, then its negation is true. Its negation says that the proposition is provable. So, assuming the system to be consistent, if this problematic double-speaking proposition is false, its negation is true, which would mean the problematic proposition itself is thus provable. So if it’s false it can’t be false. If it’s false it’s true. Therefore it has to be true. But unprovable!

That’s how he does it. That’s the proposition that’s both true and unprovable. And remember that it has a strictly arithmetical meaning as well. That’s accomplished through the Gödel numbering. So he’s shown that in any consistent formal system of arithmetic there will be true but unprovable arithmetical propositions. A formal system of arithmetic is either going to be inconsistent or incomplete.

The second incompleteness theorem, which follows pretty straightforwardly from the first, proves that one of the things that you can’t prove in a formal system of arithmetic is the consistency of that very system. So while you’re working in a system you can’t prove within that system that it’s consistent. And of course an inconsistent system is worthless because you can prove anything in an inconsistent system.

EDGE: Could you say something about the milieu in which Gödel lived at the time when he produced these theorems?

GOLDSTEIN: Between the two world wars, Vienna was a place of intellectual ferment. There was disappointment and disillusionment with the old ways of doing things. The horrors of World War I were still a current memory and there was an attempt to throw off the old ways, to rethink things, in many areas. So we see psychoanalysis starting there, and the modernist architecture of Adolf Loos, and Arnold Schoenberg with his atonal music. There was a lot of intercultural, interdisciplinary dialogue. The logical positivists were very much part of this. They tried to rethink the foundations of knowledge, to rethink the foundations of language. They claimed that if we purify language we’ll be able to purify knowledge.

As the logical positivist would have it, so much of the horror that had resulted in the Great War had come from confused thinking. People claimed to know things they couldn’t possibly know. The political concerns gave a fervor to the movement. If we were more modest in our claims to knowledge, perhaps we’d avoid some of the tragedy that our species is prone to. A lot of them—Neurath and Carnap certainly—had left-leaning politics as well. They toned this down when they got to America. But in Vienna, when Gödel was there, there was a fervor in trying to rethink language and the limits of what we can say.

Wittgenstein had an enormous influence on the Vienna Circle of logical positivists. He had written the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus in the trenches of World War I. In that book, published in 1922, he tried to delineate the outer reaches of language and show that language has a border around it. There are rules that allow us to say what’s sayable, and there’s a great deal that lies on the other side. Most of the important things, he notes, can’t be said.

But there he disagreed with the positivists. The positivists fought about the other side of the divide; outside of the sayable there was nothing at all. Beyond that which we can say there’s nothing. But Wittgenstein in fact believed that the most important thing, what he referred to as “the mystical,” is merely unsayable, not that it doesn’t exist at all. If we try to say it we will utter nonsense. But it’s important nonsense. Thus, Wittgenstein was not really a positivist. But the Vienna Circle understood him to be a positivist and they admired him tremendously. They undertook to study the Tractatus and they studied it for an entire year. And it’s a slim book! They met on Thursday evenings and studied the Tractatus sentence by sentence by sentence. It has the appearance of great clarity, but in fact it’s rather obscure. It’s quite beautiful, quite poetic, more artistic than scientific, as in fact the logician Frege wrote to Wittgenstein, in one of those seemingly flattering letters that an author probably would rather not get. Though the logical positives were inspired by Wittgenstein, he had an ambivalent attitude towards them. There were a few that he spoke to: Schlick and Friedrich Waissman, an acolyte, who worshiped Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein was a powerful personality, a man of great charisma.

Wittgenstein was in his early 40s around that time. He had gone to Cambridge before the war as an undergraduate, and had galvanized Bertrand Russell. Russell, together with Alfred North Whitehead, had written Principia Mathematica, trying to reduce arithmetic to logic and set theory. An overwhelming problem was how to defend your system of logic and set theory from paradoxical sets. Russell himself had discovered one of these atrocities of a priori reason: the set of all sets that aren’t members of themselves. This leads to a paradox—you see this when you ask whether this set is a member of itself: if it is then it isn’t and if it isn’t then it is. In other words, there can’t be such a set since it leads to paradox. Therefore, your formal system has got to block the formation of this sort of set, and of others that lead to paradoxes. Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica had a set of special rules—they called it the theory of types—that would keep certain problematic sets—the kind that yield paradoxes—out of set theory. But it was completely ad hoc. They didn’t have a theory as to what was going on there, and they issued an invitation for mathematicians and logicians to come up with a better explanation— a theory of when language is clean and pure, and when is it tainted by paradox. How can we purify our mathematical logical language so that it can’t form paradoxes? That lured Wittgenstein to Cambridge.

Wittgenstein had an enormous effect on Russell. First Russell thought Wittgenstein had a new kind of sensibility. He gave Russell the sense that he really knew something incommunicable, that there was something he was trying to get at that Russell was not seeing it. As a result of these interactions, Russell actually gave up mathematical logic. Wittgenstein convinced him that his old ways of doing things were wrong. Russell said that he couldn’t quite understand what Wittgenstein was saying, but he felt in his bones that he must be right. That’s the kind of effect that Wittgenstein had on people.

Then he went off into the trenches wrote the Tractatus. It had an enormous effect on those thinkers in Vienna who were trying to rethink the foundations of all knowledge and all language. And as I mentioned, he always disavowed them. He said they never understood him. One of the ways of really understanding this is that last proposition of the Tractatus: ” Of what we cannot speak thereof we must be silent.” It’s ambiguous. It could mean that all facts can be said and they can be said clearly, or it could mean that there are facts that are out there, but our language is not adequate for expressing them: that our language is leaving out chunks of reality. If we try to express the unsayable in language, we’ll violate the rules of language and commit nonsense.

Wittgenstein seemed to be saying the latter; that there are aspects of reality that exceed our ability to express them. Positivists understood it in the other way, the former way, that the criterion for meaningfulness exhausts all facts. Everything that can be said can be said clearly, and there’s nothing else out there.

Interesting, isn’t it, that here are philosophers obsessed with trying to say things precisely, with giving the rules for precision, and what they’re saying about precision isn’t precise enough for them to understand one another. You can understand Gödel’s saying, as he’s quoted saying to the mathematician Menger one night when they were walking home together from one of the meetings of the positivists, something like: “The more I think about language the less possible it seems to me that we ever understand one another.”

I believe that Gödel was taking the measure of his elders. His views about mathematics, about meaningfulness, about what we can know, about how important language is to shaping reality, were out of sync with those of the positivists.

When I was a graduate student in philosophy, there were still some professors, Cambridge philosophers, who had been in the inner Wittgensteinian circle, and sometimes they’d come to Princeton and I’d get tolisten to them. They still retained some of Wittgenstein’s mannerisms. He had had various tics; he would make certain faces and guttural sounds when he was thinking, and they made these faces and sounds, too. He had a mesmerizing effect on people. But not on Gödel.

Here’s what I think. Gödel was irked by Wittgenstein. He not only held meta-mathematical views that were deeply at odds with Wittgenstein’s—and though Wittgenstein wasn’t a positivist, his views on the foundations of mathematics, especially in the Tractatus, were in the positivist vein—but he was irked, too, I think, by the fuss that those around him, the positivists of the Vienna Circle, made about Wittgenstein. Maybe he was even irked by the fuss that Wittgenstein made about Wittgenstein. We only let people get away with that sort of stuff if we think they’re worthy. And by Gödel’s lights, Wittgenstein wasn’t.

In any case, these Wittgenstein-dominated conversations were the discussions he was frequenting when he was incubating his own ideas on the foundations of mathematics, not only incubating but, for all we know, actually working out the intuitions that would lead to his incompleteness theorems.

Gödel was a reticent man, an opaque man. He doesn’t give one a lot with which to try to imagine the inner man. A novelist is trained in the art of inhabiting characters, both real and imagined. A lot of the novelist’s skill resides in trying to insinuate oneself into others’ inner lives. Gödel is a hard one to penetrate. I’m fairly confident that there was some strong emotion connected with Wittgenstein; I can construct a fairly convincing story to this effect. But in the end it might be a made-up story. It’s compelling to me, for what that’s worth, and it makes sense, psychological sense. And there’s even some written evidence.

Gödel had harsh things to say about Wittgenstein later in his life. Never, of course, face to face, usually not even to other people, but in letters. Most of them he never sent, and I came upon them in Firestone among the literary remains, the Nachlass, of Gödel. Wittgenstein never accepted Gödel’s result; he said in The Foundations of Mathematics, posthumously published, that his task is not to discuss Gödel, but rather to bypass Gödel. He also called Gödel’s results the tricks of a logical conjurer, logical artifices. Kunststücken. Someone told Gödel about this and it was then that he let vent some of his annoyance about Wittgenstein, annoyance that was, if my psychological speculations are right, decades old, hatched long ago while Gödel listened to the positivists extolling Wittgenstein’s views, understanding him to vindicate their condemnation of all metaphysical views, including Platonism.

Of course it wasn’t only Wittgenstein who dismissed Gödel’s theorems. There are mathematicians who still argue with the incompleteness results, sometimes on constructivist grounds, namely strict scruples about what can and, more importantly, can’t be appealed to in proofs. Then there are those who accept that Gödel mathematically proved his results about incompleteness, but reject the meta-mathematical view, mathematical realism, that Gödel thought was strongly suggested by his results. There are certainly mathematical logicians who are formalists, even in the light of the incompleteness theorems. Gödel’s Platonism may have psychologically motivated his search for incompleteness, for helping him to drive what he saw as a wedge between the concepts of mathematical truth and provability; but that doesn’t mean that his theorems logically disprove formalism. Gödel’s Platonist heart may have rejoiced in his results, as they seemed to have vindicated his belief that mathematical reality exists independent of formal systems. But Platonism isn’t implied by the incompleteness results. Platonism isn’t a mathematical theorem at all.

Of course, Gödel made it harder not to be a Platonist. He proved that there are true but unprovable propositions of arithmetic. That sounds at least close to Platonism. That sounds close to the claim that arithmetical truths are independent of any human activity. Philosophers of mathematics can certainly avoid the Platonist conclusion but, so long as they don’t just “bypass Gödel,” they have to do fancy footwork. Even Wittgenstein, who said his task wasn’t to address Gödel’s theorems, couldn’t help returning to them again and again. He argued about them in his class with Alan Turing. And of course Turing’s own work, his demonstration that we can’t solve the halting problem (roughly, knowing whether a given computer program will produce a result given an input or will grind away forever), itself entails Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem.

There are mathematicians who say that what Gödel did is just irrelevant to their working lives as mathematicians, that they never have to think about incompleteness, or even know what exactly it is, in doing mathematical work. So you can do your mathematics and stay out of the meta-discussion. This is probably a pretty common attitude among mathematicians. And in some sense it’s a natural attitude. When you’re working within the discipline you’re doing what can be done within that discipline. The fish doesn’t have to be an expert on the nature of water.

That’s true in other field, too, say in physics. Physicists who disagree radically on the interpretation of physical theories—some thinking they’re descriptive of an objective physical reality, others thinking theories are just instruments for predictions—can collaborate qua physicists, can employ the same physical theories to get out scientific results, whether theoretical or applied. Your day-to-day work as a physicist isn’t necessarily going to be changed one way or the other because of your meta-view of what physics is; and your day-to-day life as a mathematician isn’t necessarily going to be changed by your meta-view of what mathematics is. You don’t even have to have a meta-view. Gödel’s theorems only matter if you’re interested in those meta- questions and to be a mathematician you don’t necessarily have to be interested in those questions.

EDGE: You connect this interest in the philosophical foundations of mathematics and physics with Gödel’s and Einstein’s famous friendship, don’t you?

GOLDSTEIN: Many of those who watched the two of them walking back home together every day from the Institute for Advanced Study deep in conversation—acquaintances of theirs told me they only wanted to speak to one another—wondered how two such different people could be so bonded. But what bonded them was that, first of all, they were so keenly interested in the meta-questions of their respective fields, those interpretive questions regarding what is it that these fields are really doing and how is it that they manage to do it.

Both of them saw their work in a certain philosophical context. They were both strong realists—Einstein in physics, and obviously Gödel in mathematics. That philosophical perspective put them at odds with many of their scientific peers. So it’s interesting that these two figures were very celebrated yet felt themselves to be marginalized, and marginalized in similar ways. This may explain something of the bond which was otherwise baffling to their acquaintances. And again the two of them are joined in that same ironic twist which which I began our conversation , that their work was swept up into the general assault on objectivity and rationality. Again I think back to that summer before I entered college and read that both relativity incompleteness had shown, with the full authority of physics and mathematics, that there are no objective criteria for truth and rationality. They were both exiled from Nazified Europe, but they were also—strange to say—intellectual exiles, and that’s astounding, given how central their work is usually taken to be.

Both of them had effected revolutions in their particular fields, but the way they saw their own work, the philosophical light they thought that their work was shedding, could not have been more at odds with most of their contemporaries.

Einstein and Gödel were true allies, and after Einstein died, Gödel’s natural solitariness deepened, along with his paranoid tendencies.  He came to a sad end.  His mistrust of language was, in a sense, vindicated.  Mistrusting language he had tried to make his mathematics speak his meta-mathematical convictions, but others often interpreted his theorems to be saying precisely the opposite of what he’d meant them to say.  Who wouldn’t become even more distrustful of human communication?  Who wouldn’t retreat even more into isolation?  I’m not justifying his paranoia of course.  But there’s some shadow of a rational response in the irrationality, too.

I’m saddened by the sense of his isolation, by how profound it must have been.  It’s chilling to consider that he felt the world to be so hostile that he believed his food was being poisoned and so stopped eating and so starved to death.  I’ve spent a long time imagining what that must have felt like for such a man.  And I contrast that dark and cold place in which he lived many long years and in which he ended his life with the sense of bright wonderment that I experienced that summer before graduate school, when I first understood Gödel’s masterpiece of reason.  He gave that experience to countless people, and we’re grateful.”     Rebecca Goldstein, “Godel and the Nature of Mathematical Truth: a Conversation;” Edge, 2017

4.28.2017 Daily Links

             A Thought for the Day              

When erstwhile citizens insist that they only desire candied confections to constitute their intellectual fare, especially when such a dietary choice in favor of sugar and fluff takes place in a context of dire predictions of imminent doom, then the only outcomes that can follow are the sorts of catastrophes that are existential in nature and scope—biosphere collapse, nuclear war, fifty-foot higher oceans, to name just a few—the upshot of all of which, the point should be obvious, must include the absolute necessity of embracing and emboldening and activating argument and debate and every single other sort of reasoned discourse.

                This Day in History                 

Internationally, today is Workers Memorial Day and World Day for Safety & Health at Work, and in Canada, April 28th marks a National Day of Morning for workers who suffer occupational injury, illness, and death; in Palestine eight hundred twenty-five years back, the Italian Third Crusade leader, Conrad I, recently risen to ‘King of Jerusalem, died at the hands of indigenous Hashshashin; seven hundred sixty-four years prior to this precise point, a Japanese monk first advances the chant that underlies worship of lotus order in the universe, the foundation of Nichiren Buddhism; a quarter millennium hence, in 1503, the first battle that gunpowder enabled armaments won, in Southern Italy, took place at Cerignola when an Italian force half the size of their French and Spanish opponents prevailed;   MORE HERE

                   Doc of the Day                      
1. Leon Jouhaux, 1951.
2. Roger Hart, 1999.
3. Rebecca Goldstein, 2017.

Numero Uno“It will certainly come as no surprise to you when I tell you that one of the most moving, as well as one of the happiest, moments of my life occurred on the evening of Monday, November 5, 1951. A reporter whose initiative I have already commended to the French Broadcasting System, eager to satisfy his professional conscience by extracting a sensational statement from me, came to inform me at a somewhat late hour that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee of the Norwegian Parliament had just bestowed on me one of the most renowned and flattering distinctions that this world can offer.


book hor2

"electoral college" "two party system" "pros and cons" OR criticism OR antidemocratic OR anti-democratic OR deconstruction purpose OR "hidden agenda" analysis radical OR marxist = 74,600 results

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                     Nearly Naked Links                  

From Thursday’s Files

Works of Weber – https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/weber.htm#s2

Moral and Spiritual Dimensions of Capital Punishment – http://dioscg.org/index.php/would-jesus-pull-the-switch/

Spiritual Political Activism – http://www.sisterhelen.org/the-imperative-to-speak-out/



student writing arm



The Creative Work Fund invites artists and nonprofit organizations to create new art works through collaborations. It celebrates the role of artists as problem solvers and the making of art as a profound contribution to intellectual inquiry and to the strengthening of communities. In August 2017, the Fund will award approximately $600,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations and collaborating literary or traditional artists. Grants will range from $10,000 to $40,000. A literary or traditional arts project may culminate in any form, but it must feature a lead artist with a strong track record as a literary or traditional artist. Creative Work Fund projects feature one or more artists collaborating with 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Fiscal sponsors are allowed. The principal collaborating artists must live in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, or Sonoma County and have lived there for at least two years prior to submitting a letter of inquiry. Collaborating organizations also must be based in one of the 11 counties.


Kernpunkt Press seeks work that is innovative and different, and welcomes manuscripts of literary fiction, historical fiction, and science fiction, as well as illustrated children’s books.

pascal maramis - flickr
pascal maramis – flickr


SpareMin is looking for Bloggers- remote

We are looking for bloggers that love audio to incorporate audio interviews, discussions, thoughts and more into their blogs.For this role you will be using SpareMin to create short audio-casts, and also embed them onto your site when appropriate. You can pick the subject matter that best fits your site. We will get your voice across the web and onto the Amazon Echo…

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Capitalism on Drugs

A Contributoria report by a fearless and tireless writer and public intellectual who deconstructs the historical, social, and economic foundations of the entire ‘war of drugs’ fiasco:  “Despite their intricacies, these interlocking and interdependent components are fairly easy to state. First*, a ruination of civic virtue or political comity occurs; second, individual alienation and ennui become widespread enough to appear essentially indomitable; third, and finally, elite representatives intervene to dispense ‘cures’ for our blues*. Though an expansion of this analysis follows, in which multiple subtexts and sidebars proliferate, its rudimentary statement is straightforward enough.”


Narrative Fallacies & Using Literature

 A Farnam Street blog post that looks at the benefits of literature: “Literature rapidly increases our learning. We learn through experiences, either our own or those of other people. Literature amplifies our exposure to a range of situations and events that would otherwise take decades for us to experience ourselves. For example, we can safely learn what it’s like to get divorced, quit your job and fly to another country on a whim, have an affair, be in love, or kill someone.”


Monopoly Media’s Massive Misrepresentations

A Defend Democracy brief that details the ways in which monopoly media distorts everything for propaganda aims: “It was a nasty case of bullying but not an attempted murder. A 12-year-old girl had put a rope around the boy’s neck and led him round like a dog, pulling on it hard enough to leave marks on his neck. That was clearly dangerous. But the boy never claimed she had hanged him from a tree. Indeed, he never even claimed that she had tied him to a tree, only that she had tried to. To double check, we spoke to Professor Christopher Milroy, the Home Office pathologist who handled the case. He said: “He had not been hanged. That was not correct and I couldn’t understand why the press were insisting that he was.””


Arts’ Political Economic Realities

An Inside Philanthropy view on what the recent bailout of an arts institution means for the sake of the future of philanthropy: News out of Dallas points to the complex interplay between arts funders, city agencies, and corporate donors in a politically charged environment where the arts are under siege and government is in retreat. As such, it illustrates how what initially seems like “good news” can be anything but, depending on who you talk to..”

GENISSHedges Contextualizes Resistance

A Truth Dig look at the dire, non-self-promoting side effects of dedicating your life to social justice and a better world for all: “To resist radical evil is to endure a life that by the standards of the wider society is a failure. It is to defy injustice at the cost of your career, your reputation, your financial solvency and at times your life. It is to be a lifelong heretic. And, perhaps this is the most important point, it is to accept that the dominant culture, even the liberal elites, will push you to the margins and attempt to discredit not only what you do, but your character. When I returned to the newsroom at The New York Times after being booed off a commencement stage in 2003 for denouncing the invasion of Iraq and being publicly reprimanded by the paper for my stance against the war, reporters and editors I had known and worked with for 15 years lowered their heads or turned away when I was nearby. They did not want to be contaminated by the same career-killing contagion.”

4.27.2017 Day in History

Thirteen centuries and six years ago, expansive Islamic forces began what would be a many-centuries occupation of much of the Iberian Peninsula; four hundred and seventy-eight years before the present pass, in what Colombia, Spanish interlopers reestablished a settlement on what would become Bogota; just over a quarter century later, forty four years after Magellan’s arrival in the region, in 1565, the Spanish Empire established its first outpost in the Philippines at Cebu; one hundred two years later exactly, in 1667, North across the English Channel, a nearly destitute and deathly sick John Milton sells his copyright of Paradise Lost for £10; two hundred eighty years ahead of today, a boy baby bounced into the world on his way to a rise and fall as writer and historian Edward Gibbon; twenty two years hence, in 1759,  a female infant was born who would become society darling and feminist pioneer Mary Wollstonecraft; two hundred twenty-six years prior to just this point in time, a male child uttered a first cry who would go on to invent the telegraph as Samuel Morse; two hundred and twelve years PhiladelphiaAgroundback, the United States extended itself through the Marine Corps to the ‘shores of Tripoli’ in the First Barbary War; half a decade subsequently, across the Mediterranean in 1810, Ludwig van Beethoven completed his composition Fur Elise; a decade past that conjunction, in 1820, a male infant took his first breath who, because of his class and family wealth, had the necessary ‘fitness’ to go onto a life in which he suggested that the sickly and vulnerable poor should all go to the wall; thirty one years thereafter, in 1861,  on the other side of the Atlantic, newly inaugurated President Abraham Lincoln suspended the right, and the writ, of Habeas Corpus as a result of war exigencies; four years more proximate to the present day, in 1865, New York State designates Cornell as its Federal Land Grant University; one hundred and thirty-five years before today, promoter of self-reliance and American existentialist Ralph Waldo Emerson ceased to be either reliable or extant; one hundred thirteen years before the here and now,  Australia’s Labour Party becomes the first such political entity to gain national power; ninety years prior to this precise moment in time, Republic of Chile creates its first national police force, and thirty five hundred miles to the North, a baby girl came into the world who would grow up as Coretta Scott before she married Martin Luther King, Jr.; five years in the future from that point, in 1932, poet and writer of the American West, Hart Crane, took his final breath; four years further down the pike, in 1936,  the United uaw_3636_246256_answer_2_xlargeAuto Workers gained the status of an autonomous labor union, free of the American Federation of Labor; three hundred sixty five days closer to the current dawn, in 1937, Italian Marxist and freedom fighter Antonio Gramsci died in prison; two years on the dot later on, in 1939,Czech mathematical genius and philosopher breathed his last; two years after that point in time, in 1941,  Nazi German invaders occupied Athens after a brief but destructive struggle; four years beyond that date, in 1945,  Italian partisans captured Mussolini as he tried to slink away in the uniform of a common soldier, and thirty five hundred miles away across the Atlantic, a baby boy is born who will grow up as dramatist and thinker August Wilson; another five years down the road, in 1950,  thirty five hundred miles south in South Africa, a slightly less aggressive fascist state further installs the formal machinery of apartheid in South Africa, under the authority of the Group Areas Act; half a century and two years ago, popular journalist and sometimes competent investigator Edward Murrow succumbed to lung cancer; seven hundred thirty days after that point, in 1967, Canada’s first World Fair opening ceremony takes place at the Montreal Expo; thirty-six years before now,  Xerox PARC introduced the first fully-functional commercial computer mouse; five years henceforth, in 1986, five thousand miles away in Ukraine, nuclear power’s ‘worst case accident’ until Fukushima happened, forced the evacuation of Pripyat near Chernobyl; nearby, six years later, in 1992,  the brief-lived Federal Republic of Yugoslavia came into existence, and the Russian Republic and twelve other Eastern European jurisdictions all join the International Monetary Fund; two years hence, in 1994,  thirty five hundred miles south back in South Africa, the first national elections occurred in which Black citizens could vote; eighteen years back, anthropologist and mythologist Carlos Castaneda took his last trip. From Wikipedia Day in History

4.27.2017 Doc of the Day

1. Edward Gibbon, circa 1780.
2. Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1849.
3. Antonio Gramsci, 1917.
4. Coretta Scott King, 1986.
CC BY-NC-ND by rainbow warrior

Numero Uno” …—Part I.

     Final Destruction Of Paganism.—Introduction Of The Worship
     Of Saints, And Relics, Among The Christians.

The ruin of Paganism, in the age of Theodosius, is perhaps the only example of the total extirpation of any ancient and popular superstition; and may therefore deserve to be considered as a singular event in the history of the human mind.  The Christians, more especially the clergy, had impatiently supported the prudent delays of Constantine, and the equal toleration of the elder Valentinian; nor could they deem their conquest perfect or secure, as long as their adversaries were permitted to exist.  The influence which Ambrose and his brethren had acquired over the youth of Gratian, and the piety of Theodosius, was employed to infuse the maxims of persecution into the breasts of their Imperial proselytes.  Two specious principles of religious jurisprudence were established, from whence they deduced a direct and rigorous conclusion, against the subjects of the empire who still adhered to the ceremonies of their ancestors: that the magistrate is, in some measure, guilty of the crimes which he neglects to prohibit, or to punish; and, that the idolatrous worship of fabulous deities, and real daemons, is the most abominable crime against the supreme majesty of the Creator.  The laws of Moses, and the examples of Jewish history, 1 were hastily, perhaps erroneously, applied, by the clergy, to the mild and universal reign of Christianity. The zeal of the emperors was excited to vindicate their own honor, and that of the Deity: and the temples of the Roman world were subverted, about sixty years after the conversion of Constantine. …

From the age of Numa to the reign of Gratian, the Romans preserved the regular succession of the several colleges of the sacerdotal order.  Fifteen Pontiffs exercised their supreme jurisdiction over all things, and persons, that were consecrated to the service of the gods; and the various questions which perpetually arose in a loose and traditionary system, were submitted to the judgment of their holy tribunal Fifteen grave and learned Augurs observed the face of the heavens, and prescribed the actions of heroes, according to the flight of birds.  Fifteen keepers of the Sibylline books (their name of Quindecemvirs was derived from their number) occasionally consulted the history of future, and, as it should seem, of contingent, events.  Six Vestals devoted their virginity to the guard of the sacred fire, and of the unknown pledges of the duration of Rome; which no mortal had been suffered to behold with impunity. Seven Epulos prepared the table of the gods, conducted the solemn procession, and regulated the ceremonies of the annual festival.  The three Flamens of Jupiter, of Mars, and of Quirinus, were considered as the peculiar ministers of the three most powerful deities, who watched over the fate of Rome and of the universe.  The King of the Sacrifices represented the person of Numa, and of his successors, in the religious functions, which could be performed only by royal hands.  The confraternities of the Salians, the Lupercals, &c., practised such rites as might extort a smile of contempt from every reasonable man, with a lively confidence of recommending themselves to the favor of the immortal gods.  The authority, which the Roman priests had formerly obtained in the counsels of the republic, was gradually abolished by the establishment of monarchy, and the removal of the seat of empire.  But the dignity of their sacred character was still protected by the laws, and manners of their country; and they still continued, more especially the college of pontiffs, to exercise in the capital, and sometimes in the provinces, the rights of their ecclesiastical and civil jurisdiction.  Their robes of purple, chariotz of state, and sumptuous entertainments, attracted the admiration of the people; and they received, from the consecrated lands, and the public revenue, an ample stipend, which liberally supported the splendor of the priesthood, and all the expenses of the religious worship of the state.  As the service of the altar was not incompatible with the command of armies, the Romans, after their consulships and triumphs, aspired to the place of pontiff, or of augur; the seats of Cicero 5 and Pompey were filled, in the fourth century, by the most illustrious members of the senate; and the dignity of their birth reflected additional splendor on their sacerdotal character. The fifteen priests, who composed the college of pontiffs, enjoyed a more distinguished rank as the companions of their sovereign; and the Christian emperors condescended to accept the robe and ensigns, which were appropriated to the office of supreme pontiff.  But when Gratian ascended the throne, more scrupulous or more enlightened, he sternly rejected those profane symbols; 6 applied to the service of the state, or of the church, the revenues of the priests and vestals; abolished their honors and immunities; and dissolved the ancient fabric of Roman superstition, which was supported by the opinions and habits of eleven hundred years.  Paganism was still the constitutional religion of the senate.  The hall, or temple, in which they assembled, was adorned by the statue and altar of Victory; 7 a majestic female standing on a globe, with flowing garments, expanded wings, and a crown of laurel in her outstretched hand. The senators were sworn on the altar of the goddess to observe the laws of the emperor and of the empire: and a solemn offering of wine and incense was the ordinary prelude of their public deliberations. The removal of this ancient monument was the only injury which Constantius had offered to the superstition of the Romans.  The altar of Victory was again restored by Julian, tolerated by Valentinian, and once more banished from the senate by the zeal of Gratian.  But the emperor yet spared the statues of the gods which were exposed to the public veneration: four hundred and twenty-four temples, or chapels, still remained to satisfy the devotion of the people; and in every quarter of Rome the delicacy of the Christians was offended by the fumes of idolatrous sacrifice. …

But the Christians formed the least numerous party in the senate of Rome:12 and it was only by their absence, that they could express their dissent from the legal, though profane, acts of a Pagan majority. In that assembly, the dying embers of freedom were, for a moment, revived and inflamed by the breath of fanaticism. Four respectable deputations were successively voted to the Imperial court, 13 to represent the grievances of the priesthood and the senate, and to solicit the restoration of the altar of Victory. The conduct of this important business was intrusted to the eloquent Symmachus, 14 a wealthy and noble senator, who united the sacred characters of pontiff and augur with the civil dignities of proconsul of Africa and praefect of the city. The breast of Symmachus was animated by the warmest zeal for the cause of expiring Paganism; and his religious antagonists lamented the abuse of his genius, and the inefficacy of his moral virtues. 15 The orator, whose petition is extant to the emperor Valentinian, was conscious of the difficulty and danger of the office which he had assumed. He cautiously avoids every topic which might appear to reflect on the religion of his sovereign; humbly declares, that prayers and entreaties are his only arms; and artfully draws his arguments from the schools of rhetoric, rather than from those of philosophy. Symmachus endeavors to seduce the imagination of a young prince, by displaying the attributes of the goddess of victory; he insinuates, that the confiscation of the revenues, which were consecrated to the service of the gods, was a measure unworthy of his liberal and disinterested character; and he maintains, that the Roman sacrifices would be deprived of their force and energy, if they were no longer celebrated at the expense, as well as in the name, of the republic. Even scepticism is made to supply an apology for superstition. The great and incomprehensible secret of the universe eludes the inquiry of man. Where reason cannot instruct, custom may be permitted to guide; and every nation seems to consult the dictates of prudence, by a faithful attachment to those rites and opinions, which have received the sanction of ages. If those ages have been crowned with glory and prosperity, if the devout people have frequently obtained the blessings which they have solicited at the altars of the gods, it must appear still more advisable to persist in the same salutary practice; and not to risk the unknown perils that may attend any rash innovations. The test of antiquity and success was applied with singular advantage to the religion of Numa; and Rome herself, the celestial genius that presided over the fates of the city, is introduced by the orator to plead her own cause before the tribunal of the emperors. “Most excellent princes,” says the venerable matron, “fathers of your country! pity and respect my age, which has hitherto flowed in an uninterrupted course of piety. Since I do not repent, permit me to continue in the practice of my ancient rites. Since I am born free, allow me to enjoy my domestic institutions. This religion has reduced the world under my laws. These rites have repelled Hannibal from the city, and the Gauls from the Capitol. Were my gray hairs reserved for such intolerable disgrace? I am ignorant of the new system that I am required to adopt; but I am well assured, that the correction of old age is always an ungrateful and ignominious office.” 16 The fears of the people supplied what the discretion of the orator had suppressed; and the calamities, which afflicted, or threatened, the declining empire, were unanimously imputed, by the Pagans, to the new religion of Christ and of Constantine. …

But the hopes of Symmachus were repeatedly baffled by the firm and dexterous opposition of the archbishop of Milan, who fortified the emperors against the fallacious eloquence of the advocate of Rome. In this controversy, Ambrose condescends to speak the language of a philosopher, and to ask, with some contempt, why it should be thought necessary to introduce an imaginary and invisible power, as the cause of those victories, which were sufficiently explained by the valor and discipline of the legions. He justly derides the absurd reverence for antiquity, which could only tend to discourage the improvements of art, and to replunge the human race into their original barbarism. From thence, gradually rising to a more lofty and theological tone, he pronounces, that Christianity alone is the doctrine of truth and salvation; and that every mode of Polytheism conducts its deluded votaries, through the paths of error, to the abyss of eternal perdition. 17Arguments like these, when they were suggested by a favorite bishop, had power to prevent the restoration of the altar of Victory; but the same arguments fell, with much more energy and effect, from the mouth of a conqueror; and the gods of antiquity were dragged in triumph at the chariot-wheels of Theodosius. 18 In a full meeting of the senate, the emperor proposed, according to the forms of the republic, the important question, Whether the worship of Jupiter, or that of Christ, should be the religion of the Romans. 1811 The liberty of suffrages, which he affected to allow, was destroyed by the hopes and fears that his presence inspired; and the arbitrary exile of Symmachus was a recent admonition, that it might be dangerous to oppose the wishes of the monarch. On a regular division of the senate, Jupiter was condemned and degraded by the sense of a very large majority; and it is rather surprising, that any members should be found bold enough to declare, by their speeches and votes, that they were still attached to the interest of an abdicated deity. 19 The hasty conversion of the senate must be attributed either to supernatural or to sordid motives; and many of these reluctant proselytes betrayed, on every favorable occasion, their secret disposition to throw aside the mask of odious dissimulation. But they were gradually fixed in the new religion, as the cause of the ancient became more hopeless; they yielded to the authority of the emperor, to the fashion of the times, and to the entreaties of their wives and children, 20 who were instigated and governed by the clergy of Rome and the monks of the East. The edifying example of the Anician family was soon imitated by the rest of the nobility: the Bassi, the Paullini, the Gracchi, embraced the Christian religion; and “the luminaries of the world, the venerable assembly of Catos (such are the high-flown expressions of Prudentius) were impatient to strip themselves of their pontifical garment; to cast the skin of the old serpent; to assume the snowy robes of baptismal innocence, and to humble the pride of the consular fasces before tombs of the martyrs.” 21 The citizens, who subsisted by their own industry, and the populace, who were supported by the public liberality, filled the churches of the Lateran, and Vatican, with an incessant throng of devout proselytes. The decrees of the senate, which proscribed the worship of idols, were ratified by the general consent of the Romans; 22 the splendor of the Capitol was defaced, and the solitary temples were abandoned to ruin and contempt. 23 Rome submitted to the yoke of the Gospel; and the vanquished provinces had not yet lost their reverence for the name and authority of Rome. …

Part II.
The filial piety of the emperors themselves engaged them to proceed, with some caution and tenderness, in the reformation of the eternal city. Those absolute monarchs acted with less regard to the prejudices of the provincials. The pious labor which had been suspended near twenty years since the death of Constantius, 24 was vigorously resumed, and finally accomplished, by the zeal of Theodosius. Whilst that warlike prince yet struggled with the Goths, not for the glory, but for the safety, of the republic, he ventured to offend a considerable party of his subjects, by some acts which might perhaps secure the protection of Heaven, but which must seem rash and unseasonable in the eye of human prudence. The success of his first experiments against the Pagans encouraged the pious emperor to reiterate and enforce his edicts of proscription: the same laws which had been originally published in the provinces of the East, were applied, after the defeat of Maximus, to the whole extent of the Western empire; and every victory of the orthodox Theodosius contributed to the triumph of the Christian and Catholic faith. 25 He attacked superstition in her most vital part, by prohibiting the use of sacrifices, which he declared to be criminal as well as infamous; and if the terms of his edicts more strictly condemned the impious curiosity which examined the entrails of the victim, 26 every subsequent explanation tended to involve in the same guilt the general practice of immolation, which essentially constituted the religion of the Pagans. As the temples had been erected for the purpose of sacrifice, it was the duty of a benevolent prince to remove from his subjects the dangerous temptation of offending against the laws which he had enacted. A special commission was granted to Cynegius, the Praetorian praefect of the East, and afterwards to the counts Jovius and Gaudentius, two officers of distinguished rank in the West; by which they were directed to shut the temples, to seize or destroy the instruments of idolatry, to abolish the privileges of the priests, and to confiscate the consecrated property for the benefit of the emperor, of the church, or of the army. 27 Here the desolation might have stopped: and the naked edifices, which were no longer employed in the service of idolatry, might have been protected from the destructive rage of fanaticism. Many of those temples were the most splendid and beautiful monuments of Grecian architecture; and the emperor himself was interested not to deface the splendor of his own cities, or to diminish the value of his own possessions. Those stately edifices might be suffered to remain, as so many lasting trophies of the victory of Christ. In the decline of the arts they might be usefully converted into magazines, manufactures, or places of public assembly: and perhaps, when the walls of the temple had been sufficiently purified by holy rites, the worship of the true Deity might be allowed to expiate the ancient guilt of idolatry. But as long as they subsisted, the Pagans fondly cherished the secret hope, that an auspicious revolution, a second Julian, might again restore the altars of the gods: and the earnestness with which they addressed their unavailing prayers to the throne, 28 increased the zeal of the Christian reformers to extirpate, without mercy, the root of superstition. The laws of the emperors exhibit some symptoms of a milder disposition: 29 but their cold and languid efforts were insufficient to stem the torrent of enthusiasm and rapine, which was conducted, or rather impelled, by the spiritual rulers of the church. In Gaul, the holy Martin, bishop of Tours, 30 marched at the head of his faithful monks to destroy the idols, the temples, and the consecrated trees of his extensive diocese; and, in the execution of this arduous task, the prudent reader will judge whether Martin was supported by the aid of miraculous powers, or of carnal weapons. In Syria, the divine and excellent Marcellus, 31 as he is styled by Theodoret, a bishop animated with apostolic fervor, resolved to level with the ground the stately temples within the diocese of Apamea. His attack was resisted by the skill and solidity with which the temple of Jupiter had been constructed. The building was seated on an eminence: on each of the four sides, the lofty roof was supported by fifteen massy columns, sixteen feet in circumference; and the large stone, of which they were composed, were firmly cemented with lead and iron. The force of the strongest and sharpest tools had been tried without effect. It was found necessary to undermine the foundations of the columns, which fell down as soon as the temporary wooden props had been consumed with fire; and the difficulties of the enterprise are described under the allegory of a black daemon, who retarded, though he could not defeat, the operations of the Christian engineers. Elated with victory, Marcellus took the field in person against the powers of darkness; a numerous troop of soldiers and gladiators marched under the episcopal banner, and he successively attacked the villages and country temples of the diocese of Apamea. Whenever any resistance or danger was apprehended, the champion of the faith, whose lameness would not allow him either to fight or fly, placed himself at a convenient distance, beyond the reach of darts. But this prudence was the occasion of his death: he was surprised and slain by a body of exasperated rustics; and the synod of the province pronounced, without hesitation, that the holy Marcellus had sacrificed his life in the cause of God. In the support of this cause, the monks, who rushed with tumultuous fury from the desert, distinguished themselves by their zeal and diligence. They deserved the enmity of the Pagans; and some of them might deserve the reproaches of avarice and intemperance; of avarice, which they gratified with holy plunder, and of intemperance, which they indulged at the expense of the people, who foolishly admired their tattered garments, loud psalmody, and artificial paleness. 32 A small number of temples was protected by the fears, the venality, the taste, or the prudence, of the civil and ecclesiastical governors. The temple of the Celestial Venus at Carthage, whose sacred precincts formed a circumference of two miles, was judiciously converted into a Christian church; 33 and a similar consecration has preserved inviolate the majestic dome of the Pantheon at Rome. 34 But in almost every province of the Roman world, an army of fanatics, without authority, and without discipline, invaded the peaceful inhabitants; and the ruin of the fairest structures of antiquity still displays the ravages of those Barbarians, who alone had time and inclination to execute such laborious destruction. …

In this wide and various prospect of devastation, the spectator may distinguish the ruins of the temple of Serapis, at Alexandria. 35 Serapis does not appear to have been one of the native gods, or monsters, who sprung from the fruitful soil of superstitious Egypt. 36 The first of the Ptolemies had been commanded, by a dream, to import the mysterious stranger from the coast of Pontus, where he had been long adored by the inhabitants of Sinope; but his attributes and his reign were so imperfectly understood, that it became a subject of dispute, whether he represented the bright orb of day, or the gloomy monarch of the subterraneous regions. 37 The Egyptians, who were obstinately devoted to the religion of their fathers, refused to admit this foreign deity within the walls of their cities. 38 But the obsequious priests, who were seduced by the liberality of the Ptolemies, submitted, without resistance, to the power of the god of Pontus: an honorable and domestic genealogy was provided; and this fortunate usurper was introduced into the throne and bed of Osiris, 39 the husband of Isis, and the celestial monarch of Egypt. Alexandria, which claimed his peculiar protection, gloried in the name of the city of Serapis. His temple, 40 which rivalled the pride and magnificence of the Capitol, was erected on the spacious summit of an artificial mount, raised one hundred steps above the level of the adjacent parts of the city; and the interior cavity was strongly supported by arches, and distributed into vaults and subterraneous apartments. The consecrated buildings were surrounded by a quadrangular portico; the stately halls, and exquisite statues, displayed the triumph of the arts; and the treasures of ancient learning were preserved in the famous Alexandrian library, which had arisen with new splendor from its ashes. 41After the edicts of Theodosius had severely prohibited the sacrifices of the Pagans, they were still tolerated in the city and temple of Serapis; and this singular indulgence was imprudently ascribed to the superstitious terrors of the Christians themselves; as if they had feared to abolish those ancient rites, which could alone secure the inundations of the Nile, the harvests of Egypt, and the subsistence of Constantinople. …

At that time 43 the archiepiscopal throne of Alexandria was filled by Theophilus, 44 the perpetual enemy of peace and virtue; a bold, bad man, whose hands were alternately polluted with gold and with blood. His pious indignation was excited by the honors of Serapis; and the insults which he offered to an ancient temple of Bacchus, 4411 convinced the Pagans that he meditated a more important and dangerous enterprise. In the tumultuous capital of Egypt, the slightest provocation was sufficient to inflame a civil war. The votaries of Serapis, whose strength and numbers were much inferior to those of their antagonists, rose in arms at the instigation of the philosopher Olympius, 45 who exhorted them to die in the defence of the altars of the gods. These Pagan fanatics fortified themselves in the temple, or rather fortress, of Serapis; repelled the besiegers by daring sallies, and a resolute defence; and, by the inhuman cruelties which they exercised on their Christian prisoners, obtained the last consolation of despair. The efforts of the prudent magistrate were usefully exerted for the establishment of a truce, till the answer of Theodosius should determine the fate of Serapis. The two parties assembled, without arms, in the principal square; and the Imperial rescript was publicly read. But when a sentence of destruction against the idols of Alexandria was pronounced, the Christians set up a shout of joy and exultation, whilst the unfortunate Pagans, whose fury had given way to consternation, retired with hasty and silent steps, and eluded, by their flight or obscurity, the resentment of their enemies. Theophilus proceeded to demolish the temple of Serapis, without any other difficulties, than those which he found in the weight and solidity of the materials: but these obstacles proved so insuperable, that he was obliged to leave the foundations; and to content himself with reducing the edifice itself to a heap of rubbish, a part of which was soon afterwards cleared away, to make room for a church, erected in honor of the Christian martyrs. The valuable library of Alexandria was pillaged or destroyed; and near twenty years afterwards, the appearance of the empty shelves excited the regret and indignation of every spectator, whose mind was not totally darkened by religious prejudice. 46 The compositions of ancient genius, so many of which have irretrievably perished, might surely have been excepted from the wreck of idolatry, for the amusement and instruction of succeeding ages; and either the zeal or the avarice of the archbishop, 47 might have been satiated with the rich spoils, which were the reward of his victory. While the images and vases of gold and silver were carefully melted, and those of a less valuable metal were contemptuously broken, and cast into the streets, Theophilus labored to expose the frauds and vices of the ministers of the idols; their dexterity in the management of the loadstone; their secret methods of introducing a human actor into a hollow statue; 4711 and their scandalous abuse of the confidence of devout husbands and unsuspecting females. 48 Charges like these may seem to deserve some degree of credit, as they are not repugnant to the crafty and interested spirit of superstition. But the same spirit is equally prone to the base practice of insulting and calumniating a fallen enemy; and our belief is naturally checked by the reflection, that it is much less difficult to invent a fictitious story, than to support a practical fraud. The colossal statue of Serapis 49 was involved in the ruin of his temple and religion. A great number of plates of different metals, artificially joined together, composed the majestic figure of the deity, who touched on either side the walls of the sanctuary. The aspect of Serapis, his sitting posture, and the sceptre, which he bore in his left hand, were extremely similar to the ordinary representations of Jupiter. He was distinguished from Jupiter by the basket, or bushel, which was placed on his head; and by the emblematic monster which he held in his right hand; the head and body of a serpent branching into three tails, which were again terminated by the triple heads of a dog, a lion, and a wolf. It was confidently affirmed, that if any impious hand should dare to violate the majesty of the god, the heavens and the earth would instantly return to their original chaos. An intrepid soldier, animated by zeal, and armed with a weighty battle-axe, ascended the ladder; and even the Christian multitude expected, with some anxiety, the event of the combat. 50 He aimed a vigorous stroke against the cheek of Serapis; the cheek fell to the ground; the thunder was still silent, and both the heavens and the earth continued to preserve their accustomed order and tranquillity. The victorious soldier repeated his blows: the huge idol was overthrown, and broken in pieces; and the limbs of Serapis were ignominiously dragged through the streets of Alexandria. His mangled carcass was burnt in the Amphitheatre, amidst the shouts of the populace; and many persons attributed their conversion to this discovery of the impotence of their tutelar deity. The popular modes of religion, that propose any visible and material objects of worship, have the advantage of adapting and familiarizing themselves to the senses of mankind: but this advantage is counterbalanced by the various and inevitable accidents to which the faith of the idolater is exposed. It is scarcely possible, that, in every disposition of mind, he should preserve his implicit reverence for the idols, or the relics, which the naked eye, and the profane hand, are unable to distinguish from the most common productions of art or nature; and if, in the hour of danger, their secret and miraculous virtue does not operate for their own preservation, he scorns the vain apologies of his priests, and justly derides the object, and the folly, of his superstitious attachment. 51 After the fall of Serapis, some hopes were still entertained by the Pagans, that the Nile would refuse his annual supply to the impious masters of Egypt; and the extraordinary delay of the inundation seemed to announce the displeasure of the river-god. But this delay was soon compensated by the rapid swell of the waters. They suddenly rose to such an unusual height, as to comfort the discontented party with the pleasing expectation of a deluge; till the peaceful river again subsided to the well-known and fertilizing level of sixteen cubits, or about thirty English feet. …

The temples of the Roman empire were deserted, or destroyed; but the ingenious superstition of the Pagans still attempted to elude the laws of Theodosius, by which all sacrifices had been severely prohibited. The inhabitants of the country, whose conduct was less opposed to the eye of malicious curiosity, disguised their religious, under the appearance of convivial, meetings. On the days of solemn festivals, they assembled in great numbers under the spreading shade of some consecrated trees; sheep and oxen were slaughtered and roasted; and this rural entertainment was sanctified by the use of incense, and by the hymns which were sung in honor of the gods. But it was alleged, that, as no part of the animal was made a burnt-offering, as no altar was provided to receive the blood, and as the previous oblation of salt cakes, and the concluding ceremony of libations, were carefully omitted, these festal meetings did not involve the guests in the guilt, or penalty, of an illegal sacrifice. 53 Whatever might be the truth of the facts, or the merit of the distinction, 54 these vain pretences were swept away by the last edict of Theodosius, which inflicted a deadly wound on the superstition of the Pagans. 555511 This prohibitory law is expressed in the most absolute and comprehensive terms. “It is our will and pleasure,” says the emperor, “that none of our subjects, whether magistrates or private citizens, however exalted or however humble may be their rank and condition, shall presume, in any city or in any place, to worship an inanimate idol, by the sacrifice of a guiltless victim.” The act of sacrificing, and the practice of divination by the entrails of the victim, are declared (without any regard to the object of the inquiry) a crime of high treason against the state, which can be expiated only by the death of the guilty. The rites of Pagan superstition, which might seem less bloody and atrocious, are abolished, as highly injurious to the truth and honor of religion; luminaries, garlands, frankincense, and libations of wine, are specially enumerated and condemned; and the harmless claims of the domestic genius, of the household gods, are included in this rigorous proscription. The use of any of these profane and illegal ceremonies, subjects the offender to the forfeiture of the house or estate, where they have been performed; and if he has artfully chosen the property of another for the scene of his impiety, he is compelled to discharge, without delay, a heavy fine of twenty-five pounds of gold, or more than one thousand pounds sterling. A fine, not less considerable, is imposed on the connivance of the secret enemies of religion, who shall neglect the duty of their respective stations, either to reveal, or to punish, the guilt of idolatry. Such was the persecuting spirit of the laws of Theodosius, which were repeatedly enforced by his sons and grandsons, with the loud and unanimous applause of the Christian world. …

—Part III.In the cruel reigns of Decius and Dioclesian, Christianity had been proscribed, as a revolt from the ancient and hereditary religion of the empire; and the unjust suspicions which were entertained of a dark and dangerous faction, were, in some measure, countenanced by the inseparable union and rapid conquests of the Catholic church. But the same excuses of fear and ignorance cannot be applied to the Christian emperors who violated the precepts of humanity and of the Gospel. The experience of ages had betrayed the weakness, as well as folly, of Paganism; the light of reason and of faith had already exposed, to the greatest part of mankind, the vanity of idols; and the declining sect, which still adhered to their worship, might have been permitted to enjoy, in peace and obscurity, the religious costumes of their ancestors. Had the Pagans been animated by the undaunted zeal which possessed the minds of the primitive believers, the triumph of the Church must have been stained with blood; and the martyrs of Jupiter and Apollo might have embraced the glorious opportunity of devoting their lives and fortunes at the foot of their altars. But such obstinate zeal was not congenial to the loose and careless temper of Polytheism. The violent and repeated strokes of the orthodox princes were broken by the soft and yielding substance against which they were directed; and the ready obedience of the Pagans protected them from the pains and penalties of the Theodosian Code. 57 Instead of asserting, that the authority of the gods was superior to that of the emperor, they desisted, with a plaintive murmur, from the use of those sacred rites which their sovereign had condemned. If they were sometimes tempted by a sally of passion, or by the hopes of concealment, to indulge their favorite superstition, their humble repentance disarmed the severity of the Christian magistrate, and they seldom refused to atone for their rashness, by submitting, with some secret reluctance, to the yoke of the Gospel. The churches were filled with the increasing multitude of these unworthy proselytes, who had conformed, from temporal motives, to the reigning religion; and whilst they devoutly imitated the postures, and recited the prayers, of the faithful, they satisfied their conscience by the silent and sincere invocation of the gods of antiquity. 58 If the Pagans wanted patience to suffer they wanted spirit to resist; and the scattered myriads, who deplored the ruin of the temples, yielded, without a contest, to the fortune of their adversaries. The disorderly opposition 59 of the peasants of Syria, and the populace of Alexandria, to the rage of private fanaticism, was silenced by the name and authority of the emperor. The Pagans of the West, without contributing to the elevation of Eugenius, disgraced, by their partial attachment, the cause and character of the usurper. The clergy vehemently exclaimed, that he aggravated the crime of rebellion by the guilt of apostasy; that, by his permission, the altar of victory was again restored; and that the idolatrous symbols of Jupiter and Hercules were displayed in the field, against the invincible standard of the cross. But the vain hopes of the Pagans were soon annihilated by the defeat of Eugenius; and they were left exposed to the resentment of the conqueror, who labored to deserve the favor of Heaven by the extirpation of idolatry. …

A nation of slaves is always prepared to applaud the clemency of their master, who, in the abuse of absolute power, does not proceed to the last extremes of injustice and oppression. Theodosius might undoubtedly have proposed to his Pagan subjects the alternative of baptism or of death; and the eloquent Libanius has praised the moderation of a prince, who never enacted, by any positive law, that all his subjects should immediately embrace and practise the religion of their sovereign. 61 The profession of Christianity was not made an essential qualification for the enjoyment of the civil rights of society, nor were any peculiar hardships imposed on the sectaries, who credulously received the fables of Ovid, and obstinately rejected the miracles of the Gospel. The palace, the schools, the army, and the senate, were filled with declared and devout Pagans; they obtained, without distinction, the civil and military honors of the empire. 6111Theodosius distinguished his liberal regard for virtue and genius by the consular dignity, which he bestowed on Symmachus; 62 and by the personal friendship which he expressed to Libanius; 63 and the two eloquent apologists of Paganism were never required either to change or to dissemble their religious opinions. The Pagans were indulged in the most licentious freedom of speech and writing; the historical and philosophic remains of Eunapius, Zosimus, 64 and the fanatic teachers of the school of Plato, betray the most furious animosity, and contain the sharpest invectives, against the sentiments and conduct of their victorious adversaries. If these audacious libels were publicly known, we must applaud the good sense of the Christian princes, who viewed, with a smile of contempt, the last struggles of superstition and despair. 65 But the Imperial laws, which prohibited the sacrifices and ceremonies of Paganism, were rigidly executed; and every hour contributed to destroy the influence of a religion, which was supported by custom, rather than by argument. The devotion or the poet, or the philosopher, may be secretly nourished by prayer, meditation, and study; but the exercise of public worship appears to be the only solid foundation of the religious sentiments of the people, which derive their force from imitation and habit. The interruption of that public exercise may consummate, in the period of a few years, the important work of a national revolution. The memory of theological opinions cannot long be preserved, without the artificial helps of priests, of temples, and of books. 66The ignorant vulgar, whose minds are still agitated by the blind hopes and terrors of superstition, will be soon persuaded by their superiors to direct their vows to the reigning deities of the age; and will insensibly imbibe an ardent zeal for the support and propagation of the new doctrine, which spiritual hunger at first compelled them to accept. The generation that arose in the world after the promulgation of the Imperial laws, was attracted within the pale of the Catholic church: and so rapid, yet so gentle, was the fall of Paganism, that only twenty-eight years after the death of Theodosius, the faint and minute vestiges were no longer visible to the eye of the legislator. …

The ruin of the Pagan religion is described by the sophists as a dreadful and amazing prodigy, which covered the earth with darkness, and restored the ancient dominion of chaos and of night. They relate, in solemn and pathetic strains, that the temples were converted into sepulchres, and that the holy places, which had been adorned by the statues of the gods, were basely polluted by the relics of Christian martyrs. “The monks” (a race of filthy animals, to whom Eunapius is tempted to refuse the name of men) “are the authors of the new worship, which, in the place of those deities who are conceived by the understanding, has substituted the meanest and most contemptible slaves. The heads, salted and pickled, of those infamous malefactors, who for the multitude of their crimes have suffered a just and ignominious death; their bodies still marked by the impression of the lash, and the scars of those tortures which were inflicted by the sentence of the magistrate; such” (continues Eunapius) “are the gods which the earth produces in our days; such are the martyrs, the supreme arbitrators of our prayers and petitions to the Deity, whose tombs are now consecrated as the objects of the veneration of the people.” 68 Without approving the malice, it is natural enough to share the surprise of the sophist, the spectator of a revolution, which raised those obscure victims of the laws of Rome to the rank of celestial and invisible protectors of the Roman empire. The grateful respect of the Christians for the martyrs of the faith, was exalted, by time and victory, into religious adoration; and the most illustrious of the saints and prophets were deservedly associated to the honors of the martyrs. One hundred and fifty years after the glorious deaths of St. Peter and St. Paul, the Vatican and the Ostian road were distinguished by the tombs, or rather by the trophies, of those spiritual heroes. 69 In the age which followed the conversion of Constantine, the emperors, the consuls, and the generals of armies, devoutly visited the sepulchres of a tentmaker and a fisherman; 70and their venerable bones were deposited under the altars of Christ, on which the bishops of the royal city continually offered the unbloody sacrifice. 71 The new capital of the Eastern world, unable to produce any ancient and domestic trophies, was enriched by the spoils of dependent provinces. The bodies of St. Andrew, St. Luke, and St. Timothy, had reposed near three hundred years in the obscure graves, from whence they were transported, in solemn pomp, to the church of the apostles, which the magnificence of Constantine had founded on the banks of the Thracian Bosphorus. 72 About fifty years afterwards, the same banks were honored by the presence of Samuel, the judge and prophet of the people of Israel. His ashes, deposited in a golden vase, and covered with a silken veil, were delivered by the bishops into each other’s hands. The relics of Samuel were received by the people with the same joy and reverence which they would have shown to the living prophet; the highways, from Palestine to the gates of Constantinople, were filled with an uninterrupted procession; and the emperor Arcadius himself, at the head of the most illustrious members of the clergy and senate, advanced to meet his extraordinary guest, who had always deserved and claimed the homage of kings. 73 The example of Rome and Constantinople confirmed the faith and discipline of the Catholic world. The honors of the saints and martyrs, after a feeble and ineffectual murmur of profane reason, 74 were universally established; and in the age of Ambrose and Jerom, something was still deemed wanting to the sanctity of a Christian church, till it had been consecrated by some portion of holy relics, which fixed and inflamed the devotion of the faithful. …

In the long period of twelve hundred years, which elapsed between the reign of Constantine and the reformation of Luther, the worship of saints and relics corrupted the pure and perfect simplicity of the Christian model: and some symptoms of degeneracy may be observed even in the first generations which adopted and cherished this pernicious innovation. …

II. But the progress of superstition would have been much less rapid and victorious, if the faith of the people had not been assisted by the seasonable aid of visions and miracles, to ascertain the authenticity and virtue of the most suspicious relics. In the reign of the younger Theodosius, Lucian, 77 a presbyter of Jerusalem, and the ecclesiastical minister of the village of Caphargamala, about twenty miles from the city, related a very singular dream, which, to remove his doubts, had been repeated on three successive Saturdays. A venerable figure stood before him, in the silence of the night, with a long beard, a white robe, and a gold rod; announced himself by the name of Gamaliel, and revealed to the astonished presbyter, that his own corpse, with the bodies of his son Abibas, his friend Nicodemus, and the illustrious Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian faith, were secretly buried in the adjacent field. He added, with some impatience, that it was time to release himself and his companions from their obscure prison; that their appearance would be salutary to a distressed world; and that they had made choice of Lucian to inform the bishop of Jerusalem of their situation and their wishes. The doubts and difficulties which still retarded this important discovery were successively removed by new visions; and the ground was opened by the bishop, in the presence of an innumerable multitude. The coffins of Gamaliel, of his son, and of his friend, were found in regular order; but when the fourth coffin, which contained the remains of Stephen, was shown to the light, the earth trembled, and an odor, such as that of paradise, was smelt, which instantly cured the various diseases of seventy-three of the assistants. The companions of Stephen were left in their peaceful residence of Caphargamala: but the relics of the first martyr were transported, in solemn procession, to a church constructed in their honor on Mount Sion; and the minute particles of those relics, a drop of blood, 78 or the scrapings of a bone, were acknowledged, in almost every province of the Roman world, to possess a divine and miraculous virtue. The grave and learned Augustin, 79 whose understanding scarcely admits the excuse of credulity, has attested the innumerable prodigies which were performed in Africa by the relics of St. Stephen; and this marvellous narrative is inserted in the elaborate work of the City of God, which the bishop of Hippo designed as a solid and immortal proof of the truth of Christianity. Augustin solemnly declares, that he has selected those miracles only which were publicly certified by the persons who were either the objects, or the spectators, of the power of the martyr. Many prodigies were omitted, or forgotten; and Hippo had been less favorably treated than the other cities of the province. And yet the bishop enumerates above seventy miracles, of which three were resurrections from the dead, in the space of two years, and within the limits of his own diocese. 80 If we enlarge our view to all the dioceses, and all the saints, of the Christian world, it will not be easy to calculate the fables, and the errors, which issued from this inexhaustible source. But we may surely be allowed to observe, that a miracle, in that age of superstition and credulity, lost its name and its merit, since it could scarcely be considered as a deviation from the ordinary and established laws of nature. …

III. The innumerable miracles, of which the tombs of the martyrs were the perpetual theatre, revealed to the pious believer the actual state and constitution of the invisible world; and his religious speculations appeared to be founded on the firm basis of fact and experience. Whatever might be the condition of vulgar souls, in the long interval between the dissolution and the resurrection of their bodies, it was evident that the superior spirits of the saints and martyrs did not consume that portion of their existence in silent and inglorious sleep. 81 It was evident (without presuming to determine the place of their habitation, or the nature of their felicity) that they enjoyed the lively and active consciousness of their happiness, their virtue, and their powers; and that they had already secured the possession of their eternal reward. The enlargement of their intellectual faculties surpassed the measure of the human imagination; since it was proved by experience, that they were capable of hearing and understanding the various petitions of their numerous votaries; who, in the same moment of time, but in the most distant parts of the world, invoked the name and assistance of Stephen or of Martin. 82 The confidence of their petitioners was founded on the persuasion, that the saints, who reigned with Christ, cast an eye of pity upon earth; that they were warmly interested in the prosperity of the Catholic Church; and that the individuals, who imitated the example of their faith and piety, were the peculiar and favorite objects of their most tender regard. Sometimes, indeed, their friendship might be influenced by considerations of a less exalted kind: they viewed with partial affection the places which had been consecrated by their birth, their residence, their death, their burial, or the possession of their relics. The meaner passions of pride, avarice, and revenge, may be deemed unworthy of a celestial breast; yet the saints themselves condescended to testify their grateful approbation of the liberality of their votaries; and the sharpest bolts of punishment were hurled against those impious wretches, who violated their magnificent shrines, or disbelieved their supernatural power. 83 Atrocious, indeed, must have been the guilt, and strange would have been the scepticism, of those men, if they had obstinately resisted the proofs of a divine agency, which the elements, the whole range of the animal creation, and even the subtle and invisible operations of the human mind, were compelled to obey. 84 The immediate, and almost instantaneous, effects that were supposed to follow the prayer, or the offence, satisfied the Christians of the ample measure of favor and authority which the saints enjoyed in the presence of the Supreme God; and it seemed almost superfluous to inquire whether they were continually obliged to intercede before the throne of grace; or whether they might not be permitted to exercise, according to the dictates of their benevolence and justice, the delegated powers of their subordinate ministry. The imagination, which had been raised by a painful effort to the contemplation and worship of the Universal Cause, eagerly embraced such inferior objects of adoration as were more proportioned to its gross conceptions and imperfect faculties. The sublime and simple theology of the primitive Christians was gradually corrupted; and the Monarchy of heaven, already clouded by metaphysical subtleties, was degraded by the introduction of a popular mythology, which tended to restore the reign of polytheism. …

IV. As the objects of religion were gradually reduced to the standard of the imagination, the rites and ceremonies were introduced that seemed most powerfully to affect the senses of the vulgar.  If, in the beginning of the fifth century, Tertullian, or Lactantius, had been suddenly raised from the dead, to assist at the festival of some popular saint, or martyr, they would have gazed with astonishment, and indignation, on the profane spectacle, which had succeeded to the pure and spiritual worship of a Christian congregation.  As soon as the doors of the church were thrown open, they must have been offended by the smoke of incense, the perfume of flowers, and the glare of lamps and tapers, which diffused, at noonday, a gaudy, superfluous, and, in their opinion, a sacrilegious light.  If they approached the balustrade of the altar, they made their way through the prostrate crowd, consisting, for the most part, of strangers and pilgrims, who resorted to the city on the vigil of the feast; and who already felt the strong intoxication of fanaticism, and, perhaps, of wine.  Their devout kisses were imprinted on the walls and pavement of the sacred edifice; and their fervent prayers were directed, whatever might be the language of their church, to the bones, the blood, or the ashes of the saint, which were usually concealed, by a linen or silken veil, from the eyes of the vulgar.  The Christians frequented the tombs of the martyrs, in the hope of obtaining, from their powerful intercession, every sort of spiritual, but more especially of temporal, blessings.  They implored the preservation of their health, or the cure of their infirmities; the fruitfulness of their barren wives, or the safety and happiness of their children.  Whenever they undertook any distant or dangerous journey, they requested, that the holy martyrs would be their guides and protectors on the road; and if they returned without having experienced any misfortune, they again hastened to the tombs of the martyrs, to celebrate, with grateful thanksgivings, their obligations to the memory and relics of those heavenly patrons.  The walls were hung round with symbols of the favors which they had received; eyes, and hands, and feet, of gold and silver: and edifying pictures, which could not long escape the abuse of indiscreet or idolatrous devotion, represented the image, the attributes, and the miracles of the tutelar saint.  The same uniform original spirit of superstition might suggest, in the most distant ages and countries, the same methods of deceiving the credulity, and of affecting the senses of mankind: but it must ingenuously be confessed, that the ministers of the Catholic church imitated the profane model, which they were impatient to destroy.  The most respectable bishops had persuaded themselves that the ignorant rustics would more cheerfully renounce the superstitions of Paganism, if they found some resemblance, some compensation, in the bosom of Christianity.  The religion of Constantine achieved, in less than a century, the final conquest of the Roman empire: but the victors themselves were insensibly subdued by the arts of their vanquished rivals.”    Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire–Volume Three; “The Destruction of Paganism, Parts One, Two, & Three” Chapter XXVIII, circa 1780

Under the Wing of a Dwarf Galaxy (NASA, Chandra, 04/03/13)
Under the Wing of a Dwarf Galaxy (NASA, Chandra, 04/03/13)

Numero Dos“OUR age is retrospective.  It builds the sepulchres of the fathers.  It writes biographies, histories, and criticism.  The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes.  Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?  Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?  Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe?  The sun shines to-day also.  There is more wool and flax in the fields.  There are new lands, new men, new thoughts.  Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable.  We must trust the perfection of the creation so far, as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy.  Every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put.  He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth.  In like manner, nature is already, in its forms and tendencies, describing its own design.  Let us interrogate the great apparition, that shines so peacefully around us.  Let us inquire, to what end is nature?

All science has one aim, namely, to find a theory of nature.  We have theories of races and of functions, but scarcely yet a remote approach to an idea of creation.  We are now so far from the road to truth, that religious teachers dispute and hate each other, and speculative men are esteemed unsound and frivolous.  But to a sound judgment, the most abstract truth is the most practical.  Whenever a true theory appears, it will be its own evidence.  Its test is, that it will explain all phenomena.  Now many are thought not only unexplained but inexplicable; as language, sleep, madness, dreams, beasts, sex.

Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul.  Strictly speaking, therefore, all that is separate from us, all which Philosophy distinguishes as the NOT ME, that is, both nature and art, all other men and my own body, must be ranked under this name, NATURE.  In enumerating the values of nature and casting up their sum, I shall use the word in both senses;—in its common and in its philosophical import.  In inquiries so general as our present one, the inaccuracy is not material; no confusion of thought will occur.  Nature, in the common sense, refers to essences unchanged by man; space, the air, the river, the leaf.  Art is applied to the mixture of his will with the same things, as in a house, a canal, a statue, a picture.  But his operations taken together are so insignificant, a little chipping, baking, patching, and washing, that in an impression so grand as that of the world on the human mind, they do not vary the result. …

TO go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society.  I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me.  But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars.  The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches.  One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime.  Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are!  If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!  But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.

When we speak of nature in this manner, we have a distinct but most poetical sense in the mind. We mean the integrity of impression made by manifold natural objects. It is this which distinguishes the stick of timber of the wood-cutter, from the tree of the poet. The charming landscape which I saw this morning, is indubitably made up of some twenty or thirty farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns the landscape. There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet. This is the best part of these men’s farms, yet to this their warranty-deeds give no title.

To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says,—he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me. Not the sun or the summer alone, but every hour and season yields its tribute of delight; for every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of the mind, from breathless noon to grimmest midnight. Nature is a setting that fits equally well a comic or a mourning piece. In good health, the air is a cordial of incredible virtue. Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances,—master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.

Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight, does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both.  It is necessary to use these pleasures with great temperance.  For, nature is not always tricked in holiday attire, but the same scene which yesterday breathed perfume and glittered as for the frolic of the nymphs, is overspread with melancholy today.  Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.  To a man laboring under calamity, the heat of his own fire hath sadness in it.  Then, there is a kind of contempt of the landscape felt by him who has just lost by death a dear friend.  The sky is less grand as it shuts down over less worth in the population. …

WHOEVER considers the final cause of the world, will discern a multitude of uses that result. They all admit of being thrown into one of the following classes; Commodity; Beauty; Language; and Discipline.

Under the general name of Commodity, I rank all those advantages which our senses owe to nature. This, of course, is a benefit which is temporary and mediate, not ultimate, like its service to the soul. Yet although low, it is perfect in its kind, and is the only use of nature which all men apprehend. The misery of man appears like childish petulance, when we explore the steady and prodigal provision that has been made for his support and delight on this green ball which floats him through the heavens. What angels invented these splendid ornaments, these rich conveniences, this ocean of air above, this ocean of water beneath, this firmament of earth between? this zodiac of lights, this tent of dropping clouds, this striped coat of climates, this fourfold year? Beasts, fire, water, stones, and corn serve him. The field is at once his floor, his work-yard, his play-ground, his garden, and his bed.

“More servants wait on man
Than he’ll take notice of.”—

Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other’s hands for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man.

The useful arts are reproductions or new combinations by the wit of man, of the same natural benefactors. He no longer waits for favoring gales, but by means of steam, he realizes the fable of Aeolus’s bag, and carries the two and thirty winds in the boiler of his boat. To diminish friction, he paves the road with iron bars, and, mounting a coach with a ship-load of men, animals, and merchandise behind him, he darts through the country, from town to town, like an eagle or a swallow through the air. By the aggregate of these aids, how is the face of the world changed, from the era of Noah to that of Napoleon! The private poor man hath cities, ships, canals, bridges, built for him. He goes to the post-office, and the human race run on his errands; to the book-shop, and the human race read and write of all that happens, for him; to the court-house, and nations repair his wrongs. He sets his house upon the road, and the human race go forth every morning, and shovel out the snow, and cut a path for him.

But there is no need of specifying particulars in this class of uses.  The catalogue is endless, and the examples so obvious, that I shall leave them to the reader’s reflection, with the general remark, that this mercenary benefit is one which has respect to a farther good.  A man is fed, not that he may be fed, but that he may work. …

LANGUAGE is a third use which Nature subserves to man. Nature is the vehicle, and threefold degree.

1. Words are signs of natural facts.

2. Particular natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual facts.

3. Nature is the symbol of spirit.

1. Words are signs of natural facts. The use of natural history is to give us aid in supernatural history: the use of the outer creation, to give us language for the beings and changes of the inward creation. Every word which is used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some material appearance. Right means straight; wrong means twisted. Spirit primarily means wind; transgression, the crossing of aline; supercilious, the raising of the eyebrow. We say the heart to express emotion, the head to denote thought; and thought and emotion are words borrowed from sensible things, and now appropriated to spiritual nature. Most of the process by which this transformation is made, is hidden from us in the remote time when language was framed; but the same tendency may be daily observed in children. Children and savages use only nouns or names of things, which they convert into verbs, and apply to analogous mental acts.

2. But this origin of all words that convey a spiritual import,—so conspicuous a fact in the history of language,—is our least debt to nature. It is not words only that are emblematic; it is things which are emblematic. Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. An enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression for knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible distance behind and before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope.

Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux of all things? Throw a stone into the stream, and the circles that propagate themselves are the beautiful type of all influence. Man is conscious of a universal soul within or behind his individual life, wherein, as in a firmament, the natures of Justice, Truth, Love, Freedom, arise and shine. This universal soul, he calls Reason: it is not mine, or thine, or his, but we are its; we are its property and men. And the blue sky in which the private earth is buried, the sky with its eternal calm, and full of everlasting orbs, is the type of Reason. That which, intellectually considered, we call Reason, considered in relation to nature, we call Spirit. Spirit is the Creator. Spirit hath life in itself. And man in all ages and countries, embodies it in his language, as the FATHER.

It is easily seen that there is nothing lucky or capricious in these analogies, but that they are constant, and pervade nature. These are not the dreams of a few poets, here and there, but man is an analogist, and studies relations in all objects. He is placed in the centre of beings, and a ray of relation passes from every other being to him. And neither can man be understood without these objects, nor these objects without man. All the facts in natural history taken by themselves, have no value, but are barren, like a single sex. But marry it to human history, and it is full of life. Whole Floras, all Linnaeus’ and Buffon’s volumes, are dry catalogues of facts; but the most trivial of these facts, the habit of a plant, the organs, or work, or noise of an insect, applied to the illustration of a fact in intellectual philosophy, or, in any way associated to human nature, affects us in the most lively and agreeable manner. The seed of a plant,—to what affecting analogies in the nature of man, is that little fruit made use of, in all discourse, up to the voice of Paul, who calls the human corpse a seed,—”It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” The motion of the earth round its axis, and round the sun, makes the day, and the year. These are certain amounts of brute light and heat. But is there no intent of an analogy between man’s life and the seasons? And do the seasons gain no grandeur or pathos from that analogy? The instincts of the ant are very unimportant, considered as the ant’s; but the moment a ray of relation is seen to extend from it to man, and the little drudge is seen to be a monitor, a little body with a mighty heart, then all its habits, even that said to be recently observed, that it never sleeps, become sublime.

Because of this radical correspondence between visible things and human thoughts, savages, who have only what is necessary, converse in figures. As we go back in history, language becomes more picturesque, until its infancy, when it is all poetry; or all spiritual facts are represented by natural symbols. The same symbols are found to make the original elements of all languages. It has moreover been observed, that the idioms of all languages approach each other in passages of the greatest eloquence and power. And as this is the first language, so is it the last. This immediate dependence of language upon nature, this conversion of an outward phenomenon into a type of somewhat in human life, never loses its power to affect us. It is this which gives that piquancy to the conversation of a strong-natured farmer or back-woodsman, which all men relish.

A man’s power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, and so to utter it, depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth, and his desire to communicate it without loss. The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language. When simplicity of character and the sovereignty of ideas is broken up by the prevalence of secondary desires, the desire of riches, of pleasure, of power, and of praise,—and duplicity and falsehood take place of simplicity and truth, the power over nature as an interpreter of the will, is in a degree lost; new imagery ceases to be created, and old words are perverted to stand for things which are not; a paper currency is employed, when there is no bullion in the vaults. In due time, the fraud is manifest, and words lose all power to stimulate the understanding or the affections. Hundreds of writers may be found in every long-civilized nation, who for a short time believe, and make others believe, that they see and utter truths, who do not of themselves clothe one thought in its natural garment, but who feed unconsciously on the language created by the primary writers of the country, those, namely, who hold primarily on nature.

But wise men pierce this rotten diction and fasten words again to visible things; so that picturesque language is at once a commanding certificate that he who employs it, is a man in alliance with truth and God. The moment our discourse rises above the ground line of familiar facts, and is inflamed with passion or exalted by thought, it clothes itself in images. A man conversing in earnest, if he watch his intellectual processes, will find that a material image, more or less luminous, arises in his mind, cotemporaneous with every thought, which furnishes the vestment of the thought. Hence, good writing and brilliant discourse are perpetual allegories. This imagery is spontaneous. It is the blending of experience with the present action of the mind. It is proper creation. It is the working of the Original Cause through the instruments he has already made.

These facts may suggest the advantage which the country-life possesses for a powerful mind, over the artificial and curtailed life of cities. We know more from nature than we can at will communicate. Its light flows into the mind evermore, and we forget its presence. The poet, the orator, bred in the woods, whose senses have been nourished by their fair and appeasing changes, year after year, without design and without heed,—shall not lose their lesson altogether, in the roar of cities or the broil of politics. Long hereafter, amidst agitation and terror in national councils,—in the hour of revolution,—these solemn images shall reappear in their morning lustre, as fit symbols and words of the thoughts which the passing events shall awaken. At the call of a noble sentiment, again the woods wave, the pines murmur, the river rolls and shines, and the cattle low upon the mountains, as he saw and heard them in his infancy. And with these forms, the spells of persuasion, the keys of power are put into his hands.

3. We are thus assisted by natural objects in the expression of particular meanings. But how great a language to convey such pepper-corn informations! Did it need such noble races of creatures, this profusion of forms, this host of orbs in heaven, to furnish man with the dictionary and grammar of his municipal speech? Whilst we use this grand cipher to expedite the affairs of our pot and kettle, we feel that we have not yet put it to its use, neither are able. We are like travellers using the cinders of a volcano to roast their eggs. Whilst we see that it always stands ready to clothe what we would say, we cannot avoid the question, whether the characters are not significant of themselves. Have mountains, and waves, and skies, no significance but what we consciously give them, when we employ them as emblems of our thoughts? The world is emblematic. Parts of speech are metaphors, because the whole of nature is a metaphor of the human mind. The laws of moral nature answer to those of matter as face to face in a glass. “The visible world and the relation of its parts, is the dial plate of the invisible.” The axioms of physics translate the laws of ethics. Thus, “the whole is greater than its part;” “reaction is equal to action;” “the smallest weight may be made to lift the greatest, the difference of weight being compensated by time;” and many the like propositions, which have an ethical as well as physical sense. These propositions have a much more extensive and universal sense when applied to human life, than when confined to technical use.

In like manner, the memorable words of history, and the proverbs of nations, consist usually of a natural fact, selected as a picture or parable of a moral truth. Thus; A rolling stone gathers no moss; A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush; A cripple in the right way, will beat a racer in the wrong; Make hay while the sun shines; ‘T is hard to carry a full cup even; Vinegar is the son of wine; The last ounce broke the camel’s back; Long-lived trees make roots first;—and the like. In their primary sense these are trivial facts, but we repeat them for the value of their analogical import. What is true of proverbs, is true of all fables, parables, and allegories.

This relation between the mind and matter is not fancied by some poet, but stands in the will of God, and so is free to be known by all men.  It appears to men, or it does not appear.  When in fortunate hours we ponder this miracle, the wise man doubts, if, at all other times, he is not blind and deaf;

—’Can these things be,
And overcome us like a summer’s cloud,
Without our special wonder?’

for the universe becomes transparent, and the light of higher laws than its own, shines through it.  It is the standing problem which has exercised the wonder and the study of every fine genius since the world began; from the era of the Egyptians and the Brahmins, to that of Pythagoras, of Plato, of Bacon, of Leibnitz, of Swedenborg.  There sits the Sphinx at the road-side, and from age to age, as each prophet comes by, he tries his fortune at reading her riddle.  There seems to be a necessity in spirit to manifest itself in material forms; and day and night, river and storm, beast and bird, acid and alkali, preexist in necessary Ideas in the mind of God, and are what they are by virtue of preceding affections, in the world of spirit.  A Fact is the end or last issue of spirit.  The visible creation is the terminus or the circumference of the invisible world.  ‘Material objects,’ said a French philosopher, ‘are necessarily kinds of scoriae of the substantial thoughts of the Creator, which must always preserve an exact relation to their first origin; in other words, visible nature must have a spiritual and moral side.’

This doctrine is abstruse, and though the images of ‘garment,’ ‘scoriae,’ ‘mirror,’ &c., may stimulate the fancy, we must summon the aid of subtler and more vital expositors to make it plain.  ‘Every scripture is to be interpreted by the same spirit which gave it forth,’—is the fundamental law of criticism.  A life in harmony with nature, the love of truth and of virtue, will purge the eyes to understand her text.  By degrees we may come to know the primitive sense of the permanent objects of nature, so that the world shall be to us an open book, and every form significant of its hidden life and final cause.

A new interest surprises us, whilst, under the view now suggested, we contemplate the fearful extent and multitude of objects; since “‘every object rightly seen, unlocks a new faculty of the soul.’  That which was unconscious truth, becomes, when interpreted and defined in an object, a part of the domain of knowledge,—a new weapon in the magazine of power.”    Ralph Waldo Emerson, On Nature; Introduction & Chapters I, II, & IV, “Nature,” “Commodity,” “Language,” 1849 

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Numero Tres“The Bolshevik revolution has become a definitive part of the more widespread revolution of the Russian people.  The Maximalists, up until two months ago, had been the force necessary to stop the cause grinding to a halt, to stop the road to the future coming to a dead end, to give rise to a final settlement – that would have been a bourgeois settlement.  They have taken possession of power, they’ve established their dictatorship, and they are developing forms of socialism that mean the revolution will finally have to ease off in order for things to continue harmoniously, without too many great conflicts; with its basis being everything that has already been achieved.

The Bolshevik revolution is based more on ideology than actual events (therefore, at the end of the day, we really don’t need to know any more than we know already).  It’s a revolution against Karl Marx’s Capital.  In Russia, Marx’s Capital was the book of the bourgeoisie, more than of the proletariat.  It was the crucial proof needed to show that, in Russia, there had to be a bourgeoisie, there had to be a capitalist era, there had to be a Western-style of progression, before the proletariat could even think about making a comeback, about their class demands, about revolution.  Events overcame ideology.  Events have blown out of the water all critical notions which stated Russia would have to develop according to the laws of historical materialism.  The Bolsheviks renounce Karl Marx and they assert, through their clear statement of action, through what they have achieved, that the laws of historical materialism are not as set in stone, as one may think, or one may have thought previously.

Yet, there is still a certain amount of inevitability to these events, and if the Bolsheviks reject some of that which is affirmed in Capital, they do not reject its inherent, invigorating idea.  They are not ‘Marxists’, that’s what it comes down to: they have not used the Master’s works to draw up a superficial interpretation, dictatorial statements which cannot be disputed.  They live out Marxist thought, the one which will never die; the continuation of idealist Italian and German thought, and that in Marx had been corrupted by the emptiness of positivism and naturalism.  In this kind of thinking the main determinant of history is not lifeless economics, but man; societies made up of men, men who have something in common, who get along together, and because of this (civility) they develop a collective social will.  They understand economic matters, they evaluate them and adjust them according to their will, until it is this which becomes the driving force of the economy, that which shapes objective reality and lives and moves; it takes on the characteristics of a scolding hot sheet of metal, which can be sculpted in any way they so choose.

Marx predicted the predictable.  Though he couldn’t predict the European war, or better put, he couldn’t predict how long it would go on for and the effects it would have.  He couldn’t predict that this war, 3 years of unspeakable suffering, of unspeakable misery, would reawaken the Russian people’s collective will like it did.  A will, of such a sort normally needs a long period of development in order to permeate society; it normally needs a long line of class experience.  Man is lazy, it needs to organise itself, firstly on the exterior, it needs to form bodies and associations, but then on the interior, in terms of thought, of will […] it needs a never-ending continuity and a host of external motivations.  This is why, normally, the rules of Marxist historical criticism take a hold on reality, grasping it with both hands and making everything appear clear.  Normally, it’s through an ever-more intense class struggle that the two classes of capitalism are able to make history.  The proletariat is fully aware of its current state of misery, its continuing poverty and it pressures the bourgeoisie to create better conditions.  It fights, obliging the bourgeoisie to better techniques of production, so that the most urgent needs of the proletariat can finally be satisfied.  It’s a long, hard road towards something better, which helps to speed up the pace of production and continually increase the amount of goods which can be of use to all.  Many fall along the way, which only makes the wishes of those who remain even more urgent.  The masses are in a permanent state of turmoil, and because of such chaos they become even more ordered in their thinking, they become ever more conscious of their power, of their ability to take on social responsibility and to become the judges of their own fate.

That’s what happens normally.  When events run in a certain order.  When history passes through ever more complex situations; situations full of increasing meaning and importance, yet at the same time that are so similar.  However in Russia, war only helped to ignite the people’s will.  After the suffering which had built up over three years, they found themselves becoming one very quickly.  Famine was impending, hunger, or death by hunger, could strike anyone, crush tens of millions of men in an instant.  Different wills were united, firstly, in a superficial way, but then in an active and spiritual sense after the revolution.

Socialist thinking allowed the Russian people to reach the experiences of other proletariats.  Socialist thinking instantly gave life to the history of the proletariat, to their fight against capitalism, the long line of pains they have had to go through to free themselves ideally from the clutches of a servility which made them poor; it allowed them to create a new consciousness and be living proof of a time yet to come.  Socialist thinking gave rise to the social will of the Russian people.  Why should they have to wait so that the history of England is repeated in their own country, so that a bourgeoisie is formed in Russia, that class struggle is ignited, that a class consciousness is born, that the fall of the capitalist world finally comes?  The Russian people have already gone through these events in their minds, and in the mind-set too, of a minority group.  They’ve overcome these experiences.  They are what they needed in order to establish themselves, just as they will need the capitalist experiences of the West in order to reach, in a short period of time, the heights of Western production.  North America is, in capitalist terms, more advanced than England, because in North America the Anglo-Saxons started from a point which England only reached after a long evolution.  The Russian proletariat, educated in Socialism, will start its history from a high level of production that England has only got to today; its starting point will be something which has been accomplished elsewhere, and from this accomplishment it will be driven to reach the economic maturity that Marx sees a necessary for collectivism.  Revolutionaries will themselves create the conditions needed for a full and complete fulfilment of their ideal and they will do so in less time than capitalism would have.  Socialist criticisms of the bourgeois system, which highlight its shortcomings and the unequal distribution of wealth, will enable revolutionaries to do better, to avoid such shortcomings themselves, to not fall into the same traps.  In the beginning it will be a collectivism based on misery, on suffering.  But it would have been these very conditions of misery and suffering which would have been inherited from a bourgeois regime.  Capitalism in Russia, right now, wouldn’t be able to do any more than collectivism can.  In fact at the moment it would do much less, as it would find itself facing a discontent and rabid proletariat, incapable of putting up any longer, with the pain and disappointment that economic poverty brings.  Even from an absolute, human point of view, pre-empted socialism can be justified in Russia.  The suffering that will be left behind after peace will only be tolerated by the proletariat as long as they feel that their will is intact, that through their persistence they will be able to make it end as soon as possible.

One has the impression that the Maximalists, at this time, are the natural, biological expression, needed to stop the Russian population falling into an atrocious state of ruin, to ensure that the Russian population, caught up in the autonomous, colossal effort of ensuring their own regeneration, will be able to feel a little less the pain caused by the ravenous wolf’s bite; so that Russia doesn’t become a huge forest of wild beasts, tearing each other to pieces.”    Antonio Gramsci, “The Revolution Against Capital;” 1917

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Numero Cuatro“Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to express my strong opposition to the nomination of Jefferson Sessions for a federal district judgeship for the Southern District of Alabama.  My longstanding commitment which I shared with my husband, Martin, to protect and enhance the rights of Black Americans, rights which include equal access to the democratic process, compels me to testify today.


Civil rights leaders, including my husband and Albert Turner, have fought long and hard to achieve free and unfettered access to the ballot box.  Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge.  This simply cannot be allowed to happen.  Mr. Sessions’ conduct as U.S. Attorney, from his politically motivated voting fraud prosecutions to his indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights laws, indicates that he lacks the temperament, fairness, and judgment to be a federal judge.

The Voting Rights Act was, and still is, vitally important to the future of democracy in the United States.  I was privileged to join Martin and many others during the Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights in 1965.  Martin was particularly impressed by the determination to get the franchise of blacks in Selma and neighboring Perry County.  As he wrote, ‘Certainly no community in the history of the Negro struggle has responded with the enthusiasm of Selma and her neighboring town of Marion.  Where Birmingham depended largely upon students and unemployed adults (to participate in non-violent protest of the denial of the franchise), Selma has involved fully 10 percent of the Negro population in active demonstrations, and at least half the Negro population of Marion was arrested on one day.’  Martin was referring of course to a group that included the defendants recently prosecuted for assisting elderly and illiterate blacks to exercise that franchise.  ln fact, Martin anticipated from the depth of their commitment twenty years ago, that a united political organization would remain in Perry County long after the other marchers had left.  This organization, the Perry County Civic League, started by Mr. Turner, Mr. Hogue, and others as Martin predicted, continued ‘to direct the drive for votes and other rights.’  In the years since the Voting Rights Act was passed, Black Americans in Marion, Selma, and elsewhere have made important strides in their struggle to participate actively in the electoral process.  The number of Blacks registered to vote in key Southern states has doubled since 1965.  This would not have been possible without the Voting Rights Act.

However, Blacks still fall far short of having equal participation in the electoral process.  Particularly in the South, efforts continue to be made to deny Blacks access to the polls, even where Blacks constitute the majority of the voters.  It has been a long up-hill struggle to keep alive the vital legislation that protects the most fundamental right to vote.  A person who has exhibited so much hostility to the enforcement of those laws, and thus, to the exercise of those rights by Black people should not be elevated to the federal bench.

The irony of Mr. Sessions’ nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods. Twenty years ago, when we marched from Selma to Montgomery, the fear of voting was real, as the broken bones and bloody heads in Selma and Marion bore witness. As my husband wrote at the time, “it was not just a sick imagination that conjured up the vision of a public official, sworn to uphold the law, who forced an inhuman march upon hundreds of Negro children; who ordered the Rev. James Bevel to be chained to his sickbed; who clubbed a Negro woman registrant, and who callously inflicted repeated brutalities and indignities upon nonviolent Negroes peacefully petitioning for their constitutional right to vote.”

Free exercise of voting rights is so fundamental to American democracy that we can not tolerate any form of infringement of those rights. Of all the groups who have been disenfranchised in our nation’s history, none has struggled longer or suffered more in the attempt to win the vote than Black citizens. No group has had access to the ballot box denied so persistently and intently. Over the past century, a broad array of schemes have been used in attempts to block the Black vote. The range of techniques developed with the purpose of repressing black voting rights run the gamut from the — straightforward application of brutality against black citizens who tried to vote to such legalized frauds as “grandfather clause” exclusions and rigged literacy tests.

The actions taken by Mr. Sessions in regard to the 1984 voting fraud prosecutions represent just one more technique used to intimidate Black voters and thus deny them this most precious franchise. The investigations into the absentee voting process were conducted only in the Black Belt counties where blacks had finally achieved political power in the local government. Whites had been using the absentee process to their advantage for years, without incident. Then, when Blacks realizing its strength, began to use it with success, criminal investigations were begun.

In these investigations, Mr. Sessions, as U.S. Attorney, exhibited an eagerness to bring to trial and convict three leaders of the Perry County Civic League including Albert Turner despite evidence clearly demonstrating their innocence of any wrongdoing. Furthermore, in initiating the case, Mr. Sessions ignored allegations of similar behavior by whites, choosing instead to chill the exercise of the franchise by blacks by his misguided investigation. In fact, Mr. Sessions sought to punish older black civil rights activists, advisors and colleagues of my husband, who had been key figures in the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. These were persons who, realizing the potential of the absentee vote among Blacks, had learned to use the process within the bounds of legality and had taught others to do the same. The only sin they committed was being too successful in gaining votes.

The scope and character of the investigations conducted by Mr. Sessions also warrant grave concern. Witnesses were selectively chosen in accordance with the favorability of their testimony to the government’s case. Also, the prosecution illegally withheld from the defense critical statements made by witnesses. Witnesses who did testify were pressured and intimidated into submitting the “correct” testimony. Many elderly blacks were visited multiple times by the FBI who then hauled them over 180 miles by bus to a grand jury in Mobile when they could more easily have testified at a grand jury twenty miles away in Selma. These voters, and others, have announced they are now never going to vote again.

I urge you to consider carefully Mr. Sessions’ conduct in these matters. Such a review, I believe, raises serious questions about his commitment to the protection of the voting rights of all American citizens and consequently his fair and unbiased judgment regarding this fundamental right. When the circumstances and facts surrounding the indictments of Al Turner, his wife, Evelyn, and Spencer Hogue are analyzed, it becomes clear that the motivation was political, and the result frightening — the wide-scale chill of the exercise of the ballot for blacks, who suffered so much to receive that right in the first place. Therefore, it is my strongly-held view that the appointment of Jefferson Sessions to the federal bench would irreparably damage the work of my husband, Al Turner, and countless others who risked their lives and freedom over the past twenty years to ensure equal participation in our democratic system.

The exercise of the franchise is an essential means by which our citizens ensure that those who are governing will be responsible.  My husband called it the number one civil right.  The denial of access to the ballot box ultimately results in the denial of other fundamental rights.  For, it is only when the poor and disadvantaged are empowered that they are able to participate actively in the solutions to their own problems.

We still have a long way to go before we can say that minorities no longer need be concerned about discrimination at the polls.  Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans are grossly underrepresented at every level of government in America.  If we are going to make our timeless dream of justice through democracy a reality, we must take every possible step to ensure that the spirit and intent of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution is honored.

The federal courts hold a unique position in our constitutional system, ensuring that minorities and other citizens without political power have a forum in which to vindicate their rights.  Because of his unique role, it is essential that the people selected to be federal judges respect the basic tenets of our legal system: respect for individual rights and a commitment to equal justice for all.  The integrity of the Courts, and thus the rights they protect, can only be maintained if citizens feel confident that those selected as federal judges will be able to judge with fairness others holding differing views.

I do not believe Jefferson Sessions possesses the requisite judgment, competence, and sensitivity to the rights guaranteed by the federal civil rights laws to qualify for appointment to the federal district court.  Based on his record, I believe his confirmation would have a devastating effect on not only the judicial system in Alabama, but also on the progress we have made everywhere toward fulfilling my husband’s dream that he envisioned over twenty years ago.  I therefore urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to deny his confirmation.

I thank you for allowing me to share my views.”     Coretta Scott King, ” Statement of Coretta Scott King on the Nomination of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III for the United States District Court, Southern District of Alabama;” in New York Times, “Coretta Scott King’s 1986 Statement to the Senate About Jeff Sessions,” 2017

4.27.2017 Daily Links

              A Thought for the Day               

An unwillingness to comport monetary and fiscal origins and realities with the stories that people tell of themselves almost always ends up a manifestation of consciousness that petty bourgeois and other, even more trust-funded sorts, display to protect their privileges and inheritances from discovery, a tendency that in turn ties readily into the individualistic claptrap that one ‘has made his way on his own’ to the big Mercedes and $50,000 wardrobe at age thirty, that one has purchased her acreage and furnished her twelve room ‘cottage’ all by herself before she encountered a fortieth year, all of which in one sense represents mere childishness, a more or less innocent expression of ‘storytelling’ and fancy on the part of otherwise decent, if entitled and perhaps a bit wanton and licentious, individuals who are neither better nor worse than the common herd in terms of how honestly they characterize themselves, but all of which in another sense lies close to the heart of the systematic advancement of certain classes of people while others face suppression and obstacles, or worse, at the hands of the social process and its leaders—a dynamic in any event that anyone who considers herself aware, anyone who considers himself real, will acknowledge and discuss in depth, whenever the opportunity presents itself.

                    This Day in History                  

Thirteen centuries and six years ago, expansive Islamic forces began what would be a many-centuries occupation of much of the Iberian Peninsula; four hundred and seventy-eight years before the present pass, in what Colombia, Spanish interlopers reestablished a settlement on what would become Bogota; just over a quarter century later, forty four years after Magellan’s arrival in the region, in 1565, the Spanish Empire established its first outpost in the Philippines at Cebu; one hundred two years later exactly, in 1667, North across the English Channel, a nearly destitute and deathly sick John Milton sells his copyright of Paradise Lost for £10;  MORE HERE

                  Quote of the Day                       
  • Revenge is profitable, gratitude is expensive.
    The winds and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.
    But the power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy, except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous.
    Edward Gibbon
                   Doc of the Day                      
1. Edward Gibbon, circa 1780.
2. Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1849.
3. Antonio Gramsci, 1917.
4. Coretta Scott King, 1986.
Numero Uno” …—Part I.

     Final Destruction Of Paganism.—Introduction Of The Worship
     Of Saints, And Relics, Among The Christians.

The ruin of Paganism, in the age of Theodosius, is perhaps the only example of the total extirpation of any ancient and popular superstition; and may therefore deserve to be considered as a singular event in the history of the human mind.  The Christians, more especially the clergy, had impatiently supported the prudent delays of Constantine, and the equal toleration of the elder Valentinian; nor could they deem their conquest perfect or secure, as long as their adversaries were permitted to exist.  The influence which Ambrose and his brethren had acquired over the youth of Gratian, and the piety of Theodosius, was employed to infuse the maxims of persecution into the breasts of their Imperial proselytes.  Two specious principles of religious jurisprudence were established, from whence they deduced a direct and rigorous conclusion, against the subjects of the empire who still adhered to the ceremonies of their ancestors: that the magistrate is, in some measure, guilty of the crimes which he neglects to prohibit, or to punish; and, that the idolatrous worship of fabulous deities, and real daemons, is the most abominable crime against the supreme majesty of the Creator.  The laws of Moses, and the examples of Jewish history, 1 were hastily, perhaps erroneously, applied, by the clergy, to the mild and universal reign of Christianity. The zeal of the emperors was excited to vindicate their own honor, and that of the Deity: and the temples of the Roman world were subverted, about sixty years after the conversion of Constantine. … MORE HERE

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                     Nearly Naked Links                 From Wednesday’s Files

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Marxism, Imperialism, Analysis –



student writing arm



The Literary Arts Touring grant program offers presenting organizations the opportunity to receive financial support to engage writers (fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry) who reside outside of the presenter’s state. Support is awarded to literary projects that contain both a public reading and an educational component such as a writing workshop. The project can include a single engagement by a writer or multiple writers involved in an event (for example, writers series or festivals). The maximum request is 50 percent of the writers’ fees, up to a total grant of $2,500. Each writer is required to fully-participate in the reading and educational/outreach component. Projects must take place between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018. Literary Arts Touring applications must be submitted online by Monday, May 1, 2017 by 11:59 p.m. ET. We work in partnership with the state arts agencies of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.


UPPERCASE invites submissions of stories and art to the forthcoming issue on creative adventure, which will explore geography and map making, the memorabilia of place, plus retreats, getaways, and journeys on the road.

pascal maramis - flickr
pascal maramis – flickr


American Journal Experts is looking for a Script Writer – remote

We are actively recruiting independent contractors from a variety of Business fields to edit scholarly manuscripts originally written by non-native English speakers so that language is not a barrier to research communication. AJE’s independent contract editors work remotely from anywhere with a stable internet connection, can edit within their areas of academic expertise and are compensated based on manuscript length…

Company: American Journal Experts
Payment: TBD
Skills: Editing
Source: rscontractors


Sister Helen’s Speaking Out

A heartfelt appeal from a longstanding powerful advocate for humanity: “In my last reflection, I said “I’ll listen.” Now I want to address its counterpoint: “When I become aware of injustice, I’ll speak out.” I cannot witness people suffering because of injustice and simply remain quiet. This is a lifetime learning curve.

I’m now (hopefully) writing the last chapter of my spiritual memoir, River of Fire, in which I tell about waking up to racial injustice and my own white privilege in New Orleans. Then my stumbling into the Big One, the very big human rights abuse in my home state of Louisiana – state executions of criminals. It’s the story of Dead Man Walking, in which for the first time ever I raised my voice publicly and entered into listening and speaking with the public on a moral issue.”

WRISSRobots in Literature

A Lit Hub look at the history of robots appearing in literature, from science fiction and beyond: “Isaac Asimov, one of the world’s greatest science fiction writers, died 25 years ago today. I likely don’t have to tell you this, but one of Asimov’s most enduring legacies is his creation of the Three Laws of Robotics—not to mention his host of attendant robot-related literature. So, to honor the anniversary of his death, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the greatest robots in literature.”


Amusing Ourselves to Death Foreword

A Serendipity posting of the foreword of a seminal book on media studies, which should definitely be studied nowadays: “But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.”

Looting Public Education

A Naked Capitalism look at how charter schools defraud taxpayers through real estate deals: ” Related-party transactions occur when you have two entities that have a pre-existing relationship. For example, if two entities have common management, or in the charter sector context, you could have an EMO [Educational Management Organization] that also has a real estate arm, which then leases property back to the charter school at a greatly inflated rate. In the case of Academica, which is the management company that runs the school Secretary DeVos visited, it’s “all of the above.” You see different entities sharing the same board of directors, conflicts of interest and questionable real estate dealings, including charter schools paying rents that are well above the market rate to companies that Academica owns.”

GENISSA U.B.I. Assessment

A New Geography look at Universal Basic Income as a possible strategy to prevent technological displacement without upsetting the social balance: “Technology leaders understand that their work contributes to displacement and inequality. In “The Disruptors: Silicon Valley Elites’ Vision of the Future,” Greg Ferenstein reports on a survey of tech leaders. He found that most agreed with Paul Graham, the highly influential web leader, that it is the “job of tech to create inequality…You can’t prevent great variations in wealth without preventing people from getting rich, and you can’t do that without preventing them from starting startups.” This view reflects the self-interests of the industry, of course, but it also suggests deep-seated beliefs in technological determinism and the benefits of creative destruction.”

4.27.2017 Nearly Naked Links

From Wednesday’s Files

factory labor worker

Naked Capitalism on Labor’s End =

U.S. Empire’s Verging on Collapse –

Marxism, Imperialism, Analysis –

War-on-Terror ‘Wonderland’ Disquisition – 

Land & Rentier Economics


Abrogating Mossadegh Declassification


Paris-Review & Two Other Paz Excerpts


A Billie Holiday Pair


Latino Film Reviews –

Parry on Syria –

An Essay on Paglia Now –

Ruling Classes Russia ‘Enemy’ Assessment –

Pot ‘Research’ –

Herbal Supplements ‘Research’ –

Crime & Dixie: New Podcast –

Deconstructing Illich’s Critique –

An Infrastructure Report’s Deconstruction –

Mediated ‘Truth’ Arbitration –

Blame’s Ubiquity, Beyond Blame –

Szymborska on Not Knowing –

4.26.2017 Day in History

Today in Belarus marks a Day of Remembrance of the Chernobyl Tragedy, while in a passing of hours of critical import to scribes, this date also inscribes World Intellectual Property Day, as, on a lighter and yet also important note, April 26th is Hug a Friend Day; in the South of bustling England four hundred fifty-three years ago, a baptism took place for a boy who would become the bard of the ages, William Shakespeare, even as his birthday eludes the snares of memory; three hundred six years ago, the baby boy opened his eyes on his way to becoming David Hume;  sixty-six years hence, in 1777, a young woman, Sybyl Ludington, rode over forty miles throughout the night along the New York and Connecticut border to warn of advancing British forces; five years thereafter, in 1782, the baby boy entered our midst whose fate was to create the masterpieces of art and thought of John James Audubon; two decades forward in space and time, in 1802, Napoleon issued a general amnesty that permitted all but the most reactionary rejectors of the revolution to return to France, thereby guaranteeing a rapprochement with elements of the aristocracy and a cementing of his own position of power;  one thousand ninety-six days beyond that, in 1805, ‘the shores of Tripoli’ experienced an initial incursion by U.S. commercial war afghanistanadventurers under the auspices of military might when the U.S. marines captured a village in what is now Libya in the first Barbary War; a hundred ninety-five years ahead of today’s light and air, a male infant first cried out en route to a life as the architect and designer, Frederick Law Olmstead; forty-three years beyond that birthing interlude, in 1865, Union soldiers captured and killed Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth; one hundred nineteen years back, a baby boy opened his eyes who would rise as the Spanish dramatist and poet who might merit Nobel Literary Laureates as Vicente Aleixandre; only a dozen years later, in 1910, one of the first recipients of that prize, Bjornstjerne Bjornson, lived out his final scene; four years subsequently, in 1914, a male child burst on the scene who would mature as the estimable and popular novelist and thinker, Bernard Malamud; ten additional years in the direction of now, in 1924, the United States Congress passed a resolution condemning child labor for those under eighteen years of age; nine years henceforth, in 1933, the German Government inaugurated a Gestapo, or secret state police force; fourteen hundred and sixty-one days further along the temporal road, in 1937, a related development unfolded in carnage and conflagration as German bombers laid waste to Guernica; a half decade farther along, in 1942, a grotesque ‘accident’ claimed the lives of well over 1,500 miners at a Chinese-operated facility in Manchukuo; an Easter uprising at Uppsala, Sweden began exactly three hundred sixty-five days yet later on, in 1943, as challenges to fascist rule and passivity to it intensified; yet one more year afterward, in 1944, Georgios Papandreou became head of the Greek government-in-exile in Cairo, and five thousand miles Northwest, Federal authorities seized control of the Montgomery Ward headquarters when that company refused to recognize a union that had won an election as bargaining agent; ten years subsequent to that passage in space and time, in 1954, a Geneva Conference began with the goal of bringing a peaceful resolution to conflicts in Korea and Indochina, and also Polio vaccine trials began; another half dozen years forward toward today, in 1960, South Korea’s ‘democratic dictator,’ Syngman Rhee, abdicated after massive pro-people demonstrations against his rule took place; three years additional toward the here and now, in 1963, a United Kingdom of Libya came into being with a female franchise and other indicia of progress toward democratic forms; a quarter turn of the planet to the East, six years nearer to now, in 1969, Morihei Ueshiba, the ancient master of martial arts and initiator of Aikido, drew a final breath; in the United States precisely one year even later, in 1970, the tell-all mistress, advisor, and creative communicator Gypsy Rose Lee had a final dance, and the World Intellectual Property Organization came into being; five years even closer to the current context, in 1975, citizens marched on Washington 60,000 strong to demand jobs for all, ‘a fat lot of good it did them;’ seven years farther down the pike, in 1982, half a world away in Korea, an enraged former Marine and current

"SIG Pro by Augustas Didzgalvis"

“SIG Pro by Augustas Didzgalvis”

policeman went on a methodical killing rampage, in which he murdered fifty-three people before blowing himself and three hostages up with a grenade; four years after that horrifying day, in 1986, an even more horrific event evolved as the Chernobyl nuclear complex in Ukraine melted down and spread death and destruction across much of Northern Europe; an editorial in the People’s Daily three years thereafter, in 1989, led to an uprising among the criticized protesters that soon enough became the Tianmien Square imbroglio; sixteen years more proximate to the present pass, in 2005, Syria responded to diplomatic pressure and withdrew plus or minus 14,000 of its troops from Lebanon; another four years on the path to today, in 2009, the United Autoworkers acquired a fifty-five percent stake in Chrysler in exchange for their agreeing to concessions, which the union quickly turned into a trust fund to cover ongoing retirees’ costs that had not received adequate coverage; country music crooner and songsmith George Jones four years later, in 2013,exited life’s stage; one year still closer to now, in 2014, the accomplished son of the renowned singer and Communist, Paul Robeson, whose name added a “Junior” to his father’s moniker, died after a long life and a fruitful career as historian and archivist.

4.26.2017 Nearly Naked Links

From Tuesday’s Files

armenia, truck, military, war,

Bullshit ‘Progressives’ Who Foment War –

Discovering America From Cuba –

Anthony Trollope Autobiography –

Cather’s Non-Fiction & Short Stories –

Critically Reviewing A Proletarian Monograph –

A Disquisition on ‘Truth’ –

LaForge on Hopeless Nukes –

John Harding Davis’ “The Spy” –

Armageddon Agenda Ahead –

Another Counterpunch Nuclear Report –

Abortion Treachery and Distortion –

Transformational Academic Possibilities –

Whitehead Police State Advise –

Another Scientists’ View on Marching –

Established,’ ‘Liberal’ Fake News Views –

Protofascist Dixie Arising –

Evils of Corporate Governance –

Russian Revolution Lecture –

Marching For Science Interview –

Stockholm Peace Conference –