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The Middle Ages

The Middle Ages. Key Developments. Return of ancient knowledge via Spain and Sicily Eastern Technological Innovations Independent Inventions in Europe Theology and the Unique Nature of Western Monotheism. Return of ancient knowledge via Spain and Sicily.

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The Middle Ages

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  1. The Middle Ages

  2. Key Developments • Return of ancient knowledge via Spain and Sicily • Eastern Technological Innovations • Independent Inventions in Europe • Theology and the Unique Nature of Western Monotheism

  3. Return of ancient knowledge via Spain and Sicily. • Almagest of Ptolemy, 1100 via Spain. • Gerard of Cremona (1114-1187). Seventy translations including Avicenna's medical encyclopedia. • Arabic (actually Hindu) numerals. • Astrolabe appeared in Moslem world ca. 800, Europe 1200. • Six translations of Euclid by 1200.

  4. Eastern Technological Innovations • Paper from China to Europe by 1200. • Trebuchet (counterweight catapult) from China ca. 1100. • Compass appears in Europe ca. 1200. • Windmills from near East ca. 1100. • Gunpowder via Mongols ca. 1240. • Possibly the concept of clock escapement mechanisms.

  5. Independent Inventions in Europe • Mechanical clocks, 1300’s. • Linen • Windmills • Full exploitation of water power

  6. Why Did Clocks Appear in Europe? • In a world that never changes, time doesn’t matter • If time doesn’t belong to you, there is no point in tracking it • Autonomous people have agendas - places to go, people to see, things to do • Clocks intimately connected to Western concepts of individuality

  7. What is the Role of Religion in History?

  8. What Role Did Religion Play In: • The U.S. Civil Rights movement? • The Collapse of Communism? • Ethnic Cleansing in the Balkans?

  9. The Major Misconception About Religion • No Major Religion considers its doctrines beliefs • Every Major Religion considers its doctrines to be objective facts • To a Christian fundamentalist, the Deluge is a documented historical fact • No Muslim considers it a matter of opinion whether Mohammed received messages from God

  10. What Religion Can and Cannot Do • Individuals vary in commitment and priorities • Religion can motivate people to high ideals • Religion can serve to rationalize other motives • Religion can provide a template for organizing thought • Religion can serve as a symbol of group identity • Religion has little power to erase deeply-ingrained cultural traits • Religion has no power over biology • Can make people feel guilty about sex • Cannot stop people from having sex

  11. The Unique Nature of Western Monotheism • Judaeo-Christian god is the creator of the Universe, but still active in it • Judaeo-Christian god is transcendent: unlimited in scope or powers.

  12. Active Creator • Greco-Roman mythology: Zeus (Jupiter) is the chief of the gods • Zeus’ father is Cronos (Saturn) • Cronos’ father was Uranus (Heaven), his mother Gaia (Earth) • The Classical creator gods are not active • The Judaeo-Christian god is creator, but also still active

  13. Judgment of Paris, Rubens, 1632-35

  14. Transcendent • Classical gods are limited • Can be deceived, tricked or caught unaware • Can be bargained with • Morally flawed (in no position to make moral demands) • Judaeo-Christian god is unlimited • Cannot be deceived, tricked or surprised • Does not bargain • Is morally perfect

  15. Consequences of Western Monotheism • Nature is not micromanaged by supernatural forces. • There exist laws that are absolute and invariable • There is one correct theology (philosophy, ideology, way to do things, etc.) Western culture tends to see things in black and white

  16. Opposition to Magic From the work of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, we know that human beings have a fundamentally egocentric conception of the world. Growing up in modern society means learning to accept the existence of an external world separate from oneself. It is hard. Most of humankind, for most of its history, never learned to distinguish the internal world of thoughts and feelings with the external world of objects and events. ... Cutting this connection, which is necessary before science can develop, goes against the grain of human nature. • Alan Cromer in Uncommon sense: the heretical nature of science (1993)

  17. Bad Programming • I Cry, Mom Feeds Me • What really happens: Cry triggers Mom’s nurturing instinct • What gets programmed: I want something and the universe supplies what I want • We have a word for this: Magic

  18. The Magical Mind • Religion asks: How can I conform to God? • Science asks: How can I conform to the way the world works? • Magic asks: How can I get God and the world to conform to me?

  19. Why Magic? • Offers Hope; Never Need to Take No for an Answer • It’s Easy • Feeds Fantasies of Omnipotence • Feeds Fantasies of Being in the Know

  20. 21st Century Magic • Conspiracies • The Magic Money Pot • Free Stuff • Because I deserve it • Magical Religion • Propitiation • Consolation • Permission • Evidence Manipulation

  21. The Fall The Fall: Adam and Eve expelled from Eden for disobedience • Good and evil are not equal forces. Evil is an aberration • Evil can be combated and overcome • Dark side of the force: Evil has no legitimate place in the universe, therefore has no rights

  22. Time and the Fall • In many cultures there is no real concept of the future • In some societies, time is cyclic In Judaeo-Christianity, the Fall is to be remedied by a Messiah • Time has directionality and a very strong future orientation • Probably at the root of many of our beliefs about progress

  23. Rediscovery of Roman Law • Justinian (c. 540) codifies Roman Law • Gratian 1140 organizes canon law • Bracton 1250 organizes English law God as Ruler (Basis of laws) + De-Animization of nature + Discovery of law as a form of logic = “Natural Law” (Francis Bacon, 1260)

  24. Pierre Abelard, Sic et Non, 1130 • Use systematic doubt and question everything • Learn the difference between statements of rational proof and those merely of persuasion • Be precise in use of words, and expect precision of others • Watch for error, even in Holy Scripture

  25. A Substantive Argument (Statement) Is (True/False) Because (Facts or Logical Propositions)

  26. Abelard For Today • No package deals • Adjectives, Labels and Emotional Responses are not Substantive Arguments • Labels may not be accurate or relevant • Wishing doesn’t make it so • Conflicting with an ideology doesn’t make it false

  27. When New Collides With Old • You can reject the new ideas. This is the choice the Islamic world eventually made. • You can embrace the new and abandon the old. In extreme cases, culture shock can result. • You can meld the two without regard for logical consistency: syncretism or compartmentalization • You can seek a consistent synthesis.

  28. Syntheses in Western History • Hellenistic Greek and indigenous cultures • Greek ideas and Roman culture • Judaism and Greek culture in early Christianity • Augustine’s fusion of Platonism and Christianity • Irish melding of Celtic culture, Christianity and European learning • Fusion of languages to create English

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