Don Aitkin on the benefits of Western civ.

Including universities.

Teaching about Western civilisation is divisive? Even saying it may be superior to others? Wheee! And this is coming from within higher education, where argument ought to be central. So I thought I might put down some of the gifts to humanity that Western civilisation has provided. Why not start with the university itself?

The Western version is not quite a thousand years old, and today’s ANU could probably point to its own Italian, English, Scottish, American and German antecedents. Today’s universities, wherever they are, and there are about 24,000 of them, have been heavily influenced in notions of scholarship and research, in what they teach and how they teach it, by Western examples. There’s a gift for angry staff and students to think about.

Let’s add a cluster of values that go with the idea of a university: the disinterested search for truth, which itself accompanies a humanistic, secular view of life, the view that problems facing human beings are inherently solvable, not necessarily now, but solvable nonetheless, and a continuing curiosity about the natural world. Where did these values come from? Well, Greek philosophers from about 400 BC started the process, the Romans added something, as did the European Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution…

Let’s move away from higher education. Western nations have over the past millennium moved to separate the church, or organised religion, from the state, or government… The result is an important personal freedom, a liberty that we simply take for granted…

Let’s move even further away from the university. Western nations declare that there is ‘equality before the law’, meaning that no one, not even the most powerful person in the nation, is above the law. It isn’t perfect, and it never was. It is one of those aspirations like ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’ that are imperfectly realised…

To teach about this is divisive? To celebrate it is wrong? Heaven help us.

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40 Responses to Don Aitkin on the benefits of Western civ.

  1. Roger

    Teaching about Western civilisation is divisive? Even saying it may be superior to others? Wheee! And this is coming from within higher education, where argument ought to be central.

    Don, it’s clearly quite a while since you graced a lecture theatre in of one of our universities.

    They are beyond redemption; the Ramsay Centre ought to be looking to establish an alternative rather than folding itself into the current malaise of higher learning, where its vision will be diluted.

  2. herodotus

    Don is a good guy. We need more of them.

  3. stackja

    Roger
    #2733072, posted on June 10, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    Yes Ramsay Centre of studies. But of course the established centres don’t want competition.

  4. None

    Don conveniently omits Christians founding universities (hospitals etc) in the 4th century.

  5. Tel

    How do you measure which social structure is better, in a manner which is simple, easy to explain, and makes sense from a diverse range of viewpoints? Of course, you would need a reference, so you have something to measure relative to, but you want to choose a reference point that everyone can observe and agree upon, and something that is easy to double-check and difficult to argue with.

    There does appear to be a lot more people interested in getting INTO Western nations as compared with the people attempting to exit OUT OF Western nations and move to the “Third World”. I think this must be the ultimate metric, at least in broad terms. Something good must be here, because people want to come here and get it.

  6. OneWorldGovernment

    So let us burn down the inner city elite scum holes of so called learning and turn the “land” into acres for social housing and windmills.

    Everyone can live in a humpy underneath a windmill!

  7. Don Aitken is one of the few other blogs I read. He almost convinced me that sociology isn’t all rubbish.

  8. struth

    They die while trying to get to western countries, never the other way round.
    Those that criticize the west while never for a second contemplating leaving it , and especially those who parasitically live well from it shouldn’t be just ignored they should be challenged, at least ridiculed but never allowed to pollute the young with their disgusting ignorance and self indulgent marxist idiocy.
    They are truly sick minds and are doing untold damage to our civilization.
    As I say, it all starts in our schools………unis included of course.

  9. Crossie

    About thirty years ago it was all the rage for the smart people to claim to be the citizens of the world. Instead of being patriotic they claimed to have a higher loyalty – to all humanity- while branding everyone else as jingoistic. Funnily enough they valued their Australian passports when travelling overseas and expected our embassy staff to get them out of any spot of bother should they run afoul of foreign humanity.

    These are the same people, or their descendants, who are now engaged in the destruction of western civilisation because of their higher loyalty to the rest of the world while being confident that they will still enjoy the benefits and protections of this same odious civilisation. That may be true for a little while but eventually an undermined structure falls and kills all in it.

  10. cui bono

    Tel, struth & Crossie – advocates for the sane

  11. Leo G

    Western nations declare that there is ‘equality before the law’, meaning that no one, not even the most powerful person in the nation, is above the law.

    But they’re such liars, who would believe them?

  12. Roger

    Don conveniently omits Christians founding universities (hospitals etc) in the 4th century.

    There’s a large lacuna there from the Romans to the Renaissance which suggests Don might himself benefit from taking a course in Western civilisation 😉

  13. Roger

    A few (just a few) landmark contributions to Western civilisation from the period between the Romans & the Renaissance:

    Early Christian catechetical schools (2nd C.) – strong literary component, open women and the poor (contrary to Roman practice), the origins of the move to universal education.

    Monasteries were embryonic universities of the West, preserving learning after the fall of Rome, likewise later the cathedral and episcopal schools).

    First university est. at Bologna, Italy 1158 under Christian auspices (first as a law school, but also pioneered forensic medicine c. 1300).

    Medieval Gothic & Byzantine architecture, art & music.

    Scholastic philosophy

    Inductive method – Robert Grosseteste 13th C.

    Empirical method – Roger Bacon 13th C.

    Law of Parsimony – William of Occam 13th C.

    Probability theory – Jean Buridan 14th C.

    Heliostatic theory – Copernicus 15th & 16th Cs.

    Graded, publicly funded education introduced in Germany in the 16th C.

    Education for the blind, France 16th C., also later for the deaf.

  14. struth

    The men of the west also quite nicely invented airplanes and airports to give anyone who doesn’t like it here the opportunity to leave without so much as a temperature change or getting wet.

    Please take advantage of these western inventions.
    They are as available to you as the funding western taxpayers give you for your wretched existence.

  15. Aynsley Kellow

    ‘There’s a large lacuna there from the Romans to the Renaissance which suggests Don might himself benefit from taking a course in Western civilisation.’
    It’s called the Dark Ages for a reason, Roger! Don isn’t the only one in the dark about that period.

  16. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    There is a lot of debate between those who wish to dismiss what they regard as simplistic concepts of the ‘Dark Ages’ and others who wish to concentrate on ‘the Enlightenment’, and who see some sort of break from the past in the ideas there. The investigation of Western Civilisation thus has room for significant and rigorous intellectual disagreement. That is why teaching it is such a good idea. Academics should jump at the chance.

    But they should be genuinely open-minded academics, not political activists ruinously captured by post-structuralist neo-Marxism and its truly disgraceful offspring, extreme cultural relativism and radical anti-human environmentalism. To say nothing of the gender benders who rely on a very wonky science for their belief system.

    Once you start believing there are no useful certainties and all exists in a flux of perspectives you are open to some very big lies.

  17. Roger

    Don isn’t the only one in the dark about that period.

    A reality the Ramsey Centre will address, one hopes!

  18. Roger

    Don isn’t the only one in the dark about that period.

    For those who wish to be enlightened, there is probably no better place to start than Larry Seidentop’s
    ‘Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism’ (2014).

    Being a secular J3w, Seidentop has no religious axe to grind, but he nonetheless identifies the origin of Western civilisation in the period of Christendom, which preserved the learning of the ancients but also transformed it with radical insights about individual liberty garnered from the Old & New Testaments. Seidentop also gently deflates the notion that the Renaissance represented a grand discontinuity with what had gone before.

  19. max

    “The West’s political systems have been frauds from the beginning. The increase in fraud is due to democracy. It takes greater skill and more spin to bamboozle the democratic public than it does a public under tyrants. That is Classical Greece’s legacy to the West. Educated men in the West have been asked to read Thucydides’ reconstructed speech by Pericles on Athenian democracy. In the good old days, educated men read the speech in Greek. But their teachers rarely asked them to put two and two together. Pericles had convinced Athens to start a war with Sparta in 431 B.C. In the second year of the war, he gave a funeral oration — a rhetorical justification of his own lack of good judgment. Athens lost the war after 26 years. Five years later, the Athenian government convicted Socrates of corrupting youth by asking politically incorrect questions. Socrates was silly enough to drink the hemlock instead of departing, which was an option granted to him by the assembly. He believed — as they all believed — in salvation through politics.
    Apologists for both Greek democracy and Socrates have been spinning this sequence of events for a millennium. The Western political tradition rests on fraud. The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

  20. max

    “The West’s political systems have been frauds from the beginning. The increase in fraud is due to democracy. It takes greater skill and more spin to bamboozle the democratic public than it does a public under tyrants. That is Classical Greece’s legacy to the West. Educated men in the West have been asked to read Thucydides’ reconstructed speech by Pericles on Athenian democracy. In the good old days, educated men read the speech in Greek. “

  21. max

    “The West’s political systems have been f rauds from the beginning. The increase in f raud is due to democracy. It takes greater skill and more spin to b amboozle the democratic public than it does a public under tyrants. That is Classical Greece’s legacy to the West. Educated men in the West have been asked to read Thucydides’ reconstructed speech by Pericles on Athenian democracy. In the good old days, educated men read the speech in Greek. “

  22. max

    The West’s political systems have been frauds from the beginning. The increase in fraud is due to democracy.
    https://www.garynorth.com/public/15089.cfm

  23. max

    Educated men in the West have been asked to read Thucydides’ reconstructed speech by Pericles on Athenian democracy. In the good old days, educated men read the speech in Greek. But their teachers rarely asked them to put two and two together. Pericles had convinced Athens to start a war with Sparta in 431 B.C. In the second year of the war, he gave a funeral oration — a rhetorical justification of his own lack of good judgment. Athens lost the war after 26 years.
    https://www.lewrockwell.com/2003/08/gary-north/it-usually-begins-with-thucydides/

  24. max

    The textbooks laud both Pericles and his speech. Rarely are students told what followed.
    Athens’ imperial war raged on. He died a year later. The war continued for the next 25 years. Sparta won. Some Periclean legacy!
    https://www.lewrockwell.com/2003/08/gary-north/it-usually-begins-with-thucydides/

  25. max

    His speech is regarded as one of the classic documents in the history of Western civilization.
    Rarely are students told what followed.
    https://www.lewrockwell.com/2003/08/gary-north/it-usually-begins-with-thucydides/

  26. max

    The favorite neoconservative text on foreign affairs, thanks to professors Leo Strauss of Chicago and Donald Kagan of Yale, is Thucydides on the Peloponnesian War.
    https://www.lewrockwell.com/2003/08/gary-north/it-usually-begins-with-thucydides/

  27. max

    The favorite neoconservative text on foreign affairs, thanks to professors Leo Strauss of Chicago and Donald Kagan of Yale, is T hucydides on the P eloponnesian War.
    Athens’ imperial war raged on, The war continued for the next 25 years. Sparta won. Some P ericlean legacy!

  28. max

    account of the disaster of disasters of classical Greece, the Peloponnesian War (431—404 B.C.).
    https://www.lewrockwell.com/2003/08/gary-north/it-usually-begins-with-thucydides/

  29. struth

    The West’s political systems have been frauds from the beginning. The increase in fraud is due to democracy.

    I thought it was chocolate cake.

  30. iain russell

    Why oh why do people forget the Byzantines? The Middle East was part of the West until the naqbah of Islamic invasion of slaughter, destruction and servitude.

  31. Whalehunt Fun

    At last perhaps people will understand why Pol Pot lost patience with the inner urban elite and marched them all into the coutryside to die. All I ever hear is Pol Pot This, Pol Pot that. Blah blah blah. But the filth that infested his cities is gone and the filth in ours grows.

  32. iain russell

    Queequeg the Funster, a little over the top, but I like it.

  33. max

    sorry for too many comments, something was stopping my posting, i was trying to change wording but did not work.

  34. Tel

    The increase in fraud is due to democracy. It takes greater skill and more spin to bamboozle the democratic public than it does a public under tyrants.

    That’s self-contradictory: if the cost of fraud is higher, then the rate of fraud will reduce.

    It’s also silly on the face of it because bamboozling the public under tyrants will do you no good… the whole idea of a tyrant is to ignore public opinion.

  35. max

    iain russell
    #2733714, posted on June 11, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Why oh why do people forget the Byzantines?

    they will need to talk about Gold:

    “Byzantine civilization is almost never discussed except in extremely specialized courses and extremely small classrooms in upper division and graduate school courses in history. Yet Byzantine civilization developed out of Constantine’s settlement in 325. To ignore it is to ignore the history of half of Christian civilization. That is an omission that has been imposed on Western Christians by humanist educators. It was different from the West, and these differences should be discussed. Byzantine civilization maintained the longest gold coin standard currency in the history of the world.

    For comparison, consider the Byzantine Empire, which had an unchanging gold coin standard currency, from 325 until about 1100. Prices did not rise for 800 years. She never mentions the Byzantine Empire anywhere in her book.

    First, there has only been one sustained period of stable money in man’s history, the Byzantine Empire, 325 A.D. to about 1028. After less than a century of debasement, the Byzantines returned to the high-content gold coins of the earlier era. There was no inflation until the fall of the empire to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. He either does not know this or else he conceals it.”
    Gary North

  36. max

    Tel
    #2733809, posted on June 11, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    The increase in fraud is due to democracy. It takes greater skill and more spin to bamboozle the democratic public than it does a public under tyrants.

    That’s self-contradictory: if the cost of fraud is higher, then the rate of fraud will reduce.

    It’s also silly on the face of it because bamboozling the public under tyrants will do you no good… the whole idea of a tyrant is to ignore public opinion.

    under slavery you know who is a slave.
    do you know know, under democracy?

  37. Roger

    Why oh why do people forget the Byzantines? The Middle East was part of the West until the naqbah of Islamic invasion of slaughter, destruction and servitude.

    And let us not forget Byzantine Italy which survived the fall of the Western empire.

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