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The Middle Ages: An Explosion of Freedom, Creativity and Progress

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  • The Middle Ages: An Explosion of Freedom, Creativity and Progress

    The so-called Dark Ages produced impressive advances, all directed at improving daily life in the real world: horseshoes, plows, eye glasses, aquaculture, the three-year crop rotation system, chimneys, clocks, wheelbarrows, and other inventions.

    Musical notation, Gothic architecture, oil-based paints, sonnets, universities, the foundations of science and freedom for slaves are also medieval achievements.


    ....

    After the Black Death and numerous wars, the despots of the “enlightened” Renaissance returned to age-old looting and destroyed medieval cultural flourishing, leading later philosophers to believe they had actually discovered what their ancestors once practiced.

    http://www.returntoorder.org/2018/04...vity-progress/

  • Stonewall_Jack
    replied
    Through the Middle ages liberty and equality was noticed. The Catholic Church has always stood by freedom of choice which is its true message. While there have been intolerant Catholics through history, the core teachings of the Church stood for liberal values,

    We regard St. Thomas, as certainly the most reliable exponent of Catholic teachings, and he lived in the very times (d. 1274) when it is maintained nowadays, albeit wrongly, that the Catholic Church exercised limitless power. He answered the questions: whether the unbeliever may be forced to accept the true religion as follows:


    The non-believers who, like the pagans and the Jews, have never accepted the true Faith may in no way -- nullo modo -- be forced to accept it, since Faith is a matter of free consent by the will. (ST. ii-ii., 10)

    http://www.catholictradition.org/Tra...us-freedom.htm





    The noted and learned Jesuit Suarez addressed himself to the same question 400 years later when he was discussing the power of the Catholic Church and Christian rulers. He said: "It is the universal opinion of theologians that non-believers, whether they are one's subjects or not, may not be forced to accept the Faith even if they have attained sufficient knowledge of it." (Suarez, Tract. de Fide Disp. 18 Sect. III, n. 4.) He then enumerated a long list of the most reputable theologians who supported this position and came to the conclusion that: "This opinion is therefore completely true and certain." To make it the more conclusive, he added: "We regard it, first of all as intrinsically evil -- intrinsice malum -- to wish to force non-believers who are not one's subjects to accept the Faith, because such force, to be applied, presupposes the existence of legitimate authority, as must be obvious. The Church, however, does not possess legitimate authority over such persons." (ibid. n. 4)

    He continues: "Secondly, the Church cannot compel even non-believers who are subject to her temporal authority to accept the Faith. That is because the direct use of force presupposes full authority and jurisdiction, and it is clear from what has been said that the Church has not gotten such full power over her temporal subjects by any specific commission from Christ." (Ibid. n. 7)


    http://www.catholictradition.org/Tra...us-freedom.htm
    Last edited by Stonewall_Jack; 28 Mar 19, 18:11.

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  • MarkV
    replied
    Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post

    "Dark" also because of lack of written historical sources, compared to the Classical period, I believe *that* was the original meaning of the term, the "Age of which we know little…" if you will

    Note that here in Western Europe at least, they "end" with the reign of Charlemagne in the 8th century long before the traditional beginning of the "Medevial" period mentioned in OP.

    "The Dark age" is in fact the period of "absence" of Roman sources, before the "Carolingian renaissance".

    https://www.britannica.com/topic/edu...-its-aftermath
    Indeed, sometimes we read and misinterpret what was written in the past because we forget that language evolves and words change their meanings (often subtly) over time or gain (and sometime loose) different usages. Dark is one of these and back in the 18th and 19th centuries could be used in the way in which some intelligence communities still use it when something was dark it provided very little information about itself. Hence Africa was dubbed the dark continent, not because it was deemed a barbaric place (although some suspected it might be) but because nobody knew very much about it.

    This very absence of information does in a way tell is something. We know about the classical era because there were people in it writing all kinds of secular works, histories, poetic sagas, books on the natural world, philosophy etc etc and enough has survived for us to have some idea of what happened in that world. With the collapse of the Western Roman Empire literacy (which probably had not gone down very far in the social scale) almost vanishes in the West, only being kept flickering in some religious institutions. That should tell us something about the nature of the times. The Dark Ages indeed.

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  • Snowygerry
    replied
    Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
    Dark Ages because ...
    "Dark" also because of lack of written historical sources, compared to the Classical period, I believe *that* was the original meaning of the term, the "Age of which we know little…" if you will

    Note that here in Western Europe at least, they "end" with the reign of Charlemagne in the 8th century before the traditional beginning of the "Medevial" period mentioned in OP.

    "The Dark age" is in fact the period of "absence" of Roman sources, before the "Carolingian renaissance".

    https://www.britannica.com/topic/edu...-its-aftermath
    Last edited by Snowygerry; 25 Mar 19, 04:48.

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  • American87
    replied
    Originally posted by Pirateship1982 View Post
    The "dark ages" witnessed a lot of innovations including agricultural developments that lead to a population boom. I agree that the notion of the time period as bleak or ignorant is a bit overblown. Studying medieval society I saw a people group far more vibrant than given credit for.
    I agree: the cultural revivals under Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, and Otto the Great were definitely not “dark.”

    Leave a comment:


  • wolfhnd
    replied
    Originally posted by marktwain View Post

    For the average ( poor) Roman subject life seems to have been a daily attempt to dodge enslavement death from the rich, the bureaucracy,- or the Roman army..

    The church provided a store of knowledge before the printing press & standardized national languages - and a system of religious houses where relief from famine and chaos was available.

    The empire of the Franks took over the Roman rule function rather fast. ( for medieval times.). I was asked years ago , at a cross faith gathering, why the bible, and most copied works, were restricted to Latin. I do recall asking if Yorkshiran, Occitan or Castilian would have been better,before the invention of Mr Gutenberg...

    A far from perfect system- but the best we had...Blame Alaric or Guilderic......
    The question is always compared to what? If the church was evil then what replaced it Nazism, Communism? I see religion as a part of culture not the driving force. I think that is partly why Jordan Peterson says Dawkins et. al. aren't Darwinian enough.

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  • marktwain
    replied
    Originally posted by wolfhnd View Post
    I have mixed emotions about how tragic the collapse of the Roman Empire was. Rome was built to some degree on slave labor and largely on military employment two things that may actually retard social development. A very small percentage of the population of rome enjoyed the advantages that the rich had. You could argue that that trend continued until near the end of the 19th century. That is why modern historians have tried to develop a more objective means of measuring social development. A lot of the decline in social development after the collapse of the Roman empire is due to the abandonment of large communities. A similar pattern can be seen after the Bronze age collapse. Population concentration seems to be correlated with social development for reason that may be diverse and not perfectly clear. A lot of social development seems to be driven by things as unfortunate as warfare further mudding the historical waters. Then there is the question of if the Roman Catholic Church wasn't a surrogate for Roman rule it's self. A kind of weak theocracy in a fractured empire.

    It could very well be that Rome had to go to make way for the modern age including the vestiges of the Roman Empire the church inherited. I just wonder if 500 years from now they will be saying the same thing about what has come to be known as western civilization.
    For the average ( poor) Roman subject life seems to have been a daily attempt to dodge enslavement death from the rich, the bureaucracy,- or the Roman army..

    The church provided a store of knowledge before the printing press & standardized national languages - and a system of religious houses where relief from famine and chaos was available.

    The empire of the Franks took over the Roman rule function rather fast. ( for medieval times.). I was asked years ago , at a cross faith gathering, why the bible, and most copied works, were restricted to Latin. I do recall asking if Yorkshiran, Occitan or Castilian would have been better,before the invention of Mr Gutenberg...

    A far from perfect system- but the best we had...Blame Alaric or Guilderic......

    Leave a comment:


  • wolfhnd
    replied
    I have mixed emotions about how tragic the collapse of the Roman Empire was. Rome was built to some degree on slave labor and largely on military employment two things that may actually retard social development. A very small percentage of the population of rome enjoyed the advantages that the rich had. You could argue that that trend continued until near the end of the 19th century. That is why modern historians have tried to develop a more objective means of measuring social development. A lot of the decline in social development after the collapse of the Roman empire is due to the abandonment of large communities. A similar pattern can be seen after the Bronze age collapse. Population concentration seems to be correlated with social development for reason that may be diverse and not perfectly clear. A lot of social development seems to be driven by things as unfortunate as warfare further mudding the historical waters. Then there is the question of if the Roman Catholic Church wasn't a surrogate for Roman rule it's self. A kind of weak theocracy in a fractured empire.

    It could very well be that Rome had to go to make way for the modern age including the vestiges of the Roman Empire the church inherited. I just wonder if 500 years from now they will be saying the same thing about what has come to be known as western civilization.

    Leave a comment:


  • Stonewall_Jack
    replied
    Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
    Dark Ages because education was poor for the serfs who lived often on the brink of starvation and who died worn out at a young age, the overlords rued with iron hands, battles were common, diseases were common, towns were crowded and filthy, with feces and urine dumped into the streets, justice was harsh and pitiless, torture was common, freedom of expression was non-existent and there was considerable resistance to new ideas and "freedoms". The Church set itself up as the sole repository of knowledge and books were rare, as were those who could read them - only the rich and powerful. The Church was also all powerful during this time, suppressing any attempts at new religions and exercising total control over serfs, towns people and lords alike.There was at best a very minimal middle class.

    The Plague changed all that by wiping out excess population which opened up jobs, helped create new ones, convinced people to relocate and become more mobile, and is generally regarded as the catalyst that ultimately led to the Renaissance.

    Re-naming it won't lessen in any way the bleak harshness of those times, but I'm sure that the revisionists will do it anyway so their feelings aren't hurt. AFAIC, that's like calling the Holocaust The Great Social Failure.
    At the same time while the middle ages had its drawbacks, it also had its advantages. Here in 2018 we live in a world dominated by technology. , but those before us helped to build the very world we live in today. We would not have much of our medical knowledge without the contributions from Muslims and Europeans of the middle ages.



    It is also a myth that the greater populations of Europe were illiterate or uneducated during the middle ages. Christian leaders throughout the middle ages urged education for its people, one such leader was King Alfred The Great among others.


    Anatomy and dissection


    Many historians have believed that knowledge about anatomy stagnated in the Middle Ages. However, there is a great deal of evidence that medieval physicians were conducting experiments and examining the anatomy of the human body. In the year 1315 the Italian physician Mondino de Luzzi even conducted a public dissection for his students and spectators. The following year he would write Anathomia corporis humani, which is considered the first example of a modern dissection manual and the first true anatomical text.

    Cleaning wounds


    Ancient medical writers believed that during surgery some pus should remain in the wounds, thinking that this would aid in its healing. This idea remained widespread until the 13th-century surgeon Theodoric Borgognoni came up with an antiseptic method, where wounds were to be cleaned and then sutured to promote healing. He even had bandages pre-soaked in wine as a form of disinfectant. The Italian surgeon is also know for pioneering the use aneasthetics in surgery. Borgognoni would make patients fall unconscious by placing a sponge soaked in opium, mandrake, hemlock and other substances under their nose.

    http://www.medievalists.net/2015/11/...e-middle-ages/


    A study of ecclesiastical legislation from the sixth century onwards reveals a clearly defined policy which was decidedly favorable to the expansion of popular education. The stamp of the official approval was placed on what in many instances was becoming a widespread practice. Both particular and general councils of the Church, imperial capitularies, and episcopal and Papal decrees show that while bishops and Popes were primarily concerned with making provision for instructing the future members of the clerical body in the sacred sciences they were also at pains to encourage and promote the education of the laity.[37]

    The following are specific instances of educational legislation which had a far-reaching influence on the development and extension of popular education during the Middle Ages: the councils of Tours (567), Toledo (624); Constantinople (681); Bavarian pastoral instructions (774); council of Cloveshoe, England (749); the capitularies of Charlemagne (787,789); the synods of Aachen (789, 817); councils of Chalons (813), Paris (829), Rome (853); the edict of Emperor Lothair (825); the canons of King Edgar (960); Lanfranc's constitutions (1075); synod of Westminster (1133); Lateran councils (1179, 1215). The list[38] is not exhaustive but is significant of the extent and persistency of the official policy of the Church in diffusing the benefits of education throughout the length and breadth of Christendom. M. Allain, who has surveyed the greater part of the studies of medieval schools, declares that anyone who would form an adequate idea of the intellectual status of our ancestors in past ages must have recourse to these ecclesiastical documents, the collections of the Church councils.[39]


    ...

    No one will deny that in modern times considerable progress has been made in the popularization of education, but we must not overlook the fact that the medieval Church almost without any assistance from the State did much to provide for the educational needs of the masses


    https://www.catholicculture.org/cult...cfm?recnum=903

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  • Mountain Man
    replied
    Dark Ages because education was poor for the serfs who lived often on the brink of starvation and who died worn out at a young age, the overlords rued with iron hands, battles were common, diseases were common, towns were crowded and filthy, with feces and urine dumped into the streets, justice was harsh and pitiless, torture was common, freedom of expression was non-existent and there was considerable resistance to new ideas and "freedoms". The Church set itself up as the sole repository of knowledge and books were rare, as were those who could read them - only the rich and powerful. The Church was also all powerful during this time, suppressing any attempts at new religions and exercising total control over serfs, towns people and lords alike.There was at best a very minimal middle class.

    The Plague changed all that by wiping out excess population which opened up jobs, helped create new ones, convinced people to relocate and become more mobile, and is generally regarded as the catalyst that ultimately led to the Renaissance.

    Re-naming it won't lessen in any way the bleak harshness of those times, but I'm sure that the revisionists will do it anyway so their feelings aren't hurt. AFAIC, that's like calling the Holocaust The Great Social Failure.

    Leave a comment:


  • wolfhnd
    replied
    The author in the Original Post is part of a growing trend to push back against, what Catholics in particular but Religious conservative in general, see as historical distortions. Spain in particular has produced a large number of writers trying to set the historical record straight and having been a Catholic Kingdom it has a lot of religious "history" to reclaim. Spain is justified in trying to reclaim it's "proper" place in history because it was the loser in a widespread propaganda war. Part of that effort has been to examine the inquisition and cut through some of the protestant propaganda that has distorted the historical record in at least popular culture but even in the academic world. The following article does a decent job of explaining why the inquisition was not what most people think it was.

    Juan Antonio Llorente (1756–1823), a fierce enemy of the Inquisition, whose “Critical History of the Inquisition”of 1817–1819 remains the most famous early work estimated the number of executions carried out during the whole of the period that the Spanish Inquisition existed, from 1483 until its abolition by Napoleon, at 31,912.

    Recent scholars, such as Henry Kamen [“The Spanish Inquisition” 2014] conclude: “We can in all probability accept the estimate, made on the basis of available documentation, that a maximum of three thousand persons may have suffered death during the entire history of the tribunal” (p. 253).

    Inquisitors did not believe torture produced the truth; therefore, it was rarely used. Research suggests about 1% of the more serious cases were subjected to lighter forms of torture and almost never prolonged or repeated torture. The only genuine iron maiden ever found came from Germany. Torture was widespread among Spain’s enemies. Its use in Spain was a myth.

    https://www.winterwatch.net/2018/12/...h-inquisition/

    You have to excuse what appears to be the anti Jewish sentiment of the author but keep in mind that what may seem at first to be wild assertions are in fact true. Take for example the story of Sinan 'the Great Jew' who is an actual historical figure. Also keep in mind that if you are over represented in intellectual pursuits you will be over represented in anti establishment movements and positions that rely on intellectual gifts.

    https://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Books...e-piracy-story

    We live in a world where religion has become if not unpopular at least suspect. It's a trend that started with the enlightenment. Within academic circles it is perhaps best characterized today by virulent atheism such as seen with the four horsemen (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett). What is interesting is that the new atheists seem to have completely ignored the new religion of social justice and it's Marxist roots allowing it to flourish in the academy. While I don't agree with the premise of the author in the original post we can learn a lot by examining how propaganda has been used to validate one religion while suppressing others. Religion is just one of many social institutions that can become corrupt and since it seems to fill a particular need for humans attacking it will have unpredictable results.

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  • wolfhnd
    replied
    Originally posted by Pirateship1982 View Post
    I agree with you there. The middle ages did get a lot of bad pr from renaissance thinkers.
    It would be easy to just dismiss the phenomenon as self promotion but the model of an "unholy" alliance of kings and priests and or God kings was fairly consistent over the previous 6000 years. The renaissance of free traders, merchants, manufacturers, farmers, and free inquiry was bound to come into conflict with the established power structure. The historical evidence seems clear to me that free trade lays the groundwork for free speech and "democracy". Sometimes as we see in China today "free" trade can exist within an authoritarian political structure but that just reflects the fact that the vast majority of people are too distracted by material exasperation to care much about free speech.

    In the process of self domestication people seem to have come to not only accept but long for a surrogate "father" to make them feel safe. The remarkable thing about the renaissance is the adventure of leaving the safe space of tradition.

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  • Pirateship1982
    replied
    I agree with you there. The middle ages did get a lot of bad pr from renaissance thinkers.

    Leave a comment:


  • wolfhnd
    replied
    Originally posted by Pirateship1982 View Post

    I disagree that it is a distraction. I prefer a tighter zoom. The intricacies of individual nations is an intriguing study and the more I have read of the individual nuances of each state, the more I balk at simplifying Europe as "the west" and measuring that against a generic "east". Human society just isn't that simple.

    However, I do agree that there is a range on the renaissance.
    Well you must understand the specific to produce a general theory so I will not argue that your point is without merit.

    The subject of the thread however was a more general assessment of how the medieval period compared to other periods in European history. In such an analysis some methodology has to be developed to empirically measure social development. I would think some other point of reference for comparison is also useful.

    In any case there isn't much to debate because clearly the medieval period was the subjected to negative propaganda for political reasons. One being hostility towards the Catholic Church by Protestants and the other the emergence of powerful kings who wanted to unify political subdivisions such as city states and local nobility into kingdoms. Subsequent philosophers as the author suggests had there own reasons for portraying the medieval period in the worst possible light. Many felt that the alliance between church and king was a barrier to free inquiry and social advancement.

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  • Pirateship1982
    replied
    Originally posted by wolfhnd View Post

    I already said that the popularity of anti Eurocentrism has probably gone to far in the current political environment.

    Since the topic is about the European Medieval period being more specific is a distraction. What is certain is that even within Europe the "renaissance" can be argued to have different dates. Which in some ways argues against the original argument because eyeglasses for example were introduced in Italy during the early renaissance there.
    I disagree that it is a distraction. I prefer a tighter zoom. The intricacies of individual nations is an intriguing study and the more I have read of the individual nuances of each state, the more I balk at simplifying Europe as "the west" and measuring that against a generic "east". Human society just isn't that simple.

    However, I do agree that there is a range on the renaissance.

    Leave a comment:

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