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What defines Western civilisation?
#1
My ideas:

*Excessive individualism

This is present in both left-wing and right-wing politics. On the Left, it's represented of self-actualisation, which gave us the divorce epidemics, experimenting with drugs and various unwholesome sexual behaviours. On the Right the individualism is more focused on economics. The concept of human rights is distinctly Western, and very individualistic. What is lacking is emphasis on duties of the individual toward society as a whole.

Other civilisations made the opposite mistake and focused too much on maintaining group cohesion, which resulted in repressing many innovative ideas and stopped these societies from developing. They could no longer compete with the West.

Even the Western political orientations that reject individualism try to appeal to it. Marxism and Nationalism both use the argument that their policies are in the interest of members of the proletariat or the nation, rather than any transcendent ideal.

*Legacy of Roman imperialism

This feature is not present in all Western ideologies, but it's persistent. Note that imperialism is not cosmopolitanism, because it requires maintaining the distinction between rulers and the ruled. German and Russian Empires literally claimed to be modern versions of the Roman Empire, where the core ethnicity was openly privileged. America and Britain look more like an updated version of the Roman Republic. Until recently, America played the role of the world's policeman, but it made no attempt to create a true global democracy. Earlier, the British Empire acted the same way. If they acted like true cosmopolitans, the murderous nationalist movements like Baathism wouldn't have ever existed.

Culturally, imperialism takes form of the notion of belief in a "correct culture" one has to know in order to be truly civilised. In the 19th and early 20th centuries it was about the knowledge of the Greeko-Roman classics and later "high culture". Listening to Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, reading Goethe, etc. Without them you are barbarian. Today, the anti-PC warriors like Jordan Peterson advocate returning to the classics. Personally I don't feel attracted to Western "high culture" at all.

When I was a neo-con, I believed the West is the universal civilisation which has outgrown tribalism, but the persistent distinction between Westerners and non-Westerners can be called super-tribalism.

Imperialism is not simply evil, though. Roman, British and American imperialism all often provided better government than local dynasties or theocracies. Even Russian occupation of the Caucasus and Central Asia was to an extent progressive, because it did away with shariah.

These features IMHO define Western ethics and political culture. I'm not sure about aesthetics, though. It's also important, but I'm not very knowledgeable about it Sad

Yet another defining feature might be the West's rationalism. In principle I agree with this idea, so I won't devote a paragraph to criticise it. I'm only worried that too much rationalism can make you lose contact with your emotions. Without emotions we can never distinguish between Good and Evil. Westerners sometimes overlook it.
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#2
Objective naturalism in art. This really separates the Renaissance from earlier times, in part by making perspective relevant. People who violate the rules can get away with it, but only if they violate those rules for compelling reasons. Perspective allows people to see the world in three dimensions (with obvious limitations) , which allows for more detail in the expression of images.

Perspective also makes analytic geometry and the calculus possible.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#3
Objective naturalism in art and science both have roots in empirical interest in material reality, while non-Western cultures were more interested in intuitive cognition.

The ideal of athletic male beauty? I have yet to encounter a Chinese or Indian sculpture flexing biceps Smile

Going back to politics, I think institutionalized competition is something typically Western. Other cultures had competition in form of war, obviously. But only Westerners could invent something like Jeffersonian democracy with its constant "cold war" between political parties. Parties should be banned because they divide society! Capitalism, the typically Western economic system, is also a form of institutionalized competition. But many Westerners oppose it. Those who do, like Marxists, seemingly believe that scientific planning is better, so they merely replace one Western idea with another.
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#4
(01-30-2019, 03:53 AM)Bill the Piper Wrote: Objective naturalism in art and science both have roots in empirical interest in material reality, while non-Western cultures were more interested in intuitive cognition.

The ideal of athletic male beauty? I have yet to encounter a Chinese or Indian sculpture flexing biceps Smile

Clearly also Greco-Roman, and a revival in the West under Michelangelo and others. The Marxist celebration of athleticism of the toiler is undoubtedly Western.

I have seen some Indian art of the second and first centuries BCE and I notice a Greek influence. Alexander got as far as the Indus Valley, and the realism is impressive.

Quote:Going back to politics, I think institutionalized competition is something typically Western. Other cultures had competition in form of war, obviously. But only Westerners could invent something like Jeffersonian democracy with its constant "cold war" between political parties. Parties should be banned because they divide society! Capitalism, the typically Western economic system, is also a form of institutionalized competition. But many Westerners oppose it. Those who do, like Marxists, seemingly believe that scientific planning is better, so they merely replace one Western idea with another.

Where Parties do not compete at the polling place, political parties are nothing more than tools of command and control. This is obvious enough with fascist, Nazi, Communist, and Ba'ath Parties. At the extreme the German Nazi Party was little more than a syndicate of organized crime once in power.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#5
(01-30-2019, 01:05 PM)pbrower2a Wrote: Where Parties do not compete at the polling place, political parties are nothing more than tools of command and control. This is obvious enough with fascist, Nazi, Communist, and Ba'ath Parties. At the extreme the German Nazi Party was little more than a syndicate of organized crime once in power.

100% agreement Smile

I was thinking of a system without any parties, a non-partisan democracy run more like a scientific institute. Individuals could still compete, but only on the basis of personal competence. Such a system has existed in the short lived Republic of Texas (Western) and today in Canadian province of Nunavut (inhabited mostly by Eskimos) on the Polynesian island of Niue.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-partis...overnments
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#6
(01-29-2019, 11:54 PM)pbrower2a Wrote: Objective naturalism in art. This really separates the Renaissance from earlier times, in part by making perspective relevant. People who violate the rules can get away with it, but only if they violate those rules for compelling reasons. Perspective allows people to see the world in three dimensions (with obvious limitations) , which allows for more detail in the expression of images.  

Perspective also makes analytic geometry and the calculus possible.

This defined western art in the Renaissance period, circa 1400 to 1890 CE, and objective naturalism but without the perspective device also characterized Green and Roman art. The Romans excelled with personal portraits. Architecture emphasized geometrical forms in these periods, and were not so big as to overwhelm and dehumanize the spectator or the client/worshiper using them.

However, for the thousand years roughly from 400 to 1400 CE The West abandoned objective naturalism and returned to art as symbolic and abstract, because the priority was to represent the divine, not the human. Architecture soared to great heights to represent the divine, much like in the days of ancient Egypt. And since circa 1890 CE, once again Western art has largely abandoned objective naturalism, and art became the forms and colors expressed on the canvas or in the building, not representational, objective or proportional. 

So it would not be accurate to define The West solely in terms of the objective, natural or rational; those "earlier times" were also "western." That goes for all forms of art and culture and belief, philosophy, science, etc. But it's the only world culture that took the rational and objective as far as it did, which it did during the more objective-tending periods (during what I call several of the civilization cycles). Now science and rationalism is part of our world culture.
"I close my eyes, and I can see a better day" -- Justin Bieber

Keep the spirit alive;
Eric M
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#7
(01-30-2019, 03:53 AM)Bill the Piper Wrote: Objective naturalism in art and science both have roots in empirical interest in material reality, while non-Western cultures were more interested in intuitive cognition.

The ideal of athletic male beauty? I have yet to encounter a Chinese or Indian sculpture flexing biceps Smile

Going back to politics, I think institutionalized competition is something typically Western. Other cultures had competition in form of war, obviously. But only Westerners could invent something like Jeffersonian democracy with its constant "cold war" between political parties. Parties should be banned because they divide society! Capitalism, the typically Western economic system, is also a form of institutionalized competition. But many Westerners oppose it. Those who do, like Marxists, seemingly believe that scientific planning is better, so they merely replace one Western idea with another.

Yes, those are good contrasts. There were some Indian philosophers who were materialists about the same time as our Greek materialists, but they do not dominate the Eastern culture.

The Western model of competitive politics is something else that has been imported now worldwide. As for parties being banned, it makes sense to us because we see how parties become vehicles for corruption and divide society. However, they formed right away in the USA and in Republican France because alliances are how things get voted on and passed in a majority-vote legislature. 

It seems natural, just as on the Survivor show Richard Hatch invented the alliance system and used it to win the game, and ever since then contestants have formed alliances in order to survive on the show. Alliances can shift but they seem ever-present there.
"I close my eyes, and I can see a better day" -- Justin Bieber

Keep the spirit alive;
Eric M
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#8
(01-31-2019, 12:13 PM)Eric the Green Wrote: Now science and rationalism is part of our world culture.

Quote:The Western model of competitive politics is something else that has been imported now worldwide.

It only makes sense for everybody to import what has been proved to work. More reasonable non-Westerners adopted Western concepts of  science and competitive politics, but maybe there are some Eastern ideas that could benefit the West.

Christian sexual morality is one, it was invented by a non-Western culture (ancient Israel) and promoted so heavily that most Westerners don't consider it foreign anymore. Now we are assimilating Buddhist philosophy of mind and mindfulness techniques. The same happens to art forms, many fashionable dancing styles have an African origin.
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#9
(02-01-2019, 06:36 AM)Bill the Piper Wrote:
(01-31-2019, 12:13 PM)Eric the Green Wrote: Now science and rationalism is part of our world culture.

Quote:The Western model of competitive politics is something else that has been imported now worldwide.

It only makes sense for everybody to import what has been proved to work. More reasonable non-Westerners adopted Western concepts of  science and competitive politics, but maybe there are some Eastern ideas that could benefit the West.

Christian sexual morality is one, it was invented by a non-Western culture (ancient Israel) and promoted so heavily that most Westerners don't consider it foreign anymore. Now we are assimilating Buddhist philosophy of mind and mindfulness techniques. The same happens to art forms, many fashionable dancing styles have an African origin.

Yes. I agree. Although Israel and Judaism is usually considered "western" as it is the source of western religion.
"I close my eyes, and I can see a better day" -- Justin Bieber

Keep the spirit alive;
Eric M
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#10
Though I've contributed little to this discussion, I've enjoyed it thoroughly.  Please, carry on.   Spongebobdance
Intelligence is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom, but they all play well together.
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#11
Western (Latin) Christianity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6e_5x4LQz8
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#12
(02-02-2019, 06:15 PM)Eric the Green Wrote:
(02-01-2019, 06:36 AM)Bill the Piper Wrote:
(01-31-2019, 12:13 PM)Eric the Green Wrote: Now science and rationalism is part of our world culture.

Quote:The Western model of competitive politics is something else that has been imported now worldwide.

It only makes sense for everybody to import what has been proved to work. More reasonable non-Westerners adopted Western concepts of  science and competitive politics, but maybe there are some Eastern ideas that could benefit the West.

Christian sexual morality is one, it was invented by a non-Western culture (ancient Israel) and promoted so heavily that most Westerners don't consider it foreign anymore. Now we are assimilating Buddhist philosophy of mind and mindfulness techniques. The same happens to art forms, many fashionable dancing styles have an African origin.

Yes. I agree. Although Israel and Judaism is usually considered "western" as it is the source of western religion.

The Ashkenazim often got much criticism among the Czechs, Poles, and Hungarians for being... too German! I often confused them with Germans when I was in California, and I am about half-German in origin. The Sephardim? In one country in which they were a large part of the Jewish population, all that distinguished them from the surrounding Dutch were (1) rejecting Jesus (they never claimed to be Christians) and (2) Spanish or Portuguese surnames.

The repertory of the Israel Philharmonic is reputedly very conservative.

Jesus, whom the Jews reject (they do well enough without Him) obviously does not define Western Culture. Sigmund Freud and Gustav Mahler do more to define Western culture and civilization than does Jesus.


....Speaking of Buddhism... had Alexander gone deeper into India, his largely-Greek armies would have encountered Buddhism. Buddhism would have well fit classical Greek philosophy far better than did Christianity. The West would have probably replaced pagan faith more easily, more quickly, and more completely, with Buddhism than with Chrisitianity.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#13
(02-02-2019, 06:15 PM)Eric the Green Wrote:
(02-01-2019, 06:36 AM)Bill the Piper Wrote:
(01-31-2019, 12:13 PM)Eric the Green Wrote: Now science and rationalism is part of our world culture.

Quote:The Western model of competitive politics is something else that has been imported now worldwide.

It only makes sense for everybody to import what has been proved to work. More reasonable non-Westerners adopted Western concepts of  science and competitive politics, but maybe there are some Eastern ideas that could benefit the West.

Christian sexual morality is one, it was invented by a non-Western culture (ancient Israel) and promoted so heavily that most Westerners don't consider it foreign anymore. Now we are assimilating Buddhist philosophy of mind and mindfulness techniques. The same happens to art forms, many fashionable dancing styles have an African origin.

Yes. I agree. Although Israel and Judaism is usually considered "western" as it is the source of western religion.

Ancient Israel was not Western. It was a sister nation of Phoenicia, influenced by Egypt and Assyria. It also predates the West.
Modern Israel looks like Latin America, with a Western elite (Ashkenazim vs Hispanics) and large non-Western population (Oriental Jews and Arabs vs Native Americans and Blacks).

Western thought seems to have followed the development from Aristotle through Thomas Aquinas into Whiggism and Liberalism:
https://www.crisismagazine.com/1990/thom...-mendicant.
Somebody once called Trump the face of Western civilization, but no, this title belongs to Aquinas.

I imagine that Ashkenazi theology must have been influenced by Thomism, but the Judaism of Oriental Jews should have more Islamic influences.
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#14
(02-05-2019, 07:50 AM)Bill the Piper Wrote:
(02-02-2019, 06:15 PM)Eric the Green Wrote:
(02-01-2019, 06:36 AM)Bill the Piper Wrote:
(01-31-2019, 12:13 PM)Eric the Green Wrote: Now science and rationalism is part of our world culture.

Quote:The Western model of competitive politics is something else that has been imported now worldwide.

It only makes sense for everybody to import what has been proved to work. More reasonable non-Westerners adopted Western concepts of  science and competitive politics, but maybe there are some Eastern ideas that could benefit the West.

Christian sexual morality is one, it was invented by a non-Western culture (ancient Israel) and promoted so heavily that most Westerners don't consider it foreign anymore. Now we are assimilating Buddhist philosophy of mind and mindfulness techniques. The same happens to art forms, many fashionable dancing styles have an African origin.

Yes. I agree. Although Israel and Judaism is usually considered "western" as it is the source of western religion.

Ancient Israel was not Western. It was a sister nation of Phoenicia, influenced by Egypt and Assyria. It also predates the West.
Modern Israel looks like Latin America, with a Western elite (Ashkenazim vs Hispanics) and large non-Western population (Oriental Jews and Arabs vs Native Americans and Blacks).

Western thought seems to have followed the development from Aristotle through Thomas Aquinas into Whiggism and Liberalism:
https://www.crisismagazine.com/1990/thom...-mendicant.
Somebody once called Trump the face of Western civilization, but no, this title belongs to Aquinas.

I imagine that Ashkenazi theology must have been influenced by Thomism, but the Judaism of Oriental Jews should have more Islamic influences.

The Ashkenazim are undeniably Western, having fully assimilated into German ways at one time on everything but religion. Roughly half-German or Swiss in origin, I consider them at the least cultural brethren. So they reject Jesus? Big deal as a cultural statement! The assimilation of Yiddish-speaking Jews into American life is largely the adoption of the English language (itself closely related to Yiddish) and acclimation to American political institutions. Cultural assimilation? It goes both ways. American theater and cinema are both heavily under the influence of the Ashkenazim. What happened to the much-vaunted Yiddish theater in such places as New York City? It started performing in English for non-Jewish audiences without much loss.

Politics? America proved itself a complete repudiation of the unpleasant practices of Imperial Russia. Litvak Jews did bring revolutionary ideas from a Russia under distress, but this is in contrast to German and central-European Jews who knew little of the sort.

It is more likely that Christian theologians have studied Jewish theology than vice-versa. Who would better know the Old Testament?

The relation of the Sephardim to the West is less obvious. The ones who took off for England or Holland maintained some Hispanic or Lusitanic tendencies, but could not avoid some cultural assimilation into English and Dutch culture.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#15
(02-05-2019, 07:50 AM)Bill the Piper Wrote:
(02-02-2019, 06:15 PM)Eric the Green Wrote:
(02-01-2019, 06:36 AM)Bill the Piper Wrote:
(01-31-2019, 12:13 PM)Eric the Green Wrote: Now science and rationalism is part of our world culture.

Quote:The Western model of competitive politics is something else that has been imported now worldwide.

It only makes sense for everybody to import what has been proved to work. More reasonable non-Westerners adopted Western concepts of  science and competitive politics, but maybe there are some Eastern ideas that could benefit the West.

Christian sexual morality is one, it was invented by a non-Western culture (ancient Israel) and promoted so heavily that most Westerners don't consider it foreign anymore. Now we are assimilating Buddhist philosophy of mind and mindfulness techniques. The same happens to art forms, many fashionable dancing styles have an African origin.

Yes. I agree. Although Israel and Judaism is usually considered "western" as it is the source of western religion.

Ancient Israel was not Western. It was a sister nation of Phoenicia, influenced by Egypt and Assyria. It also predates the West.
Modern Israel looks like Latin America, with a Western elite (Ashkenazim vs Hispanics) and large non-Western population (Oriental Jews and Arabs vs Native Americans and Blacks).

Western thought seems to have followed the development from Aristotle through Thomas Aquinas into Whiggism and Liberalism:
https://www.crisismagazine.com/1990/thom...-mendicant.
Somebody once called Trump the face of Western civilization, but no, this title belongs to Aquinas.

I imagine that Ashkenazi theology must have been influenced by Thomism, but the Judaism of Oriental Jews should have more Islamic influences.

I think most scholars and historians consider the three monotheistic religions as "western" insofar as they are the source of western religion. Judaism is the source religion of the three. Western religion is as much western as western science, politics and philosophy, and they all are inter-related.

But what modern Israel looks like or what any western or any country looks like is irrelevant to the question. We don't live in The West anymore; no-one does. Ethnically, politically, intellectually, religiously, commercially, or any other way, the world is one global civilization now, and has been since the climax of European imperialism in the 1890s, the anti-colonial wars against it, the advent of modern tech, and the world wars. The civilization we live in now has the whole world as its heritage and source.
"I close my eyes, and I can see a better day" -- Justin Bieber

Keep the spirit alive;
Eric M
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