The Necessity Of Virtue As Freedom

When martial law was introduced in Poland, in December 1981, I was nine years old. My parents were deeply involved in the Solidarity Trade Union activities. We looked to the West as a source and model of freedom, and reciprocal respect among citizens above all, in a country with shortage of basic goods (the result of “socialist economic planning”). For most Poles, and others in the Socialist Paradise, we wanted a flourishing economy. We did not understand, and some dismissed, the message of Pope John Paul II, who talked about the risk of Western “consumerism,” the danger of treating personal liberty as “God,” and other social problems in the West, which the collapse of communism in 1989, brought to the fore, along with independence from the Soviet Union.

Today, exactly 30 years later, I have difficulties understanding what is happening in Poland. I do not understand who are the people who protest and oppose the present (conservative) government, and who are those who blame and attack the Polish Catholic Church – which was the refuge for the anti-communist opposition (the believers, the agnostics, and atheists) – of every crime possible? Why the did the high ideals we believed in and fought for disappear?

As Ryszard Legutko writes in his “The Necessity of Opposition,” the problem is much more complicated. Today, the so-called ‟opposition” in Poland is not a spontaneous movement of people trying to change their social and political situation. On the contrary, its activity is a symptom and a consequence of a worldwide tendency to abolish all traces of Christian culture and to present it as unattractive, out of date and unnecessary. It started as an apparently innocuous distrust of European heritage. From such a point of view, it is only proper to see European culture – its literature, history, science — as oppressive and, therefore, less interesting than cultures of other continents.

At the same time, there was a rush towards non-traditional themes of research. For example, in the humanities, every supposed expression of sapphic love or homoeroticism in literature became an intriguing subject of study, and the question of abjection seemed to be more curious than that of admiration. Popular culture was praised, and the Classics were condemned (Harold Bloom described the problem in his Western Canon in 1994). What many decades ago looked like a need for novelty – to look at the canon from several “underrepresented” minority perspectives – turned out to be a measured strategy of fighting against the system of values that derive from Christianity. The fact that it was not merely the Christian heritage, but the heritage that it was built on, the earlier Greek and Roman cultures, did not matter either. The fact that the Christian religion has its roots in the Jewish Old Testament, and that the European Jews, are imbedded in the same Western tradition became irrelevant for the new social reformers.

Christian and non-Christian believers should not be surprised by what has happened. To many of us, our current situation – the encounter between the postmodern and traditional culture – is part of the eternal combat between good and evil.

This fight, to me, a Catholic, has already been won when Jesus Christ died on the cross and was resurrected. The opposition to evil is possible and required. But we should not expect an easy success in our counterinsurgency (if that is the right word for ‟being opposite to the opposition”). The Gospel is clear as to what a Christian may expect from the world: ‟Then they will hand you over to persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name. And then many will be led into sin; they will betray and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24, 9-13).

Naturally, the salvation is not the earthly one, but it must be seen in its theological context. It means that the victory that may be attended is the moral one, not the actual seizing of power. What has recently been happening in the world is just a vain attempt to seize power, and it is a sign that we are living in the Last Days. Does it mean that it makes no sense to defend the values we cherish because the end of time is near? Of course not, if we respect what the Bible says about the responsibility of a disciple of Christ. Our task is to call a spade a spade, to speak the truth, to recall virtues which render us human beings and distinguish us from animals.

As Theodore Darlymple claims, man should not be defined by instincts and physical impulses, as he is a person endowed with mind and soul. Prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance are just as necessary as freedom.

Olga Płaszczewska is Professor of Polish Literature, at the Jagiellonian University, Poland.

The featured image shows, “The Martyrdom of Saint Christina,” by Vicente Palmaroli; painted in 1895.

Beyond Opposition

  1. Rather than taking down the new behemoth (the vast education-media-entertainment-Big Pharma complex that controls all aspects of our lives because it has the best tools right now to build/enforce compliance), we just ignore it! We begin by establishing an independent context: social, economic, etc. not a separate political unit. We operate “within” the system but are not “of” the system. We return to Augustine’s notion of the two societies. We can fabricate symbols to show our membership (e.g., I like the flag at half-mast).
  2. Establish an independent currency (like bitcoin) impervious to governmental control. This currency can be exchanged for dollars but it retains its value and does not degenerate into toilet-paper.
  3. Establish a parallel non-politicized economy: our own social media, our own SEC, our own banks, etc. In short, we can duplicate a whole world that does business among its members who subscribe to the same principles – we do not censor or cancel! Imagine the appeal to entrepreneurs. We do not refuse to do business with THEM, but they do not define our business ethics.
  4. Establish a parallel education system – we already have one in home schooling and religious schools. We can create a whole new university system: use (buy) abandoned malls. There are plenty of retired faculty available (like myself who will literally work for free), semi-retired, about to retire, tired of participating in a charade, perhaps unemployed or employed otherwise. We need to break down the artificial barriers between practitioners and theoreticians, and we must surrender the conceit of expertise. The establishment will not recognize our degrees BUT that is irrelevant. Employers among our 100 million will. Our graduates will need to pass an exit exam showing they know the major opposing arguments of contentious public policy disputes. They will have met higher standards.
  5. Establish a parallel medical system (self-insured and nationally portable).
  6. Establish independent sports teams (whole new leagues and franchises), an alternative entertainment industry, etc. – all of it depoliticized.
  7. Establish an independent legal system that is based on mediation.
  8. Most especially, we shall need a huge legal fund to defend these proposals from the inevitable establishment lawsuits.
  9. The reader is invited to extend this list.
    Of course, I recognize that (1) all of these proposals need further elaboration; and (2) that all of these proposals are subject to corruption and hijacking. But we must start somewhere.

F. The New Politics

It is important not to continue to play the old game. Hence, there is no point in trying to reform the Republican Party. We need a new political party, one that invites former Republicans, as well as perceptive Independents and Democrats to join.

What will be its features?

  1. Political Reform Clubs everywhere – open to all –we might begin by meeting in private homes or on ZOOM and progressing from there.
  2. Within a national network of such clubs, new articulate and responsible leadership (candidates) will emerge on a continuous basis.
  3. We shall run candidates for EVERY office, Dog-catcher, school boards, district attorneys, judges, sheriffs, poll watchers, etc.—the aim is to take control of local communities and work from the bottom up.
  4. TERM LIMITS: we seek Public Service not careerists. Real achievement comes in the real world of careers, jobs, homes, schools, arts, etc. We reject the myth that politics is somehow some arcane practice. Buckley was correct when he suggested that we should prefer to be governed by the first 300 people in the “Boston Telephone Directory” than the faculty of Harvard.
  5. Litmus Test: you understand we were robbed. This is not a retreat, and it is not a surrender or form of escapism. Rather we are digging in our heels, and we are prepared to accept the burden, the responsibility, and the occasional joy of living in the Two Cities.
  6. Many are skeptical about the likely success of a third party. My reply is as follows: a. The Republican party was itself once a new party, replacing the “Whigs” perceived as no longer up to the task of dealing with the issue of slavery.
    b. Other third party movements failed because in the background was a shared set of assumptions—think Ross Perot as a better Republican rather than a new wave. There are no longer any shared assumptions.
    c. “Republicans” have rightly earned a bad name, and the party comes with baggage. Without the baggage, non-Republicans might be more receptive.
    d. Most important of all, we need fresh perspectives, new blood, an open invitation to change the political culture, buy-in from people who have abandoned active participation. We do not need a quick fix and then back to monkey-business as usual. “We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. . . Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task [that] challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark. F. A. Hayek, The Intellectuals and Socialism.

Nicholas Capaldi is professor emeritus at Loyola University, New Orleans and is the author of two books on David Hume, The Enlightenment Project in Analytic Conversation, biography of John Stuart MillLiberty and Equality in Political Economy: From Locke versus Rosseau to the Present, and, most recently, The Anglo-American Conception of the Rule of Law. This is an extract from “What is to be Done?

The featured image shows, “Portrait of Aleksander Wielopolski,” by Jacek Malczewski; painted in 1903.

Should The Libertarian Party Disband?

Edward Ring opens up his call for the abandonment of the Libertarian Party with this powerful criticism: “Siphoning off voters from the side that’s fighting the hardest to preserve individual liberty and economic freedom is not principled. It is nihilism.”

He follows this up with the second of his strong one-two punches:

“If you want to find a Libertarian Party organization that has achieved relevance, look no further than Georgia. That’s where Shane Hazel, running for the U.S. Senate as a Libertarian, garnered 2.3 percent of the vote in November. Hazel’s showing may have been insignificant, but the Republican candidate, David Perdue, only needed 0.3 percent more votes to have avoided a runoff, where he lost… All that Perdue needed was for one in seven of Hazel’s voters to choose him instead, and the GOP would still control the U.S. Senate…”

So, is it true? Would the cause of liberty be helped by the termination of the LP?

I think not. (Full disclosure: I have been a member of this party ever since 1969 when I ran for New York State Assembly, two years before the creation of the national party in 1971).

First of all, it is not that clear, as this author contends, that the Republicans are all that closer to libertarian principles than are the Democrats. Yes, indeed, they are, on economic issues. The Elephant clearly beats out the Donkey in terms of lower taxes, regulations, private property rights. This despite the fact that socialist Romney care started in Massachusetts. Neither party favors ending the fed or a unilateral declaration of free trade with all nations. Mr. Ring charges libertarians with “Killing American Jobs: Libertarians support ‘free trade’ without first insisting on reciprocity.” Here, he just reveals his lack of economic sophistication. I recommend that he read Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations,” or, for a more modern analysis of tariffs, Milton Friedman’s splendid work on this issue.

Free trade is necessarily beneficial to all participants at least in the ex ante sense. If Jones purchases a shirt for $10, it must be because at the outset, he values it at more than that amount, for example, $15. So, he earns a profit. The salesman Smith valued it at less than that amount, otherwise he would have not accepted the deal. If he placed a value on that shirt of $2, he gained to the tune of $13. Both sides benefit. And it matters not one whit whether Jones and Smith are in the same or different countries. This logic applies domestically as well as internationally .

But if Jones purchases a shirt from abroad, does that not mean lessened sales for the domestic supplier Smith? Yes, it does. So fewer shirts will be created locally, and more in this other country. But hat will the foreign shirt manufacturer do with the money paid to him by Jones? Why, turn around and buy something else in the domestic country! If it is good economics to protect Smith, from foreign competition, then it makes sense for, say, Colorado, to protect its industry from the “incursions” of manufacturers in Texas, for instance. That’s nonsense on a stick. No, one of the reasons the U.S. is so wealthy is because we have a gigantic free trade zone. No internal tariffs. These economic principles apply in all realms.

What about the minimum wage? The Democrats want to raise this to $15 per hour. The Republican plank on this matter? To $10 per hour. Both are horrid, albeit the former slightly more than the latter. The higher it is, the more unskilled persons it precludes from employment. The economically illiterate (and here, unfortunately, I include several Nobel Prize winners in economics) maintain that this law is like a floor under wages; the higher it is raised, the greater will be salaries. If so, why limit this to a mere $15 per hour? Why not $50, or $1000, or $1 million for that matter? In that way, we could all become rich! Why not eliminate foreign aid to poor countries, and advise them to inaugurate and then raise their minimum wage levels to the skies? No, this law, rather, is akin to a hurdle, or a high jump bar. The higher it is, the more difficult it is for unskilled workers to obtain any employment at all. Not only should it not be raised, it should be eliminated entirely. At its present national level of $7.25, it consigns to joblessness all those with lower productivities.

But economics is only one of the three dimensions of political economy on which all philosophies must take a position.

The second one is personal liberties. And here the Democrats are much closer to the liberty position than are the Republicans. The latter are still being dragged into the 21st century in terms of legalization of marijuana; only Oregon, has made tiny steps in this regard with even harder drugs, and we all know which party is in charge there. Mr. Ring asks “Have libertarians recognized the consequences of tolerating use of these drugs?” Evidently, he does not recognize the horrendous effects of prohibition. Maybe he’d like to put alcohol on the banned list again? That substance, too, has deleterious effects. The Republicans are the paternalistic party. On the other hand, they are way better than the other organization on not defunding the police and gun control.

A similar pattern exists with sexual relations between consenting adults for pay. Legalization of prostitution is anathema to most politicians in the red states. The blue-staters are at least a bit more ambivalent on this and other such issues.

The third dimension is foreign policy. Here the libertarian view is the one articulated by Ron Paul, as also occurs in the other two cases. This former Congressman advocated a strong defense, but no “offense” at all. No more roughly 800 military bases in some 200 countries; bring the troops home, all of them. How do the Redsters and the Bluesters stack up on this non-interventionist policy? A mixed bag can be found on both sides of the aisle. There are Democratic warmongers such as Hillary Clinton, and also Republican ones such as Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz. There are also Democratic office holders such as Bernie Sanders and Republican ones such as Rand Paul who are much closer to the libertarian position. Indeed, the two of them have cooperated with one another on such issues. Tulsi Gabbard is another Democratic Ron Paulian on foreign policy. Both parties were roughly equally responsible for the anti-libertarian wars in Afghanistan and Viet Nam. Call this is tie as far as the libertarian sweepstakes are concerned.

So, what is the final score? If this were a chess match, I would rule one win for the Democrats, one of the Republicans, and a drawn game. That is, 1.5 points for each. Nothing much to choose here for the libertarian.

There is one point Mr. Ring overlooks that might incline libertarians in the direction of the GOP: the Federalist society. This is an organization in which conservatives do not merely tolerate libertarians but actively cooperate with them, work with them, befriend them. (This is in sharp contrast to the Young Americans for Freedom in which libertarians were roundly condemned as “lazy fairies,” a takeoff on the phrase “laissez faire capitalism” favored by the freedom philosophy.)

If Mr. Ring is serious about obviating future experiences such as provided by Shane Hazel, libertarian hero, he would urge Republicans to offer Libertarians an olive branch instead of the usual smack upside the head. Instead of making it difficult for the party of liberty to get on the ballot through endless lawsuits, for example, make a deal with the Party of Principle. Allowing them to run for some minor offices without Republican opposition, or, even, dare I say this, support. In return, the LP might agree not to run candidates in races expected to be very close. I cannot of course speak for the Porcupine Party (its nickname in New York State), but I don’t see offers of this sort even being contemplated. Nor is there a lack of precedent for this sort of thing. In New York state the Republican Party cooperated with the Conservative party along similar lines.

No, it is not “nihilism” to insist that the message of liberty be brought to the American electorate. Neither major party fills that role.

Addendum: Mr. Ring is mistaken in taking the platform of the Georgia state libertarian party as descriptive of all libertarians. Immigration, for example, is a hotly debated issue amongst its members.

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.

The featured image shows, “La liberté (Freedom),” by Jeanne-Louise (Nanine) Vallain; painted ca. 1793-1794.

Opposition As Remedy Against Insatiable Error

As long as man expects to be upheld by the world, to live a life of the gentleman simply because he is post-modern, he dooms himself to conversation with the prowling mind that doesn’t actually speak, but only feeds itself. The warmth and luxury, the intrigue of wild ideas that do not disclose their danger or demands, this is the life that is nourishment for the waking dead (not to be confused with the woke – they too are food). The world envisioned as a safe space where every need satisfied is actually life inside of Dracula’s castle. What a terrible irony, that ultimately and too late one sees that self-preservation (self-possession) requires opposition and abstinence. As Christian tradition has known since the first sparks of memory, fasting is a mark of fearlessness in the face of evil. Opposition parallels this ancient remedy against evil in the realm of human political and social action.

Culture is now reaching a global moment. What we mean when we say “freedom” and “well-being” and “happiness” is subservient to the expectations that the world will turn for us, and the fear that it may run out of anything to give us. Is the global project indeed one of rewriting culture to replace tradition with a soothing (horrifying) interlocutor? The image of the future, then, is Dracula’s table. Some have already begun to perceive that this host is looking a bit seedy and ever less entertaining and more disregarding. For many, however, this host now simply observes his “host,” and from behind the curtains. The price of a seat at that table awards the revelation that one is not the champion, but the chow.

It is time for small independent presses to remain alive, and to resist all temptations to survive. In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the warning speaks to us: “A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer; I see his filthy face! And it my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud––God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!” Those who quail are everywhere and on all sides. When books are written and produced by such quailing men, we collectively are inclined to acknowledge that it might be better to live forever and under any kind of name than to live once and with personal triumph (because we know triumph needs redemption).

It was always important that books be truthful; but as global culture is fast becoming the Truth it is now imperative that books be oppositional. This characteristic will be remembered in the literature of this decade like it has been at different times in the past. Our color of opposition is not simply rejection, but also one of steadfast adherence to reality, even if it does not always know how to address the lurking source of maleficence. The battle of the good book is to promote what is real instead of fixating on the bodiless shadow. The idea that we must win here is not natural––that this world is the kingdom was ever a deception. The idea that we must live well here and never just for ourselves––this is what must live on. The bad idea can only live forever here, in the world. One bite, one bad book, never killed anyone, but it grants enough youthfulness to a guile that will outlive you and drain your children.

In this spirit of opposition and adherence to what is real, St. Augustine’s Press announces the revival of the Dissident American Thought Today Series, which challenges the comfortable thinking and speaking of the quailing; and the emergence of The Weight of Words Series which, with historian Jeremy Black, remembers and preserves the genius of conservatism in the Western literature and literary mind. These two particular collections seek to jostle the reader and publisher alike – for it is better to shake a man awake then let him drown as woke. And it is better to be burned by the flicker of insult and disdain than be licked by the flames of judgment–or infinitely worse, the fires of conscience.

Catherine Godfrey-Howell is associate editor of St. Augustine’s Press (South Bend, Indiana) and adjunct professor of canon law at the University of Notre Dame. She holds a doctorate in canon law summa cum laude from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome), and is author of the unromantic history of canonical marriage jurisprudence in the United States, Consensual Incapacity to Marry (July 2020).

The featured image shows, “Woman Holding a Balance,” by Johannes Vermeer; painted ca. 1664.

Ancient History? What For? Strength And Decadence Of The Classical Tradition

There is currently a debate about the usefulness or uselessness of history for postindustrial or postmodern societies. While some authors argue that history has entered into crisis, others continue to proclaim its vigor and believe in its validity, whether in its more traditional forms, as evidenced by the return of politico-military oriented historiography; or in other forms, more adapted to the world of the image and mass media. In the latter case, highlighting the link between historical knowledge and the notion of heritage, which can bring with it the danger of trivialization and commodification of this old knowledge.

Now, if all this is true in the field of history in general, in the field of ancient Classical history the question arises with an even sharper focus. And this is so, on the one hand, because of the very crisis of the Classical paradigm in the Western world, and on the other hand because the artistic and archaeological wealth of the Greco-Roman civilizations makes them easy prey for the cultural exhibition industry, which still knows how to exploit the component of exoticism that for a long time was associated with the world of Greece and Rome.

It is curious to note that, even among the defenders of historical science (for those who no longer believe in it, the study of the most remote times is evidently no longer of interest), the value of the study of ancient history is increasingly questioned for several reasons. In the first place, because it is a history based fundamentally on the study of literary sources and because of the scarcity of primary sources (inscriptions and papyri cannot be compared in their richness to the documentary sources of the other types of history). It should be noted that, in the opinion of these authors, the abandonment of literary sources is, as Leopold von Ranke wanted it, almost a sine qua non condition for the emergence of history-science. Secondly, those historians who cultivate quantitative methodologies tend to look with benevolence, if not contempt, at historians of the Classical world, because of their evident impossibility of handling this type of sources, almost non-existent in the field of their studies.

And to this we may add the fact that Classical historians have been showing an almost absolute disregard for theoretical and methodological reflection, remaining faithful (especially in England and Germany) to the most traditional ways of doing history, and therefore seem to give an image of outdated professionals.

As if these were not enough, historiographical and ideological debates, such as the one provoked by the publication of Martfn Bernal’s work (1991), with all its replicas, and counter-replicas, in which the clear ethnocentric component, and even the colonial ideology of Classical historians, as analyzed by J.M. Blaut, have come to light, and have put the finger even more on the question of the current validity of this type of historiography

Leaving aside the misunderstanding of different groups of historians towards ancient history, derived from their poor knowledge of it, from their belief in the omnipotence of its supposedly scientific methods, or from their incomprehension of the entire past that is not proximate. What is certain is that we can speak of a certain crisis of Greco-Roman historiography, derived fundamentally from the loss of vigor of the Classical paradigm, a paradigm that is forged in antiquity itself and which it is necessary to examine.


It is evident that the process of idealization of the Greek and Roman past had its beginnings in antiquity itself. This process was centered around two axes: a) the creation of a literate culture considered worthy of imitation; and b) the construction of political models endowed with supposedly supratemporal validity.

To understand the first process, we have to analyze how in the Greek world, fundamentally, there was a passage from a basically oral tradition to the creation of a corpus of texts considered traditional and worthy of study.

It is a well-known fact, starting from the studies of Milman Parry, that Homeric poetry is only explicable if we start from an oral matrix. In the world of oral literature (if it can be called as such) we can say that the pragmatic dimension of language is predominant over the syntactic and semantic component. In this world, it is the context that allows us to understand the meaning of the utterances; and therefore in this world literary creation is the product of a spatial and temporal circumstance, of a context in which the poet and the public enter into communication in the ambit of a situation that allows them to share a series of meanings.

But the Homeric poems were put in writing, perhaps by the invention of the alphabet. From the moment in which this process took place, the texts began to lose their pragmatic dimension and to be transmissible in time, thus creating a literary culture, in which the works that were considered worthy of transmission had to be the object of an interpretation, which in the case of the Homeric poems developed from their first being set down in writing in the Athens of Peisistratos until the Byzantine era.

This process, which Florence Dupont has called the “invention of literature,” was at the time inseparable from the creation of libraries in the Greek world. Whatever the first important library in the Greek world was, whether that of Euripides or that of Aristotle (according to tradition), what is clear is that the library that serves as a reference is the library of Alexandria. In it, the compilation of Greek manuscripts was systematized; and in it also, parallel to this work of compilation, the philological technique was developed by Aristarchus of Samothrace and his disciples who established the editions of the Homeric poems that we now possess, in which we try to distinguish the original from the added.

The birth of philology, in trying to find the original versions of texts and trying to eliminate their contamination with the passage of time, implies an effort to tear the text from its contexts, to eliminate its pragmatic dimensions, thus involuntarily laying the foundations for a process of incomprehension of the text. In fact, by distancing ourselves from the texts in time and losing the context in which they were born, we also lose part of their intelligibility, which makes it necessary to make an effort to interpret them. The effort, in the case of the Homeric poems, or in that of the Jewish Bible in Alexandria in the case of Philotheos, led to the birth of allegorical exegesis. In it, the text hides a message behind the appearance of its literalness. To discover it, a key becomes necessary, which can be euhemeristic (reducing the Homeric myth to a historical event; the naturalistic to a physical phenomenon or to moralizing) to a moral lesson.

In any case, what we are interested in emphasizing is the existence of a distance between the text and the reader, a distance that must be bridged with a hermeneutic effort. In this effort, as H. G. Gadamer has pointed out, two notions are fundamental: a) the notion of corpus and b) the notion of the hermeneutic circle. In the Greek or Jewish case, a culture is defined by the possession of a group of texts considered canonical, which serve to establish its identity. One is Greek because one is situated in a certain literary tradition, symbolized by the Homeric poems that hide the truth of our past and ultimately of our being. These texts, as we say, have to be interpreted; and this is made possible by the existence of a positive prejudice, which is born of our identification with them and leads us to enter into a hermeneutic circle. My identity resides in the texts that encode my past. I am therefore part of them. But to really know myself I have to go deeper into them, which are also something different from what I am.

This interpretative work gave rise to the whole of classical philology, from antiquity to the present day; and, consequently, also to the development of ancient history. Ancient history is within the scope of the hermeneutic circle. But this circle has something of magic about it – we place ourselves in it on the basis of a belief in a certain philological faith; and it is precisely on the basis of this credibility that the vigor or decadence of ancient history derives.

But this process of identification was not only merely literary or religious (in the case of Alexandrian Judaism), but was also, and from this derives its strength, a political process. At the same time that the Library of Alexandria was created, the Greeks colonized the entire Near East. And while Aristarchus was establishing his edition of Homer, the Greek clerics were settling in the Egyptian countryside and fighting in the army of the Ptolemies. In the Hellenistic world the Greeks reinforced their identity against the barbarians, as they had been doing since the Median Wars; and that identity was linked to the idea of their superiority over barbarians, which in turn was derived from the very nature of their political models, as Herodotus tells us in a famous dialogue in which he contrasts the Greek who lives under the law, to the barbarian who lives under the despot.

The idealization of the Greek political systems began in the Classical Period, both in the Athenian and Spartan cases. Sparta was the object of idealization by Plato, Socrates or the Cynics, who made of it a model state for its cultivation of the virtues of courage, austerity and continence, initiating a long process which, as we shall see, continued in European thought with authors such as J. J. Rousseau and others. The same is true of Athenian democracy, idealized in the “funeral oration” that Thucydides puts in the mouth of Pericles and a model to be imitated, both in the Classical period itself and throughout European history.

In the world of politics, however, more than the idealization of Spartan militarism or Greek democracy, which was only revitalized in Europe after the French Revolution, what had greater importance was the idealization of the Roman constitution and the idea of Rome. As it is known, it is a Greek, Polybius, who, applying the theory of the mixed constitution of Pythagorean origin, maintained that the Roman constitution is the best of the possible constitutions and is destined to last in time, because it unites the virtues of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. Such a constitution, not subject to change, and the efficacy and power of the legion as a tactical instrument, ensured Rome’s survival over time, thus laying the foundations of Roma aeterna as a political myth.

The eternity of Rome, achieved thanks to two new ideas – enovation and enovation, which made it possible to move the empire by Constantine and to invigorate it periodically, gave rise to the Germanic Holy Roman Empire, up to the contemporary age, or to the Second and Third Reichs in Germany.

It was the imperial model that shaped all medieval political theology, starting with Eusebius of Caesarea, conditioning all Western political thought up to Machiavelli or Hobbes, two assiduous readers, moreover, of Titus Livy, in the first case, or of Thucydides in the second.

It was this mixture of cultural tradition with political models, together with the assimilation of Classical culture by Christianity, which kept the Classical tradition alive throughout the Middle Ages, and which laid the foundations, so that with the process of secularization that began with the Renaissance, this tradition would continue to live on.

In the medieval world, the classical tradition, domesticated by Christianity and linked to the development of the idea of empire, had a basically conservative character, since it justified the existing order; it was with the Renaissance, and especially with the Enlightenment, that the Classical world changed its meaning in this respect. The Enlightenment, on the one hand, vindicated the republican ideal, breaking with the imperial idea and with the theologically justified power of the king, and on the other hand, in authors such as F. Schiller or F. Hölderlin, Greece became not only the world of political freedom but also of sexual freedom and freedom of thought, together with the liberation from the notions of guilt and sin, which in Germany weighed especially heavily because of the weight of the Lutheran tradition. This nostalgia for lost love, political and spiritual freedom was expressed in great works of German literature such as Hölderlin’s Hyperion.

But this vein of freedom of the Aufklärung that was politically embodied in the French Revolution could not continue after the defeat of the Revolution; and with the Restoration of the monarchical powers, and the beginning of the 19th century, we see a process in which Classical history, while constituting itself as a science, assumed a conservative character.


The development of Classical studies is inseparable from the study of social history and the history of each culture. So, it is necessary for its understanding to take into account the context of each country, be it Germany, England, France or the USA.

It is not the intention here to carry out a synthesis of Classical history, as this would require a great deal of space, and other authors such as Carmine Ampolo, or Karl Christ have already been doing this. Rather, we will outline which are the images, or metanarratives on which Greek and Roman history has been configured. To this end, we will choose a minimum number of authors; those who created the great overviews of the history of antiquity, starting from a contrast of two focal points: Prussia and England, in the first half of the nineteenth century.

We will start with the figure of Karl Otfried Müller, who with his book Die Dorier, the first volume of what would become a history of the different Greek Stämme, marks the beginning of the scientific historiography of ancient Greece.

Müller possessed an exhaustive knowledge of the sources; but these sources were read by him under a certain hermeneutic key, which is the one we are interested in unraveling. Müller chose Sparta as a place of reference, because he carried out an unconscious process of identification between Sparta and Prussia. The destiny of both was to unify their peoples: Greeks and Germans respectively, to which they were called by their superiority, derived from the cultivation of a set of virtues. Spartans and Prussians were two strong agrarian-based peoples, as was Müller’s Prussia, in which the link to the land and the cultivation of virtues, such as, moderation and military courage, allowed the formation of armies that were called to be the backbone of the new states. Both peoples faced a historical destiny that prevented them from fulfilling their national destiny, when confronted with industrial and mercantile powers of a democratic nature, which prevented their military expansion and the establishment of the aristocratic military regimes of government in which Müller believed.

Müller erroneously contrasted the Doric spirit with the Ionian spirit, making it a supposed key to understanding Greek history and thus distancing himself from historical reality, as E. Will pointed out at the time. If he acted in this way, it was motivated by his political passion. In doing so, however, he did not act in vain, since he created a historiographical meta-narrative that strongly conditioned German historiography, which saw in the aristocratic, military and agrarian values something superior to the English democratic and industrial tradition, believing to find in that vision of Greek history a key to what some have defined as the German Sonderweg, or the special destiny of Germany from the Franco-Prussian War to Nazism.

This conservative tradition about the Greek world was embodied by most German historians and philologists and went hand-in-hand with the process of idealization of Greece in the fields of art, philosophy and culture in general. But it faced in the twentieth century a double process that came to question its credibility. On the one hand, the identification of these antidemocratic values with Nazism caused them to enter into crisis after the Second World War, which consecrated the triumph of democratic capitalist or socialist values. And this, together with the decline of the study of Classical languages, the basis of the elitist education of the Gymnasium (to which five percent of young people between 12 and 18 years of age had access in the 19th century), caused Hellenic studies to lose a good part of their social weight.

But this image coexisted with an opposite one; that cultivated in England by George Grote, a liberal politician, a utilitarian philosopher and a banker, author of the voluminous, History of Greece, which in the mid-nineteenth century laid the foundations of knowledge of the Greek world in England. Grote did not idealize Sparta, but Athens, a bourgeois republic of merchants and artisans, which cultivated democracy as a political form and favored the development of art and culture, together with its economic prosperity.

Athens was the kingdom of political freedom and freedom of thought and also of pleasure for the majority, one of the principles of utilitarianism, in which Grote believed (1876) as a philosopher. Greece became a reference for the development of modern democracies, as it had been since the French Revolution and the predecessor of industrial societies, thanks to the development of its science and technology. But that Greece, incarnated in Athens was also, like England, an imperialist power, mistress of a maritime empire, based not on oppression but on the development of trade and the gentle imposition of a cultural superiority, linked to the development of Classical culture.

It was said in Victorian England that Classical culture, offered at Oxford and Cambridge, was something that, once acquired, allowed us to feel superior to others. And this was due to the small number of students of Classical languages and their high social status, which gave them enough leisure not to engage in a practical activity.

The validity of this model also depended not only on the credibility of democratic values and faith in industrial civilization, but also on the belief in the superiority of Europe over the rest of the world, which was called into question after the process of decolonization that took place after World War II.

If we move from the Greek world to the Roman world in Germany itself, we encounter the figure of Theodor Mommsen, author of The History of Rome, which won him the Nobel Prize for literature. Mommsen was not an ultra-conservative politician like Müller, nor a fervent Prussian patriot like Johann Droysen, the creator of the idea of Hellenism, who thought that Alexander’s destiny should have consisted in fusing the East with Greek culture, thus creating a new culture, the basis of Roman culture, and therefore of European culture. Like Droysen, Mommsen was also a liberal.

Mommsen read the history of the Roman Republic from a contemporary point of view. For him, the confrontation between patricians and plebeians was a confrontation between political parties: one conservative and the other pro-Greece, fighting for access to political power, and consequently to the distribution of public goods that the possession of this political power brought with it in republican Rome. These parties had their own organization and ideology, like contemporary political parties; and the development of their struggles ended with the figure of Julius Caesar and the foundation of the Empire. Mommsen abandoned the History of Rome when he reached the Caesars, perhaps because he could not apply that political logic to the development of imperial history, focusing more on other works, such as the systematization of the systematization of Roman public law or criminal law.

Roman history in Mommsen, or in his great predecessor Edward Gibbon, was associated with the ideas of the Enlightenment. But in it, by a curious paradox, the problem of the decadence, or the end of the Roman Empire, which symbolized the end of a culture also worthy of imitation, became a central theme. Gibbon attributed it, as is well known, to the triumph of religion and barbarism, two antitheses of the enlightened ideal, now curiously associated. The Roman Empire, at the time of the Antonines, was associated with the best and happiest period in the history of mankind, and permitted an understanding of the cause of its end and perhaps could allow for the discovery of the key to the history of Europe. Gibbon developed a progressive historiographical vision, since he was an enlightened man; but after Mommsen, at the arrival of the 20th century, other historians changed the sense of the meta-narratives of Roman history, since Rome no longer incarnated the values of the Enlightenment, as in Gibbon, or the triumph of liberalism, as in Mommsen, but the bourgeois or aristocratic values.

The aristocratic and anti-democratic values were brought to light by prosopographers like Munzer or Gelzer, who overthrew Mommsen’s vision of Roman political parties, showing how on both sides, patricians and plebeians, it was the aristocrats who controlled the political game.

This was so, but its discovery was not innocent, since such theories, as Luciano Canfora has pointed, out went hand-in-hand with the critique of democratic systems by Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca, developed at the time of the incubation of fascism. Both emphasized the apparent rather than real character of democratic regimes, since in politics it is always the elites who, whatever the system, control power.

A particularly important case is that of Michael Rostovtzeff. This Russian historian, author of the groundbreaking Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire, a work of the first magnitude for its use of epigraphic, archaeological and literary sources, interpreted the history of the empire as that of the rise and fall of a social class, the bourgeoisie, builder and creator of the city.

Rostovtzeff defined the Empire as a federation of free cities. These cities were based on the development of trade, industry and “scientific” agriculture and were linked to the life and death of the bourgeois social class. This class entered into decline because of fiscal pressure, which stifled its economic activity and favored the development of the army and the state, increasingly controlled by the peasant masses. The decline of the Roman Empire would thus be a revenge of the countryside against the city. With it, and the death of the city, art and Classical culture disappeared in all its aspects, all of which were creations of the bourgeoisie and the urban world.

Marinus Wes has brought out the concordances between Rostovtzeff’s life and his vision of the history of Rome. Our historian, was a Classicist, and therefore a member of a double minority in tsarist Russia – urban and Western and Classical culture – who identified himself with the inhabitants of the cities in a predominantly rural world, as tsarist Russia was at that time, a world in which a revolution of the lower classes collapsed a political system that had allowed the flourishing of cultured minorities. The fall of the Roman Empire was thus a transcript of the Russian Revolution; and those peasants who controlled the army and the state were a transcript of the Revolt of the Masses analyzed at the same historical moment by Ortega y Gasset (1929), or in The Decline of the West, foreshadowed a few years earlier by 0. Spengler (1923), who also felt himself a prophet of a similar decadence to that of the Empire.

The decadence of Rome thus became a goal of the transformations of the contemporary world and the advent of mass society, rejected by Spengler, Ortega and Rostovtzeff. In this way, the history of Rome became one more instrument of conservative thought, in which there continued to be an identification with the Classical world and its culture, understood as the patrimony of the minorities and as a rejection of the more radical forms of democratic government, embodied not only in the amorphous masses, but in political movements such as socialism.

Leaving aside these conservative visions, which compromised the survival of Classical culture by associating it with their political approaches, we must now look at those visions of Classical history that saw in it perhaps the possibility of thinking about some forms of liberation, as had occurred in the Renaissance or the Enlightenment.


Until now, we have been seeing a process in which Classical antiquity functioned as a paradigm, as a model to imitate, whether from a cultural or political point of view. With the last third of the 19th century, we saw the beginning of a process that had precisely the opposite effect. It was an operation of unveiling, as if an attempt were being made to remove the mask of the Greeks and Romans and to discover behind it a hidden truth that no one had wanted to reveal until then.

The discovery of this truth also meant that the ancient world lost its paradigmatic character on the one hand, but on the other hand, precisely by losing this exemplary character, this world became closer to us. By approaching us it also became more intelligible; but not in an immediate way and through a process of assimilation, as had been the case until then, but through a complex operation, by means of which the proximate becomes comprehensible through its encounter with the alien, which, in turn, is revealed to us as something that could also have some affinity with us.

The first author to participate in this unveiling operation was Karl Marx. Marx was neither a philologist nor a historian of Classical antiquity, which does not mean that he was not attracted by it. On the one hand, like all Gymnasium students, he had a good command of Classical languages, and to Greek thought, in particular to the atomists (Leucippus and Democritus) he dedicated his doctoral thesis, perhaps sensing in them the roots of a materialism that was becoming indispensable, in a Germany dominated by Hegelian idealism.

Marx therefore had a double attitude towards Classical culture. On the one hand, like every educated German of the mid-nineteenth century, he was an admirer of it, and continued to consider Greek art as art without compare, or else admired the results of Greek science and philosophy. But, on the other hand, he discovered a hidden truth that was the key to the whole of Greek and Roman history.

It is well known that in the funeral oration that Friedrich Engels gave at Marx’s tomb, he stated that just as Isaac Newton had discovered the fundamental law that governed the functioning of the physical world and Charles Darwin had done the same with the world of life, likewise Marx was the discoverer of the fundamental law that regulated the course of history, and that law was the “law of value.”

According to this law, in all human societies, we must look for how the process of extraction of the surplus value that the working class produces, and from which the ruling class benefits, is articulated. In the ancient world this process took place either under the form of appropriation of surplus value by the state, more or less sacral, in the Asian Mode of Production, corresponding to Egypt and Mesopotamia. Or when we refer to the Greco-Roman world, the key to its history was given to us through the exploitation of servile labor in its different modalities.

Classical civilization was made possible by the labor of slaves and their exclusion, like that of the Metics, from the system of citizenship rights. The political and economic systems of antiquity can in no way, therefore, be worthy of imitation, but must be judged under an eminently negative gaze, since they contradict our ethical and political principles as they have been formulated since the French Revolution, and whose validity, at least at an abstract level, a large part of European society never grew tired of proclaiming.

But the question does not end here since, discovering in parallel the concept of ideology Marx, and some of his followers in the twentieth century, like Benjamin Farrington brought to light how the Greek philosophy, thus far the philosophy without compare, was also a product of class interests, which were not limited to justify only slavery or political domination of the Greeks over the barbarians, but also impeded the very development of Greek science itself, by preventing it, in Farrington’s formulation, from reaching the threshold of the Industrial Revolution.

Farrington’s theory is based on a clear idealization of Greek science, incapable, by its own internal structure, of developing machinism. By overvaluing that science and making it similar to modern physics Farrington continued with a logic that Marx himself had not completely abandoned – the logic of the idealization of the Classical world, although now that logic was limited to the scope of his theoretical constructions in the world of physics and chemistry.

The revelatory potential of Marxism was thus limited by the presence in it of this idealizing component, and by the very idea of history considered as a science. The idea that we are in possession of a method that allows us to understand the key to history can be a dangerous idea. In the first place, because history is not like a riddle whose resolution brings us great relief and puts an end to the problem. And secondly because if we claim to be in possession of the secret that makes us understand the development of history and society, and we try to apply it to the political level, which is typical if, following the Platonic tradition, we think that the one who knows the most should rule, we will then have to develop a totalitarian system, in which those who are in possession of power are also in possession of the truth in general and of the truth about history, with which the liberating potential of Marx’s theory is reduced to nothing.

In any case, Marx’s contribution is there. Thanks to it, when we look at the Classical world, we can no longer have that old sense of complacency which, as we have seen, had been developing since antiquity itself. In the Classical world there was also a hidden truth, a truth whose discovery we find unpleasant and which, through the discovery of power in its pure state and of economic exploitation without further ado, has come to place the Greeks and the Romans on the same level as the prosaic contemporary world in which Marx and we ourselves have had to live.

In a different framing, but sharing the same logic as Marx, we have to place the figure of Friedrich Nietzsche. Contrary to Marx, Nietzsche was a professional in Classical studies. Professor of Greek at the University of Basel, he was a great connoisseur of the Hellenic world, although many later philologists and historians have refused to assume his legacy, precisely because he questioned the value of Classical antiquity elevated to the level of a paradigm worthy of imitation.

References to the Greek world never ceased to be present throughout Nietzsche’s work; but the most systematic ones are found in his writings of the Basel period and in the work that made him known and which served as a stone of scandal and as the milestone that marked his abandonment of Classical philology. We refer, obviously, to Die Geburt der Tragödie (The Birth of Tragedy).

Nietzsche participated in the same operation of unmasking as Karl Marx. But just as Marx found the secret key to the Greek world outside, in society, in the social relations of production. Nietzsche found it inside, in the soul of the Greeks themselves.

Nietzsche made two fundamental discoveries. First, that the so-called Greek spirit, centered on the idea of proportion of measure and rationality, is but one of the two facets of the same spirit. The Hellenic culture cannot be reduced to a single guiding principle; but that within it nestles a profound contradiction between two elements: the Apollonian, which corresponds to the image that Europe wanted to assume of the Greek world, and the Dionysian, which embodies the powers of passion, irrationality, life, and the surpassing of all limits. It was from Socrates onwards, when the Dionysiac was reduced to second place, and the Apollonian spirit came to predominate, a spirit that reached its most perfect formulation in Plato and that, with the assimilation of his philosophy by the Fathers of the Church, was assumed by Christianity, that kind of Platonism for the people, as Nietzsche himself says.

But this irrational component did not remain in Nietzsche in a mere vindication of passion or the nocturnal and dark aspects of life. Rather, the philosopher showed how Greek culture would have been impossible without the work of slaves and how it was the product of a dominant minority, whether we like it or not. And depending on how we interpret this, we will have the key to the conservative or progressive readings of Nietzsche. The Classical ideal is therefore neither democratizable nor extensible outside the Greek world. The values of the Greeks are not the values of liberal democracies nor those of industrial civilization. The Greek world is radically alien and unattainable to us; but it is not unattainable because of its perfection, but because it implies a radically different configuration of life.

This world has also undergone a process of falsification which has tended to make it reasonable and measured, thus allowing it to be assimilated to the Christian ideals of submission and continence. Our approach to it should, if we wish to affirm the values of life, lead us away from the Apollonian, and ultimately Christian, ideal, and lead us to delve into the Dionysian. The Dionysian presupposes the world of life, of becoming, of the liberation of the passions and of the bonds through which social structures are kept in operation. Access to the Dionysian is the key to any process of emancipation, since our chains are not only on the outside, where Marx had placed them, but also inside ourselves, in our ways of feeling and thinking.

However, as in the case of Marx, Nietzsche was not faithful to his message in the end, since, as Martin Heidegger pointed out at the time, in developing the theory of the eternal return, Nietzsche returned to restore metaphysics, from which he had wanted to flee. In effect, the Dionysian supposes that the ground beneath our feet collapses, that we lose the points of reference that until now have made us sure of ourselves, that we become disoriented. If we do not want to follow to the end this path that might lead us to the madness in which Nietzsche himself spent his last ten years, we would have to combine this process with something that would allow us to return to the outside, to the world. Or, what is the same, to raise that process not as a psychological process, but as a social and historical process, channeling individual liberation in the framework of collective liberation processes that the solitary of Sils-Maria, the follower of Zarathustra, that anchorite preacher who lived accompanied by his animals could not or would not conceive.

A third author who also contributed in a decisive way to the process of dissolution of the Classical archetype was Sigmund Freud. Freud himself said that Western man had to suffer three great wounds to his narcissism. The first was inflicted by Copernicus when he discovered that the Earth was not the center of the Universe, but just another planet among thousands or millions that should not have any privileged destiny. The author of the second wound was Charles Darwin, when he taught us that we are nothing more than another link in the chain of life, a product of a process of selection and adaptation, which can also be destined to have an end and which shares with other living beings most of its characteristics, thus losing the privilege that God had given to Adam and Eve in Paradise, when He gave them the earth, the plants and the animals to establish His dominion over them.

The author of the third wound was Freud himself, who came to tell us that our rationality is only the tip of an iceberg in which the unconscious psychic processes occupy those three quarters that are submerged. Human beings are not defined by our reason, but by our passions, by our libido, which is what configures us individually and collectively, and which manifests itself in its raw state through suicide, mental illness or through collective creations such as myths and rites.

Freud, as a good Viennese bourgeois, also possessed a great Classical culture, and it is curious that it was Oedipus, precisely from the Sophoclean Oedipus Rex, the figure that would serve Freud as a metaphor for the key mechanism that allows us to understand our psychic life: the Oedipus Complex.

Obviously, Freud was neither a historian nor a philologist. But psychoanalysis, as he himself pointed out, has multiple purposes. In addition to being a therapeutic technique, whose usefulness can be accepted or not, psychoanalysis is also a theory of culture, and therefore an anthropology. After Freud, we can no longer have the same image of human beings as before; and this will have obvious consequences in the field of historiography and the study of Classical culture.

We can focus the impact of Freud’s work, in addition, for example, in the study of the interpretation of dreams, about which antiquity still offers us Artemidorus’s work, in the areas of the study of myth and rite and in the terrain of a force, whose importance Freud greatly emphasized, as in the case of sexuality.

Freud, in Totem and Taboo, established a classic parallelism between infantile thinking, the signs and symptoms of neurosis and primitive thought. Today he is criticized for his vision of the primitive, the result not of his invention but of the image anthropology of the early twentieth century gave him. But, in spite of this, his interpretations are of great interest because, in the case of rites and myths, Freud discovered that both possess a logic, but a hidden logic that must be unveiled.

As in the cases of Marx and Nietzsche, we find again the contrast between appearance and essence, with the idea that truth always remains hidden and must be unveiled. In Freud’s case, this unveiling allows us to discover the logic of the irrational, the meaning of nonmeaning, thanks to the method of interpretation of signs based on the principles of condensation and displacement that constantly disfigure the message that the unconscious wants to transmit; although, in the end, this message, thanks to interpretative work, can also be deciphered.

The logic of rite and myth reveals that the former is nothing more than a set of meaningless gestures, and that the latter is not an exemplary story worthy of being remodeled artistically or literarily in a process of endless reinterpretation. Ritual and myth are a manifestation of the desire of the psychic energy that Freud metonymically designated with the name of sexuality.

This energy flows through the same channels in every culture, and therefore Classical rite or myth loses its exclusivity. A Greek rite of initiation need not be different from an African rite of initiation. Comparativism, which the nineteenth and twentieth centuries developed in the study of religion, finds in Freud a secure basis, inasmuch as he believes, like Marx, in discovering the fundamental law; the key that regulates the functioning, in this case, of psychic life, and consequently of society.

But there is another field in which Freud’s contribution was particularly important in the process of dethroning the Classical image. It is the field of sexuality. It used to be said in Victorian times that Greece had committed two great sins – that of slavery and homosexuality. The secret of slavery had been uncovered by Marx. The study of homosexuality would still have to wait a long time.

The problem of Hellenistic homosexuality was perhaps even more serious because it was in fact an institutionalization of pederasty, which was very difficult to make sense of. Some authors, such as, Eric Bethe, had tried to do so by framing it in the world of warrior initiations and trying to erase the images of effeminacy and sexual inversion that the nineteenth century associated with the image of the homosexual.

The path initiated by Bethe was continued in the 20th century by another series of authors, such as Dover, who emphasized its educational and initiatory character, in order to continue to find meaning for it. More recently, however, there has been a change in the approach to this problem, when authors, such as, Eva Cantarella, go on to introduce new concepts such as bisexuality, which breaks the framework of warrior initiations and brings to light the fact that sexual relations with persons of the same sex need not necessarily be a problem to be explained, but may be more or less consubstantial to human nature.

In this sense, the history of sexuality could bring with it a danger: the idealization for the umpteenth time of the Classical world, now considered as a place where sexuality could have developed freely, as it did in authors such as Schiller or Hölderlin. Michel Foucault has warned us against this temptation and has shown how sexuality is not a natural substratum that is always the victim of social repression, and whose liberation, until it reaches its pure state, should be our objective. On the contrary, sexuality is a social construction based on an unquestionable biological basis. A construction that is one of the keys to our identity. The history of sexuality is inseparable from the history of the ego, which is why Foucault used authors such as Plato or Seneca as a fundamental source.

The sexuality-identity correlation is of great importance, since it is evident, from Hegel onwards, that there cannot be an “I” without a “You” and a “We.” Or, in other words, that the individual and society are not two antithetical terms, but complementary. Thus, the aspiration to unite the interior (subjectivity) with the exterior (objectivity), which Nietzsche and Marx had not even achieved, each in his own way, can be possible from now on with authors like Foucault and with the development of the historiography of the genera, a field closely related to the history of identity and sexuality.

The historiography of gender has known a great development in the Anglo-Saxon countries, since the sixties of the twentieth century, and there are already classic works, such as, those of Sarah Pomeroy. We will not try now, as in any of the previous cases, to list them, not even briefly. Our purpose will be simply to indicate that the introduction of genera as a historiographical theme will also change the images of Classical culture understood as a paradigm.

It is evident that the woman as a genera is practically absent in the literary culture and political life of Classical antiquity. Leaving aside more or less exceptional figures in the literary field such as Sappho or some women who achieved political relevance, such as some Hellenistic queens or Roman empresses, it seems clear that the values on which Greek and Roman culture were built were mostly masculine, just as men were the main active subjects of political and social life.

Women in antiquity, like European women, were relegated by virtue of the so-called “sexual contract” to the domestic and private sphere, which resulted in them becoming passive subjects of historical events rather than protagonists; and consequently, they were practically absent from the works of Classical historians and from the development of European historiography until relatively recent times.

The history of the genera also represents another challenge to the images of the Classical tradition, since it possesses the same logic as that of the proposals of Marx, Nietzsche or Freud. Here, too, a hidden truth seems to be brought to light, thus revealing in a certain way the key to Classical history. It will no longer be a dominated social class, or a submerged continent (such as the Dionysphalic or the unconscious) that will now be brought to light; but the idea that more or less half of the human race had also been excluded from the discourse of history; that it could not find its meaning, in this case as in so many others, except from a negation of one of the basic components of social reality.

The development of the history of the genera is incomprehensible without the development of the feminist movement, just as Marxism is inseparable from certain political or trade union struggles. For this reason, the transformation of historiographical models was not only an intellectual process, but also a political and social process that would come into conflict with the socially and politically conservative ideology of most of the Classical philologists and historians of antiquity throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The figure of a woman may serve as an emblem of this process of social, political and intellectual transformations: Jane Ellen Harrison, professor of archaeology at the University of Cambridge and one of the first women who not only acceded to an academic position in England, but also made an important contribution to Classical studies, through works, such as, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, оr Themis. A Study on Social Origins of Greek Religion.

The life, the work and the social and political world in which Harrison lived form a unity that has been highlighted by her three biographers. Leaving aside her personal and family problems, analyzed by S. Peacock, it is clear that her access to Classical studies, or her conquest of a teaching position, were not easy, since Victorian values and academic and political prejudices were opposed to it. However, Harrison, once she achieved her goals, did not limit herself to reproducing the dominant discourse on the Greek world in England in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; on the contrary, she tried to renew its image through the study of archaeology and religion.

To try to do so, she set aside the image of mythology and Classical religion understood as aesthetic phenomena and applied different theoretical models borrowed from anthropology, sociology, or even psychoanalysis to try to understand Greek mythology and religion, first developing a theory, which would become famous, about the relationship between rite and myth, emphasizing the chronological and ontological priority of rite over myth. This priority allowed her to socially connect Greek religion and myth through a procedure that led her to seek the keys to the understanding of classical religions beyond the Greco-Roman world, broadening her horizon to all those peoples who in her time were being passive subjects of the process of colonization of the world; the so-called “primitive peoples.”

Comparing the Greeks with the “savages” may be more or less routine today, especially if we want to understand the most primitive stages of Greek history, but at the end of the 19th century it was a real heresy. It meant questioning the superiority of the ruling classes of the British Empire over its rulers and bracketing the superiority of Europe over the rest of the world.

Harrison’s reference to the primitive world was not only an attempt to contextualize some stories or mythological characters that were difficult to understand from the moment when the myth was no longer believed in, in Classical antiquity itself, and place them in social and historical contexts that could be similar, but also somehow more. If Harrison acted in this way, she was driven by an epistemological motive – it was a matter of explaining the similar by the similar.

But behind her epistemology, there was also an ideology and a moral proposal. The discovery of the irrational, the passionate and the primitive in Greece, already undertaken earlier by Nietzsche and Freud, is not only the discovery of a new world in the past, but also in the present. The liberation of Classical religion and mythology from the Classicist canon is the same process as the personal and social liberation of Harrison, who was forced into spinsterhood and solitude by academic and social conventions and who could not fully develop a full personal and social world because of her situation. For her, to liberate myth and to liberate Greece was the same as liberating herself and liberating the bourgeois society of late 19th century England.

The work of Harrison, together with that of Gilbert Murray and F. McDonald Cornford came to be known as the “Cambridge School” or “School of Myth and Ritual.” If I take it as a benchmark, it is because it contributed to change the image of the Classical world by making Greece and Rome lose their superiority over other historical cultures that may have been more or less similar to them, and by forcing Classical studies and ancient history to take into consideration the concepts and results of a social science whose development, which in the 19th century was parallel to history, was sometimes not very closely interrelated with these studies – namely, anthropology.

The rapprochement between ancient history and anthropology, carried out by different scholars in England, оr in France, by J. P. Vernant, M. Détienne and P. Vidal-Naquet, entails a risk of loss of identity of Classical studies for two reasons. Firstly, because it could dissolve them in the framework of a science of society in general and thus make them lose their supposedly proper categories (if they ever had them); and, secondly, because it establishes an equality before history between Eastern and Western peoples, primitive and civilized. This means putting aside the ethnocentric image on which these studies were built, as Martin Bernai has pointed out, and consequently making them to lose the privileged role they have been playing for centuries in the process of defining European identity. A role from which the cultivators of these studies benefited socially, through the social prestige that their cultivation carried with it.

After the decolonization of the world, a consequence of the Second World War, the boundaries between primitive and civilized, East and West, underwent a process of adjustment, which would partially lead to put all peoples on an equal footing. Perhaps because, as Ranke said, referring to Europe, all peoples are in history equally close before God.

At the present time, the Western world, on the contrary, seems to want to reaffirm its identity again vis-à-vis the East and the Third World, not unrelated to the attempt of some Classicists, such as Edward Luttwak or Victor David Hanson, to draw from ancient history lessons for contemporary politics, especially in the sense of reaffirming, as in Classical antiquity itself, the domination of minorities over the masses and of “superior” cultures over “inferior” ones. Naturally this would bring with it a retreat towards more historiographically conservative positions, returning to the social and political paradigm of Classicism and the abandonment of Marxist, gender or anthropological proposals. However, this will not be the case today in a clear-cut way, since ancient history and Classical studies are concretely structured as follows.


When writing about the history of historiography, it is common to allude to two types of circumstances that contribute greatly to explaining the genesis of the ideas of the great historians. First, their biographical circumstances are analyzed. Second, their political ideas, which on many occasions make up the essence of the thinking of the great historians, as Arnaldo Momigliano has masterfully taught us to see in his Contributi.

In spite of Momigliano’s undoubted prestige, many academic historians are reluctant about this type of studies, since they consider that the historian as such is a scientist and his political ideas should not condition his work, his personal circumstances being something that should be reduced to the personal or family sphere. If we want to understand the typology of Classical historians and philologists at the present time we must, we believe, follow Momigliano’s advice and also be guided by the recommendations of a philologist of antiquity, Friedrich Nietzsche, who in his The Untimely Meditations, carried out a masterly and still valid analysis of the figure of the Classical philologist and the contemporary European historian.

Nietzsche distinguished three types of historiography and historians, valid in 1873 and still today. Namely, the antiquarian historian, the monumental historian, and the critical historian. The antiquarian historian was and is defined as a professional historian. He is driven by his love for the past and his research is guided by the accuracy, thoroughness in the collection, preservation and reading of documents. This type of historian is very similar to the ancient collectors, studied by Krzystof Pomian. In the case of Classical studies, our historian is usually a philologist, a lover of texts, a faithful connoisseur and interpreter of Classical languages, who believes he has mastered the whole universe of the Altertumwissenchaften, the “Sciences of Antiquity,” so pompously called by the Germans. He, like Wilamowitz, masters everything from the most insignificant Greek language to the most sublime metaphysical ideas of Plato.

Similarly, if he is an archaeologist, numismatist or epigrapher, he carefully collects objects, coins or inscriptions, which he offers us in exhaustive catalogs. If he is not only an epigrapher but also a prosopographer, he will know the cursus honorum, senatorial or equestrian of the main personages of the Roman Empire, being aware of their careers and vicissitudes of life. In the same way, if he is an archaeologist, he will master the topography of ancient Rome, and of hundreds of other places.

All these scholars define themselves as “scientists.” They master a method that allows them to read, translate and interpret texts and documents from the past. And they do so objectively, dispassionately and faithfully. If we ask them about their ideology, they will tell us that, as scientists, they lack it. And even if they did have one, it would never interfere with their research. Their probity would not allow it in any way. They do not aspire to direct consciences. Their ideal of life is that of a secluded, almost monastic life, in which they like to relate to their colleagues, who are the ones who truly understand them and with whom they share their love of the past and of dead languages, languages whose cultivation is perhaps one of the few things that can allow us to become fully human.

Epistemologically they will define themselves as empiricists. They hate philosophy and speculation, because they are always attached to the positive, to the data, whose knowledge is the only thing that justifies the historian’s job. Politically they can be more or less conservative, but always discreet. Their natural place will always be the second piano. Their kingdom is apparently not of this world, although it really is. They will always be in favor of the established order. For them, as for Hegel, although always in a much more prosaic way, everything rational is real and everything real is rational. If something exists, it will exist for a reason; and that is precisely what we must learn from history; that the past and the present will always be justified. They are justified by their factual character. And if history teaches us anything, it is that a fact is a fact and that we must accept it as such. History is the realm of the contingent, but also of the necessary. That is what we have to learn from it as a science, that things are so, that the best we can do is to study them and consequently accept them.

The second type of historian is the monumental historian. In 1873-1876, this meant the nationalist historian; and today, it again means the nationalist historian; or, a few years ago, it meant the politically committed Marxist historian. This type of historian, on the contrary, does not aspire to isolate himself from the world, but to live in it. But not to live in it in any way, but to govern it. He is a historian who defines himself as an ideologist of the nation and as a discoverer of its essence. As a result, he aspires to social recognition of his merits and to be given a role in the direction of the nation or society. And if he knows the hidden things that make up the apparent reality, it is logical that he be the one who governs us. Plato said that if we want a pair of shoes we will go to a shoemaker; if we want to make a sea voyage, we will look for a good sea-captain; while if we are looking for who governs a city we resort to the vote, to the opinion, being wrong consequently.

For Plato, the one who should govern is the philosopher-king, since he is the one who knows the true nature of political things. In the contemporary world, from the birth of the nation-state in the 19th century, the one who claims for himself this role is the national historian who aspires not only to know the past and expose it in his books, but also to mobilize his compatriots by instilling in them enthusiasm for knowledge, and defense, if necessary, of their homeland.

This same mobilizing role was later assumed by the Marxist historian, also a connoisseur of the essence, of the hidden laws that regulate the march of societies and of history. It is this scientific knowledge, free of ideology that, from his commitment to the workers’ party, which allows the historian to place himself in the only valid observatory for the contemplation of historical reality, thus being consequently qualified to govern a country directly, when he is a political intellectual, like Lenin, or at least to guide the rulers. Although, in most of the cases, the numerous politicians simply imagined themselves as thinkers, with intellectual results that oscillated between the mediocre and the ridiculous. Just think of Ceaucescu.

The last type of historian is the critical historian, who, according to Nietzsche, does not place his life at the service of history, but places history at the service of life. For this historian, not everything is worthy of remembrance; after all, as Heidegger would later say, what is proper to the past is oblivion. We must free ourselves from the past, when the past is a weight that weighs upon us, when this weight consecrates everything that exists; and we must place the past at the service of life.

This type of historian is above all a more or less isolated intellectual. But if he becomes a solitary intellectual, it is not because that is his vocation or his preference, but he is forced by circumstances. His participation in this process of liberation must be both individual and collective. The historian writes оr speaks for someone; and that someone is his contemporaries, with whom he shares the world.

If we follow the terminology of Alfred Schutz, we could say that every historian lives, first of all, in an Umwelt environment, but is not isolated in it, but lives in it with his contemporaries, with his Mitwelt. In turn, this world derives from a previous world, Vorwelt, and will continue in a successive one, Folgerwelt. The historian must try to understand all these interrelated worlds, which should not necessarily mean that he must also justify them or be the main protagonist of their transformation.

If what he wants is simply to understand them, he may end up justifying them, just like the antiquarian historian. If he tries to change them too quickly, it could be that, reversing the sense of the Marxian thesis on Feurerbach, that his desire to change the world leads him to forget that he first had to study it. The fundamental thing in him must be to think that it is not possible to change the world, the outside, if one continues to think in the same way as the Vorwelt. The work of the historian is above all an intellectual work. His mission, like that of other intellectuals, is to try to think the world according to new concepts. However, this intellectual work will not be pure intellectual work. For, if we can learn anything from the history of historiography, it is that it has either kept pace with, or slightly lagged behind (sometimes by a lot) the transformations of social reality.

History is not an eternal science but a historical product. It is probably not even a science but something very close to the common sense of each culture, if it is only a form of storytelling. What is certain is that it is itself a historical product, and that, as such, it is in continuous transformation. Heidegger said that what defines temporality is precisely the future. The past as such no longer exists. The present can be reduced to the insignificance of the instant. Thus, if we can say that time exists, it is because there is still a future. Human life, as Ortega y Gasset said, is like a bow, which must always be taut. The moment it ceases to be taut life will come to an end.

For this reason, the work of the critical historian must consist, in 1872 and today, in helping to liberate individual and collective life by seeking and disseminating new ways of thinking about it, and thus contributing to its transformational process. This work will ensure that the study of history does not find its meaning in reference to the past, but paradoxically in reference to the future. Antiquity, that part of history which, precisely because of its own chronological scope, might seem more inaccurate, has, like no other stage of history, no meaning in itself. The sense it had is that of its protagonists, who are no longer alive. If we want to give it meaning, we can only act in two ways: either by glorifying it and thus consecrating the present, which will be conceived as its correlate, or by writing ancient history with an eye to the future, a future that will soon also be the past.

José Carlos Bermejo Barrera is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain). He has published numerous books in the fields of mythology and religions of classical antiquity and the philosophy of history. Among these are The Limits of Knowledge and the Limits of Science, Historia y Melancolía, El Gran Virus. Ensayo para una pandemia, and most recently, La política como impostura y las tinieblas de la información. He has published numerous works in academic journals, such as History and Theory; Quaderni di Storia, Dialogues d’Histoire Ancienne, Madrider Mitteilungen. He is a regular contributor to the daily press.

The featured image shows, “The Girl or the Vase,” by Henryk Siemiradzki; painted in 1887.

Contra Merkel – The Climate Argument

With Angela “Mutti” Merkel’s coming resignation, a minor industry of (capital-L) Legacy “valedictory” salutes has come out of the woodwork. Who knew she was owed so many favours? In any case, a politician’s legacy is rarely decided during or immediately after her tenure – history’s sweep is long and unforgiving of all but the best propaganda.

Needless to say, Merkel’s career is far from over – she now graduates to that coveted elder statesman role – and will likely be following her old friend and fellow European Council member António Guterres (now UNSG) to lead some international body. In the interest of the polemic, however, such a candy-floss maquillage campaign should not be allowed to stand unchallenged – Merkel’s record is full of things to criticize, from her dawdling “strategic patience” to her worrying Ostpolitik with Moscow.

Lesser criticisms of Merkel’s tenure would focus on the migration crisis during which she allowed the indiscriminate entry of a 7-figure amount of mainly men of fighting age. Her Jupiterian command of other countries’ governments (and their budgets) during the Euro crisis is another focus of criticism. The details make for worse reading: censorship of sex crimes committed by migrants, the defenestration of Silvio Berlusconi and his Merkel-selected replacement. The blatant disregard for Greek democracy.

There are certainly better grounds to assail her record from: Merkel’s inability to bring Germany’s armed forces up to scratch remains a huge unaccomplished objective which can only really be explained by malice at this point – the consensus is that incompetence doesn’t explain any of her record, after all. Her forays into 4th generation warfare as a replacement (in Libya but especially in Ukraine) have met nothing but humiliation.

I do want to focus on one particularly rich vein of criticism of our beloved Ang – her failure to keep Germany’s climate commitments. The same Germany that was selling emissions-cheating cars to the rest of the world (including, especially, China, but I’ll allow a better pen than mine to cover Angela’s red tendencies) leads the industrialized laggards on decarbonization – all the while installing an unbelievably wasteful amount of solar and wind generation capacity. Breaking the famously efficient Energiewende, the grid now peaks at the wrong time and doesn’t have anywhere near the storage capacity necessary to make the most of the times the renewable generators do peak.

Much like Japan, Germany’s overreaction to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi meltdown resulted in political force being applied against the German nuclear industry, shuttering down perfectly safe (and clean!) base load generators that would end up replaced by much dirtier fossil fuel generation. Worse, a generation of nuclear talent – the most specialized kind of workforce you can imagine – has been wasted just when we need to roll out miniaturized nuclear reactors all over the world to rapidly decarbonize the world’s base power load.

That is certainly one regret I hope Merkel dedicates the rest of her career to ameliorating. It is clearly too early to be considering her legacy – Her multiple failed succession plans, from Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, through Ursula Von Der Leyen and now Laschet’s second-place finish in the election are just as much part of her record as taking credit for Mario Draghi’s good work at the ECB. I’d certainly hope our Kanzlerin will consider the lesser institutions of the international order, like the IAEA, where she can still try to make up for her Schulde in both energy policy and her beloved Iran.

This moment is valedictory for Merkel only in the sense that one graduates from the Gymnasium to the Universität. Her work is not done.

Felipe Cuello is Professor of Public Policy at the Pontifical university in Santo Domingo. He remains an operative of the Republican Party in the United States, where he served in both the Trump campaigns as well as the transition team of 2016/17 in a substantive foreign policy role. His past service includes the United Nations’ internal think tank, the International Maritime Organization, The European Union’s development-aid arm, and the office of a Brexiteer Member of the European Parliament previous to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. He is also the co-author and voice of the audiobook of Trump’s World: Geo Deus released in January 2020, back when discussing substance and principles were the order of the day.

The featured image shows a postcard of Angela Merkel.

Western Civilization Must Be Affirmed

Gerson Moreno-Riaño recently stated, “American colleges and universities have always positioned themselves as the bastions of knowledge and truth for the moral formation of their students. Regardless of intellectual debates surrounding the meaning of such terms, universities in America have never rejected implicit commitment to moral formation.”

By simply using the word “moral,” President Moreno-Riaño is already sending a message that he stands against the trend in modern institutions of higher education. The word “moral” connotes right and wrong within a Judeo-Christian matrix of understanding. The Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, and loving one’s neighbor as oneself are increasingly portrayed by the apostles of heteronormative reality as covers for a hidden malignancy of exploitation and rejection that is unbecoming of civilized persons.

Instead, we are increasingly told by campus pundits and other self-proclaimed prophets of post-modernism that LGBT+Q (a couple of hundred varieties of sexuality come under the “Q”), feminism, anti-racism, and anti-white, male gender hegemony, are hallmarks of needed change in society.

To this crowd of miscreants – many of whom hold PhDs and teach at leading institutions of higher education – our entire society is living a lie. Our legal system is infected with racism from top to bottom which is why we see proportionally so many more African-Americans and Latinos in prisons than white people. The promotion of whiteness is the historical essence of American society, according to the proponents of the 1619 Project. These non-historians want to claim that the very founding of the USA was to glorify whiteness and to heap contempt on the non-white people of the Earth. We were not founded on true Christian or democratic principles like the furthering of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut that was the first constitution of Connecticut (1642) did not, according to those intent on demonizing whiteness, define the principles of government by which a people living in a state might enjoy self-government. Rather, that constitution like all the mores of colonial America, was a cover for a more sinister cover-up of an inherent, cancerous white supremacy. The underlying motive was not as might appear to be the case: “We deserve to rule ourselves because the principles of self-government are Biblical, and the affirmation of freedom is part of God’s plan for the universe;” but, according to the 1619 Project, that we are only claiming these goods because we are white and based on our racial superiority can and ought to claim them.

Everything we have been and are as a society is merely a rationalization to cover the sense of racial superiority and macho sexuality that underlies anything and everything we have done and achieved, anything and everything we take pride in having accomplished – politically, educationally, economically, medically, scientifically, socially, and legally. Straight male white society has built this monolith called the USA on the suffering of people of color, the oppression of women, the cruel suppression of non-heterosexual persons, and the rejection of Marxist ideology, even though, according to its proponents, that ideology would bring about the betterment of the greatest number of people in our society.

President Moreno-Riaño in the same article quoted above recommends, “the re-integration of the true, beautiful, and good within a context of pervasive and consistent open inquiry.” He also recommends the removal of funding from colleges that fail to do this. This writer found his shift to this position surprising since his article acknowledges that the teaching of Western Civ courses in colleges and universities has been decimated. Instead, this writer would cry out for a re-institution of those courses.

Western Civ encompasses the powerful traditions of Reason, beginning with ancient Greece and Rome; the power of Love via the great Christian commandments of loving one’s neighbor as oneself and loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength; the love of Beauty and Truth in our great literature and art works (John Keats’ “Ode To A Grecian Urn” says it better than this writer); and the great trans-racial and supra-racial achievements of Science, such as humankind has enjoyed since the 16th century. Without acknowledging the highest ideals embodied in Western Civ as being valued above all other ideals, we are doomed to demoralization, disruption, and decay.

Jeffrey Ludwig is presently a lecturer in philosophy and has taught ethics, introduction to philosophy, American philosophy, and philosophy of education. He also spent many years teaching history, economics, literature, and writing. For ten years he served as pastor of Bible Christian Church; and his theological focus is on the five solae. He has published three books, the most recent, The Liberty Manifesto, being a series of essays about the importance of reasserting liberty as a social, political, economic, and theological value. His other two books are The Catastrophic Decline of America’s Public High Schools: New York City, A Case Study, and Memoir of a Jewish American Christian.

The featured image shows, “The Architect’s Dream,” by Thomas Cole; painted 1840.

The Dialectic Of Imbecility And The Western Elites’ Will To Power – Part 4

The following program, in no particular order, contains the ideas which the Western world’s elite agree, if successful, would fix up the world –

  • the elimination of the Western traditional family
  • the elimination of Western traditional religion
  • the elimination of Western (now interpreted as white) privilege
  • the elimination of the right of freedom of speech (to have a platform is a privilege only to be granted to those who think correctly in a way commensurate with ensuring justice for all)
  • the elimination of biological sexual identity and the right of a child to choose what sex it wants (feels) itself to be
  • the total compliance with a “philosophy” about why the world is how it is and how it can be fixed
  • total trust in those who educate us in this “philosophy”
  • total trust in the state which is dedicated to the “administration of things” according to philosophical principles, such as diversity and equality – diversity meaning people with certain characteristics are the same
  • total trust in science – and the consensus that has been politically deemed to be its teaching to anyone who resists
  • total trust in non-elected officials from journalists to intelligence operatives, as well as elected officials, if they deprive you of your rights in the name of “the science”
  • a cashless economy, so that wealth cannot be stored away from those entrusted to ensure that one is deserving of one’s wealth,
  • a universal income, so that anyone who is not deserving of that income may be denied it
  • a proscription on natural birth, so as to save the planet from the Anthropocene

Of course universal income is at this stage still only an idea, as is the proscription on birth; but they look to be inevitable. Presently, universal income is advocated by the world’s richest people; and they do so at a time when a cashless economy is increasingly becoming realized. A cashless economy will enable the globalized and globalist state to access anyone’s savings, thus to ensure that none can escape its panopticon (this term was popularized by Michel Foucault, a left wing intellectual icon, at a time when surveillance was far less prevalent and when the liberal democratic state was far less beholden to a class of people who take their cues from people like Foucault).

As for population control, Michael Moore’s film, Planet of the Humans, on the inefficient and anti-environmental impact of green energy was wrongly and widely hailed by people who generally disagree with him on pretty well everything because they saw it as an acknowledgment of (his) left wing folly. What they missed was that it was a call for depopulation – and the potential tyranny behind such a call would make the Hitlers and Stalins of the world look like namby-pambies in the mass murdering stake. For we have now become so accustomed to abortion, not as an exceptional undertaking to save a mother’s life, or even preserve her mental well-being, but as a routine decision based upon our inconvenience – and the state as a public protector of our safety, and its intrusion into every sphere of our life.

So, it will seem perfectly natural when we reach the stage that one will need state permission to have children, and it may well be, in order to discriminate against LGBTQ etc. all natural births will be prohibited as discriminatory.

Further, now that it has become acceptable to discriminate and persecute people who deviate from any of the requirements about sexuality, gender, biology, ‘the science’, COVID vaccination, Islam, critical race theory, surely only a monster would think that people who have shown themselves to be monsters, and agents of oppression should have children. As well, we have seen that as a new narrative of oppression gains traction among the elite, as a subject requiring educators, and people to be educated, as well as people to be blamed for whatever horrors this particular form of oppression incurs, it must remain.

Anyone, but a complete idiot, might wonder why after so many decades of exposure, say, to racism that, as critical race theorists, leading Democrats, top ranking military officers, and intelligence officers hold that racism is now worse than ever. The answer to that is, if you think this way you are not yet a complete imbecile. Anyone but an imbecile should also be able to see that clientelism requires clients – actual victims of injustice, or misfortune, don’t really matter, unless they feed the larger narrative and its professional opportunities.

However, because the above “game plan” is globalist, it does not mean that the program will win out in the way that its players think it will, anymore that the game of communism played out the way the Bolsheviks thought it would. Reality has a habit of having its way. Thus, it was that Marxists got concentration camps and mass death instead of their promised overcoming of alienation.

The program is also a fail-safe way to ensure the geopolitical destruction of the West at the hand of its enemies, which, inter alia, means the complete destruction of all the inroads of recognition made by Western progressives, whose astonishing ignorance about the impact of Islamism in Western Europe and future consequences of Islamist geopolitical inroads being made as the West tears itself apart, is a recurrent theme in writings of the insightful Bruce Bawer, who is gay and Christian. (A good and typical example of the extent of this ignorance is exhibited in the case of Sinead O’Conner, the singer whose public protest against the Church because of child sexual abuse, and who is now a convert to the religion founded by a man who had sexual intercourse with his nine year old wife).

And, while, as members of Turkey’s ruling party openly say, the demographic transformations in Western Europe may lead Western Europe to become Muslim – it is China (and as is also the case with Islamic peoples) with its very conservative adherence to the family, that is best positioned to take advantage of the West’s self-destruction, and dictate its future and the values it will tolerate.

Though, it may well be that by the time the West is but a vassal of China, China’s dictatorial policies might seem like welcome relief from what are increasingly looking like inevitable race wars, which, again will benefit the West’s geopolitical rivals far more than it will benefit blacks, or Latinos. (It is noteworthy how in all bonfire of race, playing itself out in the USA, the group that has by far the most shocking history to deal with, native Americans, don’t really figure at all. I suspect it is because they are not numerous enough in North America to be serious clients servicing ongoing political or public service careers, so their lives don’t sufficiently matter to be part of the propaganda race-war drive).

It only goes to show the contempt with which our intelligence is held that someone who bangs on about white privilege and race would think that no one would notice the sleight of hand deployed in simply shifting between color and linguistic characteristics so as to fuel conflict. But, of course, any three year old can notice that there is no consistency in any of this, that it is imbecilic thinking – albeit it is a dialectic of imbecilic thinking – that it is all about polarization.

Some three decades ago, a victim of oppression teaching at UCLA, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, realized that all the oppression stacked up in multiple ways and she drew upon the legal term of intersectionality to help identify all the identities that might lead one to be disadvantaged – as she, a Harvard graduate, must have been. While the intent was to draw attention to the multiple ways oppression and identity inter-twine – so that there could be ways of the various oppressed finding some common ground – it was essentially a response to the obvious problem of polarization; the problem of a lack of commonality, and lack of communion with community.

And, in spite of the institutional triumph in North America, Western Europe and Australasia today of identity politics and studies, what really is evident is the scramble and conflict between the identities for resources, opportunities, prestige and power by claiming they have less opportunity and access because they are more oppressed: white feminists being trumped by black feminists, or by the transgender activists so that having a vagina does not count when it comes to being a woman, and or a white gay male (say a film producer) might be slightly down the totem pole of victimhood from a white straight male (even, say, a guy selling gas).

So, we now require an education system now that can identify and ensure the institutional justification and distribution of resources on the basis of the different gradations of oppression that accrue to different identities. Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Oxford, Cambridge etc. have all morphed from being institutions of higher learning into institutions of imbecilic cultivation – as for the professions that would seem to be so far removed from these imbecilic issues – math, dentistry, engineering, accountancy etc., just as in the Soviet Union, where eventually even genetics was completely politicized, the totalitarian imbeciles are making sure that no discipline or training can escape the reach of their dialectic of imbecility.

At the heart of the ceaseless expansion of the dialectic of imbecility destroying minds, hearts, character, and institutions is the self – the self-wanting to be and being identified as all-important, being everything, wanting to have everything – from respect and pride, to pity and opportunity. This is the self that wants no sacrifice; it wants access to that big magic bin I spoke of earlier – and the way to have access is to present itself as being disadvantaged in access to it.

Once upon a time some people thought the access was given to the Jews, then it was men, then straights – now we all know, and have teachers and professionals telling us the answer – it is the whites that get all that undeserved access. That this is where the hell of self-obsession leads – it is the diabolical sin of pride – the pride Milton describes when he has Eve worship a tree thinking once she eats from the tree of knowledge she will be as God, or Satan who wants to be God, and to beguile assumes the form of a slithering slimy creature. It is also, sadly, completely self-serving, which is why (as anyone with a modicum of understanding of the laws of the spirit knows) it is utterly destructive of the soul.

The imbecilic self may want to cling to its identity as a Woman, Black, Latino, blah blah; but anyone who is happy to construe himself or herself in such term is just another imbecile. And that s/he, as much as anyone else, who is happy to go along, accepts that someone assumes to speak on behalf of/for an identity – as if having an identity always meant being, feeling, thinking x,y,z… blah blah. And it is precisely the making of imbeciles that is behind the self-serving nature of the dialectic of the imbecilic.

Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen books.

The featured image shows, “Erregte Menschen (Excited People),” by Emil Nolde; painted in 1913.

Human Evolution, Behavior And Intelligence: A Conversation With Helmuth Nyborg

We are so very pleased to present this interview with Helmuth Nyborg, the Danish psychologist, who has been leading the field in developmental psychology, with his work in polygene adaption and traditional behavior, with a focus on hormones and intelligence. He is a retired professor of developmental psychology at Aarhus University, Denmark, and has authored several notable books. Professor Nyborg is here interviewed by the French philosopher, Grégoire Canlorbe.

Grégoire Canlorbe (GC): How did you move from Olympic canyoning to an academic career? Which of those two activities was the most physically and mentally demanding?

Helmuth Nyborg (HN): The change was easy. Preparation for the 1960-Olympiad in Rome took five years in advance with three hours training from 6-9 am. and again from 6-9 pm – before dinner was an option – and year-round. Such a program taxes social, family, metabolic, and intellectual life considerably. So, as I shared a room in the Olympic village with gold medalist Erik Hansen, with whom and two others I won the bronze medal, I simply told him that my career in kayak ended at 3:08 pm. when we passed the goal line. He found it hard to believe, but I kept my promise and entered the academic world instead.

Helmuth Nyborg.

GC: You are currently working on a thermodynamic approach to the biocultural evolution of intelligence. How do you sum up your theory as it stands?

HN: Actually, already back in 1994, I wrote a book, Hormones, Sex, and Society: The Science of Physicology, where I argued that science would advance by skipping much abstract philosophical thinking about Man’s nature, and instead turn to the study of Molecular Man in a Molecular World. The jump from there to thermodynamics is short.

Currently I am trying to quantify 275.000 years of prehistoric competition between individuals in the struggle for capturing and transducing available energy (Wm-2), survival, and procreation, in a retrospective, pseudo-experimental design; that is, to redefine classic Darwinian thinking along the lines suggested back in the 18th century by the two famous physicists, Ludwig Boltzmann and Alfred Lotka.

GC: When it comes to intelligence, what does the second law of thermodynamics imply? (Namely, that the entropy of an isolated system, as is allegedly the universe, is necessarily increasing). Do you believe the universe’s average intelligence is necessarily decreasing?

HN: The second law of thermodynamics is about isolated systems and is therefore not of great use for understanding the way humans work, because they are open systems. We therefore need to call upon a fourth thermodynamic model for open non-equilibrium systems. It is easy to understand why global intelligence has been declining steadily since 1850: Low IQ people become more numerous and have more surviving children than high IQ people.

GC: A line of criticism occasionally heard against the coevolution idea (i.e., the idea that gene and culture are influencing each other in their mutual evolution) is that cultural patterns in a population are indeed influencing genes in said population—but that genes do not have the slightest influence on cultural patterns in turn. Thus, any population subject to the influence of a certain culture is allegedly led to becoming biologically adapted to said culture at the end of a few generations. That is how, for instance, the Berber, Afghan ethnicities, and various populations who were conquered by the Islamic Arabs allegedly ended up becoming culturally Arabized—and biologically adapted to the Arabic culture. What is your take on such claims?

HN: The whole idea of biocultural coevolution assumes that cultural aspects can be measured and quantified as accurately as the biological aspects. This is not the case, and this makes, in my opinion, the whole idea of biocultural coevolution untenable, as previously argued by me, in 1994.

As said above, we better entirely circumvent stubborn problems based on how more or less abstract culture works, for example, by trying to retrospectively define and quantify the prehistoric circumstance under which different peoples around the world have evolved; which polygene adaptation they were forced to make in order to survive and prosper, and which left surprisingly lasting polygene traces reflected in existing global differences in traditional behavior, which even the naked eye can see so readily today. The recent failing attempts to make Afghanistan democratic illustrate the point well in blood, violence, tradition, and despair

GC: An early investigator of the evolution of intelligence, Hippolyte Taine expressed himself as follows in 1867: “The man-plant, says Alfieri, is in no country born more vigorous than in Italy; and never, in Italy, was it so vigorous as from 1300 to 1500, from the contemporaries of Dante down to those of Michael Angelo, Cæsar Borgia, Julius II., and Machiavelli. The first distinguishing mark of a man of those times is the integrity of his mental instrument. Nowadays, after three hundred years of service, ours has lost somewhat of its temper, sharpness, and suppleness…. It is just the opposite with those impulsive spirits of new blood and of a new race [that were the Italians of the Late Middle Ages and of the Renaissance].” Do you sense that analysis is grounded at a thermodynamic level?

HN: The mathematician and physicist, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), said in 1883 something to the effect that, if you cannot measure a phenomenon and express it in numbers, you don’t know what you are talking about. You may be at the beginning of knowledge but have certainly not advanced to the state of science, whatever the matter may be.

This problem is not only Taine’s, but has been with us since the dawn of time. People think of a phenomenon, say “impulsive spirit” or “motivation;” then they reify it and ascribe it causal value. Suddenly they have an explanation. Why did I do it? Well, I was motivated. They don’t see that this is a circular explanation: How do you know you were motivated? Well, I did it.

This kind of muddled thinking was common in the past and is still widespread today. One current widespread form is Social Constructivism, exemplified by, say, unsubstantiable theories of “systemic racism,” or the “glass ceiling” in “Gender research” (where Gender is loosely what you feel; a lived cultural proxy for real, measurable, biological sex differences).

GC: Thank you for your time. Please feel free to add anything else.

HN: It worries me to think that the political scientist Charles Murray (2003) has a valid point, when he concluded that Western thinking has been decaying since 1850. This most likely has to do with declining global and local average IQ.

In that connection, it hurts to watch the numerally quantifiable left-oriented political activist overtake of many modern universities and media, with their associated unprofessional “Cancel Culture,” “Critical Race Studies,” and politically motived data-poor gender and LGBTQ+++ activist reports.

Gregoire Canlorbe and Helmuth Nyborg.

It is terrifying to realize that so many weak academic administrators today carelessly allow left-oriented student hooligans to attack, and have sacked serious researchers they have a political distaste for – instead of furiously defending free speech and independent research in the Academy.

It is saddening to see that so many modern universities seem to have completely forgotten the Humboldtian ideals of a free University; and instead have allowed their organizations to degrade into mindless mass-producing institutions, where political correctness all too easily overturns rational science; and IQ research(ers) are tabooed.

All this bodes well neither for the future of European democracy nor the sustainability of enlightened societies.

O tempora, o mores!

The featured images shows the funerary stele of Lysistrata, ca. 350-325 BC.

Passion, Patience, Perseverance: A Conservation With Michel Qissi

We are extremely pleased to bring this interview with film star, Michel Qissi, a Belgian-Moroccan actor, director, screenwriter, stuntman, and martial choreographer. He is notably known for having played alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport, Kickboxer, and Lionheart; and he choreographed the fights in Kickboxer, in which he played the cult villain, Tong Po. Mr. Qissi is in conversation with Grégoire Canlorbe, the French philosopher.

Grégoire Canlorbe (GC): Your first name, Mohamed, was changed into Michel, then back to Mohamed again. What is the story behind this?

Michel Qissi (MQ): When I was little, I helped Jean-Claude in his mother’s flower shop in Brussels, on Avenue Buyl. His mother, whom I called, “Grandma,” and his father, whom I called “Grandpa,” both called me Michel. Then, Jean-Claude, whom I got to know when we were young, also called me by that name. And when we both went to America in 1982, he continued to call me Michel. Today, it’s been twenty years that I have returned to Morocco and taken again the first name of my origins, the one my parents gave me and by which everyone here continues to call me.

Mohamed Qissi.

GC: You were a choreographer on Kickboxer. Please tell us about that experience. What distinguishes dance choreography from fight choreography?

MQ: I indeed took care of the choreography and of the casting of the fighters in Kickboxer, which was an extraordinary experience. The fact that Jean-Claude and I had both trained for years and years, since we were little, was a huge help to us in our fight scene at the end of the film. There is dance in this fight, a visual beauty of the moves, which is why it looks so good on screen.

Dance and fight choreographies are nonetheless completely different things. I wouldn’t be able to choreograph a dance scene; but a fight choreography where the movements are of impeccable fluidity and elegance, where a kind of dance is played, a warrior-style dance, is something that is possible for me.

The risk of injury is much greater in combat choreography than it is in dance choreography. The actors recruited for fight scenes don’t just have to know how to act; they have to know how to fight, which is not something you learn in six months. They must be experienced fighters, who know how to control themselves, control their strength, and resist fatigue.

GC: Is Tong Po an entirely bad character? Or does he keep a part of the light inside himself, like Darth Vader?

MQ: The utter nastiness of Tong Po is plainly evident in the film. It impressed the spectators. As for Tong Po’s past and why he has become such an evil being, devoid of any light, the film remains a mystery. While it is true that some are born with a mental disorder, we are never born wicked. We are all angels when we come into the world. An unhappy childhood, marked by mistreatment and sexual abuse, is one of the things that can explain why some take a fatal path while growing up. At the moment, I am being offered the launching of an opus that would explore Tong Po’s youth, the education he received, the life’s challenges that he encountered and which rendered him the brutal and cruel being that the Sloan brothers have to face in Kickboxer.

GC: What do you think of Dave Bautista as Tong Po in Kickboxer: Vengeance, which is the remake of the original Kickboxer movie?

MQ: It is an honor for me that Dave Bautista, someone who enormously matters in the cinema world, whom we have seen playing in important films, like Blade Runner 2049, that he took over the character of Tong Po whom I was the first to bring to life. An honor and a pleasure.

GC: Would you say that the “American dream” that you lived is still possible for a young person in Morocco today?

MQ: Everything is possible in life, whether you are a Moroccan, or someone from another country. Everything is possible, provided that you are passionate, patient, and persevering; and that you work hard, get up early every morning, and enter those places where your passion brings you. If you are passionate about cinema, go where the cinema is. Whatever is the environment in which your passion finds itself, you will meet good and bad people there. Go to the right people; those who will help you. With advances in communication, contacting the right person is easier today than it was in the 1980s.

GC: Thank you for your time. In the end, what message do you want to convey?

MQ: My message to everyone, especially young people, is the following. On the one hand, respect your body, stay away from all bad drugs. The good drug is sport; the bad one is stuff like cigarettes, alcohol, or cocaine. On the other hand, respect your parents, whoever they are; listen to and respect their advice—especially when it comes from wise people.