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FalagarV2

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  1. It's interesting, in this regard, that a central exercise in later Greco-Roman education involved writing imaginative pieces (ethopoeiai) about characters from the Iliad, Odyssey or other narratives of the classical tradition's 'expanded universe', explaining their reasoning or mindset at specific events. Or that Augustine censored himself for loving Latin literature, which caused him 'to remember the wanderings of some Aeneas, while forgetting of my own wanderings, and to bewail Dido’s death because she committed suicide, while in the midst of these trifles I, wretched as could be, allowed myself to die away from you with dry eyes.' (Confessions 1.13). The ancients certainly did not think their canon void of emotional attachment or opportunities for escapism.
  2. Yeah, I'd agree with that, to some extent. Although I don't think it's as much about less violence (likely, to my mind, but hard to quantify) as it is about harnessing and controlling violence (i.e. the thesis of the neo-institutionalists North, Weingast and Wallis in Violence and Social Order). I think the primary pieces of evidence are the Qu'ran and/or later Muslim traditions themselves. The argument is (understandably) often made by Muslim feminists, but apart from the inherently biased Muslim accounts we don't really have much evidence. For contemporary accounts of pre-Islamic Arabs, we're mostly dependent on incidental remarks by Roman/Byzantine authors such as Ammianus Marcellinus and Zosimus. They treat social relations very cursory, although they also depict female Arab rulers such as Zenobia and Mavia. A relatively nuanced take is found in Leila Ahmed's Women and Gender in Islam; she mentions e.g. the Muslim ban on female infanticide on the plus side, but a decline in political activity and the likely disappearance of matrilineal marriage customs as negatives.
  3. Interesting discussion, as always! This would be a sort of Durkheimian definition of religion, no? It would also expand it to embrace basically any ideology, whether liberalism, communism, or nationalism. Also, by that definition, it would seem that the human capacity to organise themselves in general is the root of violence (?). The idea is older than the finds at Göbekli, I think. If I'm not much mistaken (although I haven't been able to confirm it by a quick search), it was originally based on the central role of the temples in organising life (both economy and politics) in early Mesopotamian and Egyptian cities. More recent finds indicate that forager societies often established semi-sedentary settlements (e.g. fishing settlements) before they became farmers, and of course there existed sedentary farming settlements before the temple cities. On the other hand, there are also indications that humans would continue to return to specific places for 'cultic purposes', perhaps easing us into permanent settlements. The theory then received more support from Göbekli Tepe. Here, their waste suggests they were primarily foragers, but I think the assumption is that they were semi-sedentary groups of the type previously mentioned living in villages in the surrounding area. Shared cult may well have been a central factor in what brought these disparate groups together at the specific site, perhaps indicating the processes that (combined with irrigation needs) facilitated the foundation of the Sumerian city states and the role of the temples there. Nietzsche wasn't a nihilist, though, and was in fact very fond of arguing about (or, more commonly, polemicising against) religion in his quest for the values of a godless society. As far as I can tell, this claim is quite speculative. At any rate, I don't think there are grounds to say that the situation post-Islam was far superior to that which prevailed earlier, as we hardly know anything about women's role in pre-Islamic Arabian society with certainty (restricting ourselves to 'pagan' bedouins of the Arabian peninsula - other important groups had earlier adopted Christianity, Judaism, and perhaps, for a brief time, Manichaeism).
  4. Nah, he emphasises that it's not realistic either. What he's really saying is that all is hopeless and everyone should get drunk.
  5. "Democracy" was reserved specifically for the Athenian mode of direct democracy. As opposed to, say, the Romans, who had representative (partly) elected officials, i.e. a repulic. To my knowledge, the latter only came to be considered "democratic" in the course of the 19th century, and so I'd assume Madison referred to the distintion democracy-republic (although I admittedly don't know the specific passage). Not that I disagree with your overall assessment, necessarily, although I don't think we should so easily dismiss the role of democratic institutions out of hand. The Athenians, too, were dominated by a tiny clique (I think there are altogether like 20 documented speakers in the people assembly for the entirety 5th and 4th century bce), so informal elites have always excersised power in democratic societies.
  6. Like any 18th century politician, Madison would presumably be comparing it to the Athenian example, by which standard almost no modern democracy is a democracy. Which is fair, but not in accordance with common usage - and also involved the exclusion of slaves and women.
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