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Culture, Kultur, Paideia

Days ago I was revising my blog’s categories. I realized how lazy I had been.

‘Culture’ for example indicated both:

  1. the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of a society or group  (it’s the Unesco definition)  and
  2. the general knowledge and refinement a person can attain through education.

The former, anthropological, relates to groups, while the latter, humanistic, relates to individuals. So my category ‘culture’ has been split in two: culture and knowledge & refinement.

I’ll tell you, my impression is that ‘culture’ in English has progressively lost meaning num 2, which was instead well alive in the past if we have to believe J. C. Shairp, a Scottish man of letters, who wrote in the 19th century:

“What the Greeks expressed by their paideia, the Romans by their humanitas, we less happily try to express by the more artificial word culture.”

Well, if paideia and humanitas were better, culture is better than nothing in any case.

Of course European cultures (anthropological) are very much interrelated. In countries such as France Italy and Germany, for example, people continue to refer to culture also as personal, individual refinement: we have ‘cultura’ in Italian, ‘culture’ in French and ‘Kultur’ in German, which the German Duden dictionary explains with Bildung and verfeinerte Lebensart (refined way of life.)

I’m wondering why the English-speaking countries have retained only the anthropological use of culture. Don’t they like gli uomini di cultura generale any more?

According to my friend jurist cultura was a high culture ideal that mirrored social elitism, so the English-speaking countries, basically more pluralistic, bit by bit moved on. Very good point, but I’m not entirely convinced, there must be something else too.

This thing being more complicated than it seems, I am now asking my readers for insight.

In the meanwhile, I’ll soon post a nice discussion occurred a few days ago where some kind of replies have surfaced: a dialogue among a civil engineer from NYC, an Indian Canadian from Quebec – about to start a career in the film industry – and MoR.

Arrivederci a presto dunque.

ψ

See next installment:

The Last Days of the Polymath

Related posts:

American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci
Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People

About Man of Roma

I am a man from Rome, Italy. I’m 60 and a Roman since many generations. In my blog, manofroma.wordpress.com, I’m writing down my meditations. The idea behind it all is that something 'ancient' is still alive in the true Romans of today, of which few are left.

58 responses »

  1. Very interesting post! MOR, it’s been a pleasure reading such posts.
    I dont have any real insight to share here, but I suspect that in a more globalized world today, where a person dabbles in many different cultures and societies at the same time (for instance, in melting pots such as England, US, Canada etc), the identity/culture which emerges within a person over a period of time is perhaps so different than the one from where the person is originally coming from. The original identities are even submerged and a new culture evolves within that person or such mix groups. I mean, for instance, what will be the culture of a person living in a melting pot New York, whose Ukrainian father married a French woman, is married to a woman who is half Filipino/half Lebanese herself. Now, in this case or in many such cases in today’s world, the first definition of culture which you mentioned above gets so much blurred. Dont you think so?
    Well, I’m not even sure what I rambled above makes any sense with your post or with the question you asked. :).
    On a different note, it’s cool to know that the discussion we had on 2001 at Lichanos’s blog has inspired you to make a separate post on that.

    Reply
    • the first definition of culture which you mentioned above gets so much blurred.

      Yes, it does. An impoverishment, at times, not as a rule though, as new ‘cultures’ emerge, but it might take time. Unless we think in terms of cosmopolitanism, world culture, me trying to be a supporter of it in my own way.

      As for Europe vs the New World, China, India etc., while we still are very rich we count little in terms of where the real action is (or could soon be,) and cultures are mixing here as well, not only in the UK or the US.

      What is then the world-wide importance of Paideia or of Humanitas today? Not much, since, though being among the founding concepts of the Western tradition, the same notion of a ‘West’ is shaking.

      This is just memory Dev. But memory is important, any memory, from any folk on earth. It says how things got to be the way they are now.

      And yes, I understand a writing like this may sound like the words on a worn-out papyrus coming from nowhere :-)

      Reply
      • :)
        You know after writing this comment on Friday, I later realized that perhaps I read this post of yours from the prism of my story which I recently finished writing for the short film I’m making now. One of the ideas in my story, which developed over the writing, is whether cultural values/stereotypes could change and surprise us when they meet with each other in a multi cultural place such as Montreal.
        I now realize that your post is talking of culture per se in a more traditional sense.

        Loved reading your replies and other commentators’ insights on this.

        Reply
  2. To say that a person is “cultured,” here in the USA, has a very old fashioned ring to it. We might say, sophisticated, refined, intellectual or hip. I think “cultured” just sounds a bit ridiculous in English now – calling up stuffy, out-of-date rich people in drawing rooms. I would say this is because of two things: the dominance of popular culture everywhere, and thus the erasure of a high-pop-or low culture distinction; and the related forgetting of what the concept means. For example, to read “the classics” is not considered cultured so much as simply eccentric. Interesting perhaps, but strictly a personal and oddball taste. There is no shared notion of what “to be cultured” means. On the other hand, to be intellectual doesn’t seem to require one to be cultured in the sense that I have, i.e., to be interested in the history and development of ideas: it’s enough to be able to spout the lingo of the latest arcane school of social deconstruction.

    As you can see, I go with the old fart sticks-in-the-mud.

    Reply
    • Great comment as usual Lichanos. I’ll forget we agree and will treat you as my adversary, for fun, ok?

      “cultured” just sounds a bit ridiculous in English now – calling up stuffy, out-of-date rich people in drawing rooms

      Out-dated? Oh lemme soak in it like a warm bath with Apulian extravergine massage. The point IMO is not excellence for an elite, it’s excellence for as many as possible.

      [ … because of] the dominance of popular culture everywhere, and thus the erasure of a high / pop-or-low culture distinction

      Isn’t this the beginning of decadence? How can you educate the masses with Spiderman or Homer (Simpson)? Ok, authentic culture of the people, but I invite you to travel on a Russian train going from Moscow to St Petersburg. Looong trip but in company of passengers reading Anna Karenina and Checov. An example, won’t get into communism: I’m against it.

      I know there exist many (onanistic) theories about pop: but Champagne and methanol, soaps and Shakespeare – there’ll always be a difference, I (we) believe.

      Reply
      • extravergine refers to olive oil, no? Terrible for massage. It is a monounsaturate and gets sticky almost as soon as you start to work with it.

        Stick to coconut, or grape-seed.

        Reply
        • Wow, I’ll try them, although sometimes it’s the massage that counts, ya know. The Greeks loved olive oil but I guess some (minor) progress over antiquity has been made ;-)

          Reply
  3. I am not an USAer but I have met a good number of them down there and up here. I would make a distinction, culturally speaking, between New York and New Jersey States and New England and the East Coast from Delaware on down. I have met quite cultured people in those more relaxed States where people take time to live and enjoy it.
    In St-Augustine-Antigua I even met people who closed shop and went home when they figured they had made enough money for the day. Marvelous!

    Reply
  4. This is an interesting topic! The classic interpretation is still valid, still appreciated, still sought after. However, we have extended the definition to include all aspects of living.

    Buon Natale, Giorgio.
    Grazie mille per l’amicizia.

    Reply
  5. Lichanos, you support Man of Roma’s thesis that “culture” in English has (largely, not wholly) lost its humanistic meaning and retained only its anthropological meaning.

    I agree: I call people who are cultured “connoisseurs” or “cognoscenti” to make myself clear, and it’s interesting that i should have to use French and Italian words.

    But Man of Roma asked us WHY that change has occurred. I’ll take a stab.

    1) Anti-elitism. Sarah Palin and all the rest. Anglo-Saxons, and especially Americans, associate “culture” with snobbism. It intimidates them. So they level Haute and Basse Couture. Once “pop culture” is culture too, the humanistic usage loses all meaning.

    2) Within American there are more and stronger anthropological sub-cultures. Yes, MoR, I agree that Europe also has them. (I once lived in Kiez, the Turkish part of Berlin!). But America IS an amalgam of (anthropological) cultures. Hispanic. Black. etc. So that meaning of the word has become pre-eminent.

    The loss of the other one, it must be said, is a tragedy.

    Reply
    • Andreas, this comment was probably pending while I was replying to Lichanos and Paul. Tomorrow, since family is calling :-)

      Reply
    • Hi,

      I’m not sure they’re “intimidated” by it in as much as they don’t think it’s authentic. But I agree, there’s a general forgotten sense of what it means to be or at least a desire to be “cultured.” I’d say this is taking place right across North America.

      Very few people, for example, read the classics as a standard.

      Montreal is multicultural, but I still find, and I guess this is for Dev, there’s a huge disconnect between cultures. Yes, we have access to it but we still know little of them. And it becomes more apparent within the dominant Quebecois culture. We say Americans are “insular” (yet, they assimilate cultures better than any society I know of. Look at the names of all great Americans. That’s not insularity. In fact, I’d submit, it’s tolerance) but I’d submit we’re more so.

      Just my take.

      Reply
      • @Commentator
        Yes, I agree with you mostly that cultures stay disconnected for the large part in Montreal and then there is dominant Quebecois culture too. But, I’m still hopeful for the future. Perhaps in the last half a century, cultures have still met with each other, in places such a Montreal and many other such cities in the world, much more than ever in history. You know I mostly lived in downtown Montreal and I think downtown Montreal could be truly very multicultural, even if it’s so by default rather than any genuine desire by anybody to make it so. I mean there are buildings here, where people are not only from so many different countries, but even economically they come from very disparate backgrounds. I think that’s very interesting. I’m also told by a well read and well traveled 77 year old New Yorker, who now lives in Montreal, that this is something very unique in Montreal downtown. He said that even in a place like Manhattan, New York, which is perhaps known to be the most multicultural place on the planet right now, the downtown there lacks that kind of interesting and diverse mix as in Downtown Montreal.
        Now, I agree that even after this constant collision of cultures, for most people, knowledge and appreciation of ‘other’ remains on the periphery and, sadly, never goes much beyond stereotyping. But, then I guess that’s best we can have right now, whether by default or whatever, and things perhaps can only get better from here. :)

        Reply
        • I agree with your NYer friend. NYC has a LOT of cultures, but in Manhattan, they are rather segregated. Hipster areas tend to be white-gentrified areas. NYC is ALL about the price of real estate. It has been since 1812. It’s too expensive! In Queens you are more likely to get that multi-cultural collision, but tourists don’t go there.

          Merry Xmas to all who celebrate it!

          Reply
  6. St. Augustine is the oldest European founded city in North America, maybe South America too.

    BTW – I grew up in LA. For some in the SF Bay area, that’s the same as being from Kansas, or worse.

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Method and Encounter with Magister « Man of Roma

  8. @Andreas (and all of you)

    Dev, a child in an Ukrainian French Filipino Lebanese Irish family, what identity may have: weak maybe.

    Andreas said how “America IS an amalgam of (anthropological) cultures” more than Europe. Of course, and Europe is following next. As of now here in the EU we perceive the North American melting pot as ‘on the way’ of producing a new anthropologic culture. It takes time, though everybody recognizes an American abroad, his gestures etc. no matter the skin colour.

    As for personal refinement (num 2, personal culture) we are fascinated by the exuberance and openness of the New World people but also at times a bit disappointed: all this pop depresses the old, and the young are fascinated but to a certain extent. As Lichanos pointed out, such eclecticism – a bit of Tao, yin yang, Mahabarata, French deconstructionism – is alluring but it is frustrating in the end.

    So we all agree with Andreas that renouncing to solid refinement is a tragedy (but Paul reminds us areas where being cultured still makes sense.)

    This might have consequences on cultural (num 1 and 2) world competition.

    As Julius Caesar said, after you conquer (force) you have to seduce, i.e. persuasion, or cultural hegemony as Gramsci called it. Gaul was first conquered by the Romans but later Romanized without any organized effort. Roman culture (1 + 2) was seen as deep and superior. It hence seduced the Gauls, who became the French.

    Now, America, still having force, is she seducing enough? Crucial, indeed.

    If we consider India and China, 40% of world population, they also unite hundreds of cultures, these melting pots being though thousands of years old and more homogeneous.

    So they having strong anthropologic culture, and not needing our num 2 neither (humanitas) – they having their own solid refinement even older than ours – they just need(ed) our science and technology. They are catching up fast and starting even to be creative at that.

    So this ‘tragedy’, it may signify the loss of any cultural (1 and 2) hegemony in the long run.
    Not that I care. I’m getting back to my roots and am open to other roots.

    Those instead who desired an American century, they, I imagine, should care a bit more.

    PS
    Andreas, you provided a cause for the erasure of the high culture ideal in the US: anti-elitism. Is it due to the pioneer spirit of America? Pioneers where practical people who needed the riches & lands they were denied in Europe after all.

    Reply
    • Possibly.

      If you were to trace American anti-elitism historically, you might find something like this:
      – there was none at the time of the Founding Fathers, who valued classical learning.
      – there was a lot during the Jacksonian era (Andrew Jackson) and onwards. This was the log cabin myth of American common sense.
      – for the next century you had a see saw between isolationist dumbing down and internationalist and largely East Coast curiosity.
      – now you have an urban and educated (Obama voting, largely) versus rural and less educated, as well as pissed off (Palin-loving) confrontation. It is often expressed as hatred of “the press”, “the media”, etc, which are considered to be elitist per se.

      Reply
  9. I have to say that I find Andreas’ schema a little bit too neat. Who is rural these days, anyway, in the USA? Hardly anybody. If those people were the ‘problem’, Obama would have won by 20% or more! And the history of slinging mud at the elites in American politics has a long history, including the Founding Fathers, although they seem to have done it as it suited them…

    Reply
    • Lichanos, Lichanos, I’m drinking red wine. But the vastness of Kansas for example?
      Reason being gone a bit it’s time for music and fun.
      Bonnes fêtes à toi aussi, mon ami.

      Reply
  10. I knocked off work early, and I’m just starting on my red.

    Kansas…nobody lives there! 80% of the USA lives within 50 miles of the ocean, or is it 50% lives within 80 miles..?

    That red wine, but you get my point!

    Reply
    • According to the Wiki, of the American population, 308 million, 41% live in cities with less than 50,000. Not rural maybe, but darn close (my guess) and in any case provincial [but some of them could just be satellites of the big metropolitan areas]

      Reply
      • Further to “rural”:

        On the elevator I ride to my office, there is a video screen that bombards you with “news” and advertising. There was a snippet about Stimulus Funds going to “rural” areas that are suburban outreaches of cities and that have more than 1,000,000 inhabitants. Apparently, Congress has noticed, and now there is a heated discussion over the true definition of “rural.”

        Reply
  11. Hmmm…I don’t recall offhand what the definition of “city” is in the US Census, but I think many areas that you might call “suburban” are classed as cities. Some numbers here:

    http://iamyouasheisme.wordpress.com/2008/09/12/usa-by-the-numbers/

    Reply
  12. The problem with the word “culture” in English is that there is no set of traits or characteristics that consistently correlate to make one “cultured.” That may have been the case a few hundred years ago, but not today.

    Ethnic customs from a myriad of immigrant groups, religious practices (some conveyed by immigrants, but practiced by many outside of the ethnic groups), educational credentials, areas of learning, tastes in the arts, associations of friends don’t really tally up to a concept of “culture.”

    A previous post mentioned being well read in the classics. This blogger probably qualifies as well read in the classics (and perhaps as eccentric too), but even the definition of “classics” is rather flexible.

    One can certainly be a snob without education, good taste, or money.

    “Refinement” is another word in English that might be synonymous with “culture,” but it too is ambiguous. One’s tastes might run to opera and pop, the classics and action films simultaneously.

    Just adding to the interesting discussion.

    Reply
    • @Zeus

      Opera and pop, classics and action films – all under the ‘refinement’ umbrella. i like that. Not that we don’t have this mix here, we do, more and more, though less. We are more stuffy, and modern Italian contemporary literature has retained a noble tone more than any other European folk (a bit like the Romans, who were often serious: ‘gravitas’). Truly Italian crime books, for example, we only have since 10-20 years.

      Reply
  13. Andreas and others comment on why Americans have jettisoned the old notions of ‘culture.’ I don’t agree with their view that it is something peculiar to Anglo-Saxon culture or some particular relationship to snobbism. If America is peculiar in this regard, it is only because it is often the first to represent trends that are going world-wide, and it furthers them as well.

    That is, the dissolution of a consensus on what ‘culture’ means is an inevitable result of mass society, the society in which literacy is widespread, production is widely shared (albeit unequally), leisure is common, and so on…In a pre-industrial regime, who could have “Culture” execpt the elite? Everyone else had culture. With industrialization – with or without democracy – comes more leasure and surplus, and people have to do SOMETHING with their free time. Thus the rise of “pop culture,” aka ersatz culture, aka kitsch, etc. etc. etc. And since the consumers of this stuff are in the majority, “bad money” drives out good. It’s just the way of the world, nothing really to get upset about. Nobody puts a gun to anyone’s head and forces them to watch reality TV.

    Reply
  14. If one looks up the origin of the word “culture” one has to conclude that, over the centuries, it had several meanings but all related to either the way things are grown or to the way people live and has become synonymous with “civilization”. Attaching it only to philosophy and knowledge is therefore a reduction of it’s larger all encompassing meaning.
    We have here a choice berween a “democratic” or an “elitist” concept. Your pîck!

    Reply
    • Paul, culture as individual knowledge is part of our western tradition. Culture is ‘cultivation’. I cultivate myself and so on. Secondly, as I said, there’ll always be a difference between methanol and good wine, between Victor Hugo and Asterix. It is cultivation of quality individuals Paul, the goal of any pedagogy.

      To me Paideia today is giving the best to the greatest number. I know ‘quality’ came from an often idle elite. It is high time now to give quality to all. We have the means. Should we use such means only to buy SUVs? I hate SUVs, you got no idea how much – and not because it was an American idea, but for the disgusting rich morons who buy them HERE.

      Reply
    • And yes, I know Paul it is the socialist (or the pioneer?) in you speaking and I’m the idle, privileged, snobbish European having otium in his drawing room. Which in some way I am, but with full right, at my age … :-)

      Reply
  15. @Lichanos, Zeus, Andreas and the rest

    The discussion has become wide. I’ll provide my take and again will prove a CBOR (Chatter Box Of Roma) :-(

    Lichanos:

    “I think “cultured” just sounds a bit ridiculous in English now – calling up stuffy, out-of-date rich people in drawing rooms. I would say this is because of two things: the dominance of popular culture everywhere … There is no shared notion of what ‘to be cultured’ means.”

    Zeus agrees:

    “The problem with the word ‘culture’ in English is that there is no set of traits or characteristics that consistently correlate to make one ‘cultured’.”

    Andreas focuses on the why:

    “WHY that change has occurred? [the almost exclusive anthropologic meaning of culture, plus the erasure of a high / pop difference] … Two possible causes, he says:

    1) Anti-elitism. Sarah Palin and all the rest…
    2) America IS an amalgam of (anthropological) cultures
    [more than Europe].

    ____________

    As for there not being – in the ASaxon countries – any “shared notion of what ‘to be cultured’ means”:

    I think there has instead been a lot of work done. A new notion of ‘Humanitas’ – a more universal one, science rationality being more universal – has been worked upon (the debate is huge and is available on the web: see num 3 below).

    Today we can in fact speak of 3 cultures (individual).

    1) the old humanistic culture providing refinement and deep meanings in our lives outside religion, based on polymathy – Italian upper – and middle – classes are still educated in this way in High School Liceo classico, a clear survival of our heritage: once out, students know nothing of what the market needs but when specialised surpass other students (a myth, but not too much)

    2) a scientific culture providing scientific progress and solving problems like hunger etc., based on monomathy, ie extreme specialisation – in Italy we have Liceo scientifico, less moulding in some way, a failure indeed.

    3) a *Third Culture*, of mere Anglo-Saxon origin.

    First came the British, with C.P. Snow and his The Two Cultures (1956) where he attacked the traditional humanistic intellectuals.

    Then the Americans took over in the 80s-90s, with John Brockman and his *Edge Foundation*. In this new ideal of knowledge & refinement, in this Third Culture (he coined,) “scientists and thinkers in the empirical world are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives” (Brockman 1991).

    ____________

    No idea if this laudable enterprise had success.

    Probably not, if we are talking of ‘tragedy’. People are not following the Third Culture, it seems – Paideia to me makes sense today only if extended to as many as possible: the debate is big on that, but it’s for the happy few – and even for them? A sound evaluation is though way beyond my means.

    One possible cause: these new intellectuals evoked by John Brockman, they are too specialised. They are monomaths. They know a lot about one thing – while the polymath knows a lot about a lot of things.

    I mean, what helluva sage a monomath can be to the new generations starving for a big picture, he being like a blind man in a world where ALL is interconnected?

    THIS imho is the big failure of Humanitas 2.0 (to use a witty phrase by Andreas ;-) )

    ____________

    My next post will report a dialogue among Lichanos, Dev and MoR on this poly-mono thing. Hope it’ll make sense as a continuation of “Culture, Kultur, Paideia”.

    Reply
  16. Hi-

    First came the British, with C.P. Snow and his The Two Cultures (1956) where he attacked the traditional humanistic intellectuals.

    “Two Cultures” keeps coming up. I finally went and read it a while ago:

    http://iamyouasheisme.wordpress.com/2005/02/12/two-culturesi-wish/

    Reply
  17. And why didn’t you dedicate yourself to the more up-to-date – and fully American btw- concept of a Third Culture?

    Why bother? I follow my own interests. I don’t need John Brockman to certify me as an “intellectual.” My stint in university did for that word what Ronald Reagan did for “liberal,” i.e., turned it into a swear word.

    I’ve visited The Edge: some interesting stuff, some drivel. Not bad, not great. I’m a big fan of Dawkins and Dennett, and others there.

    If I had to make a single pronouncement on this, and how can I resist? – I’d say it’s yet another manifestation of the stupid urge to always be “out front,” be “ahead of the curve,” and “get the scoop.” Brockman’s self-introduction is so preoccupied with who’s on the fast track to the future, and who’d just a laggard intellectual reactionary. He absolutely must identify, and be on the “winning team.” I think that’s really dumb, a waste of energy, and it narrows your mind so that you’re trying to pick “winners” and “losers” rather than just being interested.

    Reply
  18. The way I see it, the question is bigger than any phoniness Brockman may have: it is about finding an ‘ubi consistam’. People are in need of this outside religion, I believe. What can you tell a mother who lost her baby? Humanities or religion can be a consolation to her, but not the quantum theory yet, I suppose. Yet people need a direction outside the usual ones. Scientology and all that crap, they are signs something is lacking, as many comments here somewhat attest, or so it seems to me.

    You react too much to affectation. Brockman may be a phoney – like Cicero was probably one too, of the narcissistic type, though he was the first Roman to really reflect on humanitas – but Brockman identified an issue and provided a frame for working upon something new.
    Only, few answered his call as far as I know.
    Again, the fault to me is monomathy and the progressive death of the polymath, derived from the ‘homo universalis’ arriving from antiquity via the Renaissance.

    PS
    Maybe it’s because I am European, the Old World. Europe has lost all faiths, much more than the New World.

    Reply
  19. You react too much to affectation.
    Ah, you are more harsh than I. I didn’t say it, but you’ve put your finger on it. He is affected in some way, and it irritates me, perhaps too much.

    I really don’t know much about Brockman himself. I noticed his concern with the ‘ubi consistam’ (Archimedes’ foothold..?) Yes, a very deep question, certainly a pressing one for everyone at one time or another. Darwin was always aware of it!

    I like Stanislaw Lem’s formulation: Science explains the universe to us; only art, philosophy, and religion reconcile us to it. But this is an OLD question. Who needs the newfangled gizmos to contemplate it? We risk mistaking the gizmos for the answer? (Not that they don’t have much to offer, but perhaps this is why he strikes me as gimmicky and affected.)

    BTW, I fully agree that a lot of philosophers could benefit mightily by poking their heads out of their offices and actually finding out what scientists are doing. This is an occasional theme of my blog about which I will not rant in your comments section!

    Ciao!

    Reply
    • Affectation, pose, mannerism, a plague here and in overall Europe. Italy is very vain. I can sound vain too, hard for me to say. I am what I am. I take the responsibility.

      I meant a ‘ubi consistam’ in a wider sense, as something providing the deeper meanings of life, helping us how to face tragedy, sorrow, death etc., what usually religion does. I don’t think the theory of evolution can provide that, although it certainly is an ‘ubi consistam’ in biology etc.

      Reply
  20. …helping us how to face tragedy, sorrow, death etc., what usually religion does. I don’t think the theory of evolution…

    Yes, I took your meaning of ‘ubi.’ I meant that Darwin agreed with you. He was raised to be a clergyman, and he was deeply troubled by the implications of his work, not least because he knew how much it would upset his conventionally religious wife. They had lost a young child – she hoped to be reunited in heaven. This was one reason he waited so long to publish his theory. He struggled to reorient himself spiritually in the light of the knowledge he had gained. He didn’t flinch from anything – a truly great thinker.

    MoR: Ok, I had misunderstood about Darwin. Yes, a great thinker, really .

    Reply
  21. Pingback: The Last Days of the Polymath « Man of Roma

  22. Great discussion. When we think of the literary cannon or the “great” art there is always a political dimension. The left critique of culture tangled the humanistic defence and American capital took it to the extreme, using culture so blatantly, producing it to further consumerism, that the tension can not be erased. Lichanos said ” no one holds a gun to their head forcing them to watch reality tv” but the method id much more dangerous and subversive than simple violent coercion.The Golden Arches are not innocent.

    Reply
  23. Lichanos said ” no one holds a gun to their head forcing them to watch reality tv” but the method id much more dangerous and subversive than simple violent coercion.

    Here we have it! What could more clearly demonstrate the bizarre nature of “left critical theory” today, at least of the Troutsky-Debord-Situationist-etc. school than this quotation? This is the quintessential remark of an intellectual point of view that is totally bereft in any anchor to reality.

    Honestly, Troutsky, few things are more dangerous, to the victim, than having a gun put to your head. Would you prefer that THEY put a gun to your head, rather than forcing you to endure the perilous and subversive limitations of post-industrial consumer capitalism? They still do it someplaces, you know. I’ll take the great Satan, TV, anyday.

    Reply
  24. zeusiswatching

    I was so intrigued by this thread that I reflected upon this discussion for days and days. It moved me to modify my own blog to include small pics and quotes from Xenophon and Epicurus — two very different men indeed but both men I think were cultured and offer some guidance to being cultured today.

    I know, that is leading me into another round of discussions and I won’t pursue it too hotly since we are already on to the amazing discussion of the polymath. I just wanted to let you know that your blog has perhaps inspired me.

    Reply
    • Xenophon and Epicurus – two very different men indeed but both men I think were cultured and offer some guidance to being cultured today.

      Oh yes, they do so much together with others, I firmly believe we have to find inspiration from any age, although getting to the roots of what we are is often invaluable.

      I really am so happy if my blog has been of any help or inspiration. This is all I care about. Mutual inspiration. Feedback. A nice present to me indeed, your words, for the new year.

      Grazie Zeus

      PS

      I saw the medallion on the right column of your blog – Xenophon, a ‘man of culture’, ‘student of Socrates’, and his words on virtue.

      Reply
  25. Pingback: Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People « Man of Roma

  26. Pingback: Is America Too Young to Maintain its Cultural Hegemony in the Long Run? « Man of Roma

  27. Pingback: Is America Too Young to Maintain its Cultural Hegemony in the Long Run? « Man of Roma

  28. Culture’ for example indicated both:

    >> 1. the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of a society or group (it’s the Unesco definition) and
    2. the general knowledge and refinement a person can attain through education.

    Well I think the first defination is definately obsolete and the second needs to be modified.

    Culture is the general knowledge and refinement a person can attain through education and through the interaction of individuals from the society he comes in contact with.

    This would resolve the issue of multicultural influence by virtue of birth that someone spoke of
    earlier in the comments.

    In India, where I hail from I could not find a single example where two familes share the same set of set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features.

    We have a saying ” Kos- Kos pe badle Pani chaar kos pe Bhasha”

    which translates to >> the taste of water changes after every mile and at evey fourth mile the language changes.”

    Ps Kos = 2.25 km, 1.8km or 3.2 km depending on the region.

    Going by any of the two definations would have left me cultureless … and you can still argue that I am indeed cultureless!!!

    Reply
  29. Pingback: The Strange Story of Manius, the Last Roman Soldier in Britannia | Man of Roma

  30. Pingback: Dionisiaco e Apollineo. Lettera a un compagno di scuola con un’oncia di sangue indiano. Ancora Bennedetto Croce, Roma, Gramsci (e gli antichi) | Man of Roma

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