Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fjordman: The Legend of the Middle Ages

Fjordman’s latest essay has been published at Jihad Watch. Some excerpts are below:

The book that inspired this text was The Legend of the Middle Ages: Philosophical Explorations of Medieval Christianity, Judaism, and Islam by Rémi Brague, a French professor and specialist of medieval religious philosophy. He is also the author of the fine book Eccentric Culture: A Theory of Western Civilization, which I have written an extensive essay about previously. Thematically this text overlaps to some extent with my essay Why Christians Accepted Greek Natural Philosophy, but Muslims Did Not and my reviews of the books Science and Religion by Edward Grant and Defending the West by Ibn Warraq. It also overlaps with some of the material I have included in my book Defeating Eurabia. I will include page references to the various book quotes so that others can use them and will supplement with some quotes from two good online interviews with Mr. Brague.

Demand usually precedes the presence of a product on the market and it is the demand that needs to be explained. As Brague notes, translations are made because someone feels that a certain text contains information that people need. The real intellectual revolution in Europe began well before the wave of translations in Toledo and elsewhere. This was demonstrated by the American jurist Harold J. Berman in his important 1983 book Law and Revolution. The efforts of the Catholic Church to make a new system of law required refined tools, which meant that the West sought out Aristotle’s and other Greek work on logic and philosophy.

The “Papal Revolution” starting in the eleventh century was an effort to apply ancient Greek methods of logic to the remnants of Roman law dating back to Late Antiquity and the reforms of the active Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian the Great. Justinian’s revision of existing Roman law, the Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of Civil Law) was compiled in Latin in the 530s AD and later influenced medieval Canon Law. While they did utilize Roman law and Greek logic, medieval Western scholars through their intellectual efforts created a new synthesis which had not existed in Antiquity. Prominent among them was the twelfth century Italian legal scholar Gratian, a monk who taught in Bologna. His great work, commonly known as the Decretum, appeared around 1140 as a synthesis of church law. Harold J. Berman writes in his book Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition, page 225-226:
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“Every person in Western Christendom lived under both canon law and one or more secular legal systems. The pluralism of legal systems within a common legal order was an essential element of the structure of each system. Because none of the coexisting legal systems claimed to be all inclusive or omnicompetent, each had to develop constitutional standards for locating and limiting sovereignty, for allocating governmental powers within such sovereignty, and for determining the basic rights and duties of members…. Like the developing English royal law of the same period, the canon law tended to be systematized more on the basis of procedure than of substantive rules. Yet after Gratian, canon law, unlike English royal law, was also a university discipline; professors took the rules and principles and theories of the cases into the classrooms and collected, analyzed, and harmonized them in their treatises.”

With the papacy of the dynamic and assertive Gregory VII (1073-1085), the Roman Catholic Church entered the Investiture Struggle, a protracted and largely successful conflict with European monarchs over control of appointments, investitures, of Church officials. Edward Grant explains in his book God and Reason in the Middle Ages, page 23-24:

“Gregory VII began the process that culminated in 1122 in the Concordat of Worms (during the reign of the French pope, Calixtus II [1119-1124]), whereby the Holy Roman Emperor agreed to give up spiritual investiture and allow free ecclesiastical elections. The process manifested by the Investiture Struggle has been appropriately called the Papal Revolution. Its most immediate consequence was that it freed the clergy from domination by secular authorities: emperors, kings, and feudal nobility. With control over its own clergy, the papacy became an awesome, centralized, bureaucratic powerhouse, an institution in which literacy, a formidable tool in the Middle Ages, was concentrated. The Papal Revolution had major political, economic, social, and cultural consequences. With regard to the cultural and intellectual consequences, it ‘may be viewed as a motive force in the creation of the first European universities, in the emergence of theology and jurisprudence and philosophy as systematic disciplines, in the creation of new literary and artistic styles, and in the development of a new consciousness.’… the papacy grew stronger and more formidable. It reached the pinnacle of its power more than a century later in the pontificate of Innocent III (1198-1216), perhaps the most powerful of all medieval popes.”
The power of the secular states grew as well, but the separation between Church and state endured because the Papal Revolution had established a virtual parity between them. It was the internal dynamism of Europe during the High Middle Ages that drove the recovery of Classical learning. Here is The Legend of the Middle Ages by Rémi Brague, page 180:

“The European intellectual renaissance preceded the translations from the Arabic. The latter were not the cause, but the effect of that renaissance. Like all historical events, it had economic aspects (lands newly under cultivation, new agricultural techniques) and social aspects (the rise of free cities). On the level of intellectual life, it can be understood as arising from a movement that began in the eleventh century, probably launched by the Gregorian reform of the Church…. That conflict bears witness to a reorientation of Christianity toward a transformation of the temporal world, up to that point more or less left to its own devices, with the Church taking refuge in an apocalyptical attitude that said since the world was about to end, there was little need to transform it. The Church’s effort to become an autonomous entity by drawing up a law that would be exclusive to it — Canon Law — prompted an intense need for intellectual tools. More refined concepts were called for than those available at the time. Hence the appeal to the logical works of Aristotle, who was translated from Greek to Latin, either through Arabic or directly from the Greek, and the Aristotelian heritage was recovered.”

Read the rest at Jihad Watch.


Fjordman said...

Thank you for posting. I am completing the third and final part of my history of planetary science, but I don't think it will be finished before this weekend. Be sure to read Takuan Seiyo's latest essay as well.

Glen Howser said...

While I agree with every point made, the incorporation of classical tradition began well before the Papal Revolution, which also was well underway before Gregory VII. The Cluniac reforms, starting in the mid-10th century, are a fair and safe marking of a re-assertion of Papal power. Of course, prior to this, this was far less needed--the (Holy) Roman Emperors where God-fearing and stalwart rulers.
Gregory VII very much built on Nicholas II's precedent, who dared to give the Papacy some teeth--today I see a Pope who is largely gumming everything up.

On a bit of a side note, Boetheus did some excellent translations of Aristotle's pre-analytics--Muslims like to insist they saved Aristotle or something, an odd point because the only reason they had it was through the Religion of Peace's conquests.

Chechar said...

Thanks Fj for the Seiyo tip. The thirteen chapters of From Meccania to Atlantis are so engrossing that I’m reading the whole book (actually, I've printed it). Must reading for all of you. Trust me! I certainly must post a major essay-review on it in my blog.

I must say good bye for the moment since now I’ve a lot of work in the real world. Nonetheless I’ll answer the questions when the next “Quetzal” chapter is published here in Gates of Vienna (and of course, questions addressed in my own blog).


César (a.k.a., “Chechar”)