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Western Civilisation

Until the advent of materialism and 19th c. dogma, Western Civilisation was  superior to anything Islam had developed.  Islam has not aided in the development of the modern world; in fact civilisation has only been created in spite of Islam.  Proof of this resides in the 'modern' world and the unending political-economic and spiritual poverty of Muslim states and regions.  Squatting on richer civilisations is not 'progress'.  Islam is pagan, totalitarian, and irrational.   

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

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Medieval Ontology, logic and Anselm

Much clearer than today's so-called world of science.

by Ferdinand III

The Dark Ages never existed. It is an oft stated myth. The real darkness lies in our rather thin knowledge of the era from 500-1000. This is not due to the fact that the post-Roman world, was barbaric or illiterate. Thousands of tonnes of written documents, including some of the finest literature in history, come from this period. Beowulf, Bede's History of the English, Roland's Song, the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Book of Kells and much more, emanate and radiate, from this period. The 'darkness' of this period was in the wars, the Vikings, the Moslems, the Avars, the Turkish tribes [Huns, Magyars], the violence, the lack of accountability and at times justice, the Roman ideal that might makes right and power rules; this made the age one of combustion and upheaval. Without the Church the post Roman European world would have been anarchic and in the face of Islam, quite dead.

Another oft stated myth is that early Medieval man never reasoned or ratonalized. Considering that modern mathematics, science, physics and astronomy come directly out of this era, this claim has no merit. Galileo purloined most of his ideas from those who came before and sphericity was written about and accepted by Boethius, Alcuin and Pope Sylvester II amongst others. No one believed in a flat earth, any more than they believed there was life on the moon [the word lunatic comes from this 19th century belief].

Another myth is that there was no debate on or about 'God'. There was plenty of discourse on everything to do with Christ, the Holy Spirit and God. Everything was hashed out oftentimes in quite public displays. The myth that toothless, self flagellating medievals spent their time pondering how many angels danced on the head of a pin, is pernicious propaganda. There is not one single real world reference or example of any medieval scholar or church figure, obsessing with dancing angels on pin heads. Not a one. The propaganda alludes to the extraordinary examination the entire Christian faith went through during the medieval era. Everything was hammered out from the resurrection and transubstantiation, to the nature of man and his world. Nothing was left unexamined. Angels don't dance on pin heads, but pin heads will make sarcastic propaganda, justifying their own cult or their own liturgical beliefs.

God was criticized and debated. Not only the nature of God, or a creator, but if it such a being or force existed at all. From this debate, we see the formation of much of modern thought around facts, cause and effect explanations, sound argumentation and demands for proof, not just faith.

The medieval mind, in an era of secular violence, pagan Moslems, Islamic slave trading, misery, poverty and famine, the destruction of Christianity by Moslems from Arabia to France, needed proof of God's existence. The claims of the early Church fathers and St. Augustine whilst powerful and relevant, had grown weary and tired in their long journey from the early days of the Church towards the year 1000. Many questioned how and why God would exist. The myth of the unthinking medieval mind is as erroneous as the myth that modern minds are so clever and advanced.

A reorientation and rejuvenation in thinking started in the 11th century. It began with Saint Anselm (1033-1109), Archbishop of Canterbury in England who proved with cold logic, that God must exist. It is now called an 'Ontological argument'. Anselm's logical dissertation did not, and never will convince a non-believer. It was formulated entirely for a Catholic audience whose faith may be wavering. Importantly he never appeals to the Bible. He simply uses logical induction and reaches a conclusion that God must exist.

His argument is the following:

  1. God is that than which no greater can be conceived.

  2. If God is that than which no greater can be conceived then there is nothing greater than God that can be imagined. Therefore:

  3. There is nothing greater than God that can be imagined.

  4. If God does not exist then there is something greater than God that can be imagined.

  5. God exists.

The first premise of this argument, (1), is Anselm’s conception of God. (2) is a simple logical truth; if God is the greatest conceivable being then there is no greater conceivable being. (3) follows simply from (1) and (2).

Anselm argues in support of (4) by comparing a non-existent God with an existent God. An existent God, says Anselm, is greater than a non-existent God. If God were non-existent, therefore, then we could imagine a God greater than he, namely an existent God.

(5) follows simply from (3) and (4).”

The logic is clear and sensible. There is no rational objection to it.

Anselm had thus started a movement in medieval universities to use logic first to understand the world. It was only in Christian Europe that universities arose. These places injected free will and debate into society and rejected unreasonable argumentation. It was not the sola scriptura of the Protestants, a blind faith that by 'believing', or in the case of most Protestants, pretending to believe, you are thus saved. Anselm and others developed a logical system based on Aristotle’s works and our own terms used today in logic, are all derived from this medieval innovation, in order to support and justify faith. These medieval philosophers were either nominalists (the name of an object refers the object and no more) or realists (where the name of the object refers to the properties of the object rather than just the object itself).

These two groups fought over the nature of reality, and the use of words to describe that reality and the objects, or subjects within it. It was an important debate and not arcane. It cuts to the heart of reality. Is the world real? What is the purpose of life ? Why are there 2 million flora and fauna ? How do we describe them ? In many ways the same debate rages today in for example 'genders' [what is a boy?], 'orientations' [56?], 'science' [what is science, what is metaphysics and story telling?], words in general [do any words have a valid meaning ?], and even reality [are there many realities and parallel universes ?]. Not much has changed in 1000 years, except human judgment seems to be far more clouded and opaque and less rooted in reality.

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