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Summary: Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation Part 12 – After Christianity died, what became the prime civilising force in Europe?

  • By: Vincent van den Born
  • If Christianity is dead, and the Romantic Movement killed it, what, if anything, has replaced it as the prime civilising force in Europe? What has civilisation gained or lost in the process? Clark touches on this question in passing, when he criticises the 19th-century bourgeoisie, but then asks what the mocking Romantics could put in place of middle-class morality when “they themselves were still in search of a soul.” This is the hole left in Clark’s narrative, the hole in the French Revolution that it sought, in vain, to fill with a religion that never took root.
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    Summary: Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation Part 11 – The Worship of Nature

  • By: Vincent van den Born
  • Clark, rather cleverly, sums up Rousseau’s philosophy in the sentence “I feel therefore I am,” calling it a “curious discovery to have been made in the middle of the Age of Reason.” He connects it to David Hume’s work, before noting how Rousseau’s beliefs were extended from nature to man. Rousseau believed that natural man was virtuous, a belief that soon came to be widely accepted. Clark mentions and quotes three detractors of the idea, but it is fair to say that the belief that nature is somehow virtuous, while man is not, is still popular.
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    Summary: Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation Part 10 – The Smile of Reason

  • By: Vincent van den Born
  • Clark mentions a “sudden consciousness of feminine qualities,” of which he says

    “I think it absolutely essential to civilisation that the male and female principle be kept in balance. In eighteenth-century France, the influence of women was, on the whole, benevolent; and they were the creators of that curious institution of the eighteenth century, the salon.”

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    Mythology: Who is Loki, and why was he such a bloody nuisance?

  • By: Robert Ossenblok
  • According to Norse mythology, the wickedness and evil in the world is created by Loki and his offspring. Who are his children? Well, there is Hel, Goddess of the underworld. Yes, the term ‘hell’ is indeed a pagan term absorbed into Christianity. Then there’s Fenrir, a massive wolf that will fight and kill Odin. And the great serpent Jǫrmungandr that is wrapped around the world – it would appear the Vikings knew very well the world was a globe. There is also Sleipnir, a mythical eight-legged horse that Odin rode on. This horse is perhaps Loki’s only child that is not some sort of representation of evil.
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    Marcus Tullius Cicero – A Roman patriot Stoic rooted in a Universalist Greek philosophy

  • By: Richard Cunningham
  • Cicero, his Roman contemporary Cato the Younger, and his Roman philosophical successors, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, went some way to developing Latin Stoicism, which stood some distance from its Greek predecessor, tempered as it was with Roman values and martial culture, which in an imperial, militaristic power such as Rome, was quite different to that of the intellectual, comfortable lives of many Athenian Greek philosophers.
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    Summary: Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation Part 9 – Art under 17th century French authoritarianism and the German pursuit of happiness 

  • By: Vincent van den Born
  • The logic of state authoritarianism imposed on all aspects, including and above all the arts, a “certain inhumanity.”

    “It was the work not of craftsmen, but of wonderfully gifted civil servants. As long as it reflects this grand comprehensive system, it is done with superb conviction. (…) [However,] French Classicism was eminently not exportable.”

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    Tired of the left and right-wing tribal reporting on Viktor Orbán? Read this essay by a centrist Hungarian student

  • By: Levi Varga
  • In my honest opinion, Hungary is not ready for capitalism and civil society. Every attempt beforehand to establish these was more or less amateurish and resulting in more of a feudal outcome where we copied a Western nation without harmonizing any differences between the two states. Those who voted for Orbán did not vote because of hate and fear, although the campaign to demonize immigrants worked like a charm, they voted for FIDESZ because they wanted to receive a familiar sense of safety that they did not get from Gyurcsány or the previous cabinets since 1989.
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    Summary: Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation Part 8 – The Light of Experience in The Netherlands

  • By: Vincent van den Born
  • Clark explains that he is in Holland because he thinks the Dutch Republic is the first country to profit from a civilisational shift: “the revolution that replaced Divine Authority by experience, experiment and observation.” His characterisation of this revolution as the changing of the question ‘is it God’s will?’ into ‘does it work?’ or even ‘does it pay?’, is at least easy to remember.
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    Essay – Europe should actively aim to deconvert its Muslim population through welcoming kindness, it’s the only option it has

  • By: Marobane
  • We are faced with a large minority from an Islamic background, a significant amount of whom cherish beliefs and conduct themselves in ways that threaten the foundations of European civilisation. Not simply because they oppose our values, but that the simplest, most radical solution that comes to mind, is even more of a threat to us and our values. We appear stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. If Europe fights, it loses as a culture, it will die; if we try to swim away, we drown. But perhaps there is a third option.
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    Summary: Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation Part 7 – Grandeur and Obedience in early 16th century Rome

  • By: Vincent van den Born
  • Clark returns to the grandeur of early 16th century Rome. The Reformation and subsequent Wars of Religion, whose devastating effect on Western Europe Clark describes in passing naturally had their impact on Rome. Part 7 is dedicated to the extraordinary resilience and ability shown by Catholicism to bounce back from a seemingly desperate position. And the situation was bad. As Clark describes it, Rome had been humiliated: “The city had been sacked and burnt, the people of Northern Europe were heretics, the Turks were threatening Vienna.”
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    Summary: Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation Part 6 shows little love for the Germans

  • By: Vincent van den Born
  • One might assert that his view of Germany is a 20th-century sentiment speaking through a man who has lived through both World Wars, and is maybe somewhat inappropriate for a discussion of the late 15th century. When Clark talks about “these destructive national characteristics,” he uses 19th-century concepts that barely fit the political or cultural constellation around 1500.
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