Message-ID: <>
Date: Wed, 3 Dec 1997 16:58:56 +0000
Sender: PHILosophy OF HIstory and theoretical history <PHILOFHI@YORKU.CA>
From: Dan and Karol Garrison <>
Subject: 1-Dec1

From: David Richardson, <>
To: Nikolai S. Rozov <> and PHILOFHI@YORKU.CA
Organization: ISCSC.
Subject: worldviews and world systems.

On the Dissociation of Worldview Studies From World Systems Studies

By David Richardson, 1 December 1997

What of the general historians who write from a political perspective? Thucycides, Michelet, and Mommsen are among them. Nearly all presuppose civilizational worldviews, and they believe in them, or at least in fragments of them. But they don't see worldviews as playing a significant role in political history.

The following quotations from G.B. Grundy's Thucydides And The History Of His Age, 1961, illustrate the problem I will here attempt to resolve. Historian Grundy, like Thucydides, completely ignores the Greek and Magian worldviews. This is a world systems approach.

I will follow with my claim that worldviews possess the power of armies, generals, restless unemployed peoples, and politicians. I will hold that worldviews, therefore, have the same material power that we see in the customary narrations of political history. The paragraph just below needs expansion.

...history is made in the life of peoples rather than of individuals, and, in the life of peoples, it is the material rather than the intellectual interest which makes contemporary history. Voltaire and Rousseau would have talked to deaf ears, had they talked to men contented with their lot. (p. vi)

The attempt to rationalize history is exposed to danger of which anyone who has attempted to write, or has even studied, history must be keenly aware: but the historian and the student must not therefore be driven into an acceptance of the motiveless facts recorded by ancient writers of the story of this great [Periclean] century as constituting the sum of the knowledge which can be attained with regard to it. It is imperative for the understanding of this or any period that an attempt should be made to arrive at the motives which prompted actions, and at the circumstances which called those motives into existence; and success in this cannot be attained by treating each fact by itself, but by comparing it with other facts recorded of the time, and thus arriving at some general conclusion as to the significance underlying them. On the face of the records this period seems at first sight to be governed by more or less abstract ideas. What has been attempted in these pages is to show that those ideas were based on practical facts which played a capital part in the lives of the men of that time. pp. 205–6.

The addition of the economic factor to the calculation of [Pericles'] policy must of necessity modify the view taken of them. The economic situation of a state must always be a dominant factor in its history; and when that situation is so marked as in the case of Attica in the fifth century, it may well become the dominating factor. pp. 205–6, 192.

... ... The number of citizens dependent on public pay was very large—more than 20,000, so the Aristotelian treatise says. Any disaster to the [Athenian] empire would necessarily result in an economic disaster at home, whose consequences would be serious beyond calculation. ... ... Pericles had sought to cure the external weakness by an attempt to gain a certain hold over the fortunes of the states outside the empire ... The strength of the empire must be increased by consolidation. pp. 191–2.

Supporting 20,000 impoverished Athenian subjects and citizens with the tribute from an empire caused the Peloponnesian War. The alternative would have led to a dictatorship replacing the Athenian democracy. Athens was at the peak of her power over the Greek ecumene in 421 BC, the date of the peace treaty of Nicias. Grundy accurately closes his history as follows: “Disruption and despair were, after 421, the main features in the policy of Athens’ quondam enemies. Her own position was infinitely stronger than it appeared on the paper of the Treaty. It was difficult to overestimate the strength of it. One man, however, Alkibiades, succeeded in so doing. The genius of Themistokles had saved the state in a moment of disaster; that of Alkbiades destroyed it in a moment of success. Such is the way of genius in matters political.”

This was only one of several episodes having crucial importance in the Graeco-Roman Civilization. The thousand year long worldview (600 BC—400 AD) was essentially one worldview. The Magian and Faustian worldviews, respectively, replaced it in the Levantine-Mediterranean and European societies.

If the Greek or Graeco-Roman worldview was a conscious aesthetic, deliberate philosophy, and an explicit ethic, then the political historians do properly ignore it. What of the Pythagoreans, Platonists, sophists, tragic playwrights, sculptors, and Homer? They mattered little to Solon, Themistocles, Pericles, or Alexander the Great. Horace showed in his last poems how little Octavius Augustus Caesar cared for poetry and poets. The arts, it seems, are not a political power.

But a worldview is mostly a matrix of subliminal intuitions. People are unconscious of it. Acting, as it does, in the personal unconscious, it participates in an enormous number of ideas, feelings, images, sensations, reasonings, and values. It is almost completely unfettered by anybody. It resides, more or less completely, in the educated citizens of a civilization. And if you refer to it as the “civilizational soul,” that is not a bad metaphor.

My historical example, the Athenian empire's disaster, is perhaps as strong an argument for the irrelevance of worldview as you can find. But the argument does not hold. For this is but one episode in the Graeco-Roman history. I have cited the Athenian crisis out of context. The Greek worldview acted powerfully in its centuries-long life span on the whole civilization.

I cited the Peloponnesian War out of its civilizational context. In addition, I cited the Graeco-Roman worldview and the history of Greece and Rome out of their context. For the six thousand year span of civilized history is the context in which the Graeco-Roman episode took place. What of this worldview’s material action on the future?

It may well be that a Weltanschauung materially acts far more powerfully when fragments of it affect other civilizations. We Westerners take for granted the truth of Greek logic. The accuracy of the Greek geometers who created deductive logic goes without saying. In 400 AD, St. Augustine and his contemporaries also assumed that Greek logic is completely true. Clearly this single Greek product has had an enormous material influence.

Heresy is a Greek phenomenon. It absolutely depends on the law of the excluded middle: either true of false and nothing in between. It flows from the Greek logic. And this was part of the Greek worldview. Heresy is not Magian. It is neither Byzantine, Muslim, or Jewish. The Emperor Julian was not Julian the Heretic. He was Julian the Apostate. His critics saw him as a renegade. He was deeply Magian, though he claimed to revive the old Graeco-Roman religion. The Muslims, like Julian, can commit apostasy, that is, turn against their religious community. Julian was Magian to the extent of saying, in Latin, a sentence which can be translated, “there is only one God, and his name is Allah.” Logical consistency was not as important to Julian's world as it soon would be. As for the Chinese and Indian civilizations, there was no idea of heresy. For their respective worldviews did not inherit Greek logic.

If general historians who do not explain the role of heresy in European political history, they will distort the history. This Greek product, of course, was part of western doctrina Christiana. The Greek idea of reason and its logic also became part of secular history as soon as the Faustian worldview emerged. And the Calvinist moral conscience owes much to it. There was even a Calvinist “ramus” logic in the 16th and 17th centuries. And Calvinism has powerfully affected Faustian history. The Faustian worldview and western Christianity mutually reinforced each other's respective rigorous ideas of reason. Without the Greek logical rigor in heresy and its opposite, historians would have written a different history.

Let me use another example. The Hindu worldview materially affected India's history during the past 2500 years. The austere quest of the transcendent is one of the subliminal intuitive values in the Hindu worldview. It was very powerful in the educated Hindu, no matter what subcaste the citizen belong to. From it, and from no other source, came the caste system of the Indian society. Any general narrative of Indian society will distort the history if it ignores the Indian worldview. Clearly, the worldview in the minds of Indians, did materially affect the Indian Society. For one thing, the caste system interfered with any cthonic growth of Indian states. It is difficult to exaggerate the material effect of India’s worldview on the political history or on the social system. Evidently, the historian's craft ignores or nearly ignores the worldview. World systems scientists use the historian's evidence. Thus they ignore the worldview as the source of the caste system. From the caste system came toleration.

Toleration was the only way many castes could form a village society. Members of castes, since Upanishadic times, tolerated the differentness of lower castes. The Indian trait of social and personal tolerance has strongly influenced the post-Faustian worldview. We notice the historical influence especially in late 20th century Western Society. Perhaps the erstwhile Indian tolerance has become an intuitive value, or part of one, contained in the post-Faustian or Central worldview (1800–?). The Central worldview has perhaps assimilated Indian toleration into an intuitive and subliminal social imperative. And the imperative is an aim or goal, namely, peaceful coexistence of national peoples. A future historian of the late 20th century West will distort the history if he does not mention the Central worldview. For this ideal comes, not from religion, or from politics, alone, but from the worldview. And the Indian worldview played a part.

Grundy's history, Nikolai, suggested the above comment on your email dated November 27th. Many weeks ago, too, you mentioned a model of civilization that would combine the worldview with the world systems approach. And I especially refer to this earlier idea.

Best wishes,
David Richardson