Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mind's Eye Imagine That

I had a nice afternoon.  Turned a bar in Manchester into an old-style tavern with folk singing and a free barrel of Old Peculiar.  The themes were about returning to Greek and Medieval notions of rationality, which have long struck me as in need of a few beers to get into.  Debate went so well I hardly needed to say anything.  

The Greeks were all over the place around the relevant time, in Italy and around the Med.  This was the time of the of what Hans Joas dubbed "cosmic religion" of late Antiquity, a fusion of Greek cosmological speculation. Babylonian astrology, Egyptian theology, Jewish thought and popular magic.  There were many attempts to translate this into political constitutions.  Most of this was put to the Roman sword, and intellectuals became mystic, aspiring to find new ways to transcend earthly systems entirely, rising through planetary spheres, purging themselves of materiality to pure reason - that human reason that is simply the action of a divine principle within us.  Rationality here becomes beyond spiritual to the mystical achievement of union with he divine.  In the absence of Molly, we did the internal warming of Old Peculiar and some Lancashire Folk.

So why look to the past like this?  The simple answer is that our present is still full of it.

The second area we looked at once the beer was going down was the Medieval.  You need to be half-cut to take what went on then.  One of the strongest features of this time concerns just how humans consider themselves superior and different to animals.  We are still taught this crap as kids - 'it's rationality stupid'.  Cue some cute pictures of animals problem solving and being very rational (lions hunting at night is a real killer).  And a run out for Allan's soul, with a slight twist.  What separates humans and animals is that humans can imagine they possess an immortal soul.  If the soul is the seat of reason, to say humans are in possession of one is to say we are rational creatures.

You need the top shelf now, as these forms of religiosity are the basis of bureaucracy and rationality.  Descartes becomes spiritual and mystic.  The question, of course, is whether we can escape.  It's bank holiday here on Friday.  This brings discussion of the archaeology of "heroic societies" other than just the Attic tragedy kind, as engines of the self-aggrandising story.  

By the end (people fly home Tuesday) we hope to be able to talk new economic, perhaps find some partnerships to write something different - or not write and think of different things to do.  After a couple of pints, I was imagining dating Molly and Allan in about 500 BC to 1500 AD.   


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