Archive for December, 2008

History of Civilization: a summary for the 21st Century

December 19, 2008

History begins, according to scholarly historians, with the written record. This statement is, in itself, evidence of the first phase of the history of civilization, the establishment of the hegemony of the written word. That is, it is an example of the expression of the primal power struggle that is characteristic of human societies, amongst others. In this case, the power struggle was between an established power elite whose power was based on oral skills and an aspiring elite-Plato and his group- whose skills were developing with the then new technology of writing.

The first major phase of our history involved just exactly that: the overthrow of the older, oral based culture with the newer written based culture. The rise the monotheistic “religions of the Book” were an integral part of the struggle.

But the very success of the enterprise generated problems, for the establishment of “the Book” raises directly the question of “Which Book?” The answer to that question was, obviously, “Our Book!” The struggles to establish one Book have followed down to the present time in what can be called the second phase of our history. That struggle was to establish the hegemony of a particular Book over all others. I call this the struggle to establish the hegemony of a monolithic orthodoxy. This is the struggle that dominated the 20th Century, and still goes on.

But the struggle is in vain, for the world view that any orthodoxy displays is but a virtual world created in the mind by the flow of words. The words may map the terrain of reality with great effect for solving particular problems, but those maps are not the reality that actually exists! There is always some aspect of the existence that escapes or is ignored by the word-makers, and ultimately that reality will dismantle the theory the orthodoxy is based on.

What to do?

One cannot give up and go back.  The asymmetry of time forbids that.

One can go forward, understanding that orthodoxies are but special cases of a more general phenomena- plagiodoxy. Further, that multiple plagiodoxies give better perspectives on existence than any one of them. We may not be able to solve the problems we are faced with, which the sales pitch of the orthodoxies claim to do. But we will stand a better chance with a clearer image of the problems themselves.