A Thermodynamic Interpretation of History
The Thermodynamic Interpretation of History as a Philosophy of History
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2007 by Lawrence C. Chin.
There are two main types of historical sensibility or philosophy of history. First, there is the type which views history as a process of redemption. This type, as we have seen, is based on the metastatic faith inherited from Christianity, and to it we may assimilate either the linear development of Hegel and Comte or the trinitarian development (Paradise - Fall - Paradise regained) of Marxists and feminists. Then there has also been a long tradition of philosophy of history based on the life-cycle of organisms. With representatives here and there, this tradition can be considered to have ended with Oswald Spengler's Der Undergang des Abendlandes ("The Decline of the West"). Not all philosophies of history -- not all attempts to identify the master key in history -- have to be conditioned by Christian eschatology, becoming descendants of the "nineteenth century historical coherence". Spengler's and ours are not.
As shall be explained below, this thermodynamic interpretation of history resembles Hegel's philosophy of history in one respect and Spengler's in another. Our approach has however certain novel features that we may note here which the past philosophers of history never considered. These are, firstly, the splitting of history into a material one and a spiritual other. Note that Herder, Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Comte, Marx, or even Stanton have all taken the spiritual meaning of history for the whole story about history, even if with Marx, the "spiritual" has degenerated into merely unalienated consumption and defecation. Secondly, one type of history is leading to death and only the other to some sort of fulfillment of a good. Thirdly, the march of history is taken as a mere tendency without the necessity of fulfillment of its goal: it is not necessary that humans should become extinct through over-consumption and -defecation (through over-exploitation of the environment), or that, on the spiritual side, they should ever become "totally enlightened" one day. Room is left for imagining the whole human race to be like the Chinese civilization continuing indefinitely without breaking through to the next stage of the development of its "potential". These novelties aside, the thermodynamic interpretation of history -- the integration of the social collective and the augmentation of its metabolism -- retains one important key feature from the past universal histories: the continuum between the master key to history and the rational structure of reality outside history, this structure being now the thermodynamic structure of the Universe; in the thermodynamic interpretation human history is once more, in the words of Krieger, a "cosmic drama" just as it is for Herder, Schelling, and Hegel. This kind of historiography which does not consider human history by itself but sees it as a continuation of processes that originate in nature or in the cosmos Eric Voegelin has called "historiogenesis" and it is in fact the oldest form of historiography. The Old Testament (or Tanakh), the Sumerian King List, the Persian Shahnameh, the Japanese Kokushuki, or, in a less explicit way, the Historical Records of Sima Chien, are all instances of historiogenesis in this sense. Back then, human history is part of a cosmic drama via the gods -- as when gods lower the Sumerian kingship from heaven, or when the Sun Goddess descends to earth to incarnate as the Yamato royal house -- with the German Romanticists this is via the Absolute (Being; immanent divinity). Not all philosophies of history are of the historiogenetic type. Marx's historical materialism and Spengler's morphology of world-history are not.
Our thermodynamic interpretation sees history as both linear (progress through the production of increments) as does Hegel and cyclical as does Spengler: a linear development producing cyclicity, as we shall see. It furthermore follows Hegel and his predecessors in seeing human history as an outgrowth of the cosmic background, as noted. Both Hegel's notion of world-history as the linear development of the Spirit's self-consciousness and Spengler's as parallel organismic cycles are, however, by contemporary consensus inadequate, but at the same time their schemas of world-history have a certain vraisemblance to them. Here we want to single out from their wrong-headed frameworks for a philosophy of history those parts of their theories that seem correct, explain them, and then in the process elucidate our own notion of the organismality of the history of nations which gives rise to the systemic interpretation of the working of power.
The vraisemblance ("Wahrscheinlichkeit") of Hegel's philosophy of history
Hegel's philosophy of history is not as original as it might have appeared; it is a synthesis of the ideas of his Romanticist predecessors from Herder through Kant, Schiller, and Fichte to Schelling. (Kant is included here even though he figured as part of the German version of Enlightenment, Aufklärung, because his suggested outline for a philosophy of history laid the foundation for the subsequent development of Romanticist philosophy of history.) R. G. Collingwood has provided a succinct summary of this Romanticist tradition which culminated in Hegel in his The Idea of History (revised ed., with introduction by Jan Van der Dussen), p. 88 - 113. As we trace here a bit the ancestry of our own philosophy of history, we may give an outline of this development after Herder (following Collingwood):
Hegel's philosophy as a whole is in the trinitarian form: Idea - Nature - Spirit (Geist). Idea is the form of the Absolute -- Being, God, the conserved substratum of all beings, the hypokeimenon1 -- "before the creation of the world" (Wissenschaft der Logik in Enzyklopädie). It develops into nature -- the creation: space, extension. At this point it is Idea-outside-of-itself, it is alienated from itself (again, the "gnostic" symbolism: Wissenschaft der Natur). "Nature develops, after the stage of mineral and vegetable kingdom, into man, in whose consciousness the Idea becomes conscious of itself." (Hartman, ibid., p. xxi.) This is Spirit, in which form the Idea has overcome its alienation from itself (Wissenschaft des Geistes: the stage of "redemption"). Self-consciousness -- whether of a particular person, of a particular people, or of the general (allgemeine) Idea of which the particular person or the particular people is a particularized instance -- means freedom, and Spirit's development toward self-consciousness and its freedom through successive cultures in which it incarnates itself constitutes world-history.
This world-history progresses from east to west. The collective consciousness of a culture, as manifested in its custom, laws, philosophy, religion, i.e. in its culture, in its nomos in Peter Berger's words, is taken by Hegel to be the manifestation of the Spirit at a particular stage of its development. Human beings are the manifestation of God, so to speak, as is nature: a sort of Pantheism. Thus the Spirit completes the first stage of its development toward self-consciousness in the Chinese, Indian, and Persian culture: Asian cultures constitute Spirit's childhood. Then it becomes more conscious of itself in classical Greece, which is its adolescence. Then in Rome, which is its adulthood, then in the Mohammedan world and the early Germanic Christian kingdoms, which together make up its old age. Finally it achieves complete self-consciousness, consciousness of its freedom, in the nation-states of Western Europe that have sprung up from the early Germanic kingdoms. (See "Die Einteilung der Weltgeschichte" in Hegel, ibid., p. 242 - 257. The process is summarized as consisting of the three stages of China, where one, the emperor, is free; Greece, where some are free; and the West, where all are recognized as free: "daß die Orientalen nur gewußt haben, daß Einer frei, die griechische und römische Welt aber, daß einige frei sind, daß wir aber wissen, alle Menschen an sich, das heißt der Mensch als Mensch sei frei, ist auch zugleich die Einteilung der Weltgeschichte"; Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte, Einleitung, S 61.) This is Hegel's philosophy of history. History for Hegel is thus a linear progression (the ontogenic metaphor notwithstanding) of the purest type, without the trinitarianism (Purity - Fall - Recovery) which characterizes his whole system of the development of the Absolute of which world-history constitutes the third and last moment.
Hegel's "Einteilung der Weltgeschichte" (phases of world-history) is of course outdated and discredited today. We would however like to mention three highly illuminating insights which Hegel has made in his philosophy of history. The first is that he saw history as nature's doubling upon itself, an idea which we have also developed, though in a different, materialist sense. Hegel illustrates this by providing an analogy of man's reaction to sunrise: at first he is stunned by the beauty and paralyzed, but as the sun reaches its zenith he turns his attention to his own project of building a house for himself, and by the time of evening he has finished building the house and has acquired an inner sun, "the sun of his consciousness", which he values more than the real sun. An artificial nature has been created on top of the original nature (p. 242).
The second insight has to do with Hegel's description of the evolutionary course of consciousness whose analogy was provided in the image of the man's reaction to the course of the sun. Consciousness, according to Hegel, evolves from an unreflected state in which the individual has not become conscious of himself vis-à-vis the culture to which he belongs and of which he is a manifestation ("die reflexionslose Gewohnheit und Sitte jener Einheit": "unreflecting habit and custom in relation to that basic unity", i.e. culture), to a reflected state of self-consciousness in which the individual is a "subject being-for-itself" ("reflektierende und persönliche, für sich seiende Subjekt", p. 243). The latter state Hegel calls "subjective freedom", the fullness of consciousness in which the individual is fully conscious of his individuality and thus of his freedom, and yet at the same time is conscious of himself as an integral part of the culture to which he belongs, and ultimately as part of the Absolute (God) which has become conscious of itself through him. He submits to the laws of the land and the morals of the world as a free individual who has "willed" (Kant) or chosen these as universally valid or as the most reasonable. This is the end of the development, or the most mature state, of human consciousness. "Es handelt sich in der Weltgeschichte um nichts als um das Verhältnis hervorzubringen, worin diese beiden Seiten in absoluter Einigkeit, wahrhafter Versöhnung sind, einer Versöhnung, in der das freie Subjekt nicht untergeht in der objektiven Weise des Geistes, sondern zu seinem selbständigen Rechte kommt, wo aber ebensosehr der absolute Geist, die objektive gediegene Einigkeit ihr absolutes Recht erlangt hat" (p. 244; "The purpose of world-history is nothing other than to create a situation wherein these two sides [human being and God] are in absolute unity or true reconciliation, a reconciliation in which the free subject is not submerged in the objective existence of the Spirit, but comes to its independent rights, and in which at the same time the absolute Spirit, the pure objective unity, also attains its absolute right"; trans. p. 198). The earliest state, which Hegel calls "substanzielle Freiheit", is that state of consciousness in which "commandments and laws are regarded as firmly established in and for themselves" and in which "the individual subject comports himself in complete subservience towards them. These laws need not accord with the will of the individual, and the subjects are therefore like children, who obey their parents without will or insight of their own" (trans. p. 197; "Bei der bloß substanziellen Freiheit sind die Gebote und Gesetze ein an und für sich Festes, wogegen sich die Subjekte in vollkommener Dienstbarkeit verhalten. Diese Gesetze brauchen nun dem eigenen Willen gar nicht zu entsprechen, und es befinden sich die Subjekte somit den Kindern gleich, die ohne eigenen Willen und ohne eigene Einsicht den Eltern gehorchen"). Hegel accords this earliest state of consciousness to the developmental stage of the Chinese culture, which he takes to be stagnant, non-progressing, and which thus assumes for him the form of "despotism", where the masses have not become conscious of themselves as differentiated individuals but only as indistinguished from the "whole" that personifies itself in the person of the emperor (Oberhaupt; p. 246).
In this characterization Hegel was, strictly speaking, wrong. But his description of the general course of the growth of consciousness has a ring of correctness to it. Does not the state of "substantial freedom" remind us in a rough way of the conventional stage of moral development in Kohlberg's scheme, and that of "subjective freedom", of the post-conventional stage (specifically stage six)? Hegel's world-history as the development of the Spirit seems like a translation of Kohlberg's ontogenic moral development stages into a phylogenic course (as we have done for the case of American culture in regard to the differentiation of subjectivity), and Kohlberg has also identified the adults of some of the Eastern cultures (e.g. Taiwan) as operative only on the conventional stage, and those operative on the post-conventional stage as found only in the Western world. Insofar as Kohlberg's theory is "somewhat true", so is Hegel's development of the Spirit in world-history (vraisemblance). Kohlberg's theory, as we have commented earlier, is true to the extent that consciousness does grow from an egocentric through the socio-centric to the world-centric viewpoint, although the specific form of the world-centric orientation is not necessarily the Kantian-Rawlsian justice. Humanity's consciousness does always evolve in a certain way, and Hegel along with Comte had captured this irreversible and inevitable natural course of consciousness in an approximate fashion. He erred in this that, although the consciousness of most of the adult Chinese population of his time was probably less differentiated and less mature than the consciousness of his students, the political system of the Chinese empire came about through an entirely different course than he had imagined.
We emphasize again that Hegel and his predecessors, insofar as their version of world-history is the course of human consciousness' coming to consciousness of its freedom, have delineated only a sort of spiritual meaning of history. But the ideology of freedom is really a deceptive technique of nation-state formation, as we have seen. The plan of nature for the human species is really just increasingly greater amount of consumption and defecation and then death and extinction. Some cultures are able to carry out this plan to fulfillment, specifically the civilizations of Eurasia, and especially the Europeans and Americans, while others are stuck at the beginning stage of the course of this plan, i.e. the tribal peoples of sub-Saharan Africa, Americas, and Australia. The main reason for this difference in peoples' talent in their fulfillment of nature's plan has been explored recently by Jared Diamond (see his "Why Did Human History Unfold Differently On Different Continents For The Last 13,000 Years?" [4. 23. 1997] which presents a summary of his Guns, Germs and Steel), a reason that has entirely to do with geography and which the Enlightenment and Romanticist thinkers tried to grasp but never succeeded in grasping precisely (Hegel's attempt can be found in: "Der Naturzusammenhang oder die geographische Grundlage der Weltgeschichte", ibid., p. 187): the Eurasian continent is oriented east-west while Africa and Americas are north-south; the east-west orientation allows for species domesticated in one part of the continent to spread thousands of miles at the same latitude, while the north-south does not; the domestication of animals then furnishes surplus energy for the development of urban centers and centralized political organizations... and finally of states and nation-states with the greatest capacity for noosphere defecation.2 Our thesis in regard to the spiritual meaning of history is that its outer crust consists in the representation of external reality and human interior through poetry, literature, art, and (the unphilosophical form of) science, all of which, insofar as they are not only in this world but of it, can be bent to reinforce the metabolic mode of the supraorganism; that moral development or consciousness of freedom, though it does represent a genuine progress in the spiritual growth of consciousness, is ultimately an instrument for power, for supraorganismic formation; and that, finally, the core of the spiritual meaning of history consists in the human pursuit of salvation through philosophy and religion, which is carried out by only a small minority of human individuals who are in this world but not of it. The material and the spiritual meaning of history are entirely divorced from each other. Thus the Romanticist philosophers of history have merely served as propagandists for nation-state-building without knowing it, and have not discovered the true meaning of world-history at all. Their manipulation by power explains their status as instrument for immanentization, i.e. for the replacement of the Parousia of Christ by the Parousia of the revolutionary for the sake of reality's self-transfiguration. The Thermodynamic Interpretation of History and Scientific Enlightenment are meant to discover the true meaning of history once and for all -- one the material, the other the spiritual side of this meaning.
Hegel's project of world-history can be seen to have been continued along two lines of development. One is toward the last of the Romanticists Spengler, whose world-history completely dispenses with any sort of linearity and cosmic connection, and whom we shall review presently. The other is toward Eric Voegelin, in whose Order and History the fulfillment of world-history's spiritual meaning (not its material meaning) is at last realistically and adequately described. History has a spiritual dimension because, besides metabolizing, "[e]very society is burdened with the task... of creating an order that will endow the fact of existence with meaning in terms of ends divine and human" (Israel and Revelation, p. ix), and Hegel's succession of cultures in world-history as forming a logical sequence through which consciousness achieves interiority and freedom is replaced in Voegelin by the succession(s: there may be more than one strand of development in world-history) of cultures' attempts to symbolize "the truth concerning the order of being of which the order of society is a part" (ibid.).
The first half of our Scientific Enlightenment, the genealogy of the human pursuit of salvation up to the First Axial, is meant to improve on Voegelin, who in his conception of the spiritual meaning of history as the history of order failed to let the salvational accent therein come into precision -- a shortcoming we mean to correct.
The third worthwhile insight in Hegel's philosophy of history has to do with the already mentioned "cunning of reason":
Denn die Weltgeschichte bewegt sich auf einem höhern Boden, als der ist, auf dem die Moralität ihre eigentümliche Stätte hat, welche die Privatgesinnung, das Gewissen der Individuen, ihr eigentümlicher Wille und Handlungsweise ist; diese haben ihren Wert, Imputation, Lohn oder Bestrafung für sich. Was der an und für sich seiende Endzweck des Geistes fordert und vollbringt, was die Vorsehung tut, liegt über den Verflichtungen und der Imputationsfähigkeit und Zumutung, welche auf die Individualität in Rücksicht ihrer Sittlichkeit fällt. Welche demjenigen, was der Fortschritt der Idee des Geistes notwendig machte, in sittlicher Bestimmung und damit edler Gesinnung widerstanden haben, stehen in moralischem Werte höher als diejenigen, deren Verbrechen in einer höhern Ordnung zu Mitteln verkehrt worden wären, den Willen dieser Ordnung ins Werk zu setzen. (Die Vernunft in der Geschichte, p. 171)
"For world-history moves on a higher plane than that on which morality has its place, and which private moral sense, conscience of the individuals, their own particular will, and their manner of actions constitute; these have for themselves their value, imputation, reward, or punishment. What the goal, being-in-and-for-itself, of the Spirit requires and accomplishes, what Providence [i.e. the plan of nature which is the plan of God] does, rests above the obligation, imputation-capability, and pretensions which the individuals have in view of their ethics." In the same way, the goal of history, the goal of the universe as incarnate in human history, i.e. the formation of open dissipative structures on the supraorganismic level, operates and is accomplished above the level on which operates the goal and conscience of the feminists, civil-rights activists, humanists, the "liberals" who fight for equality and non-discrimination. "Those who have opposed , in their ethical conviction and therefore by their noble moral sense, that which the progress of the Idea of the Spirit made necessary, stand in respect to moral value higher than those whose crimes have been converted in a higher domain into means for the execution of the will of this domain." In the same way, the paleoconservatives who oppose the consumerization of society and the further integration of the supraorganism (its "totalitarianization") may appear, from the point of view of morality or ethics or aesthetics, superior to the feminists and the liberals whose (in another way) good intentions have been converted in a higher domain into the means for supraorganismic integration and metabolism, but their opposition is bound to fail. The rights they are defending have been "abandoned by the living Spirit and God" ("vom lebendigen Geiste und vom Gott bereits verlassenes Recht", ibid.). The famous feminist activists such as Betty Friedan or Catherine MacKinnon are precisely the equivalents of the welthistorischen Individuen in Hegel's system (e.g. Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon):
Dies sind die großen Menschen in der Geschichte, deren eigne partikulare Zwecke das Substantielle enthalten, welches Wille des Weltgeistes ist.... Solche Individuen hatten in diesen ihren Zwecken nicht das Bewußtsein der Idee überhaupt, sondern sie waren praktische und politische Menschen. Aber zugleich waren sie denkende, die die Einsicht hatten von dem, was not und was an der Zeit ist.... Ihre Sache war es, dies Allgemeine, die notwendige nächste Stufe ihrer Welt zu wissen, diese sich zum Zwecke zu machen und ihre Energie in dieselbe zu legen. Die welthistorischen Menschen, die Heroen einer Zeit, sind darum als die Einsichtigen anzuerkennen; ihre Handlungen, ihre Reden, sind das Beste der Zeit. (Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte, Einleitung, ibid., S. 75)
"These are the great individuals in history, whose own particular goals contain the substantial, which is the Will of World-Spirit"; in Hegel's case, this is freedom, but in our case, increased dissipation and "totalitarianism". "Such individuals have in their own goals no awareness of the Idea generally, but are practical and political individuals. But at the same time they were thinking [persons], who have insights into what was at their time necessary and in the trend" -- so did the feminists know, on the eve of consumerism, that the Age of Woman was coming -- "It is their business to know this universal, the necessary next stage of their world, to make this their goal and to put their energy in this [matter]. The world-historical individuals, the hero[in]es of their time, are therefore to be recognized as insightful individuals; their actions, their words, are the best of the time." We have previously analyzed the theoretical heroines such as Mary Daly as the prophetic artists and philosophers in Heidegger's sense. Now those pragmatic and practical heroines who have worked for change in laws, runned office, or become top CEOs are the "world-historical individuals" in Hegel's sense.
Explaining Spengler's morphology of world-history in terms of supraorganismic growth
An organism, whether cellular or multicellular, has a life-cycle -- birth, infancy, maturity, old age, and death -- because it is strictly determined by its genes to go through these phases: it is "programmed" to live, decay, and die (the death-gene).
If Corm, as supraorganism, can indeed be regarded as an analogous formation to the Person, then the question arises as to whether it too has a more or less pre-determined life-cycle. Comic life-cycle is an integral part of our "system approach" to the understanding of power, for corm is just the system whose internal pressure -- forcing the conformity of the individual constituents and/or straining the system between the alternatives of growth and stabilization (progressivism vs. conservatism), or, in case where the conservatism in the growth of the system has been overcome, between the alternative directions of growth (right vs. left) -- constitutes what is known as power.
Hence is Oswald Spengler, with his "morphology of world-history", relevant to us.3 Like Max Weber's "Protestant Ethic" (though falling short of it in terms of scholarly stature), Spengler's "Decline of the West" is both widely read and universally criticized and condemned. His reputation today is no better than Hegel's as a "historian". The principal problem is evidently his constant deformation and perversion of his otherwise mass of historical learning to fit his thesis, as Collingwood has commented. "Even the positivistic thinkers of the nineteenth century, in their misguided attempts to reduce history to a science, went no farther in the reckless and unscrupulous falsification of facts" (ibid., p. 183). But Decline of the West still holds a certain appeal among many because, besides the falsification and distortion of data, Spengler's "morphology" seems vaguely true and his predictions about the West's future seem to have come roughly true. Again, there is vraisemblance. Eric Voegelin, commenting on the thinkers that have dealt with the problem of the repeating cycle of political forms from Aristotle through Polybius, Machiavelli, and Vico to Spengler and Toynbee, agrees that, although none of their attempts are satisfactory, "all of them have absorbed a sufficient amount of historical materials to prove that the problem is not vain" (Plato and Aristotle, p. 128; Spengler's theory details of course also the cycle of cultural forms). What we will take special note of below is how Spengler's book has offerred insights into aspects of the working and evolution of cultures and societies just as Hegel's theory has, even if it fails as a scholarly "history". After all, our thermodynamic interpretation of history aims also at no more than offering insights into the problems it singles out (modernity, power, gender relation), without being a detailed scholarly study. Voegelin explains the reason for these historians' failure to isolate such cyclicity of history once and for all to lie in firstly the disregard for the underlying reason for the appearance of cycles in history, i.e. the process of the "decomposition of the soul through the metamorphosis of Eros", by which he refers to what Plato regards as the cause for the decline of political form from aristocracy to tyranny as described in Book VIII and IX of the Republic. The cycle of political forms "can be found if political history contains processes of psychic decomposition" (Voegelin, p. 128). Below, as we will try to explain, and save what we can of, Spengler's theories, we will use, as the underlying cause for the repeated pattern of change, the differentiation of consciousness and then supraorganismic self-organization -- one spiritual and the other material principle -- in place of psychic decomposition. Secondly, Voegelin points out that "the clarity of [the cycle's] appearance will depend on the extent to which extraneous blurring factors are involved in the process of decomposition. Assuming that a good many extraneous factors are involved, and that these factors show a considerable variety in the various civilizations, the attempt to construct the pattern inductively through generalizations on the basis of empirically observed political institutions must remain abortive because inevitably the peculiarities of the civilizational process which has served as the primary model for the generalization will enter into the construction of the pattern... Nevertheless... [these] extraneous factors.... do not blot... out [the pattern] completely" (Voegelin, p. 128 - 9). We will see below that Spengler's scheme for the life-cycle of the political face of civilizations is based mostly on generalizations from the Western European case, and seems imposing when applied to the classical civilization, precisely because the peculiar geography of the classical civilization in comparison with that of Europe, i.e. the fragmentary nature of the Mediterranean region, is an extraneous factor that has prevented the cycle peculiar to the continental situation from developing in the Aegean area.
Summary of Spengler's theory. Now the essential features of Spengler's "morphology of world-history" can be summarized thusly:
If Spengler's theory is not true, there must be a reason for its insightfulness at times and for its vraisemblance. There is clearly an irreversible pattern to the continuation of human association and human collective consciousness through time; human society and way of thinking always seem to evolve in a definite way and toward a definite form wherever they spring up. We are again reminded of the vraisemblance of Hegel's progression of the Spirit. Nevertheless it has seemed impossible, as Voegelin has noted, to interpret the details of all historical happenings as expressing this pattern without seriously distorting and falsifying many of them. Our interest here is to explain this pattern without appealing to any metaphysical "morphology" or "Spirit" or "Idea", which has made Spengler's and Hegel's "history" distasteful for historians in the narrative tradition (the dominant type in contemporary academia). As mentioned, we will demonstrate that the undeniable though vague appearance of a morphology of world-history or of a linear progress of the Spirit can be entirely explained on the spiritual side by the differentiation and complexification of consciousness during its growth, and on the material side by the self-organization of the supraorganism during its growth within an interaction sphere. There is thus a common-sense explanation for the organismic appearance of human society and mode of thought, or for their seemingly linear progression (toward interiorization). Our explication will be too vague and too general to qualify as anything scholarly, but we hope, again, to merely offer insightful suggestions by which not only the happenings in our world may become more intelligible in a preliminary way but which could also serve as the foundation on which to make a genuinely scholarly attempt at a "morphology of world-history".
The life-cycle of culture. To this end Spengler will have to be taken apart. Our own view on the matter of the morphology of world-history is that, on the one hand, there is the direction of history, i.e. of the growth of any supraorganism (not the same as Spengler's "civilization" or unit of world-history: below), which is ideally straightforwardly linear, and, on the other, there is the life-cycle or cyclicity embedded within and created by this linearity. There is indeed something like the Spirit's (for us: consciousness' and supraorganism's) linear progression, but it also exhibits the appearance of cyclicity. Next, sticking to our principle, we will need to carefully separate the spiritual from the material side of history. Consider firstly the spiritual side of the morphology of world-history. Recall that the spiritual side of the history of a civilization consists of philosophy, (the composition of) history, art (fine art and architecture), religion, science-mathematics, "literature". In respect to the linearity of the direction of growth in world-history, the status of the Apollonian, Magian, and Faustian as separate units of life-cycle must be denied: the Apollonian with its "mechanische Statik" and lack of inner development ("die Idee einer innern Entwicklung"), and being body-oriented in art ("durch Konturen einzelne Körper begrenzen"), contrasted with the Faustian with its "Dynamik Galileis", spatially oriented art ("durch Licht und Schatten Räume bilden"), and proneness toward personal inner reflection ("faustisch ist ein Dasein, das mit tiefster Bewußtheit geführt wird, das sich selbst zusieht, eine entschlossen persönliche Kultur der Memoiren, Reflexionen, der Rück- und Ausblicke und des Gewissens"; p. 235), while the Magian comes in the middle with its algebra, astrology, alchemy, mosaics (Spengler, I, p. 234).
These three are in fact not separate souls, but roughly represent the developmental stages of a single consciousness in growth. This becomes most obvious when Spengler singles out the three cultures' notions of number and mathematics as the respective expressions of their inner soul: the Apollonian numbers as pure magnitudes (Größe) and this consciousness being unable to transcend statical geometry; the Magian numbers as the interchangeable unknown (as in algebra); and the Faustian soul seeing numbers only as in relationship (as in function, starting from Descartes' analytical geometry), being thus able to represent the relationship between space and time in differential equations. Now our view is that, as consciousness complexifies and differentiates through time, it reduces its representation in dimension (from two dimensional geometry to one dimensional algebra) but increases the scope of this representation (static geometry represents at most the three dimensional space, but the representation in dynamics now includes the fourth dimension of time). Clearly, the Apollonian mode represents the beginning mode of any consciousness, its simple state, while the Faustian its complex, late state. This will be analyzed in detail in "The problem of representation (and the constitution of classical mechanics)", Scientific Enlightenment, Div. 2. A 4.
In the realm of literature, as consciousness grows and differentiates, it also interiorizes, and it takes increasing note of the emotional details of its interior. Hegel was right in positing the Spirit's progress toward self-consciousness: as time passes, consciousness becomes more aware of itself. The enlargement of the horizon of consciousness during its growth is toward both the outside and the inside. Thus a continuously developed culture always starts out with epic poems of heroes and founding ancestors that hardly depict the inner emotional life of the common people, the human mass remaining undifferentiated. Then the culture composes histories of nations and important persons as didactics for the royals. Only at last does it develop the genre of novels, fictions, and memoirs ("literature proper") that document the inner emotional life of actual individuals, their joys, sorrows, pains, the details of their deliberations and influencing emotions. First comes epics, then historiogenesis and philosophy, then history of the type of chronicle, then scientific descriptive treatises -- finally romans. This characterizes Chinese history, epics and tribal historiogenesis characterizing the bronze kingdoms of Hsia, Shang, and Zhou, philosophy, imperial historiogenesis (The Grand Historical Records), and scientific treatises appearing by Han, fictions however not having appeared until mid-Sung, and flourishing mostly during Ming and Qing: 西遊記 (Ming), 紅樓夢 (Dream of the Red Chamber, Qing), 兒女英雄傳 (Qing), Shen Fu's Six Records of a Floating Life (Qing). Here, in this regard, the "Apollonian" and the "Faustian" soul clearly succeed one another as the earlier and the later stages of the single Chinese soul. If Western consciousness is indeed the most interiorized of all, it is on account of the fact that it is of all humanity the most differentiated, most "advanced" in growth (not in sophistication: remember that differentiation is not an unqualified good).
Thus the interiorization of consciousness goes hand in hand with the differentiation of the individual from the group-mass. So, at first, epics and histories are "without authors" because writers and composers have not yet stood out singly from the group their works are to represent. Later, by Sung in the Chinese case and by the Renaissance in the European case, the "geniuses" make their appearance as creators of works of art and literature -- Spengler below attributes their appearance and their conscious planning to the summer time of manhood -- that is, the authors are differentiated. This is just as Hegel has asserted, that people are at first unconscious of their own individuality vis-à-vis the totality to which they belong, and history progresses in such wise that they become so conscious; his mistake consists merely in the failure to recognize the Spirit as also moving forward (though not exactly in a straightforward linear fashion: below) in China, in parallel with the Spirit in the West, a mistake which Voegelin has corrected in his Order and History.
The complexification of consciousness also enables it to enlarge the scope of its grasp of its surrounding. The enlargement of its horizon thus results in its greater perception of spatiality. The less complexified consciousness of the Greeks -- because it is younger, "less advanced" than the Western -- is therefore expected to have less of a grasp of the total space surrounding an object, resulting in a lesser emphasis on spatiality in their architecture and a greater focus on the anthropomorphic sculptures. (The advancement of the Hellenic consciousness is therefore toward and centered upon the representational realism of the anthropomorphic figure itself, reaching a climax during the Hellenistic age.) The more complexified -- having been Christianized and thereby eschatologized -- consciousness of the Gothic Germans then is of the opposite orientation, having a "wide-eye", and expressing their greater sense of spatiality in the magnificence of Gothic cathedrals.
Die faustische Seele mußte aus diesem Weltgefühl in ihrer Frühzeit zu einem Architekturproblem gelangen, dessen Schwergewicht in der räumlichen Wölbung mächtiger, vom Portal zur Tiefe des Chors strebender Dome lag. Das war der Ausdruck ihres Tiefenerlebnisses (I, p. 236).
The Faustian soul, out of this world-feeling in its springtime, necessarily comes to an architecture problem, where the center of gravity lies in the spatial vaulting-over of vast, and from porch to choir dynamically deep, cathedrals. That was the expression of its depth-experience.
More significant as witness of the greater perception of spatiality are the paintings:
Eine Landschaft von Lorrain dagegen ist nur Raum. Alle Einzelheiten sollen hier seiner Verdeutlichung dienen. Alle Körper besitzen nur als Träger von Licht und Schatten einen atmosphärischen und perspektivischen Sinn (ibid.).
A landscape of [Claude] Lorrain4 on the other hand is only space. All the individuals should subserve its illustration. All the bodies possess an atmospheric and perspective sense only as bearers of light and shadow.
Paintings of such sort abound especially between the middle and late period of the history of Western art. The attempt to represent space in the two-dimensional art eventually leads to the scientific perspective, first appearing in the Italian Renaissance and perfected in the Flemish-Dutch paintings, which shows up nowhere else among humanity, and which represents consciousness' final attainment of the structure (the "structural perspective"): here the structure of space. That Westerners alone attain the structure of the perception of space does not mean that they are possessed of a different "soul", but only that they alone have finished the course of consciousness' growth while others remain either stagnant (as the many hunter-gatherer societies do), are cut off mid-way by invasion or otherwise, or curve under the critical threshold of complete breakthrough (change of civilizational form), such as the Chinese, and thus embark on a "growth without development". One can say that, roughly, of all places, only the consciousness ("soul") that is started in the Aegean sea, with a temporary break during the Völkerwanderung, and with mixture from that started in the Near East, has differentiated progressively in a straightforward linear way to break through the critical threshold separating the "functional perspective" in which all non-Western civilizations operate from the "structural perspective" in which modernity consists.
The linear direction of the growth of consciousness is thus characterized by a straightforward increase in (1) differentiation, (2) complexification, and (3) interiorization.
We may now examine how this linear process of consciousness' growth can also produce the appearance of cyclicity or life-cycle, or specifically, how the beginning of the process has the appearance of ascendancy while its later part, that of decay and decline. For the illustration of cyclicity Spengler's observation is superb and especially undeniable; but again the reason Spengler offers for it (the "inner spirit") must be rejected. The cyclic character of the spiritual strand of history can be explained by the same differentiation of consciousness, in combination with the fossilization of symbols due to the loss of the motivating experience behind the first "awakening" of the culture.
We may continue with the example of art. Through a masterful poetic description Spengler sketches out the outline of the morphology or life-cycle of the art history of any civilization ("die vergleichenden Biographien der großen Stile") (compare again section 7 of "Physiognomik und Systematik"):
Am Anfang steht der verzagte, demütige, reine Ausdruck einer eben erwachenden Seele, die noch nach einem Verhältnis zur Welt sucht, der sie, obwohl einer eigenen Schöpfung, doch fremd und befremdet gegenübersteht. Es liegt Kinderangst in den Bauten des Bischofs Bernward von Hildesheim, in der altchristlichen Katakombenmalerei und den Pfeilersälen zu Anfang der 4. Dynastie. Ein Vorfrühling der Kunst, ein tiefes Ahnen künftiger Gestaltenfülle, eine mächtige verhaltene Spannung ruht über der Landschaft, die sich, noch ganz bäuerlich, mit den ersten Burgen und kleinen Städten schmückt. Dann folgt der jauchzende Aufschwung in der hohen Gotik, der konstantinischen Zeit mit ihren Säulenbasiliken und Kuppelkirchen, und den reliefgeschmückten Tempeln der 5. Dynastie. Man begreift das Sein; der Glanz einer heiligen, vollkommen gemeisterten Formensprache breitet sich aus und der Stil reift zu einer majestätischen Symbolik der Tiefenrichtung und des Schicksals heran. Aber der jugendliche Rausch geht zu Ende. Aus der Seele selbst erhebt sich Widerspruch. Renaissance, dionysisch-musikalische Feindschaft gegen die apollinische Dorik, der auf Alexandria blickende Stil im Byzanz von 450 gegenüber der heiterlässigen antiochenischen Kunst bedeuten einen Augenblick der Auflehnung und der versuchten oder erreichten Zerstörung des Erworbenen, deren sehr schwierige Erörterung hier nicht am Platze ist.
Damit tritt das Mannesalter der Stilgeschichte in Erscheinung. Die Kultur wird zum Geist der großen Städte, die jetzt die Landschaft beherrschen; sie durchgeistigt auch den Stil. Die erhabene Symbolik verblaßt; das Ungestüm übermenschlicher Formen geht an Ende; mildere weltlichere Künste verdrängen die große Kunst des gewachsenen Steins; selbst in Ägyten wagen Plastik und Fresko sich etwas leichter zu bewegen. Der Künstler erscheint. Er "entwirft" jetzt, was bis dahin aus dem Boden wuchs. Noch einmal steht das Dasein, das sich selbst bewußt gewordne, vom Ländlich-Traumhaften und Mystischen gelöst, fragwürdig da und ringt nach einem Ausdruck seiner neuen Bestimmung: zu Beginn des Barock, wo Michelangelo in wildem Unbefriedigtsein und sich gegen die Schranken seiner Kunst bäumend die Peterskuppel auftürmt, zur Zeit Justinians I., wo seit 520 die Hagia Sophia und die mosaikgeschmükten Kuppelbasiliken von Ravenna entstehen, im Ägypten zu Beginn der 12. Dynastie, deren Blüte für die Griechen der Name Sesostris zusammenfaßte, und um 600 in Hellas, wo viel später noch Äschylus verrät, was eine hellenische Architektur in diesen entscheindenden Epoche hätte ausdrücken können und müssen.
Dann erscheinen die leuchtenden Herbsttage des Stils: noch einmal malt sich in ihm das Glück der Seele, die sich ihrer letzten Vollkommenheit bewußt wird. Die "Rückkehr zur Natur", damals schon als nahe Notwendigkeit von Denkern und Dichtern, von Rousseau, Gorgias und den "Gleichzeitigen" der andern Kulturen gefühlt und angekündigt, verrät sich in der Formenwelt der Künste als empfindsame Sehnsucht und Ahnung des Endes. Hellste Geistigkeit, heitre Urbanität und Wehmut eines Abschiednehmens... So erscheint die freie, sonnige, raffinierte Kunst zur Zeit Sesostris' III (um 1850). Dieselben kurzen Augenblicke gesättigten Glücks tauchen auf, als unter Perikles die bunte Pracht der Akropolis und die Werke des Phidias und Zeuxis entstanden. Wir finden sie ein Jahrtausend später zur Ommaijadenzeit in der heitern Märchenwelt maurischer Bauten mit ihren fragilen Säulen- und Hufeisenbögen, die sich im Leuchten der Arabesken und Stalaktiten in die Luft auflösen möchten, und wieder ein Jahrtausend darauf in der Musik Haydns und Mozarts, den Schäfergruppen von Meißner Prozellan, den Bildern Watteaus und Guardis und den Werken deutscher Baumeister in Dresden, Potsdam, Würzburg und Wien.
Dann erlischt der Stil. Auf die bis zum äußersten Grade durchgeistigte, zerbrechliche, der Selbstvernichtung nahe Formensprache des Erechtheion und des Dresdner Zwingers folgt ein matter und greisenhafter Klassizismus, in hellenistischen Großstädten ebenso wie im Byzanz von 900 und im Empire des Nordens. Ein Himdämmern in leeren, ererbten, in archaistischer oder eklektischer Weise vorübergehend wieder belebten Formen ist das Ende. Halber Ernst und fragwürdige Echtheit beherrschen das Künstlertum. In diesem Falle befinden wir uns heute. Es ist ein langes Spielen mit toten Formen, an denen man sich die Illusion einer lebendigen Kunst erhalten möchte(I, p. 265 - 7).
In the beginning there is the despondent, humble, pure expression of a newly-awakened soul, which is still seeking after a relation to the world that, although its proper creation, yet stands alien and unfriendly over against it. There lies child's anxiety in Bishop Berward's building at Hildescheim, in the early Christian catacomb-painting, and in the pillar-halls of the Egyptian Fourth Dynasty. An early spring of art, a deep presentiment of the coming wealth of forms, a powerful suppressed tension, lies over the landscape that, still wholly rustic, is adorning itself with the first towns and small cities. Then follows the cheerful rise into the high Gothic, the Constantine time with its basilicas of columns and churches of domes, and the temple of the fifth Dynasty decorated with relief. Being is now grasped. The brilliance of a holy, fully mastered form-language radiates out and the style ripens into a majestic symbolism of directional depth and destiny. But fervent youth comes to an end. A contradiction arises within the soul itself. Renaissance, the Dionysiac-musical enmity toward the Apollonian Doric, the Byzantine style of 450 which looks toward Alexandria in opposition to the overjoyed art of Antioch, indicate a moment of resistance, of destruction sought for or achieved of what has been acquired, of which the very difficult explanation is out of place here.
And now comes on the manhood of the style-history. The Culture is changing into the spirit of the big cities that now dominate the landscape; the spirit will also animate the style. The lofty symbolism withers; the riot of superhuman forms dies down; milder, more worldly arts drive out the great art of developed stone. Even in Egypt sculpture and fresco are attempted for lighter movement. The artist appears. He "plans" what formerly grew out of the soil. Once more existence, which has become self-conscious and detached from the land and the dream and the mystery, stands questioning, and wrestle for an expression of its new purpose: as at the beginning of Baroque when Michelangelo, in wild discontent and kicking against the limitations of his art, piles up the dome of St. Peters -- in the age of Justinian I which built Hagia Sophia and the mosaic-decked domed basilicas of Ravenna -- in Egypte at the beginning of the Twelfth Dynasty, whose flowering the Greeks condensed under the name of Sesostris -- and around 600 in Hellas, where much later Aeschylus still reveals what Hellenic architecture in this decisive epoch can have and must have expressed.
Then appears the gleaming autumn of the style. Once more the soul depicts in it its happiness, becoming conscious of its completion. The "return to nature", already felt and proclaimed as nearby necessity by thinkers and poets, by Rousseau, Gorgias, and the "contemporaries" of other cultures, reveals itself in the form-world of the arts as a sensitive longing and presentiment of the end. A clear intellect, joyous urbanity, and the sorrow of a parting... So appears the free, sunny and superfine art in the time of Sesostris III (c. 1850 B. C.). And the brief moments of satiated happiness appear, as under Pericles the varied splendour of Acropolis and the works of Phidias and Zeuxis. We find them a thousand years later again, in the age of the Ommaiyads, in the glad fairyland of Moorish architecture with its fragile columns and horseshoe arches that seem to melt into air in an iridescence of arabesques and stalactites; a thousand years more, in the music of Haydn and Mozart, in Dresden shepherdesses, in the pictures of Watteau and Guardi, in the works of German master-builder at Dresden, Potsdam, Würzburg and Vienna.
Then the style fades out. The form-language of Erechtheum and the Dresden Zwinger, intellectualized to the most extreme degree, fragile, near self-destruction, is followed by the flat and senile Classicism that we find in the Hellenistic megalopolis as well as in Byzantium of 900 and in the "Empire" modes of the North. A twilight reflected in empty and inherited forms revived for a moment in archaism and eclecticism signifies the end. Half-hearted earnestness and questionable genuineness dominate the domain of art. We find ourselves today just in such a state. It is a drawn-out play with dead forms, in which one would like to entertain the illusion of a living art.
Our evaluation of art -- in terms of representational skill (realism) and scope (subject matter) -- might sound slightly different than Spengler's; the "height" of Western art according to us since its "awakening" in early Medieval time cuts across the late summer and autumn period in Spengler's outline. Those whom we regard as constituting a firm stand against degeneration -- Cabanel, Bougereau, Lord Leighton, Alma-Tadema -- because of their improvement in representational skill probably figure, because of their lack of originality, among those Spengler has in mind in referring to "the twilight reflected in empty and inherited forms revived for a moment in archaism and eclecticism". We have previously explained the degeneration of art in terms of two mechanisms, one material, consumerization, and the other spiritual, formalistic degeneration, that is, the divorce of the categories developed for the analyzation of reality from the reality itself and its replacement by them: abstraction in art (from Impressionism through German Expressionism of the Imperial and Weimar period to American Abstract Expressionism of 1950s). This can be what Spengler refers to as "the play with dead forms" (though his reference is a general one) and "extreme intellectualization", and it is the result of the differentiation of consciousness. The linear progression of consciousness toward greater differentiation thus produces decadence and the appearance of decay, signaled by the disintegration of realism, just as earlier it allows the masters from Baroque through Rococo to Neoclassicism and Romanticism to produce master works of realism and thus the appearance of ascendancy. Produced on the very surface of the linearity of progression is the appearance of an organismic life-cycle. Now, furthermore, as consciousness differentiates (as well as increases its scope in complexification), the original motivating experience is lost not only because it becomes more distant in time but also due to its destruction by the greater number of incisions made on reality and experience introduced by such differentiation. This is especially noticeable in the realm of religion, the fossilization of symbols into fundamentalism (the "play with dead forms" in the domain of religion): the symbols have become opaque, in Voegelin's words. In art as in philosophy, when the old compact forms no longer fit the new differentiated experience, consciousness tries to reform them and in the process destroys them -- so has Spengler mentioned "destruction," during the transitional period, of earlier accomplishment. (Hegel is not quite right in seeing the old form as being "taken up" [herausgehoben, aufgehoben] into the new form as the Spirit progresses, though he is right in seeing the new form as being implicitly present in the old. C.f. Die Vernunft in der Geschichte, p. 179.) On the material side, we want to mention that degeneration is not only induced by commercialization and consumerization as analyzed earlier, but also by professionalization and/or specialization, i.e. the greater differentiation in division of labor, which is the function of the greater internal differentiation of the supraorganism (below). Before professionalization, amateurs do art out of love, i.e. motivated by the experience of "being newly awakened to reality", and attempt to represent that reality. Later professionals are however far removed from this originating experience, have forgotten it, and furthermore play with dead forms for money and thus as a matter of mechanical routine. Art as mere sport, as Spengler notes. By this time, the operation of power has thoroughly infiltrated art and other components of the spiritual domain of history to convert them to reinforcement mechanisms for supraorganismic metabolism and integration. Occasionally, of course, one may run into an isolated artist who is not in the trend, who is not of the world, and who consequently is in the position to produce genuine art and participate in the true spiritual meaning of history.
The unit of Spengler's morphology of world-history, civilization, corresponds to our "interaction sphere", which consists of nations, i.e. supraorganisms proper, interlocked together. The life-cycle of civilization can therefore be broken down to life-cycles of individual nations with their respective cultures. Since culture is a side-product of the nation's economic prosperity -- it is the surplus of production which allows some members of society to devote themselves full time to artistic and intellectual achievement, the purest of noosphere production -- it grows in proportion to the economic, and hence military, might of the nation. This is the first juncture at which the spiritual strand of history correlates with its material strand, producing the holism of Spengler's morphology of world-history in which the two strands are not distinguished. Art (and other intellectual activities) flourishes in volume and originality when the metabolism of a nation has come into full bloom; this is the time of the original motivating experience in art. Art fossilizes when the nation reaches the maximum of its metabolic might because this is the time when forgetfulness through differentiation and professionalization are hollowing out artistic creativity. Finally art fades away when its metabolism has gone beyond support and is ready to collapses because consciousness has differentiated to nothingness by this time. The picture that Spengler paints is gradually coming into view.
In parallel to the life-cycle of art is the life-cycle of philosophy of a culture. Here the production of a cyclic outcome by a linear process of differentiation is equally pronounced. Spengler is at his best in his observation in this matter. During the phase of Culture, when consciousness is imaginative and inward-directed, philosophy is heavily loaded with metaphysics and number-mysticism. Think of the "contemporaries" Leibniz and Plato in Western and classical civilization, respectively. The contemporaries Kant and Aristotle mark the Western and classical philosophy's transition to Civilization. "The strict metaphysics has exhausted its possibilities. The world-city has overcome the country-side [urbanization: below], and its spirit now constructs for itself a mechanistic, soulless theory that is necessarily directed outward" ("eine eigne, notwendigerweise nach außen gerichtete, mechanistische, seelenlose Theorie"; I, p. 473). The new generation of philosophers shed all fanciful metaphysical constructions that have no use in practical life, and devote themselves to ethics, to socialism, to the breeding of Uebermensch (Nietzsche, Shaw, Social Darwinism), i.e. to the practical task of the improvement of living-standard. (In the classical world, according to Spengler, this turn to the practical assumes the form of stoicism.) For the rest, philosophy dissolves into "unimportant, merely technical knowledge, the boring accumulation of systematic and conceptual subtleties" ("belanglos, bloße Fachwissenschaft, langweilige Häufung systematischer und begrifflicher Subtilitäten"; I, p. 474), the academic specialization we have mentioned: research and specialists (of Medieval philosophy, of Kant, of Hellenistic philosophy, etc.), and analytic philosophy above all. Then the ethical phase of philosophy itself has also exhausted its possibilities. The transition in philosophy from Culture to Civilization is reflected, Spengler notes, in the change in character in the idea of evolution which Spengler takes to be essential to the Faustian tendency of thought:
Bei Goethe ist sie erhaben, bei Darwin flach, bei Goethe organisch, bei Darwin mechanisch, bei jenem Erlebnis und Sinnbild, bei diesem Erkenntnis und Gesetz. Dort heißt sie innere Vollendung, hier "Fortschritt". (I, p. 477)
In Goethe [evolution] is upright, in Darwin flat, in Goethe organic, in Darwin mechanical, in the former experience and emblem ["sense-picture"], in the latter knowledge and law. There it means inward fulfillment, here "progress".
We can again explain this universal pattern inherent in the evolution of any tradition of philosophy and thought-system with the entirely linear process of the differentiation of consciousness. In the beginning differentiation produces positive results, as it has produced Plato out of the Presocratics; when it comes to the beginning of Western metaphysics, our opinion is a bit complicated: we'll regard this itself as the degenerate product in which differentiation upon classical learning has resulted. This will be treated in Scientific Enlightenment. But it is without doubt that continual differentiation of consciousness has progressively shed Western consciousness of its life-irrelevant metaphysical concerns and set it on the course of the practical task of conquest and life-improvement and of degeneration into technical knowledge and specialist expertise (fachwissenschaftlichen Kathederphilosophie) that neither tells us anything about reality (unlike metaphysics) nor contributes anything to the improvement of living-standard (unlike the modern philosophy of ethics). Spengler's observation -- the morphology of the history of philosophy -- is to be applauded. The additional insight which our thermodynamic interpretation of history has contributed to this observation is regarding the operation of power in this process of the degeneration of philosophy: how bio-power has twisted discourse into its reinforcement and how consumerization of academia favors specialization. Finally, Spengler has successfully predicted the next phase of the development of Western philosophy:
Es besteht die Möglichkeit einer dritten und letzten Stufe westeuropäischer Philosophie: die eines physiognomischen Skeptizismus... Kant sah die Ethik als Erkenntnisgegenstand, das 19. Jahrhundert sah die Erkenntnis als Gegenstand einer Wertung. Der Skeptiker würde beides lediglich als historischen Ausdruck einer Kultur betrachten. (I, p. 483)
There is the possibility of a third and last stage of Western philosophy: that of a physiognomic skepticism... Kant saw ethics as the object of epistemology, the nineteenth century saw epistemology as the object of valuation. The skeptics would consider both simply as the historical expression of a culture.
Namely, postmodernism. Again, we have supplied the cause for the rise of skepticism in the operation of power. Whatever the cause, philosophy is dead in the West.
Life-cycle of political organization and economy. Let us now explain Spengler's observation on the material side. In respect to the linear direction of world-history, the metabolism of any supraorganism always evolves from less toward greater efficiency -- hence the growing importance and independence of money: the medium of exchange, analogous to the ATP in organism, through which supraorganismic "enzymatic catalysis", i.e. economic transaction, happens -- and from smaller to larger volume in dissipation (consumption and disposal), with the concomitant result that more and more of the qualitative things can be quantified by money and exchanged; and the internal administrative organization of the supraorganism always evolves from arbitrary personal administration to complete impersonal mechanization, from less to greater differentiation in interior components, and from less to greater unity and integration amongst its constituents. These are the principles of supraorganismic self-organization. Quite common-sense.
These principles should explain much of Spengler's observation regarding the transition from "Culture" to "Civilization". He works out his scheme for the material strand of the life-cycle of civilization in "Staat und Geschichte" in volume II. Since, as noted, Spenlger develops the pattern inductively by generalizing from Western European history, we will in the following restrict our summary to his use of the European case as manifesting the cycle he sees.
When consciousness first awakens during the inauguration of Culture, the human association embodying it formulates itself as feudalist union (Lehnsverband) or feudal state ("Lehnsstaat, der nicht Staat im kommenden Sinne ist, sondern die Ordnung des Gesamtlebens in bezug auf einen Stand" (II, p. 459; "the feudal state, which is not 'state' in the coming sense, but an ordering of the common life with reference to an Estate"). "Der Gedanke des Feudalwesens... ist der Übergang aus dem urzeitlichen, rein praktischen und tatsächlichen Verhältnis des Machthabers zu den Gehorchenden -- mögen sie ihn gewählt haben oder von ihm unterworfen sein -- in das privatrechtliche und eben dadurch tief symbolische des Lehnsherrn zu den Vasallen" (ibid.; "The idea of feudalism... is the transition from the primitive, purely practical and factual relationship of the power-holder with those who obey him -- whether they have chosen him or have been subdued by him -- to the private law and, because of that, deeply symbolic relation of the lord to the vassals"). "Der 'Staat' existiert hier nur vermöge der Grenzen des Lehnsverbandes und erweitert sein Gebiet durch den Eintritt fremder Vasallen in diesen" (ibid.; "The 'state' exists here only by virtue of the boundaries of the feudalist union and enlarges its domain through the entry into it of foreign vassals"). This is in agreement with the foregoing framework of ours, that the supraorganism is in the beginning of such immature formation that Cormism does not go beyond that of the range of the Person: inter-personal relationship. After this follows the disintegration of the loosely gathered feudal union -- in Europe after the death of Charlemagne: the interregnum. From this comes the "victory of the state over the estate" (Sieg des Staates über den Stand) which constitutes the transition to "class state" (Standestaat). By now the idea of the state or nation is awaken in consciousness, but at this point only embodied in the "Enzelherrscher" (individual ruler) as the "symbol of sovereignty", which comes in the form of dynasty. The "nation" is identified or identical with the dynastic house and lives and dies with it: the doom hanging over the Hohenstaufen in 1200s means the giving-up of the identity of the German-Italian nation. The commoners have not as yet any part in the "nation". "Der Staatsgedanke hat über den Lehnsverband gesiegt, aber vertreten wird er doch durch die Stände und nur als ihrer Summe ist die Nation politisch vorhanden" (II, p. 479; "The idea of the state has triumphed over the feudal union, but it appears only through the Estates and the nation is politically existing only as their sum"). This is common-sense. The supraorganism so far is still only loosely put together and can not yet integrate into its unity at the center those peripheral parts of its composition (the commoners); it has successfully integrated only those on the top, as we have indicated before. It is akin to the beginning formation of the Person on the organismic level, like a blastula with some differentiation, as between the somatic and reproductive cells, but is apt to break apart -- in the case of Corm, this break-up is due to the centrifugal forces, the resistance of the local powers against the centralizing power. We see here how the pattern Spengler has developed seems inapplicable to the classical civilization. Neither the city-states of Hellas nor Rome has had feudal unions and dynastic houses, though Spengler manages to interpret their early kingships, nobilities, and tyrannies as identical with Western feudalism and dynasties when both cases are considered under their skin. His morphology does not have the flexibility which construction in terms of supraorganismic growth has by taking into account geography as a limiting factor to growth. The fragmentary nature of the Mediterranean region fosters Cormism only to the extent of city-states, just as the limited spatiality of Pacific islands only allows growth on them of at most chiefdoms and nothing beyond (i.e. "state" in the proper sense, with bureaucracy beyond kinship ties). Spengler, strangely, would like to see the city-states as expressions of the classical consciousness whose sense of spatiality, confined to concrete individuals rather than devoted to the expanse of spatial context enveloping them, permits the thinking of states only as concentrated in "points". Here we see an example of Spengler's frequent tendency to pervert facts.
At the third stage, during the late period of Culture, emerges the idea of the absolute state, embodied by the dynastic house, which tries to replace the Estates with nation. The local powers (the nobilities, the Estates) naturally resist this, so that the centralizing power attempts to enlist the help of the "non-Estate" (Nichtstand: the commoners and peasants) in its struggle with the local powers. This is what is sometimes known as the "general crisis of the seventeenth century", a period when "aristocratic and provincial rebellions against the increased demands made by centralising rulers were widespread", such as the French Fronde and the English Revolution (Mary Fulbrook, A Concise History of Germany, 2nd ed., 2004, p. 53). In Germany there was the Thirty Years War. This is just the beginning centralization into nation-state. Spengler himself observes this period of "absolute state", as he names it, to last in Europe from around 1660 (the triumph of the Burbon over the Habsburg and the return of the Stuarts to England) to 1815 (England's triumph over the Napoleon Paris and the Vienna Congress). (Spengler does take into account the difference of the English case from the European -- in England the local powers won!: toward mass-tyranny -- by saying that there society nationalized itself instead, that the nation was in the form of class rather than of state, that absolutism was there, not as a central authority, but in the form of class-delegation; "Dagegen bürgert sich society ein als Ausdruck dafür, daß die Nation ständisch, nicht staatlich in Form ist... Der Absolutismus ist vorhanden, aber er ist der einer Standesvertretung"; II, p. 489.) The state or supraorganism is observed at this stage to have enlarged its "boundaries" to include the commoners -- formerly neglected -- and its identity to have sunk into their level: we have considered this integration of the peripheral into the (centralized) state mechanism as supraorganismic advancement in growth. By now the transition to Civilization is in full swing. The nation-idea appears again, but it is this time the non-Estate (Nichtstand) which tries to embody the nation, and the dynastic house -- this second Fronde, as Spengler names it, is the inverse of the first -- has to enlist the help of the nobilities to counter the former's insurgence. This is the time of French Revolution. The supraorganism is seen to have at last integrated all of itself, save that, now, the formerly neglected peripheral elements, commonly called the "Third Estate" (le tiers état), swelling up the new urban centers, themselves pour into the state at the center. Spengler describes them as "form-hating", i.e. they want freedom from all: "frei nämlich von den Hemmungen des erdverbundenen Lebens, seien es Rechte, Formen oder Gefühle, der Geist frei für jede Art von Kritik, das Geld frei für jede Art von Geschäft" (II p. 504; "free, namely, from the constraints of an earth-bound life, whether it be in rights, forms, or feelings; the intellect free for every kind of criticism, money free for every kind of business-dealing") and they are willing to install dictatorship in order to protect this freedom. The apprehension created among many by such "formlessness" allows for the rise of a "formless power" (formlos Gewalt) -- power without constitutional limits, hitherto unattained by any legitimate leader: what Spengler names as Napoleonism, after the most famous case of it. (As the classical parallel -- as belonging to the same stage in the classical life-cycle: as "contemporaneous" -- he sees Alexander.) The embodiment of this power, the army, becomes a power for itself and it is not clear if the state is its master or instrument. ("Von nun an ist der Geist des Heeres eine politische Macht für sich und es wird eine sehr ernste Frage, bis zu welchem Grade der Staat Herr oder Werkzeug der Soldaten ist"; II p. 508). Finally, Napoleonism transits to Caesarism, with which Civilization ends. At this time the traditional way of governing "through style and tact" completely gives way to the personal dictatorship without constitutional restraint ("...den Übergang vom Regieren im Stil und Takt einer strengen Tradition zu dem sic volo, sic jubeo des schrankenlosen persönlichen Regiments"; II, p. 525). Inter-state conflicts intensify and are entangled with inner-state revolutions, and these revolutions are always about power-grab.
Cäsarismus nenne ich die Regierungsart, welche trotz aller staatsrechtlichen Formulierung in ihrem Wesen wieder gänzlich formlos ist. Es ist gleichgültig, ob Augustus in Rom, Hoangti in China, Amosis in Ägypten, Alp Arslan in Bagdad ihre Stellung mit altertümlichen Bezeichnungen umkleiden. Der Geist dieser alten Formen ist tot. Und deshalb sind alle Institutionen, sie mögen noch so peinlich aufrecht erhalten werden, von nun an ohne Sinne und Gewicht. Bedeutung hat nur die ganz persönliche Gewalt... (II, p. 541).
By "Caesarism" I mean the kind of government which, despite all its constitutional formulation, is in essence again formless. It does not matter that Augustus in Rome, Hwang-ti in China, Amasis in Egypt and Alp Arslan in Baghdad disguised their position under antique forms. The spirit of these forms are dead. And so are all institutions, however they may be carefully maintained, from then on without meaning and weight. Only wholly personal power has meaning...
After Caesarism, history, Spengler asserts, stops; political regimes may come and go, these being no more than repetition of what is already there.
Mit dem geformten Staat hat auch die hohe Geschichte sich schlafen gelegt. Der Mensch wird wieder Pflanze, an der Scholle haftend, dumpf und dauernd. Das zeitlose Dorf, der "ewige" Bauer treten hervor, Kinder zeugend und Korn in die Mutter-Erde versenkend, ein emsiges, genügsames Gewimmel, über das der Sturm der Soldatenkaiser hinbraust. (II, p. 546)
With the formed state, high history has also laid itself to sleep. Man becomes a plant again, adhering to the soil, dumb and enduring. The timeless village and the "eternal" peasant reappear, begetting children and burying seed in Mother Earth, an industrious, not inadequate swarm, over which the tempest of soldier-emperors passingly blows.
"Caesarism" as the end of historical development might sound dubious, but reflect for a moment, at least for now in the domain of the formation of nation-states. By the time of Civilization, the interaction sphere is becoming saturated, which results in more frequent interstate conflicts and induces greater integration in constituent states. As the wind of French Revolution blew eastward, one state after another, in order to compete on the world stage, reconstituted itself from agrarian kingdom into nation-state, with the dictator emerging wielding supreme power beyond all laws: Lenin-Stalin, Mao in China, Kim in North Korea. This is Caesarism, or at least one of its forms. Basically, tyranny. Only in the region west of the Revolution has the integration of the nation-state resulted in an impersonal, mechanized bureaucracy wielding supreme power (America).
Spengler's cycle of political forms in fact bears a certain resemblance to Plato's in Book VIII and IX of the Republic, as Voegelin has noted:
Not only Hellenic civilization, but civilizations in general, show something like a sequence of political forms which begins with heroic monarchy and aristocracy, then moves on to the rise of the Third Estate with its oligarchic problems, further on to the entrance of the masses into politics, and issues forth into the forms of plebiscitarian democracy and tyranny. However blurred the pattern may be in the various civilizations, it nevertheless is there. Moreover, the sequence is, on the whole, irreversible. Civilizations do not begin with a plebiscitarian tyranny and then move on to heroic aristocracy; they move from the rule of the Third Estate to mass democracy, but not in the opposite direction, and so forth. (Voegelin, ibid., p. 128)
Why is the process irreversible? Because a supraorganism grows from small to large but not from large to small; it integrates firstly those on the top or in the center, then those on the bottom or in the periphery. It is as common-sense as that.
The so-called Caesarism is in fact just an inaccurate depiction of the conclusion of supraorganismic self-organization in the milieu of an interaction sphere, when the interaction sphere has, following its natural course of evolution, become unified into a single supraorganism (the "unifier"), or when the supraorganism has, again, follwing its natural course of growth, reached the saturation point of integration (totalitarianism, whether in the form of dictatorship or of an impersonal bureaucracy). It is in these terms that we can explain the extraordinary parallel which Spengler has observed between Chinese and European history. China at the time of Spring and Autumn and Warring Kingdoms was just like Europe, divided up into a multitude of states which, just like the states of Europe, though frequently warring among themselves, were also tied up with one another by marriage relations among the royal houses and shared a common culture and writing system. Western Europe is similar to classical China because both realms were constituted as an interaction sphere, and the dynamics within an interaction sphere is the same everywhere. Moreover, just as the mutually warring and interacting European states (Germany, France, Netherlands, Italy) have all sprung from a common origin, i.e. Charlemagne's kingdom, so had all the kingdoms in the Chinese continent issued forth from the same Western Zhou "dynasty". After Zhou from the west defeated Shang of the east some time between 1122 and 1027 B.C., its royal house sent its members as governors to every one of the tribal "city states" that were formerly subservient to the Shang and which thus earlier made up the Shang domain (confederacy, kingdom, chiefdom), this being what is usually referred to as the Zhou "feudalism". As time passed, gradually, the former tribal domains each integrated themselves into true states or supraorganismic units and the Zhou royalties ruling in each of them became independent of the king of Zhou and of each other: the Zhou "dynasty" (Eastern Zhou) had by now splintered into a multitude of kingdoms just as Charlemagne's kingdom split off after his death into three kingdoms that were later to become France, Germany, and, in a way, Italy. Charlemagne in the European interaction sphere is therefore the equivalent of King Wu of Zhou in the Chinese interaction sphere: both brought the interaction spheres within which they operated to a new phase by creating a loose semblance of state which would again fragment into a more tightly organized interaction sphere. This is the true reason for their appearing as "contemporaneous". As the unit states within each interaction sphere became more conscious of their commonality -- interaction homogenizes, remember -- the sentiment that the interaction sphere should be unified as one state gradually took root in the minds of the people in each sphere. In China, where consciousness was still of the cosmological mode in Voegelin's words, this sentiment assumed the form of the spiritual ideology that, just as Heaven above was One, what was under it should also be One: "existence in the present under Heaven", the Chinese equivalent in differentiation of the historical mode to Israel's "existence in the present under God" (Voegelin, Israel and Revelation). In Europe, after Napoleon's belief in the Glory of France and Hitler's wish for an Aryan Europe, we have today the Pan-Europeanism of the New Rightists as the ideology for unification. Here Spengler sees Caesarism, but we have offered a common-sense description of the way in which people think and experience. With the ideology in place, the most powerful state within each of the interaction spheres then undertook to conquer and absorb all the others in order to unify its realm -- to unify everything (everything that counts, that is) as One. Shihwangdi of Qin succeeded in 221 B.C. in temporarily uniting the Chinese interaction sphere and Liu Bang (刘邦) after him, as the founder of the Han dynasty, permanently so. The European equivalent to Hwangdi is Napoleon, who succeeded in temporarily uniting a major part of the European interaction sphere; Hitler tried again and failed. It would seem that the parallel between Chinese and European history ceases at this point: the European interaction sphere is to be unified after all, not through the military effort of one of its constituent nation, but through the peaceful means of a European common market. If the human race can continue their existence on earth for several more millennia, then we can expect the European Union to emerge as a single nation in the same way in which China did since the establishment of the Han dynasty: a thousand year from now people -- both Europeans and non-Europeans -- would scarcely remember the distinction between a French man and a German man or between Spain and Italy, just as the distinction between a person of Qi (齐人) and one of Qin (秦人) or between the kingdom of Chu (楚) and that of Lu (鲁) barely makes any sense even to a contemporary Chinese. There will simply be "Europeans" just as there are today only "Chinese".
Culture vs. Civilization. The most perceptive on Spengler's part is certainly his description of the transition from Culture to Civilization. This is where his work proves enormously insightful. Nevertheless, we can explain all the details of this transition in terms of supraorganismic growth. Now, the most important physical feature of the new phase is urbanism. Spengler observes this transition to have taken place in classical times in the fourth century B. C. and in the West in the nineteenth century.
Von da an fallen die großen geistigen Entsheidungen nicht mehr wie zur Zeit der orphischen Bewegung und der Reformation in der "ganzen Welt", in der schließlich kein Dorf ganz unwichtig ist, sondern in drei oder vier Weltstädten, die allen Gehalt der Geschichte in sich aufgesogen haben und denen gegenüber die gesamte Landschaft einer Kultur zum Range der Provinz herabsinkt, die ihrerseits nur noch die Weltstädte mit den Resten ihres höheren Menschentums zu nähren hat. Weltstadt und Provinz... Statt einer Welt eine Stadt, ein Punkt, in dem sich das ganze Leben weiter Länder sammelt, während der Rest verdorrt... (I, p. 42 - 3).
From then on the great intellectual decisions take place, no longer as in the time of the Orphic movement and the Reformation in the "whole world", where strictly no village is wholly without importance, but in the three or four world-cities, which have absorbed into themselves the whole content of History, and against which the wide landscape of the Culture has sunk to the status of province, which on its side serves only to nourish the cities with the remains of its higher mankind. World-city and province... Instead of a world, a city, a point, in which the whole life of broad regions is collecting, while the rest dries up...
Urbanization, as noted in the analysis of the formation of classical patriarchy in China, is a function of the internal differentiation of the supraorganism, such as during the formation of the "head-function." In the case of the classical civilization, the Romans as autumn succeeded the Greeks as late summer, as the "Civilized" followed the "Cultivated" ("Cultured"). While the consciousness of the springtime is engrossed in understanding the world, in the ideas that explain and symbolically represent the order of the cosmos and its place in it and in other such ideas of deep meaning in its (not entirely dissipative) noosphere consumption -- this is what the deep religiosity of infancy amounts to -- the differentiation of consciousness continuing upon the Greek sophism -- i.e. in its downward dimension to which the masses belong -- has increasingly led to strict empiricism:
Seelenlos, unphilosophisch, ohne Kunst, rassehaft bis zum Brutalen, rücksichtlos auf reale Erfolge haltend... Ihre nur auf das Praktische gerichtete Einbildungskraft... [dieser] ist ein Zug, den man in Athen überhaupt nicht antrifft. Griechische Seele und römischer Intellekt -- das ist es. So unterscheiden sich Kultur und Zivilisation (I, p. 42).
Soulless, unphilosophical, without art, clannish to the point of brutality, aiming relentlessly at tangible successes... Their imagination directed solely toward the practical... [this] is something which one does not find in Athens at all. Greek soul and Roman intellect -- that is it. So culture and civilization distinguish themselves one from the other [in the matter of consciousness, in the dimension of the spiritual meaning of history].
With the urban phase of a civilization, i.e. when the interior of a supraorganism has differentiated into specialized organs -- the city focused on ever purer noosphere consumption and the production of the physical components of the supraorganism, and the provincial countryside concentrating on the production of foodstuff that is still of the biosphere level -- consciousness at the spiritual side of things has differentiated -- dissolving the personifying religiosity -- into a "rationalism", "jene Wachseinsgemeinschaft der Gebildeten, deren Religion in Kritik besteht und deren Numina nicht Gottheiten sind, sondern Begriffe" (p. 500; "that community of waking-consciousness in the educated, whose religion is criticism, and whose numina are no longer gods, but concepts"). The essence of the replacement of symbolizing religiosity by pragmatic empiricism and rationalism consists in the replacement of a personified cosmos conceived as an organism with a mechanical universe that is only a machine. We all vaguely know that people in the past -- say, in the European past of nineteenth and the eighteenth century -- put the emphasis of education on mastering the classics -- on Greek and Latin -- that taught morals and built virtuous character, while today we in America send sons and daughters to university only for training in a specialized skill with which to build some machine or cure some sick people like fixing a machine. The contrast is the same between Rome and Greece, an orientation toward mastering inanimate objects and conquering people as opposed to understanding and being a harmonious part of the sacred cosmos in high spirituality: "Nicht umsost verdachtete der echte Römer den Graeculus histrio, den 'Künstler', den 'Philosophien' auf dem Boden römischer Zivilisation. Künste und Philosophie gehörten nicht mehr in dieser Zeit; sie waren erschöpft, verbraucht, überflüssig... Es wäre sinnlos gewesen, wenn ein Römer von geistigem Range, statt als Konsul oder Prätor ein Heer zu führen, einen Provinz zu organisieren, Städte und Straßen zu bauen oder in Rom 'der erste zu sein', in Athen oder Rhodes irgendeine neue Abart der nachplatonischen Kathederphilosophie hätte aushecken wollen. Natürlich hat es auch keiner getan. Das lag nicht in der Richtung der Zeit..." (p. 59; "Not for nothing had the genuine Roman despised the Graeculus histrio, the kind of 'artist' and the kind of 'philosopher' to be found on the soil of Roman civilization. Art and philosophy no longer belong in this time; they were exhausted, used up, superfluous... It would have made no sense if a Roman of intellectual eminence, instead of as Consul or Praetor leading armies, organizing a province, building cities and roads, or 'being the first' in Rome, wanted to hatch out in Athens or Rhodes some new variant of post-Platonic school philosophy. Naturally no one did so. That was not in harmony with the tendency of the age..."). The Europeans would likewise see with disbelief an American student coming to Europe to study European philosophy and tradition, for they expect him or her to want to spread the gospel of computer software instead -- As the supraorganism advances toward mechanization, its constituents decline as spiritual, conscious being and become more and more like a computer mechanically executing commands and connected mechanically with all the other "computers" in the grand network of supraorganism.
|Ich sehe Symbole ersten Ranges darin, daß... in dem entvölkerten Athen, das von Fremdenbesuch und den Stiftungen reicher Ausländer... lebte, der Reisepöbel allzu rasch reich gewordener Römer die Werke der perikleischen Zeit begaffte, von denen er so wenig verstand wie die amerikanischen Besucher der Sixtinischen Kapelle von Michelangelo, nachdem man alle beweglichen kunstwerke fortgeschleppt oder zu phantastischen Modepreisen angekauft und dafür kolossale und anmaßende Römerbauten neben die tiefen und bescheidenen Werke der alten Zeit gesetzt hatte (I, p. 45).||I see a symbol of the greatest significance in the fact that... in depopulated Athens, which lived on visitors and on the bounty of rich foreigners... the mob of Roman tourists who became rich too quickly gaped at the works of the Periclean age, which they understood as little as the American visitors in the Sistine Chapel did the works of Michelangelo, after every removable art-piece has been taken away or bought at fancy prices and replaced by colossal and arrogant Roman buildings next to the low and modest structures of old time.|
America as Civilization succeeds Europe as Culture just as Rome succeeded Greece in this manner. This, even as Europe itself is turning "Civilized" -- but America is "Civilized" on a grander scale, with the majority of the people even more ignorant of the spiritual strand of history and more "intestinal" than the Europeans turned "Civilized", just as even while Athenians were becoming money-loving and power-hungry in opposition to the spirituality of Plato's Academy, the Romans that would conquer them later would be ever more so. But all this is only differentiation of consciousness considered in its downward dimension. The urban differentiation on the material side and rationalism and empiricism on the (downward) spiritual side of history together bring into being a new type of creature, the mob, the mass -- "Zur Weltstadt gehört nicht ein Volk, sondern ein Masses" ("To the world-city belongs not a 'people' [in the ethnic sense], but 'masses'"; p. 44) -- collected into the city from the remains of all classes of people, uprooted peasants, literati, ruined businessmen, derailed nobility (p. 498). The mass is the standardized, average person, as we recall Ortega y Gasset's characterization. The mass' homonoian collective consciousness is codified as "public opinion" (öffentliche Meinung; p. 499) but is in substance a "watered-down rationalism". The "watered-down rationalism" means: factually clever ("starkgeistig, vollkommen unmetaphysisch"), history-wise ignorant, pragmatic, i.e. devoted entirely to the business of money-making, i.e. interested only in things providing the body with comfort and satisfying consumption in the purely dissipative sense, whether of the mind or of the intestine, being entirely present-oriented, i.e. living the life of an intestine -- this type of human being results when urbanization organizes and distributes people into mechanical compartments as cogs -- atomization via the eclectic selection of people from all over to constitute a population -- and then nourishes their mind with the slogans of rationalism and their eyes with geometric environment made of concrete.
The internal differentiation of the supraorganism, the specialization of its parts into organs, as we have noted also in animal evolution, thus has this impact on consciousness by transforming the formerly cosmos- and life-symbolizing members of a living identity subsisting inside a organismic, living cosmos, into Mass Men and Mass Women, who, like cogs, mechanically and mindlessly perform their respective specialization and then, as biospheric and noospheric intestine, mechanically and mindlessly dissipate resources when off production. A second juncture at which a particular type of consciousness correlates with a particular supraorganismic physical configuration is established. Spengler's assessment of the masses that constitute the more internally differentiated supraorganism in early twentieth century as well as in classical time is decisively negative:
... statt eines formvollen, mit der Erde erwachsenen Volkes ein neuer Nomade, ein Parasit, der Großstadtbewohner, der reine, traditionslose, in formlos fluktuierender Masse auftretende Tatsachemensch, irreligiös, intelligent, unfruchtbar, mit einer tiefen Abneigung gegen das Bauertum (und dessen höchste Form, den Landadel), also ein ungeheuer Schritt zum Anorganischen, zum Ende -- was bedeutet das? Frankreich und England haben diesen Schritt vollzogen und Deutschland ist im Begriff, ihn zu tun. Auf Syrakus, Athen, Alexandria folgt Rom. Auf Madrid, Paris, London folgen Berlin und New York (I, p. 43).
... instead of a form-ful people grown of the soil, [there is] a new nomad, a parasite, dweller of big city, the pure, traditionless matter-of-fact mankind cohering in formless fluid masses, irreligious, clever, unfruitful, with a deep contempt for countryman (and the highest form thereof, the landed nobility), thus a great stride toward the inorganic, toward the end -- what does it mean? France and England have already taken this stride and Germany is beginning to do so. After Syracuse, Athens, and Alexandria, comes Rome. After Madrid, Paris, London, come Berlin and New York (I, p. 32).
What Spengler decries here is just the mechanization of the individual human being whose consciousness and self-awareness decreases as he or she blends ever into the Cormic whole in his or her specialization, becoming ever more inconspicuous and invisible. We have made similar comments in the foregoing critique of consumerism and consumerization, the last phase of Civilization. Spengler's notion of the transition from Culture to Civilization coincides with Ferdinand Tönnies's notion, in sociology, of modernity as the transition from Gemeinschaft -- the traditional organic community where everyone has grown up with, and knows, everyone else -- to Gesellschaft -- "the more alienating, individualist society", the human aggregate as mentioned (Fulbrook, ibid., p. 145). The wide-spread perception of the decay of morals during the Imperial time of Germany (1890 - 1918) and the time of Weimar Republic (Fulbrook, p. 170) -- a perception which Spengler evidently shared -- was simply a lamentation about the decline of human relationship: that -- to use Aristotle's concepts again -- whereas genuine friendship based on virtue is frequent under Gemeinschaft or Culture, under Gesellschaft or Civilization relationship based on utility and pleasure is rather the norm. In the urban setting, during the production phase of capitalism as well as during its consumption phase, people relate to each other with the same ends-and-means rationality as they do to machines, thus aligning themselves with the increasing mechanization of supraorganismic functionings (bureaucratization in government and institutions and mechanization in industries). Again, the objectification of human beings results in the increase of criminality during the period of formative capitalism just as it does under late capitalism (consumerism).
Urbanization, abstract ideas, the mob -- a fourth feature of Civilization is the increasing specialization of the medium of exchange into a self-contained domain. "Neben den abstrakten Begriffe erscheint das abstrakte, von den Urwerten des Landes abgelöste Geld" (II p. 501; "Besides the abstract concepts appears the abstract money, divorced from the prime values of the land"). The specialization of money hastens the metabolism of the supraorganism and so endows it with greater power than that possessed by other supraorganisms in which money is less specialized: "Das Geld als anorganische, abstrakte Größe, von allen Beziehungen zum Sinn des fruchtbaren Bodens, zu den Werten einer ursprünglichen Lebenshaltung gelöst -- das haben die Römer vor den Griechen voraus." (I p. 44: "Money as inorganic, abstract magnitude, loosened from all relations with the notion of fruitful earth, with primitive values of the sustenance of life -- it is here that the Romans have advantages over the Greeks").
Originally money is made through the production of merchandise and produce to satisfy buyers' needs. As the profit margin enlarges, there exists then surplus for distribution to parasitical ways of money-making, such as speculating on and distribution of these merchandise and produce (the speculators, investors, and middle-men). At this point money has become increasingly detached from the fruits of the land and the products of the hand it was originally devised to "represent". There has now come a point where money is made simply by moving products and eventually money itself around. Disaster is set up when the production money is supposed to represent withers away or is removed to foreign lands, and the parasitical ways of money-making become even more widespread because there is no way to make money through the "traditional" way of satisfying others' needs. The metabolism of the supraorganism, i.e. the economy of the nation, is effectively hollowed out and poised for collapse.
This demands special attention because the old age and decay which Spengler sees in Civilization or Gesellschaft are not the physical old age and decay of a supraorganism. For him, when history comes to an end, the civilization which embodies it is still physically existent, though the development of its politics ceases and its culture is dead. In other words, the old age and decay he specifies for the winter phase are only in the spiritual domain of history. We will however posit a more radical notion of supraorganismic aging, decay, and death: the physical kind. When a civilization, or a true supraorganism that is a constituent nation thereof, reaches the maximum height of its military and metabolic (i.e. economic) might -- its physical power -- its metabolism (economy) will literally start overstraining itself and hollowing out as sign of old age, and will soon collapse altogether, resulting in the physical death of the supraorganism, such as the extinction of the Roman Empire. This is how a linear development of supraorganismic growth eventually produces the cyclic appearance of supraorganismic decay and death while it in the beginning allows for supraorganismic ascendancy. We will explore below this physical life-cycle of supraorganism in more detail and also this concept of "system-collapse."
Not only does a "civilization", that is, an interaction sphere, as a material (i.e. physiological) entity, seem to go through a life cycle, but so do the individual nations -- supraorganisms proper -- which comprise it. This results in the phenomenon that a full cycle of life of a civilization is not lived out by the same region therein but its successive stages are expressed by successive nations through some sort of relay. Up to the Renaissance, the economic (i.e. metabolic) vitality of the West -- the material strand of its history -- was centered in the Mediterranean coast (Italy), and the major noosphere developments in art and intellect that make up the spiritual strand of Western history all took place there. After the battle of Lepant, Italy declined, and the center for both the economic and cultural (spiritual) vitality of the West shifted to the Northwestern region.5 The Netherlands was the next commercial empire up to the 1600s, but it soon lost it to England, which together with France became the dominant economic, military, and cultural powers of the West, i.e. they had now become the representatives through which the Western development in the material and spiritual domain of history took place. England especially so in the material domain with its Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s. But by late 1800s its leadership in industrial capacity was snatched up by Germany6 (in the same way in which the manufacturing leadership of United States was taken over by Japan in the 1970s, and of Japan by Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea in the late 1980s, and of these by China in late 1990s). Germany then became the representative of the Western development in both the material and spiritual domain, with the most advanced engineering and military technology7 and becoming the world-leader in all fields of scholarship, from physical sciences through mathematics to all disciplines of humanities.8 Consequently, up till World War II, while French subsisted as the language of culture and diplomacy, German became the language of scholarship in general which every educated person in the Western world was expected to know. After World War II the United States took over the role of being the representative through which the Western "life-cycle" unfolds itself, continuing the Western development: the model of Western capitalist industrialized nation-state has here ascended into a consumerist, computerized techno-state, and the mass-culture of European nation-state has at last differentiated and degenerated -- as it enlarges its scope to include even greater, in fact, all, portion of the populous -- into pop-culture; and as the nation has become the most powerful in the world in both economic and military terms and its pop-culture converted the rest of the planet, it has also assumed leadership in the intellectual domain (though academia has followed its natural course of development, i.e. degeneration, to have become, here and everywhere else of course, the consumerist type characterized by specialization), American universities becoming the best in the world, and English supplanting German as the language of scholarship and French as the language of diplomacy.9 With a massive amount of surplus energies made available for noosphere development, as mentioned earlier, the United States has also replaced Europe as the site where the further development of Western art, that is, its final phases of degeneration, take place: Pollack and Warhol are American "masters".
All individual nations as true supraorganisms follow the same path of supraorganismic life-cycle even as they relay to convey the total life-cycle of the civilization (interaction sphere) of which they are parts. Greece moved toward the urbanization phase in the material domain and toward the differentiation of consciousness in the correlative (usually downward) spiritual domain (from personal toward abstract, empirical, mechanical thinking: Milesian Presocratics, the sophists, Herodotus), but not too far into these when Rome conquered it; and, taking over the development, Rome continued down the path of urbanization and mechanical thinking ("rationalism"): e.g. Lucretius, who asserted that natural phenomena could be explained entirely in terms of the mechanical causality inherent in them without reference to gods and who represented the budding of the structural perspective in the classical world. As the Hellens grew into rationalism, the Romans grew even further into it, such that the former appeared as Culture to the latter. But Rome did not move as far as later Europe would: it never broke through to industrialization, though its metropolitan cities were quite similar to the European cities of the Civilization phase. It then suffered "system collapse", and the Germanic people started the development afresh, from the springtime of Culture, until it surpassed Rome in urbanism and rationality, completed the structural perspective, and developed nation-state bureaucratism. (In respect to the last it diverged into an Anglo-American path on one side and a Continental path on the other.)
To conclude, there is indeed a definite way in which human collective consciousness and society always evolve, and both Hegel and Spengler tried to grasp this "way" but never quite succeeded in so doing. Voegelin and we, we assert, have grasped it correctly. The succession of human cultures' representations of reality and of themselves Voegelin has grasped correctly as the history of order, and it is this which Hegel attempted to grasp but failed in his development of the Spirit and concern with freedom; out of the ruin of his theory we are however left with some valuable insights into the working of history and the interiorization and growth of consciousness, the latter of which contemporary psychologists and theorists such as Lawrence Kohlberg and Ken Wilber have expressed with better words. Spengler had noticed the effect of the differentiation of consciousness which Voegelin has noted as at work especially in the domain of philosophy -- as when the symbolism for the mystic experience of transcendence congeals into propositional metaphysics -- but which we see at work also in art; and he had described it, without knowing the cause for it, as the replacement of organic, living experience with mechanical, dead intellectuality during the transition from Culture to Civilization. He did not know the cause, i.e. the differentiation of consciousness, and consequently objectified the phenomenon as the organic decay of a culture. He also did not discover that self-organization and internal differentiation of a society, as a universal trend, can account for the universal pattern of social, political, and economic development he noticed everywhere he looked, and he similarly objectified this pattern in terms of the organic growth and decay of any state.
The life-cycle of language as independent of the supraorganismic life-cycle
The language belonging to a society serves three purposes: (1) as the vehicle for the spiritual meaning of history; (2) as the primary force binding the constituents into a supraorganismic unit; and (3) in this way as the vehicle for supraorganismic consciousness, i.e. for the collective consciousness of a society, Geist in Hegel's words, or "public opinion" in Spengler's.
More conspicuously than do supraorganisms and civilizations does language appear to have a life-cycle. The questions then arise as to (1) whether the life-cycle of a language is correlated with the (material) life-cycle of the supraorganism to which it belongs and (2) whether the linguistic life-cycle -- insofar as its stages of youth, maturity, and old age are characterized by respective linguistic typological structures or parameters (see below) -- determines the content of the collective consciousness (that is, whether language structure determines thought: a long-standing question). It seems that both questions will have to be answered in the negative. This means that on top of the life-cycles of the material and spiritual being of a supraorganism or civilization floats another life-cycle with no connection with the former.
The image of the life-cycle of languages arose during the formative period of Indo-European linguistics (what was known as "philology" at the time and became later on the basis for historical linguistics). The history of the constitution of Indo-European linguistics under the first-generation of Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel, Rasmus Rask, Franz Bopp, and Jacob Grimm is briefly summarized in Merrit Ruhlen's A Guide to the World's Languages, p. 39 - 48, and analyzed as to its condition of possibility (in the episteme of a culture) in Foucault's Les mots et les choses (English translation The Order of Things), p. 292 - 313. The figure however who has championed the view of linguistic life-cycle and who is therefore our principal concern is August Schleicher. "Of the second-generation Indo-Europeanists, no one was more colorful, or controversial, than the German August Schleicher. Originally trained as a botanist, Schleicher considered language a living organism, and linguistics a branch of natural sciences" (Ruhlen, p. 44). He is in the domain of language what Spengler is in the domain of culture, nation, and civilization.
Indo-European linguistics in the first half of the nineteenth century was dominated by "the related beliefs that (a) languages, like plants and animals, pass through periods of growth, maturity, and decay; and (b) the relative 'stage' of a language could be determined by its structural type. Schleicher was a major advocate of both views, as was the German diplomat Wilhelm von Humboldt" (Ruhlen, p. 46). Humboldt was the one who put forward a classification of the world's languages into the three types of isolating (analytical), agglutinating, and inflectional (fusional). (An isolating language is one where most words consist of a single morpheme and have but one form, where time, person, number, mood, and voice for verbs and case for nouns are expressed periphrastically, where, that is, syntax has replaced grammar; an inflectional or fusional language is one where words involve several morphemes, where time, person, number, mood, and voice for verbs and case for nouns are expressed through their inflections; and an agglutinating language is one where these meanings are expressed through affixes -- more often suffixes than prefixes -- to verbs and nouns, where therefore the boundaries between morphemes within a word are clearly distinguishable.) This system is a classification only, that is, the system is synchronic. But just as Haeckel turns Linnaeus' synchronic classification of organisms into a diachronic system reflecting evolutionary history -- e.g. plesiadapids, instead of being a simpler form next to the more complex type of platyrrhines, are now also the ancestral form to the latter -- so Schleicher turns Humboldt's synchronic classification into a diachronic system of lineages -- the structurally "simpler" isolating form is now seen as ancestral to the structurally more complex agglutinative form, from which has then developed the most complex of all, the inflectional type. "Schleicher believed that throughout pre-history (that is, roughly up to the time when I-E [i.e. Proto-Indo-European] was spoken) human languages, like species, had been gradually progressing in complexity and sophistication. I-E [the most inflectional, most complex language in human history] supposedly represented the 'mature' stage of language development, followed in the last several thousand years by various degrees of decay and decline in different branches. Languages other than I-E were presumed to have advanced at different rates, some having remained in a primitive state (e.g. Chinese [a 'living fossil', in other words]), while others had progressed to a stage intermediate between primitive Chinese and advanced I-E (e.g. Turkish, Hungarian [or Japanese]). Whether a language was advanced or primitive depended on its structural type, according to which isolating languages like Chinese were taken to be the primitive stage of language development, agglutinating languages like Turkish and Hungarian were seen as an intermediate stage, and inflectional languages such as I-E represented the highest stage. Both of these theories are today discounted" (Ruhlen, p. 47 - 8). It can be seen that for Schleicher the direction of the complexification of language coincides exactly with that of the complexification of the Spirit (toward subjective freedom) in Hegel's philosophy of history: from East to West. Ruhlen goes on to explain that, firstly, these three fundamental types of languages or languages classified in any other criteria (e.g. in terms of having complex or simple consonant or vowel systems or intricate or simple pronominal systems) are always equally efficient in communicating so that all languages are regarded as "equal" by contemporary linguists, and that, secondly, since the commencement of 1870s, when the second period of Indo-European linguistics started, "it was realized that human languages spoken, say, 5,000 years ago (e.g. I-E) did not differ in any fundamental way from contemporary languages" (ibid.). In particular, contemporary research reveals, firstly, that Proto-Indo-European is probably not as inflectional as has been thought but agglutinational (or in-between agglutinational and inflectional) with OV syntax, and its daughter languages -- Sanskrit, Iranian, Latin, Greek, Proto-Germanic -- apparently develop inflections independently10; and, secondly, that, "the modern Chinese languages, which were usually cited as the chief example of the pure isolating type, derive from an Old Chinese that was apparently inflectional" (Ruhlen, p. 48 - 9).11 Instead of evolution, contemporary linguists speak of "change". The picture, championed by Schleicher, of a linear ascendancy and decline from one to the other of these three fundamental structural types is today replaced by a view of a cycle of change from one to the other and then back again to the one. As R. M. W. Dixon summarizes:
There is in fact a cycle of change, by which a fusional language can develop into one of the isolating type, an isolating language can become agglutinative, an agglutinative language may move towards a fusional profile, and so on.
Languages change in a number of different ways. These include: (1) phonological change, which is predominantly simplifying and reducing, e.g. consonant clusters may be simplified, unstressed vowels may be omitted (which may give rise to newly complex consonant clusters that will in turn be simplified over time), and so on. This leads to and interrelates with (2) morphological simplification where, for instance, inflectional markers may be omitted from the end of a word. These two kinds of change are illustrated in the development from Old English to Modern English: first, final m and n fell together, the final nasals were dropped, then a, o, u and e in inflectional endings were neutralized as a central vowel... These changes were largely responsible for the loss of all case endings on nominals (save for genitive) and of almost all of the portmanteau inflections on verbs that combined information on tense with specification of the person and number of the subject. We also get (3) morphological amalgamation -- separate roots being put together to form complex stems -- and augmentation -- what were distinct words being "grammaticalised" as new affixes, e.g. postpositions becoming cases. (At the same time, of course, there is also semantic change, the shift of meaning of roots, affixes, and construction types; this does not play so direct a role in moving a language round the cycle of change.)
A language with an isolating profile will tend to become more and more agglutinative through the operation of (3), morphological amalgamation and augmentation; what were syntactic modifiers or relators will develop into bound morphological elements. Then, from an agglutinative profile, the operation of (1), phonological change, will effectively preserve the same morphological elements but fuse their realizations -- here omitting a vowel, then blending two adjacent segments into one (e.g. ai -> e, md -> n). Through the further application of (1), interrelating with (2), morphological simplification, a fusional language will tend to lose its truncated inflectional and derivational impedimenta, and develop into the isolating type.
For every language family that has been studied in detail, a clear progression around some part of this cycle is evident. We can refer to the fusional type as the twelve o'clock position, to isolating as four o'clock and to agglutinative as eight o'clock. Proto-Indo-European [or rather, the early, classical Indo-European languages such as Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit] was [were] at about twelve o'clock but modern branches of the family have moved, at different rates, towards a more isolating profile (some to one or two o'clock, others toward three o'clock). Early [or rather, Classical] Chinese is thought to have been at about three o'clock.... while modern Chinese dialects are acquiring a mildly agglutinative structure, towards five o'clock. Proto-Dravidian was on the isolating side of agglutinative, at about seven o'clock, and modern Dravidian languages have moved around the cycle towards nine o'clock. Proto-Australian can be placed at about seven o'clock; modern languages from the Pama-Nyungan group have become more agglutinative, at eight or nine o'clock, while the non-Pama-Nyungan groups have moved more radically, towards ten or eleven o'clock. Proto-Finno-Ugric may have been at around nine o'clock, with modern languages moving to ten or eleven o'clock. And so on. For Egyptian, which has a long recorded history, Hodge... documents a complete turn around the cycle; Old Egyptian (about 3000 BC) had a complex verb structure which included reference to person; most of these affixes were lost by late Egyptian (about 1000 BC), which used periphrastic construction involving auxiliaries; by the time of Coptic (AD 200 onwards) a new complex verb structure had evolved, using quite different forms from those of Old Egyptian. DeLancey... provides striking exemplification of cyclic changes affecting the verbal category "directive" in Tibeto-Burman languages (Ergativity, p. 182 - 4).
To speak of this cycle of change in organismic terms, as birth, maturity, old age, and death, would be anathema to contemporary linguists. But we wonder if there might indeed be a certain justification in so speaking.
When the first generation of Indo-Europeanists examined the roots of words in languages around the world, they discovered that these were in most languages (Indo-European, Turkish, Japanese, and others) invariably monosyllabic. Only the roots in Semitic languages were invariably bi-syllabic (tri-consonantal). And this the contemporary Nostraticists have discovered to be a secondary development. Over 10,000 years ago, in the Near East, before the separation of Afroasiatic from the main body of the Nostratic, the roots in this primitive language of the supra-family level were monosyllabic, and the Afroasiatic branch developed bi-syllabic roots after it had diverged from Nostratic and gone its own way.12
Since the classic age a view concerning the origin of human languages had developed based on this monosyllabicity of roots. Our primitive ancestors were imagined to be just awakening to the possibility of representation and thought and stumbling about in trying to name the things encountered in their environment with monosyllables -- bu, mu, tuh... "au XVIIIe siècle, la racine était un nom rudimentaire qui désignait, en son origine, une chose concrète, une représentation immédiate, un objet qui se donnait au regard ou à l'un quelconque des sens... " (Foucault, ibid., p. 301; "in the eighteenth century, the root was a rudimentary noun which designated, in its origin, a concrete thing, an immediate representation, an object which was given to the eye or to one of the senses").
Le langage se bâtissait à partir du jeu de ses caractérisations nominales: la dérivation en étendait la portée; l'abstraction faisait naître les adjectifs; et il suffisait alors d'ajouter à ceux-ci l'autre élément irréductible, la grande fonction monotone du verbe être, pour que se constitue la catégorie des mots conjugables...(ibid.).
Language was built up from the process of their nominal characterizations: derivation extended their range; abstraction caused adjectives to come into being; and it sufficed then to add to these another irreducible element, the grand monotonous function of the verb "to be", in order that the category of conjugable words be constituted...
Thus from the root sta, "standing" (a substantive), comes, through the addition of mi, "I am", tishtami in Sanskrit and istemi in Greek ("I stand"). By the time of the first-generation of Indo-Europeanists (Bopp), Foucault notes, the root was taken to be the verb itself, and the addition of the verbal "to be" qualified it as to person, tense, and number.
Les racines des verbes ne désignent donc pas à l'origine des "choses", mais des actions, des processus, des désirs, des volontés; et ce sont elles qui, recevant certaines désinences issues du verbe être et des pronoms personnels, deviennent susceptibles de conjugaison, tandis que, recevant d'autres suffixes, eux-mêmes modifiables, elles deviendront des noms susceptibles de déclinaison(p. 302).
The roots of verbs therefore do not designate at their origin "things", but actions, processes, desires, and volitions; and it is these which, receiving certain markers issuing from the verb "to be" and from personal pronouns, become susceptible of conjugation, while, receiving other suffixes, these themselves modifiable, they become nouns susceptible of declension.
Schleicher at last rendered the ancestors -- inexperienced as they were with thought during the infancy of their Wachsein -- as yet unable to distinguish between verbs and nouns, actions and names, and posited the purest isolating type as the form of the ancestral languages.
|Der Bau aller Sprachen weist darauf hin, daß seine älteste Form im wesentlichen dieselbe war, die sich bei einigen Sprachen einfachsten Baues (z. B. beim chinesischen) erhalten hat. Kurz, das, wovon alle Sprachen ihren Ausgang genommen haben, waren Bedeutungslaute, einfache Lautbilder für Anschauungen, Vorstellungen, Begriffe, die in jeder Beziehung, d. h. als jede grammatische Form fungieren konnten, ohne daß für diese Funktionen ein lautlicher Ausdruck, so zu sagen, ein Organ, vorhanden war. Auf dieser urältesten Stufe sprachlichen Lebens gibt es also, lautlich unterschieden, weder Verba noch Nomina, weder Conjugation noch Declination u. s. f. Versuchen wir diess wenigstens an einem einzigen Beispiele anschaulich zu machen. Die älteste Form für die Worte, die jetzt im Deutschen That, gethan, thue, Thäter, thätig lauten, war zur Entsehungszeit der indogermanischen Ursprache dha, denn diess dha ("setzen", "thun" bedeutend; altbaktrisch da, griechisch qe, litauisch und slawisch de, gothisch da, hochdeutsch ta) ergibt sich als die gemeinsame Wurzel aller jener Worte, was hier nicht weiter nachgewiesen werden kann... In etwas späterer Entwickelungsstufe des Indogermanischen setzte man, um bestimmte Beziehungen auszudrücken, die Wurzeln, die damals noch als Worte fungierten, auch zweimal, fügte ihnen ein anderes Wort, eine andere Wurzel, bei; doch war jedes dieser Elemente noch selbständig. Um z. B. die erste Person des Praesens zu bezeichnen sagte man dha dha ma, aus welchem im späteren Lebensverlaufe der Sprache durch Verschmelzung der Elemente zu einem Ganze und durch die hinzutretende Veränderungsfähigkeit der Wurzeln dha-dhâmi (altind. dàdhâmi, altbaktr. dadhâmi, griech. tiqhmi, althochdeutsch tôm, tuom für tetômi, neuhochdeutsch thue) hervorgieng. In jenem ältesten dha ruhten die verschiedenen grammatischen Beziehungen, die verbale und nominale sammt ihren Modificationen noch ungeschieden und unentwickelt, wie solches sich bis jetzt bei den Sprachen beobachten läßt, die auf der Stufe einfachster Entwickelung stehen geblieben sind. Eben so, wie mit dem zufällig gewählten Beispiele, verhält es sich aber mit allen Worten des Indogermanischen. (Die darwinische Theorie und die Sprachwissenschaft, 1863, p. 21 - 3)||The construction of all languages indicates that their oldest forms are essentially the same, which has been retained in some of the languages with the simplest construction (e.g. in Chinese). In short, that which serves as the point of departure for all languages is the "meaning sounds", simple sound-images for what is intuited or represented or conceptualized. These sound-images could function in whatever relationship, i.e. as whatever grammatical form, without an acoustic expression, so to speak an organ, being present for these functions. [Namely, Schleicher is describing the purest isolating type such as standard Chinese.] In this earliest stage of the life of language, there are, acoustically distinguished, neither nouns nor verbs, neither conjugation nor declination. Let us make this clear in at least one example. The earliest form for the words that appear in German as That, gethan, thue, Thäter, thätig is, at the time of the genesis of the Indo-Germanic proto-language, dha, for this dha (meaning "set", "do"; Old Bactrian da, Greek qe, Lithuanian und Slavic de, Gothic da, High German ta) presents itself as the common root for all these words which cannot here be further pointed out. In the somewhat later stages of the evolution of the Indo-Germanic language, one set down, in order to express determinate relationships, twice the roots which hitherto functioned as words, and added to them another word, another root, though each of these elements was still independent. In order for example to designate the first person of the present tense one said dha dha ma, from which sprang forth, in the later course of the life of the language, dha-dhâmi, through the fusion of elements into one single whole and through the root's capacity for alteration which appeared thence (Old Indic dàdhâmi, Old Bactrian, dadhâmi, Greek tiqhmi, Old High German tôm, tuom for tetômi, New High German thue). In that oldest dha, the different grammatical relationships, the verbal and the nominal together with their modifications, remained still undifferentiated and unevolved, just as such can be observed in those languages which have remained in the stage of simplest evolution. Even so, just as with the randomly chosen examples, such is the case with all the words of Indo-Germanic language.|
Schleicher did not believe in the monogenesis of all languages -- the descent of all languages from a single ancestor language -- but rather in their polygenetic origins -- that primitives everywhere built up their respective languages from isolating monosyllables independently from each other, some having gone far into the inflectional type, some not at all. We would like to make two points about Schleicher's theory. Firstly, in regard to that representative passage of nineteenth century linguistics he made above. Although this scenario concerning the origin of languages where primitives started talking by naming things around with monosyllables like infants learning to talk is today universally discredited, Schleicher did manage to describe in a rough manner the process, as explained by Dixon, by which an isolating language may evolve into an inflectional language via the intermediate stage of agglutination. Secondly, the "life course" he had conceived for a language -- growth from the immature isolating monosyllables to the maturity of inflection and then decay therefrom back to isolating -- corresponds exactly to one cycle of language-change as described by Dixon.
In another essay13 Schleicher isolated the advancement in civilization as the cause for the decay of its associated language. He noted the correlation that, the more advanced a civilization, the greater its accompanying language's loss of inflections, such that, within the Germanic world for instance, English had suffered the greatest loss of inflections in its nouns and verbs and had become the most isolating, while the English culture was the most advanced in thought, letters, and political forms, and that Icelandic had preserved most of the old Germanic grammar and was the most archaic, while the culture of Iceland was the most primitive. Spengler himself had posited a three-stage process similar to Schleicher's and had also associated the decay of grammar with advancement -- but this time with the advancement in thought.
|Die innere Geschichte der Wortsprachen zeigt demnach bis jetzt drei Stufen. Auf der ersten erscheinen innerhalb hochentwickelter, aber wortloser Mitteilungssprachen die ersten Namen als Größen eines neuartigen Verstehens. Die Welt erwacht als Gehemnis. Das religiöse Denken beginnt. Auf der zweiten wird nach und nach eine vollständige Mitteilungssprache in grammatische Werte umgesetzt. Die Geste wird zum Satz und der Satz verwandelt die Namen in Worte. Der Satz wird zugleich die große Schule des Verstehens gegenüber dem Empfinden, und das immer feinere Bedeutungsgefühl für abstrakte Beziehungen im Satzmechanismus ruft einen überquellenden Reichtum von Flexionen hervor, die sich vor allem an Substantiv und Verb, das Raumwort und das Zeitwort, heften. Es erscheint die Blütezeit der Grammatik, für die man -- mit großer Vorsicht -- vielleicht die zwei Jahrtausende vor Beginn der ägyptischen und babylonischen Kultur ansetzen darf. Die dritte Stufe wird durch einen raschen Flexionsverfall und damit den Ersatz der Grammatik durch die Syntax bezeichnet. Die Durchgeistigung des menschlichen Wachseins ist so weit vorgeschritten, daß es der Versinnlichung durch Flexionen nicht mehr bedarf und sich statt durch eine bunte Wildnis von Wortformen durch kaum merkliche Andeutungen im knappsten Sprachgebrauch (Partikel, Wortstellung, Rhythmus) sicher und frei mitteilen kann. Am Sprechen in Worten ist das Verstehen zur Herrschaft über das Wachsein gelangt; heute ist es im Begriff, sich vom Zwange des sinnlich-sprachlichen Mechanismus zugunsten einer reinen Mechanik des Geistes zu befreien. Nicht die Sinne, die Geister treten in Fühlung. (II, p. 174)||So far, then, the inner history of word-languages shows three stages. In the first there appear, within highly developed but wordless communication-languages, the first names as units of a new sort of understanding. The world awakens as a secret. The religious thinking begins. In the second stage, a complete communication-language is gradually transformed into grammatical values. Gesture becomes sentence, and sentence transforms names into words. At the same time the sentence becomes the great school of understanding vis-à-vis sensation, and an increasingly finer meaning-feeling for abstract relations within the mechanism of sentence evokes an overflowing richness of inflections, which attach themselves especially to the substantives and the verbs, to the space-words and the time-words. This is the blossoming time of grammar, which one may probably -- with great caution -- set down as [being the time of] two millennia before the birth of the Egyptian and Babylonian culture. The third stage is marked by a rapid decay of inflections and with it the replacement of grammar by syntax. The intellectualization of man's wakefulness has now proceeded so far that it no longer needs the sensationalizing by means of inflections and can more freely and surely communicate by means of the faintest nuances of idiom (particles, position of words, rhythm) instead of by means of the multifarious profusion of word-forms. By dint of speaking in words, understanding has attained supremacy over wakefulness; today it is in the process of freeing itself from the restrictions of sensible-verbal mechanism in favor of a pure mechanics of the intellect. Not senses, but minds are coming into contact (II, p. 145).|
It can be seen that Spengler correlated the rise of grammar with the emergence of organic religiousness and artistic sentimentality during the incipient phase of Culture, and its decay with the transition to mechanical, ends-and-means rationality of Civilization. Hegel conceived a similar correlation between the advancement in civilization and rationality and the decay of grammar.14 While any attempts -- not just these -- to correlate language structure with thought pattern or civilizational achievements are today dismissed by the community of linguists as laughable, we may consider here if Schleicher's and Spengler's evaluation of the decay of grammar might hold any anything of true that could be rescued, just as a grain of truth in respect the linearity of growth of consciousness was rescued from Hegel and the outline of the cyclicity of supraorganismic and cultural growth from Spengler.
While Dixon explains the loss of inflections as the result of phonological and morphological simplification induced by human laziness -- the standard explanation linguists give nowadays -- it is perhaps possible to find as well a restructuration of thought-process underlying these surface simplifications. We again suggest differentiation as the effect -- if not the cause -- of the grammatical thinning-out.
An inflectional language can be thought of as being characterized by a certain compactness and an isolating language, by a certain differentiation. Compare the Greek tiqhmi or qhsomai for example with their English translations, "I am putting" or "I will put myself". The inflectional constructions, the first person present progressive or the first person future middle voice, consolidates into one word, into one compact unit, all the information on person, number, mood (indicative as opposed to subjunctive), tense, aspect (progressive as opposed to preterite), and voice (active, middle, passive). The equivalent periphrastic constructions in English, however, differentiate all these as separate words: person and number expressed by "I", mood and tense by "am" and "will", aspect by the participial "putting", and the reflexivity by the reflexive pronoun "myself".
We now compare isolating languages with agglutinative languages, and we can see again that the agglutinative languages can be considered as characterized by a relative compactness in expression of thought. This is because agglutinative languages tend to be OV (object-verb: the object of the verb precedes the verb) in syntatical structure while isolating languages, VO. (In the study of linguistic typology the order of subject is generally considered irrelevant.) OV and VO syntactical structures define more than the relationship between the verb and its object, since OV tends to be associated with other word-order typological parameters: adjective-noun (AN), genitive-noun (GN), postposition as adposition, prenominal relative (relative construction preceding the noun: RN), tendency toward suffixing of grammatical markers, post-(main) verbal auxiliary, and the standard of comparison preceding the comparative ("than he bigger"); while VO tends to be associated with all the opposites of these: noun-adjective (NA), noun-genitive (NG), preposition rather than postposition, postnominal relative (NR), tendency toward prefixing of grammatical markers, preverbal auxiliary, and the standard of comparison coming after the comparative ("bigger than he"). The fusional or inflectional languages typically have a fluid syntactic order that escapes any generalization in terms of OV or VO, and are considered as the temporary transition from the type of OV agglutination to that of VO isolating (Winfred Lehmann, ibid.). People who have grown up in VO (relatively speaking) isolating languages such as English and French and who are learning languages with OV features half of the time, such as German, Mandarin Chinese, or Farsi, or languages that are completely OV and agglutinational, must have experienced the difficulty in thinking compactly.15 Consider a Japanese sentence which embodies the purest OV features:
This constitution (-topic) emperor based (-genitive) being drafted, people (-dative) granted thing such constitution (-genitive) form (-accusative) adopts
"This constitution adopts the form of a constitution of such sort, which, drafted on the basis [of the status] of the emperor, is [then] conferred upon the citizens." (Referring to the Constitution of Meiji Restoration.)
Diese Verfassung nehme die Gestalt an, welche, errichtet auf dem Stand des Kaisers, an Bürgeren verliehen wird.
In the VO syntax of English, the speaker, because the word "form" precedes the relative clause that modifies it, can in effect terminate his speech in the middle of the sentence, i.e. at "form", and yet be considered to have uttered a complete sentence ("This constitution adopts the form of such sort, period."). In the OV syntax of Japanese, however, the speaker does not have the liberty to break-off in the middle of the sentence without committing grammatical incorrectness. The German speaker has the same problem when it comes to subordinate clauses. The OV syntactic unit has a certain unity which the VO syntactic unit lacks. This demonstrates the differentiatedness of English, where the modified word-component in effect has a sort of autonomy from the modifying word-component(s), and the compactness of Japanese, where it does not. The thought embodied in an OV sentence cannot be broken apart, is therefore characterized by a certain compactness, and requires consequently greater effort on the part of the speaker for its expression.
Now to sum up. The simplification that gradually transforms an inflectional language into an isolating one can thus be additionally characterized as a process of differentiation, and the simplification ("fusing") which gradually transforms an isolating VO language into an OV agglutinational one, and an agglutinational language into an inflectional one, as a process of compactification. What we want to suggest is that there is an objective factor which can serve as justification for considering the process of compactification as uphill, as maturation, and that of differentiation as downhill, as decay, and that this factor is -- again from our thermodynamic perspective -- the opposition of difficulty vs. ease.
Although every language functions as efficiently as a means of communication as every other language, whatever its type, it is widely known that it is much harder for someone speaking a more or less isolating language as native tongue such as English or Chinese to learn an inflectional language such as Greek and Latin than the other way round. The sheer complexity of Greek and Latin is what enabled, during the time of the missionary zeal of Counter-Reformation, the Jesuit missionaries who were thoroughly trained in these two languages to learn with ease a dozen of East Asian languages, whether Chinese or Austric, analyze them and compile their grammar, and translate the Bible into them. Experienced cosmopolitans also understand that, as mentioned, it is easier for German speakers to learn English than it is for English speakers to learn German.
Take a look again at Dixon's cycle. If what is difficult in thought and expression is regarded as the phase of nobility and maturity, and what is easy as the phase of vulgarity and decay, then the path of language-change from isolating through agglutination to fusion (from four o'clock to twelve o'clock) would indeed figure as growth from infancy to adulthood, and that from fusion back to isolating as aging and decay: the language is dead at four o'clock, having completed one full turn of its life-cycle, and is reborn at this point for another. Schleicher's organismic paradigm for languages is thus rescued, and Spengler's notion of language-decay as signifying some sort of advancement is confirmed to the extent that the differentiation of language has allowed the easier-for-thought periphrastic means to replace the cumbersome grammatical means, without affecting the communication of meaning. They both err however in taking one complete cycle as a linear process with a beginning and an end, which is not preceded nor followed by another repetition of the process. Schleicher also errs in taking the Chinese language as stagnant at the beginning stage of the cycle, when in fact it has decayed into its isolating state just as Western European languages -- especially English -- are about to do. (Classical Chinese of the Warring Kingdoms Period in fact exhibits close affinity to contemporary English in syntax and in the amount of inflections still retained. It is therefore reasonable to expect that English will decay into a pure isolating type in the next 500 to 1000 years.)
Linguists who want to refrain from passing value judgment on language-change -- that a language's changing to an easier-to-use state is its decadence and its changing to a difficult-for-thought state is its ascendancy or maturation -- should consider the fact that a language changes when its speakers make grammatical mistakes so often that the mistakes become the norm ("correct"), and that teachers and professors, they themselves included, do not tolerate their students' grammatical mistakes as simply value-neutral change -- "Oh, every language is in a state of flux anyway." They do not tolerate it because the current "flux" in the Western world is downhill -- the loss of established grammatical inflections and distinctions (e.g. "Me and daddy went to...", where the distinction between subject and object is being replaced by the distinction between emphatic and non-emphatic pronouns) or the disintegration of grammatical logic (such as the already evident disintegration of relative clause in English, e.g. "They gave me this thing that I don't know what it is". In Farsi the disintegration of relative clause is so complete that its broken form is now grammatically standard, e.g. in Farsi one can only say "The man that I gave this book to him is not here" (mard-i-keh man in ketāb-rā be ou dād injā nist).) Professors' intolerance of their students' grammatical mistakes is in effect the same as the classicism of the Medieval and Byzantine scholars (writing in classical Latin and Greek instead of the vernacular Roman and Greek languages) or of the Medieval Chinese scholars for that matter (writing in classical Chinese syntax instead of vernacular): the downhill state is distinctly unpleasant and inelegant to the ear, and the old, uphill state beautiful and difficult. The elegance of a language is not simply the product of a groundless subjective judgment. The aesthetic judgment we pass on languages -- as when we praise the superior beauty of Greek and Latin in comparison with modern languages, or when early nineteenth century Indo-Europeanists considered Sanskrit and Greek to be superior to the contemporary Chinese language -- is supported by their difficulty or easiness for mastery and by the tightness or looseness of logical thinking embodied in their grammar.
Another mistake in Schleicher's theory is his correlation between the differentiation of language and cultural advancement. Although it is a common tendency to think that a differentiated language, being "easier to utilize", would facilitate the development of science and abstract thought, while a language which is compact in structure and therefore difficult to master would hinder such development -- Chinese linguists just after the communist revolution in another respect for example thought that the complicated and difficult Chinese writing system would hinder scientific thought -- in reality there is no correlation between the development of science and so on on the one hand and the differentiation of language or the ease of its expression and scripting on the other. English is more differentiated than German, yet from nineteenth century up to World War II more advancement in abstract sciences were mediated by German than by English or by any other language, and up to the modern era Latin, one of the most complex and cumbersome languages in the world, was the standard medium for scientific thought. Think of Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which, written in Latin, contains some of the most abstract thoughts of humanity. The Chinese revolutionary linguists have similarly been proven wrong, as ideograms are now known to represent scientific facts and abstract thoughts just as well as an alphabetical system. (Also disproven in this connection is "the medium is the message" school of thought, such as Robert K. Logan who wrote The Alphabet Effect.) Furthermore, one must not think that the abstraction in vocabulary would have any bearing on the fostering of abstract thought, as the relatively more concrete vocabulary of German (e.g. Wasserstoff, "water-stuff" for the rather abstract "hydrogen" in English, derived from Greek) has not prevented German's becoming the language of scholarship in nineteenth century. Empirical evidences thus disprove at once any common-sense belief both in the influence of language structure on thought and in the correlation between the decay of language structure on the one hand and "the decay to Civilization or Gesellschaft" on the other, or, rather, they confirm the flexibility of languages, even those of the simplest structure, in adapting to even the most complex and abstract thoughts.
What this non-correlation between the life-cycle of language and the life-cycle of civilization means is that the birth, maturity, decay, and death of a language constitutes a self-contained realm with no effect on world-history. It is extraneous to the fate of a civilization or a nation, says nothing of it, and is worth studying purely for its own sake.
1. Texts of Hegel's philosophy of history are: Die Vernunft in der Geschichte, herausgegeben von Johannes Hoffmeister, Verlag von Felix Meiner (Hamburg), 1955. English translation by H. B. Nisbet, Reason in History, with introduction by Duncan Forbes: Cambridge University Press, 1975. French translation, La raison dans l'histoire, traduction, introduction, et notes par Kostas Papaioannou, 1965. For a short summary of Hegel's philosophy, see Robert S. Hartman's introduction in his translation of Reason in History, Liberal Arts Press, 1953. T. Z. Lavine in From Socrates to Sartre: The Philosophic Quest offers a watered down summary of Hegel's philosophy for the beginners. See also the introduction to Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte (1837). For the meaning of the Absolute as Being, as the conserved total of all reality, as the conserved substratum of existence, like "the total amount of energy in the universe", see Scientific Enlightenment.
2. With his eye on the spiritual meaning of history, Hegel is interested here in how geography may help develop a people's spiritual consciousness of freedom, not their material culture. Neither areas where the weather is too hot nor those where it is too cold are good for the development of spiritual consciousness, but areas where it is just right. He then comes to essentially the same observation as Diamond's in regard to the favorableness of the Northern area:
... daß die Erde gegen Norden die Breite bildet, gegen Süden sich zerteilt, in die mannigfaltigsten Spitzen auseinanderläuft wie Amerika, Asien, Afrika. Dasselbe Moment zeigt sich in den Naturprodukten. Jene nördliche, zusammenhängende Land hat... eine Menge von Naturprodukten gemeinschaftlich: die weitere Partikularisation findet sich in den auslaufenden Spitzen. So ist in botanischer und zoologischer Hinsicht die nördliche Zone die wichtigste; in ihr werden die meisten Tier- und Pflanzenarten gefunden; im Süden, wo das Land sich in Spitzen teilt, individualisieren sich auch die Naturgestalten gegeneinander.
... that earth toward the north has breadth, but toward the south is fragmented, and is divided into multifarious points like America, Asia, Africa. The same element is seen in natural products. The northern, continuous land has... a quantity of natural products in common: the greatest particularization is found in the mutually separate points. So is from the botanical and zoological point of view the northern zone the most important; in it are found the greatest number of animal and plant species; in the south, where the land is divided into points, the natural forms also are individualized one against another. (Die Vernunft in der Geschichte, p. 191)
Hegel then enumerates three types of geography: the high-land for the nomads, the fluvial plain for the great Asiatic civilizations (e.g. China), and the sea-coast (e.g. Western Europe). The sea-coast according to him is the most conducive for the development of freedom because seafaring encourages the development of bravery, cunningness, and independence.
3. Der Untergang des Abendlandes, I & II, C.H. Beck'sche München, 1920, 1922, and 1923; English translation, The Decline of the West, by Charles Francis Atkinson, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1926; abridged edition: Helmut Werner (Editor), H. Stuart Hughes (Introduction), Arthur Helps (Translator), Charles Francis Atkinson (Translator), Oxford University Press, 1991. For a short summary of the ideas of Spengler's classic, see David L. McNaughton's Oswald Spengler and World History. See also Collingwood's critique, ibid. Pegasos has a short biography of Spengler. Donald N. Levine, in "The Organism Metaphor in Sociology", Social Research, Summer, 1995, offers a critique of the use of organism metaphor in the study of human society. The critique does not include a review of Spengler, however.
4. A biography of Claude Lorrain can be found at Encarta and at Web Gallery of Art
5. Fernand Braudel, La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II, vol. 2.
6. German manufacturers sacrificed quality in order to turn out cheap products quickly, analyzed the taste, needs, and desires of the particular markets, and made, e.g. cheap knives with colored handles and poor blades which market-analysis indicated would sell better than the British knives with somber black handles and excellent blades. This is how Germany beat the "workshop of the world" (Britain). Walter Hall, Robert Albion, and Jennie Pope, The History of England and the British Empire, p. 832 - 4. The rapid and massive industrialization of Germany was however temporarily interrupted by the bubble-burst of 1873; full-recovery by 1890 initiated the second phase of Germany's industrialization. C. f. Fulbrook, ibid.
7. During the Franco-Prussian war of 1879, the Germans demonstrated the superiority of the centralized military command system they had invented: the General Chief of Staff. The Japanese thus adopted the German system instead of the French. Meirion and Susie Harries, The Soldiers of the Sun.
8. This is thanks to the superior quality of German universities. See Thomas Nipperdey's Deutsche Geschichte, 1866 - 1918, Bd. I. Arbeitswelt und Bürgergeist, Verlag C. H. Beck (1990), p. 604. German scholars' extremism in the pursuit of scholarship is illustrated by the saying that German historians would traverse the ocean in order to verify a comma. Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession, 1988.
9. Most of the pre-World War II European learnings have been absorbed into American academia in the form of English translations. The massive exodus of European intellecutals to the United States during World War II represents the relay of European -- especially German -- intellectual leadership to America.
10. See Winfred Lehmann, Proto-Indo-European Syntax, Austin & London: University of Texas Press, 1974.
11. Frequently the tones are derived from the fusion of prefixes and suffixes with the word itself. See Nicholas C. Bodman, "Proto-Chinese and Sino-Tibetan: Data Towards Establishing the Nature of the Relationship" in Frans van Coetsem and Linda R. Waugh, eds., Contributions to Historical Linguistics: Issues and Materials. Leiden, 1980.
12. Allan R. Bomhard and John C. Kern, The Nostratic Macrofamily (Mouton de Gruyter, 1994).
14. Die Vernunft in der Geschichte, p. 166.
15. For a full exposition of linguistic typology, see Joseph Greenberg's classic paper, "Some Universals of Grammar with Particular Reference to the Order of Meaningful Elements" (1963), Bernard Comrie's Language Universals and Linguistic Typology (2nd ed. 1989), and Winfred P. Lehmann ed. Syntactic Typology, (University of Texas Press, 1978).
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