Wednesday, May 26, 2010


"The spirit of the age, is in some measure a novel expression. I do not believe that it is to be met with in any work exceeding fifty years in antiquity. The idea of comparing one's own age with former ages, or with our notion of those which are yet to come, had occurred to phiosohphers, but it never before was itself the dominant idea of any age. Before men begin to think much and long on the peculiarities of their own times, they must have begun to think that those times are, or are destined to be, distinguished in a very remarkable manner from the times that preceded them"

-J.S. Mill, 1831

And so we continue to define historical cycles by the edicts of historians characterizing the age in terms of what was "discovered" instead of who held the power.

In this current epoch of globalization, harmonious world cooperation, the absence of war, instantaneous communciation, abundant food supplies, and (most importantly) breathtaking technological progress, it is natural to think the motivations of Man could be overcome with political integration.

This hubris has a long tradition in Europe, but Giambattista Vico sums up this theme nicely:

"That the world of civil society has certainly been made by men, and that its principles are therefore to be found with in the modifications of our own human mind. Whoever reflects on this cannot but marvel that the philosophers should have bent all their energies to the study of the world of nature, which, since God made it, He alone knows, and that they should have neglected the study of teh world of nations...which, since men had made, men could come to know"

-Vico, Principles of a New Science concerning Common Nature of the Nations (1725)

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