Burgess Laughlin

Stark's *Victory of Reason*

107 posts in this topic

Chapter 3 – Tyranny and the “Rebirth” of Freedom

Professor Stark begins with an explanation of how commerce in China began with an iron industry which ended due to the fact that commerce was not in keeping with Confucianism. The beginning of this chapter provides more examples of reason, commerce, and virtue in Christianity.

When describing human equality regardless of the position of all individuals in this lifetime, Professor Stark quotes the Apostle Paul.

Pg 77

“He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with him.”

All Christians did not advocated property rights; however St. Magnus and St. Aquinas justified property rights as individuals tended to better care for personal property more that communal property.

Pg. 79

“Finally, Aquinas noted that although private property is not ordained by divine law, it is in accord with natural law – that is, inherent in human nature as derived through reason.”

Professor Stark also mentions church property rights and other freedoms by siting several Articles in the Magna Carta.

Commerce and the Creation of Responsive Italian Regimes

In this part of the chapter some history is provided about Venice, Genoa, Florence, and Milan.

Professor Stark divided the areas and in a very sensible manner which explains the rise of commerce in these four regions.

The development and rise of commerce in northern Italy is contrasted to southern Italy as this area was conquered and ruled for a time by Normans.

An example of the expansion of commerce in to northern Europe is given as the people of the city of Worms rebelled against their bishop and pledged their allegiance to Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor. Thereafter, cities began to elect their own officials without a great deal of interference from their monarchs.

Professor Stark describes important historic factors in the rise of individualism in Europe and through this chapter, I’ve learned more about the evolution of capitalism in Italy.

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Chapter Three

Tyranny and the "Rebirth" of Freedom

Stark begins the chapter with the sensible statement that free societies were a necessary precondition of capitalism, and that command economies never succeed. He describes the rise of an impressive iron industry in China, on a grand scale, around 1000 AD. This is interesting information I had never encountered previously. Not surprisingly, the Chinese rulers and aristocrats killed it off.

However, this does undercut any claim Stark may make that Christianity is necessary for the rise of capitalism. There was no Christianity in China, and yet capitalism----in a form at least as advanced as the monastic estates that Stark touts as capitalism---got off its feet and running. That the Chinese rulers killed it off doesn't alter the fact that it got started there, in a brief "Prague Spring" moment of localized freedom. So the only argument left to Stark is that Christianity is necessary to sustain capitalism, once it gets started. If he can prove that doubtful premise.

Next Stark notes that the Greek and Roman nobility looked down their nose at commerce and those who engaged in it. The Roman Empire generally stifled commerce by morally stigmatizing merchants, and by excessive taxation, so its break up was actually a positive development for the rise of innovation and commerce. These are reasonable conclusions, which have absolutely nothing to do with Christianity.

In the next section Stark claims that Christianity first established the moral equality of all men. He notes that Locke based his writings on government on Christian doctrines of moral equality. But the West was already in ascendency long before Locke came along. He then quotes a third century Christian theologian on moral equality:

. . . For if justice means behaving as the equal of inferiors, then, although it is equality that one excels in, yet by conducting oneself not merely as the equal of one's inferiors, but as their subordinate, one will attain a far higher rank of dignity in God's sight . . . (pp. 77-78)

So while the Church may deserve some credit for the idea of moral equality, it not only arrives at that conclusion for the wrong reason (because "God" made us equal), but then it goes right to the essence of Christianity, and says we ought to consider ourselves inferior to others, in other words, into altruism.

Stark then says it is but a "short step" from moral equality to individual rights. Yet that short step took how many centuries to be taken? One source in the rise of the idea of individual rights is the doctrine of natural law and natural rights, which, according to Wikipedia, began with the Greeks and Romans:

According to natural law jurisprudence, the fundamental principles of all law derive from nature and the natural world, or from a supreme being, depending on the particular perspective - but it is never the creation of human societies or governments . . .

Greek philosophy was highly concerned with the difference between "nature" (physis, φúσις) on the one hand and "law" or "custom" (nomos, νóμος) on the other. What the law commanded varied from place to place, but what was "by nature" should be the same everywhere. It was in accordance with the latter that philosophers strove to live. The development of this tradition into a natural law is usually attributed to the Stoics. This law was how a rational human being, seeking his own true happiness, would act. These theories became highly influential among Roman jurists, and consequently played a great role in subsequent legal theory. (Wikipedia, under entry: Natural Law)

So Christian moral equality is not the only source from which the idea of individual rights arose.

Moving on to property rights, Stark quotes several church authorities in support of such rights, including Thomas Aquinas: "private ownership is both legitimate and necessary." He discusses Magna Charta, emphasizing the participation of the Church in imposing that document on the English King. But the first article from Magna Charta, from which Stark quotes (p. 80), seems merely to be the Church defending its own turf, not universal property rights.

Stark then states that Christianity is unique in emphasizing the separation of church and state--Render unto Caesar, etc. This is only a value in a world where there are no secular societies. Where there are secular societies, this problem would not arise. In other words, it is only a comparative advantage with regard to other religions, and leaves unexamined the very possiblity of a secular society.

The advance of freedom in Western Europe seems from the evidence Stark presents to have had a lot more to do with the end of a statist empire---Rome---than with any Christian theology. England moved toward freedom with Magna Charta, and the Northern Italian city-states developed into more commercial republics. Christianity had very little to do with any of this.

In Stark's own words:

During the fourteenth century there were about a thousand independent statelets in Europe. This . . . tended to make for weak rulers. Second, it provided for creative competition. Third, it offered people some opportunity to depart for a setting more suitable in terms of liberty or opportunity. Consequently, some of these statelets began to develop highly responsive governments. (p. 83)

Yet, on p. 84, Stark casually asserts, as if he had proved it, that "Christian theology provided the moral basis for the establishment of responsive regimes . . . " What he had shown is that choice, competition, had led to more responsive government, along with the phenomenon of the Magna Charta in England, in which the Church was only one of many participants.

Stark spends the rest of the chapter describing the commercial Italian republics, and then the statist situation in southern Italy. Little of this is connected causally with Christianity. The occasional church figure making common cause with the guilds, to expand the franchise, was a minor blip on the radar screen, not a fundamental cause of what these republics became.

Finally, he discusses the Free and Imperial cities of Northern Europe. Many of these, Stark admits, were founded as free communities "by merchant traders who secured charters from distant kings and princes who were superior to local aristocracies," (p. 99). Yet he digs up a quote, from a Basil city council in the fifteenth century, to show, as he believes, that "freedom was actualized in these northern cities by elected councils and subsequently by the progressive expansion of the franchise, all of which was explicitly justified on religious grounds . . . " (p. 98). An inductive proof requires more than one vague example. In other words, he hasn't proved his contention, making it a mere assertion.

Stark has failed to show that Christianity led to any of these developments. Some church figures favored them, while others opposed them. Stark has a definite pattern of picking and choosing the church views he wants to emphasize, those showing some favor to reason and capitalism, and downplaying those church views that oppose reason and capitalism. And he does exactly the opposite with the Greeks and Romans, emphasizing their irrational and statist views, while virtually ignoring their rational views, and their commercial development.

For the Greeks and Romans, after all, had to have commerce to survive. The nobility may have looked down on merchants and commerce, nevertheless commerce was carried on, and this happened without any Christianity involved. What changed to make commerce explode in the West? Christianity? Or simply more freedom? Many church leaders looked down on commerce just as much as Greek and Roman nobles did, and were more virulent in their opposition to it. Others favored it. Christianity's message was mixed on commerce. Men have always wanted to engage in commerce, and it has always been their governments that suppressed that urge--the example of the Chinese iron industry being one of countless instances. Every society has had commerce, because they could not survive as a society without it. When governments become less statist, commerce invariably increases.

Stark has not proved that Christianity caused governments to become less statist.

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Do Freedom and Capitalism Require Christian Ideals to Exist?

In Chapter Three: Tyranny and the "Rebirth" of Freedom, Prof. Stark writes,

' Despotic states produce universal avarice. When rulers concentrate on exacting the maximum amount from those they control, their subjects become notably avaricious too, and respond by consuming, hoarding, and hiding the fruits of their labor, and by failing to produce nearly as much as they might....The result is a standard of living far below the society's potential productive capacities. ' (p. 71)

On p. 73, he identifies the source of wealth,

'all wealth derives from production.'

He also identifies the result of heavy taxation.

'When wealth is subject to devastating taxes and the constant threat of usurpation, the challenge is to keep one's wealth, not to make it productive.' (p. 73)

Then on p. 95 he asserts,

'The absence of booming commercial centers in southern Italy was due to one thing: repression.'

It would appear that he is making an arguement for rational self-interest, freedom from taxes, production as a value, and the absence of these virtues was do to repression. However, he concludes the chapter with

'The "rebirth" of freedom in some parts of Europe was the result of three necessary elements: Christian ideals, small political units, and within them, the appearance of a diversity of well-matched interest groups.' (p. 99)

This is confusing. Were these three necessary elements present during the 'birth' of freedom. It so, when did the first birth occur? Was there freedom before Christian ideals existed? It so, are Christian ideals a necessary element for freedom?

If the absence of booming commercial centers was caused by repression, how do Christian ideals eliminate repression? If all wealth is derived from production, how do Christian ideals influence production?

Prof. Stark concludes Chapter 3 with

'Now, with the last of the necessary conditions in place, it is time to observe the rise of capitalism and the success of the West.' (p. 99)

Prof. Stark is also going to have to demonstrate that this rise and success were the result of his three necessary conditions.

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Reading about Magna Charta (or Magna Carta) in Wikipedia, it appears the main impetus for that document was the barons, not the Church. Indeed, the Church, in the person of the Pope, was entirely against not only the Magna Carta, but "any call for rights." Stark, once again, found these details inconvenient, so he pretended they didn't exist.

Magna Carta

By 1215, the barons of England had had enough: they banded together and took London by force on June 10, 1215. They forced King John to agree to a document known as the 'Articles of the Barons', to which his Great Seal was attached in the meadow at Runnymede on June 15, 1215. In return, the barons renewed their oaths of fealty to King John on June 19, 1215. A formal document to record the agreement between King John and the barons was created by the royal chancery on July 15: this was the original Magna Carta. An unknown number of copies of this document were sent out to officials, such as royal sheriffs and bishops.

The most significant clause for King John at the time was clause 61, known as the "security clause", the longest portion of the entire document. This established a committee of 25 Barons who could at any time meet and over-rule the will of the King, through force by seizing his castles and possessions if needed. This was based on a medieval legal practice known as distraint, which was commonly done, but it was the first time it had been applied to a monarch. In addition, the King was to take an oath of loyalty to the committee.

King John had no intention of honouring Magna Carta, as it was sealed under extortion by force, and clause 61 essentially neutered his powers as a monarch, making him King in name only. He renounced it as soon as the barons left London, plunging England into a civil war, known as the First Barons' War. Pope Innocent III also immediately annulled the "shameful and demeaning agreement, forced upon the king by violence and fear." The Pope rejected any call for rights, saying it impaired King John's dignity. The Pope saw the barons taking the law into their own hands as an affront to the Church's authority over the king. (Wikipedia, under entry: Magna Carta)

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Again, from the Magna Carta entry on Wikipedia, is some information regarding the Church's relationship with the state. Due to the actions of King John, the Church owned England, but rented it back to John out of the goodness of its heart:

The Church

At the time of John’s reign there was still a great deal of controversy as to how the Archbishop of Canterbury was to be elected, although it had become traditional that the monarch would appoint a candidate with the approval of the monks of Canterbury. However in the early Thirteenth century, the bishops began to want a say. Not wanting to give the bishops a chance to do this, the monks elected one of their number to the role and John, incensed at his lack of involvement in the proceedings, sent the Bishop of Norwich to Rome as his choice. Pope Innocent III declared both choices as invalid and persuaded the monks to elect who, in all fairness, was probably the best choice, Stephen Langton. John refused to accept this choice however, and exiled the Canterbury monks from the realm. Infuriated by this, Innocent ordered an interdict (prevention of public worship in England) in 1208 and excommunicated John in 1209, and then backed Philip to invade England in 1212. Due to all this John finally backed down and agreed to endorse Langton and to allow the exiles to return, and to completely placate the pope he gave England and Ireland as papal territories and rented them back as a fiefdom for 1000 marks per annum. This further enraged the Barons as this meant they had even less autonomy in their own land. (Wikipedia, under entry: Magna Carta)

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Wk. 5: Ch. 4, “Perfecting Italian Capitalism”

Good morning, today is Monday, April 17, the first day of Week 5 of VORSISG. The assignment this week is to write about Ch. 4, “Perfecting Italian Capitalism.”

Untitled Introduction. These first two pages serve, confusingly, as a review of the preceding chapters and as an introduction to Ch. 4. Prof. Stark traces the rise of “capitalism” (as defined in Ch. 2) from (1) some of the W. European monastic estates in the central Middle Ages to (2) Italian business firms (run by laymen) operating initially in northern Italian cities that had established a semi-republican form of government and were relatively independent of dictates by local rural nobles. These firms were the forerunners of a commercial revolution that led to a trading network stretching from England to China.

On p. 106, Prof. Stark identifies four causes of the rise of this stage of “capitalism” (business development seen historically, economically, and socially – not philosophically). The four causes are, according to Prof. Stark:

(1) The existence (beginning in the 1100s?) of republican city-states that offered enough freedom for businesses to flourish.

(2) A level of technological development that made highly organized Italian businesses possible. (This idea -- that a certain level of technological development is a prerequisite for the development of “capitalism” -- proves, if any more is needed, that Prof. Stark’s definition of “capitalism” is historical not philosophical.)

(3) Optimism (here meaning the belief that, given certain conditions, progress in all areas of life should be expected), arising from western Christian theology.

(4) Moral support of business, arising from Christian theology as it developed in the central Middle Ages. (Very important: Note that Prof. Stark is now saying the ideas supporting "capitalism" came from medieval Christian theology, not from the Christian theology of the New Testament, that is, from Christ and Paul.

RATIONAL FIRMS. Prof. Stark observes that W. Europeans uniquely routinized commerce. Prof. Stark, who is a sociologist mainly, rightly points to a special kind of social organization behind this routinization movement: the “rational firm,” which he defines as an “organization … created and managed according to calculable rules.” (p. 207). [One of the meanings of the Latin word ratio is "reason," but other common translations are "computation, calculation."]

The approach Prof. Stark describes is an objective approach in business: actions such as keeping records, hiring employees, and defining relationships between managers and employers -- all for the purpose of making a profit proven through strict accounting procedures (a medieval invention). Prof. Stark even uses the word objective, but encloses it in scare quotes, which perhaps suggests he is using it to mean “independent of consciousness.” Objectivism does use the term “objective” in that meaning sometimes, but more importantly, “objective” indicates a certain relationship of ideas to facts of reality: the ideas are drawn logically from the facts.

Rational firms were an essential (causal) distinguishing characteristic of Western business (at its best) in the Late Middle Ages. What were the effects of the rational firm?

- The social effects of rational organization for the purpose of making a profit include: businesses emphasizing the education of their employees; businesses being concerned about the personal moral behavior of their employees; emphasis on record-keeping; a ceaselessly changing network of relationships with other businesses, as a response to changing market opportunities; and building a hierarchical organization to ensure a chain of responsibility for actions taken in the name of the business enterprise.

- The economic effects of rational organization include: banks of deposit; more-systematized money changing; bills of exchange; insurance; and international banks and their money transfers.

(Prof. Stark’s examination of rational business firms spotlights a field of study that is common ground between economic history, social history [historical sociology], history of accounting, and, in the background, history of philosophy. Taken together, all these specialized fields could make a fascinating combination for anyone considering a career in history.)

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE FIRST ITALIAN SUPERCOMPANY. This section is a brief story of the Riccardi family bank that became rich in what today would be called a “public-private partnership.” The Riccardi family bank made a lot of money from dealing with statists – and the bank was destroyed by the very statists the bank supported.

ITALIAN CAPITALISM, “PURITANISM,” AND FRUGALITY. Prof. Stark rejects the 20th Century view (offered by some social and economic historians) that capitalism arose from Protestantism (which began in the 1500s). Prof. Stark suggests reversing the conventional explanation: Capitalism arising in northern Italian city-states, in the 1100s, encouraged “puritanism,” in the form of the Humiliati, a religious movement of humble behavior and ascetic lifestyle. Some individuals in the movement were prosperous people rejecting materialism. [Asceticism vs. materialism, of course, is a false dichotomy.] They pledged to live frugally and give all their “excess” income to the poor. Their ideas led to sumptuary laws – laws forcing people to live frugally.

THE BLACK DEATH Prof. Stark offers a rosy interpretation of the effects of this ghastly plague. He looks at only some threads of the story, for example, the effect that the resulting labor shortage supposedly had in inducing businesses to compete for workers. Nevertheless, I believe that Western Europe’s stunning recovery from the plague is one of the great success stories in all of European history. Contrast European experience with plague to the experience of aborigines in the Americas after European colonization began. The aborigines were hit hard by various new diseases, but the population and culture did not spring back. (One book I would very much like to read, when it comes out in paperback, is 1491, a look at the state of society in the Americas immediately before Columbus first landed in the Caribbean. Were American Indian “nations” already in decline, as I have heard some students of the period say? I don’t know.)

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CAUTIONS for Ch. 4

The caution-flags I would like to raise for this week’s reading are mostly small points (in terms of number of words of text that Prof. Stark devotes to them), but they could lead to deeper problems if the reader isn’t aware of them.

Untitled introduction. First, on p. 105, is Prof. Stark’s repeated phrase “faith in reason,” which he still has not fully explained (particularly what he means by “faith” here). If he means simply “trust” in reason (as he explained previously) based on early Christian decisions to incorporate elements of Greek philosophy into Christian theology, then he is right in part. Trust in reason really is “the most significant feature of Western Civilization.” A philosophy of reason is the essential (causal) distinguishing characteristic of Western Civilization (defined as a historical and cultural complex of elements). Trust in reason causes other characteristics (such as respect for objective law), which in turn have further effects (for example, willingness to invest in businesses with some assurance that the profits won’t be seized).

Second, as happens often in VOR, Prof. Stark is vague about the chronology of the events he lists – for instance, on pp. 105-106. However, he does note, on p. 105, that the Italian commercial “empire” (network of trade) reached its peak c. 1290-1400.

Third, Prof. Stark uses terms/ideas whose meanings have been corrupted by altruists and statists. An example (p. 105) is “monopoly.” Another example is “relatively unregulated markets” (p. 106), a term which reveals again that Prof. Stark, a conservative, accepts government controls of the economy but wants to limit the controls pragmatically rather than on principle. Still another example is “private capitalism” (p. 107) – presumably as opposed to “state capitalism,” as that term is used mostly by leftists who, like conservative Prof. Stark, approach capitalism as empiricists, looking only at what some capitalists do rather than at the morality of what they do as the distinguishing characteristic.

RATIONAL FIRMS. On p. 115, Prof. Stark notes that “the Church was by far the largest financial enterprise of the era,” but, as before, he does not explain why it was the largest and whether it was acting morally to become such. Further, what does this fact of the Church’s financial power say about the era under discussion?

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE FIRST ITALIAN SUPERCOMPANY. Prof. Stark here again reveals his conservatism as that pathetic movement stands today: indebted to the altruism and statism of the left. For example, Prof. Stark accepts as right the collusion between business and government in exploiting productive people (through taxation primarily). As a second example, note the importance Prof. Stark gives to showing how socially responsible (my term, from modern leftists) the medieval capitalists were. These capitalists, so called, even named beggars as “partners,” in effect supporting the idea, 800 years ago, of what “democratic socialists” today call “stakeholders.”

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This is a bit out of place with respect to the current chapter, but I wanted to mention it anyway. I was listening to the first lecture in Leonard Peikoff's History of Philosophy course, dealing with the Presocratics, and he was talking about the Pythagoreans. Their main positive contribution was the application of mathematics to all things---music, medicine, astronomy, etc. They went overboard into mystical ideas about number, but nevertheless the main idea was sound and original with them.

Then Peikoff mentioned that Johannes Kepler was very persistent in looking for mathematical order in the universe, because he was a Pythagorean himself. A quick look at the entry for Kepler on Wikipedia confirmed this:

Kepler was a Pythagorean mystic. He considered mathematical relationships to be at the base of all nature, and all creation to be an integrated whole . . .

Kepler discovered the laws of planetary motion while trying to achieve the Pythagorean purpose of finding the harmony of the celestial spheres.

So this is one clear instance of Stark's error of claiming that all Western science had its source in Christianity or Christian theology.

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[...] Johannes Kepler was very persistent in looking for mathematical order in the universe, because he was a Pythagorean himself. [...]

So this is one clear instance of Stark's error of claiming that all Western science had its source in Christianity or Christian theology.

First, did Prof. Stark somewhere claim that Christian theology was independent of influence by earlier, Greek philosophers? For example, would not Christian theology which incorporates elements of the philosophies of Pythagoras, Plato, or Aristotle convey those elements to the far future, including scientists in the Renaissance -- scientists who would also be reading, perhaps, the original Greek sources independent of the theological package in which the scientists might have first encountered the ideas?

Second, on p. 12, Prof. Stark defines science as "a method utilized in organized efforts to formulate explanations of nature, always subject to modifications and corrections through systematic observations." (The italics are Prof. Stark's, for the purpose of identifying the essential elements, apparently.) On p. 13 he explains that he means socially organized. Note that the definition, if valid, is appropriate to a social history of science; Prof. Stark is a sociologist and, in part now, social historian.

With that as background, it is worth noting that on pp. 15-16, Prof. Stark names Johannes Kepler as an example -- alongside Galileo and Newton -- of (in my words) a scientist fundamentally influenced by the Christian belief that the universe is God's book, a book that can be read by men because men have God-given minds capable of understanding the regular, lawful universe God created.

If I were pursuing this subject, I would initially ask these questions:

1. Was Kepler a Christian -- and if so, in what sense? (The same question would apply to Galileo and Newton.)

2. Was Kepler (or Galileo or Newton) both a Christian and a follower, in some measure, of an ancient Greek philosopher? In other words, can a scientist be a hyphenated Christian: Pythagorean-Christian, Aristotelian-Christian, or Platonist-Christian?

3. Could Kepler have even arisen in other religious but non-Christian cultures influenced by the Pythagoreans -- for example, pagan culture in the Late Ancient world or in Arabic-Islamic culture of, say, the 900s and 1000s? (For Pythagorean influence in the latter, see Majid Fakhry, History of Islamic Philosophy, second edition, pp. 101-102 and Ch. 5, "Neo-Pythagoreanism and the Popularization of the Philosophical Sciences.")

4. Is there compatibility or is there a fundamental conflict between Pythagoreanism and Christian theology as Prof. Stark describes it? For that mattter, did any of the early Church Fathers absorb elements of Pythagoreanism into their emerging theology? (Edwin Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas on Christianity, pp. 81 and 129 suggests that some Christian theologians did hold that elements of Pythagoreanism were compatible with Christianity and therefore absorbed them.)

5. Was (western) Christianity the only religion holding that the universe is God's book, a book in which are written His laws for all those who know how to read them? What about Judaism and Islam? In other words, was this belief in the universe as a book a distinguishing characteristic of (western, Catholic) Christianity?

Many other fascinating questions would arise in any serious study of a great man such as Kepler, Galileo, or Newton. This approach suggests yet another subfield of history, as a science, that offers an opportunity for a fascinating lifetime career: biography. It involves psychological detection; standard history (for cultural and political context); the history of the individual's scientific field (such as astronomy); and the history of philosophy, a stream of ideas from which each man draws in forming his own, actual, guiding, "personal" philosophy.

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First, did Prof. Stark somewhere claim that Christian theology was independent of influence by earlier, Greek philosophers? For example, would not Christian theology which incorporates elements of the philosophies of Pythagoras, Plato, or Aristotle convey those elements to the far future, including scientists in the Renaissance -- scientists who would also be reading, perhaps, the original Greek sources independent of the theological package in which the scientists might have first encountered the ideas?

If Christian theology was influenced by Greek philosophers and science, and Western Europeans benefitted from that specifically Greek knowledge, whether receiving it through the Church or independently of it, who deserves the credit for it? The Greeks. When Ayn Rand built on the foundations laid down by Aristotle (the law of identity, non-contradiction, etc.), she acknowledged his contributions, rather than making absurd statements such as those of Stark scattered throughout the book: "The success of the West, including the rise of science, rested entirely on religious foundations . . . " (p. xi). Those claims are false, and I'm pointing out examples that show their falseness.

Second, on p. 12, Prof. Stark defines science as "a method utilized in organized efforts to formulate explanations of nature, always subject to modifications and corrections through systematic observations." (The italics are Prof. Stark's, for the purpose of identifying the essential elements, apparently.) On p. 13 he explains that he means socially organized. Note that the definition, if valid, is appropriate to a social history of science; Prof. Stark is a sociologist and, in part now, social historian.

Regardless of how Stark defines science, mathematics is one of the major elements of science, and the Greeks, specifically the Pythagoreans, were the first to apply it methodically to the discovery of scientific knowledge. Without this method, modern Western science would not have been possible.

With that as background, it is worth noting that on pp. 15-16, Prof. Stark names Johannes Kepler as an example -- alongside Galileo and Newton -- of (in my words) a scientist fundamentally influenced by the Christian belief that the universe is God's book, a book that can be read by men because men have God-given minds capable of understanding the regular, lawful universe God created.

I think that much is probably true. But is also true that Kepler was influenced by Pythagoreanism, and my point is that Stark evades acknowledging modern science's debt to the Greeks out of his fanatical attempt to credit the rise of Western science exclusively to "religious foundations," specifically Christian religious foundations.

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Chapter 4 – Perfecting Capitalism

In this chapter Professor Stark begins to explain how “Rational Firms” were created in Italy, and the “Personnel” employed in these firms.

Most firms were able to hire qualified personnel who had attended “abacus” schools. The abacus schools taught practical accounting methods and this kind of knowledge allowed more modern banking practices to flourish beyond northern Italy.

Paper “bills of exchange” enabled funds to be transferred rather than businesses or nobles attempting to transfer funds in coins.

A method of insurance was also found around the 14th century.

Pg. 114

“Eventually someone found a better solution: rather than split the cargo among many ships, the value of a shipment would be guaranteed for a certain fee or premium by a group of investors, each of whom risked a small amount on many different ships: insurance had been invented.”

Italian banking firms grew as trade became international and branches of Italian banks were established in other major European cities.

The Rise and Fall of the First Italian Super Company

In this portion of Chapter 4, Professor Stark examines the rise and fall of The Riccardi Company.

I found it very interesting that the Riccardi Company “enjoyed a special relationship with the pope,” as described on page 119. I would like to learn more about the taxes collected to support the Crusades. The fall of the Riccardi Bank was due to feudal wars and because there were no laws protecting international firms around Europe.

Italian companies were also committed to helping the poor.

Pg. 120

“When dividends were paid, a proportional part went to the poor.”

The Humiliate movement in northern Italy began as some people chose to live simply despite the affluent culture around them. Although the Humiliates were secular people, their lifestyle reminds me of the Franciscans.

Numerous “sumptuary laws” were passed in northern Italian cities. These laws were enacted in order to counter cultural affluence. These laws were not always adhered to.

Professor Stark describes the good which resulted from The Black Death as it pertains to individual freedoms and capitalism. Since at least 1/3 of the population perished, the smaller work force meant better living standards for the common people, serfs became more independent and productive trade rose within a decade.

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I think we are getting close to identifying the essential nature -- and problem -- of VOR. Bear with me as I continue to play Devil's Advocate. (Pardon the expression, Prof. Stark!) Kitty Hawk has been energetic in stating his analysis of Prof. Stark's argument. My questions are meant to raise issues -- not put anyone on the grill of scrutiny.

First, I think it is important for this discussion to keep in mind that religions, especially those that contain sophisticated theologies, are forms of philosophy. In that sense, some Christian theologians rightly speak of "Christian philosophy."

"The success of the West, including the rise of science, rested entirely on religious foundations . . . " (p. xi). Those claims are false [...]

A key question is: What does Prof. Stark mean by "religious foundations"?

What would you suggest as an answer, drawing from Prof. Stark's text? Working from pp. x, 5-10, and 15-16, I would say Prof. Stark thinks the religious foundations that gave rise to modern science in W. Civilization were these ideas: (1)"faith in reason," (2) "faith in progress," (3) a view of God as rational, and (4) a view of God's product, the universe, as rational -- that is, structured, predictable (except for occasional miracles!), and knowable to man using reason. (Prof. Stark sees additional ideas as foundations for capitalism, as he has defined it, but those ideas are further up the hierarchy of ideas.)

Here is how I suspect Prof. Stark thinks of this issue:

- FACT: Kepler was a (Catholic) Christian.

- FACT: The dominant culture of (Catholic) Christians contains the four religious foundations named above.

- FACT: Kepler, because he was in fact a Christian, lived his life, including his scientific work, based on those foundations. (Ideas cause actions.)

- FACT: Kepler was not a Pythagorean, though he may have gained particular ideas -- such as the confidence that one can interpret the universe mathematically -- from Pythagorean texts (at least indirectly). Even if he did so, such an idea is compatible with and implicit in the fundamental principles ("religious foundations") Kepler already held as a (Catholic) Christian.

- CONCLUSION: Therefore, Kepler is an example of why I, Prof. Stark, say modern science is based ("rests") entirely on "religious foundations."

[...] mathematics is one of the major elements of science, and the Greeks, specifically the Pythagoreans, were the first to apply it methodically to the discovery of scientific knowledge. Without this method, modern Western science would not have been possible.

[bold added for emphasis.] Using either Prof. Stark's definition of science or your own: Did the Pythagoreans -- those individuals who advocated and lived by Pythagoras' philosophy as a whole -- actually apply mathematics "methodically to the discovery of scientific knowledge"? If yes, what are examples of their scientific discoveries?

Further, what do you mean by "major element" of (specialized) science? Do you mean that mathematics is fundamental to specialized sciences such as astronomy? If so, what about other specialized sciences such as history? If math is not fundamental to astronomy, then what is the role of math?

[...] my point is that Stark evades acknowledging modern science's debt to the Greeks out of his fanatical attempt to credit the rise of Western science exclusively to "religious foundations," specifically Christian religious foundations.

So far as I can tell -- without rereading the first chapters for a third time -- Prof. Stark is not claiming that every particular idea of modern science comes from Christianity. Rather he is saying that modern science "rests" on "religious foundations."

Accepting for the moment Prof. Stark's definition of science, presented earlier, which of its essential elements do you think came to the Renaissance scientists via "the Greeks" alone?

By the way, when you say "the Greeks," to whom are you referring? Do you mean Greek philosophers (in the modern sense) or Greek scientists (in the modern sense), to the extent that the two were distinguishable in the ancient world? For example, are you saying that astronomers such as Kepler gained particular astronomical ideas from Greek astronomers (such perhaps as Hipparchos or Ptolemy) or from Greek mathematicians (such as Apollonios of Perge or Archimedes)? Or are you saying, astronomers such as Kepler gained philosophically fundamental ideas by reading Greek books by philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle -- and those philosophical ideas were not otherwise present in the religious culture in which Kepler grew up?

As DA, I would suggest that there are at least two issues here. One is historical: Where and when did certain particular ideas (such as mathematical interpretation of the universe) first appear? The second is psychological and epistemological: In the mind of Kepler, for example, what were the foundations of his hierarchy of knowledge? And were those foundations present in his mind before he read texts by or about the Greek Pythagoreans -- or only afterwards? If they were present earlier, were they implicit or explicit?

In conclusion, a big, potential pitfall here is failing to distinguish between the historical origins of an idea, on the one hand, and the epistemological foundations of an idea in a particular man's mind.

If I were to reread VOR once again, God help me, I would do so looking to see whether Prof. Stark has (1) clearly distinguished between them, (2) muddled them inadvertently -- or, worse, (3) equivocated between them.

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. . . I would say Prof. Stark thinks the religious foundations that gave rise to modern science in W. Civilization were these ideas: (1)"faith in reason," (2) "faith in progress," (3) a view of God as rational, and (4) a view of God's product, the universe, as rational -- that is, structured, predictable (except for occasional miracles!), and knowable to man using reason. (Prof. Stark sees additional ideas as foundations for capitalism, as he has defined it, but those ideas are further up the hierarchy of ideas.)

I would begin by denying that "faith in reason," is original to Christianity. The Greeks originated the idea that nature is susceptible to rational, naturalistic study and understanding---as opposed to the supernatural explanations that had reigned supreme before them. They had "faith" in reason, in the sense of having confidence that reason is efficacious in the study of nature. So I deny this is a "religious foundation." Hence the Europeans inherited this world view from the Greeks, at least as much as from Christian theology. And on a more rational basis---not because a rational God created the world out of nothing.

By "the Greeks" I mean Greek cultural beliefs in general. Thales inaugurated the naturalistic explanation of the world, which was a part of Greek culture ever after. When Stark claims something is a Christian belief, which Christians is he referring to? The church of piety, or the church of power? Are their views the same?

I do not know why Stark believes faith in progress is a religious view. What proof has he given that the Greeks did not believe in progress?

The Pythagoreans also viewed the world as rational, structured, and predictable. I think Stark is arrogating to Christianity beliefs that are by no means exclusive to Christianity. Therefore, again, I deny that science rests exclusively on religious foundations.

. . . Kepler was not a Pythagorean, though he may have gained particular ideas -- such as the confidence that one can interpret the universe mathematically -- from Pythagorean texts (at least indirectly). Even if he did so, such an idea is compatible with and implicit in the fundamental principles ("religious foundations") Kepler already held as a (Catholic) Christian.

I have not read a biography of Kepler, but the three sources I've consulted about him (Peikoff, Wikipedia, and another online website), all say that Kepler was a Pythagorean. It is also my understanding that Kepler had a good deal of trouble with the Church, not including the witch trial of his mother. So I'm not even sure how Christian he was. As for the Pythagorean ideas being compatible with Christian ideas, I think that reverses the order of progression. The Christian ideas are compatible with Pythagoreanism. I grant Kepler probably studied Pythagoreanism later than he was taught Christian ideas. I don't think any of us know which had a greater influence on him scientifically. But I am not going to assume it was Christianity.

CONCLUSION: Therefore, Kepler is an example of why I, Prof. Stark, say modern science is based ("rests") entirely on "religious foundations."

For the reasons given above, I deny that contention.

Using either Prof. Stark's definition of science or your own: Did the Pythagoreans -- those individuals who advocated and lived by Pythagoras' philosophy as a whole -- actually apply mathematics "methodically to the discovery of scientific knowledge"? If yes, what are examples of their scientific discoveries?

A quick perusal of Eduard Zeller's Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy indicates that they applied mathematics to the study of harmony in music and to astronomy:

These astronomical theories [the Heliocentric theory of Aristarchus of Samos] were only made possible by a corresponding advance in mathematics, to which belongs the discovery of the infinitesimal and the irrational, which can with probability also be ascribed to Archytas [a Pythagorean], while his pupil Eudoxus deduced from it further propositions. The foundation of stereometry, too, with the mathematical construction of the so-called five Platonic bodies by Plato's friend Theaetetus, are doubtless connected directly or indirectly with these mathematical studies of the Pythagoreans . . .

The great significance of Pythagoreanism lies in the dualism of its philosophical system . . . and secondly in its great astronomical and mathematical discoveries. Through both of these qualities it exerted a powerful influence on Plato and consequently on the whole of after times, when with the renaissance Copernicus, Giordano Bruno and Galileo resumed the traditions of its scientific theories. (pp. 74-75, Zeller)

Further, what do you mean by "major element" of (specialized) science? Do you mean that mathematics is fundamental to specialized sciences such as astronomy? If so, what about other specialized sciences such as history? If math is not fundamental to astronomy, then what is the role of math?

I mean that mathematics is necessary for rigorous proofs of many scientific theories, especially in physics and astronomy. What would Newton's Principia be without mathematics? Or Einstein's theories? Obviously there are some fields of knowledge to which mathematics is not very relevant, such as history. But I don't think Stark is referring to history when he talks about the rise of science in the West.

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Chapter Four

Perfecting Italian Capitalism

This is, so far, the best chapter in the book. But aside from a short introductory section, the chapter has little to do with Stark's thesis. It simply describes Italian banks during the early Renaissance, and their methods of banking---accounting, planning, etc.---without relating this to Christianity.

So I will only comment on the introductory section. Stark begins with one of his favorite equivocal phrases: "Faith in reason is the most significant feature of Western Civilization," (p. 105). He is attempting to smuggle in the absurd idea that reason is based on faith. It is impossible to validate reason without using reason. To quote Leonard Peikoff:

"Why should I accept reason?" means: "Why should I accept reality?" The answer is that existence exists, and only existence exists. Man's choice is either to accept reason or to consign his consciousness and life to a void.

One cannot seek a proof that reason is reliable, because reason is the faculty of proof; one must accept and use reason in any attempt to prove anything. But, using reason, one can identify its relationship to the facts of reality and thereby validate the faculty. (OPAR, p. 153)

To equate this acceptance of reason's validity with the idea of faith, as in blind acceptance of the irrational, is a deliberate equivocation. Stark has been playing on this equivocation throughout the book.

Next, Stark makes another of his endless overgeneralized assertions: "It all began in the great monastic estates . . . " (p. 105). The monastic estates may have been one of the steps on the road to capitalism---but it didn't "all begin" there. They were neither the first to specialize in certain crops or animals, nor the first to lend money. It would be more accurate to say "It all began with the men who began cultivating crops and domesticating animals, back in prehistoric times."

And here he is forced to admit that the monastic estates were "based primarily on agricultural production and some moneylending; the monks did not go on to create firms devoted entirely to trade or to finance, nor did they found manufacturing firms," (p. 105). Firms such as the Chinese iron manufacturers must have set up.

Then he adds: "What they did do was provide the business model that led to the rise of private capitalist enterprises that pursued these obvious next steps . . . " (p. 105).

There is no evidence given that any of the Italian banks looked to the "great monastic estates" as their business model. We are just supposed to take Stark's word for it, apparently. I don't. Again, he is resorting to post hoc, ergo propter hoc. The monastic estates existed; then later the Italian banks existed; ergo, the Italian banks copied the monks. One does not necessarily follow from the other.

Finally, he admits that the proximate cause, at least, of the rise of Italian capitalism was "freedom from the rapacious rulers who repressed and consumed economic progress in most of the world . . . " (p. 106). (Interestingly, this would seem to entail a belief in progress all over the world, not just in Western Europe, which Stark has previously denied.) But, in addition, "Christian theology encouraged extremely optimistic views about the future that justified long-term investment strategies, and by this time theology provided moral justifications for the business practices fundamental to capitalism," (p. 106).

Presumably he is referring to those church leaders who sanctioned charging interest on loans, such as Thomas Aquinas. In spite of the fact that usury laws were still on the books. Regarding this, I only concede that Christianity was less of a hindrance than other religions. They were merely sanctioning something that had gone on since time immemorial---"usury." This hardly makes Christianity the source of moneylending, let alone of capitalism.

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WEEK 6: Ch. 5, "Capitalism Moves North"

Good morning, today is Monday, April 24, the first day of VORSISG Week 6. The assignment this week is to write about Ch. 5 of The Victory of Reason: "Capitalism Moves North." Following is my summary of key points as Prof. Stark presents them.

Untitled Introduction. In the 1000s, Italian companies operating in Flanders began organizing many small local Flemish shops into a few networks of wool cloth makers. The Italian companies then began organizing producers in Holland and England, making other products.

The Woolen Cities of Flanders. Backed by local rulers, guilds controlled wages, prices, production standards, and marketing. The guilds specialized and proliferated. In some northern Flemish towns, artisan guilds – sometimes with and sometimes without merchant support – began controlling their towns politically too, creating semi-republican conditions in which production thrived. In southern Flemish towns, controlled by the French, the economy stagnated. Some cloth-makers, from both north and south Flanders, migrated to towns in Italy. Other wool “entrepreneurs” (small shop owners?) migrated north.

Capitalism Comes to Northern Flanders. Apparently, Italian branch banks in north Flanders began organizing local wool-cloth producers. The banks’ strategy was to supplant rather than change the guilds. In Bruges the Italian branch banks negotiated treaties with the Count of Flanders. These treaties protected the Italian wool operations from local interference (and gave them special privileges?). Eventually local people in Flanders began forming companies on their own, following Italian exemplars. Ghent and Antwerp (Europe’s largest port in the 1400s!) also became major centers of trade, finance, and manufacturing. The Ghent city government tended to be republican. It was a free commune (a political body composed of individuals who have a common interest of governing the city together). Prof. Stark says these cities were Catholic (Protestantism had not yet officially risen.)

On to Amsterdam. By the 1590s, Amsterdam (a largely Protestant city at the time) was replacing Antwerp as Europe’s largest financial center and port. Spanish conquest wrecked the semi-republican politics of Flanders and therefore its prosperity. As many as 150,000 refugees, mostly Catholics, moved from the Spanish-controlled south into Amsterdam and other northern cities.

Prof. Stark, p. 146, rejects some scholars’ belief that Protestantism -- as a theology, ideology, and "ethic" (“the Protestant ethic”) -- led to the rise of capitalism.

English Capitalism. This long section describes the flowering of “capitalism” in England, a process that apparently (Stark isn’t clear) began in the 1100s with the arrival of Italian bankers. [suggestion: Look for an online source for the Magna Charta; did it guarantee the right of foreign merchants to enter England and conduct business without hindrance?] English industries were more decentralized (spreading through the countryside as well as in the towns) than their competitors on the continent were, apparently because Englishmen had more political freedom and didn’t have to appeal to a “distant prince” as a balance against oppressive local nobles.

What was the nature of the greater freedom of English merchants? (This raises the problem of how one measures freedom.) One component perhaps was property rights that were more secure than on the continent. (p. 148) One consequence of greater freedom was that English industries were more interested in developing and applying new technologies than any other country’s industries were. The evolution of new technology in England began in the 1000s with the advent of trade in wool to the continent.

FROM WOOL TO WOOLENS. Prof. Stark notes occasionally that governments, such as the government of England, passed laws in favor of some businesses and against others. So far as I can tell, he does not observe that such laws were anti-capitalist (in the Objectivist, philosophical meaning). He remains focused on following particular historical developments. Examples of statist favoritism are, first, English tariffs that helped English manufacturers and, second, lower taxes for skilled immigrants. (pp. 150 and 151) A lower tax, even if only for some individuals, is good, of course, compared to higher taxes, but the fact remains that the state is manipulating the economy with higher taxes for some and lower taxes for others in the same industry.

THE THIRTEENTH-CENTURY INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION. Among other factors, the application of new technology (such as using hydropower to drive fulling machines) drew English industries from towns into the countryside.

COAL POWER. The coal industry, Prof. Stark says, is another example of English eagerness to exploit new technologies, and it led to still others (such as developing rails for trolleys, that is, wagons drawn by horses over the same track, again and again). (p. 156)

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CAUTIONS for Ch. 5

UNTITLED INTRODUCTION. On p. 131, Prof. Stark refers to “Roman times,” but his meaning is unclear, as often happens in VOR. Is he referring to the period of the Roman Empire in the west, roughly 31 BCE to the 400s? Or earlier as well? Or only to the later imperial period, c. 200-400? Either way, note that wool-cloth making in “Roman times,” and its survival into the Dark Age and medieval periods, is evidence of continuity rather than medieval innovation.

THE WOOLEN CITIES OF FLANDERS. On p. 131, Prof. Stark says Italian firms moved into the Low Countries (now northern Belgium, Netherlands, and Holland) because they “enjoyed a considerable degree of freedom.” However, on pp. 133-134 he describes an economic system in which guilds (backed by local rulers) controlled wages, prices, hours, quality, and marketing. In what did “freedom” consist? Apparently “freedom” applied to Italian banking companies who negotiated special treatment from the Count who controlled the area. This situation highlights the contrast between Prof. Stark’s definition of “capitalism” as an economic and historical phenomenon versus Ayn Rand’s definition of capitalism as a philosophical (political) abstraction to be achieved.

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When Stark claims something is a Christian belief, which Christians is he referring to? The church of piety, or the church of power? Are their views the same?

I infer from my readings of VOR that personally Prof. Stark generally supports the derivative ideas upheld by the church of power, that is, the people who daily dealt with "the world" (the broad economy and society). See pp. 202-203 as one illustration. See pp. 57-58 for the same point, but made implicitly. I also infer that Prof. Stark holds the ideas of the Church of power to be generally representative of the Church as a whole. However, I recall that he does make at least two exceptions: the Church of piety was dominant before Constantine (c. 305 CE), and then again, as an ascetic reaction, after the Reformation began in the 1500s. Galileo, for example, was a victim of the Church of piety, not., Prof. Stark seems to say, of the more representative Church of power.

Prof. Stark does not list the two terms "church of piety" and "church of power" in the index, and I do not have time to comb through my notes for the whole book to find other instances.

I do not know why Stark believes faith in progress is a religious view.

Devil's Advocate: Because Prof. Stark holds that faith (confidence) in reason is one element of a certain religious worldview -- the western Christian one. Any element of a religious worldview (primitive philosophy) is a religious view. A worldview is fundamental and affects everything a religious person does. The issue here, for Prof. Stark, is not the historical origin of any particular element, but whether it is part of a particular religious worldview.

Prof. Stark does not say, as far as I can recall, that all religious people held this view of progress. To the contrary, hasn't Prof. Stark made clear that this purported view of progress is a distinguishing characteristic of (western) Christianity among monotheistic religions that dominate much of the world today? Doesn't he use it to contrast Christianity with Islam and Judaism (as well as other, but non-monotheistic religions)?

What proof has he given that the Greeks did not believe in progress?

DA: Is it Prof. Stark's responsibility to prove a negative? What evidence do you have that "the Greeks" believed in the idea of progress, as Prof. Stark has described it?

You might find Robert Nisbet, History of the Idea of Progress, to be valuable. I have not made any special study of this intriguing subject in the field known as history of ideas; I offer Nisbet's book only as a place to start. It covers ancient to modern times. Nisbet rejects the assertion that the idea of progress (as opposed to a belief in cycles of history, for example) was foreign to the ancient world. Apparently the author of that assertion -- there was no idea of progress in the ancient world -- was J. B. Bury in his Idea of Progress. (Ironically for Stark's thesis, Bury also held that there was no idea of progress in the Middle Ages either, and that Christianity was the enemy of the idea of progress.) Nisbet, in his Foreword, identifies the main literature on the debate up to his time, c. 1980.

I have not read a biography of Kepler, but the three sources I've consulted about him (Peikoff, Wikipedia, and another online website), all say that Kepler was a Pythagorean.

DA: In what sense was he a "Pythagorean"? Do you mean he upheld pagan gods, was a vegetarian, and believed in transmigration of souls? Or do you mean that he subscribed to one or a few philosophical ideas originated by Pythagoras or his followers ("the Pythagoreans") in the ancient world?

Aquinas was an Aristotelian, but that doesn't mean he agreed with everything Aristotle believed. Only a detailed study of Kepler could answer these questions about his ideas. Also required is a clear definition of what "Pythagorean" means. Secondary sources I have consulted suggest that two streams of ideas (and values) emerged from the legacy of Pythagoras: a scientific fascination with order in this world, and a devotion to mysticism.

As for the Pythagorean ideas being compatible with Christian ideas, I think that reverses the order of progression. The Christian ideas are compatible with Pythagoreanism. I grant Kepler probably studied Pythagoreanism later than he was taught Christian ideas. I don't think any of us know which had a greater influence on him scientifically. But I am not going to assume it was Christianity.

Another possibility to explore is that both sources influenced him: Explicitly or implicitly he might have gained the idea about math explaining the universe from Christian package-deals, and then he might have seen the same idea isolated and better stated by reading ancient sources who were reporting the ideas of Pythagoras and his followers. (My secondary sources seem to say that none of Pythagoras' writings, if he produced any at all, have survived.)

I can suggest two sources from my own library for beginning a study of Pythagoras and his influence on ancient and later cultures:

- For a brief overview by a source generally more reliable than wikipedia-type sites: Fritz Graf, "Pythagoras and Pythagoreanism," Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd ed. revised. This unusually lengthy article -- almost a page and a half -- includes a brief bibliography. It says two traditions arose from the legends of Pythagoras: a scientific one and a religious one. Graf also suggests that Plato may have been most responsible for manufacturing myths about Pythagoras, myths that fit Plato's philosophy.

- For a look at Pythagoreanism as a religious stream, in the context of a comprehensive study of Greek religion: Walter Burkett, Greek Religion, pp. 296-304, in Burkett's Ch. VI, "Philosophical Religions," which includes several sections on Plato too.

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Chapter Five

Capitalism Moves North

In this chapter again, Stark has very little relating to his theme. It is mostly straight historical narrative of the advance of capitalism in the towns of Flanders and in England, almost always starting with the woolen industry, aided by Italian banking firms who set up shop in the locality.

Part of his theme seems to be that it was not so much Christianity in general that fostered the rise of capitalism, but specifically Catholicism, as opposed to Protestantism. He has several times criticized the idea that the "Protestant work ethic" had anything to do with the rise of capitalism.

He mentions the first bourse or stock exchange emerged in Bruges, with two more soon developing in Antwerp, one of these among an English enclave there. On page 148, Stark writes that it was "the decline of feudalism and the remarkable rise of political freedom that gave the greater impetus to English capitalism." Nothing about Christianity, just greater political freedom and more secure property rights.

He makes the point that in England this freedom existed everywhere, not just in a few favored cities, as was the case in the rest of Europe (p. 153). And so capitalism was more widespread in England. This led to more inventions and innovations there, as well.

Again, on page 158, Stark writes: "It must be recognized, however, that English capitalism could develop as it did only because the English enjoyed unparalleled levels of freedom. It was no coincidence that the nation with the longest tradition of individual liberty was the nation where invention and industry thrived." The longest tradition of individual liberty---not the longest tradition of Christianity (Catholic or Protestant). Political freedom and secure property, not faith and brotherly love.

Finally, in the last couple of paragraphs of the chapter, Stark makes a few weak attempts to relate all this material to Christianity. He writes "Methods and ideals are the fundamental aspect of capitalism---rational business techniques based on faith in progress and reason," (p. 158). Again trying to smuggle the concept of faith into the concept of reason. And in the next paragraph, he writes that the military superiority of the West was due not only to their superior weaponry, but to their belief that " . . . God would give them victory."

As if the Incas and Aztecs didn't also believe that their God would give them victory.

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Chapter 5- Capitalism Moves North

The beginning of the chapter explains that along with the establishment of Italian banks in Flanders, the woolen and textile industry began to flourish.

Guilds had been established to protect prices and even hours of the work day. The guilds strictly controlled everyone in the industry, "... all of the wool washers, carders, spinners, dyers, fullers, shearers, and the rest." pg. 133.

Cities in Flanders had distant rulers who generally did not interfere in local affairs, but as disagreements and turmoil arose the elites who did run those cities appealed to more powerful rulers. This ended in a divide between northern Flanders which continued with the support of The Count of Flanders, and southern Flanders which was annexed by France.

After "the battle of Contrai in 1302," the cities of Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp prospered.

This is contrasted with southern Flanders, where taxation and other exorbitant fees caused the woolen industry to dwindle. Professor Stark explains that political divides tightening control over the woolen industry ended in the emigration of many artisans to Italy.

The next part of the chapter, Professor Stark explains in some detail that the woolen industry prospered, (thus capitalism grew) in the cities of Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Amsterdam. The detail in this part of the chapter is enlightening as to how commerce developed in these cities. There is detail about the controls of the guilds on the woolen industry, disagreements about such controls, as well as the religious institutions affect on prosperity.

I've begun to adjust to Professor Starks writing style as he does not write about history chronologically, but rather by sectioning location and topic matter. This taken in to account, I find that I am learning a great deal about the influence of capitalistic ideas, individual liberty and progress of technological innovations in medieval Europe.

Their causes may have been influenced positively by Christian ideals, but also caused by political, geographical, and human realities necessary for survival which were unique to Europeans during medieval times.

As one who has been fascinated about medieval history particularly as it pertains to England, I found the section about "English Capitalism" fascinating. Professor Stark writes more about the positive affect of the Magna Carta on the growth of industries, civil liberties, and technological growth and independence. The English managed to utilize their resources in a positive manner to grow their woolen industry (see page 149 for a table on English Wool Exports from the years 1279-1540).

The beginning of the English "Industrial Revolution” examines how cloth making progressed as fulling mills were used. Exports of textiles increased and were greatly valued on the continent of Europe due to their superior quality. Technological advances made the process of cloth making less physically laborious on artisans.

Coal power enabled people to better develop metals, "bricks, glass, soap, salt and pottery." Coal produced a higher degree of heat than firewood.

As the supply of surface coal depleted, rather than strip mining, technology advanced in order to create mines underground. Along with mining came the inventions surrounding rail transport.

The end of this chapter Professor Stark explains further that even as prosperity developed in some areas, it also disappeared largely due to political and religious divisions.

I look forward to gaining more understanding about the influence of religious divisions and cultural progression in Chapter 6.

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Capitalism Moves North and Prof. Stark's Foundation Collapses

In Chapter 5, Prof. Stark attempts to argue that capitalism did not progress because of a lack of freedom. He identifies the guild system as the primary source of repression.

…It was through the local merchant weavers' guild, to which all owner-operators belonged. And that was the problem. For generations, capitalism could not develop in the woolen industry for lack of freedom. (p. 133)

…the merchant weavers' guilds in the various towns and cities operated as repressive cartels…Guild rules kept individual firms very small by limiting the number of looms they could own, usually fewer than five.(p. 133)

He than identifies the result of this repression, individuals fleeing the country to freer areas.

While French repession caused many Flemish cloth makers to take their skills south to Italy, the new freedom in northern Flanders caused large numbers of southern entrepreneurs to take their skills north. And they brought capitalism with them. (p. 135)

He argues that these fleeing individuals or 'entrepreneurs' were the source of Flanders capitalism.

However, this capitalism was not native to Flanders. It was imported by entrepreneurs who supplanted the merchants and weavers' guild with well-managed firms that integrated the entire woolen industry…. An early "market-driven" innovation was that, in addition to its more expensive, luxury woolens, Flanders soon began to produce less expensive varieties that led to an immense increase in sales. (p. 136)

He also shows that reality determines the course of action. He asks,

But why manufacture woolens? Because the poor soil of Flanders was far more suitable for grazing sheep than for raising crops. (p. 137)

It would appear that Prof. Stark is making valid arguments in support of capitalism until he decides to attack the capitalist center of Amsterdam and its Protestantism.

It is true that when Amsterdam took Antwerp's place as the leading port and financial center of western Europe, it was a Protestant city. (p. 144)

He continuues his argument with

In fact, the Calvinist preachers could not even get businesses or the pubs to shut down for the Sabbath. As it reached its economic peak, many of Amsterdam's leading capitalists remained Catholics, while many others quite openly professed themselves to be irreligious "libertines." 37 (p. 146)

"the expansion of Dutch trade and the development of the commercial spirit were carried on in spite of the Calvinist Church rather than because of it….Dutch Calvinism was opposed to the working of the capitalist spirit, and…Calvinist Holland was quite distinct from commercial Holland." 39 (p. 146)

At this point, I believe Prof. Stark's argument has collapsed. He points out that Amsterdam's leading capitalists were either Catholics or irreligious "libertines" and argues that capitalism continued despite the Calvinist Church. Isn't it also possible that capitalism carried on in spite of the Catholic Church? Prof. Stark has either failed to consider this possibility or he is evading the question.

On p. 158, Prof. Stark concludes with

Freedom, too, is not an aura that floats over societies; it exists only where people believe in freedom and develop methods for sustaining it.

Had Prof. Stark properly identified what those methods are I think his argument might have some merit. Instead, I see an attempt to discredit the other Christian religions in an effort to show that the Catholic religion was the source of Capitalism. This presents a problem which Prof. Stark attempts to address in the next chapter.

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WEEK 7: Ch. 6, “’Catholic’ Anticapitalism: Spanish and French Despotism”

Good morning, today is Monday, May 1, the first day of VORSISG Week 7. The assignment this week is to write about Ch. 6, “’Catholic’ Anticapitalism: Spanish and French Despotism.” Following are my notes summarizing key points.

Untitled introduction. Prof. Stark says rightly that a historical explanation for the rise of capitalism in some European countries should also explain the opposition to capitalism in other countries. Accordingly, the theme of this chapter is that avaricious states destroy wealth by using it for nonproductive enterprises (such as wars that extend oppression to other countries). [This explanation is political and economic, not a reference to fundamental ideas.]

Prof. Stark notes another, related problem: How can anti-capitalist countries be wealthy enough to finance wars of oppression against wealthier, pro-capitalist countries? Though unable to invent them, the anti-capitalist countries were eager to absorb the technological advances originated in pro-capitalist countries.

1492: Backward Spain. One aspect of VOR that I admire is that its author, in a mere 235 pages of main text, manages to touch on a long list of historical problems that have puzzled me for many years. One such problem is how backward Spain could gather enough strength to threaten much of the rest of the more progressive western European societies. Prof. Stark briefly reviews various explanations, with emphasis on Henry Kamen’s observation that “the Spanish Empire” was Spanish only in two ways: (1) a flood of precious metals from Spain’s Latin American colonies financed the Spanish homeland’s expansion; and (2) well trained soldiers from the Iberian homeland enforced its policies.

(I am not familiar with this period of history. What was the relationship of the “Spanish Empire” to the Holy Roman Empire, at this time? Were they connected temporarily by royal marriages?)

On pp. 166-167, Prof. Stark identifies five causes of Spain’s technological and economic backwardness. (“Spain” was the late 15th century joining of the kingdoms of Castille and Aragon). The five causes were:

(1) pointless wars at great expense.

(2) statism (protecting the mesta, a vast organization of sheep owners that violated the property rights of farmers in the path of migrating sheep).

(3) geographic “barriers.”

(4) dependence on precious metals (extracted with slave labor?).

(5) denigration of business by social and cultural leaders.

Prof. Stark does not delve deeper into the philosophical or theological causes of Spanish culture. Nor does he look more closely into the roots of Spanish Christianity (possibly influenced by long rule under North African Muslims).

Wealth and Empire. Apparently controlled by aristocrats in Spain, the Spanish Empire spanned the globe: nominally half of W. Europe, most of the Americas, the Philippines, and some territory in Africa. The Spanish themselves – whom I now see as anti-Westerners who used Western technology against the West -- manufactured almost no material elements used in their military conquests in Europe and elsewhere. Instead, The Spanish imperialists hired soldiers and bought military equipment from sources outside Spain. To paraphrase the title of a Cold War book about the Soviet Union: “Spain Minus the West = Zero.”

Where did the Spanish Empire’s wealth come from? Prof. Stark identifies three sources: (1) Devastating levels of taxation of Spanish peasants and conquered countries; (2) vast donations by the Catholic Church; and (3) importation of gold, silver, spices, and silks (to be sold in Spain itself?). On the other hand, the Spanish Empire’s expenses were ruinous: for example, the cost of outfitting the Armada against England was twice the annual budget of the whole Spanish Empire! (p. 169)

(Not clear to me: Were the Spanish acquisitions -- of gold, silver, spices, and silks – acts of theft, for example, by using slave labor? Or were the Spanish [actually Genoan?] merchants merely coercive-monopoly buyers, thus able to make a huge “profit” because of their statist advantage?)

Another source of Spain's income was loans from bankers, never repaid -- one more instance of businessmen financing their enemies. (I am assuming here that the bankers and others were initially willing participants.)

Spanish Italy. Prof. Stark believes Spain’s imperial influence caused a major decline in “capitalism” in the formerly vibrant city-states of northern Italy. The influence consisted of industrial regulation, taxation, and general restrictions on rights, leading toward oligarchy and away from republicanism, a prerequisite of capitalism.

The Spanish Netherlands. Spanish conquest and oppression of the southern (“Spanish”) Netherlands destroyed “capitalism” there. Blockades by Protestants and Catholics, destruction in war, and religious intolerance caused a mass movement out of the city and into Amsterdam, in the north, out of the reach of the Spanish.

Defeat. Prof. Stark’s theme here is that the English helped defeat the Spanish (especially the Spanish Armada) by using a more “capitalistic” approach to war.

THE ARMADA. An example of this capitalistic approach was the creation of a small fleet under the command of Sir Francis Drake, a fleet combining regular British navy and privateers (ships owned by merchants, heavily armed, fast, and motivated in part by a promise of sharing the spoils after victory). Another example was superior shipbuilding technology among the English. The Spanish lost many ships to storms; the English lost none, Prof. Stark says.

CRUMBLING EMPIRE. In other parts of the world, advances by Spain’s European enemies, such as Holland, eroded the Spanish colonial territories. The Spanish Empire declined steadily, as shown, for example, by repeated bankruptcies. Meanwhile, the Spanish homeland remained at the same level of near-stagnation.

France: Taxation, Regulation, and Stagnation. France allowed little “capitalism,” as Prof. Stark has defined it. The French central government -- an absolutist monarchy backed by a huge bureaucracy and state-supported guilds -- taxed and regulated incipient capitalists into near extinction. On p. 192, as a summary, Prof. Stark says capitalism succeeds where three factors prevail: “secure property rights, free markets, and free labor.” None of those existed in France at this time.

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CAUTIONS for Ch. 6

Untitled introduction. Unlike England, Prof. Stark says, France and Spain tended to oppose capitalism rather than encourage it. Although elsewhere Prof. Stark attributes the rise of “capitalism” (by his definition) to western Christianity’s support for reason, he does not go to the same level in the hierarchy of Christian philosophy when he explains why so many Christians opposed capitalism (even in Prof. Stark’s meaning of that term, much less in the Objectivist meaning).

When Prof. Stark tries to explain the rise of capitalism, he looks to the metaphysics and epistemology of Christian philosophy. When he tries to explain the collapse of capitalism, he looks no deeper than political causes – for example, the anti-capitalist Spanish empire invaded Italy and destroyed pro-capitalist city-states. A glaring question is: Since Spain was just as Catholic as northern Italy, why wasn’t Spain pro-capitalist? Further, why didn’t pro-capitalist northern Italy rebuff the Spanish conquest? Given the example of the American colonies, I find it hard to accept that a determined people could not overthrow or at least greatly wear down a foreign power at this time, a time in which sending troops abroad and supplying them was extraordinarily expensive.

Note that this approach – expecting a historian to explain the negatives as well as the positives he claims -- applies to all sweeping explanations of history, not just to Prof. Stark’s. For example, if adherence to a philosophy of reason explains Classical Greek art and advances in mathematics, then what explains slavery, oppression of women, and the pointless mass slaughter that arose in city-state warfare?

Spanish Italy. Prof. Stark here suggests reasons for the decline of “capitalism” in the northern Italian city-states. However, here, as before, he no longer refers back to ideas as causes when he considers declines. If Western Christianity’s respect for reason caused the rise of capitalism (and the conditions that made it possible) then what explains the decline? In particular, Prof. Stark should explain – philosophically -- why the Vatican became a willing supporter of the Spanish empire even after the Spanish-led sack of Rome in 1527. Why, for example, didn’t the Vatican lead a guerilla war against the Spanish, fueled by the devastation the Spanish caused in 1527? What sort of philosophical principle would lead a rape victim to become a willing supporter of the rapist? Could a principle such as "turn the other cheek" explain such behavior?

The Spanish Netherlands. THE DESTRUCTION OF ANTWERP. Here and throughout VOR, the reader should keep in mind the vast scope of VOR – covering 2000 years of history in about 230 pages, that is, hundreds of years per chapter. A sequence of events which Prof. Stark describes in adjacent paragraphs might be separated by one person’s lifetime, especially considering how short a typical life was then. An example appears on p. 176. In the top, partial paragraph he mentions 1525, a year in which Catholics murdered Protestant heretics. He then notes that the Protestants (roving bands of Calvinist thugs) “struck back” in 1566. From 1525 to 1566 is a span of 41 years, a whole lifetime for many individuals in this era. Imagine the U. S. “striking back” for the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) by nuking Hiroshima in 1982! The lesson here is that, though Prof. Stark must compress his account if his book is to be readable by a large audience, the reader must be alert to the need to concretize the time spans involved.

In his conclusion to this chapter, on p. 194, Prof. Stark says: “It was not Catholicism but tyranny that impeded capitalism in France and Spain ….” This statement invites a question: What caused the tyranny? Some idea outside of Christianity, or perhaps some idea inside Christianity, a Christianity of very mixed premises? As elsewhere, Prof. Stark does not perform philosophical detection except when he is holding Christian respect for reason as the cause of all the advances of W. Civilization. What about the areas of culture that were not advances? What caused them?

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Chapter Six

"Catholic" Anticapitalism

In Chapter Six, Stark attempts to prove that the demise of capitalism in the Spanish empire and in France had nothing to do with the Catholic Church. Certainly, most of the problems were the result of the despotic regimes of Spain and France. But the Vatican was, in Stark's own words, "a willing and substantial source of imperial funding" for the Spanish.

But I have no quarrel with Stark's stated theme in this chapter: "despotic states are avaricious and devour much of the wealth that might go into economic development." I only point out that the Catholic Church had no problem coexisting with such despotic states.

On page 164 I finally found mention of the Inquisition. It was mentioned in a list of reasons for the decline of Spain in a quote by an Englishman from 1673. Stark himself says nothing further about the Inquisition, not surprisingly, as that would contradict his theme of Christianity giving rise to reason in the West.

Most of the rest of the chapter narrates the ways the Spanish and French despotisms crushed incipient capitalism wherever they found it. Taxes, regulations, support of guilds, brutal military suppressions, looting and pillaging, and endless, expensive wars that drained the nation's wealth. Wherever possible, the merchants fled to freer countries, mainly Holland (Amsterdam) and England.

It must also be noted that many of the wars undertaken by Spain were to "defend the Faith," that is, the Catholic Church, from the upstart Protestants, especially in the Netherlands (pp. 176-177). This is one of the reasons the Church was a willing financier of Spain.

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Chapter 6 – “Catholic” Anticapitalism: Spanish and French Despotism

The beginning of this chapter goes in to great detail about the Spanish Empire. Spain’s economy was active mainly outside of Spain largely due to feudalism and culture.

Professor Stark explains the formation of Spain under the union of Ferdinand and Isabella. After which much of the wealth of the Spanish Empire came from Flanders, Italy and the New World. The woolen industry was the only resource which added to the Empire’s economy.

The Spanish Empire declines under the rule of Charles V and his son Philip II. As well, the Spanish capture of capitalistic areas in Italy attributed to their decline. I found it very interesting the manner in which Charles V gained the support of the Papal States, as Spanish troops caused a great deal of damage in Rome. Whether intentionally or not (I am not clear without further study) Charles seemed to intimidate the Vatican for their support.

Spanish control of the Netherlands declined as funding for the military became unavailable. Religious separatists gained control and caused strife as freedoms were limited in formerly prosperous cities, and taxes increased.

As opposition of the Beeldenstorms and other non-Catholic groups grew, Philip II sent troops under his commander “Alba” to the Netherlands to squash them. Where rebellion was once rampant, a great deal of blood was shed and it seemed no one was safe from being tried for treason against Spain.

Detail is given about the Spanish Armada. Sir Francis Drake was a cunning commander of English fleets who was well prepared for the invasion by Spain and outmaneuvered them.

Merchant ships were recruited in England to join the Royal Navy against the barely formidable Armada. Professor Stark describes the camaraderie of Elizabeth I in England and the Netherlands, as the Armada was initially designed to remove her from the throne and replace her with a Catholic queen.

pg. 180

“It was a wonderful design. It might well have succeeded had England also been ruled by a despot – but it was doomed against a free nation “of shopkeepers,” where technology blossomed, enterprise was cultivated, and the queen was a devoted capitalist.”
There were two Spanish Armada’s which failed due to lack of equipment, fierce opposition, and most of all - weather.

France is described as a nation of feudal power mongers and even non-nobles were very aware of social status. Taxation was extremely high, guilds were very powerful and bureaucracy was never-ending. Innovation was frowned upon in France even by the farmers. Adam Smith and Voltaire are both quoted on pg. 188 as examples of the contrast between English innovation and freedom to prosper to the lack of individual progress in France.

The end of the Chapter Professor Stark explains that tyranny is the cause for the decline of capitalism in some areas. Tyranny and despotism are also the cause for the lack of freedom and initiation of capitalism and free-markets in others.

While taking the concept of St. Augustine’s and St. Thomas’ free-will in to account, the Europeans had an opportunity to pursue liberty. I do believe that in order to understand a conceptually (or philosophically) inconsistent religion, Greek philosophy – Plato and Aristotle - deserve further examination.

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It is indeed, generally speaking. You have here highlighted a point that readers of VOR might keep in mind as they continue through the chapters.

Leonard Peikoff, in the Epilogue of Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, notes the duel between the followers of Plato and the followers of Aristotle in the 2400 years since the time of those two philosophers. Prof. Stark, in VOR, repeatedly but briefly mentions two "churches" (subcultures) in the Catholic Church. He refers to a "church of piety" (primarily focused on adhering to other-worldly standards) and a "church of power" (more concerned with getting on with life here on earth, even by adjusting earlier theological principles to fit the reality of this world).

I can find no reference to these two churches in the index, but by skimming my notes in the book I see that he introduces these ideas on pp. 202-203. However, in earlier chapters he leads up to those ideas when he discusses, more informally, contrasts between worldly Churchmen and ascetic Churchmen.

My own study question, for the weeks ahead, is: What relationship is there, if any, between (1) the duel of Plato and Aristotle and (2) the divergence of the two churches -- two streams of somewhat differing values -- within the overall Church?

Thank you very much for pointing out the Epilogue in OPAR by Leonard Peikoff! I thought it was worth bringing your post back up again at this point during my own studies and others might find it useful as well.

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