Burgess Laughlin

Stark's *Victory of Reason*

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WEEK 8: Ch. 7, “Feudalism and Capitalism in the New World”

Good morning, today is Monday, May 8, the first day VORSISG Week 8. The assignment this week is to write about Ch. 7, “Feudalism and Capitalism in the New World.” Following are my notes summarizing Prof. Stark’s key points.

Untitled Introduction In this chapter, Prof. Stark’s special theme – an application of his book’s general theme -- is that Anglo North American culture is today economically and technologically far ahead of Hispanic Central and South American culture because there is more capitalism in the north; the reason for that is more political freedom; and the reason for that is that the founders of the U. S. would not allow the state to support a monopoly religion. A free market in religion, so to speak, led to fierce competition for religious followers. This competition encouraged religious advocates to practice the very virtues that support capitalism – “honesty, hard work, thrift, and self-reliance.” (p. 197)

Christianity: Two Religious Economies A CAPTIVE MONOPOLY. Prof. Stark says capitalism and freedom failed to take hold in Latin America because the Church there was weak. Yes, the Church in Latin America had legal-monopoly status, but that status led the Church to relax its efforts to Christianize the population and – Prof. Stark notes occasionally in passing –led the Church to make a deal with the Devil, the semi-feudalistic, repressive state. The Church gave the state some of its own power, in exchange for monopoly status.

Prof. Stark says the Church opposed slavery. He offers as evidence of the Church’s seriousness the assertion that the Church threatened to excommunicate anyone who actively supported slavery. The Church’s threats had little effect. (Prof. Stark does not tell readers what actions the Church took to enforce its generalized threat to separate slavers from the Church community.)

COUNTER-REFORMATION CATHOLICISM. Prof. Stark here implicitly recognizes a fact cultural historians must face when dealing with large groups, small groups, or single individuals: most are mixed in their values and premises – good and bad, objective and nonobjective. This is one of the differences between the study of history (which deals with particulars as they were) and philosophy, which strives for universals that apply to all individuals everywhere and at all times.

The Church, Prof. Stark holds, was actually two Churches. They worked together (uncomfortably) in some periods of history; they worked in opposition at other times. The good Church, Prof. Stark says, worked for reason, freedom, and capitalism, but the bad Church didn’t. To Prof. Stark’s credit, he recognizes that the bad Church (the “Church of piety”) damaged the movement toward reason, freedom, and capitalism, but the good Church (the “Church of power,” composed of individuals who recognized the desirability of doing business for material gain in this world) did tend to support reason, freedom, and capitalism. [This mixed description reminds me of the U. S. Republican Party.]

Prof. Stark, p. 203, sees these cross-currents within the Church as an “irony.” He sees the turn by the Church of piety, in the 1500s and 1600s, toward anti-intellectualism (for example, against Galileo) as mostly a matter of bad timing. He holds that such pious behavior originally arose in earlier “command economies” but was no longer suitable for (“out of touch with”) emerging capitalist economies.

INDOLENT STATE CHURCHES. Here Prof. Stark elaborates his idea that the Church became fat and lazy when it made a deal with Latin American statists: The Church gained a monopoly of religion, but gave up to the state some control over its own affairs, as in choosing priests and bishops. Prof. Stark notes that the Church became “very rich.” Nevertheless, he says, the Church was weak: Few people in South and Central America believed in Catholic Christianity.

RELIGION IN A FREE MARKET. By contrast, the founders of the U. S. chose religious pluralism (an open market for religious ideas). The result was that hard-working churches succeeded in drawing members away from their competitors. Why did the founders of the U. S. make this decision for pluralism? Necessity, says Prof. Stark. They were simply recognizing and accepting an accomplished fact. (In other words, fundamental ideas were not the cause, only pragmatism, suggests Prof. Stark, p. 207).

Freedom: Patterns of Rule. Prof. Stark, in a manner reminiscent of sociologist Thomas Sowell’s Ethnic America, notes that the nature of the North American vs. South American colonies was due mainly to the differing purposes and values of the people who came to the colonies. “The British colonies were founded on production, the Spanish colonies on extraction,” says Prof. Stark, p. 212.

COLONIZATION. Prof. Stark offers fascinating information on why so few Spaniards migrated to the New World. The reasons were partly political (governmental restrictions) and partly a matter of values and disvalues – for example, not valuing business and productivity.

COLONIAL GOVERNANCE AND CONTROL. Anglo colonies tended to be more republican (“democratic,” says Prof. Stark), and Latin American colonies more oligarchic. Both home countries (England and Spain) sought to use the colonies for the benefit of the home country – a policy of merchantilism, that is, regulating international trade to supposedly enrich the nation. Apparently the Spanish were more consistent in their merchantilism.

INDEPENDENCE. Here Prof. Stark compares the nature and consequences of the liberation movements in Anglo America and in Latin America. We see the effects even today.

ENDING SLAVERY. Prof. Stark notes that officially slavery ended in most of Latin America long before it did in the U. S.; but he also notes (without drawing clear conclusions) that where slavery was most profitable, on plantations, Latin American slavery continued longest – in Brazil, Cuba, and Puerto Rica, as well as in the states of the Confederacy.

Capitalism. Two points here.

INDUSTRY AND LABOR. Prof. Stark’s main argument here is that the following sequence of events occurred: (1) Greater freedom in the North American colonies meant that colonials could set up their own businesses and thus perhaps make a lot of money. (2) To draw workers away from self-employment, manufacturers had to offer high wages. (3) To compensate for higher labor costs, manufacturers invested heavily in new technology to raise worker productivity, thus lowering per-unit costs, thus making the products competitive with European products.

INVESTING IN HUMAN CAPITAL. In the competitive religious pluralism of the North American colonies, various Churches competed by offering schools for all age levels. By contrast, Latin American cultures did not value education as highly, and their monopolistic approach to religion restricted both the quality and quantity of education available.

Latin American Protestantism: Opiate or Ethic? As elsewhere, Prof. Stark here rejects the idea that Protestantism (the “Protestant ethic”) caused movements toward freedom and capitalism. What matters most, he seems to be saying, is the values of the individuals, not the Christian denomination they belong to.

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Chapter Seven

Feudalism and Capitalism in the New World

This is an interesting chapter on the differences between North and South America. Stark's main point is that North America followed the British example politically and economically, and that South America followed the Spanish example---to its lasting detriment. I agree with him on this.

He goes to great lengths to show that it was not a result of the religious difference---North America being heavily Protestant, and South America heavily Catholic.

Perhaps the most telling section of the chapter is on Counter-Reformation Catholicism (pp. 202-204). Here he distinguishes two separate wings of the Church from time immemorial: the church of piety, and the church of power. The church of power had been in the ascendency from the time of Constantine until the Reformation, when its venality was exposed. Then the church of piety took control. What Stark cannot bring himself to admit is that the church of piety is simply Christianity taken seriously, whereas the church of power is the opposite.

Since the church of power was less hostile to reason and capitalism than the truer church of piety, and Stark's purpose in this book is to claim reason and capitalism were dependent on Christianity, he must necessarily favor the church of power. And he does. This doesn't alter the fact that the church of piety is truer to Christianity and the Bible than the church of power.

Stark also spends several pages showing that religion fares better in a free market than in a state-backed monoploy situation.

In the context of describing the spread of Protestantism in Latin America, Stark briefly mentions Liberation Theology, but does not describe it adequately. It seems to be a socialist variety of Christianity. I am left with the impression that this movement is similar to the church of piety, and is a truer version of Christian faith and altruism than the church of power model that Stark favors.

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CAUTIONS: Ch. 7

In my copy of VOR, I have made notes about many doubtful points in Ch. 7, “Feudalism and Capitalism in the New World.” Following are a few of them.

Untitled Introduction Here again, Prof. Stark’s argument becomes murky. Earlier in the book he held that Christian support for reason led to capitalism, among other benefits. But why did some Christian societies support capitalism more than others? If the explanation for the rise of capitalism is ultimately philosophical/theological, then why not for its absence too? Saying that capitalism didn’t arise in Latin America because the Church was weakened by its monopoly on religion invites the question, again, of why there was less political/religious freedom in some Christian societies than in others. Is the explanation that there is more than one Christianity, or perhaps that Christianity as a cultural movement contains conflicting premises? Once again, I suspect that Prof. Stark resorts to philosophical explanations only for the alleged positive results of Christianity.

Christianity: Two Religious Economies. Prof. Stark doesn’t make clear what he means by “religion.” Does he mean a set of hierarchically arranged ideas? (This is the meaning Ayn Rand suggests when she describes religion as “an early form of philosophy” -- see The Ayn Rand Lexicon, p. 411.) Or does “religion” for Prof. Stark mean, more broadly, not only a set of (possibly mixed) ideas but also practices (such as rituals) and organizations (such as a local Catholic laymen’s organization helping lepers)? Prof. Stark, on p. 198, seems to adopt the term “religious economy” to encompass the second meaning of “religion.” Why is the meaning of “religion,” important? Without clear definitions of key terms, equivocations and other fallacies can arise.

A CAPTIVE MONOPOLY. Prof. Stark’s comments about the wealth of the Church raise a question: How did the Church manage to become so wealthy? Was it by fraud (for example, promising a better life in the next world) Or was it by aggression through proxy (for example, pointing a damning finger at a suspected heretic and then turning him over to the state for imprisonment, torture, or murder)?

Another caution here is a question that arises in Prof. Stark’s discussion of kings who “gained complete control of church property and income.” He doesn’t explain how that happened. How could an organization supposedly dedicated to absolute principles continue to sanction rulers who exploited them? Why wouldn’t the Church at least use civil disobedience as a protest, to keep its own hands clean? The Church, I suggest, was not an innocent victim, but a sometimes-abused partner in criminal activity.

COUNTER-REFORMATION CATHOLICISM. Here again Prof. Stark sometimes offers explanations that go back to fundamental ideas, but at other times he stops short, with merely political or economic causes. An example appears in his discussion, on p. 203, of “the Church of power,” the supposedly pro-capitalist side of the Church. Where did that side get its ideas? Perhaps inductions from personal experience? If so, those ideas too should be traced historically, not just the ideas that passed through the writings of the Church Fathers, such as Augustine.

RELIGION IN A FREE MARKET. Page 209 provides an example of the sort of question an objective reader might ask of any historian. Prof. Stark says, “Even in Puritan Boston there probably were more people in the taverns on Saturday night than there were in church on Sunday morning.” (Emphasis added.) That is a clever and amusing comment – but is it true? How does Prof. Stark know?

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Chapter 7 – Feudalism and Capitalism in the New World

The introduction to Chapter 7 is an appropriate way to begin to examine some cultural differences of North and South America given the recent news headlines about immigration reform and border control in the US today.

Professor Stark explains that Central and South America are legacies of the Spanish Empire, whereas North America (the US and Canada) are legacies of Europe (in particular Great Britain) in regard to religious influence to culture and politics. Religious tolerance and pluralism have had a positive affect on capitalism and individual productivity.

Spanish emigration to the Americas was relatively small in numbers as it was expensive for Spaniards to come to the New World and there was not a great deal of incentive. The Vatican did not have a great influence on Central and South America, as in the past church leadership within these areas was chosen by the heads of the Spanish empire. This was also the case for France. The governments of both countries taxed the church, collected a percentage of tithes and appointed church clergy.

Slavery ended in some parts of Central and South America prior to the American Civil War. Argentina, Columbia, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela emancipated their slaves in the early to mid 19th century. Puerto Rico, Cuba and Brazil all granted emancipation toward the last half of the 19th century.

Education and industrialization were important parts of North American societies. Americans earned more money per hour compared to their English counterparts and this had some do with the advancement of innovation and technology in America. As American employers adapted better technologies, they were able to expand their businesses. They were then able to roll the increased earnings to better pay their labor force. As English industrialization began, not all employers saw the need to increase pay and offer more incentives to their own labor force.

I found it very interesting that the levels of education were so low in Central and South America. At one time, this was partly due to the fact that governments left the roll of education to the Church. However, in modern times;

Pg. 229

“The sad fact is that today Latin American nations are spending heavily on education and getting almost nothing in return. As a report by the Inter-American development Bank put it in 1998, “despite adequate public spending … the distribution of education has hardly improved over time.” The money gets soaked up by an educational bureaucracy, with “little attention to priorities and accounting, extensive corruption, and political manipulation of the system.”

A point to further explore is Christian Marxism, the “liberacion” movement made by popular by a Catholic priest, Father Gustavo Gutierrez. (See pg. 230)

Another avenue to further examine is the affect of Pentecostal and Baptist evangelicals in Central and South America. I have learned second hand that the Christian evangelicals have made a big impact in some areas of Central America where the culture is already prone to mysticism and superstition.

I do not see that Professor Stark has necessarily explained the philosophical differences within predominantly Catholic societies, but he has stated historical facts about what prompted some of them. Essentially, the Church abdicated its “power” to some feudal states. This was done out of fear, intimidation, and as an attempt to maintain some influence in Spanish and French cultures. What was the price to the authenticity/purity of the church doctrine? Or does Christianity accept an evolving doctrine in order to continue to exist?

Professor Stark explains that “modern society” would not exist had it not been for Christianity.

Once again, in my opinion, the positive concepts of free-will have had a great role in modernizing mankind. So, in some aspects the possibility that Christianity enabled human progress by introducing the concept of self responsibility, free will, and the religion itself being open to interpretation (to some degree over the centuries) and evolve as a religion, has had a positive affect on the advancement of mankind.

I found the Conclusion very interesting and understand why Professor Stark explains that Christianity may be a growing religion in otherwise repressed societies. These people may be looking for some kind of hope in the oppressive/anti-individualistic cultures they live in. It is also important to be aware that the nature of Christianity is altruistic and not always conducive to reason or capitalism.

This was a very good use of my time. The Victory of Reason has captured my attention as I have found its subjects fascinating! Although some of my questions were not answered, by reading this book I have learned how to formulate questions that have sort of been sitting at the back of my own mind for quite a while. This has introduced other areas of study that may help answer some questions I have about current events as well.

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Religion in a Free Market

In Chapter Seven, Prof. Stark takes a look at how religion competes in a free market.

"....while in America, because of competition there is "not one idler amongst[the clergy]; all of them are obliged to exert themselves for the spiritual welfare of their respective congregations."32 (p. 210)

He than points out the following.

"One reason the Baptists surpassed the Methodists is that, as increasing numbers of Methodist clergy embraced "modern" theology, they were protected by powerful bishops who shared these views, which were not nearly so popular with the membership. In contrast, the Baptist clergy remain at the beck and call of congregations, and those who offend or are uninspiring get the sack. Also growing very rapidly, as can be seen in Table 7-2, are other evangelical Protestant groups as well as the Mormons. Clearly, a free market religious economy favors robust, energetic organizations." (p. 209)

One of the interesting facts about Table 7-2 that Prof. Stark does not mention is the following. If you add up the columns for 1960 there were 448.3 members per 1000. In 2000, there were 409.4 members per 1000. A decrease of 38.9 people or 8.6 %. Not only are some denominations growing and some declining, in general membership is declining. I think this fact needs to be considered and provides evidence that a 'robust, energetic economy' can occur with a decrease in church membership and is not the result of Christian held beliefs. For Prof. Stark's theory to be valid, he needs to address and explain this decrease in membership.

What is also of interest is Prof. Stark's reference to the increase in the Mormon population. In Jon Krakauer's book, "Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith", I found the following reference to Prof. Stark,

"The respected sociologist Rodney Stark raised eyebrows in 1984 by predicting that there would be 265 million Mormons on the planet by A.D. 2080. After reassessing his calculations in 1998 to reflect more recent growth rates, Stark revised his prediction upward; now he believes that the LDS Church will have close to three hundred million members by the final decades of this century." (p. 321)

Surely Prof. Stark would recognize overall church membership is in a decline when making these calculations. Prof. Stark concludes the Section: Religion in a Free Market with the following,

"Although competitive churches and diligent clergy are in keeping with basic principles of capitalism, it was freedom that allowed both North American religion and commerce to flourish." (p. 210)

It appears to me that Prof. Stark has reversed his position here. His arguement in the previous chapters has been that Christian beliefs and faith in reason have led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. In fact the cover of the book states, "How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success."

Now he is claiming that freedom allowed religion and commerce to flourish in North America. Why the flip flop?

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WEEK 9: "Conclusion: Globalization and Modernity"

Good morning, today is Monday, May 15, the first day of VORSISG Week 9. The assignment this week, the last week, is to write about Prof. Stark’s “Conclusion: Globalization and Modernity,” as well as your own conclusions. My comments about his brief “Conclusion” follow.

Prof. Stark declares, “Christianity created Western Civilization.” Unfortunately he has never told us what he means by “Western Civilization.” If he, like most scholars, means simply European culture as a mix of Greek, Semitic, Roman, and Germanic streams, then trial by ordeal, witch-hunts, the Inquisition, “post-modernism,” Marxism, and environmentalism are all elements of Western Civilization, alongside the development of logic, the founding of the U. S., the discovery of penicillin, computers, the science of genetics, and the ideal of constitutional government. Such a definition – Western Civilization as European culture -- is bound mostly by geography and the accidents of history. It is a definition by nonessentials.

If Western Civilization is instead defined by its philosophical fundamentals (the “Civilization” part) within a certain historical context (the “Western” part), then Prof. Stark’s statement is false. Christianity did not create Western Civilization, though it had an enormous influence on European culture.

Philosophically defined, Western Civilization is an interconnected set of cultural elements whose philosophical foundation (cause and explanation) is a philosophy of reason. Historically, the origin of this civilization is not Christianity but the best elements of Greek philosophy as it emerged in Classical Greek culture. By this definition, logic, the sciences (from physics to history), advanced technology, rule by law, representative government, the concept of rights, and romantic-realism in art are all elements of W. Civilization. Why? Because they are products of reason explicated and sanctioned by a stream of philosophy going back to Aristotle and, to a lesser extent, some of his predecessors.

Christianity – the religion advocated by Jesus and Paul (who is sometimes called the “second founder”) was in no way, shape, or form a philosophy of reason. Whether some Christians -- living in the following centuries and receiving a thorough pagan education before converting to Christianity -- helped preserve some elements of a Greek respect for reason (itself diluted and conflicted) is another question. That question is a historical question, specifically a question for the fields of history of philosophy, history of ideas, intellectual history, and cultural history.

I hold that some Christians did (and still do) help preserve a sort of respect for reason (though in a vague, fragmented, and conflicted form). Diverse examples are Pelagius, Boethius, Bernard of Chartres, Peter Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, Christine de Pisan, John Locke, and others, including more recent individuals such as Gregor Mendel, Pope John Paul II, and Robert George.

While not proving his case in his very short book, Prof. Stark has made a contribution of a sort. He has boldly offered a sweeping interpretation of the last 2000 years of history, partly from the standpoint that ideas cause history. In the process of doing that he has raised many issues that deserve further examination and discussion, issues that have, in my experience, been ignored by Prof. Stark’s politically-correct, post-modernist, and empiricist adversaries in academia. The central issue remains this: Why did Western Civilization succeed where and when it did -- and not elsewhere?

I am glad I read this book, despite its many errors. VORSISG members who have persisted through this long course of study have added many insights. This little book has value in at least two ways. First, its bold thesis, though poorly argued, is a "challenge text." It presents a thesis on a subject that deserves serious consideration -- more than it has received in academia in my experience. Any serious student of history or other professional intellectual should be able to answer such a thesis, both with criticism and with a positive alternative. Second, the most dangerous enemies of the Objectivist movement will not be Marxists and their like, but those who might sound like Objectivists in some of their conclusions, while relying on principles that are nonobjective -- that is, detached from reality. Prof. Stark's thesis is an example.

Thank you for participating. You are rare among readers. You worked hard with a sometimes exasperating text. You have demonstrated that you have the virtue of persistence. That is rare. Many can be excited about a project -- initially. Few can do what you have done: follow through, week after week.

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Conclusion

Stark's conclusion restates his litany of unproven assertions about how the Church was responsible for the rise of Western Civilization. The Greeks developed and bequeathed reason to the West, not Christianity, which bequeathed its opposite: faith. The Greeks were the first scientists, not Christians, who often demonized science. Christianity is as compatible with despotism as with any other form of government, as history shows. Reason is not compatible with anything but freedom.

Stark boasts that the modern world arose in Christian societies, not in any "secular society," there having been none. There have been none because the mass of mankind has always preferred the easy path---faith, instead of the difficult path of reason. The men of reason created the modern world in spite of Christianity, not because of it.

I finished the book without having changed my judgment on the relationship of Christianity to the rise of the West, capitalism, and reason. Christianity was less of an impediment to these than other religions---no more, no less. A religion based on faith, epistemologically, and altruism, ethically, cannot be, and never has been, pro-reason or pro-capitalist. There have been times, under the church of power, when the Church has ignored its own teachings, become venal, and looked for profits. Insofar as it does this, it is anti-Christian. To then claim that Christianity fostered capitalism or reason is simply false. Some Christian Church leaders did so, by ignoring the Bible or reinterpreting it to suit their needs of the moment---much as current politicians do with the Constitution, in order to ruin the land of opportunity, in spite of its founding document.

Ever present in the Christian Church is the true (true to the Bible) church of piety faction, which can regain control of the Church as it has done in the past. Heaven help capitalism and reason if it does. Witness, by way of example, the current threats eminating from the Church about the movie, The Da Vinci Code.

What was it Voltaire said about the Church? Crush the infamy? I agree. In a fair, intellectual field of battle.

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Conclusion - Globalization and Modernity

I jumped ahead while typing up my notes for the last chapter of The Victory of Reason, so I will reiterate part of my statement from May 13th.

I found the Conclusion very interesting and understand why Professor Stark explains that Christianity may be a growing religion in otherwise repressed societies. These people may be looking for some kind of hope in the oppressive/anti-individualistic cultures they live in. It is also important to be aware that the nature of Christianity is altruistic and not always conducive to reason or capitalism.

Although Professor Stark explains that “the modern world arose only in Christian societies” (see pg. 233), I do not see a complete reason about why there are Christian societies in the world today that are not capitalistic. Unless I am missing something, the only explanation offered is in regard to Spanish or French feudalism and influence. I’m not convinced that there is sufficient evidence that Christianity is the cause for human progress as much as Greek philosophy. As well, two schools of Greek philosophy combined, Platonism and Aristotelian, have not led to religious consistency.

I hoped to gain a better understanding about how a Christian would argue for capitalism and Reason. While I do not agree with the term “Faith in Reason”, I have a better idea of what the author means by using it. I’d hoped to learn more about how such terms are defined and used in order to better communicate ideas when discussing philosophy or even politics with religious persons.

I have learned some historical facts about the advancement of technology and development during medieval times in Europe. It’s been fascinating to learn about banking, the textile/woolen industry and shipbuilding!

Here is a list of a few areas I would like to learn more about:

* Thomas Aquinas

* The invention of the printing press and how much more rapidly people became independent in their thinking compared to technological advancements and rapid communications today

* Christian Marxists (not sure if this would be a waste of my time yet)

* The Magna Charta

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Phil Oliver has suggested this link to Google Booksearch as a way to find more of Prof. Rodney Stark's books and other authors' books that refer to Prof. Stark's many works. This would be one way to do more study of Prof. Stark's ideas. It would also be a way to gain from the criticisms that others, perhaps specialists, have brought to bear.

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Conclusion: Globalizaton and Modernity

In Prof. Stark's conclusion he makes the following assertions:

"The modern world arose only in Christian societies. Not in Islam. Not in Asia. Not in a "secular" society-there having been none. And all the modernization that has since occurred outside Christendom was imported from the West, often brought by colonizers and missionaries." (p. 233)

I wonder how Prof. Stark would explain Japan's industrialization after World War II. I lived in Okinawa, Japan for two years and have made several more visits over the years. I have observed plenty of examples where industry and capitalism have changed their society. Outside of the chapels on the American military bases, I can not think of or identify examples that would identify Christian influences.

Prof. Stark continues with:

"Even so, many apostles of modernization assume that, given the existing Western example, similar progress can be achieved today not only without Christianity but even without freedom or capitalism- that globalization will fully spread scientific, technical, and commercial knowledge without any need to re-create the social or cultural conditions that first produced it."(p. 233)

Prof. Stark admits that freedom and capitalism are necessary for modernization and progress; however, he still makes the mistake that the rise in Christianity is associated with freedom and capitalism. On page 223, Table 7-3 shows that in 1929 the United States had 42.2 percent of the manufacturing output. Why doesn't Prof. Stark provide an up to date table showing a more recent year? Say 2000. And than provide similiar tables like 7-2 on p. 211 for the leading manufacturing countries in 2000. I would be interested in knowing if similiar trends are occurring in other nations. Ireland would be a perfect example with its Catholic history and its recent economic comeback. Are the Irish still predominately Catholic? Or are they defecting to other religions or is overall church membership also in decline like it is in the United States? Had Prof. Stark provided such data and facts his arguement might be worthy of consideration.

Probably the most interesting thing that I learned from The Victory of Reason was the data provided in Table 7-2 showing the growth and decline amongst the American Denominations, particulary the Mormons. It reminded me of Jon Krakauer's book, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith. On p. 334, Krakauer writes,

"I was irresistibly drawn to write about Latter-day Saints not only because I already knew something about their theology, and admired much about their culture, but also because of the utterly unique circumstances in which their religion was born: the Mormon Church was founded a mere 173 years ago, in a literate society, in the age of the printing press. As a consequence, the creation of what became a worldwide faith was abundantly documented in firsthand accounts. Thanks to the Mormons, we have been given an unprecedented opportunity to appreciate-in astonishing detail- how an important religion came to be."

This is an interesting point when considering Prof. Stark's arguement presented in The Victory of Reason. Would Prof. Stark consider Mormonism a contribution or a hindrance towards "Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success?" If not how does he explain their growing popularity?

I found the most reprehensible statement that Prof. Stark made on p. 194.

"That is the greatest irony of all: given despotic rule, rampant government corruption provides for degrees of freedom that do not exist under honest dedicated tyrants."

I wonder if he would consider this statement valid when applying it to other institutions other than the government. Let's consider the Catholic Church. The Portland Archdiocese for the Catholic Church is on the verge of bankruptcy because of its handling of child sex scandals. I believe the Archdiocese in Boston is in the same boat. Would Prof. Stark consider this type of corruption beneficial to freedom?

In conclusion, The Victory of Reason did nothing to convince me that faith and reason can be reconciled. Following faith is still a rejection of reason in some form or another. The whole idea that you have to take a "leap of faith" to fully understand and "blind faith" has a whole new meaning for me. The idea of "faith in reason" provided a different attempt to reconcile faith with reason. As will always happen, reason will always have the victory when properly applied. Prof. Stark started on a shaky foundation and it collapsed when the contradictions were fully examined. Prof. Stark provided some interesting insights and had me thinking; however, he is not the type of advocate I want defending capitalism.

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Prof. Stark [...] is not the type of advocate I want defending capitalism.

That is a very apt way to end this study group. I suspect we may be hearing more from Prof. Stark and his intellectual kin in the decades ahead.

Perhaps as a result of the long, hard work of the members of VORSISG, we will be better armed when we encounter Prof. Stark's arguments again elsewhere. My particular hope is this topic-thread will be a resource for university or other students doing research that involves Victory of Reason.

This topic-thread is now open for pertinent comments or questions by everyone.

Please start a new topic for other subjects than those raised in the text.

Every alleged Devil deserves an advocate. I may play the role of Devil's Advocate for VOR, because Prof. Stark isn't here to defend it himself.

Questions?

Comments?

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Devil's Advocate: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, if you aren't persuaded by my client's work, The Victory of Reason, then what equivalent book would you offer as a superior alternative?

After all, criticism has two parts. First, it points out supposed errors, but second, it offers something better.

What book written to a general audience, thoroughly documented, showing both causes and effects, and covering thousands of years of ontological, epistemological, ethical, political, and economic history -- all in less than 300 pages -- would you recommend as a substitute for addressing the same problem: accounting for the rise of modern Western Civilization, with all its benefits, when and where it did arise?

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I once again find myself applauding all the participant's in the Laughlin Study Group. This remarkable analysis and discussion of Prof. Stark's book, The Victory of Reason, is indeed an extremely valuable resource for students and, more generally, for all those interested in the history of ideas.

I will place a banner on THE FORUM alerting members and guests to this wonderful thread, and I have asked Betsy to include a separate item on this study group in her upcoming Cybernet. I would like to encourage other members to think of ways to promote this study, especially for university students whom I expect have and will be encountering arguments along the lines of those ideas presented by Prof. Stark. Postings to blogs and other forums, pointing to this thread, is one way to give the analysis of this study the visibility it well deserves.

Thanks again to Burgess and all of the participants here.

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What book written to a general audience, thoroughly documented, showing both causes and effects, and covering thousands of years of ontological, epistemological, ethical, political, and economic history -- all in less than 300 pages -- would you recommend as a substitute for addressing the same problem: accounting for the rise of modern Western Civilization, with all its benefits, when and where it did arise?

Considering the criteria mentioned, my initial suggestion would be Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter L. Bernstein. This book is 337 pages long. Here are excerpts from the table of contents.

To 1200:

Beginnings

1. The Winds of the Greeks and the Role of the Dice.

1200-1700:

A Thousand Outstanding Facts

3. The Renaissance Gambler

4. The French Connection

1700-1900:

Measurement Unlimited

6. Considering the Nature of Man

1900-1960

Clouds of Vagueness and the Demand for Precision

12. The Measure of Our Ignorance

Here is a quote from the introduction,

"The revolutionary idea that defines the boundary between modern times and the past is the mastery of risk: the notion that the future is more than a whim of the gods and that man and women are not passive before nature. Until human beings discovered a way across that boundary, the future was a mirror of the past or the murky domain of oracles and soothsayers who held a monopoly over knowledge of anticipated events.

This book tells the story of a group of thinkers whose remarkable vision revealed how to put the future at the service of the present. By showing the world how to understand risk, measure it, and weigh its consequences, they converted risk-taking into one of the prime catalysts that drives modern Western society. Like Prometheus, they defied the gods and probed the darkness in search of the light that converted the future from an enemy into an opportunity. The transformation in attitudes toward risk management unleashed by their achievements has channeled the human passion for games and wagering into economic growth, improved quaility of life, and technological progress." (p. 1)

Because it has been a while since I have read this book, I would start with comparing Stark's idea "faith in reason" with Bernstein's discussion about risk management to determine which idea better explains the success of capitalism.

Bernstein concludes on page 336,

"The central theme of this whole story is that the quantitative achievements of the heroes we have met shaped the trajectroy of progress over the past 450 years. In engineering, medicine, science, finance, business, and even in government, decisions that touch everyone's life are now made in accordance with disciplined procedures that far outperform the seat-of-the-pants methods of the past. Many catastrophic errors of judgement are thus either avoided, or else their consequences are muted."

I might add that these 'disciplined procedures' also eliminate the need of a dogmatic church authority that Prof. Stark refers to in the beginning of VOR.

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This topic-thread is now open for pertinent comments or questions by everyone.

I found this thread fascinating, and I thank all those who took part, especially Burgess for starting it. Stark turned out to be a more eloquent defender of his thesis than I originally thought, and it's certainly thought-provoking if nothing else.

As my question, I'd like to ask: where Stark makes the argument for the Dark Ages being anything but -- a frequent argument being raised amongst recent conservatives, sadly -- does he provide citations and references of books that he bases his points on? I suspect there might exist a very strongly-argued scholarly book within the conservative community, which has provided intellectual ammunition for "reclaiming" the Dark and Medieval Ages from opprobrium. One such example is the claim that water mills were only invented in the Dark Ages, and other such nonsense, when water mills and many other mechanical advances existed already in the Roman Empire.

On the other hand, I have to say that Stark does make a valid point, and that the late Roman Empire was oppressive economically in the last throes of its existence, going far in deification of emperors and also not only in very far-reaching price control, but highly controlled government price-setting; in short, it was a return to the old Greek Hellenistic despotic monarchies. But even in its darker days, the Empire still provided safety and security amongst its immense reaches, and most importantly it provided a beacon of civilization, by that time more about what has been, but still a beacon nonetheless. Nobody knows whether men after its fall lived in greater economic oppression or lesser, because writing went out of existence.

The only tangible argument that can be made is whether the Merovingian and Carolingian kings, centuries later, practiced better economic policy or not, because there's a little bit of writing from that era. But even they can hardly compete with the economic freedom of the first two centuries of the Empire with its purity of gold in the range of 80%-90%, and the Republic further back, with purity of 95-99% and the whole of taxes in the range of 0.1-0.01%.

I'll provide my citation tomorrow, when I double-check the exact title.

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Considering the criteria mentioned, my initial suggestion would be Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter L. Bernstein. [...]

"The central theme of this whole story is that the quantitative achievements of the heroes we have met shaped the trajectroy of progress over the past 450 years. In engineering, medicine, science, finance, business, and even in government, decisions that touch everyone's life are now made in accordance with disciplined procedures that far outperform the seat-of-the-pants methods of the past. Many catastrophic errors of judgement are thus either avoided, or else their consequences are muted."

[bold for my emphasis in second paragraph.]

Rick, thank you for participating throughout. You have offered an intriguing book as a possible alternative to VOR. I am confused, however, not having read the book.

1. Why does Bernstein speak of progress only since 1550? That was just about the end of the Renaissance.

2. "Disciplined procedures" seems to be methodological, but does he discuss philosophical methodology or only the derivatives -- that is, methods in the particular sciences and arts?

3. What reason does Bernstein give for those disciplined procedures arising in (I assume) Western Europe, rather than in China, Classical Islam, or, for that matter, the ancient Greek culture? In other words, does he answer these questions: Why there and why then?

4. Is Bernstein's work fully documented?

It appears from your notes, necessarily brief, that Bernstein does not explain either the long-term historical roots (why W. Europe?) or the philosophical roots (what are the cognitive foundations?) of these "disciplined procedures" but treats them as arising spontaneously in Western Europe. Is that correct?

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Stark turned out to be a more eloquent defender of his thesis than I originally thought, and it's certainly thought-provoking if nothing else.

Yes, Prof. Stark definitely deserves credit for trying. The task is formidable. Could you write such a work for such a task? I know I couldn't, not without many years of preparation. I know of no secular equivalent of his book. And "thought-provoking" is one of the reasons this book is so suitable for an Objectivist discussion group.

[...] I'd like to ask: where Stark makes the argument for the Dark Ages being anything but -- a frequent argument being raised amongst recent conservatives, sadly -- does he provide citations and references of books that he bases his points on?

Prof. Stark discusses the Middle Ages/Dark Ages (he mixes the two terms at times) mostly in Chs. 2 and 3. Yes, he does cite sources. I mentioned some of them (such as Cipolla, and Gies and Gies) as recommended reading, in post 4. He mentions others as well (such as Lopez). I think I mentioned in an earlier post that when Prof. Stark offers evidence for advances in the "Dark Age" he seems to be talking about the Central Middle Ages (roughly 900-1200?) and High (or Late) Middle Ages (roughly 1200-1400), not the Early Middle Ages (usually equated with the Dark Age, roughly 400 or 500 to 800 or 900). This confusion about timing is one of the many flaws of the book, as I recall I noted throughout VORSISG.

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1. Why does Bernstein speak of progress only since 1550? That was just about the end of the Renaissance.

Bernstein starts Chapter 1: The Winds of the Greeks and the Role of the Dice asking the following questions.

Why is the mastery of risk such a uniquely modern concept? Why did humanity wait the many thousands of years leading up to the Renaissance before breaking down the barriers that stood in the way of measuring and controlling risk? (P. 11)

A clue to why Bernstein focuses on the Renaissance can be found on p. 15,

“To explain the beginning of everything, Greek mythology drew on a giant game of craps to explain what modern scientists call the Big Bang. Three brothers rolled dice for the universe, with Zeus winning the heavens, Poseidon the seas, and Hades, the loser, going to hell as master of the underworld.

Probability theory seems a subject made to order for the Greeks, given their zest for gambling, their skill as mathematicians, their mastery of logic, and their obsession with proof. Yet, though the most civilized of all the ancients, they never ventured into that fascinating world. Their failure to do so is astonishing because the Greeks had the only recorded civilization up to that point untrammeled by a dominating priesthood that claimed a monopoly on the lines of communication with the powers of mystery. Civilization as we know it might have progressed at a much faster pace if the Greeks had anticipated what their intellectual progeny-the men of the Renaissance- were to discover some thousand years later.”

In VOR, Stark writes,

“The Christian image of God is that of a rational being who believes in human progress, more fully revealing himself as humans gain the capacity to better understand. Moreover, because God is a rational being and the universe is his personal creation, it necessarily has a rational, lawful, stable structure, awaiting increased human comprehension. This was the key to many intellectual undertakings, among them the rise of science.’ (p 11-12)

Bernstein makes a similiar argument in Against the Gods.

“As Christianity spread across the western world, the will of a single God emerged as the orienting guide to the future, replacing the miscellany of deities people had worshiped since the beginning of time. This brought a major shift in perception: the future of life on earth remained a mystery, but it was now prescribed by a power whose intentions and standards were clear to all who took the time to learn them.

As contemplation of the future became a matter of moral behavior and faith, the future no longer appeared quite as inscrutable as it had. Nevertheless, it was still not susceptible to any sort of mathematical expectation. The early Christians limited their prophecies to what would happen in the afterlife, no matter how fervidly they beseeched God to influence worldly events in their favor.” (p. 19)

Bernstein’s focus is on the mathematical discoveries that led to the creation of risk management. Bernstein’s argument that the mathematical discoveries (disciplined procedures) leading up to risk management was the source of progress is worthy of consideration because it would provide more evidence against Stark.

I will attempt to answer the other questions in the next couple of days.

Incidentally, I was going to recommend The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein, but it is 438 pages long. I am wondering if I should use Peter L. Bernstein in my references to avoid any confusion with Andrew Bernstein.

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One such example is the claim that water mills were only invented in the Dark Ages, and other such nonsense, when water mills and many other mechanical advances existed already in the Roman Empire.

Let's keep the record straight, in case there is a misinterpretation here. Prof. Stark does not claim that medievals invented water power. To the contrary, on p. 38, he says: "The Romans understood water power but could see no reason to exploit it, because there was no shortage of slaves to do needed tasks."

This point -- which is probably an overstated generalization, appropriate to Prof. Stark's blunt style -- is one I have seen held in other, more scholarly works by some historians of the Middle Ages. (See the works I mentioned in Post 4, for a start.) The idea is not that the medievals always started from scratch, but that some of the medievals took some inventions of the ancients and applied them more consistently to human life. The best example, if true, is one Prof. Stark mentions on p. 38. According to the Domesday Book, by the end of the 1000s, "at least 5624 water-powered mills [were] already operating in England." How does that compare to the use of water-power in England, or anywhere else in the Roman Empire, during Roman times (roughly the first three centuries after Christ). I have never seen anything that suggests water-power was so widely used by the Romans.

Prof. Stark also notes that in the 1100s there was a corporation, which sold freely-traded shares in its operation, that owned water-mills near Toulouse, on the mainland. Was there any such thing in the Roman Empire?

There is a theme here: The early and central medievals were not great inventors of major advances, but they were great appliers of inventions that came from earlier times (water power) and elsewhere (paper from China via Islamic countries). The position of Stark and others is that the medievals were great appliers of invention in part because they were not burdened by the availability of slave labor and the (alleged) Roman aristocratic prejudice against labor. On the other hand, the modern scholars I have cited do hold that the medievals were often very diligent in both inventing and applying new, lesser but still important solutions. An example that comes to mind (I can't remember the exact source), and might be worth investigating, is windmills. The idea may have come from elsewhere, but the medievals, especially in the Lowlands, added rather amazing inventions such as gearing that would allow the mill owner to turn the mill to better face the wind thus improve efficiency. Now, that is active exploitation of nature. Some of the medievals were very this-world oriented in some compartments of their lives.

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What book written to a general audience, thoroughly documented, showing both causes and effects, and covering thousands of years of ontological, epistemological, ethical, political, and economic history -- all in less than 300 pages -- would you recommend as a substitute for addressing the same problem: accounting for the rise of modern Western Civilization, with all its benefits, when and where it did arise?

I think the best book would be one already recommended: Andrew Bernstein's Capitalist Manifesto. I don't think its length, at 500 pages, should in any way disqualify it.

Another book to supplement that would be How the West Grew Rich, by Nathan Rosenberg. I have not read this book, but from the reviews on Amazon it looks to be quite good. I seem to remember it was once offered by Second Renaissance Book Service, as well.

The Amazon reviews mentioned its answer to why economic freedom arose in the West: "political fragmentation and competition between different territories in Europe." This is in fact one of the ideas put forward by Stark. Perhaps this book is one of his sources, in that regard. The book does not seem to focus on the philosophical sources for the rise of capitalism, however. For that, The Capitalist Manifesto is the best available book I'm aware of. Ayn Rand's writings on capitalism tend to focus on America, and not be heavily documented. However, they are certainly something that should be studied in this field of enquiry, for their philosophical insights.

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Burgess,

First off let me provide the citation about the Roman coins: the hefty two-volume Roman Republican Coinage, by Michael Crawford, specifically pp. 569ff. It details how Roman coinage was debased specifically twice in two hundred years, on military occasions, and both times deliberately brought back to the highest level of precious metal purity possible then (95-99%). During the empire (as discussed in Crawford's other work, Roman Imperial Coinage), gold and silver coins were held at a considerably more debased rate, but still respectable (around 70% from what I understand). It is only starting with the 4th century AD that coins were debased without limit, down to as low as 0% and eventually becoming useless fiat money like what we use today. Stark, as you frequently noted in the thread, is not at all accurate or concrete about what sort of Roman Empire he's talking about; he's often apt to take some of the worse conclusions from the late and crumbling period, and claim under them the whole of the Roman period (he never even seems to mention Greek economies, based on this thread).

Next let me address the issue of dates, as to when Renaissance can be said to properly have begun. Unlike the term "Enlightenment", "Renaissance" seems to have been coined very early, as early as 1550, and intended to describe the improving living conditions and cultural vitality of the period as early as the late 1300s (interesting Wikipedia reference). That is crucial, because the terminology is all-important here: whether we lay the advances we observe at the door of Middle Age Christian age, or the Renaissance age. Stark is notable in that he is all over the place in his chronology and terminology, stringing along dates and facts from here and there to suit his thesis. But if Renaissance can be viewed as starting in the late 1300s (Thomas Aquinas dying in 1274, Petrarch dying in 1374), then how many innovations and to how much cultural vitality can Stark really lay claim to?

For instance, the issue of water-mills and wind-mills. What superficially helps Stark's thesis immensely is the popular image of windmills dotting the early modern European landscape, whereas they're completely absent from our view of the classical period. After all, if there were no water or wind mills in Roman times, and they were everywhere by the 15th century, they had to come from somewhere, right? Add to that some numbers such as the 5624 supposed water-mills in the year 1086 (from the Domesbury Book), and Stark has to do very little to be convincing. And yet, if we delve deeper into this, putting Renaissance water and windmills aside, how many Dark Age mills can be attested to by archeology alone, say from that same year 1086 or even later? Surely a written work from a time of wide-spread illiteracy can be taken with at least some grain of salt; from making a general survey of journals, the actual number of water mills found, or at least water mills deserving of the title, seems to be far less impressive, and I am yet to find a book that is proud of the numbers of the Medieval mills based on archeology alone (I'll keep looking, though). Would they have arrived at the same number of mills, without the Domesbury Book? On the other hand, at least 75 Roman water-mills of all different sizes are already archeologically attested to (1).

The next issue is: Medieval communities, dispersed and existing in quasi-anarchic political conditions, had to be largely secluded and self-sufficient. Roman government (any civilized government, generally) provided a centralized system of laws, justice, economy, and by its very nature encouraged a small amount of highly concentrated urban communities. So, since it's uncontroversial that Roman cities had water mills (for example a very large one at Arlens), it's not enough to simply compare their raw numbers to the numbers existing in European rough-shod communities; the size, complexity, quality all have to be also considered. Nevertheless small local water mills could also be created when needed, such as a small little mill at Athens dating from 4th-5th centuries AD, built in the Roman Vitruvian design, and apparently created to serve a small university town. So number, quality, complexity, and size have to be considered, whereas Stark and his sources seem to be equivocating on the term 'water-mills' to ignore all of these pertinent factors. The evidence for Dark and up to mid-Medieval Age technology remains tenuous at best. Now there is no doubt that by the 14th and 15th centuries (the period when we imagine wind-mills on the European countryside) both the number and the quality of water and wind mills were now impressive, but by then we're in the Renaissance already. What Stark and his bretheren (e.g. Lynn White) seem to be doing is very fancy footwork, on a very slippery slope, in order to make very tenuous conclusions seem like they hold water (no pun intended).

Speaking of Lynn White, I decided to forego Stark on this concrete issue of technology, and just dive into his sources directly. White seems to be one of the pivotal influences in that intellectual community which is intererested in reclaiming the Medieval Ages as a time of prosperity (the "Age of Light", as one intellectual put it). This thread isn't about White so I won't go into great detail about his book here, but let me just say that it contains a large number of inaccuracies which are submerged under serious and impressive writing in order to appear respectable. For example, the claims that the stirrup led to, or was helpful for the feudal knight's charge, were total bunk and disproved as soon as somebody actually sat down on a horse and tried charging without stirrups; another such example was the claim that ancient Roman harnesses stifled their horses, now viewed as a wholly spurious claim; yet another example is that the Romans (or ancients generally) lacked horse saddles, which is funny because Peter Conolly actually reconstructed (2) a Roman horned saddle in 1986, an ingenious design that allowed for fully effective horse use without needing stirrups one bit.

Such appears to be Lynn White's modus operandi, after reading his book for only one day.

Overall, I would like to note that Stark and his compatriots attempt to create an elephant out of a fly, by saying very carefully what they intend, and very carefully leaving out what should be left unsaid. For example, has he addressed the issue of life-expectancy during the Dark Ages, as opposed to Roman Empire? The issue of hygiene, it being commonly known that most knights having had on average about one shower in their entire lives? Etc.

On the issue of Roman (and earlier Greek) machines, archeology provides a counter-ballast to the claims of Stark and of his sources, and is making its own notable contribution to disproving these authors' claims about technology, little by little ever year. An excellent scholarly summary on Roman-era technology and economics is the paper Machines, Power and the Ancient Economy, by Andrew Wilson (see Note 1). It addresses the specific claims made by Stark's sources, and provides very fascinating counter-evidence for large-scale machine operations early in the Imperial period (agriculture, mining, shipping, etc). The need for such a paper arose only once the the Dark Age admirers have come to the fore, but it's here (published in 2002). I recommend it to anyone feeling, perhaps, the impact of Stark's technology claims, so for those interested, PM me privately and I can send you a digital PDF copy (the same goes for the other paper I referenced here).

"It is argued [in this paper] that water-power was used on a wide scale and in diversified forms at an early date (by the first century A.D.), and that the use of mechanical technology to perform economically critical work had an important impact on economic performance and the potential for per capita growth, especially in the latter centuries B.C. and the first two centuries A.D. [...] [T]hese recent studies seem to demand a complete reassessment of the role of technology in the ancient economy."

Notes:

(1) "Machines, Power, and the Ancient Economy", by Andrew Wilson, The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 92. (2002), pp. 1-32

(2) "A Reconstruction of a Roman Saddle", Peter Connolly, Britannia, Vol. 17. (1986), pp. 353-355

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Speaking as the Devil's Advocate, I would like to ask a favor. Before we proceed further, and for the record, would you please define: Roman Empire, Dark Age(s), Middles Ages, and Renaissance.

At a minimum, because these are historical terms, please specify spatial and time limits in addition to essential distinguishing cultural (or other) characteristics.

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Add to that some numbers such as the 5624 supposed water-mills in the year 1086 (from the Domesbury Book), and [...] Would they have arrived at the same number of mills, without the Domesbury Book?

Are you confusing the Domesday Book with the Doonesbury comic strip? Your methods of thinking are puzzling.

No, I wouldn't expect archaeological finds for anything subject to destruction through the ages and spread widely through time and space to agree with the number of those same kind of things recorded in one book written at any one particular time, for one particular region, and for any one particular purpose in the ancient or medieval world.

Would you? If you would, I suggest that your methods are suspect. Please compare commensurables.

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Oops, yes thank you, I meant the Domesday Book throughout.

No, I wouldn't expect archaeological finds for anything subject to destruction through the ages and spread widely through time and space to agree with the number of those same kind of things recorded in one book written at any one particular time, for one particular region, and for any one particular purpose in the ancient or medieval world.

Would you?

Well, I would expect at least some commensurability, some way to double-check what William the Conqueror's surveyors had written down, either from a random sample of other contemporary records, or from archeology. And furthermore, I would also like to have known what his surveyors meant by the word "water mill", what sort of sizes and technology would be under discussion here. Surely this isn't too much to ask, if nothing less than redefinition of the Dark Ages (and Western History) is at stake.

I wasn't sure what you meant by "please compare commensurables", but if you're asking about similarly strict standards of judgment applied to other periods of human history, there are plenty of examples. Until the physical discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism, records from Roman letters and books about intricate Greek computing machines had been dismissed out of hand. Records of old Greek and Roman wooden ships reaching modern destroyers in size were likewise dismissed, until remnants of two such ships were found buried in the early 20th century. There are plenty of other examples.

As for chronological definitions, here are mine:

Roman Empire -- 31 B.C. to 476 A.D., Augustus to Odoacer. Spatially this includes almost all of Western Europe, northern coast of Africa, and Middle East up to Armenia. It is the Western half of this, starting with Italy's parallel and moving westwards, that was taken over by Germanic Odoacer, inaugurating the Dark Ages. Essential distinguishing characteristics: unified government, and Classical culture.

Dark Ages -- 476 A.D. to 1066 A.D., Odoacer to William the Conqueror. Spatially this includes all of Western Europe, from Scandinavia to Italy (except Spanish peninsula), and ends with the assent of William of Normandy to the throne of England, bringing semi-educated Frankish culture to the British Isles. Essential distinguishing characteristics: semi-anarchic tribal warfare, absence of writing as such (except by select men and monks in cloistered abbeys).

Middles Ages -- 476 A.D. to late 1300s A.D., the entire period in the middle of the Classical and the Modern periods. Spatially it identifies the same region as in the Dark Ages, the reconquest of Spain from the Arabs starting only near the end. Essential distinguishing characteristics: eventual development of feudalism, pure Christian culture unaltered by other influences.

Renaissance -- from 1374 A.D. onwards, death of Petrarch, birth of humanism (Petrarch seems to have considered the entire post-Roman period, up to and including his own time, as the Dark Ages). Spatially this includes the same region as above, along with Spain and Portugal. Essential distinguishing characteristics: abolition of feudalism, re-adoption of Classical culture, together with modified (post-Aquinas) Christianity.

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ADDITIONAL ARGUMENTS

AGAINST THE STARK THESIS

FC, setting aside the Devil's Advocate for the moment, while I compile suggestions for a few amendments to your definitions of various eras, I would like to offer three points you might add to your argument against Prof. Stark's picture of the Dark Ages/Middles Ages:

1. Clearly from the initial evidence you have sketched and that I have seen referred to in presumably reliable online sites and published sources, I would say Romans did indeed develop (if not invent) water mills -- apparently before Christians became dominant in the crumbling Empire. Any such mills in England in 1066 could very well have been descendents of Roman water mills built in Roman Britain (roughly during the first 400 years after Christ). Of course, whether those later, Medieval mills were more widely used or used for more applications in Latin-Christian England than in Roman Britain or Roman Italy is another question. I suspect they were, but I would await a scholarly study of the question.

2. From the few, short excerpts of the Domesday Book that I have been able to find initially, I would suggest that the Domesday Book provides little direct information about the kind of mill being recorded -- water-driven, wind-driven, or even ox-driven -- and little about the size. (I have not looked for archaeological studies of medieval mills. I will leave that to others, because I must move on.)

On the other hand, there is an intriguing element of the Domesday accounts of mills: frequent references to fractions of mills, that is, some sort of joint ownership spread throughout an area that crossed Domesday Book survey boundaries. (Apparently mills were very expensive to build, so several investors pooled resources and split the income.) Who built and maintained mills in the early Roman Empire? If literary sources don't say, then why don't they say so?

(H. R. Loyn, Anglo-Saxon England and the Norman Conquest, second edition, pp. 370-373, sketches the distribution of water mills in light of the Domesday Book's listings and limitations. Loyn provides bibliographic leads, as well.)

Someday, I would like to add a study of these mills, from Roman times to the Renaissance, to my list of special projects -- right after a study of Amsterdam at its height (but especially in the time of John Locke); the social and intellectual history of the Magna Charta; and the cultural state of North America in 1491.

3. Prof. Stark has claimed, in one way or another, that the Dark Ages was a time of "spectacular ... intellectual progress" (pp. xiv-xv). He also speaks of the "Doctors of the Church," that is, the most productive and influential Christian intellectuals. (The index of his book does not list "Doctors of the Church," so I can't cite a page off-hand, but see p. 7 for some related discussion.)

However, if you write a list of the thirty-two or so Doctors of the Church (according to "Doctors of the Church," Catholic Encyclopedia), in chronological order, you will see how few "Doctors of the Church" there were during the period 500-1000, the Dark Ages. Instead, many of the Doctors of the Church, and certainly the most celebrated ones such as Ambrose (d. 397) and Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), lived in periods much more influenced by Latin-pagan culture -- in other words, before or after the Dark Ages.

In summary for point number 3, the intellectual history of the Church itself undermines Prof. Stark's claim of an intellectual flowering in "the so-called Dark Ages," even by the loose standard of calling an individual such as Pope Gregory (d. 604) an "intellectual." Of course, Prof. Stark might respond that he, Prof. Stark, really meant the Middle Ages as a whole. If so, here as elsewhere he needs to keep his periodization terms straight.

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