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Q
Fri, Sep 17, 2021, 9:17am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S7: The Pegasus

Comparing this to the U.S. government - if: a) there was a treaty with the Russians where the U.S. agreed not to develop enhanced radiation weapons, b) a U.S. official (or military officer) found the CIA was violating that treaty, and c) the U.S. official/officer reported it to the Russians (as opposed to the Senate or Inspector General) - the official would probably be charged with treason. I'm not sure they would have been necessarily convicted, but they would lose their clearance and job. Therefore, I think Picard should have filed a report with the JAG, the Starfleet Inspector General, or the Federation Council as opposed to the Romulans. This could have made for a fascinating multi-part episode.

Also - I'm guessing there was no Commander Riker Day after this episode.
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Squiggy
Thu, Sep 16, 2021, 8:24pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S2: Profit and Loss

The ending sure left a lot of loose threads. Will Odo be in trouble for turning the prisoners loose? Is no one going to care that this Gul just vanished on DS9 and was never seen again, and was Garak really going to kill the prisoners if he hadn't shown up? Plus it has already been established that the Cardassians were supposed to free all prisoners; remember the episode where Kira goes to rescue some and the Cardassians apologize and release all of them? Why are they still holding prisoners in this episode? I always enjoy a Quark episode but the writing seemed sloppy and rushed for this one.
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Squiggy
Mon, Sep 13, 2021, 4:07pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

Oh bullshit. These were all educated people, members of Star Fleet, the idea that they would go along with that insane psychopath, torturing people and not trying to leave is ridiculous. That they would choose to stay there after learning she basically kidnapped all of them, just no. The ending of this episode made me so angry, and that smug look on her face as they beamed up. They should throw her out an airlock on the way back to the station.
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Q
Mon, Sep 13, 2021, 12:29pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S2: The Measure of a Man

Had they kept Lore in storage instead of stupidly leaving him in space they could've given him to Maddox.
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Q
Sat, Sep 4, 2021, 7:16am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: LD S2: Mugato, Gumato

I watched this episode on a day I took my cat to the vet, so the Tendi plot was soooooo relatable.
Otherwise an average episode.
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Squiggy
Fri, Sep 3, 2021, 11:55am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S2: Invasive Procedures

I thought the premise was kind of ridiculous. They evacuated the entire station for this seemingly not very dangerous"space storm" and not one single security officer stayed behind to protect the station? Aside from Odo but still, talk about leaving the station vulnerable. I also thought it was uncharacteristic of Odo to let Quark get away with whatever he did to disable the security checkpoint. He knew Quark was up to something but he didn't even bother to check? Also not a single other civilian besides Quark chose to stay? Sorry, it's all really absurd, and that's before we even get into the main plot which is apparently that a couple of Klingons can easily take over the station and hold everyone hostage, and the crazy Bejoran who came to steal the symbiant. This was probably one of my least favorite episodes of the series.
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Squiggy
Sat, Aug 21, 2021, 1:19am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S1: Progress

Wow, Bajoran houses are REALLY flammable. I'd be afraid to live in one of those deathtraps.
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Squiggy
Wed, Aug 18, 2021, 2:22am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S1: The Storyteller

THESE are the people who defeated the Cardassians? No, these villagers are not Bajorans. This was a primitive middle ages era civilization on some random planet; someone must have got the scripts mixed up with a random TNG episode.
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Q
Sun, Aug 15, 2021, 10:03am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Soldiers of the Empire

In the documentary What We Left Behind, Michael Dorn said that this episode and Once More Unto the Breach were his two favorites.
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Q
Sun, Aug 15, 2021, 10:03am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S7: Once More Unto the Breach

In the documentary What We Left Behind, Michael Dorn said that this episode and Soldiers of the Empire were his two favorites.
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Q
Mon, Jul 19, 2021, 12:01pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S6: Chain of Command, Part II

Picard - "What lights?" is on par with Daniel Craig's James Bond - "I've got a little itch, down there. Would you mind?"
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WineVQA
Sun, Jul 18, 2021, 6:27pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S7: Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang

I enjoyed this episode. Here is the latest link for O Captain, My Captain. https://www.startrek.com/news/ben-sisko-what-we-left-behind-deep-space-nine-finale
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Q
Sun, Jul 11, 2021, 12:13pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S1: Tomorrow Is Yesterday

What was the point of stealing the documents if they reversed the timeline anyway?

Also the importance of a single man is a very fragile thing... what if he was supposed to conceive his son that particular evening, but because of the alleged UFO had to stay longer at work?

The episode is a great watch (though slightly above the average on sexism), but it's better not to think about it too much.

***
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Pedro Q.
Tue, Jul 6, 2021, 12:40pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S3: The Mark of Gideon

@Jason R.

"I noticed that Pedro addressed in his novella..."

What can I say? They pay me by the word...

"...that illiterate people frequently dictated letters, across ages and classes."

Two other things I forgot to mention.

While literacy levels were low, here we see important difference between the present and the past. Today we speak of % literate *people*, as if all people were solitary islands. In those days, the relevant parameter was the *household*. In many households, one of the sons would be literate, while all his siblings would not: there were relatively more households with at least one person capable of writing texts than overall figures indicate. And also the households themselves were not isolated islands, but parts of the main: that literate son could similarly write letters and other documents for their entire street, so to speak. As people lived more communally and pooled resources, many more people had access to writing than is generally thought.

Finally, we must distinguish between levels of literacy. There were relatively few who could write 'Paradise Lost'; but more could write texts such as ordinary letters. And more still could read texts although they could not produce texts themselves, and thus read say, letters or gazettes to family and neighbours. There is much about the history of literacy that is poorly known by the general public.
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Pedro Q.
Tue, Jul 6, 2021, 7:33am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S3: The Mark of Gideon

@Walter

I know all that. Now ask yourself this:

How many people in Europe do you think had read Locke's "Essay" before 1700? How many people do you think had read it in England even?

Hobbes was immediately forbidden in Catholic Europe. I have read parts of his own translation into Latin of 'Leviathan' for specific purposes, to see what meanings a European scholar might learn from it. But for all purposes and intents, Latin edition and all: how many people in Europe do you think had ever read Hobbes before the eighteenth century, Walter? And still many who did continued to disagree strongly with his views. And so on, and so forth.
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Pedro Q.
Tue, Jul 6, 2021, 7:23am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S3: The Mark of Gideon

@EventualZen

"I'm curious as to what you thought of the Voyager episode “Living Witness”."

It is one of Voyager's very finest. It portrays remarkably well, given the constraints of the format, fundamental problems in the field of history in a way that all can appreciate. And the evil alternate crew got a good laugh or two out of me the first couple of times I saw it. It still makes me smile, and nod approvingly whenever I see it. It's one of those smart episodes in the finest tradition of Star Trek that make you think. I rank it among my top handful of VOY episodes.

Another is 'Distant Origin', which deals with similar matters of history and identity: the exploration of received beliefs about oneself and one's place in the cosmos, and the traditional resistance to said exploration, clinging to entrenched perceptions—to play on my other posts, a matter of worldview. The two scholars are both outstanding; and Minister Odala must rank among the finest antagonists in Star Trek. I meet her kind frequently in historical sources—gracious, magnanimous even; yet utterly unyielding.

"It makes me think of how history will judge our society."

Good question. You can be sure of this. The more time passes, the less will future generations understand us, despite the tremendous amount of evidence we are leaving, and the zanier things will future people think of us and our times. Until one day, so far removed from us societally and coloured by some future, to us unknowable theories, scholars will be writing things about us so outlandish that you wouldn't recognise yourself, and would never agree to them. A bit like we are seeing in the present thread, only about the past.
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Pedro Q.
Tue, Jul 6, 2021, 4:46am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S3: The Mark of Gideon

@Peter G.

This is just a reminder that you shouldn’t give too much credence to everything you read on these threads, Peter.

Concerning the Thirty Years War, it has been mentioned that it was a religious war between Catholics and Protestants. Nonsense. Religion was a pretext only. What was the motive of Christian IV of Denmark-Norway to champion the Protestant cause in Germany? Power. What was the motive of Gustav II Adolph of Sweden to take over after Christian IV failed? Power. I am not questioning the personal piety of those kings, which is beyond doubt. But they didn’t go to war in Germany over religion.

And then there is France, who since the sixteenth century had allied herself with *anyone* against Austria—in the sixteenth century, famously, the Muslim Ottomans. France only joined the war in 1635. But the Swedish intervention on the Protestant side beginning in 1630 was massively financed by Catholic France from 1631 with a million livres annually: it was largely French money that allowed Gustav II Adolph to field his army and win his victories. Where was religion in any of this?

Suffice it to say, the Thirty Years War was a watershed. Even then, by the end nobody saw it as a war of religion. Read the gazettes of the era: the common people were not that stupid. For the first time in the history of Christian Europe, there was a clear sense that a new concept had superseded religion and *bellum iustum* as the main cause for national policy of war: Machiavellian *raison d’état*. In this, the role played by France was pivotal, and Richelieu’s name in history alongside Machiavelli’s rightly earned. Even common peasants could see the duplicity of kings when their Catholic sons were killed in battle against other Catholics the allies of Protestants.

The death toll was horrific but must be properly understood. It was not due to the fighting itself. As always, the far majority of people died of the hounds of war: the epidemics and famines that always followed in the wake of vast armies, the vastest in European history till then. Even a couple of allied regiments passing by a small town were sure to take all food available with them and leave sickness behind as payment. Millions died in those thirty years, yes: but not because Catholics and Protestants butchered each other.

More importantly, perhaps, is therefore what Booming the social scientist erroneously referred, the very idea of the war as ‘a religious war first and foremost’. This and Booming’s unqualified listing of the death toll seems to suggest massive civil clashes between denominations: ‘It was Protestants against Catholics.’ The uninitiated may even imagine almost a civil war of sorts. That was far from the case. Most Catholics and Protestants continued to coexist peacefully in the same towns and villages throughout the entire conflict. This happened in two main ways, which we, with gross simplification (for I fear Jammer will ban me if I write another Himalaya of text!) may call the ‘Dutch’ and the ‘German’ model.

In the ‘Dutch’ model, Catholics and Protestants lived in the same towns, but in separate realities. Separate streets. Separate schools. Separate churches, etc. This tradition, which already existed, saw the growth of the so-called ‘schuilkerk’ (Dutch: ‘hidden church’), small temples that could not be identified as such from the outside (as, e.g., Calvinist, Catholic, or Lutheran) to not offend the other denominations. There were many equivalents in Europe, e.g., in Ireland between Anglicans and Catholics, but the Dutch case is the best-studied. There were fifty Catholic ‘schuilkerken’ in The Hague in 1619, for example, and thirty in Leiden in 1641; and the phenomenon lasted well into the eighteenth century.

In the ‘German’ model, Catholics and Protestants lived side by side. They shared the same streets. The same schools. And even, the same churches. In this model, agreements were made so that school classes, religious services etc. could be held in shared buildings: for one denomination at one time, and another at another time. In one example (the church of St. Martin’s in Biberach), Catholics from 5 to 6 A.M., Lutherans from 6 to 8, Catholics from 8 to 11, Lutherans from 11 to 12, and Catholics again from 12 to 1 P.M. In this way, fictions of privacy were created.

This saw the rise of the so-called ‘Simultankirche’ (German, ‘simultaneous church’), which also survived well into the eighteenth century. This pertaining to German social history, I am surprised that the self-proclaimed German social scientist Booming did not address this. But perhaps Booming is not quite the social scientist he thinks he is.

I could elaborate, and write another twelve pages. But I trust you get my point.
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Pedro Q.
Tue, Jul 6, 2021, 4:41am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S3: The Mark of Gideon

@ Walter

“There were agnostics with scientific explanations during the Age of Enlightenment. Maybe their theories turned out to be wrong, but saying everyone in the 17th century attributed natural phenomena to a god is a gross oversimplification.”

Firstly, the Enlightenment was an eighteenth-century phenomenon. It only took flight in the second quarter of the century (the term itself was first mentioned in the 1730s, when it became apparent to scholars that a new wind was blowing), and its ideals only became the norm in the third quarter of the eighteenth century.

Secondly, what erudite elites thought and wrote was irrelevant as far as common folk were concerned. The classical example is of course Voltaire on the French. But read Holberg in Denmark-Norway on the Danes. Holberg drew from recent academic dissertations at his alma mater (Copenhagen) in the 1690s-1710s when he wrote his great plays in the 1720s, contrasting academic erudition to the ‘common sense’ of the common folk. The latter had certainly never heard of any enlightenment: as late as the 1720s in Denmark, their thought was still thoroughly scholastic. And so on, and so forth.

Scholars did not write to influence the populace: they wrote to influence their peers, that in time their ideas might spread. But only with the advent of national programmes of education would the ideas of eighteenth-century Enlightenment be spread to the population as a whole. This happened in the nineteenth century. Yet here I am speaking of the seventeenth century.
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Pedro Q.
Tue, Jul 6, 2021, 4:40am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S3: The Mark of Gideon

[Continued]

@Peter G. wrote: “To the extent that today people see themselves largely as participating in a massive trench war, I would call that highly TELEOLOGICAL insofar as every statement and action gets interpreted via that larger political battle. You won't say or do things off the cuff that 'betray your side' regardless of how you feel in your heart. If this isn't seeing every little thing as participating in a larger PURPOSE then I don't know what could qualify.” (my emphasis)

I certainly agree with your general sentiment. But in every case I emphasised, in this and previous quotes, that is not what teleology is about.

If you or anyone else is interested, I shall give a few suggestions. The challenge is to identify what questions and answers pervaded the mental climate of the age, usually involuntarily—much like many today may be oblivious of the finer points of various modern-day theories yet are still seen to obey them (including say, Bourdieu’s ‘habitus’). What were the kinds of questions that people, knowingly or not, asked themselves in this age, if in less erudite terms?

First, forget about modern causality. If you have a working knowledge of the theory of forms, investigate the Aristotelian four causes, and then apply them not just to any thing, but to existence itself. What is the efficient cause of existence? What is the final cause?

Next, forget about modern biology and investigate Peripatetic biology: Aristotle’s differentiae, and his main arguments combining them with the four causes: the material and the efficient cause into an argument of *essence*, and the formal and the final cause into an argument of *purpose*. What is the essence of things? And what is their purpose?

(The next phase is to investigate Scholasticism, and Thomism specifically; and juxtapose it to the emerging, scholarly Deism, and Mechanism in the seventeenth century. The fundamental question here is, Is Divine Providence real, or is God an Unmoved Mover? which all other considerations stem from. What is the difference between Thomist and Mechanist causality? biology? humanity? and so on. While arguably the most interesting, this requires having a grasp of the other two steps first).

Next, forget all modern theory. Ask yourself simple questions that a child might ask and try to answer them *according to such concepts*. For example:

What is the acorn, and what is the oak? And how can the former become the latter? What is the stone, and what is the flower? And do they have souls? What is the mouse, and what is the man? Is there any difference between them? And why?

And, as in my previous examples: Why does the fisherman look like his father? Why do the waves crash against the ship? Why do the winds blow, and the seagulls that fly by have wings? Why did the seaman drown and die?

Finally, ask more adult questions. For example:

What is a farm, or a mining plot, and what is man? If a farm, or mining plot is forfeited and granted anew, is it still the same farm, or mining plot? If a slave is manumitted and returned into slavery, is he still the same slave? Why, or why not?

It is when you begin to ask questions as these, which directly affected the everyday lives of men, that the full impact of the matter hits you: you see it everywhere in legal cases. Scholasticism and mechanism tend to offer entirely different answers to all such questions, revealing of the fundamental divide between scholastics and mechanists: between the old understanding of the cosmos, shared by virtually everyone before 1700, and the new, known only to a few savants. There were many legal disputes over even minor transactions, contracts, inheritances, and so forth. And they were dealt with in terms influenced not only by Christian theology, but specifically by received, Classical hylomorphism: teleology shaping the minds, and deciding the fates of men.

What are those answers? When you can answer like a man from those days, purely in his terms in ways he would agree with, you will be talking the language of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the early Baroque. And the world that you will describe will sound vastly different from that which most modern men see—or, as here, insist was seen by men centuries ago.

Finally, this that you wrote:

@Peter G. wrote: “As we know from psychology, we form baselines, "new normals", that quickly adapt our sense of life - and even our perceptions”

This is absolutely true and devastating for our understanding of history.

Therefore, one last example. Most Catholics today don’t know what Catholicism was like a mere hundred years ago, let alone in the seventeenth century. If questioned, they will simply project what they know backwards in time. And knowing that society was more religious in the past, they will add levels of *degree* when they should also be adding important levels of *kind*. At the same time, also modern Catholics will have learned basic modern science, and even they will tend to look for rational science for explanations first and not primarily God. In other words, it is difficult to compare even modern, first world theists, who can neither unlearn what they have learned nor learn what is forgotten, to theists four hundred years ago. It is as you write. We adapt. And after some time, we forget what was. I am merely trying to remind.

I hope at least a little of this may have been of interest and may have given the reader a better idea of the questions I deal with. And I promise to refrain from posting such walls of text again!
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Pedro Q.
Tue, Jul 6, 2021, 4:39am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S3: The Mark of Gideon

[Continued]

To give one example of the ubiquitous role of the classical mode of thought in the seventeenth century, we may investigate the Theory of Forms in jurisprudence—of possible interest to @Jason, if I remember correctly.

This was the age of, for example, Covarrubias, Molina, Valenzuela, and Carleval in Spain. They were clerics who gained fame as jurisconsults: they wrote the commentaries on the Law that guided magistrates and jurisprudents throughout the Spanish empire in the seventeenth century. Covarrubias was Archbishop of Segovia. Valenzuela was Bishop of Salamanca. Molina, by far the most renowned today, was a Jesuit professor of Philosophy and Theology. Carleval was a Carmelite. What kind of legal commentaries do you think they wrote, and what kind of legal arguments do you think they provoked? And what does it say that prominent legal commenters were clerics, not jurisprudents? Earlier I referred a few examples of the presence of the religious numbers five, and twelve in society. This is another aspect. Anyone involved in a legal suit would hear legal arguments in court infused with the mentality I speak of.

This extended to judicial opinions, i.e., the opinions of the courts explaining how the justices reached their decisions. Judicial opinions informed the parties in a lawsuit as well as students and practitioners of law, and were particularly relevant to appeals, as litigants otherwise had only the verdict itself to appeal, and not specific points of contention open to interpretation.

All such necessarily feature Law prominently. But they are also a long repository of Platonism, Aristotelianism, and Thomism: of the Theory of Forms, Teleology, and Hylomorphism. And naturally, of the Doctors of the Church, and Holy Scripture.

Concerning say, grants of land in emphyteusis, legal commenters and practitioners explicitly noted, in these terms, that modifications to a grant in order to be valid might only temporarily alter the *matter* of the grant, but never its *form*. Heirs and successors succeeded not each other but the original grantee. *Matter*—the physical substance, the individual grantee—was not important, *form*—the oath of allegiance, the grant—was. Matter and form: these were the key Platonic concepts that all schooled men knew and used, reminding all, including the peasantry, of the worldview I speak of.

This is something that is entirely lost on the amateur today who merely reads modern histories and not the sources themselves. It was not, for example, the physical fief, or slave that mattered, but rather their condition, or nature. In other words, not the specific substance (some land, a man), but the abstract idea (fealty, servitude). That is to say, the identity of the thing, or the man, depended more on its *form* than its specific *matter*. This is pure Platonism—universals and particulars—and pure Christian Thomism (in Thomistic terms, the substantial and the accidental, respectively). This is Plato’s theory of forms applied in seventeenth-century jurisprudence, for all to hear, confirming all in that familiar Aristotelian-Thomistic worldview of body (lower) and soul (higher): of essence (lower) and purpose (higher).

In other words, concepts heard in church were those heard in courtrooms also. And so on, and so forth. This is what is meant by consilience: that remarkable unity of thought in society that very different types of sources reveal to historians—yet most people sadly are ignorant of.

This metaphysical element has been expunged from modern jurisprudence. It was when Platonic, Aristotelian, and Thomistic notions, and when Biblical verse and concepts as mortal sin and eternal salvation ceased to be used in legal arguments—and much less *as* legal arguments—that we may speak of a paradigm shift reflective of a fundamental change in mentality. The point is, this only happened, roughly, with and after the Enlightenment.

Until then, the very concept of Justice was another than in our bureaucratic times. Today we expect that to any crime ‘x’ must correspond a punishment ‘y-w’. This is called bureaucratic predictability, a case of administrative ethics. There were no such expectations in the past. In any kingdom, the King’s courts dispensed justice harshly. This was to enable the King to be gracious, and grant pardons at will. The King was God’s lieutenant on earth as pertained the realm of justice: and as God is merciful, so must the King necessarily be. And he could only be so if law and punishment were severe. And so, just as people believed themselves to be entirely at the mercy of Divine Providence in life, so was the criminal entirely at the mercy of God’s lieutenant the King in punishment. And just as Divine Providence was inscrutable, so were the whims of monarchs. Today, we would consider the erratic administration of justice in pre-modern times a travesty of justice: arbitrary, unpredictable, and very fundamentally unjust. But this was as life itself up to and including the seventeenth century: arbitrary, and unpredictable. Only men then did not consider this unjust: it was all for same greater ‘telos’ or *purpose*.

[Continues]
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Pedro Q.
Tue, Jul 6, 2021, 4:38am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S3: The Mark of Gideon

[Continued]

Now, to Peter’s comments. We may begin with this:

@Peter G. wrote: “What I do know is that I'm happier with the street not being filled with feces and having my olefactory system have to process that into a new normal. "Smells good out today!" sits well with me when it's springtime and flowers, not manure that I'm just used to.”

Hehe, I agree entirely. But my point is, who cares what you and I think? We are debating the seventeenth century: what seventeenth-century men thought is what matters. To speak in Cartesian terms, you are inserting your subject where your sole concern should be to examine the object. So is @Omicron. So is—manifestly—the troll Booming.

As for the animated nature of the world, you confirmed this when you wrote of the last hundred years or so:

@Peter G. wrote: “this is simply the playing out of what Nietzsche said would happen when the magic was taken out of the metaphysics”

Exactly, or Weber. But do not belittle it: it is not ‘simply’. The change was monumental and must be emphasised. Especially because most today are unaware of it—the responses I received here are proof. That has to do with something else that you accurately noted, which I shall return to in the conclusion of this sequence of messages.

@Peter G. wrote: “Elizabethan society (…) did not have a uniform view of life, but rather a rather varied one that allowed for huge fluctuations in personal comportment and choices in life. Back then there were 'crazy people' and that was just a feature, not a bug. Back then people did and believed all sorts of things”

Very true. But ‘personal comportment’ and ‘choices in life’ are tangential to what we are talking about. Virtually all modern westerners share one of two worldviews only, either that of i) empiricism and physicalism, or that of ii) empiricism and theism, here including every imaginable manifestation of the supernatural. Within each of those worldviews, people make the same fundamental assumptions to life and the world, assumptions which they take as axioms. Despite this, do they not also display huge fluctuations?

@Peter G. wrote: “if you walked into a 15th century Catholic monastery I think you'd have found a far wider range of views of life then you're likely to find on the street today in a cosmopolitan city”

While this is overstating it, I agree with the underlying notion: far from all Catholic clerics thought alike—in any century. They still don’t: it’s the price of having one Universal (‘Catholic’) Church. In the seventeenth century, for example, consider Jansenism, or Quietism.

Consider therefore heresies, and the various Inquisitions. I have conducted analyses of several thousand sentences of the Holy Office: the types of offenses and the corresponding sentences, by sex of the offender, age, geographical origin, profession, etc. Every year people were interrogated and perhaps put on trial for believing in ‘all sorts of things’ as you put it, from common misconceptions and superstitions to erroneous interpretations of doctrine, and outright false teachings, or heresies as per the Catholic Church: Adoptionism, Monophysitism, Psilanthropism, and so on. Very few people even knew the formal names of the beliefs they held. It was simply personal ‘head canon’.

Such interrogations are one of the greatest treasure troves we possess today on historical mentalities of specific populations concerning not only anything from astrology to say, Christology (the nature of Christ), Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), and so forth, but the cosmos and existence. In short, people’s reality, and worldview.

Most of the accused were common people, many of them illiterate. The hundreds of thousands of records of the Inquisitions provide us an outstanding—and surprisingly fair—means to assess even the views of the illiterate. Many other collections of sources do the same—say, the records of hospital chaplains, who regularly spoke with the sick. All that is needed is proper analysis of discourse to reveal the specific bias of the inquisitor, chaplain, etc. and the sources speak a language that is easy to understand. The notion so often heard that we don’t know what the illiterate masses thought is simply ignorant.

Most Christians didn’t know what it was exactly they believed in, and how to interpret even the fundamental mysteries of faith. They were mostly clueless, often in humorous or endearing ways, as to the exact articles of faith (All this, by the way, is still true). The various churches naturally knew this, and attempted, as best they could, to teach their doctrines—to indoctrinate—the respective populations. In the Catholic south, the Church gave some leeway for personal ‘head canon’, in part for practical reasons. Indeed, most were horrified to learn that their particular ‘head canon’ was a heresy and repented on the spot. And while there were of course both sadistic and charitable inquisitors, it is heart-warming to read reports of the latter types to their superiors, along the lines of, ‘Monsignor, the poor man has no idea of the gravity of his erroneous beliefs. But it is our fault, Monsignor: for we have failed to instruct these poor people in the articles of the Faith.’

Similarly, most people believed in magic. You of course know all this. They believed in fabulous creatures, and so on. Yet all this confirms that worldview I speak of, the world as an ‘enchanted garden’ (again Weber’s expression), full of ‘rapture and awe’. There is no contradiction between what I wrote, and what you commented.

You are therefore also right in the following. But note where you misunderstand:

@Peter G. wrote: “the culture was rife with a mixture of religion, superstition, 'wives' tales', myths, and other stuff up in the air that created an atmosphere of imaginative fruit. To me that's the opposite of a neatly-aligned mindframe.”

Indeed, but the matter of ‘mindframe’ was not about *what* people believed in, or whether it was neatly aligned or not (I never claimed it was), for they all believed in that enchanted garden in one way or another. It was about *how* people thought—how they reasoned, knowingly or not. See my previous comment to @Omicron, and below.

You are thus inadvertently making a category mistake. And you continue to do so:

@Peter G. wrote: “Regarding how people in the past shared a common framework, namely the concept of TELEOLOGY, I think you are vastly overstating the matter. It is a very old thing, for instance, that the wealthy and those in power had a distinctly different understanding of the power structures in place as compared to the peasants.” (my emphasis)

Indeed. But what you refer pertains to systems of ethics, in this case, personal ethics. It is the norm in society to share the common worldview of the age and yet have different systems (and subsystems) of ethics: political vs military ethics; administrative vs operational ethics; and so on, including personal ethics. This does not affect fundamental ontology and is tangential to teleology.

@Peter G. wrote: “You can look at the Roman Republic, for instance, and see the silhouette of a system apportioning some power to the patricians, some to the people, etc (…)”

Quite right. But this is more of the same, a pars pro toto. This is such an important matter that although you probably only meant it as example, I wish to stress it as others made the same mistake. This is substituting a mere system of ethics for an entire cosmology, or worldview, virtually equating the two.

Furthermore, I was not speaking of the Roman Republic, but commenting Trish’s proposition on the seventeenth century. The former lacks the defining characteristic of the latter, Christianity. Although they share many aspects, such as views on ontology and to an extent, teleology, they are worldviews apart as the lack of Christianity hugely affects notions of purpose. With no concern for any Christian notion of salvation, for example, comes a vastly different set of personal ethics. You are bringing the Age of Heroes to a ball with the Age of Saints. They don’t dance very well together.

@Peter G. wrote: “[The Roman Republic] was a religious culture, but where the trappings of their philosophy (even their famous Stoic philosophy) was probably more of a manner of public form than a commonly shared perceptual system based in TELEOLOGY and virtues. Some people probably did things because it was the proper order of things, but just like in any age many probably cynically knew they did it because they had no choice.” (my emphasis)

This is exceedingly interesting. In the last sentence, you are conveying Bourdieu’s *habitus*. Note that this is a modern inversion of *habitus* in Scholasticism, namely, in Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274). Aquinas believed that the things we do habitually change us. If we practice good deeds, we become better people. If we practice bad deeds, we become worse: we become what we do. Note that his was a time when we did things mostly undistracted, i.e., with more *attention*.

In much more recent times, William James (d. 1910) in his ‘The Principles of Psychology’ (Vol. II) asserted the same as Aquinas in different terms. James thought that what we give our *attention* to in everyday life changes us: what we *at-tend-to* becomes our reality. And likewise, that which we do not attend to in our daily life slips away. It becomes epiphenomenal, or simply a figure of speech. In effect, psychological attention in James corresponds roughly to Aquinas’ *habitus*.

It was only later, when modern distraction in life and ‘disenchantment’ was already mounting, that Bourdieu’s inversion of Aquinas’ ‘habitus’ into cynicism took place. In this, Bourdieu’s habitus is more a sign of the times in which it was formulated (much like Foucault’s entire corpus) than a useful tool for saying anything about a more removed past. It is remarkable how, as modes of thought not only changed but were directly inverted, so did key theoretical concepts. ‘Habitus’ is a fine example of this inversion of thought.

In any event, even if what you wrote were the case (which is beside the point now), it is not quite relevant to the matter of teleology. We are not speaking quite the same language, you and I.

“Now fast forward to a time with a much larger world population, and more general education, like the U.S. in the mid-1800's. (…) think of the local farmer or smith. First of all, I think these people were probably far more knowledgeable and informed about all sorts of things than almost anyone is today.”

I agree entirely, with this and the following that you wrote. But we are talking about modes of thought in the seventeenth century, not the US in the mid-1800s. In comparison, the mid-1800s were already a time of empiricism and increasing physicalism, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world in the tradition of Newton, Locke, Hume, Smith, etc. In other words, you are now bringing the Age of Men to a ball with the Age of Saints—and they dance even worse together!

[Continues]
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Pedro Q.
Tue, Jul 6, 2021, 4:37am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S3: The Mark of Gideon

[Continued]

Now, a little on sources. One diary, or letter, for example, can mean anything. But a thousand diaries and a thousand letters from a specific time and place begin to be representative of a given population.

Unlike what many think, letters were also frequently dictated by the illiterate. Many scribes wrote such dictated letters for a living. They were a common feature in most towns as early as the sixteenth century, and ubiquitous in the seventeenth. Identifying the hand of one such known letter-writer immediately identifies the author of those thoughts as illiterate. Perhaps a man responding to the letter of his equally illiterate cousin prospecting for gold in America, informing him he was now the sole heir of the family farm after the death of a relative; or that his wife has given birth to a baby girl. The notion that illiterate people are invisible in history is a misconception of the amateur.

I have not analysed a thousand letters, though I have read more. But I have analysed some two thousand sermons, and twice as many testaments. I have also read some six thousand royal grants of privileges and analysed about half of them, and about as many sentences of the Inquisition; and hundreds, or thousands of other types of sources.

I am principally concerned with theory vs practice: how can we gauge whether theory was practiced? Sermons and testaments are one way. Do testaments in different countries reflect the different traditions in paraenesis in those countries? In other words, did people pay attention in church, and did it affect their lives?

Consider, for example, how a simple analysis of a thousand roughly coeval testaments reveals the personal devotions of the testators—and how analysis of testaments in different countries reflect different traditions related to national mythos and identity: to a shared idea of *national purpose*. Why do some bequeath ‘twelve x’, ‘twelve hundred y’, and ‘twelve thousand w’, while others bequeath ‘three’, ‘thirty’, ‘three hundred’, etc.? Why do some make provisions for ‘five x’, ‘five y’, and ‘five w’, and others for seven, or nine of the same (hint: it is not a matter of personal wealth)? Consider the following, all actual cases in just one nation between 1580 and 1730:

Why does a very wealthy man leave bequests of *five times* *fifty thousand*? Why does another provide for the meals of *five convicts* every Friday, and the dowries of *five orphan girls* every year, set at *fifty thousand*? Why does a hospital have *twelve beds* for men, and *five beds* for women? And why does the hospital’s digger receive a yearly salary of *twelve thousand*? Why do shipwrecks on a tiny atoll distribute *twelve small fish* and *five fruits* to every man in their hopes of survival? Why do *twelve brotherhoods* of twelve villages go on communal pilgrimage every year, and why does every pilgrim pay *five coins* in alms at the shrine? Why do villagers communally pay their parish priest *five measures of bread* and *five measures of wine* in salary every year? Why does the manumitted slave ask for *five clerics* at her funeral? Why does the erudite scholar ask for *five candles* held by *five poor men* at his? Why does a religious brotherhood pay the funerals of *five poor brothers* every year? I could go on.

These are but a few examples. In another, in 1724 a literary competition had *five prizes* in *five main categories* and seven lesser categories for a total of *twelve prizes* and categories (one of them won by a lady).

But as we have just seen, this did not affect the literate only. All people in this case would see the numbers twelve and five *everywhere* in society, defining everyday life. Is there anyone who doubts that the number twelve (the Apostles) and the number five (the Holy Wounds) would be intimately associated in such a community with the sacred, and would be felt imbued with mystic significance compelling pervasive human action?

This mystical symbolism is not my invention. It is implied by Christ and was taught in church. Allow me to quote:

“Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied (…). He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8:17-21)

“Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? (…) How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread?” (Matthew 16:5-12).

In other words, all the above examples of the ‘twelve’ and the ‘five’ in society were a response to the sacred: it was a yearly, monthly, and even daily enactment by large parts of the population of something regarded as holy. Everyone knew this. And this is but one example of many. How many commenters here know of such things?

If you fail to see patterns like these in your sources, you have failed as a historian. Yet this is what unfortunately happens at present as increasingly specialised—and secularised—historians are myopic in their research, and virtually illiterate when it comes to philosophical and religious context.

(Similar myopia is also seen among historians of philosophy and religion, who fail to connect those abstract fields with the everyday life of common people—again, theory vs practice).

The problem is, again, one akin Molyneux’s Problem. Scholars are given sight, but increasingly they cannot identify what is right before their eyes. What kind of histories do you think that historians—or social scientists—with eyes only for the secular—or the religious—write? What kind of histories do you think you have most likely read?

[Continues]
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Pedro Q.
Tue, Jul 6, 2021, 4:37am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S3: The Mark of Gideon

[Continued]

I have given much thought on how to reply to @Peter G.

Peter, your comment, which I genuinely appreciate, is striking. For three reasons: (i) you make no factual errors; (ii) I agree with you on almost everything; (iii) and yet despite (i) and (ii), little of what you write has any bearing on my original comment.

This is so remarkable, and so symptomatic of the very problem I describe—the inability of present-day people to address the questions, and modes of thought of the past, akin Molyneux’s Problem—that an explication is in place. First, an outline of the three main stages of thought in the western tradition should be given. What questions have we, most fundamentally, asked in intelligent discourse over the centuries since the Greeks, in chronological phases?

1) What Is? What is Truth? What is Good? (Ontology, Metaphysics, Ethics)
2) What is Knowledge? (Epistemology)
3) What is Meaning? (Semantics)

Question 1) was so fully dealt with by Plato and Aristotle, and refined by Scholasticism, that their works cannot be improved in meaningful ways. Up to and including the seventeenth century, its prevalent modes of thought as pertains the matter of worldviews included principally:
a) Matter and form (Plato’s Theory of Forms)
b) Body and soul (Aristotle’s Hylomorphism, as refined by Thomism)
c) Essence and purpose (Teleology, as refined by Thomism)

Question 2) was suggested by Descartes and became the norm in the eighteenth century. It replaced those previously prevalent modes of thought, substituting instead the pairs:
a) Subject and object
b) Mind and body
c) Structure and motion
Suffice it to say, this is the single most ground-breaking rupture of thought in western history.

Question 3) is what passes for Philosophy since the early twentieth century. It is what has given Philosophy a bad name in recent times, ridiculed by the common man as entirely detached from reality, self-absorbed, and irrelevant, conducting increasingly arcane mental exercises. This is perhaps best illustrated by so radically opposed strands as Logical Positivism and Deconstructionism. This is so far removed from the concerns of Question 1) that, although various techniques may occasionally be valid—e.g., from Logical Positivism to establish truth-values in sources—it is irrelevant for any discussions of modes of thought in pre-Cartesian times.

Commenters here so far have only thought in terms of Questions 2-3, and not at all Question 1. This demonstrates how deep-rooted those questions are in modern thought. The reluctance of commenters to explore Question 1 speaks volumes. The hermeneutics of suspicion is everywhere. But take heed: the hermeneutics of suspicion is an entirely modern way of thinking.

The problem is not only that Question 1 (where ‘Reality’ may be substituted for ‘Truth’) is what interested most people up to and including the seventeenth century. For more than a thousand years, answers to that question profoundly shaped a mode of thought so different from our present one that most simply cannot fathom it. Again, some commenters here illustrate this. They are like the natives who fail to understand the Saturn V rocket, and believe I am talking about man-made wings of feathers.

I am therefore suggesting commenters to engage the past on its own terms: debate Question 1. Only then, when forced to see the perspective of the object and not that of the subject—themselves—will commenters understand that object.

More fundamentally, I am asking commenters to engage each other: debate the questions raised by other commenters if you have any interest in the issue. Or do not if you have not. To quote a different franchise: do, or do not. But do not opine where opinion is not due. Opinion is the lowest of affections (according to Plato), only slightly better than Illusion. Seek the Truth (apropos Question 1) in dialogue with each other. That is simply polite, civilised discourse, after all.

Importantly, I am not debating feelings. The conversation unfortunately was derailed by the suggestion that I think that people didn’t care about the loss of a child in the past, an absurd notion. Human emotions are more primitive than reasoning and have been what they are for thousands of years. I am debating reasoning only. For our reasoning, our modes of thought continue to change, with increasing speed at that—just look at our own lifetime, and the last thirty years especially.

[Continues]
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Pedro Q.
Tue, Jul 6, 2021, 4:36am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S3: The Mark of Gideon

@Peter G. (also, @ Jason R., @Omicron)
—To everyone else, my apologies for the Mount Everest of text—

Thanks for your comments, which allow me to consider my own arguments and how to best convey them. And thanks to Peter and Jason for your polite tone. Unfortunately, what ought to be the norm is so rare these days that one feels compelled to commend it.

As Peter and Jason both seem genuinely interested in the exploration of ideas, I shall write a bit. Hopefully, all may find something useful in what I write.

I believe this discussion to be of importance. Not over the particular issue, but the universal one, which we see time and again: (i) the inability of commenters to read properly what is written; (ii) the propensity to read only what they themselves want to read; and (iii) the failure to address the questions raised in a comment, and subsequently derailing the entire debate as result of all this. So excuse me for the long text.

I am, to be honest, at a loss for words: I was unprepared for the sort of objections raised here. What I wrote is hardly original. In essence, though building on my own research, it is an echo of Max Weber: the expression I used of the ‘enchanted garden’ is his. What I refer reflects essentially what Weber, already a hundred years ago, called the ‘disenchantment’ of modern society. Weber being arguably the greatest social scientist of the twentieth century and German, I am surprised that the self-proclaimed German social scientist Booming did not recognise and address this. But perhaps Booming is not quite the social scientist he thinks he is.

What I wrote is common knowledge and accepted among historians, though some may question certain elements, or their relative importance. I was therefore expecting to be asked questions of (i) an abstract nature, say, my opinion of the role of ontology vis-à-vis teleology in shaping the worldview of (in casu) the seventeenth century; and especially, (ii) questions to be expected of amateurs of a concrete nature, as in, ‘Can you give any examples of… ?’ fuelled by the genuine curiosity and the wish to learn of the amateur. Peter G.’s thoughtful comment, which I genuinely thank as it provoked this reflection on my part, falls in another category.

Yet mostly, what I find is the very notion of disenchantment being questioned. Not that it has taken place, mind you. No, commenters are going further, arguing that the opposite, the ‘enchanted garden’ was never even really there. This is simply astonishing.

How does one go about explaining what is common knowledge to the doubting? Imagine yourselves spending some time in the Amazon jungle among the natives. One day, you tell them that men have walked on the Moon. They laugh in amusement: what a marvellous joke. But you insist and show them photos of the Saturn V rocket, the Eagle lunar module, and Earthrise. They fail to understand any of them and proceed to say that (i) people do not have wings; (ii) you should not go around like that claiming that people have wings and can fly to the Moon; and (iii) everyone knows that the one hero who attempted to fashion wings and fly to the Moon was eaten by the Great Bird of the Jungle. What do you do?

In a way, we stand before something akin Molyneux’s Problem. In a letter, William Molyneux (d. 1698) asked his friend, John Locke (d. 1704), whether a man, born blind and taught by touch to distinguish between a cube, and a sphere, if given the gift of sight would be able to identify them by means of his sight only. Both Molyneux and Locke thought not. Modern science supports their opinion. In other words, the problem is about one’s ability (or lack thereof) to recognise, by entirely different means, what one has so far only perceived partially using a specific set of means.

Our very mode of reasoning is the means. And what I am proposing is not quite as challenging as asking, ‘Can the seeing understand, in any meaningful ways, how the blind perceives the world?’ We have means at our disposal that give us a fairly accurate impression of worldviews in the recent—historical— past if only we use those means: historical sources, and our reasoning. What was the concept of Law, and Justice, for example, as recently as the seventeenth century? It was hugely different from our present one, but we can understand it and see how it fits with other concepts of that age to form a cohesive whole—in scholarly terms, consilience, a unity of thought confirmed by many independent types of phenomena.

That cohesive whole the amateur simply has no idea of. He interprets what little he knows based on his present sensory apparatus: his mode of thought, the types of questions he has been taught since childhood to ask, and the types of answers he has been taught to expect. His understanding will reflect this entirely anachronistic reasoning: he is asking the wrong questions. How does he expect to reach useful answers? I am merely trying to show that the questions and answers of the past were very different—often direct opposites—from those of the present, and how greatly this affects our entire view of the world.

[Continues]
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Pedro Q.
Sun, Jul 4, 2021, 7:23am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S3: The Mark of Gideon

@Omicron (also, @Jason R. and @Peter G.)

First of all, thank you for your comments. I suggest you read my response to Peter G. also.

The following is to clarify a few of your misconceptions, attempting to exemplify what ‘worldview’ means, and how that of the seventeenth century differed vastly from that of our present times.

@Omicron wrote: “The notion that the people of the 17th century considered their day-to-day suffering "irrelevant" is absurd. The idea that - somehow - they considered losing over half their kids to disease "trivial" is downright monstrous.”

I agree entirely. But where did I say that? I am not speaking of suffering; I am speaking of worldviews. Listen to Peter: his reading is more accurate than yours. Simply put, you are inserting yourself, the subject instead of debating the object, what I wrote.

@Omicron wrote: “The rest of your argument boils down to saying "people back then where all religious, so they all had a similar world view". You're narrowing the entirety of human experience to one aspect of it.”

No. You are boiling down worldview to personal ethics. That is the flawed reductionism.

My argument is about what questions people asked of the world, of life, and existence, and importantly, what ways people had of answering them. All this ‘boils down’ to matters of ontology, ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, and so forth: the main branches of philosophy, those ages-old questions of humanity that have been answered in such different ways by different ages.

@Omicron wrote: “No, the noblemen and the slaves of the 17th century did *not* have a similar world view, even though they all believed in the Bible.”

You are conflating social class with worldview.
The nobleman and the slave certainly had different systems of ethics. But consider the following:

—If I were to ask the nobleman and the slave 'What is fire?', they would both answer something about *Divine creation* making fire one of the four elements.

—If I were to ask ‘Why do children look like their parents?’ their answers would likely involve *Divine command* to *pro-create*: to create by proxy of the Creator.

—If I were to ask ‘How can birds fly?’ their answers would likely attempt to say something about *Divine will* granting birds wings for that *purpose*.

—And if I were to ask ‘Why did the seaman drown and die?’ their answers would likely involve *Divine Providence* calling that seaman to judgement: because God willed him to go to Heaven or Hell.

The nobleman might perhaps elaborate. He might perhaps say that the death of the seaman had a telos or *purpose* that was the *causa finalis* of all human life: to stand before God, the ultimate end goal of existence.

The slave of course would not know such finer points. But in essence his answers would be the same as the nobleman’s: for they shared the same worldview.

@Omicron wrote: “No, a present-day billionaire has virtually nothing in common with an underpaid worker, even though they might both believe in the god called "the almighty dollar.”

You are repeating the same mistake. Consider now:

—If I ask the millionaire and the factory worker ‘What is fire?’ they will both answer something involving chemistry and combustion.

—If I ask ‘Why do children look like their parents?’ their answers will involve something about genetics.

—If I ask ‘How can airplanes fly?’ their answers will likely attempt to say something about aerodynamics and thrust.

—And If I ask ‘Why did the seaman drown and die?’ they will both answer that he died because he fell overboard, and his lungs were filled with water.

The millionaire and the worker will likely have different personal ethics, yes. But they share the same worldview: they *see the world* in the same terms. And those are not the ones in which the nobleman and the slave saw the world four hundred years ago.

But more. Empiricist, causal explanations, by looking at the cause leading to the effect, explain events in the future with events in the past. Whereas scholastic explanations by looking at the perceived purposes of things—the individual causa finalis of things—do the exact opposite: they explain events in the past with events in the future.

This is what is seen in the last of those questions above, Why did the seaman drown and die? The two ages not only have entirely different ways of answering this type of question, of paramount importance for human understanding. Modern reasoning outright inverts the former way of thinking. It looks for rational past causes to explain things where the former looked for perceived future ends, or purposes.

As such, everything ultimately ‘made sense’ in former age and was seen to fulfil some ‘higher purpose’, inscrutable to mortal men as it might seem. Modern reasoning is the diametrical opposite of seventeenth-century reasoning. It inverts the very logic and in the process empties events of purpose, or meaning.

Consider therefore the two pairs of questions below.

(From the perspective of the common seventeenth-century man, the first two quesions would be especially related to *matter* as per Plato’s Theory of Forms (or body in Aristotelian Hylomorphism): ‘What is the concrete thing, the bolt of lightning, and the quake?’ Whereas the latter two would be the object of questions rather concerning the *form* itself, or soul, respectively: ‘What are these abstract notions, love, thoughts, dreams?’ Hence, the divide in the answers of seventeenth-century man between (i) Divine Providence and (ii) Creation).

If one were to ask, ‘What is thunder and lightning?’
— 17th C. Scholasticism — Divine Providence, reducible to awe and wonder
— 21st C. Physicalism — Electricity, reducible to physics

If one were to ask, ‘What are volcano eruptions, and earthquakes?’
— 17th C. Scholasticism — Divine Providence, reducible to awe and wonder
— 21st C. Physicalism — Tectonics, reducible to physics

If one were to ask, ‘What is life?’
— 17th C. Scholasticism — Divine creation, reducible to awe and wonder
— 21st C. Physicalism — Biochemistry, reducible to physics

If one were finally to ask, ‘What is love?’ and ‘What are thoughts, and dreams?’
— 17th C. Scholasticism — Divine creation, reducible to awe and wonder
— 21st C. Physicalism — Neurochemistry and electrochemistry, reducible to physics

And so on, and so forth: What are the mountains, and the seas? What are the winds, and the storms? What is the growth of the child? What is memory, and forgetfulness? What is the soul?

In comparison, virtually any profound question about the world and existence itself would be answered vastly differently by seventeenth-century man. This reflects the vastly different way in which he viewed the world: his worldview.

@Omicron wrote: “Also, there isn't necessarily a connection between belief in God and a sense of connection and awe. I know plenty of religious people who are completely disconnected from reality.”

I am speaking of the seventeenth century. Why do you keep talking about the twenty-first?
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