« Philosophize This!

Episode #022 ... Blast off to the Renaissance!

2014-05-13 | 🔗

On this episode of the podcast, we begin learning about the Renaissance. We first discuss the Black Death, a bacterial plague that wiped out 30-60% of the population of Europe. We examine how the population crisis caused by the Black Death led to an economic and political crisis that was ultimately the catalyst for a paradigm shift in philosophical thought. We also learn about the Humanist philosopher Erasmus, who, unlike the philosophers we’ve discussed on recent episodes, did not think that fusing faith and reason was a very good idea. It was much simpler than that. All this and more on the latest episode of Philosophize This!

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
For more information about this or any episode of the podcast check out the website, that philosophy is this org. We have additional content further reading transfer So every show all pre. Of course, But if you value the shows an educational resource and you want to help keep it going, you can find got more about how to do that at patriarch, dot com, slash philosophize this or alter if you're, buying something from Amazon. This week anyway clicking through our banner it's at the bottom center of the landing page of philosophize this org. Small percentage goes back to the show. It may just be a click for you, but every little bit adds up there, key for wanting to know more today than you did yesterday, and I hope you have the show. The term renaissance means rebirth, but in order for anything to be reborn, their first needed to be a death, in that death doesn't necessarily need to be a bad thing. We see
instances in our everyday lives, where there are figurative renaissance, where nothing really bad happens. When that death occurs, Fergus you could go on a new diet and lose a hundred pounds and feel like you're personally experiencing a renaissance, the only death there is the death of your old unhealthy lifestyle. Nothing really bad there? You could, for example, India, long period of corruption in your local government, or you fire a few people at City Hall in your city experiences a renaissance. You know the potholes are finally getting filled. The lines lines
The envy are only three hours long now, but what died in order to usher in the renaissance. Well, the answer is between thirty and sixty percent of the entire population of Europe. What died puts an entire way of life. We say renaissance in modern times and is a pretty positive connotation associated with it. Because of that, it is very easy for us to think about it in a black and white way. It would be very easy for us to just look at the renaissance as the catalyst between modern times in the middle ages, and declare that the renaissance was the good time periods. Then in the middle ages, was the bad time period to live and simple, as that, It would be really easy to just look at the way during the middle ages, see that it's called the dark ages, not pretty much says it there. It's called the dark ages. That sounds terrible. Who wants to live in the dark ages? That sounds.
Much worse and every possible category than the renaissance. Well, this is a common this conception that I want to make sure we don't fall into because it certainly not that simple and it comes down to a great question, one that has been heavily discussed by the greatest philosophers of all time and one that every one of us needs to ask ourselves. How do you define human progress? Most of us. Listen to this pond cast live in pretty extraordinary times are at less than ever before. In the history of humanity, people don't die of preventable diseases, there is less war. There's more representation for the average citizen. There's a lower infant mortality rate. People get more value from the money that they make. The list goes on, barring about five countries are so the average citizen of every country today is much better off than they were a hundred years ago.
And were better off a hundred years ago than they were a century before that, despite all this, at least in America, there are higher numbers of people on anti depressants anxiety, medication mood, stable, what metric do we use to measure human progress? Is progress defined by how scientifically advanced we are? Is progress defined by how many people have jobs? Perhaps you think that progress is defined by some sort of happiness index? Were progress means an increase in the percentage, of overall happy people. There are people that say that, although America obviously is much more scientifically advanced and medically advanced that society as a whole has actually regressed from times when we lived in small hunter, gatherer tribes, they point to studies where people go to places like Siberia or,
new guinea, where people still live as our ancestors supposedly did, and they find that those people have a much lower rate of mental illness and the average member of the tribe is much happier than the average member of the modern american tribe. The point to this is that the progress of humanity can be measured in many different ways. The dark ages were not pure darkness in every area of human life. To think of it that way, is a huge over simplification. The term the dark ages is referring to a period in western Europe of intellectual stagnation and regret the dark ages defines how western Europe evolve. Intellectually during the middle ages, but just because there was intellectual regression does
I mean that there was regression when it came to every facet of the average person's life at the time. In fact, most historians don't like terms like dark ages or renaissance, because to talk about the history of humanity in terms of only intellectual progress is just not accurate, because intellectual progress or regress is carried out by only a handful of people. Ninety five percent of people living at the time had nothing to do with what I thought was going to be prevalent in the coming year. To think of progress, only in terms of the thought of the time is really a mistake. So if you think that progress is the progression of human thought than the dark ages was a terrible time to live
But if you take other factors into consideration, it starts looking like the not so dark ages. In fact, there's actually an entire segment of the middle ages, known as the high middle ages. That's how good it was. There were all sorts of advancements. There were several steps forward and agriculture. They built those beautiful gothic cathedrals that you see, but more than ever, and probably the most important thing is that there was a feeling of unification in Western Europe because they were all connected by one thing: the church, Christianity. So when we talk about the death of an entire way of life, when we talk about the series of events that took us from the dark ages to the renaissance, please understand that these events didn't mark the darkest period of a period of darkness. They marked the end of a period of prosperity in many ways the people were happy and they didn't think that they were living at the end of a curve and much like the warring states
period in early China and then the beginning of the Hellenistic age in the Mediterranean. This change from a period of prosperity to a period of widespread political unrest, lead to what we now know as the renaissance. Once again, it's only through lifting more weight, or increasing the intensity of your workout, that you get stronger as an individual and just like that? It's only through adversity and political unrest that humanity really rises to the occasion intellectually, and makes progress Press to live during the high middle ages was to leave during a time when Europe was so prosperous. It was actually overpopulated when people even at the time they were using almost every extra acre of land as farmland just to be able to feed everybody, but then something happened that changed the entire course of humanity. This may be the most important single event in the history,
we have human thought and it's funny. It really didn't have anything to do with thought at all. No one knows exactly how it started or exactly where it came from this event and the series of events that follows it would forever changed the world and its known as the black death. Now the current narrative that it originated somewhere in the plains of Asia. It then, Ronald along the silk road and eventually found it. we, the Crimea, word embedded itself in flee. That then travelled on the backs of rats on merchant ships to the ports in western Europe. This pandemic diseases like finding Nemo, it's actually pretty impressive, Now, people often mistakenly think of the black death, is just the baltic plague, but it was actually more than that. Bubonic was just one form that the plague presented itself in but you also have to worry about the new monarch plague like Pneumonia. It would destroy your. Lungs from the inside out. Then, if that was it enough, for you also have to worry about the cept, the Sea MC plague, which led to something.
Called disseminated, intravascular coagulation, which, let's just say it, and want that to happen to you when it was all said and done. Historians estimate that around four hundred million people were killed by the black death, like I said before, between thirty and sixty percent of the entire population of Europe, the account of one person describing it quote. The symptoms were not the same, as in the east were a gush of blood from the no. Was the plane sign of inevitable death, but it began in both men and women with certain swelling in the growing or under the armpit. They grew to the size of a small. Apple or an egg more or less, and we're vulgarly called tumors in a short space of time. These tumors spread from the two parts named all over the body. Soon, after this, the symptoms changed and black. Purple spots, appeared on the arms or thighs or any other part of the body, sometimes a few
large one, sometimes many little ones. These spots re certain sign of death, just as the original tumor had been and still remained, end quote now. Just imagine how it must have felt to look around you and see thirty to sixty percent of everyone dying of that with no end in sight. Keep in mind these people work just killed, they died, hopelessly once you saw the tell tale signs of black mark start appearing or swelling around the body once he saw that you had a week to live. They had no idea what caused it or how to treat it. It certainly must have felt like the world was coming to an end and just imagine how it must have felt being a Christian during this time period. Let me people today have a hard enough time, reconciling the most recent school shooting, with the existence of a god. Just imagine how people must have felt watching this disease
these spreading to everyone all around them. The lives of people in Western Europe changed dramatically and it's terrifying to hear the accounts of people living at the time and what these people were going through. It sounds like a nightmare. In fact, here is one of the quote: all the citizens did little else except to carry dead bodies to be buried at every turn They dug deep pits down to the water table, and thus those who were poor, who died during the night were bundled up quickly and thrown into the in the morning, when a large number of bodies were found in the pit, they took some earth and shoveled it it down. On top of them and later were placed on top of them and then another layer of dirt, just as one
makes Lazard NEA with layers of pasta and cheese, and quote they had to bury people in such close proximity to each other that they actually compared to the process of making laws on you. In fact, this limited proximity was a huge problem, one very important part of dying as a religious person. During this time period was being buried in consecrated ground. In so many people were dying that they actually ran out of acceptable burial places So what they did is they started stacking people on top of each other. It's actually got a funny cause. We employ that same strategy. Today, with skyscrapers, we stack more office building in the same, very valuable, downtown space of a city. Will these people had to bear The dead bodies in the same manner. These people had to build a reverse skyscraper of dead bodies to fit all of the dead people. They had that more than anything illustrates just how horrific this time period was. Now. You can probably imagine
as the world around them started to drastically change like this. The people and their strategy for life started to change. One such changes described here quote. Such fear and fanciful notions took possession of the living dead. Almost all of them adopted the same cruel policy, which was entirely to avoid the sick and everything belonging to them. By so doing, each one thought he would secure his own safety and quote what the quota saying is that people started acting in more of an every man for himself way of thinking. People saw the perfect way that these people were dying and they just started staying away from every one that was sick so that they can hopefully survive themself one way They stayed away from everybody was too just stop shown up to work, it makes sense, Why would you go to work if some rent person might cough on you and suddenly have
week to live when you think that at any point you can drop dead of this terrible disease. Why think long term anymore? They started thinking Individualistic Lee, But the problem with that is that, as a society, we need people to go to work. The paycheck instability is typically enough of an incentive to get people to go to work. But really the rest of society relies on everyone else to do something productive with their time. That also helps them and really that's the beauty of society right I feel, like I hear somebody every once in a while say you know what I don't know, anybody, I'm fine, all by myself.
I'm just fine on my own well, unless, if that person's living in a shack on the top of a mountain somewhere squirrel hunting all day, they're really fooling themselves, this is one of the things that makes society work. We rely on others to do their part so that we can benefit from it, and that makes doing our part easier and they benefit from it. This relationship makes us all better off and if somebody thinks they're exempt from this process, they are sadly mistaken, for example, Just eating breakfast one morning you might have fruit that was grown and harvested locally, a spoon that was made in Taiwan, a cup that was made by people in China, Oatmeal, grown and packaged in the state. A Kansas and Orange juice from Florida society is a group effort, and if one day the people in Florida just stop make an orange juice, we would have some real issues, and that goes for. Every facet of society
We're back in these times the thing that society most relies on and one of the biggest money making industries back then was agriculture now view combine between thirty and sixty percent of the entire population dying with this now large group of people that had this new Found since of apathy about their role in society and going to work and thinking long term, the people in charge of these agricultural productions, the people that pay peasants to work the fields and make the money they were, having a really hard time fielding enough people to get the work done. So then, the faithful law of supply, demand starts to take over peasants became increasingly more valuable, more and more of them died. The supply of peasants couldn't keep up with the demand of work that needed to get done to feed society now, when a company today
get enough people to willingly do a job for a certain salary, their forced to raise the salary to try to entice people to come in and do that job. Will the exact same thing happened in Western Europe during the follow the middle ages, though it was completely illegal at the time the desperate times allowed for peasants to shop around with other landowners to try to make a better wage? These subjugated people we're finally seeing what it was like to be a free citizen with a skill set that people valued what started as merely a pandemic disease that led to a population crisis quickly turned into an economic crisis as well, because the owners of these fields couldn't afford to pay for the rising cost of their workforce. This threatened a complete collapse of the agriculture of the region. So what the government did to try to combat this was impose a wage freeze. Now we can relate to this in modern times. Have you ever worked somewhere where somebody gets fired, or somebody quits in
regardless of whether they're there or not there. The same amount of work needs to get done the next day, so you just need to pick up the slack and work harder with no increase in pay. Well, these peasants were dealing with that times, a thousand and then imagine if the government made it a law that you couldn't get paid more than you do now. This wage, freeze and coalition with. Several other small regulations and the massive tax increase on citizens to fight the hundred years war with France led to peasants banding together and attempting to overthrow their governments, so it started as a population. Crisis quickly turned into an economic crisis that then turned into a political crisis. Why are all these events significant to philosophy, because this was a parent,
I shift on the largest scale. People began to question the very foundation of the society that they had lived in for over a thousand years, and these multiple crises are very similar to a couple of examples that we've already seen during the warring states period in China. People like Confucius and Lauta, looked to the past at times when things were better to help find the direction of the future of their society. I mean people of their time, look to the past and then developed what we now know as the hundred schools of thought during the Hellenistic age, the death of Alexander and the political chaos of the Mediterranean philosophers look to the past to times when things were better to help,
build a future that hopefully wasn't like what they were currently living through, we'll just like. In those two examples, the people of the late middle ages looked at their society that was seemingly coming to an end and look to the past four times. When things were better, they wanted a new beginning. They wanted a rebirth. A renaissance, this bacterial plague had just spread across Europe, killed. Hundreds of millions of people and now in intellectual plague, was spreading across Europe in response to it. The mentality of many thinkers of the time is summed up well by this guy. Here quote, I have turned my entire attention to Greece.
The first thing I shall do as soon as the money arise is to buy some greek authors. After that I shall buy clothes. End quote: this is a quote by a philosopher who beautifully encapsulates a way of thinking that was spreading at the time his name was Erasmus. He actually wrote his most influential work right during the years leading up to the protestant reformation. He was a humanist now humanism is actually an incredibly vague term. It's not like stoicism or Pyren ISM. It's nowhere near that specific. It's a broad category that many different outlooks are a part of, but the similarity between all of them is that they look at
things through the lens of what it is to be a human, as typically opposed to what it means to be a by product of a supernatural. Being humanism during this time was much less than what it would eventually become, but it emphasised moving away from the scholastic approach that has dominated for so long and moving towards the teachings of earlier Greeks and Romans. We're gonna talk about the reformation and much more historical context. Next time, by the way, if today's episode seems more like a history lesson than a philosophy lesson, it's because
it is trust me, though the biggest mistake people make when teaching philosophy is just to have one name of a philosopher after another and zero context. The whole subject just becomes one giant blur of names and ideas, with no real way to link the information together, we need to understand what it meant to be a human being during that time period to understand why there are such giant shifts in the way the people see existence. The important part to understand now is that Erasmus symbolizes, this new intellectual plague, that's moving across Europe. What we have to understand is that, during the times of Erasmus, religion was not synonymous with faith, as is typically seen nowadays, in fact, for the law
several centuries, as we've talked about for the last several episodes, people like St Agustin, St Thomas Aquinas Basina, these people applied their massive brains to the task of fusing together faith and reason. They tried to create a synthesis between faith and reason which, for a time, were seen as complete opposites, faith during their time in Christianity, Judaism and Islam and reason, Being Plato and Aristotle, they had a lot of success, and so religion and theology at the time were seen as this weird conglomeration of faith and reason will be interesting thing about Erasmus is that he doesn't fall into either of these categories. That great thinkers, usually
fell into, he falls into a really weird middle place on the spectrum. So, as the reformation began, the church and the leadership of the church were seen as increasingly corrupt and evil. But how could that happen there? The leadership of the church, this of us to be the moral authority? Will Erasmus thought that the mixing of philosophy with religion wasn't a noble pursuit like thought for the last thousand years. He actually thought this merging of the two was the reason why everything was going so wrong and it makes sense if we look at it from his perspective. He looked around him. He saw all the stuff tat was going on at the top and was like ok guys come on. What is all this stuff really have to do with God. He saw all kinds of stuff. There were many pardons that priests got for committing crimes that were completely irresponsible. He saw all kinds of ridiculous rituals, one
which is where the spiritual leaders were somehow able to look at you and get together and crunch all the numbers and figure out exam, how how long your soul is to be in purgatory versus somebody else's soul. He saw all kinds of trivial disputes between christian leadership where they argue about small issues that dont really matter to Erasmus, like the nature of the relationship between each aspect of the trinity he saw that is just a wasted time. He was opposed to the entire intellectual tradition of scholastic system as a whole. He was a humanist will. All these things are by products of this relationship between philosophy and religion and to Erasmus. These people had entirely missed the point. People are focusing on all these unrelated things. These over intellectualize things when really the whole time to Erasmus. The true point was just to love one another. It was very simple. Instead of all these weird rituals, where you access God, there
and knowing tat medium like a priest or a bishop, you don't need any of that. All that is a corrupt it variant of what you should really try to do, which is form a more individual relationship with God. He sums it up. Here quote what hate required. These things your hands in vain. They will make their idle, please one that he has lived only on fish, one, that he has never changed his sacred hood, this one that he is lost his voice by continual singing of holy anthems and one that he has forgotten how to speak in his strict obedience to the vow of silence. Our saviour will interrupt their exceed.
Say whoa, one to you, scribes and parises. I know you not. I left you, but one preset of loving one another and that I do not hear anyone plead. He is faithfully discharged quote what he's talking about. There is all of these various arbitrary sacrifices that human beings have declared or what God really wants us to be doing. These humans had tangled everything up to Erasmus. He gives the example of the guy who sang worship song so much that he lost his voice for somebody that is so committed to his vow of silence that he actually forgot how to speak.
These people have missed the point. The ology and philosophy had missed the point. True spirituality is something that's very personal between God in the individual, and this is the reason why Erasmus is representative of this intellectual play going around this individualistic approach. That was growing popularity when we talk about the protestant reformation next time will be able to talk further about this relationship between the individual and the church authority, but when it comes to calling out the people that have corrupted his religion, Erasmus, poles, no punches quote, they think test, That is why that master. They pretend to serve our Lord and Savior, with their great state and magnificence, with the ceremonies of installments, with the titles of reverence and holiness and with exercising their a pisca pull funk. And only in blessing and cursing there only weapons ought to be those of the Spirit and of these Indeed, they are mighty liberal, their interdict, their society
since their denunciations, their aggravations, their greater and less ex communications in their roaring bowls that fright, whoever they are thundered against, and these most holy fathers never issued them more frequently than against those who, at the instigation of the devil and not having the fear of God before their eyes, do full Loney, asleep and maliciously attempt to lessen and impair Saint Peters patrimony. End quote: yes Erasmus had a huge problem with the church leadership in what religion had become, but he hadn't even bigger problem with philosophers. Most importantly, these people that sit around and tell everybody that the goal of life and the thing that's gonna, make you the happiest is to sit around and reason about things and try to get to the bottom of the nature of things, trying to figure out what the truth is. These people say that to live in ignorance is to live in misery. We of course nobody's referring till we ve heard that line of reasoning. Many times in this show.
Will Erasmus couldn't disagree with it more? He says it here quote now. I believe I can hear the philosophers protesting that it can only be misery to live and folly illusion, deception and ignorance, but it isn't. It is human. I don't see why they call it a misery when you're all born, formed and fashioned in this pattern and it's the common law. of mankind? There is no misery about remaining true to type. In quote, what are you saying is look? How can you say that you're miserable as a human? If you live in ignorance of the truth, we are born in ignorance of these things when we're growing.
We don't magically all of a sudden know. Everything that there is to know living in ignorance is part of what it means to be a human being and, as the old saying goes, ignorance is bliss. We as humans are happiest when we live in ignorance and all this knowledge, these people seek really only serves to complicate things and make their life worse than it already was. The key to happiness to Erasmus is something that's actually laid out in the Bible quote. The summit of happiness is reached when a person is ready to be what he is end quote.
Transcript generated on 2020-09-30.