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Posted by Harvey on September 19, 2002 17:23:28 UTC

I'm talking general in terms of the drive toward more translations of Greek works, the establishing of more universities, etc. My view is that a little repression is often a good thing for a cause. It did Christianity wonders.

One argument I read is that Christianity grew up in the Greco-Roman world over a long period of time, so it had to develop strategies to defend itself that were on the level of the Greek tradition of debate. Hence, Christianity became comfortable with 'pagan' philosophy and even came to admire it. When the Middle Ages came, there was a tradition established on the acceptance of 'pagan' Greek philosophers, so theologians also became natural philosophers. In Islam the situation was different. Islam came into existence suddenly and swept the world into submission by the sword. Hence, there was more distrust of the 'pagan' philosophers, and it was thought of as a handmaiden to Islamic religion (i.e., if it endorsed the religion it was considered useful, otherwise it wasn't widely encouraged). It is thought by some, that overtime Islam became more and more distrustful of Greek philosophers, and eventually they were discouraged. The university system was never born in Islamic lands.

So, opposition, repression to ideas, can have a very positive effect. There might even be some 'law' of nature which indicates that moderate resistance leads to new structures. I know that the Byzantium Empire had access to many more Greek philosophers (both in resources and not needing translation), but there was no genuine interest to explore those works beyond a cursory review. As one Byzantine philosopher put it (paraphrasing) "there is nothing we can add to the great works of the ancients". I wonder if the lack of repression meant that the Byzantium Empire had no hidden drive toward philosophy (esp. natural philosophy). I'm sure there are many reasons, but it's something to consider.

Please don't be harsh in your reply. Let's have a fun discussion.

Warm regards, Harv

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