Category talk:Civilizational Analysis

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by Dave McLeod: Henry Nelson Wieman's take on the Pulsing Paradigm, from 1949:

“…In short, civilizations break and fail because they require a fuller release of creative interchange between all participants than any civilization has yet provided. To achieve this fuller release, religion, education, social constitution and government must all be shaped to serve this kind of interchange and equip people to live in its power and keeping.

“Civilizations might be viewed as surges of history that rise toward this level of abundant living, but always fall back because social institutions are not appropriately modified at that time of crisis when accumulated resources – material, social and spiritual, open the way to it. Yet it is just at the same time when the surge of history breaks and fails that most wisdom is attained concerning the conduct of life. Failure is always the supreme teacher, if accompanied by faith and courage. In China, India, Egypt, Israel and the Roman Empire, a more noble and penetrating religious faith arose when the surge of history began to break. Also, the arts and principles of government were then matured, and moral principles were more clearly discerned, more profoundly interpreted. Thus, as civilizations rise and fall like waves, so to speak – each failing to reach the greater good that might be – they leave a deposit of wisdom that increases. In time this growing wisdom and truer religious faith might enable a surge of history to pass over and beyond the obstacle we have noted. Our own time offers just such an opportunity. But the opportunity will pass us by if we do not have a better interpretation of justice and freedom than is now prevalent.”

- Henry Nelson Wieman, The Directive in History*, pp. 107-108, 1949

In this book Wieman notes (page 6), “My indebtedness to, and any difference from, the following will be apparent to many: C.I. Lewis, An Analysis of Knowledge and Evolution and Mind and the World Order; Stephen C. Pepper, Aesthetic Quality and World Hypothesis; F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West and The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities; R.B. Perry, General Theory of Value and The Moral Economy; A.N. Whitehead, Process and Reality and The Concept of Nature; G.E. Moore, Principia Ethica; Nicolai Hartmann, Ethics; W.M Urban, Valuation, Its Nature and Laws; Morris Cohen, Reason and Nature; John Dewey, Logic, the Theory of Inquiry." In another note (p. 100): "For this account of the breakdown of civilizations see Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History; Alfred Weber, Kulturgeschichte als Kultursoziologie and Farewell to European History; Gordon Childe, Man Makes Himself and What Happened in History. Oswald Spengler's The Decline and Fall of the West could be interpreted in this way, although he would deny that the ceiling of power could ever be passed." My "brief history of Henry Nelson Wieman" is cued up here: