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Momentous year

Friday, 1 December 2017 at 21:53

Christopher Colombus on Dr John Dunn. Christopher Columbus

During the momentous year of 1492, Spain delivered massive blows against Guelphic economic power. John Dunn quotes Columbus.‘In the same month in which their majesties [Ferdinand and Isabella] issued the edict that all Jews should be driven out of the kingdom and its territories, in the same month they gave me the order to undertake with sufficient men my expedition of discovery to the Indies’. So began the diary of Christopher Columbus.

In combination with the restrictions imposed upon the nobility, the expulsion of the Jews was intended to staunch the haemorrhage of surplus value out of Spain in payments for weaponry, luxury goods and associated borrowing, which went, ultimately, into the coffers of Venice. The burden of payment for usurious loans was borne entirely by the ultra-feudalist producer class of serfs. Wealth was draining out of Spain and, if economic autarchy was to be achieved, the parasitism upon the producers had to be lifted.

The other blow against Guelphic power was implicit in Columbus's diary entry - the trade route to the East which bypassed Venice. These were already beginning to be established. What Columbus stumbled across were the Americas - for Spain, amongst other things, a source of gold devoid of Venetian intervention and speculation.

© John Dunn.

The cultural environment nurtured under Henry VII

Thursday, 30 November 2017 at 21:48

An engraving of Henry VII on Dr John Dunn. The cultural environment nurtured under Henry VII enabled the circle of scholars associated with Erasmus of Rotterdam to flourish. John Dunn adds more scholars.Erasmus, Thomas More and John Colet looked to education as an Eleusian way to freedom, tantamount to a transfiguration, recalling Dante’s declaration that the truly free individual possesses crown and mitre over himself, i.e. the power of mind over which no secular or clerical authority can rule. These Renaissance thinkers saw the possibility of transforming citizens into the equivalent of Plato’s ‘philosopher kings’. This idea was expressed by Erasmus two years after his arrival in England in 1499, when his Handbook of the Militant Christian was published. Like Dante and others in the conspiracy of intelligence,Erasmus argued for the rejection of Aristotelian sense certainty, ‘the poison of representation’ described by Dante in Canto IV of Paradise, turning instead to Plato for inspiration.

In man, reason discharges the office of king... Consider the dregs of the lower classes to be those affections or passions that dissent as much as possible from the decrees of reason and that are least humble. These are lust, lechery, envy, and similar diseases of the mind, which we ought to resist as overseers restrain dirty, vile slaves so as to ensure that they perform the tasks assigned them by the master, or, at least, so as to prevent them from doing harm. The divinely inspired Plato wrote of all these things in his Timaeus.*

Thomas More developed this theme in Utopia, in which he argued that to become Platonic ‘philosopher kings’, all the nation’s citizens would have to be schooled, for it was ‘impossible to do all things well unless all men are good’.

Erasmus,More and others of their circle had developed the ideas of Dante, Nicholas of Cusa and Plethon, as well as Plato, placing their hopes in the application of these ideas to the education of the monarch and citizenry. A combination of coherent nationhood, enlightened monarchical rule and an educated citizenry would march the world out of the slavery of Guelphic control. They posited a very real alternative to the bestiality of man and the permanent economic chaos of ultra-feudalism that had for long benefited the alliance of nobility, Jews and Venetian financial speculators. As such, Erasmus and More had consciously attacked the core principles of the Diocletian Order and Jehovian Terror.

* Erasmus, Handbook of the Militant Christian, Yale University Divinity School, Eikon Database, 30.10.15

© John Dunn.

Fighting feudal warlords

Wednesday, 29 November 2017 at 21:44

Edward I on Dr John Dunn. Edward I (left) went so far as to break the proto-oligarchical alliance by expelling the Jews from England in 1290, anticipating the action taken in Renaissance Spain by over 200 years. Edward I’s exploits against the Welsh and the Scots are also to be understood as an attack upon one other element of the tripartite alliance. These wars have been subject to a retrospective historical distortion of the truth. They were not wars between nations; after all the concept of the nation state barely existed. Rather, Longshanks was fighting feudal warlords on the edges ofhis kingdom. ‘Scottish’ kings, such as John Balliol and Robert the Bruce, were not Scots as we might recognise them today. They were Frenchspeaking nobles and related to Edward himself. Like Edward, they would have much preferred to have been fighting in the Middle East on Crusade.Robert the Bruce had great landholdings deep into Yorkshire and John Balliol even endowed an Oxford College.

The confrontation between kings with absolutist designs and nobles protecting their feudal privileges was central to Shakespeare’s history plays about the Plantagenet dynasty. King John was portrayed as attempting to justify his attempts to assert his own power and arbitrary and violent actions, with speeches about how his legitimacy as king was derived directly from God (which opposed the Guelphic assertion that the Pope must intervene). Shakespeare presented Richard II challenging feudal precedents, seizing lands to finance wars and justifying his action by claiming the divine right of kings. Rejecting these violations of the Diocletian Order, Bolingbroke led the revolt against Richard, illegitimately crowning himself as Henry IV.

© John Dunn.

Gentile against Spinozism

Tuesday, 7 November 2017 at 21:39

Giovanni Gentile on Dr John Dunn. Giovanni Gentile

Spinoza’s Ethics is composed as a doctrine of freedom - a freedom to be acquired by liberating the soul from the passions. In order to free ourselves from our passions we must only know them, that is, we must discover their causes and understand their natural necessity… In such a conception, reality was nature, the universe, existing independently of human thought which only aspired to know it, without ever attempting to transform it into a better world of its own - the moral world. Hence the essential function of the human spirit was conceived as a purely theoretical and speculative activity, without any practical power. The will… was degraded by such a doctrine to a mere device of reasoner compelling human conduct to conform the laws of nature. Its function was therefore negative rather than positive; it was destined to put out of man’s mind any foolish desire to oppose himself vainly to reality, which, being what it is, cannot be changed to please us…

In such a system feeling can find no place. It is a hindrance to man who, being born to develop completely his rational nature, is from the beginning entangled in his senses, which are at once the means and the obstacle to human knowledge…

In the universality of reason there is no mine or thine, I or thou, this or that; the universal is an object of knowledge but is not the knowing subject. It has no personality, and it is not spirit…

…With Christianity there arises a new concept of life, no longer as nature, but as spirit…

…They point to something that seems to be a new nature, a grace, a virtue freely bestowed without his doing anything to deserve it, but which is nothing in its pure immediacy - the immediacy that deprives the spirit of all freedom and consequently of all merit, thus degrading it to a state of nature. Grace is not fate! This is the hard problem which the new age has for so long attempted to penetrate. But however mysterious it remained for a still immature reflection, men drew from it the firm assurance that the principle of salvation was within them that it was there they must seek it, at the source of their life; there lay the treasure. The subject began to prevail over the object; the spirit, with all the strength of its inner life, began to lift itself above nature.

(Giovanni Gentile, The Philosophy of Art)

Posted by John Dunn.

The human mind partakes

Thursday, 2 November 2017 at 21:20

Plethon on Dr John Dunn. Plethon

II. God in De Differentiis
Plethon treats of God in the first three substantive paragraphs of De Differentiis. His first claim is that "...Plato's view is that God, the supreme sovereign, is the creator of every kind of intelligible and separate substance, and hence of our entire universe. Aristotle, on the other hand, never calls God the creator of anything whatever, but only the motive force of the universe."

The Aristotelian causality of Aquinas and Augustine, is the conception of God as the One who imparts a cause or a motion to things, a beginning with an effect and teleology.

Between cause and effect Aristotle opened a gap between man’s will and the divine. God was absolutely transcendent and man was left on earth by himself. This development was not atheism, God was there after all, He created the universe. He may be good or benign, but we cannot say or know for sure.

The gap opened up by causality was filled later by Enlightenment thinking, which ran counter to the emergent Platonic ideals of Dante and others during the Renaissance. The Enlightenment thinkers were the heirs of Augustine and Aquinas, not their nemeses.

Giordano Bruno would die for his heresy against the church’s accommodation with Aristotle, not against Christianity per se.

The sun metaphor illuminated Dante’s idea of the Trinity as the inexhaustible source that keeps giving. It gives to all and we are all part of this gift that is so loved by a Creator who ‘never takes his eyes off it’.

Dante rejected the causa efficiens of Augustine and Aquinas in favour of a creation that involved the participation of the creatures. More than just the result of efficiency and aetiology (cause), the human mind partakes of the inexhaustible source of light.

© John Dunn.

Also Spoke Zarathustra

Wednesday, 1 November 2017 at 20:11

Zarathustrian good versus evil on Dr John Dunn.

Zarathustrian struggle between good and evil

Why did Nietzsche choose Zarathustra to be the voice of his great work of social commentary and philosophy? Nietzsche’s answer was that ‘Zarathustra had been the first to see in the struggle between good and evil the essential wheel in the working of things’.

This I can understand. It is about an essential confrontation underlying all things that has been lost, or covered over, in the modern world.

But the overcoming of morality; this have I yet to thoroughly understand.

Thus spoke Nietzsche

People have never asked me, as they should have done, what the name Zarathustra precisely means in my mouth, in the mouth of the first Immoralist; for what distinguishes that philosopher from all others in the past is the very fact that he was exactly the reverse of an immoralist. Zarathustra was the first to see in the struggle between good and evil the essential wheel in the working of things. The translation of morality into the metaphysical, as force, cause, end in itself, was HIS work. But the very question suggests its own answer. Zarathustra CREATED the most portentous error, MORALITY, consequently he should also be the first to PERCEIVE that error, not only because he has had longer and greater experience of the subject than any other thinker--all history is the experimental refutation of the theory of the so-called moral order of things:--the more important point is that Zarathustra was more truthful than any other thinker. In his teaching alone do we meet with truthfulness upheld as the highest virtue--i.e.:the reverse of the COWARDICE of the 'idealist' who flees from reality. Zarathustra had more courage in his body than any other thinker before or after him. To tell the truth and TO AIM STRAIGHT: that is the first Persian virtue. Am I understood?... The overcoming of morality through itself--through truthfulness, the overcoming of the moralist through his opposite--THROUGH ME--: that is what the name Zarathustra means in my mouth.
Nietzscheq quoted by ELIZABETH FORSTER-NIETZSCHE in her introduction to her brother’s THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA: A BOOK FOR ALL AND NONE

Nietzsche Archives,

Weimar, December 1905.

Posted by John Dunn.
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