Radoslaw Tryc – “Liberalism beyond the Latin civilization?”6 January, 2008 — qatryk
The Western civilization, probably more often called Latin, was created from four basic sources through the combination of Roman law, Greek philosophy, Jewish religion (Christianity) and barbaric honor.
The basis of existence of the ancient Rome was fairness and force. The popular at that time anagram IVS VIS symbolizes this unity. In the Roman law, much was written about what we would today see as natural, how, for instance, “no one can benefit from crime”, that property was separated from ownership, that equality of the opposing sides in a trial was introduced, but behind it all stood legions unified by steel discipline. The initial law of the twelve tables, written by the commission, was an expression of the binding customary law.
It was a significant culture shock for the Romans to become acquainted with (first through trade, then obviously through conquest) Greece, particularly with its diversity and philosophy. It is worthwhile to look from their perspective at Athens and Sparta or at Platonists (Neo-Platonists by that time) and Stoicists. The culture of the ancient Rome was characterized by such immense practicism, that no one is able to indicate any noteworthy Roman mathematicians. Greece enhanced the ability to conduct theoretical deliberations. Aside from the question “how?”, the question “why?” started being asked. The fusion of these two cultures occurred in entirety already in the antiquity, so much so that the archeologists refer to it as the Greek – Roman era.
Christianity, founded as a Judaist sect on the periphery of the Empire, completely clashed at the beginning with the obligatory culture; it forbid the creation of effigies, scorned force and did not value wisdom. And the Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd. And He was buried, and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible – wrote Tertullian, adding that The unity of heretics is schism. Blending with the Greek-Roman world, Christianity provided the Latin culture with generality, meaning that it addressed it to each person individually, notwithstanding their position in the world, sex, class or language. The extent of the fusion can be seen in the IV century, when the highest Christian priest accepted the title of Pontifex Maximus, previously reserved for the leader of the council of Flamines and Vestals.
The barbarians (as in ones who wear beards) flooded the borders of the Empire, bringing with them their own laws, their own understanding of force and tribal principles, which, in order to differentiate from the Roman virtue (virtus), should be called honor. They let the Christianized world measure up to their own diversity and most of all… they themselves greatly wanted to become Romans, but not completely. They were the victors, had a strong sense of their own distinctness and value. Theodoric the Great, the first medieval king of Italy, ordered to be buried in a stone mausoleum in the shape of a yurt, the traditional home of the nomad people.
The Middle Ages constituted an era of the blending of the barbarians into the mainstream of the Latin civilization. It was at that time that the currently present paradigms were shaped:
– the acceptance of opposites with the simultaneous elimination of logical inconsistencies,
– readiness to accept innovation,
I will not insist that other civilizations do not try to eliminate logical inconsistencies or that they are not ready to accept innovation, but the West developed these abilities in a unique manner. The sentence, “Tao, which can be described by words, is not a true Tao”, must have emerged from different cultural surroundings. Each civilization, which would come in touch, even indirectly, with the West, could enrich it with new ideas. Gunpowder, through the Arabs, came from the Chinese, but it was only after the experimental works and the theoretical analysis of “the black monk” Berthold from Freiburg that the stechiometric proportions were discovered, and gunpowder became useful for barrel weapons. A great majority of the innovations of the Latin civilization contributed and still contributes to communication, starting with the network of the Roman roads (where many are still in use today) and ending with the Internet.
It was only the Latin civilization, among the many different post-Enlightment ideas, that produced liberalism, which recognizes individual rights to stand above responsibilities towards a community and freedom as an overriding value. On the other hand, conservatism and socialism, which order the society to accept the forced hierarchy, constitute ideas comprehensible to everyone. This is why I perceive the Latin civilization as an environment favorable to freedom (understood variously). Looking at its history, I try to understand why that is the case.
December 27, 2007
Translated by: Karolina Kuczyc