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A Sociology of Modernity (2) Origins of Modernity I The Protestant Revolution.

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Presentation on theme: "A Sociology of Modernity (2) Origins of Modernity I The Protestant Revolution."— Presentation transcript:

1 A Sociology of Modernity (2) Origins of Modernity I The Protestant Revolution

2 Overview Medieval sensibilities: Dante’s Inferno Pre-modern Christian Philosophy. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Acquinas The Protestant Revolution A Postscript on the Question of Evil

3 Medieval sensibilities: Dante’s Inferno Canto XXVIII 1-6: Who could, even in a prose description Give an account of all the blood and wounds I saw then, even with several tellings No tongue, certainly, would be capable of it For our speech, and our intelligence, Lack the capacity to comprehend so much

4 Dante’s Inferno Canto XXVIII: Even a cask with the bottom knocked out Does not gape in the way I saw one Ripped open from the chin to where he farts Between his legs his guts were hanging out His lights appeared, and that disgusting tube Which makes shit of what goes down our throats

5 Dante’s Inferno Canto XXVIII: See how mangled Mahomet is: In front of me, Ali goes weeping His face split open from his chin to his forelock And all others you see in this place Were instigators of scandal and of schism When they were alive, and so they are split here There is a devil behind here who hacks at us So cruelly, with cuts of his sword Before anyone gets back to where he stands

6 Dante’s Purgatorio In Dante’s vision, Purgatory consists of 7 stages - each for a particular type of mortal sin: –pride, –envy, –anger, –sloth, –covetousness (greed), –gluttony, –lust Sinners have to go through each stage by perfecting themselves through the opposite virtues: –humility, –brotherly love, –meekness, –diligence, –liberality, –temperance, –chastity

7 Pre-Modern Christian Philosophy Classical ideas: –Plato: human free will can only will what is good; its corruption comes from errors and confusions (often linked to one’s physical being). –Aristotle: the difference between humans and animals is the latter’s incapacity to reason. Augustine: Evil is what humans choose voluntarily (out of their free will).

8 St Thomas Acquinas (1225 – 1274 AD) Central issue: the relationship between knowing and believing There is a natural logic to existence that we can know through experience God constitutes an objective reality, external to the human mind God will never be fully knowable to the human mind Reason is brought into being by Faith. The role of free will is more conditioned by the categorizing and ordering capacity of human thought Love only points towards God, if it is informed by knowledge and reason. Evil points away from God, and is supported by unreason Ergo: Ignorance is not Bliss!

9 Context of Protestant Revolution Economically, medieval feudal society was running towards its limits in terms of the size of population it could support, and there were recurrent famines, Politically, it was negatively affected by small- scale territorial warfare and competing claims over land. As important was the devastating death toll of the first four outbreaks of Black death from 1348 onwards. Technological Innovations: (not in this lecture: the role of media, e.g. the printing press).

10 A new dynamic in social ordering: –traditional guilds became less preoccupied with skills and crafts, –the use of money started to replace other forms of exchange, –the legal system was being reformed, –states started to centralize and focus on a sovereign, absolute ruler, rather than principles of patronage and tribute, –and the absolute authority of the Catholic Church over the meaning of the Christian vocation, lost its hegemony.

11 Luther and Calvin Salvation cannot be obtained through repentance and confession. Salvation is God’s work only. Humans, in contrast, are always predisposed to evil. Evil is everywhere (ubiquitous) in the world

12 Consequences of Protestantism Abolition of the Unified Spiritual Authority of the Church (= cause), leading to a fragmentation of Christianity into factions (denominations) Separation of Faith and Reason Reason is not Necessarily Moral (Machiavelli) Necessary Evil: Despotism required to repress total chaos (Hobbes) Individualization of spiritual life and morality

13 Weber: The Protestant Ethic Entzäuberung der Welt Calling (Beruf) and Pre-Destination Time = Money Waste = Sinful = Having Been Condemned The Parable of the Talents Rise in Productivity The means of salvation are intricately connected to the means of life.

14 Other factors Rise of ‘pragmatism’ (realism) in governing worldly affairs Strategic alliances with absolute sovereignty (the ‘nationalization of religion’) ‘Secularization’ – religion becomes more and more ‘worldly’ in orientation

15 Transformation of the concept of evil Judaism: evil is what lies within (sin) Early Christianity: evil is the work of the devil, the devil is a ‘jester’ (and a liar) and rules the pagans (Late-) Medieval Christianity: the devil is very powerful, has powerful allies (Mongols, Ottomans, Moors) Protestantism: evil is everywhere, ‘perpetual war between good and evil’ (a militarization of faith); ambivalence becomes evil


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