A few months ago, I tuned out of mainstream politics and shifted my focus to history and philosophy. I started doing a lot of research for my book and wrote some reviews:
Review: The Reformation: A History
Review: Brand Luther
Review: The Dream of Enlightenment
Review: Short Oxford History of the British Isles: The Seventeenth Century
Review: Planting an Empire
Review: A Short History of Renaissance and Reformation Europe
Review: After Virtue
After I got dragged into the Charlottesville lawsuit, I lost my focus and shelved that project. I’ve recently resumed working on it while keeping this site updated with news.
We left off tracing the roots of the decline of the West to Britain and the Netherlands in the seventeenth century. This is the place and the moment in history where the historical arc of modernity began that has continued to unfold down to the present day.
Joseph Bergin’s The Seventeenth Century: Europe 1598-1715 and in particular Laurence W.B. Brockliss’s article “The age of curiosity” sheds considerable light on this process. The great watershed moment in European intellectual history occurred when the pessimistic Augustinian worldview which had dominated Western Christendom since the demise of the Roman Empire was challenged and overthrown by an anti-Augustinian worldview inspired by the rise of modern science.
The Aristotelian universe of the High Middle Ages was full of meaning, purpose and final causes. The Hobbesian universe of matter in motion stripped that out and never successfully replaced it with a sound theoretical foundation. From about 1700, Christianity began to lose its grip on Western culture and secular ideologies the most successful of which was liberalism began to fill the void.
The story of the last three hundred years has largely been the logic of liberalism working itself out and pushing Western culture toward its exhaustion and death.