Bloody Shovel 3

We will drown and nobody shall save us

Posts tagged as: goodshows

The narrow light of Experience

I've been watching these days Kenneth Clark's Civilisation series, BBC (1969). Its basically a history of western civilisation taught through the history of art, him being a curator. Although Clark also makes the occasional comment on culture, from his aesthetically traditionalist angle. Its normally just a short remark on how 1960s hippies are tasteless, or how the Reformation was little less than mass peasant histeria. But in the end of the 8th chapter, The Light of Experience,  which is about the 17th century, he makes this long, very charged comment.

Between Descartes and Newton, Western man created those instruments of thought that set him apart from the other peoples of the world. And if you look at the average 19th century historian (...), you'll think that European Civilisation seems almost to begin with this achievement. The strange thing is that none of these mid-century writers (except for Carlyle and Ruskin) seemed to notice that the triumph of rational philosophy had resulted in a new form of barbarism.  If, from the balcony of the Greeenwich observatory, I look beyond the order of Wrens's hospital I see the squalid disorder of industrial society. It has grown up as a result of the same conditions that allowed the Dutch to build their beautiful towns, to support their painters, to print the works of philosophers: fluid capital, a free economy, a flow of exports and imports, a belief in cause and effect. Well every civilis...