These photos are of Will and Arial Durant. Their book The Story of Philosophy (1926) had an enormous impact on me. I read it over and over from when I was a teenager and still refer to it often. The book was a bestseller for the Durants giving them time and financial freedom to finish an 11 volume series The Story of Civilization (1931), which prominently sits atop my home bookshelves today. Chapter 9 of Ross Douthat’s The Decadent Society (2020) begins with a Durant quote “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within”.
This is the first of 3 chapters speculating on how our decadent civilization may come to an end: Catastrophe, Renaissance or Providence. Douthat first speculates about catastrophic destruction via economic crisis, global warming, mass migration or war. An unexpected apocalypse is certainly a possible way our civilization ends. We are just the next volume in The Story of Civilization series, yet to be written. What’s fascinating to me is not just the death of a people, their art, architecture and culture, but also their way of thinking – their worldview – their philosophy of life and morality.
Ancient Oriental, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Incan, Aztec, Roman, Persian and Greek understandings of humanity are gone. Their progression of worldviews, leading all the way into the modern scientific revolution through the current post-modern moral morass in which are public intellectuals wallow, will fade into history. Public morality is now imploding into an incoherent mess. It is no surprise that our streets are literally burning with anger, resentment and discontent. Here are some articles that underscore the critical need to construct and stock an intellectual, moral and financial War Chest so your family is not consumed by the flames of “revolution”.
When we’re done with Douthat, the Schopenhauer and Nietzsche sections of The Story of Philosophy will crystalize a controversial fact (a truth which is only controversial in this post-truth, angry absurd “woke” age): Intellect, personal wealth and moral character are inextricably bound together.
But before we get to that, let’s move to a possible future Renaissance and our old friend Patrick Deneen.