What If Our Ignorance Outgrows Our Potential?

Context with Brad Harris | 5 August 2019 | 0h 35m | Listen Later | iTunes
What happens when rich and powerful societies lose their wisdom and forget what made them great in the first place? Backgrounds the rediscovery after thousands of years of Lucretius’s modern sounding On the Nature of Things. (As told in Stephen Greenblatt’s book The Swerve: How the World Became Modern.) Draws lessons for today from how a paradise of wisdom was once lost.

2 thoughts on “What If Our Ignorance Outgrows Our Potential?

  1. Seems triply improbable that a certain Roman poem would a) be in accord with modern elite thinking (moreso than with Roman, Renaissance or Enlightenment thought); b) spark the Renaissance; and c) yet be neglected in intellectual history.

    The basic point is important though: there are good changes in history and bad ones; we shouldn’t claim there is necessarily Progress.

    1. I haven’t read Greenblatt’s “The Swerve,” but Matt Ridley summarised it and the Catholic Church’s suppression of Lucretius at length in “The Evolution of Everything.” Ridley offers a good explanation for your b and c. Lucretius’s explanation of emergent bottom-up processes was an intolerable challenge to the top-down god-given order advanced by the Church. So copies of Lucretius’s poem were destroyed. Its rediscovery and recirculation immediately preceded the Renaissance.

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