So I was reading Braudel's The Mediterranean in the Ancient World and on p.273 he makes a (somewhat perplexing, because I actually think they agree more than Braudel realizes) reference to Jorge Luis Borges:
>In short, Athens was a privileged city which oppressed others. Enough at any rate to make us disagree entirely with J.-L. Borges when he writes that 'Athens was only a rudimentary version of Paradise'. Earthly paradises are always rudimentary, but their gates are not open to all comers.'
The quote comes from the fantastic essay "The Fearful Sphere of Pascal" (read it: http://www.filosofiaesoterica.com/ler.php?id=1355), but it's not actually by Borges! It is attributed to Robert South (1634-1716):
>In the seventeenth century, humanity was cowed by a feeling of senescence; in order to justify itself it exhumed the belief in a slow and fatal degeneration of all creatures consequent on Adam's sin. (We know - from the fifth chapter of Genesis - that "all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years"; from the sixth chapter, that "there were giants in the earth in those days.") The First Anniversary of John Donne's elegy, Anatomy of the World, lamented the very brief life and limited stature of contemporary men, who are like pygmies and fairies; Milton, according to Johnson's biography, feared that the appearance on earth of a heroic species was no longer possible; Glanvill was of the opinion that Adam, "the medal of God," enjoyed both telescopic and microscopic vision; Robert South conspicuously wrote: "An Aristotle was but the fragment of an Adam, and Athens the rudiments of Paradise."
This idea of Pascal's Sphere was picked up by various of people, it shows up in Calvino, Eco, and even Jarmusch.
In any case, the quote is actually real (with B you never know), and comes from a short neo-Platonist x Christian sermon in the Augustan style, called The Happiness of Adam (http://www.bartleby.com/209/571.html) which was published in the collection "Sermons preached upon Several Occasions". It's philosophical and fiery, just the sort of thing you'd expect Borges to love:
>HE came into the world a philosopher, which sufficiently appeared by his writing the nature of things upon their names; he could view essences in themselves, and read forms without the comment of their respective properties [...] All those arts, rarities, and inventions, which vulgar minds gaze at, the ingenious pursue, and all admire, are but the reliques of an intellect defaced with sin and time. We admire it now, only as antiquaries do a piece of old coin, for the stamp it once bore, and not for those vanishing lineaments and disappearing draughts that remain upon it at present. And certainly that must needs have been very glorious, the decays of which are so admirable. He that is comely, when old and decrepid, surely was very beautiful when he was young. An Aristotle was but the rubbish of an Adam, and Athens but the rudiments of Paradise.
I found another instance of the idea of "fatal degeneration" in George Bull:
>I might here insist upon that admirable philosophy lecture which Adam (appointed by God Himself to that ollice) read on all the other animals. For although his theme here was a part of natural philosophy, yet his performance herein, if we look to its circum stances, cannot but be judged by every considering man to be the effect of a more than human sagacity. That, in the infinite variety of creatures, never before seen by Adam, he should be able on a sudden, without study or premeditation, to give names to each of them, so adapted and fitted to their natures, as that God Himself should approve the nomenclature, how astonishing a thing is it! What single man, among all the philosophers since the Fall, what Plato, what Aristotle etc. among the ancients, what Descartes or Gassendi among the moderns, nay, what Royal Society durst have undertaken this?
So, I was hoping to somehow circle around and connect it directly to Athens again, like Borges goes to Xenophanes for the sphere. Perhaps some Greek philosopher had a similar idea of degeneration that we could contrast against the perfect sphere... any ideas?
I tired and slightly drunk at the moment. Bumping this thread for tomorrow so I can give you a proper reply.
I love reading Braudel but deep down I agree with Charles Tilly's position on him:
"He approaches a problem by enumerating its elements, fondling its ironies, contradictions, and complexities, confronting the various theories scholars have proposed, and giving each theory its historical due. The sum of all theories, alas, is no theory."
If you want to read "Civilisation materielle et capitalisme", I suggest you read Giovanni Arrighi's "The Long Twentieth Century" as a companion work. He systematizes Braudel and puts him in conversation with political science sociology.
>>7587419 Perhaps some Greek philosopher had a similar idea of degeneration that we could contrast against the perfect sphere... any ideas?
Hesiod's five ages is what you are after, but it is probably also the antecedent of the Pascals position so it short circuits the digression.
That's perfect, thanks.
Another interesting thing to notice is the effect of the translations. English -> Spanish -> English turns "rubbish" into "fragment" and drops the second "but" (perhaps this is the source of Braudel's confusion). Then Braudel reads that essay in French translation, and his own book is translated from French to English, turning "rudiments of Paradise" into the workmanlike "a rudimentary version of Paradise". A good translator would've looked up the reference and given us the original version, but Ms. Sian Reynolds couldn't be bothered.
Somehow knew I was going to encounter that myth again today after reading this. There it was in Christopher Smart's Jubilate Agno (18th c):
>For I prophecy that men will live to a much greater age. This ripens apace God be praised.
>For I prophecy that they will grow taller and stronger.
>For degeneracy has done a great deal more than is in general imagined.
>For men in David's time were ten feet high in general.
>For they had degenerated also from the strength of their fathers.
>For I prophecy that we shall have our horns again.
>For in the day of David Man as yet had a glorious horn upon his forehead.
>For this horn was a bright substance in colour and consistence as the nail of the hand.
>For it was broad, thick and strong so as to serve for defence as well as ornament.
>For it brightened to the Glory of God, which came upon the human face at morning prayer.
>For it was largest and brightest in the best men.
>For it was taken away all at once from all of them.
>For this was done in the divine contempt of a general pusillanimity.
>For this happened in a season after their return from the Babylonish captivity.
>For their spirits were broke and their manhood impair'd by foreign vices for exaction.
>For I prophecy that the English will recover their horns the first.
>For I prophecy that all the nations in the world will do the like in turn.
>For I prophecy that all Englishmen will wear their beards again.
>For a beard is a good step to a horn.
>For when men get their horns again, they will delight to go uncovered.
Burke had similar comments on Braudel in his survey of the Annales, in a similar light.
Basically Braudel is a titan of description and sorta-explanation-via-description but not really causation. The question Burke and others seem to have is to what extent description of the structures really WAS explanation for Braudel. Ephemera are ephemera and structure is structure.
Braudel did say he got his structuralism from Marx, but then that just displaces the same debate to Marx since people still argue about the extent to which he felt the "base-superstructure" thing was a linear causal relationship.
A weird thing about Braudel is that he wrote the entire book basically from memory while in a POW camp. Weird parallel to Bloch who famously wrote his Metier d'historien (Historian's Craft) from memory while on the lam from the Nazis, who eventually shot him. But supposedly Braudel would jus tsend these gigantic chapter drafts to Febvre. Have to keep busy somehow.
I don't think OP is so much blogposting as sort of giving you his stream of consciousness on the thing he's thinking about so you can follow along with him.
It's impossible not to be pretentious when you are CONNECTING THE ERUDITE REFERENCES OF THE ILLUSTRIOUS BORGES TO YOUR PERUSALS OF THE GREAT VIDAL DE LA BLACHE WHO ONCE SAID...
At that point you might as well just discard modesty and go for it.
Yeah. It's pretty dry and by-the-numbers but it's great for mining a bibliography of intellectual influences. If you liked Braudel you will probably be interested in his legion of disciples during the era when he basically ran the Sixth Section and Annales as his personal empire. Might also like Labrousse, who was part of that, and all kinds of influences like Simiand, Simmel, etc. Again Burke is good for that.
If you want a better analysis of Braudel in particular, try Stoianovitch's "French Historical Method," which is ostensibly on the Annales but Braudel-heavy. Braudel actually did the foreword to it (or one of the editions at least) and he's like "this Stoianovitch nigga likes me too much."
In the Annales? Burke calls it the fragmentation phase or fourth generation. It's much much more diffuse, sort of rarefied to the point that it's hard to talk about it being a school anymore. Definitely not as purposeful as Bloch/Febvre era, monolithic as Braudel/Labrousse "economic structuralism all day every single day" era, or closely collaborative as Burke's 3rd gen cultural turn era.
Linguistic turn fucked everything basically.
Another really great author is Francois Dosse. His Empire of Meaning is great, not sure about his pre-LT dissertation on the Annales though, and his 2vol History of Structuralism might interest you. He's wide-ranging and has great stuff on Paul Ricoeur (influential on current gen e.g. Chartier), good coverage of Foucault's influence on history and the Annales in EoM, and book Michel de Certeau (sorta fellow traveller of Annales, psychoanalyst) I haven't read. Apparently more recently has stuff on Deleuze and Guattari, Nora, even Castoriadis (Foucault's influence) too. Kind of a deeper read than Burke but EoM is really good if you want a kind of overview of the whole French social sciences.
Sorry to overload or if it seems like I'm showing off, just figured some of it might stick.