Saturday, June 7, 2008

What Is Civilization & Why Does It Not Allow For Valuing Openness To Diversity?

Civilization is a species of literacy, from which emerges a society in which there is an attempt to achieve consistency in our accounts of what exists and can exist. It requires also a phonetic alphabet with symbols for the common vowel sounds. There must be a written language of this exact sort, which allows for publication to the multitude, not just to a priesthood, when high-level ideas are articulated. This is why China is not civilized, and even this year has been firing into crowds of monks. Genesis, with its two flood stories in contradiction to each other, illustrates the transition to civilization; they have part but not all of the minimum requirements. The Ionian settlers show the first civilization. The written language, by that point, allows for a kind of publishing that would make accessible to the many, articulated exposition of the most important ideas, and there is an attempt at getting consistency in the accounts of what exists. If we value openness to diversity instead, the attempt at an overall consistency has been abandoned in principle, and civilization falls below its minimum threshold value.


Anonymous said...

And in medieval times most of the alphabets in use were in countries where basically only the nobility and clergy were literate, whereas the Jews who use an allegedly "uncivilized" non-alphabet had a literacy of >90% for men and somewhat lower for females?

I call bullshit!

John S. Bolton said...

No, you're wrong, the Jewish alphabet counts as civilized all the way back to the oldest books of the bible, when they started using letters for vowel sounds. I even specifically referred to the period of Genesis being written down, as exemplifying the transition to civilized culture, and that means that they did get there, not that they remained for centuries in transition.

Anonymous said...

but Jews didn't use vowel sounds consistently at all very often; in scripture, yes, in other writings, nearly never. Yes, the letters that normally represented a few consonants did occasionally turn up for a few vowels, especially long, stressed ones, but even then inconsistently.

The Hebrew writing system is used alphabetically in some modern languages such as Yiddish or Ladino, but in medieval Hebrew the general mode of usage still was what you'd call uncivilized.

John S. Bolton said...

It wasn't hieroglyphic, though. There's a difference between an alphabetic system with no attempt at representing vowel sounds, and one with some. Likewise, the threshold of civilization is found where there is an attempt, not necessarily successful, at getting consistency in accounts of what exists. It's the attempt, not so much the complete success, which I say marks the boundary of civilization.