Re: Why the West has 'won'.

Eric Watt Forste (
Tue, 05 Aug 1997 16:03:09 -0700

Curt Adams writes:
> Personal theory? Mountainous geography, lots of coastline, and
> localized political structures made conquest difficult but
> communication and trade easy. Result: good memes for cooperation
> and constructive competition got the upper hand over conquest and
> religious ones.

Sounds good. I'm pretty sure that any interesting long-term
historical development has multiple causes. I like this theory,
and I still like the alphabetic theory (which I should no doubt
be crediting to whomever thought it up first) too.

> I don't consider modern pluralism descended from the Greeks. Modern
> pluralism developed in England and Holland around 1600 to 1700 as
> a result of a loosely similar situation where trade was easy but
> conquest hard. They took lots of (modified) ideas from the Italian
> Renaissance, which in turn had gotten lots of (modified) ideas from
> the surviving Greek texts. But, basically, they did it themselves.

You're right about early modern European pluralism. I was confused
in the back of my head by Hayek's arguments in THE CONSTITUTION OF
LIBERTY to the effect that the notion of "rule of law" (as
distinguished from rule of men) was first articulated among the
Greeks and was transmitted in their literature (and that of the
Romans, notably Cicero) to modern European political philosophers.
But rule of law is a different thing from political pluralism,
though perhaps the historical correlation between the two is not
entirely coincidental.

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++ expectation foils perception -pcd