Posts Tagged ‘Jacob Burckhardt’

The “last superstition”? We think not…

Friday, November 7th, 2014
(Photo: Erling Mandelmann)

(Photo: Erling Mandelmann)

I’ve known Dwight Green over at Common Reader for several years. Like so many cyberspace friendships, however, we’d never actually met face-to-face. That situation ended Wednesday night, when the book-loving fellow blogger made the trek all the way up from Morgan Hill to hear Roberto Calasso‘s lecture on “The Last Superstition.”

He blogged about it yesterday. An excerpt:

“During the lecture Calasso delved into several topics (sources, trends, implications, and blindness resulting) centered on his argument that society has become the last superstition…replacing the role of the gods with a belief in ‘society.’ This could have been a depressing talk, but Calasso’s approach provided a light touch on weighty subjects. He didn’t let sacred societies off the hook, either, noting they have been most dangerous when they attempt to be organic. It was here that he quoted Jacob Burckhardt’s analysis on Spartan power:

Power can have a great mission on earth; for perhaps it is only on power, on a world protected by power, that superior civilizations can develop. But the power of Sparta seems to have come into being almost entirely for itself and for its own self-assertion, and its constant pathos was the enslavement of subject peoples and the extension of its own dominion as an end unto itself.

“So does the sacred society believe in something beside itself? Unasked, but not necessary given the rest of his talk, was the question if the non-sacred (or experimental, as Calasso termed it) society believes in something beside itself.”

TinkerbellThe question-and-answer session was remarkable. One questioner, after a long, adrenalin-fueled rap about neuroscience, asked Calasso if he “believed” in science. Is this, rather than society, truly the last superstition? I thought the whole point of the sciences is that they didn’t require faith or belief, but rather proof. Is it like Tinkerbell – you have to clap to show you believe, or Tinkerbell dies? I’ll take my superstitions without water, thank you very much. Oh well, clearly I’m out of touch with the spirit of the times.

Read Dwight’s whole post here.