The antecedents of western philosophy

Peter Flegel has an interesting article in Philosophy Now looking at possible connections between ancient Greek philosophy and conceptions explored in the Egyptian New Kingdom period.  Ideas like the four elements and the theory of forms seem to have pretty clear antecedents in Egyptian thought. (There's also a brief suggestion that Akhenaten, known for a … Continue reading The antecedents of western philosophy

Big societies came before big gods

Some years ago I reviewed a book by Ara Norenzayan called Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict.  Norenzayan's thesis was that it was a belief in big gods, specifically cosmic gods that cared about human morality, that enabled the creation of large scale human societies. In small societies, reputation serves as an effective … Continue reading Big societies came before big gods

Why the Exodus, as commonly understood, probably never happened

At the urging of one of my relatives, I watched Ridley Scott's 'Exodus: Gods and Kings'.  This relative, knowing my skeptical nature, thought I might enjoy Scott's naturalistic (mostly) take on the events in the story.  I'm sorry to say that I didn't really enjoy the movie, which is unusual for me because I usually do enjoy … Continue reading Why the Exodus, as commonly understood, probably never happened

Religion, the Axial Age, and theoretic culture

I recently read the late Robert Bellah's 'Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age.'  Although the title of the book seems to narrow it to just religion, in ancient societies, religion was just about everything, so the book ended up being about the development of cultures, which isn't too surprising given … Continue reading Religion, the Axial Age, and theoretic culture

Origins of Hierarchy: How Egyptian Pharaohs Rose to Power

Stephanie Pappas has an interesting post at LiveScience:  Origins of Hierarchy: How Egyptian Pharaohs Rose to Power. The rulers of ancient Egypt lived in glorious opulence, decorating themselves with gold and perfumes and taking their treasures with them to the grave. But how could such a hierarchical, despotic system arise from egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies? The … Continue reading Origins of Hierarchy: How Egyptian Pharaohs Rose to Power

On theories of why civilizations collapse and our own times

After my post on the Bronze Age collapse and resulting discussion, I looked at other material about the collapse of civilizations, but after doing that, realized that I have some thoughts about what might be necessary for developing a theory about why collapses happen, what areas of expertise you need to have a chance at formulating … Continue reading On theories of why civilizations collapse and our own times

The collapse of the Bronze Age civilizations

A while back I did a short post on the collapse of civilizations, noting that history pretty much shows that all civilizations, sooner or later, end.  (I also expressed skepticism that ours is necessarily anywhere near this point.) The quintessential example of a civilization collapse is the fall of the Roman Empire.  But it is by … Continue reading The collapse of the Bronze Age civilizations