thumbnail of Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Decline and fall of the West: Spengler, part two
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
The limit of each cultural life is explained by Spangler's adoption of the Apollonian conflict between reason and instinct. Nietzsche who had invented this terminology thought that the dominant. Of the creative impulses of instinct over the productive power of reason could serve as an objective index of ascending or declining culture. From this Nietzschean perspective which is beyond good and evil. All the expressions of life including art and religion and philosophy can be interpreted morphologically that is as forms or stages of growth or of the quantum Spangler does not mention herder's work. In this connection. But the idea of a universal philosophy of history had anticipated even Nietzsche in the application of the biological metaphor to history.
Even such a cursory survey as this should indicate that Spangler's genius is not the originality of his organic concept of culture but its extension into a full scale treatment of history. Like most proponents of vitalism or life philosophy Spangler is as we have seen deeply anti-intellectual. Yet he cannot resist invoking the full resources of a German metaphysical tradition to shore up his basic thesis of organic culture. He draws upon lists of contrary categories which he terms polarity. As a substitute for the mechanical analysis. Of history Spangler like Nietzsche propers the Vitalist categories
of the coming proper temporal directive so life possibility futuristic historical as instruments of cultural analysis which are opposed to the static scientific notions of being as a thing become alien spatial extensive world actuality past and scientific. The pinnacle of this metaphysical heap even though it is the essence of a heap. Not to have a pinnacle Spangler's distinction between a vitalist and spiritual and inner directed culture and a more beyond the materialist and outer directed civilization. Destiny expresses our recognition of the inevitable cycle from living possibility to dead actuality and with
Spangler. History is the repetitive process by which each separate live culture degenerate into a dead civilization he writes. For every culture has its own civilization. In this work for the first time the two words of the other two used to express an indefinite more or less ethical distinction are used in a periodic sound to express a strict and necessary organic succession. The civilization is the inevitable destination of the culture. And in this principle we obtain the viewpoint from which the deepest and bravest problems of historical morphology become capable of solution. Civilisations are the most external and artificial states of which a species of developed humanity is capable. They are
conclusion the thing become succeeding. The thing becoming. Death following life. Rigidity following expansion. They are an and irrevocable yet by inward necessity reached again and again. The ingenuity of Spangler's is I suggest its ability to convert the relativism of history into an explanation of a determined life and cycle destiny represents an organic limit rather than a detailed program. And this paradoxical quality which suggests an invariable pattern of completely variable relations is its chief asset. Each culture has a unique destiny with its own symbolic
expression forms of Arts and Sciences. In short its own separate more or form in Spangler's own estimate. Cultures are organisms and world history is their collective biography in the destinies of the several cultures that follow up on one another. Grow up with one another thought overshadow and suppress one another. It's compressed the whole content of human history. And if we set free the Shakers to now hidden all too deep under the surface of a trite history of human progress and let the march past us in the spirit it cannot be that we shall succeed in distinguishing amidst all that is special for an essential the primitive culture for the culture that underlies this ideal. All of the individual cultures. Those quotation.
The bulk of the almost 1000 pages of the decline of the West apply this archetypal form of culture to the cyclical rise and fall of a number of civilizations. The number of acknowledged cultural barriers with spangles in prisons but three distinct and self-contained units dominate the book. The first is the Apollonian or classical. A complex in which Spangler treated Greek culture and Roman civilisation as one single historical unit of study. The second is the major or roughly Arabian culture civilization which extends from the Egyptian pyramid to the expulsion of the moorings on the continent of Europe. The final term of the tribe is our civilization which Spangler seeds originating in the
dawning culture of tenth century Europe and which he calls the fallacy. Each of these cultures like the aimless flowers of the field mentioned earlier is isolated and unrelated to the rest. Each separate culture must express itself fully in its own myriad forms. Expand into a civilization and then perish. And as we have seen these cultures develop morphologically that is they repeat the pattern of living organisms Spangler like the Romantic poets. Is fond of seasonal metaphors and he pens a lengthy chart to his book to show how the separate cultures are born in the spring come to maturity in summer decline in autumn and Paris presumably in the winter of the discontent. Destiny is this inevitable cycle from birth to death and
consequently each phase of a particular culture finds its analogy in every other every event and historical personality possesses not only a temporal and local importance but also a symbolic reference as a singular representative of a universal type. That is Alexander the Great. As a representative of the classical world finds his analogue into Poland as a representative of a feisty and civilisation by the use of this comparative principle Spangler claims that it is possible not only to reconstruct vanished civilizations but to predetermine in a general way the whole course of any culture Roman imperialism and expansion of the Moslem Empire serve as the basis for Spangler's prediction that the twentieth century will see an imperialist struggle for world domination.
The application of the Vitalist and static categories of interpretation further delineate the specific phases of the transformation from culture to civilization. Culture is the spiritual evolution from a history less mythological consciousness to a temporal Eggo centric self-consciousness. The dominant mode of cultural thinking is vitalist ik and intuitive romantic and spiritual aesthetic. In short it is the pastoral spirit of the younger authors poetry the corresponding type of political association of alde from the tribe to feudalism to aristocracy to the nation state which unified the town and the country. But it's creative energy spent it's artistic and intellectual forms
exhausted. The autumn of a culture witnesses the rise of the blues was the triumph of the city over the country and through political revolutions to the victory of the masses over the privileged. As we enter possibilities of a culture decline the outward expansion of its civilization began its interest in science and technology replaces our economic consolidation brings about the formation of money dominated Democratic world cities nations inwardly decline into formless populations capable of being ruled only by death by the age of the Caesars or in sophisticated technology is applied to foreign conquests while primitive domestic conditions spring up side by side with highly civilized modes of living. A civilization like every other organism which becomes
incapable of responding to its own inner needs. Harish us. Once again Spangler's basic intuition is derived from the life and death cycle of living beings and the unforeseen and the arbitrary the trivialities of circumstance. Rain on the surface of history just as it doesn't lie. Because the ultimate limit situation of every man's death does not tell us how any particular man will fulfill his individual destiny or whether in fact he will be. And in our directed culture a man or an outer directed civilization man. But since it is the death today of each culture to be born mature decline and die. The study of history will reveal according to Spangler which of these men's aspirations is
limited a Priore the man of culture is preordained to prostration in a light civilization since all of its spiritual possibilities have been spent just as the technician. For civilization type will be undervalued in the idealistic phases of a beginning culture. The status of the artist and the engineer in any society is for Spangler an index of whether one lives in a viable culture or in a dying civilization. The historical inevitability of organic dust today is what William James would call a soft determinism. For an absolute relativism is also an indeterminate determinism which is not incompatible with offering advice Spangler
accords a measure of freedom to man in the possibility of reading the Times or write and directing one's energies toward a realisation of the concretely possible like Macchiavelli Spangler feels that one makes second fortune but may not oppose it. The individual cannot escape the historical destiny of the times since according to Spangler the overall cultural organism is itself. Quote the exact equivalent of the eminent happy life of the individual. Close quote. Like live Mrs. moan at each individual mirrors the totality of the totality of his culture from his own relative viewpoint and destiny is the pre-established harmony that guarantees the translation of the sum of inner spiritual possibilities into the artifacts of civilization Spangler's interpretation of history
is a free adaptation of the rationalist idealist tradition of German metaphysics which defines freedom as the recognition of necessity. Each man and every culture is free to work out its unique and singular destiny but the destiny itself is necessary and could not be otherwise than in fact it is. And therefore within the limits of that organic entity whatever can be will be. When Spangler analysis moves from the individual to the study of the culture as previously referred to the same relation of determinant or invariant relativity becomes even clearer. The unique deaths today of each culture provide an objective limit which is open to the full triviality of circumstance. The study of history separates the morphologically necessary phase of
destiny from it in essential circumstance. This theory enables Spangler to embrace historicism and to transcend it simultaneously. In place of a fixed purpose towards which history moves in a straight line Spangler posit an organic limit to the multiple and relative cultures which have existed. Again the fact that history cannot serve as the basis for moral generalizations which hope to be independent of the special interests of the moralist. What the historian is seeking is not revenge on the past. In the name of his own ethos but an intuition of the lifestyle or habit of every culture. The technical principle upon which the spangles comparative method is based is not causality but a home object. Another term borrowed from Botany which
means a similarity in function but not structure that is Heroes. Empires Renaissance resemble one another. From ology are non-causal comparison of singular and contingent events which fulfill a necessary phase of the physio nomic cycle of every culture. In summation Spangler's intuitive notion of destiny provides the basis for a study of cultural cycles according to form a logical or functional rather than mechanical or causal models and which permits one to reconstruct the past to anticipate the general direction of the future and to achieve an objective self evaluation within the framework of a living destiny. To adequately access the value of spangles work is a difficult task. His insistence upon life's reluctance
ever to repeat itself is a refreshing perspective which makes history interesting and specifically human and their cause and a critique of the mechanical and causal interpretation of history reveals the metaphysical presuppositions upon which it is based. To be idiology that is statements of value confused as statements of fact. Although Spangler lived well into the 20th century he is philosophically the last speculative historian of a 19th century tradition when the alternative interpretation he provides is that of an eminent non transcendent process which is a spiritualist text. But non-religious. I believe that the primary asset of this perspective is the richer concept of human nature which he calls a constant metaphysical assumption governing the interpretation of history from the Greeks to mark was that of a common
human nature Spangler's morphological culture which mirrored the sum of individual potentiality in connection with the accidents of circumstance discloses a much richer and plastic notion of humanity. If history is the translation of possibility into actuality then as man at dances from the mythical consciousness of prehistory. So does his egg and the demands which his consciousness makes upon nature. The different lifestyles of culture present the hypothesis that man has no common human nature but that he has a destiny. And a fine and in final praises Spangler. The best that can be said of any theory is it's effective practice. And I report that Spangler's view of world history as relative but
comparable organisms yields brilliant insights Spangler's analogies are the thing that remains after one has forgotten the metaphysical details the connections between Doric architecture static physics and a situational concept of tragedy in the ancient world. Find a post in parallel in medieval cathedrals the development of an infinite calculus and a biographical concept of tragedy and the futuristic predictions of the sociology of the city have the ring of our daily newspaper and are still worth reading. I emphasize spangles flashes of intuitive genius since without them I suspect that we should not be considering him this evening for corresponding to every brilliant analogy. There is more than one. Agree just error about a technical scholarship or logic Spangler is capable of a numbing facticity which he pours into his categorical schemes
and this endless mixture of empirical observations abstract concepts and intuitions provides the framework for a vast museum of world history in which cultures and civilizations heroes and events and personages are moved about. Like so many pieces of front Sure so that at last history comes to resemble nothing so much as a Wagnerian opera. The inescapable impression is that the more Spangler attempts to concretize his interpretation the less relevant it becomes. On analytic grounds the concept of deafening is even more suspect if it is Bangor argues the cultural phase that is death and and a trivial fact which is relative than obviously no empirical fact can either sustain or deny the existence of destiny. The only evidence for his basic hypothesis is the
irrefutable but irrelevant proposition that living things die. In closing I would like to interject my own evaluation of what history provide is perspective episodes that would destroy our personal lives. I read with a one minute thing in a biography of someone long ago. What is lost in translation is the immediacy and anguish of existential confrontation and nothing so thoroughly transforms a passionate involvement into dispassionate objectivity as the distance of a century or two from the well of human pride. We call war for great events and for heroes to lead us. But from the even deeper need for security against fear we prefer our heroes dead rather than alive. The relativists have a
certain truth. Each historical situation is a unique relation between the singular circumstance and the potentialities of the occasion. But if our interest in history is in the arbitrary and the unique the satisfaction in the similarity of function we sympathize with the past because we find its potentialities in ourselves because in Falkner's apt for a is the memory no before knowing remembers. Each of us possesses his portion of courage and fear. Love and hatred. Truth and deception. And each of us plays out his round of existence more or less well in terms of the limits of our situation. But the step from the pragmatic interest in what happened to the vision of what it means is apocalyptic rather than empirical or rational. Spangler caught I think the psychological nuance of history of the record of human lives
and the transformation of infinite potentiality. His philosophical failure was to ontology this true instant death and he and Spangler's work represents a temperamental option for a kind of metaphysical entropy. It dissipates and downward drip of high level cultural energy into the artifacts of civilizations Spangler mistook the dispassionate objectivity or distancing perspective as a decline. As a falling off. Ironically as a proponent of life philosophy Spangler in a final soft confession of weariness revenge himself against the living by calling out the dead. Thank you. I was I.
You heard Raymond Langley a professor of philosophy at Manhattanville College as he spoke on the subject. Spangler and the Decline and Fall of the West. This was another program in the series. Peace love and creativity the hope of mankind. On our next program Dr. Raymond Barker minister director of the First Church of Religious Science in New York will discuss creativity in Western religion. These programs originate at the Cooper Union in New York City and are recorded by radio station WNYC. The programs are made available to the station by the national educational radio network.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind
Decline and fall of the West: Spengler, part two
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-hm52kv0n).
Episode Description
This program presents the second part of a lecture from Raymond Langley, Professor of Philosophy, Manhattanville College.
Series Description
This series presents lectures from the 1968 Cooper Union Forum. This forum's theme is Peace, Love, Creativity: The Hope of Mankind.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Speaker: Langley, Raymond J., 1935-
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-10-21 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:26:07
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Decline and fall of the West: Spengler, part two,” 1968-05-09, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024,
MLA: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Decline and fall of the West: Spengler, part two.” 1968-05-09. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 28, 2024. <>.
APA: Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Decline and fall of the West: Spengler, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from