It's an exemplary episode, covering the Dark Ages that followed the fall of Rome to the diffusion of Aristotle's ideas about reason, eight hundred years later. It covers much the same territory as a couple of episodes of Eugen Weber's lectures on Western Civilization -- also free, somewhere on the internet -- but Burke, though not exactly wittier than Weber, is still more entertaining. And instead of showing us artifacts from Medieval Cordoba, as Weber does, Burke walks through the mosque and shows us the books that the Spanish conquerors found there.
After Rome and before the Crusades, everything was a symbol for something else. The rose was red for the blood of Christ, the thorns represented the Devil, the green leaves stood for innocence, and so forth.
The Arab's translations of Aristotle turned all of this mysticism upside down. Logic dictated that things were as they were for natural reasons, not because God had ordained it. Not that Aristotle had all the answers. His extensive study of animals and plants were a jumble of disorganized observations. But if his answers weren't all correct, they were at least different.
The episode ends with the New Logic diffusing through Europe -- those terrific cathedrals borrowed their architectural principles from the Arabs, for instance -- and the Roman Catholic church beginning to do its best to suppress most of them.
I described it as entertaining, and it is. The episode begins and ends with Burke stopping his car for a red light at a traffic light in the middle of the desert wasteland of Tunisia with neither another vehicle or a single road in sight. He waits until it turns green, too.
0 of 0 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this