Christianitas / Christendom


The European Phenomenon and Christianity

Book concept and what’s been done so far – March 2020                                                     open pdf / download

What are Christianitas and the European Phenomenon?

Christianitas (Latin) or Christendom – the way Medieval Europeans named Europe. Christianity was the main and general characteristic of our cultural identity since c.a. 9th century.

The European Phenomenonterm used in the history studies for description of civilizational flourishing of Europe, beginning in the 11th-12th centuries. Over the next few hundred years, we had outdone economically, technologically and in science other civilizations that were earlier much more developed than us. I carry out the project about the role of Christianity in the creation of this phenomenon. Three areas have been selected for the study. They are: science, technology and Western market economy. They do not exhaust the scope of the European Phenomenon, but without them we would not have reached the position of a global leader. They form our uniqueness when confronting with Others.


Book concept – introduction

Basic idea

Modern European science, technology and economy began to be built in the Middle Ages. My book deals with the role of the Church and Christianity in this process. Their influence was either supportive (e.g. participation in the construction of economic legal and institutional European infrastructure), or important (e.g. for the development of modern technology) or decisive (e.g. creation of universities and science in general). No other impulse had influenced the set up of the European Phenomenon as deeply and in so many dimensions. The Church and Christianity were sometimes a co-creator and sometimes a catalyst that were dynamizing historical change and gave it direction. The church and doctrine also served as a filter sifting external impulses (intellectual, religious, philosophical, technological and other), rejecting some and accepting others. This is the sense of the claim that Christianity and the Church were very important and perhaps even the most important elements creating modern European civilization.

The most important factor is that one which, having found the appriopriate cultural and social milieu, makes the most of the existing cultural material. It creates the system according to its own plan and spurs its social and cultural environment to a dynamic development. It inspires society with ambitions, dreams and optimism, which for millennia were setting the direction of growth and fascinate other cultures with its own perception of the world.

Method of presentation

Book has an open structure and non-linear presentation of arguments. The issues are analysed from various perspectives. The book consists of many, more or less, autonomous parts.

Few words about the role of Church and Christianity in setting up early modern technology and science

By way of example, let’s say a few words about religious determinants that were paving the way for early modern technology and science.

Technology

The Middle Ages was a very creative era in the field of technology. In the literature dominates the view that in technological stimulation of Europe, Christianity and the Church played at least a significant role. In my opinion – the leading one, because unlike other analyzes, my assessment results from taking into account a very wide range of interactions (see my text The influence of the Church and Christianity on technical progress in medieval Europe – see here).

The Church’s contribution was its own participation in creating innovation and technology development (substantial role of Benedictine and Cistercian convents), creating technological demand supported with Church’s financial resources (e.g. investments in sacred construction and civil engineering), creating human capital and the knowledge circulation system (e.g. vocational education, systematic exchange of information, pilgrimages), creation of institutional foundations of the market economy (e.g. self-governing bottom-up corporation and the system of modern law, normative pacification, introduction of written documentation). Besides, Church contribution consisted in ideological integration of Europe, thanks to which the continent, politically divided, became culturally uniform. All that helped to create pro-innovative climate that had created conditions for the assimilation of foreign patterns and fostered the technological ingenuity of European society. The latter element made Europe unique. Bottom-up creativity found understanding and support from the Church – a powerful institution responsible for religious legitimizing of earthly reality.

The high innovation of medieval Europe was also influenced by external factors, including topography of the continent, impact of incoming cultures, import of distant technologies, ancient and Muslim heritage, protection of the eastern flank by Byzantium. Almost none of the external factors could, without the constant approval of the Church, which was an ideological hegemon, could act as effectively as it really acted.

The Church innovation related activity should also be collated with secular initiatives in the field. The analysis proves that the contribution of the Church was both significant and diversified. It clearly occupied the dominant positions in science and science infrastructure and creation of favourable general climate for innovation. Secular sphere excelled in military and transportation. In others fields (agriculture, proto-industry, etc.) Church contributions were solid but smaller than secular.

Science

Modern science originated in Europe between the 11th and 17th centuries. Many factors contributed to its creation, which are sometimes divided into internal and external. The former are the evolution of ideas, views and theories, i.e. centuries-lasting work of scientific community. The latter relates to the creation of conditions and building infrastructure without which the scientific community would not be able to develop and operate.

When we consider external factors, i.e. economic, political, social, organizational, geopolitical and other (see my text Medieval roots of modern science – see here), the extremely important role of the Church is beyond dispute. When we analyze internal factors, we see that the emergence of modern science was the result of a clash between theological, doctrinal principles and the assimilated (through the agency of Church) legacy of ancient and Muslim science (see my reviews of books by Butterfield, Grant, Jaki, Shapin and Woods and the text Science and religion – here).

In the 11th-12th centuries, external factors created the New Environment, strengthening the status of intellectual work. When scientific activity increased in the 12th-13th centuries, the Rationalist Turn followed, emphasizing the role of natural causes in the study of physical phenomena. When the universities absorbed the ancient legacy, the clash with Christian doctrine initiated the Metaphysical Awakening (13th – 15th centuries). The doctrinal (theological) assumptions used to describe the world were clearly defined. They became the building blocks of Dogmatic Corridor, which set to academic world the permissible direction it could follow. The authority and temporal strength of the Church stood guard over the Dogmatic Corridor. The Dogmatic Corridor paved the way for the development of medieval thought towards the development of a new method, a new goal and a new subject of science. The necessary ingredients were created for the emergence of modern science, but they were still not combining together into a new whole.

It was necessary to wait until two of the key areas of medieval natural philosophy: astronomy and physics, used these elements to build theories that simultaneously had destroyed old concepts and build new ones on their ruins. The Great De-Constructions had to be created – works of Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler.

The above remarks describe rather than explain the emergence of modern science. The explanation must take into account the Catholic Church’s unique approach to intellectual effort. Science and knowledge were seen as God’s gift to man and therefore gained the honorary status of one of the pillars of Christianity. For this reason, the Church undertook to build a powerful scientific infrastructure and was financing the science itself. At the same time, science enjoyed far-reaching autonomy, because until the 13th century there was an ubiquitous opinion that science and faith (theology) were in fundamental accord as they both read the same work of God. Theology – in the book of Revelation, science – in the book of nature. Moreover, the dogmatic foundations of Christianity did not have any essential brakes that would have blocked the transition from Aristotle’s scholasticism to the Great De-Constructions of early modern times. On the contrary, theological catalysts could be indicated, which were helpful in such transition. In addition, the sphere of science turned out to be very useful for the Church in Its competitive / allied relations with secular authorities.


Idea of this book – how did it come from?

The book on the European Phenomenon is the follow up of the previous one, titled “Western civilization and Time”.

In “Western Civilization and Time” I showed that over the last hundred years time has become one of the overriding social values, which manifests itself in compulsion and the expectation to Act-Ever-Faster and Live-Longer-And-Longer. These are currently civilization priorities. They can be measured statistically. For several last decades, they have caused the most significant changes in the distribution of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). An increasing proportion of GDP is allocated to the realization of these preferences and this part is growing the fastest among all components of GDP.

Looking back to the past, we see clear links between the current appreciation of time and the historical processes of secularization and modernization.

Time as a value is manifested in our willingness to pay an ever-increasing price for extra years of life and for life faster in the everyday economic race. Both priorities: Live-Ever-Longer and Act-Ever-Faster are leading our culture in an unexpected direction. There is no boundary to the desire to live longer and longer and achieve everything faster and faster. Therefore, we are seriously discussing whether death is inevitable since our possibilities are growing so fast fast that endless life seems to loom up as real. The book ‘Western Civilization and Time’ ended here, but opened another question: what was the origin of such a civilization?

The new book is to show the reader that it is difficult to imagine that the civilization that now reveals the priorities Longer and Faster would arise without Christianity and the Church.


Book structure, parts already finished, and those in working versions to further discussion

The book consists of four parts, dedicated to:

  • a general presentation of the European Phenomenon,

and the influence of the medieval Church and Christianity:

  • on technological progress,
  • for the emergence of modern science,
  • for the emergence of a European market economy.

The book structure is open. Its construction consists in presenting the above-mentioned issues from several complementary perspectives. The presentation does not proceed linearly. Individual fragments are autonomous. 610 pages have been written so far, the anticipated volume is 800 pages.


Part I     Presentation of historical European Phenomenon

The historical European phenomenon, or how Europe outstripped Asia   (Historyczny fenomen europejski, czyli jak Europa prześcignęła Azję)  Introductory text with synthetic overview of the ongoing debate on the historical European Phenomenon, rise of Western civilization and revisionist critique of historical European / Western achievements.

The role of Christianity and the Church in the Europeanization of Europe  (Rola chrześcijaństwa i Kościoła w europeizacji Europy)  Working paper (fragment of my new book) dealing with the medieval europeization of Europe. Talk about the role of Christianity and Church in coming of Europe to world dominance must be preceded with the reflection on how Europe as the separate and integrated civilizational unit came into being. And what role the Church played in that process. So, there is a brief discussing of literature of the subject (ranking of 27 authors according to their assessment of the importance of Christianity and the Church) and then there is a description of two stages of integration: V-VIII centuries – religious homogenization, VIII-XIII centuries – cultural homogenization as well as the process of separating the sacred and secular spheres (Gregorian Revolution (XI – XII centuries)

Western civilization: a polemic with revisionist critics of the West   (Cywilizacja zachodnia: polemika z krytykami Zachodu)  Essay based on Ricardo Duchesne’s book “The Uniqueness of Western Civilization”. Part of the book is a critical analysis of a revisionist trend in World History. Revisionists diminish or negate the importance of Europe’s historic achievements in the economy, science and technology.

The European Miracle  (Cud europejski)  Review and synopsis of one of the most important books on the European Phenomenon, by Eric L. Jones.

Douglass North’s vision of the historic rise of the West   (Douglassa Northa wizja historycznego rozkwitu Zachodu)  The article shows some of the fundamental theorems of New Institutional Economics and how they can be applied to the analysis of the economic history cases. In a sense the article complements North’s “Paradox of the West” as it reveals theoretical assumptions of North’s approach.

Besides texts mentioned above, I have translated renowned text of Douglass C. North (with the link to English original) and discussed several important items. They probably won’t be the part of the book, but it’s worth keeping them in mind. Those are:

Douglass C. North.   Paradoks Zachodu (Paradox of West)

Jerzy Kłoczowski.   Europa. Chrześcijańskie korzenie  (Europe: Christian roots)

Marcel Simon.   Cywilizacja wczesnego chrześcijaństwa  (Civilization of ancient Christianity)

Thomas Woods.   Jak Kościół katolicki zbudował cywilizację zachodnią  (How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization)


Part II    The Role of Church and Christianity in technological development of medieval Europe

The influence of the Church and Christianity on technical progress in medieval Europe (Wpływ Kościoła i chrześcijaństwa na postęp techniczny w Europie średniowiecznej)  The synthetic picture of the influence of Church and doctrine, estimation of the participation of church and secular innovations, an attempt to reconstruct the church’s policy of building a pro-innovative climate and many other issues.

Medieval agricultural revolution in numbers  (Średniowieczna rewolucja rolnicza w liczbach)  Text on the origin of resources that enabled Europe to chase great powers of the time (China, India, Islam states). Calculations are presented to show the roots and scale of  the resources acquired thanks to the agrarian growth in IX-XIV centuries

Watermills and windmills. Medieval power industry (Młyny i wiatraki. Energetyka przemysłowa Średniowiecza) When we talk about medieval watermills and windmills, we are talking about creating in Europe, the first on such a scale in the world, power industry infrastructure for the needs of the emerging industry. Energy supplied by mills and windmills helped to launch such industries like i.e. textile, clothing, wood, mining, metal, construction, agri-food, paper and tanning industries.

Medieval merchant ships (Średniowieczne statki handlowe) Book about the evolution of constructions of the European merchant ships from the 1st to the 16th century. A study of the history of technology with elements of economic history. Maritime transport is considered one of the most important tools creating the power of Europe. It integrated remote areas, commercial shipping recorded the largest increase in productivity in all economic fields. It was an important inspirer and creator of technical progress, ships from Europe were the vehicles disseminating, throughout the world, European cultural patterns, methods of life organization, tools, weapons, plants, religions, political ideas, people and diseases. Bibliography available on request.

What speeds up and what hinders technical progress. On historical determinants of innovation  (Co przyspiesza a co hamuje postęp techniczny. O historycznych uwarunkowaniach innowacyjności) Extensive commentary to Joel Mokyr’s book “The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress”. Analysis of factors that are recognized in the literature as important in stimulating or inhibiting technical progress.

History of technology – suggestions on recommended reading  (Historia technologii – sugestie, od czego zacząć lektury)  Reflections on the history of technology need to be based on some knowledge of factography at least. I present twelve books worth reading. Most of them are recommended in university courses of history of technology. Among the authors are Frances and Joseph Gies, James MacLachan, Ian McNeil, Lewis Mumford, Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellemans, Daniel Headrick, James McClellan and Harold Dorn.

In addition to the texts mentioned above, I have discussed two interesting and important works. They probably won’t be the part of the book, but it’s worth keeping them in mind. Those are:

Arnold Pacey.   Technology In World Civilization

Mark Z. Taylor.   Politics of Innovation: Why Some Countries Are Better Than Others at Science and Technology


Part III   The role of Church and Christianity in setting up of early modern science

Medieval roots of modern science: the influence of cultural and social milieu on the emergence of science, the role of the Church   (Średniowieczne korzenie nauki nowożytnej: wpływ otoczenia na powstanie nauki i rola Kościoła) Discussion of Edward Grant’s theory on medieval roots of science and description of external factors, affecting science’s setting, forming its organizational, economic, social and political milieu. Historical, geopolitical, social, organizational, economic and other factors are discussed. Discussion of each factor is combined with showing the role of Church

Historiography of science and religion  (Nauka a religia: historiografia problemu)  The evolution of historians’ and sociologists’ views in the period 1874-2010 about the right way of describing the historical relationships between science and religion. The most important concepts were presented, which were milestones of this evolution: from the nineteenth century works of Draper and White, which showed these relations as a conflict lasting for centuries to the currently functioning paradigm, which recognizes religion as an important co-creative element of the modern science.

Non-empirical foundations of empirical sciences (Nieempiryczne fundamenty nauk empirycznych)  Text in working version. Twentieth-century philosophy of science, despite all discrepancies, is characterized by the common thought that statements that do not have empirical status, that is, do not succumb to the falsification procedure, play some role in the creation of scientific theories. Such statements are commonly called metaphysical judgments in the philosophy of science. These non-empirical metaphysical statements are considered to be external to scientific theory (for example, Carnap, Popper), internal, i.e. are the immanant part of the theory (for example, Lakatos) or accepted by agreement of scholarly communities (for example, Kuhn, Kitcher, and Longino). This surprising consensus of so often extremely different theories of science strongly legitimizes Christianity as a possible co creative element of modern science.

Mechanism of setting up of early modern and modern science  (Mechanizm powstania nauki wczesnonowożytnej i nowożytnej) 

Text not written yet. It will be an expansion of what I have written above in the sketch about science. First, I will detail the nodal points of the science creation process: creating a New Environment (X-XII century), Rationalist Turn (XII-XIII century), Metaphysical Awakening (XIII-XV century), build up of Dogmatic Corridor, Great De-Constructions (XV-XVII century). Secondly, I will engage in the problem of theological and doctrinal catalysts conducive to the transition to modern science, that is, to Great De-Constructions.

In addition to the texts mentioned above, I have written essays on five interesting and important books. They probably won’t be part of the book, but it’s worth keeping them in mind. Those are:

Steven Shapin.   Rewolucja naukowa   (The Scientific Revolution)

Edward Grant.   Średniowieczne podstawy nauki nowożytnej   (The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages)

Herbert Butterfield.   Rodowód współczesnej nauki 1300- 1800   (The Origins of Modern Science)

Stanley Jaki.   Zbawca nauki   (The Savior of Science)

Alfred N. Whitehead. Nauka i świat współczesny   (Science and the Modern World)


Part IV  The role of Church and Christianity in setting up of capitalism and market economy

Literature on the subject has been collected. The concept written in the working version. Several elements of the text have already been mentioned on other occasions.

Why the European economy developed during political disintegration. 9th-14th centuries. The role of the Church (Dlaczego gospodarka europejska rozwijała się w czasie politycznej dezintegracji. Wieki IX-XIV. Rola Kościoła) Text to be written. Currently. the problem is signaled in Annex 6 of the paper titled The influence of the Church and Christianity on technical progress in medieval Europe (see here). It shows several aspects of the church’s role in building an early modern economy, including creation and promotion of a bottom-up, self-governing corporation, the strategy of normative pacification. It will be expanded into an independent whole.

Technology and the Economic Growth: Accelerators and Brakes. Theories and History – Europe and China  (Wzrost gospodarczy: stymulatory i hamulce. Koncepcje i historia – Europa, Chiny, Azja)  Working version. The discussion of the theories explaining the historical functioning of European and Asian economies (including E.L. Jones, A. Maddison, D.C. North and formalized growth theories). Also a debate why early modern China economy decelerated (per capita).

Role of shipping in economic growth of early modern European economy  (Historyczne znaczenie żeglugi we wzroście gospodarczym Europy)  At present, this is fragment of the book on medieval merchant ships.


Invitation to cooperate

The project grows as the work is going on. Those interested in the problems and my vision that could be seen from the texts already written are welcome as companions of joint work. We need many things: writing new texts related to my project, discussing many important articles and books, making editorial work, like bibliographies of texts (those ready or almost finished). Specialists can participate in our discussions at periodic meetings and bring some new perspective to them. I don’t feel the need to be the only author of a nascent work. If you would like to join the writing of new fragments or discussions (specialists from my project are welcome) – I invite you. Willingness, acceptance of the general idea, experience in scientific work, time and a kind of feeling of a connection are needed.

The answer to my invitation:  Jacenty Siewierski,  Ryszard Kleszcz,  Adam Nowaczyk

In 2017 I met doctor Jacenty Siewierski. We started working together. Our view on the problem of the role of Christianity in the emergence of Western civilization is identical. He is the author of an excellent work titled Christianity and the expansion of Western civilization. He agreed to put his book on my page (see here). Dr Siewierski has a subpage on my website entitled Why Europe. Apart from the book, there are a number of his other texts from previous years and also quite fresh. Dr. Siewierski’s works go great with the idea of my project.

In turn, Professor Ryszard Kleszcz has been a good colleague of mine for several decades. He is an excellent philosopher, in areas also of my interest (philosophy of religion and analytical philosophy). His knowledge and humor are invaluable in our discussions, which we organize every few months among people interested in the issues of the Christian roots of the West. Among his many qualities, he has the rare gift of translating complicated problems in a clear way for non-specialists.

Professor Adam Nowaczyk, an outstanding Polish logician and specialist in analytical philosophy, is also the participant in our discussions. He introduces refreshing skepticism to our conversations. How many wonderful, seemingly, ideas could not stand the confrontation with colleague Nowaczyk or required a thorough revision! A cool shower of logic always refreshes.


We invite to join our work and play!