Saturday, 24 August 2013

Book Review: Aristotle's Children

Subtitle: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Dark Ages.  By Richard E. Rubenstein.  I finished the book this morning.

Three men.....on a mission....bound and determined to advance mankind to a new world.

A blacksmith, a wrestler, and a happy-go-lucky guy who does tutor work on the side.  The three would threaten the stability of the globe, challenge society in general with questions, trigger the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and be readily identified as threats to the safety of the Catholic Church.

So it was with Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

If I had to pick a list of twenty books which every university student ought to read before graduation.....then Aristotle's Children would be on the list.  It picks up the story-line mostly after Socrates and Plato.  Aristotle is the character in world history that was supposed to have been forgotten and never mentioned.

After Aristotle had written all his great pieces....the Christian period comes into play.  What the writer goes into detail this necessity of the Catholic Church out of have most all copies of what Aristotle be destroyed.  For roughly a thousand years, this effort eliminated anyone from discussing wisdom or knowledge to the degree that Aristotle voiced.

Then an odd thing was discovered.  Those crazy Muslims were found to be actually fairly comfortable with the writings of the Greek trio.  So they took all the copies that they could find, and they were housed during this period of "darkness".  As we moved into the age of enlightenment....a great number of Aristotle's writings suddenly were 'found'.

The Muslims (for the most part) end up being a society that was comfortable with discussions on philosophy, wisdom, and science.  The Catholic crowd?  Well.....the last thing on Earth that you needed....was a discussion by anyone....over philosophy, wisdom or science.

The pro-education crowd of Europe were shocked.  As they jumped into the writings....they found all of these indicators of wisdom, with questions relating to man and his quest to know all.

Rubenstein goes through the various paces of stumbles that the Catholic Church enacted....trying to limit Aristotle's teachings.  They felt threatened and intimidated.  A guy dead for over a thousand years....yet his writings shake the very foundation of stability in Europe.  Then you toss in the chatter and comments from the blacksmith (Socrates) and the wrestler (Plato) end up with an uncontrollable mess.

Along the way of telling this story....the layout of the idea of the current university system is told.  I suspect some would read through and be surprised how things the churches got into the business of running colleges....and politics from a thousand years ago often brought down university operations because of threats made by one side or another.

Another shocker tossed into the middle of the book...was the attitude of the Catholic Church to limit the science knowledge discussed by the students.  So the general rule was....speak in a language that the locals had no access to, which meant Latin had a great purpose to keep secrets from the public view.

By the end of this reading....I came to this curious pondering.  If the writings of the blacksmith, the wrestler, and the happy-go-lucky tutor (his student, if  you wondered....was Alexander the Great)....had been allowed to flourish and be part of society without threats, we would have advanced to a higher state of technology and being....than what we have today.

Aristotle's Children has been around for a decade.  Excellent reading.  A dry spot or two in the middle of the book.....chatty over the Catholic Church illumination wars....but it lays out what three humble guys did, and why they were the biggest threat to mankind over the past two thousand years.