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Historical Shenanigans and Choosing Positions

Chapter II – The Italian Renaissance

Our next chapter covers the Italian Renaissance and very much the political history of the times as well which gave rise to these thinkers.

Short diversion, but one reason I fell in love with history was because of my ancient Greek philosophy class, which introduced to me at the time the presocratics, the Socratics, and Aristotle. Seeing ancient people describe the elements as if we lived inside the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe was really fun to read. Because of these beliefs in the elements and various other ideas, they came to see life fundamentally different than we do today and their way of life reflected that as well. Here’s a combination of Aristotle’s Physics and Galen’s medical ideas, having to do with the balance of the elements to achieve health.

Diagram of a combination of Aristotle’s Elements and Galen’s medical ideas.

At any rate, with my reading and video watching of history, I also learned to like the political and military histories of mostly Western European countries, since they tend to have more well-documented happenings than anywhere else in the world probably because they, unfortunately, started colonizing and erasing those histories.

Some of it sounds like real-life fantasy too! You’re telling me that the king of France sent Joan of Arc who came to his court saying that she had visions telling her she had to save France from England, and then she went and boosted morale and won a siege, then went and won a battle which helped Charles get coronated, only to be captured and burned at the stake at 19! And I’m not the only one who finds that fascinating, here’s a whole Wikipedia article focusing on cultural depictions of Joan of Arc.[1]

It doesn’t have to be so dramatic as well, sometimes there are events like the Pig War[2], the Emu War[3], and the War of the Bucket[4]. In which the United States almost went to war with Great Britain over a pig and a tiny island, the Australians launched a campaign (which at first, they lost horribly) against Emus in the wild, and Italians fought over a bucket (but really just underlying and real political reasons) respectively. All of these are also covered by Oversimplified[5] which I recommend, but I digress.

Man holding an Emu the Australians killed.

Returning to the chapter, it gives context as to what allowed the re-birth of knowledge to take place leading up to someone like Machiavelli. I will summarize briefly. Essentially, there was a lot of bickering back and forth over northern Italy between the Austrian Hapsburgs and the French Valois and the Spanish Hapsburgs which was for most of the Italian wars the same as the Austrian Hapsburgs anyways. During this, the Catholic church was also becoming very decadent, which would eventually amongst many other reasons begin the reformation and the appearance of protestants, who have philosophical importance.

I haven’t ever gotten around to reading and fully understanding the claim, but I’ve read amongst different philosophy readings that the protestants were the beginning of the type of work ethic that would lead to the sort of mass production that we are capable of today. Doing some cursory research on easily the best philosophy Wikipedia-esque source – – it seems that it was Max Weber[6] who introduced this claim to the world to explain the increasing ordering and rationalization of the world in a non-marxist analysis. Anyways, we can take a moment and thank the protestants for making modern society very lame.

At the very least, they made the popes religious again – “Pope Clement VII being an obstacle to the counter-reformation, and as a Medici, a friend of France, Charles V [Austrian Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain], in 1527, caused Rome to be sacked by a largely Protestant army. After this, the popes became religious, and the Italian Renaissance was at an end.”[7] Because of the nature of this chapter, much of it was history and nothing I could particularly comment on. Before the little bit of philosophy that will come, here’s another describing the Italian reaction to the French invasion: “French troops shocked the Italians by actually killing people in battle”.[8]

Jerome Cook, after Martin van Heemskerck, Lansknechte in Front of Castel’Angelo, Copper engraving in Divi Caroli, 1553. 

What the Renaissance did accomplish in philosophy was apparently very little; they were too busy acquiring and reading ancient texts. This, however, gave way to the opportunity from switching over from a purely Aristotelian logic due to a revival of the study of Plato, which forced peoples of the time to choose between one or the other, which is at the very least better than just one. The choice revived philosophy anyways, “More important still, it encouraged the habit of regarding intellectual activity as a delightful social adventure, not a cloistered meditation aiming at the preservation of a predetermined orthodoxy.”[9]

I find this line particularly really interesting because in our times of what I would call a lazy ideological stance – a position where someone believes in a particular position like catholic nationalism or communism or abolishing prison systems but wouldn’t truly defend it with proper arguments but just with the feeling that it gives; these people pretend to be doing nuanced research.

Karl Marx for example, is totally irrelevant in the modern context of any sort of Communist theory, there are Marxists, who write actual new and updated content, and who have better analysis and application of the ideas thereof, like Jodi Dean. I couldn’t even tell you what the white nationalists are reading to develop an idea of catholic nationalism to give the comparison on the other side, but at the very least we know it isn’t the bible.

Prison abolitionists get confused by the concept of allowing the most heinous criminals to be allowed reform rather than life in jail as well. God forbid a serial killer is allowed to reform, and this really isn’t the best example I could’ve used to make the point. Really think about the worst criminals and whether they should be allowed to reform. My answer is plainly yes.

People sometimes learn to defend positions they have taken on before knowing correctly. Research done in this manner is worthless. The internet is endless, and good research practice probably requires something akin to a scientific method. Look up both sides of the claim, “evidence that the economy is failing” AND ALSO “evidence that the economy is doing well.” Often times people google one or the other, and invariably you will find evidence for both.

What matters is a comparison to what is normal and expected. Climate change within the span of the last 50 years, for example, can be seen as a regular trend that is causing no issues to the earth. Comparing it to the span of 2000 years would make it bizarre to say that we haven’t done something in particular to cause it.

I think socialist policies are worthwhile to defend but the ideas aren’t those of 50 years ago, and when I hear old dogma on what a society should look like, all it makes me think of is the fantastic political subterfuge the capitalist world has done to convince people to think that Stalinism was good and an alternative to capitalism today. After the Holodomor?

Not to say for example that the dust bowl couldn’t be argued to be a capitalist-fueled famine, that the great depression wasn’t harmful to a population and caused by capitalism, or that the great recession interesting disproportionately affected black people in terms of wealth loss as a result of a combination of unchecked capitalism and systemic racism, but that all of these arguments must be held to argue properly given that all of these same events could happen in any other place with another system

To conclude this little tangent, I quote regarding the effects of the Renaissance, “The first effect of emancipation from the church was not to make men think rationally, but to open their mind to every sort of nonsense.”[10] The problem of dogmatism and the resulting aftermath stretches back to the beginning of time.

I also find it interesting that our school system up until early high school and sometimes college, depends on the enthusiasm of the teacher to teach accurate history, and in some states accurate science. It can be really upsetting to find that the world had been misrepresented so as to defend a system like capitalism or Christianity or hide the atrocities committed in our past and all of the other things that come to mind, but going to the other end of the argument, whatever it may be, feels like the most worthless and stupid expression of ego, akin to a child doing the opposite of what their parents tell them because they feel their parents are wrong.

Thanks for reading! Next time the commentary will be on Machiavelli and manipulation.

[1] “Cultural Depictions of Joan of Arc,” in Wikipedia, June 16, 2023,

[2] “Pig War (1859),” in Wikipedia, June 16, 2023,

[3] “Emu War,” in Wikipedia, June 3, 2023,

[4] “War of the Bucket,” in Wikipedia, April 30, 2023,

[5] Emu War – OverSimplified (Mini-Wars #4), 2018,

[6] Sung Ho Kim, “Max Weber,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta and Uri Nodelman, Winter 2022 (Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2022),

[7] Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, A Touchstone Book (New York u.a: Simon and Schuster, 1972). (pp. 500)

[8] Russell. (pp. 500)

[9] Russell. (pp. 500)

[10] Russell. (pp. 502)

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