online: 28 april 2003

15 april 2003 why humanism?

19:12 After several days of clear skies it is as warm as summer.

A woman is running on a curved path followed by a dog. The dog is about 100 metres behind her and takes a short cut across the grass. It seems to me to be running towards a point ahead of her so as to arrive there when she does. I didn't think a dog would be capable of that much navigational foresight... Is it that the apparent differences between people and other animals is lessening as we learn more of their habits and abilities?

I'm looking at a small mansion in classical style built next to an ornamental canal in a park in Antwerp. How wasit that Northern Europeans abandoned traditional gothic architecture for the style of the Italian renaissance and how and why did the Romans and Italians appropriate the architectural forms of ancient Greece.?

Although so much has been written of this I doubt if, even now, we know the answer. My present guess is that the classical style enabled colonising people to dominate previous inhabitants. But there is also the question 'why humanism?' - so productively different from any more religious belief or culture - the culture of man in control!

These are questions I've thought and thought about but still feel that we don't know the answers, that we don't know how our culture took form - or towards what it is moving... And I don't believe that the future of culture pre-exists or is predictable.

It is getting dark now, the full moon is high in the sky, and I see bats flying between trees. These are things that outlast culture... or do they? To answer such questions would be to write a book - for humanism and romanticism and classicism are so extensive, so pervasive. There can be no single cause.

27 april: I remember a shock when my fellow student John Page (now J K Page, former professor of building science) said to me 'I think the renaissance was a mistake'. Eventually I came to think so myself - but now I am glad that the renaissance happened though I feel that I've been trying all my life to mitigate its grand mistake - of putting 'man' (or conscious rational thought) above circumstance.

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© 2003 john chris jones

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