Friday, March 10, 2006


Rereading the Renaissance by Adam Kirsch focuses on the revival of some early humanist writings in Latin of folks like Petrarch and Pope Pius II.

I don't know much about the Middle Ages and Renaissance, but I can tell you that my reading of the Kirsch article is dramtically different than it would have been a couple of weeks ago. That is because I've nearly finished reading Rodney Stark's The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. If you remember, I linked to a review of the book a little while back. I don't know if Stark is right, but he marshals some very interesting evidence about faith and intellectual growth in the Middle Ages; so much so that statements like Kirsch's "the idea that ambition could be a noble spur, rather than a sinful snare, was sufficiently novel that all the humanists felt the need to defend it" ring trite and hollow.

If you teach Western Civilization or are at all interested in the development of 'freedom, capitalism, and western success,' I cannot recommend The Victory of Reason enough.

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