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The Decline of the West by Oswald Spengler. In july, , when the German armies were on the point of collapse, a book appeared called Der Untergang. Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West by Thomas B. Lenihan July 28, Meaning in History Dr. Phyllis O'Callaghan Georgetown University Oswald. Oswald Spengler. Blankenburg am Harz, December, , PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION The complete manuscript of this book — the outcome of three.


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Untergang des Abendlandes by Oswald Spengler, , Allen & Unwin edition, - [new ed., rev.]. PDF | In this essay, I examine the public discourse about Oswald Spengler's ideas in Britain in the s and s, particularly the»cultural morphology«he . PDF | On Mar 1, , G Brokaw and others published Oswald Spengler's The ' Decline of the West' and Alejo Carpentier's Los 'Pasos.

It also fails to include the idea of progress and how cultures and civilizations do so. Spengler regarded the classical in two ways: Man was focused on conquest and domination, which is a very good cyclical example, since it happens again and again throughout history. Unlike most historians, he asserted that the West owes nothing to the Classical world.

Spengler views Faust as personifying the intense civilizational energy pulsating throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. To Spengler, modernity was a fresh and original orientation toward the world.

Once a High Culture has reached fulfillment, civilization inevitably follows. He says that the lack of the idea of soul by the Greeks and intellect by the Romans explains the difference between Culture and Civilization.

In terms of religion, Spengler touches on it briefly in The Decline of the West. He believed that when the Roman Empire collapsed, it bequeathed Christianity to the world. This was one of the most important religious developments in world history, since Christianity became and remains one of the major religions of the world. Spengler believed that religion is crucial to the whole spirit and style of a culture and he observed that 73 Farrenkopf, This religious conception captures the individualism, dynamism, transformative energy, and expansive power unique to the West.

His other comments about religion are not in depth but reveal an interest in other faiths. This ties in with his idea that cultures do not affect or influence each other and so each should have its own religion. All living forms in which it expresses itself—all arts, doctrines, customs, all metaphysical and mathematical form-worlds, all ornament, every column and verse and idea—are ultimately religious and must be so. However he does not directly say which religion is best or ideal, although he seems to favor Christianity.

Besides Christianity, Spengler only gets into some depth on Buddhism, which he says has a misunderstood deeper meaning and he does not believe it to be a true religion, because it is equivalent to modern socialism and represents the basic feeling of Indian Civilization.

This is a unique observation, especially from a man who believed people in the West needed to study and appreciate non-Western cultures. Spengler also writes about Atheism saying it is a spirituality that has exhausted its religious possibilities and is declining into the inorganic. The transition from culture to civilization is a major theory within The Decline of the West. Spengler states that an example of culture passing into civilization was the execution of King Louis XVI of France in French and later Western culture had truly modernized through revolution and eventually replacing monarchy, and thus reached the ideal form of civilization.

Spengler goes on to pose the question: What is History?

the decline of the west ,Oswald Spengler.pdf

He then attempts to give readers an answer, writing: But the influence that old Chinese and Mexican history are beginning to exercise on us today is a subtler and more intellectual kind. There we are sounding the last necessities of life itself.

We are learning out of another life-course to know ourselves what we are, what we must be, what we shall be. He is saying that to be complete, man must understand what is going on in the rest of the world. History is not about knowing all the details from the major time periods, but what cultures are like and have achieved, especially in terms of intellectual development.

Spengler 85 Spengler, Within civilization exists rationalism and the end of primitive culture. It shows progress on the part of man. However because of the cyclical theory he follows, all civilizations will eventually decline and be re-born or replaced. The last part of The Decline of the West focuses on events of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Spengler discusses Marxism, capitalism, democracy, imperialism and the major reasons for the decline of Western civilization. He states that since the nineteenth century, the West has witnessed the establishment of permanent armies and the beginning of an age of gigantic conflicts.

He believed democracy represented the triumph of mediocrity and that democratic society celebrates what is common and equal, making the possibility of anything outstanding difficult. Spengler goes on to state that the contending states period ended with World War I, because from then on, armies want war.

At a time when monarchies were collapsing and losing public support, he believed that it was the best type of government for Western countries to have. He criticized both democracy and communism with an interesting perspective. People can and will use their wealth to download influence and access in a democracy.

In terms of Marxism, Spengler believed it 94 Stimley, 4. Imperialism is another topic addressed in The Decline of the West. While today many people view it as a mistake made by Western powers beginning in the modern world, Spengler believed it was an important development, however it always leads to the end of great civilizations He writes that the West has set its destiny in the phenomenal form of imperialism, but that if we look at history, imperialism destroyed the Egyptian and Roman empires, among others.

He used his money, technological skills and views of superiority to colonize southern Africa. At the time, many in the West believed it was their Christian moral duty to bring civilization to the non-Western world. Yet the real goal of countries like Great Britain, France and Germany in the nineteenth century was to create empires and compete for world domination. Imperialism had in the past and would again lead to the decline of civilizations.

Along with the decline of the West came the end of the Faustian Man. He had become obsessed with making money and conquering land.

Oswald Spengler began writing The Decline of the West in Spengler hoped that Germany would be victorious, fearing that if they lost, the nation might deteriorate like the Roman Empire had in the fifth century. The defeat of Germany plunged him into despair and confirmed him in Machiavellianism. He believed that man was naturally evil or bad, a view also held by Machiavelli. Spengler hated materialistic humanists, utopians and pacifists.

Spengler believed that martyrs, not the Gospels, had conquered the world. When the first volume of The Decline of the West was published in the summer of , it was an immediate and unprecedented success. By then its author had already abandoned his early political views—views that were supportive of the quasi- democratization of Wilhelmine Germany.

We have seen that this formed an important part of his convictions. Academic isolation, he insisted again and again, is social irresponsibility.

He was famous and well regarded, especially in England and the United States, where The Decline of the West was widely read. The decadence of the Roaring Twenties undoubtedly had something to do with it. Spengler seems to have stirred the Puritan conscience in America, bringing out all the latent guilt of decadence and riotous living.

The rise of Nazism concerned the German philosopher. He lambasted the belief in Aryan purity because such theories were not supported by historical evidence. The grand- design method of historical inquiry stresses the importance of using both science and art as a means of recreating the past and they see merit in using the social sciences and humanities.

He even gives them credit in the introduction of The Decline of the West. In many ways, Goethe revitalized the Greek idea of cycle in a new context by showing that eternal recurrence was a spiritual as much as a natural fact of life. In temperament, style of life, and literary expression, the two men were much alike.

His conceptions of decadence, militarism, the 38 Fischer, One of the major beliefs expressed in The Decline of the West is that cultures rise and fall, leaving nothing behind. Spengler believed that cultures are organic and go through stages and then fade away, just as the seasons do.

They would be examples of men who are alike and accomplish similar conquests. Their similar actions and achievements in similar time periods prove that history repeats itself. Yet he remained convinced that world war would destroy the West.

He was certainly on to something, for most people today would agree that both world wars destroyed much of the Western world and led to its current state of decline. Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who influenced him, held that men, societies or states rise and fall in accordance with the eternal rhythm of the life cycle and that the motive force of change within nature and human society is strife. Spengler began by examining culture, how they evolve, and discussing how some cultures in history became civilizations.

To him, cultures are organisms of the highest form and why they grow and flourish in certain ways will remain a mystery. Spengler believed that culture can change its expression, but not its character. Before discussing culture and civilization, Spengler sought to trace the evolution of the human soul.

It also goes against the idea that God created mankind. In The Decline of the West, the author looks at pre-history and classical civilization first. All of them would last about 1, years and then wither away except the last one, which existed when Spengler was alive.

He predicted that Russia, a nation not successfully conquered, would bring forth the ninth culture of world history, after the West had completely declined Like many writers of his time, he focused mainly on Western civilization. However he did make some interesting observations about the non-Western world.

Imperialism was still running strong and people believed there was nothing of value to learn from people in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. They believed world history only included studying the Western world. He later states that Arabian Culture escaped Western historical research, yet another example of how 61 Fischer, It also fails to include the idea of progress and how cultures and civilizations do so.

Spengler regarded the classical in two ways: materialistic and ideological. Man was focused on conquest and domination, which is a very good cyclical example, since it happens again and again throughout history.

He may be. The culture to which we belong is the "Western" culture. It follows that methods adequate for the study of nature are not adequate for the study of history. Spengler says. It goes in for great engineering feats. Such cultures differ profoundly from one another. This culture isArabian.

The decline of the West.

Before this culture we had the Classical culture. Plato and Aristotle. Byzan tine and eastern Levantine generally: Spengler suggests primary symbols for most of the other cultures: Although the theme is very muted in The Decline of the West.

The Decline of theWest 3 world-conqueror. Of these world-states. The Greek is a purely natural man. Bismarck and Cecil Rhodes the empire-builder are examples of a type of force-man who will increase through the next centuries.

In addition to these two cultures. A new culture. The same thing is happening in Russia now. The break we express the "Greek and Roman" is now for us. The differences can only be expressed by some kind of central symbol. Classical culture had its "spring" with the Homeric aristocracy.

Spengler seems to have a hope?

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When a new culture. Thus although the "Magian" culture practically took over the Roman Empire. Spengler also identifies an Egyptian. As Yeats remarks in his Vision. Hegel has been often and most unfairly ridiculed for ad vocating a view of history which made the Prussian state of his day its supreme achievement.

Faustian culture is strongly historical in sense. But their stories are chronicles or annals. The linear view of history is intellectually dead.

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But if we try to write a history of or Zulus or we can a series of events or in Patagonians Mongols. These people live and die and reproduce.

The Chinese and Indians had little to do with producing us. The central art of Faustian man is contrapuntal music. Western man thinks of it as a relation to other numbers. Classical culture expressed its sense of the pure present in its The of the two cultures even to mathematics are sculpture. But whenever we this linear view. Classical man thinks of a number as a thing.

This morphological view of history.

Lapland in the eighteenth century is much like Lapland in the thirteenth: Here Spengler seems to me to be on very solid ground. The central symbol for the Western. If we study the history of one of the cultures. People have constantly been fascinated by the degree of accident in history.

The Hebrews gave us our religion. Spengler probably got his cavern symbol from Frobenius. A parallel distinction reappears within the cultural developments themselves. Spengler's view of history includes.

Spengler improvement ordinary "linear" one which divides history into ancient. The new Rus sian culture is best symbolized as a flat plane: A modern reader would doubtless prefer some other word to "destiny. The in cidents of Western history would have been quite different if Harold had won at Hastings or Napoleon at the Nile. In what a culture produces. In a way does an illusion of a cyclical view: A cyclical theory would see a mechanical princi ple.

There was no inevitability that a new Russian culture would appear in the decline of aWestern one. Spengler distinguishes what he calls destiny from incident. Spengler does not mention Cleopatra's nose.

But nothing will alter the fact that itwill be his life. It seems to me that Spengler's distinction between primitive and historicalexistence is the real basis of Yeats's distinction between "primary" cultures and the "antithetical" ones that rise out of them. Spengler organism mechanism. It is no good saying that a culture is not an organism.

But this leaves us with a series of five that do run in sequence: The Decline of theWest 5 had been longer. Fair developments Babylonia pre-Columbian enough: Certain stock responses to Spengler may be set aside at once.

Yeats's Vision. The in cidents of a man's life will depend on the job he takes. This sequence may have its importance. In the first place. It is not fatalism to say that one grows older every year. What seems to me most impressive about Spengler is the fact that everybody does accept his main thesis in practice. It is no good either denouncing him on the ground that his attitude is "fatalistic" or "pessimistic.

Spengler's massed evidence for these characteristics in a variety of cultures seems to me impressive enough to take seriously. Most of the rest arise from the fact that the reader's point of view differs from that of the writer. If The Decline of the West were nothing else. Anybody can find con tradictions in any long and complex argument. Spengler had no intention of producing a work of pure im agination. There may remain a number of genuine contradictions which really do erode the author's own case.

The question is not whether a culture is an organism. A work of literature. Or if it is. Most of them are verbal only. Spengler would not care for the term popularization: It outlines one of the mythical shapes in which history reaches everybody except professional historians.

What Spengler has produced is a vision of history which is very close to a work of literature? But for a book of the kind he wrote the general principle holds that if one is in broad sympathy with what he is trying to do. It is an insoluble problem. I am not much worried about the "contradictions" or "ambiguities. Spengler's book is not a work of history.

There are limits to this. Everybody thinks in terms of a "Western" culture to which Europeans and Americans belong. Auden's "The Fall of Rome.

The Decline of theWest 7 culture. If we do not acquire our knowledge of Spengler's vision from Spengler we have to get it out of the air. The decline. At that I am not counting the people who have a sentimen tal admiration for medieval culture because it represents our own lost youth.

He makes vague remarks about at taching more importance to space and painting and less to time and music. He shows how example twentieth-century philosophy. But look at the imagery of the poem: For students of English literature.

All these have a more or less muddled ver sion of Spengler's vision as their basis. In other areas we can be more fortunate. The parallels with Classical culture are also there.The new Rus sian culture is best symbolized as a flat plane: He is considered to be one of the earliest sociological writers. Baron Ch. In reaction to the educated elites, the masses give rise to the Second Religiousness, which manifests as deeply suspicious of academia and science.

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We cannot, therefore, be surprised if Dr. I have elsewhere tried to show that it is intellectually dishonest to call a man's work reactionary.

Spengler would not care for the term popularization: Where a race-ideal exists, as it does, supremely, in the Early period of a culture The Indus Valley Civilization had not been discovered at the time he was writing, and its relationship with later Indian civilization remained unclear for some time. If he were less sensational he might endure longer; but he would amuse us less.