July 5, 2018

"While Plato and Aristotle were concerned with character-centred virtue ethics, the Aztec approach is perhaps better described as socially-centred virtue ethics."

"If the Aztecs were right, then ‘Western’ philosophers have been too focused on individuals, too reliant on assessments of character, and too optimistic about the individual’s ability to correct her own vices. Instead, according to the Aztecs, we should look around to our family and friends, as well as our ordinary rituals or routines, if we hope to lead a better, more worthwhile existence.... When I speak about the Aztecs – the people dominant in large parts of central America prior to the 16th-century Spanish conquest – even professional philosophers are often surprised to learn that the Aztecs were a philosophical culture. They’re even more startled to hear that we have (many volumes of) their texts recorded in their native language, Nahuatl.... To explain the Aztec conception of the good life, it’s helpful to begin in the sixth volume of a book called the Florentine Codex... This particular section records the speeches following the appointment of a new king, when the noblemen appear to compete for the most eloquent articulation of what an ideal monarch should be and do. The result is a succession of speeches like those in Plato’s Symposium, wherein each member tries to produce the most moving expression of praise...."

From "Life on the slippery Earth/Aztec moral philosophy has profound differences from the Greek tradition, not least its acceptance that nobody is perfect" by philosophy professor Sebastian Purcell (Aeon).

122 comments:

Mike and Sue said...

I'm going to have to go with Plato and Aristotle on this one.....

Gahrie said...

Wait...what?

The Aztecs were the assholes of Meso-America. Everyone else hated them because their civilization depended on them constantly preying on the other tribes. They tore the still beating hearts out of living people on a regular basis for Christ's sake.

This is like someone praising the NAZIs about their philosophy and ethics.

mockturtle said...


""While Plato and Aristotle were concerned with character-centred virtue ethics, the Aztec approach is perhaps better described as socially-centred virtue ethics.""


This is true but the value judgment is not, IMO.

Michael K said...

Aztecs were very focused on "The Good Life" which consisted of killing and eating your neighbors.

Roger Sweeny said...

Given how much human sacrifice the Aztecs did, I'm not sure I want to look to them for advice.

https://althouse.blogspot.com/2018/06/some-conquistadors-wrote-about.html

MikeR said...

Wow. It's like that word "Nazi" just bothers people's minds. Could we have a sensible discussion about their virtues and philosophical value, without always focusing on the gas chambers stuff? You need a sense of perspective.

YoungHegelian said...

@Gahrie,

They tore the still beating hearts out of living people on a regular basis for Christ's sake.

It was all because they were bullied in middle school.

Sebastian said...

"socially-centred virtue ethics"

So, Catholicism with a little human sacrifice on the side?

mockturtle said...

They tore the still beating hearts out of living people on a regular basis for Christ's sake.

No, Christ would not have been pleased by such behavior.

rhhardin said...

The radiant past has made brilliant promises to the future: it will keep them. To scrape together my sentences I needs must employ the natural method, regressing to the savages so they may give me lessons. Simple and majestic gentlemen, their gracious mouths ennoble all that flows from their tattooed lips. I have just proved that nothing on this planet is laughable. Droll but lofty planet. Grasping a style some may find naive (when it is so profound), I shall make it serve to interpret ideas which unfortunately may not seem imposing! For that very reason, ridding myself of the light and sceptical turn of ordinary conversation, and prudent enough not to pose ... I no longer know what I was intending to say, for I do not remember the start of the sentence. But know this: poetry happens to be wherever the stupidly mocking smile of duck-faced man is not.

- Lautreamont

Comanche Voter said...

Well if you liked Greek philosophy you could keep your head (and maybe your heart).

OTOH if you liked Aztec philosophy not so much (heart first, head second).

I dunno our bleeding heart progressive friends love images of the Noble Red Man. It's a chimera of course----tooth and claw is pretty much the law of most primitive (and many advanced) societies.

YoungHegelian said...

@MikeR,

It's like that word "Nazi" just bothers people's minds. Could we have a sensible discussion about their virtues and philosophical value

Actually, we should, because if we don't, we can't understand why the most literate people in Europe decided to create & enthusiastically support one of the most hideous regimes in mankind's bloody & appalling history.

German university professors & students were among some of the Nazi regimes most enthusiastic supporters. It was because they were university professors & students that they were avid supporters, not in spite of.

Sebastian said...

"‘Western’ philosophers have been too focused on individuals, too reliant on assessments of character, and too optimistic about the individual’s ability to correct her own vices."

Progs are coming to the realization, after the failure of the New Soviet Man and the stubbornness of the deplorables and Trump, that they have also been "too optimistic about the individual's ability to correct his own vices." [What's with the sexist "her"? Is the author implying women have any (more) vices?]

Next step: let's learn from the Aztecs about how to improve society when self-correction proves insufficient.

Nonapod said...

In the endless debate over individualism versus collectivism, why do collectivists always try to reframe things? The answer is because collectivism doesn't have a good historical success rate. To be fair though, there's a sort of more family based sort of collectivism that I find fractionally more palatable than the state based version. Many east asian cultures that put primacy on the family over individuals as opposed to the State.

Seeing Red said...

Why choose a dead society like the Aztecs and not the Japanese or Chinese?

Seeing Red said...

It’s rich coming from the side which wants to destroy families.

I don’t want those people head of my matriarchy or patriarchy or head of anything else.

Who died and left the boss of me?

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I'm trying to think where some Greek philosopher posited that some people are perfect, and I'm coming up empty. Can anyone help me out here? I find the reference to Plato to be exceptionally ironic since The Republic, authored by Plato, is about how to order society to help humans thrive.

traditionalguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
traditionalguy said...

Slaughtering young girls and boys to please Satan is the old time religion of the world The Christians pushed it back for 500 years but now it's the popular plaything of the New World Order guys.

Achilles said...

"While Plato and Aristotle were concerned with character-centred virtue ethics, the Aztec approach is perhaps better described as socially-centred virtue ethics."


Just another attempt by leftists to degrade the classical liberal.

It doesn't take them long. The money is in the first sentence:

"If the Aztecs were right, then ‘Western’ philosophers have been too focused on individuals, too reliant on assessments of character, and too optimistic about the individual’s ability to correct her own vices. Instead, according to the Aztecs, we should look around to our family and friends, as well as our ordinary rituals or routines, if we hope to lead a better, more worthwhile existence....


The entire basis of a free society is the virtue of the individual citizen.

The only way you can have anything other than a police state is if you can expect your citizens to do the right thing when nobody is watching.

The left will never stop attacking the US in every way it can.

Francisco D said...

As Hillary said, "It Takes a Village."

Achilles said...

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I'm trying to think where some Greek philosopher posited that some people are perfect, and I'm coming up empty. Can anyone help me out here? I find the reference to Plato to be exceptionally ironic since The Republic, authored by Plato, is about how to order society to help humans thrive.

Forgive them their fallacy.

They are trying to make it clear to the proles we can't do the right thing without the state watching over us.

Yancey Ward said...

"Why choose a dead society like the Aztecs and not the Japanese or Chinese?"

Perhaps the writer got the PhD from Harvard?

chuck said...

> This is like someone praising the NAZIs about their philosophy and ethics.

ISTR that some Democrat recently said that the NAZIs had some good ideas. Who was that?

YoungHegelian said...

If history is any guide, first time translations of complex texts, especially one from an esoteric, dead language, often end up being 70% text/30% translator's febrile imagination.

I mean, the poor guy! How can he know if he's translating a philosophical technical term, since so much has been lost? Technical terms often use common words but mean very different things in context. ὕλη means "wood" in ancient Greek, but sure as hell ain't what it means in Aristotle!

Francisco D said...

"The entire basis of a free society is the virtue of the individual citizen."

In addition ... Man's ego is the Fountainhead of his progress. (Ayn Rand)

Ann Althouse said...

"No, Christ would not have been pleased by such behavior."

But he's another example of the place of human sacrifice. When you are inside a religion, you venerate what horrifies outsiders. Maybe you even bond over the way it's so different to you.

Henry said...

"just how bad are good people allowed to be?" is a profound question.

Professor Purcell disappoints. I'm not sure if he's describing philosophy or etiquette.

rehajm said...

More than a whiff of backtesting and cerry picking of modern leftie behavior.

cubanbob said...

Seeing Red said...
It’s rich coming from the side which wants to destroy families."

Which side is that? Surely you can't be referring to the pro-infanticide side, the pro-criminal side and the pro-border jumping side?

Blogger MikeR said...
Wow. It's like that word "Nazi" just bothers people's minds. Could we have a sensible discussion about their virtues and philosophical value, without always focusing on the gas chambers stuff? You need a sense of perspective."

How about Communist values, its only lead to the death of hundred of million or more and ruination of nations or does ethics and philosophy of New World cannibals more to your liking?

Owen said...

"If the Aztecs were right, [long unctuous tear-down of the philosophical basis of Western civilization]...". That opening phrase is your weasel, right there.

He's a coward.

mccullough said...

A great moment in history when Spain conquered the Aztecs, aided by the tribes that hated the scum Aztecs. If any sports nickname should be dropped, it’s the Aztecs

mockturtle said...

Why should an individual ever blame himself/herself when they can blame an entire society? "Hey, we all do this!" How convenient. And how 'progressive' [not].

Bill Peschel said...

"too optimistic about the individual's ability to correct his own vices."

Funny, that's not what the Founding Fathers thought. That's why they came up with the whole "checks and balances" thing, not to mention the Electoral College.

It's leftists like John Steinbeck who believe in that nonsense: "I hold that a writer who does not believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature."

Achilles said...

Ann Althouse said...

"No, Christ would not have been pleased by such behavior."

But he's another example of the place of human sacrifice. When you are inside a religion, you venerate what horrifies outsiders. Maybe you even bond over the way it's so different to you.

Quite excellent!

Comparison! How are these cases similar?

Keep those barbs sharp.

In this case there are differences between the sacrifice of Christ vs the sacrifice of millions of young men/women from captured neighboring tribes that could be used to contrast as well.

These contrasts are probably more illuminating.

tim in vermont said...

The scale of the rack and tower suggests they held thousands of skulls, testimony to an industry of human sacrifice unlike any other in the world....” - Earlier Althouse post. Maybe there should be a “Mexica” tag.

Regrettably, deplorables must be dealt with, don’t focus on the eggshells, it’s the omelette where your eyes should go!

Henry said...

In this case there are differences between the sacrifice of Christ vs the sacrifice of millions of young men/women from captured neighboring tribes that could be used to contrast as well.

You have to go to the old Testament to get a closer match.

joshbraid said...

Wow, some more crap--"he's another example of the place of human sacrifice". A little ignorance goes a long way. The crucifixion of Jesus was just another one of many thousands of Roman executions of troublesome locals with nothing to do with human sacrifice. Wow.

Roughcoat said...

The Aztecs were, initially, the Scots-Irish hillbillies or shanty Irish trash of Meso-America: violent, uncouth, barbarous. They came from the north to the Valley of Mexico to serve as mercenaries for the advanced societies that thrived there. In reward for their services they were given the miserable disease-ridden spits of land in Lake Texcoco that in a rather short time became the glittering and hugely populous cities of Tenochtital and Tlatelolco. They became highly civilized in many respects but they retained the dark religious beliefs and rituals of their barbarous past.

An important difference between Aztec human sacrifice and the sacrificial death of Christ on the Cross can be understood in considerations of context. Aztec sacrifice was continual and undertaken to propitiate the gods, who were please by it. Christ's sacrifice was a one-off that was salvific in purpose, and God was not pleased by it although. Aztec sacrifice was intended to preserve the existence of the mortal/material world whereas Christ's sacrifice was undertaken for the salvation of souls. And so on. Now, just stop it.

buwaya said...

Some people like to think that they are exercising individual judgement about the choice of values or the attainment of virtue.

Its much more realistic to question the feasibility, or reliability, of a populations state of individualism. On the whole I think individualism as a concept is a comforting fantasy. Western culture as a whole is not a mass of individualisms but a collectivism, enforced by both official and unofficial means. Individualism was a theoretical ideal of one of these collective states.

People are rarely able to think outside the box built by their education and upbringing, and, especially, their peer group. Asking most of them to be individuals is like asking my cat to do arithmetic.

This has become clear over the last century, or rather more in places, as in western civilization we have seen several experiments conducted before our eyes. The world view with the power of enforcement has changed twice in that time, from a traditional world of church and family, to a "liberal" world, to a post-liberal world. The old, in every case, has been forcefully expunged. No "individual" is actually tolerated in the modern world.

Previous cultural worlds had poor means of enforcement, usually leaving safe pockets for those who did not fit in, or for a while there in the "liberal" world there was that fantasy, a pretence, of the individual, which led to a sort of fantasy of it. The joke in "Life of Brian" is apt.

Being an outsider, and in truth a man from a couple of cultural worlds ago, a stranger in this strange land, this is clearer to me than to most.

Roughcoat said...

Steinbeck was a mediocre writer with a mediocre intellect. Also, he was a liar (see "Travels With Charley" and the controversy thereon).

Lexington Green said...

Interesting. Saul Bellow said “When the Zulus produce a Tolstoy, we will read him.” The Zulus May yet do so. If the Aztecs produced a sophisticated philosophy, we may want to read it. If they had a sophisticated philosophy yet nonetheless engaged in the massive sacrificial slaughter of captives, that in itself is a conundrum which deserves exploration. Thanks for posting.

PM said...

Achilles @ 10:02.
Just so.

buwaya said...

Rome conducted sacrificial slaughters of captives for the sake of its internal politics, also at least nominally religiously justified. Not on the Aztec scale, but in the late Republic and Early empire they did get to quite a body count in the games and triumphs.

You can find some such thing in any society.

Roughcoat said...

Being a stranger in a strange land is a choice, the product of a romantic sensibility and one willingly made and sustained for reasons of vanity. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with issues of individualism or collectivism, both of which should be understood in terms of points on a continuum. I don't think you understand this "clearer" than most, you simply understandand the issues differently, that you are seduced by your own intellect into thinking that your view is the bedrock truth.

I mean no offense. I myself am possessed of deeply romantic sensibilities.

Roughcoat said...

Rome conducted sacrificial slaughters of captives for the sake of its internal politics, also at least nominally religiously justified.

But the context and, most importantly, the purpose was different. See my preceding post. The comparison is inapt.

Hyphenated American said...

The entire claim is based on BS.....

“The Aztecs did not have a fully developed writing system like the Maya did, but like the Maya and Zapotec they did use a writing system that combined logographic signs with phonetic syllable signs. Logograms would for example be the use of an image of a mountain to signify the word tepetl "mountain", whereas a phonetic syllable sign would be the use of an image of a tooth tlantli to signify the syllable tla in words unrelated to teeth. The combination of these principles allowed the Aztecs to represent the sounds of names of persons and places. Narratives tended to be represented through sequences of images, using different iconographic conventions such as footprints to show paths, temples on fire to show conquest events etc.”

In other words, Aztecs did non even have the means to record the text of such philosophical complexity. I am not sure they even had the words to do so.
It’s ridiculous to compare Aztec pictures against written texts by the ancient Greeks, the people who gave us the notions and the words we use today, like policy or democracy.

The liberals are doing everything to undermine the western civilization,

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

And mass murder. Let's not forget that.

Roughcoat said...

If you're a believing Christian, you understand that we are all, in this life, "strangers in a strange land." It is only after we called into God's presence that we come to our true home which is not strange and where we are not strangers. When Moses named his first son (by Zipporah} Gershom we are to understand that there is a spiritual truth conveyed in his doing so, and a truth that applies to all mankind. There's both a literal and a metaphorical meaning.

Achilles said...

Henry said...

In this case there are differences between the sacrifice of Christ vs the sacrifice of millions of young men/women from captured neighboring tribes that could be used to contrast as well.

You have to go to the old Testament to get a closer match.

50 points!

The Old Testament is just like Aztec human sacrifice.

Exactly like it.

Exactly.

buwaya said...

Being a stranger is a choice, in that I certainly could be somewhere less strange.
But being a stranger, given that choice, is not otherwise a choice.
I am a bee from another hive.

Nonapod said...

People are rarely able to think outside the box built by their education and upbringing, and, especially, their peer group. Asking most of them to be individuals is like asking my cat to do arithmetic.

To be clear, when I think of "individualism", I tend not to think of it as a term referring to the philisophical underpinnings of what it means to be an individual. I have no desire to go down the various metaphysical rabbit holes of personal agency and whether or not free will exists and all that. Rather I think of it in terms of personal resposibility and accountability and persuing ones self interests as opposed to abdication of some or all of those concepts in favor of a group (such as a family or state).

Martin said...

Of course a religions with mass human sacrifice as a holy ritual has nothing to do with anything.

Brain-dead PC pieces like this one are why I cancelled receiving emails from Aeon... too much garbage by pseudo-intellectuals who couldn't get out of a paper bag with a scissors, for the occasional good one. I stopped about a year ago and it was getting worse at the time, I can only imagine how bad it has become since I cancelled.

William said...

Some anthropologists claim that the ultimate goal of the human sacrifices was meat and not religion. Does that make the atrocity more or less justifiable?........The Spaniards had a strange, surreal civilization,and they encountered an even stranger, crueler civilization in the New World.

Roughcoat said...

Being a stranger is a choice, in that I certainly could be somewhere less strange.

Or you could be less strange in this place.

But being a stranger, given that choice, is not otherwise a choice.

Yes, it is, at least in America. But let's agree to disagree with this, and move on.

Achilles said...

The nub of it.

What makes the United States unique in history?

What combination of societal and cultural factors led to the first free society?

What has brought the living standards of our country to a point than makes every other place in history look like abject poverty by comparison?

Plato and Aristotle provided some of the pieces to that puzzle.

That makes them a target for the regressives.

mccullough said...

Buwaya has an interesting perspective. He’s not only an exile in the US, he’s in San Francisco. Ground zero of American strangeness

FIDO said...

Well, academics are certainly changing society, one article at a time. I now want to protest certain places with ivy and I feel that holding entire institutions responsible for the bad actions and statements of a few Marxists might be...cleansing.

And the less said about human sacrifice, the better. Marxists need a lot more martyrs is all I am saying.

Roughcoat said...

I suspect Buwaya would feel "a stranger in a strange land" no matter where he goes or ends up. Including Spain.

Crimso said...

'No "individual" is actually tolerated in the modern world.'

Yep.

'“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as "bad luck.”' Heinlein

buwaya said...

Very much including Spain, at this point.
My image of Spain was my grandfathers ancient Basque village, where we lived a few years while my father had an itinerant European career. It was probably one of the last places in Europe with the entire Catholic-traditional culture that once dominated the continent.

The ancient way was collective, communal, and full of ritual. Very Aztec, but no (human) blood.

buwaya said...

The Spanish idea of religion, and society, in the days of the conquest, is alien to moderns.
But it was otherwise close to the European norm of its day.

Achilles said...

buwaya said...

Being a stranger is a choice, in that I certainly could be somewhere less strange.
But being a stranger, given that choice, is not otherwise a choice.
I am a bee from another hive.


Some minds seek comfort and stability.

Others search for something new.

This can lead to discomfort.

And revelation.

Henry said...

Everyone loves a strawman.

mockturtle said...

Buways asserts: Being an outsider, and in truth a man from a couple of cultural worlds ago, a stranger in this strange land, this is clearer to me than to most.

Or maybe you don't fully understand our ethos.

Anonymous said...

Ron W: I'm trying to think where some Greek philosopher posited that some people are perfect, and I'm coming up empty. Can anyone help me out here? I find the reference to Plato to be exceptionally ironic since The Republic, authored by Plato, is about how to order society to help humans thrive.

More or less my reaction. The author presents so poor an apprehension of Western philosophy (which I assume is "native" to him), that I'm disinclined to buy his interpretation of the philosophy of a radically alien culture.

But ime discussions about "'collectivism' vs. 'individualism'" have an unfortunate tendency to veer toward the simplistic and then go right off the cliff into the cartoonish, so nothing unusual there.

Paul Mac said...

Places I don't care to get my moral guidance from. If the Aztecs were right, I'm kind of OK with being wrong.

http://strangesounds.org/2018/06/feeding-the-gods-hundreds-of-skulls-reveal-massive-scale-of-human-sacrifice-in-aztec-capital-the-sacred-city-of-tenochtitlan.html

jwl said...

""If the Aztecs were right, then ‘Western’ philosophers have been too focused on individuals..."

This is getting close to if my aunt had a penis she would be my uncle kind of thinking.

The woman known as hbd-chick writes about European cultures a lot and people in northeast - northern France, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark and southeast England have lived in nuclear family's for over a thousand years now. Protestant culture is different from other European cultures because they married later in life after they moved out of home and established their own home while all other cultures kept their children at home and living with your extended family was norm.

mikeski said...

If they had trains, you can bet they would have run on time.

Seeing Red said...

What combination of societal and cultural factors led to the first free society?


As my wise daddy said when explaining the 2nd Amendment to a young friend, “they lived it.”

Paul Mac said...

Moreover, aside from what others have mentioned, I think the articles implications about Greek views in particular are BS. The Greeks gods were hugely flawed individuals, not to mention many of their heroes. I don't think they had unrealistic issues about human perfection as the heading implies. Confer, the Great Courses lectures The Other Side of History as it covers the Greeks early on.

The article wraps up suggesting the Aztecs might have favored Hector over Achilles "despite being on the losing side". There is something we can tie to Trump here (and Patton in the film about him). We hate losers. The philosophy that has drive then "West" is about winning, moving forward and up. Maybe Aztecs were losers who survived preying on those around them, maybe the proper view of their philosophies outside of academics who need to make a living saying something is, good riddance.


I prefer the philosophy of Taleb's Incerto myself, which includes that most economists, philosophers, and other talking heads mostly are spouting rubbish.

Michael K said...

Previous cultural worlds had poor means of enforcement, usually leaving safe pockets for those who did not fit in, or for a while there in the "liberal" world there was that fantasy, a pretence, of the individual, which led to a sort of fantasy of it. The joke in "Life of Brian" is apt.

I sort of disagree with this. My great, great, great grandfather came from Ireland about 1820. He was born in Antrim, Ireland in 1798. He ended up in northern New York, just south of the St Lawrence River. His name was William Kennedy.

My equivalent maternal ancestor landed on the Canadian side and moved west with the railroad, ending up in Ontario.

They both left Ireland well before the Potato Famine, which began about 1845.

I think there is a heredity factor that makes people restless.

My great grandfather and some of his brothers moved to Illinois along the route that followed the Great Lakes and Illinois River.

My father was born on a farm and, when I was 10 years old, decided to slaughter a hog. I had the unusual experience for a city boy making pork sausage.

I left home when I was 18 and moved to California where I knew no one.

Heredity has to be considered.

An Irish friend told me that the Irish did not enjoy having Americans come back to Ireland to look for "roots," because "They know the cream left."

Vance said...

You know, in the grand scheme of things I'm hard pressed to find a more evil society than the Aztecs. Not even the Nazis, I think, compared to the Aztecs. Certainly top ten, but I think the Aztecs were likely number one.

There's a reason God destroyed them through Cortez, after all. And any examination of Cortez's campaign demonstrates that he certainly had divine help.

As to the Christ /human sacrifice thing: Christ was a volunteer--of that we can be sure. While reports demonstrate that many Aztec victims were also volunteers, the vast majority were not. Their temples ran red with blood--constantly. Their dieties were demons--heck, they even looked like demons.

As for the Old Testament: the Law of Moses emphasized animal sacrifice, not human. Though you can tell that human sacrifice, especially in the Genesis era, was around.

buwaya said...

I think I understand the "ethos" very well.
The problem is that it isn't, perhaps, quite what you think it is.
And its going away, in part because of this misunderstanding.

Picture my argument with local schoolteachers on the subject of teaching "critical thinking".

Michael K said...

"And its going away, in part because of this misunderstanding."

I agree with this. I have tried to teach my kids to be independent and I think I have had some success.

At least with a couple.

Drago said...

Robert Cook will explain shortly why it was the United States government and its policies that was directly responsible for all historic ritual Aztec human sacrifice.

And if you don't think that Cookie can do it, just you wait....

Naturally, LLR Chuck will explain why Trump is worse....

Drago said...

Vance: "You know, in the grand scheme of things I'm hard pressed to find a more evil society than the Aztecs."

Whoa whoa whoa there, Mr White Western Civilization privileged dude!!

Don't you know that the Aztecs ritual human sacrifice and enslavement of other peoples was never really "sacrifice sacrifice" nor "slavery slavery" cuz "reasons", H8tr.

buwaya said...

In summary, as a practical matter, individualism is constrained by circumstance, and depending on it as something that will create an emergent order is a mistake. What the US had, at one time, was a particular, disciplined collective culture of its own, that it effectively imposed on immigrants and its own elites. This has been nearly entirely replaced by something else.

Michael K said...

What the US had, at one time, was a particular, disciplined collective culture of its own, that it effectively imposed on immigrants and its own elites.

Yes, and you carried it with you into new places and even wild places like the Willamette Valley, at the end of the Oregon Trail.

One reason was hardship. It took discipline to handle hardship or you died.

I doubt we could win a war like WWII now. I do see kids with discipline going into the military but I doubt there are enough.

n.n said...

The Aztecs practiced an ethical or Pro-Choice, selective, opportunistic, and congruent religious/moral philosophy. They were progressive in their time and today as they supported abortion rites, redistributive change (i.e. minority determination), and single/central solutions. A very forward thinking people.

n.n said...

Character-centered virtue ethics including principles.

Socially-centered virtue ethics including color judgments, chauvinism, congruence, and political capital.

mikee said...

"But he's another example of the place of human sacrifice. When you are inside a religion, you venerate what horrifies outsiders. Maybe you even bond over the way it's so different to you."

Althouse, there is not a Christian alive who would not immediately demand history be changed were there any way for the Biblical sacrifice of Christ to be avoided to save humanity. We all know the death of Christ was horrible, and unjust, and stupid, and violent. We don't like that Christ's death happened. We don't venerate his painful death on the cross. What we honor, respect, venerate, adore, worship is that Christ was willing to undergo such horrors, pain, and death to save our souls, and that by his sacrifice, our souls were saved. That is religion.

Here's hoping you can see the difference.

The Axtecs thought cutting the hearts out of people would keep the sun working right and the crops growing on schedule. And that is magic.

Religion works for people's improvements as individuals and as societies (for some values of religion). Magic doesn't work, it is all a show to keep the rubes paying.

Your

n.n said...

The Judeo-Christian religious/moral philosophy also assumes original sin (or potential) and advances the concept of a fitness function that reconciles the axioms of individual dignity and intrinsic value, Natural imperatives including Posterity and limited frame perception (or separation of logical domains), and personal interests, also known as striving or improvement.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Nobody's perfect; in fact a lot of people back then were heartless!

Anonymous said...

Paul Mac: The article wraps up suggesting the Aztecs might have favored Hector over Achilles "despite being on the losing side". There is something we can tie to Trump here (and Patton in the film about him). We hate losers.

But the author's comments re Hector are all wrong, anyway. Or rather, "not even wrong". To say that the Greeks "preferred Achilles" or "did not prefer Hector" is to say a whole bunch of nothing. It's reducing the Iliad to a cartoon, and massively "not getting" either the two heroes or the Greeks.

Yeah, those Greeks, simple-minded folk. They just didn't get this fate and tragedy stuff.

(As for Americans, "we" hate Hector? No we don't. What kind of weirdo reads the Iliad and just thinks "man, screw that loser" about Hector?)

PhilD said...

Who knew that "All have sinned" is a declaration of perfection.



Me thinks that these modern 'known nothing' professors have no relation to truth, and don't want any relation with it.

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fernandinande said...

It's clear which philosophy was favored by smallpox.

Fun Fact! If you translate Shakespearean insults half-way into Nahuatl, they become even more esoteric:

“Away, you non-tlacua, you quimichin-skin, you dried tototl’s-nenepilli, mazatl’s-tepolli, you stock-michin!”

Not by the hair of my quimichin-skin!

Bob said...

I second Lexington Green at 7/5/18, 10:40 AM

Achilles said...

Henry said...

Everyone loves a strawman.


Self awareness.

Try it.

Bob said...

Paul Mac said, "Maybe Aztecs were losers who survived preying on those around them, maybe the proper view of their philosophies outside of academics who need to make a living saying something is, good riddance. "

Interesting view. Rather than confident, upward-striving aggressors, maybe the Aztecs saw themselves as victims. It might be interesting had the author explored the philosophy which guided Aztec relations with their neighbors, should such writings exist. Were the Aztecs merely practicing Identity Politics?

Achilles said...

buwaya said...

In summary, as a practical matter, individualism is constrained by circumstance, and depending on it as something that will create an emergent order is a mistake. What the US had, at one time, was a particular, disciplined collective culture of its own, that it effectively imposed on immigrants and its own elites. This has been nearly entirely replaced by something else.

And there it is.

The true fight isn't about Trump or Conservatism or Progressivism or any of that.

It is about what it takes to have a society that is governed by individuals.

It takes Citizens who do the right thing when nobody is looking in order to have a society where the government isn't always looking.

It is about the process and institutions required to build those citizens.

It is about the globalist left, the ever present aristocracy, trying to reassert control over their serfs by destroying every institution and the very cultural mores that make the Citizen self sufficient and capable of living a life not under their control.

The protestant work ethic, belief in sin and the effort to overcome our inherent failure, the classical liberal education, and the nuclear family.

All of these contribute to building a Citizen. The aristocracy wants to take these institutions away and they will have their serfs back.


CJ said...

I'm glad to see most comments here rightly condemn the Aztecs. Aztecs were more like unclever Spartans with their Helots than any other type of philosophical Greek.

The Aztecs hadn't developed the wheel and had very primitive farming methods. Even modern Mexicans consider the Indians (ie Aztecs) to be a lower caste.

I'm tired of this fetishization of Native Americans - there are some American History textbooks in use that say that the Iroquois Council was a contributing factor in how the Founding Fathers developed the American Republic and Constitution.

Did you know that scholarly estimates of population in the New World at the time of European discovery (ie, North, Central, AND South America) range from 200mm to as few as 10mm?

My guess is that the true number is toward the smaller end of that range and, given the land of plenty, the Native Peoples hadn't any need to develop sophisticated agriculture, which is a prerequisite for philosophy as it provides human brains leisure time to think about something other than food. Like the tribes of Africa - it was so easy to hunt and fish that a civilization, as we conceive of it today, was not truly necessary. Necessity being the mother of invention, the Peoples had no philosophy, nor the wheel, nor sailing vessels, nor massive weapons of war.

The Native Peoples were absolutely as violent as the Europeans, Arabs, and Asians at the time and could have been as capable at destroying other civilizations, but they simply lacked the impetus to technologically develop their violence. Without technological advancements, they had to spend time hunting or fishing or gaining slaves to do their hunting and fishing (like the Spartans), so didn't develop anything close to a philosophy.

Even the Spartans spent so much time training for war and gaining helots that they didn't leave any philosophy, architecture, art, or anything else except stories.

CWJ said...

I could clog up the thread with paragraph upon paragraph of my experience and opinions on the topic, but I really don't want to get into any sort of back and forth with so many other worthy (no sarcasm) commenters.

I'll just say that I note Purcell is an Ass't Professor, and that no one is going to receive tenure suggesting that Western Philosophy was right all along.

mockturtle said...

Achilles notes: It takes Citizens who do the right thing when nobody is looking in order to have a society where the government isn't always looking.

An internal, rather than an external, locus of control.

Michael K said...

It takes Citizens who do the right thing when nobody is looking in order to have a society where the government isn't always looking.

This is called "A high trust society." We used to have one.

Oso Negro said...

I enjoy being a stranger in a strange land. But I try to avoid lands that are actively practicing human sacrifice. Especially of people that look like me.

Birkel said...

So it takes a village of Azteks?
Fucking Hillary Clinton has been making life miserable for people for a while but I did not know she was that old.

Bilwick said...

On another blog I got into an exchange with a Trump fan after I used the term "tribalism" pejoratively. He thought tribalism was the bee's knees. I said I preferred individualism, and he responsed with something like "Individualism is killing America!" At that point I bailed, realizing I was up against what Voltaire called "invincible stupidity." (Look around you--is what you see too much individualism? Not in my city, which could be called "Planet of the Clones.") But maybe this guy would have been happier in Aztec society. No surfeit of individualism there! Probably the only one asserting his individuality was the poor slob being stretched out on the altar to have his heart cut out . . . only to be told by his betters, "Sorry, Xochtl--you're only one selfish individual, and the tribe has spoken!"

Owen said...

What Achilles said. Righteousness is inward. These moral exhibitionists and scolds are its antithesis.

Drago said...

William Chadwick: "On another blog I got into an exchange with a Trump fan after I used the term "tribalism" pejoratively. He thought tribalism was the bee's knees."

Link, or it didn't happen.

buwaya said...

As HRC said, it takes a village.
But not her village.

buwaya said...

The "Life of Brian" bit -

You are all individuals

buwaya said...

"At that point I bailed, realizing I was up against what Voltaire called "invincible stupidity."

It seems to me you were talking past each other.

Anonymous said...

William Chadwick: On another blog I got into an exchange with a Trump fan after I used the term "tribalism" pejoratively. He thought tribalism was the bee's knees. I said I preferred individualism, and he responsed with something like "Individualism is killing America!" At that point I bailed, realizing I was up against what Voltaire called "invincible stupidity."

Could be invincible stupidity or could be realistic assessment of facts on the ground - depends on the context and what he actually said.

Lauding tribalism is stupid in the sense that civilization (high-level organization and co-operation, development of institutions) is of course vastly preferable to low-level clan/tribe organization, with its constant strife and warfare and inability to get its shit together to maintain a functioning sewage system, let alone achieve great things. But that really isn't "tribalism vs. individualism", because high-level organization requires that individuals *do* submit themselves to certain social norms and expectations, and hierarchies. No complex high-functioning societies are free-for-alls.

You are correct in pointing out that complex modern societies can also produce conformist clones, but that's hardly the result of "tribalism" - i.e., of smaller groups with biological, generational bonds to one another. On the contrary, modern conformist "bugmen" are more the product of mass society, of transience and rootlessness. In sum, I think you've set up a fruitless dichotomy here.

As for possible non-stupid advocacy of "tribalism" - "individualism" only works in a culturally coherent, dare I say culturally homogeneous society where everybody agrees to function politically as an individual. No identity politics, no group set-asides. If, however, you live in a society where everybody else but the group you are identified with (whether you yourself identify as a member or not) is getting their "tribal" on, organizing, and voting themselves all sorts of group privileges and benefits at your expense, then yeah, getting "tribal", no matter how sub-optimal in the abstract, might be necessary to protect your own interests, and not doing so can be fatally stupid.

Rigelsen said...

The Aztecs were not alone in promoting "socially-centred virtue ethics". Marxism, Confucianism, as well as many sub traditions of the various major religions all do the same, whether they call it that or not. The problem with such a focus, though, is that not only is the individual good subordinated to the social, but it also often means that individual lives are meaningless in the face of those with social power. As demonstrated by the Aztecs, this can express itself in extremely brutal ways.

Plato aside, did any other Greek philosophers even posit the possibility of a perfect being, or does Mr. Purcell confuse self-improvement, or the drive to self-perfection, with the idea that any mortal being can be perfect?

The Godfather said...

If you're interested in Aztec life, read Gary Jennings novel "Aztec" -- available at Amazon via the Althouse Portal -- it's a pretty good read, and has sex, too.

PS Roughcoat upthread has the philosophical issues right.

Michael K said...

Blogger buwaya puti said...
"At that point I bailed, realizing I was up against what Voltaire called "invincible stupidity."

It seems to me you were talking past each other.


That's why I don't talk politics with my kids. Nobody is going to change minds at this stage.

It reminds me of my mother about medical questions. She was very opinionated but would forget I was there, then turn to me and look like "Isn't that right !?" I referred to "active and passive ignorance." It was harmless but funny,.

Freeman Hunt said...

Usually a civilization has something to recommend it before anyone cares about what its thinkers had to say.

Unknown said...

Yeah, let's take life advice from a culture that sacrificed virgins in sinkholes and created a mountain of skulls from their conquests.

Robert Cook said...

"There's a reason God destroyed them through Cortez, after all. And any examination of Cortez's campaign demonstrates that he certainly had divine help."

"God destroyed them through Cortez?" Cortez "...certainly had divine help?" (If the "divine" help was from Satan, perhaps!)

What a grisly fantasy! What a monstrous god you imagine to exist!

Oso Negro said...

@ Robert Cook - Have you braved the Pentateuch? Yahweh was a badass motherfucker back in the day.

buwaya said...

The conquistadors were certain that they had had divine help.

Bernal Diaz was often awestruck by the immense odds they faced, and overcame.
He often saw veritable seas of enemy warriors, which certainly could, and should, have simply buried their little army in bodies.

And, note, the primary weapon of the conquistadors was not high tech gunpowder arms, of which they had very few, or even crossbows, of which they had almost as few, or armor, as they had little anyway, and had in any case adopted the quilted cotton of their enemies and allies. They fought their battles face to face, at close quarters, with swords.

But yet they won.

Gahrie said...

What a grisly fantasy! What a monstrous god you imagine to exist!

Says the man who supports the most murderous and evil ideology to ever exist on the planet. (Which by the way just happens to reject all religion) I'd even pick Allah over Marx.

LakeLevel said...

Seeing Red: "Why choose a dead society like the Aztecs and not the Japanese or Chinese?"

Brutal death has been the norm in Mexico since before the Aztecs. It is still going on today. Most people don't know that Mexico has been a Socialist country since 1926. If you think that the extremist Socialist who just got elected president there is going to reduce the violent nature of Mexico, think again. Be very afraid. Protecting your country and children is not racist.

FIDO said...

Are Danes tribal or are they staunch individualists?

They worship at the alter of freedom...and yet their attitudes are almost clonelike. They all wear the same dank colors, have ridiculous haircuts within close social norms, and are ethically indistinguishable.

BUUUTT...if one could come out with 'the best way to run your life' book (and have it be actually correct) would it be 'conformity' for everyone to behave exactly that way...or just efficiency and smart?

Which is why I find the current push by the Academy, including this pinhead, to ditch systems and mores which have been WILDLY successful in developing a civilization as so appalling and discrediting for anyone (particularly children) to listen to them.

I have read a little bit about the Aztecs, and besides being good at math, I see nothing redeeming in their culture.

And when your understanding of their philosophy is based on the translations of a 500 year old document, passed through the filter of Religious Men who were their cultural enemies...well...I don't think you are getting anywhere near as detailed a record of what they actually thought to make any value judgments.

That huge stack of skulls and sinkhole filled with women is a pretty heavy thumb on the other edge of the balance. A divine individual soul vs a replacable bit of grease to please the god, just lean over backwards nameless subject.

Yeah. Not buying his bullshit.

Saint Croix said...

But (Christ is) another example of the place of human sacrifice.

Christ is about sacrificing ourselves.

The pagans and the Aztecs are about sacrificing other people.

This is why Christ thrives and the pagans and the Aztecs do not.

It's an important distinction.

A baby, for instance, is going to require a certain amount of sacrifice. You're going to have to get a job. You're going to have to work to feed the baby, and shelter the baby. A baby is helpless and needy. Babies cost money. So you make a sacrifice for the baby.

To sacrifice the baby, to kill the baby, isn't much of a sacrifice at all if you have no feelings for the baby. This is perhaps why sociopaths thrived in Aztec or pagan culture. You might call it a "sacrifice" but it's really a lie when you're just inflicting death on other people.

Robert Cook said...

"The conquistadors were certain that they had had divine help."

Just as we always claim (and some believe) we act only unselfishly, virtuously, for others.

Murderers of empire always make such claims to justify their rapine.

Bilwick said...

Robert Cook says "Murderers of empire always make such claims to justify their rapine."

As do statists in general, although contemporary secular theocrats usually use "for the Common Good" or "for the good of the State." (Once again I urge people to Google "Democide.")

Bilwick said...

"As for possible non-stupid advocacy of "tribalism" - "individualism" only works in a culturally coherent, dare I say culturally homogeneous society where everybody agrees to function politically as an individual. No identity politics, no group set-asides. If, however, you live in a society where everybody else but the group you are identified with (whether you yourself identify as a member or not) is getting their "tribal" on, organizing, and voting themselves all sorts of group privileges and benefits at your expense, then yeah, getting "tribal", no matter how sub-optimal in the abstract, might be necessary to protect your own interests, and not doing so can be fatally stupid."

I'd rather be "fatally stupid" with Nock and Mencken that "smart and savvy" with that dunce I was having the debate with.

Bilwick said...

"William Chadwick: "On another blog I got into an exchange with a Trump fan after I used the term "tribalism" pejoratively. He thought tribalism was the bee's knees."

Link, or it didn't happen."

Well, I'm sorry not to be able to prove I'm not lying to you (like Scarlett O'Hara I'll cry into my pillow about it every night) but I didn't know I was going to have to prove my word to the Great Drago, or I'd have noted the date so I could go back a month or two and post the link.

Bilwick said...

By the way Drago, can you provide us on what my possible motivation would be in lying about an obscure post of mine, on another blog, from a month or two ago, addressed to an anonymous commenter?