Does Progression in the Arts and Sciences Lead Closer to a Civilization's Downfall?
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18th Century Political Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote a short discourse regarding the Arts and Sciences. In it, he argues that the more advanced a civilization gets in regards to these, the weaker it actually becomes until it eventually crumbles.
I shall argue that he was correct.
Con shall argue that he was incorrect.
My argument, briefly, is as thus:
The culture upon which any given civilization is based cannot support a great number of advancements in Arts and Sciences. If this happens, the civilization becomes too decadent. In its decadence it can no longer provide for its own protection and the maintenance of laws. It eventually collapses, either due to external forces or under the weight of its own luxurious lifestyle, and successor cultures build upon it. advancing until they too suffer the same fate.
The arts and sciences will add to a society's strength, because it will help their culture, defenses, and life expectancy.
So I must first apologize for my delay in responding. Second I wish to thank you for the debate.
So, Arts and Sciences, although they do ultimately help the "culture, defenses, and life expectancy", this very increase is, in addition to the increase in luxury, is what contributes to a downfall.
Let us first discuss Culture:
Rousseau says: "If the sciences purified morals, if they taught men to shed blood for the fatherland, if they animated courage, the peoples of China should be wise, free, and invincible." Even though this was written over two and a half centuries ago, it still rings true. But let us not dwell on China, let us use the American example:
The United States has presided over many advancements in the Arts and Sciences, yet today we have some of the least moral people yet: Divorce rates have skyrocketed, crime in the inner cities is considered to be the norm, and all the while the people have become foolish when picking leaders. So much so that American politics is divided between really only two factions: Conservatives, who wish to control people based upon primarily religious doctrines, and Progressives, who wish to control people based upon primarily theoretical Marxist doctrine. On both sides, those who speak for the Rights of the Individual are derided and slandered. A Progressive will never favor the Right to Bear Arms and a Conservative will never recognize that homosexuality is natural.
These two ideologies have become dominant because most people have spent the past forty years enjoying one of the great fruits of the Arts and Sciences: Television. Instead of trying to understand basic economics or the concept of individual liberty, people rally around to watch sitcoms, sports games, and porn - often on demand. Instead of staunch Adamists (those who wish to conform their surroundings to them, kind of like Manifest Destiny) and Individualists, politically brain dead drones repeat mantras taught to them by the television.
Or shall we consider the American diet?
The American diet still consists of enormous portions of food, and often a second and sometimes even a third helping. It has become a running gag in foreign comedies that American portions are so large and cannot be eaten in a single sitting.
The origin of this diet was in the earlier lifestyle of Americans, where factory workers, farmers, and all other laborers worked long hours and ate once or twice a day. In this era of American industriousness, enormous portioned meals were necessary to sustain these working men throughout the day. As scientific advancements made labor easier, workdays became shorter, Americans did NOT make changes to their diet. Now this culture of enormous portions combined with the increasingly sedentary culture (one made possible by the advancements in the sciences and encouraged by the Arts) has led to an obesity epidemic that has now made it so that the Millenial generation will likely have a lower life expectancy than the previous generations. http://www.drcarney.com...
As for Military Defense, it is quite true that Advancements in Science can contribute to increasing this. However, as the quality of defense increases, so does the costs of maintaining that defense. In addition to these problems, the people available come from softer backgrounds than before. For example, it is said that in the Second World War German soldiers were better trained and better equipped. Still, the American soldiers, hardened by a life of work and rugged individualism, prevailed over their German foes. It took American merely four years to accomplish this task (although they were helped by the even more poorly equipped British and Russian Armies). http://ww2-weapons.com...
Today, American soldiers are the best trained and best equipped, but have spent the past decade or so trying to maintain a puppet government in Afghanistan while having been beaten by guerilla insurgents in Iraq - although the reason for the lost war in Iraq was the majority of politicians deciding that they themselves were brilliant generals, choosing to meddle in the affairs of strategy and tactics trying to invent a political way to fight a war.
To quote Rousseau again:"I hear [French soldiers] bravery on a single day of battle highly lauded, but I am not told how they endure excessive labor, how they resist the harshness of the seasons and the inclemency of weather.....I know you would have triumphed with Hannibal at Cannae and at Trasimeme, with you Caesar would have crossed the Rubicon...but it is not with you that one would have traversed the Alps and the other vanquished your ancestors."
Although the American Soldier can stand up to inclement weather and is well known for their labors, it is the ruthlessness of war that they are forced to avoid. This is not due their own decisions, but those of the meddling politicians who seek votes. Unlike the American forces before, who targeted civilians in Dresden or even more ruthlessly targeted civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This could not happen if the majority of the population understood the point of war, to use violence to bend another nation or faction to your own will. Instead, the order given out is to win "hearts and minds." Why is this? Because, as discussed above, the advancements of Arts and Sciences have allowed the actions of servicemembers to be recorded and beamed into the homes of millions of Americans. Americans, having become soft by being cradled by the Sciences and inundated with the opiate of the Arts, cannot stand to see such actions done in their name. Had their mindset been prominent seventy-some years ago, American soldiers and marines would have been hated, and the bombing of Hiroshima been considered a war crime.
Finally we come to life expectancy:
A great thing it is, to live longer. However, as one advances in age, they become more and more of a burden upon their family, or upon Society as a whole in the form of (what is in the United States called) Social Security. As the older generations begin to retire and start to depend upon this income, there will be more of them, as that more and more generations will be living longer into old age. This will require more taxation of the younger, working generations. Seeing as that birth rates are slowing (another effect of advancements in Society http://www.smithsonianmag.com... ), this will require fewer people to contribute more.
So we have a moral and cultural decline, a decline in the quality of life due to a need to support the increased numbers of elderly, and a military that costs alot but is having trouble competing with inferior forces. This is the end effect of substantial increases in Arts and Sciences, and the inevitable doom of every great civiliazation yet and those to come.
I should state here that this is not a condemnation of Scientific advancement or Artistic accomplishments, but that each society's culture can only support so much advancements and artistic indulgence. After it plateaus, it becomes a burden that the people are unprepared for. This was the fate of the Egyptians, who accomplished some of the greatest architectual feats of their day, shared with the Romans who ruled much of the known world, and appears to the be same fate of the Americans who are rapidly losing their hegemonic status in the world.
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