We can be resigned neither to registering astonishment nor to accepting the solution which a misconceived regard for objectivity sometimes proposes: a mere chronicling of the facts. We cannot rest content when we know that the Egyptians considered their king a god, entombed him in a pyramid, buried cats and dogs, and mummified their dead. But it is a laborious, and never completed, task to rediscover the original coherence of a past mode of life from the surviving remains. Spengler attempts short cuts; overrating the extent of his truly remarkable erudition, and, for the rest, trusting recklessly his intuition, he forces the evidence to fit the schemata which he has conceived.
He describes, for instance, the bearer of Egyptian civilization as follows:.
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The Egyptian soul—pre-eminently gifted for and inclined towards history, striving with primeval passion towards the infinite—experienced past and future as its entire universe, and the present I hold this image of ancient Egypt evoked by Spengler to be totally at variance with the evidence. I have recently interpreted this evidence and described how to take up the points raised by Spengler the Egyptians had very little sense of history or of past and future. For they conceived their world as essentially static and unchanging.
It had gone forth complete from the hands of the Creator. Historical incidents were, consequently, no more than superficial disturbances of the established order, or recurring events of never-changing significance. The past and the future—far from being a matter of concern—were wholly implicit in the present; and the odd facts enumerated above—the divinity of animals and kings, the pyramids, mummification—as well as several other and seemingly unrelated features of Egyptian civilization—its moral maxims, the forms peculiar to its poetry and prose—can all be understood as a result of a basic conviction that only the changeless is truly significant.
Nor can even such a detailed description ever be final or entirely comprehensive. I do hold that a viewpoint whence many seemingly unrelated facts are seen to acquire meaning and coherence is likely to represent a historical reality; at least, I know of no better definition of historical truth. But each new insight discloses new complexities which now demand elucidation, while at all times a number of facts are likely to remain outside any network to be established. It is due in part to his overweening conceit, in part to his lack of experience. Like Toynbee, he is truly familiar only with classical antiquity and its western descendant.
These scholars have come up against behaviour defying every modern norm in their personal contact with primitive peoples, and in their encounters discovered an approach to the study of alien cultures which the historian of antiquity would be wise to make his own. The ethnologist will not take for granted savage customs and usages which seem comprehensible—even familiar—to him. For he has observed that cultural traits cannot be studied in isolation since they are integral parts of a whole—the given civilization—and derive their meaning from the particular whole in which they occur.
Ruth Benedict, 11 in her lucid Patterns of Culture , states the case as follows:. It is in cultural life as it is in speech: selection is the prime necessity A culture that capitalized even a considerable proportion of these would be as unintelligible as a language that used all the clicks, all the glottal stops, all the labials, dentals, sibilants and gutturals from voiceless to voiced, and from oral to nasal. Its identity as a culture depends upon the selection of some segments of this arc.
Every human society everywhere has made such a selection in its cultural institutions.
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Each, from the point of view of another, ignores fundamentals and exploits irrelevancies. One culture hardly recognizes monetary values; another has made them fundamental in every field of behaviour. In one society technology is unbelievably slighted even in those aspects of life which seem necessary to ensure survival; in another, equally simple, technological achievements are complex and fitted with admirable nicety to the situation. One builds an enormous cultural superstructure upon adolescence, one upon death, one upon afterlife.
Within each culture there come into being characteristic purposes not necessarily shared by other types of society. In obedience to these purposes each people further and 12 further consolidates its experience The form that these acts take we can understand only by understanding first the emotional and intellectual mainsprings of that society. We have seen that any society selects some segment of the arc of possible human behaviour, and in so far as it achieves integration its institutions tend to further the expression of its selected segment and to inhibit the opposite expressions.
For modern savages are relatively stagnant if we discount the disturbances caused by the white man. Hence the title Patterns of Culture. The first three volumes of A Study of History appeared in , a second group of three in , and a final group is still to be published. But we are told that the preoccupation from which the work has sprung, goes back as far as , when Toynbee travelled in Crete and saw the newly discovered remains of the sea-empire of Minos.
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Then he chanced on the ruins of a Venetian villa, remnant of the time when Venice had dominated the Mediterranean with its galleys. We must, moreover, take exception to his lack of critical precision and to the inadequacy of his conceptual apparatus. Toynbee, like Spengler, invests certain images which he uses with a spurious reality. These ostensible similes pervade the argument with an implied assurance that they reflect historical situations.
When Toynbee compares civilizations with motor cars on a one-way street,  or with men resting or climbing on a mountainside, he conveys the impression which he himself judges correct that a definite direction, a forward or upward movement, is discernible in history.
But such dynamics are imputed, not observed. He writes:. This image further elaborated in the book, and duly illustrated with a picture in Time magazine does a great deal more than tell us that primitive societies are static and civilizations dynamic.
The dominating feature of the image is the rock cliff with its succession of ledges and precipices. Where is the historical reality 14 corresponding to this scenery which exists independent of the sleepers and climbers and determines their direction? Toynbee believes that there is a cliff to be climbed, a street to be followed.
Yet the truth is—in the terms of his images—that we see figures at rest or on the move in a cloudy space but know nothing about their relative position: we do not know which ledge is above or below which other ledge.
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Or again: we see motor cars moving, halting, or out of order. But we do not know whether they move in an alley, or on a four-drive highway, on an open plain, or within a circle—we do not even know whether there is an entrance or exit at all. Toynbee merely projects postulates which fulfil an emotional need in the West into human groups whose values lie elsewhere. But understanding is thereby precluded. Nor is he assuming that the two different ways of life were attempts to do one and the same thing and asking whether the second did it better than the first.
Bach was not trying to write like Beethoven and failing; Athens was not a relatively unsuccessful attempt to produce Rome. Collingwood then indicates the exceptional and really purely academic case in which one may be entitled to speak of progress,  and in doing so touches upon a subject with which modern man is particularly concerned:. Can we speak of progress in happiness or comfort or satisfaction? Obviously not The problem of being 16 comfortable in a medieval cottage is so different from the problem of being comfortable in a modern slum that there is no comparing them; the happiness of a peasant is not contained in the happiness of a millionaire.
Toynbee, though he is less precise than Collingwood, does formulate what he means by progress. As a rule, the sequel to this experience is a life-long struggle for a realization of the vision. Why could not this type of self-determination also, like the slow and gradual realization, have an analogy in the life of civilizations?
Flinders Petrie and others have maintained that every significant trait of Egyptian culture had been evolved before the end of the Third Dynasty. We find once more that Toynbee has uncritically proclaimed the universal validity of one of several possible sequences. He sometimes equals Spengler in myth-making, treating his equation of civilizations and living beings as a reality, and appealing to biological opinion to uphold a historical conclusion.
The historian, following this course, would defeat the very purpose of his work. It is an odd fact that he should have supposed this limited field capable of supplying the conceptual apparatus with which every historical phenomenon could be comprehended, and that he should have done this, not 18 unconsciously, but knowingly, although unaware of the enormity of his assumption.
For anyone moving outside western tradition should soon discover the truth that the values found in different civilizations are incommensurate. And so we find Toynbee, like Spengler, doing violence to the evidence and forcing each civilization into a preconceived system of categories. His generalization of particular circumstances results not in historical errors but in irrelevancies. It would be a tedious and laborious task to demonstrate this to the full; but let us take two characteristic quotations referring to Egypt.
The worship of Osiris, always a main concern of the king, spread through all classes of the population, but merely as one among many devotions which filled the life of every Egyptian; the god was never honoured by one group more than by another. And, in fact, no section of the population of Egypt can be called a proletariat if this word is to remain applicable to imperial Rome or to modern times.
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But he continues:. And this life-in-death was not merely an unprofitable burden to the moribund Egyptiac society itself; it was also a fatal blight upon the growth of the living Osireian church Reading this, one would not suspect that the five centuries following the expulsion of the Hyksos are the most brilliant epoch of Egyptian history. Toynbee, however, declares that the Egyptian achievements in the second and first millennia B.
The scheme which we have criticized in its application to Egypt is intended to render account of the dynamics of civilizations in their last phases. For the early phases, the classical world cannot supply ready-made notions. Here Toynbee introduces a set of formulas which may be summarized in his own words:.
Growth is achieved, when an individual, or a minority, or a whole society, replies to a challenge by a response, which not only answers the particular challenge that has evoked it, but also exposes the respondent to a fresh challenge which demands a fresh response on his part. And the process of growth continues, in any given case, so long as this recurrent movement of disturbance and restoration and overbalance and renewed disturbance of equilibrium is maintained.
These plausible words do not, upon closer inspection, explain the problem which concerns us. Always, however, it has a misleading ring, since observed facts are called a response, to a hypothetical challenge construed to meet those facts. The primary data of history merely show that certain peoples achieved greatness; Toynbee thinks that the adverse conditions which he enumerates served as stimuli.
That may be so. In any case, it does not explain the fact which, above all others, requires explanation, namely, that in some cases these conditions worked as stimuli and in others they did not. I do not find, therefore, that the formula is conducive to understanding; it must in each case invent a challenge to fit a historical reality which it labels response.
And we make the further criticism that he does not actually evolve from each particular historical situation the notion of a particular challenge to which it can be construed as a response; he applies the formula, as I have said, from the outside, and it is therefore doomed to irrelevance. For example: Toynbee considers the descent of the prehistoric Egyptians into the marshy Nile valley as their response to the challenge of the desiccation of North Africa.
It is true that he quotes the tales which dragomans told to late Greek travellers about the oppressive rule of the builders of the pyramids. But the actual folk-tales of Pharaonic Egypt show us that the people took as great a delight in tales of royalty as the public of the Arabian Nights took in the doings of the despot Harun al Rashid. Snefru, whom Toynbee names, is known as one of the most popular rulers in legend.
The ideal of a marvellously integrated society had been formed long before the pyramids were built; it was as nearly realized, when they were built, as any ideal social form can be translated into actuality; and it remained continuously before the eyes of rulers and people alike during subsequent centuries.
It was an ideal which ought to thrill a western historian by its 24 novelty, for it falls entirely outside the experience of Greek or Roman or Modern Man, although it survives, in an attenuated form, in Africa. It represents a harmony between man and the divine which is beyond our boldest dreams, since it was maintained by divine power which had taken charge of the affairs of man in the person of Pharaoh.
Society moved in unison with nature. Justice, which was the social aspect of the cosmic order, pervaded the commonwealth. It seems to me that these discussions have cleared the ground for our understanding. Generalizations based on a limited historical experience, and theorizing, however ingeniously conducted, must fail to disclose the individual character of any one civilization or of any one series of events.
It imparts to their achievements—to their arts and institutions, their literature, their theology—something distinct and final, something which has its own peculiar perfection. Therefore a discussion of the emergence of form entails a knowledge of a civilization in its maturity, a familiarity with its classical expression in every field.
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