The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark
With a nod to Bernard Lewis’s masterful study of Islam, What Went Wrong?, one might be tempted to re-title Rodney Stark’s The Victory of Reason as What Went Right? Why is it that, over the past 500 years, the civilization that came out of Western Europe has been able to leap ahead of every competitor, at length bringing nearly the whole world under its sway and inducing the imitation of its characteristic institutions everywhere? Why exactly are we “on top”—or, rather, “ahead”—of everyone else?
The celebratory narrative of Western modernity is, of course, part of our mental furniture. At least, one version of it is. This is the version as told by, among many others, Edward Gibbon. On the one hand there is the glory of Rome, of universal empire and universal law under the tutelage of the universal reason of Greek philosophy. On the other hand there is the rebirth of classical learning in the Renaissance, the rationalization of Christianity in the Reformation, the takeoff of the scientific revolution, and the crystallization of secular modernity with the Enlightenment. Between the glorious peaks of the classical and the modern lies a millennium-long valley about which there is not much to say, except that it was in the middle, between the two peaks, or else that it was dark, as in the Dark Ages.
About the Author
Mark C. Henrie is senior editor at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.