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Spengler's "Decline of the West"

 
 
Aurochs
 
Reply Mon 3 Aug, 2009 04:48 pm
Hello,
Am new here, and hope I'm asking this question in the right place.

Has anyone read either the abridged translation (Werner and Atkinson, Oxford University Press) of Spengler's "Decline of the West" or the unabridged translation (by A. Knopf in 2 volumes, Random House)?

Amazon.com has little information, and I've had trouble finding information on either translation anywhere else.

I want to know whether it's recommended I get the full unabridged 2 volume translation (1000 pages approx.), or whether the abridged version would do just as well? I am concerned that the abridged version may perhaps be unsatisfactory or miss important sections, but that the full version may be unnecessarily long-winded or repetitious. On the whole I do tend to avoid abridgements, but I have, on more than one occasion, read an unabridged version of a book, and felt afterwards that an abridged version would have been amply sufficient (one example being Darwin's "On the Origin of Species").

Hope someone can help.
Thanks in advance.
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VideCorSpoon
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 Aug, 2009 06:31 pm
@Aurochs,
To be honest, condensed editions are usually the best thing to go for right off the line because they are refined versions and are generally easier to read. I would even say that if you were intent on making Spengler the topic of some sort of thesis, the abridged and the original unabridged version form a good reference point between themselves. Case in point, I read portions of Aristotle's Metaphysics in two different editions. The Richard Hope translation was as close as a non-speaking-ancient-Greek person can get to original translation without losing a great deal of the coherency in the earlier versions. However, it was very difficult to read as far as text was concerned compared to the abridged version composed by David Bostock. Not so much to save space, but to simplify in modern vernacular. I read the Bostock translation (abridged) first in certain chapters (Zeta and Eta for example) and then later the more formally laid out Hope translation (unabridged), and I did not have as much trouble understanding it. The Bostock version, pure and simple, was much more approachable structure then the more extrapolated Hope translation.

So essentially, an abridged version is easier to grasp right off the bat and the unabridged is good to use as a companion for further elaboration. I would definitely not rule out either one as a subject to read over the other because they both possess their own positive attributes. However, if you cannot afford both version, I would definitely get an abridged version. I should also note that I have not read anything from Spengler before, so I am just suggesting a preference for abridged/unabridged books.

Also, if you are curious to flip through the Atkinson edition that you are considering getting, you can click the link provided below and see what exactly you will be getting. It is through openlibrary beta, a California state library archive project which is free to the public at large.

The decline of the West
jgweed
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 06:55 am
@Aurochs,
When Spengler first came out, it became the centre of controversy, both for the history upon which it was based and for the philosophical conclusions he drew. Whether you chose the abridged or full version depends on the purpose you have in hand in reading it in the first place, much the same as with Gibbon's Decline and Fall.

What is important in understanding Spengler is his analysis of civilisations into certain archetypes and the kinds of facts he uses to categorise them into one or another (Magian, Faustian, etc.). Since this interpretation stands or falls to the extent it accounts for historical data, you will need to supplement that which he provided in the 20's with those from more modern research, so the omission of some of his detailed evidence will not matter.
0 Replies
 
Aurochs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 08:49 am
@Aurochs,
Thanks for the advice.

My main purpose for wanting to read Spengler is an extra-curricular one.
I know Joseph Campbell (a comparative mythologist I've read a little of) has cited Spengler as a big influence, and I'm interested in the idea of civilisational rise and fall. I know works like Spengler's are perhaps inclined to harbour a certain degree of dogmatism, but which historian or philosopher hasn't got his own agenda (such as how man should best live) at the back of his mind when writing?
0 Replies
 
jgweed
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 09:05 am
@Aurochs,
Well, not all historians are unable to bracket their own biases and personal perspectives, and these aim at critical and scientific history. Still, large canvases such as Toynbee's and Spengler's are sometimes insightful and at least provide a different viewpoint of historical events, even if shunned by modern scholars who don't take them seriously.
0 Replies
 
Aurochs
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 04:58 pm
@Aurochs,
I will get myself a copy of the abridged version I think.
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 02:23 am
@Aurochs,
Spengler is great. I read the unabridged by Knopf. Beautiful copy, great typeset. One of the most exciting books I can think of. I'm sure the abridged is great too.

He's a top-shelf philosopher, in my humble opinion.
VideCorSpoon
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 10:15 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;109177 wrote:
Spengler is great. I read the unabridged by Knopf. Beautiful copy, great typeset. One of the most exciting books I can think of. I'm sure the abridged is great too.

He's a top-shelf philosopher, in my humble opinion.


Well I'm curious. What made you read the unabridged version more than the abridged version? I get the impression that it was the way it looked (i.e. typeset, etc.). What makes him a top-shelf philosopher? What makes the book so exciting? It sounds like you have a lot to say on it.
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 02:11 pm
@Aurochs,
Well, I got the Knopf unabridged because that's what the library had. So I don't know what I would have missed in the abridged. I suppose if the right chapters were kept in, I still would have been quite impressed.

He tried to view world cultures as organisms, each with their own logic, as manifested in all aspects of their life, from their mathematics to their burial of their dead, from their economics to their quintessential art-forms.

He described our Christian European culture as Faustian and contrasts it strongly with the Classical. He thinks the Greeks had an entirely different sense of time than us. He calls our culture "Faustian." The Greeks lived in the present, he says. And everything from their burning of their dead, their mathematics which denied irrational numbers, and their sculpture and architecture supports this. Or this is the case he makes.

He takes an organic view of human history. He considers Goethe to be a great philosophers, and he convinced me of this. He contrasts the science of being and the science of becoming. Physical science is the study of that which is dead. Historical science is the understanding of that which lives. The organic cannot be understood in the way the inorganic is understood.

He thinks that cultures have life-cycles, as inescapable as the life cycles of more traditional organisms.

He writes brilliantly on most the great Western Philosophers. He puts them in the context of the Decline of Western Culture into Civilization.

His tone is the opposite of hysteria. He's cold, proud, sublime. You may not agree with all that he says, but he's great company.
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 09:39 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;109177 wrote:
Spengler is great. I read the unabridged by Knopf. Beautiful copy, great typeset. One of the most exciting books I can think of. I'm sure the abridged is great too.

He's a top-shelf philosopher, in my humble opinion.

Really??? And isn't he sort of discredited???Do you accept his opinion, and why, without taking the thread to some distant destination...
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 10:42 pm
@Aurochs,
Discredited? By who? Other talking monkeys like myself? I don't give a sh*t what others have to say. I judge for myself and I speak for myself. If you've read it, do your own criticism of it. If you haven't, you're being asinine.

I take pleasure in looking beyond the prejudices of others. Jung's reputation is also not that great. But I stand behind his best work. Until I decide that I don't.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 10:50 pm
@Aurochs,
That's interesting. I had come across Spengler previously, and felt he had something very important to say, but again information overload interupted and I didn't follow up on him. (But will add to 'books to read' list.)

However, in a similar vein, another and perhaps lesser known writer is Jean Gebser. He saw himself as a 'historian of consciousness' and has had a big influence on the integral and transpersonal movement. They would be two quite interesting authors to study together, as they deal with some similar themes.
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 10:54 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;109471 wrote:
Discredited? By who? Other talking monkeys like myself? I don't give a sh*t what others have to say. I judge for myself and I speak for myself. If you've read it, do your own criticism of it. If you haven't, you're being asinine.

I take pleasure in looking beyond the prejudices of others. Jung's reputation is also not that great. But I stand behind his best work. Until I decide that I don't.

You are correct to form your own opinions, and to stand by them, and I am correct to take the advice of others regarding the contributions of others, since it is physically impossible to read everyone of merit... I own, and I have read a massive amount of history... I am getting older, and weaker, but I could never lift all I have read.. And I came close to buying a nice set on Spengler, but it was the end of the month, and by the begining of the month he was Gone...I wouldn't mind reading him even if he does not come highly recommended...Only because I am aware of the effect he seems to have had in bolstering the Nazi paradigm...

In any event, I was only asking why you thought well of him, and whether you agreed with his notion of decline...I don't agree, but that would never stop me from challenging my thoughts...

I have to ask, If you don't give a shet: What is the point of talking if you do not care what people say???
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 10:54 pm
@Aurochs,
Incidentally I too believe that Jung is seriously under-rated. Not that I read that much of him. But for the discovery of the archetypes alone, he is supremely important. Actually I think was the representative of a lineage in the Western wisdom tradition - now there's an archetype for you...
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 11:07 pm
@Aurochs,
Fido, what I was said was an overstatement. I do care. I should have been more clear. I meant I don't let a bad reputation stop my own investigation. There's even a pleasure for me in praising the neglected and suspected. But I'm hardly the first.

But to answer your question, it's not his notion of decline that moves me. It's his commentary on the the other philosophers of the Western tradition and also his unexpected treatment of mathematics as a vital indicator of a culture's spirit. He applies Goethe's concepts of biology to various world cultures. Also his description of our culture as Faustian was something fresh for me. I highly recommend you give the introduction at least a try.

jeeprs:

I feel that Jung went against his age. They didn't want to hear about it. No doubt he had experiences that could be described as mystical, but he presents his ideas quite scientifically. I'm glad someone else is exposed to him. Yes, for me as well, the archetypes have been a key concept with which to understand my experience and history and even philosophy in general.
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Dec, 2009 06:51 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;109483 wrote:
Fido, what I was said was an overstatement. I do care. I should have been more clear. I meant I don't let a bad reputation stop my own investigation. There's even a pleasure for me in praising the neglected and suspected. But I'm hardly the first.

But to answer your question, it's not his notion of decline that moves me. It's his commentary on the the other philosophers of the Western tradition and also his unexpected treatment of mathematics as a vital indicator of a culture's spirit. He applies Goethe's concepts of biology to various world cultures. Also his description of our culture as Faustian was something fresh for me. I highly recommend you give the introduction at least a try.

jeeprs:

I feel that Jung went against his age. They didn't want to hear about it. No doubt he had experiences that could be described as mystical, but he presents his ideas quite scientifically. I'm glad someone else is exposed to him. Yes, for me as well, the archetypes have been a key concept with which to understand my experience and history and even philosophy in general.

Have you ever read Will and Arial Durrant??? After years of collecting I nearly have a full set, perhaps all of the set I want...The guy covers all branches of knowledge, and follows Judaism, and Islam, in their history and philosophy...He liked to dwell some on salacious details, like how some Spanish boys thought one beauty so fine they wanted to drink her bath water... Well; who couldn't identify with that??? He at least thought of History, as it is, as a branch of philosophy...
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Dec, 2009 01:58 pm
@Aurochs,
I love Will and Ariel. It was his Story that got me into philosophy. But then I also read many of their history volumes. Great stuff. Yeah, he had such an honest tone. I also read some of his own philosophy, you might call it. His reflections on the lessons of history. Great writer. I still highly regard his Story of Philosophy. He really sells Spinoza, cuts through the geometry.
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Dec, 2009 03:11 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;109623 wrote:
I love Will and Ariel. It was his Story that got me into philosophy. But then I also read many of their history volumes. Great stuff. Yeah, he had such an honest tone. I also read some of his own philosophy, you might call it. His reflections on the lessons of history. Great writer. I still highly regard his Story of Philosophy. He really sells Spinoza, cuts through the geometry.

I got that too... I paid about 5 for the Protestant Reformation, and about three each for the rest...It is amazing the labor that must have went into it only to have it sell for pennies...

I just got a Boswells life of Johnson, unabridged, and another biography, and a delux Seven Pillars of Wisdom...I found a With Lawrence in Arabia by L. Thomas...It is like no one having respect for the written word...Heck, Thomas devotes some space to the Wahabis, as if we haven't had enough trouble from them, but they were getting mad then, and no body cared...Talk about a slow burn..Too many books and so little time...
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Dec, 2009 03:28 pm
@Aurochs,
One of the things that makes me resent our human lifespan is the limit it puts on knowledge and understanding. I always feel the pressure of time. I want to read the best books, and only personal trial and error will do the trick.

The Reformation is fascinating. It seems so clearly the root of Romanticism. It's only a step from being your own priest to being your own Christ.

Boswell is slick. After reading him, I actually read his biography, the old lecher. I like his deathbed conversation with Hume.

Respect for the written word is down. There was a great used bookstore in this neighborhood that didn't make it. The books he carried were too good and affordable.

Those Durant hardbacks are impressive. I remember the first one I got when I was a teen. I was pretty impressed with myself. But I didn't really get into until I had the life experience to begin to appreciate history. I was a moony little sh*t reading Immortal Poems of the English Language. Got into Eliot (half-Christian at the time) and Pound and the all that is hyped as great, and much of it was great.

Funny how one turns from poetry to philosophy and history. The mind becomes more divided and complex, less lyrically point-like.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Dec, 2009 06:56 pm
@Aurochs,
I really like Will Durant as well. I have his massive The Age of Faith (which is an excellent reference for medieval philosophy and theology) and greatly enjoyed his Story of Philosophy. You know that both Will and Ariel lived to around 100 and then died within days of each other? I think they were Angels of Learning.
 

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