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Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (English pronunciation: /ˈmɒntɨskjuː/, French pronunciation: [mɔ̃t.skjø]; 18 January 1689 – 10 February 1755), generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French social commentator and political thinker who lived during the Enlightenment. He is famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers, taken for granted in modern discussions of government and implemented in many constitutions throughout the world. He was largely responsible for the popularization of the termsfeudalism and Byzantine Empire.
He was born at the Château de la Brède in the southwest of France. His father, Jacques de Secondat, was a soldier with a long noble ancestry. His mother, Marie Françoise de Pesnel who died when Charles de Secondat was seven, was a female inheritor of a large monetary inheritance who brought the title of barony of La Brède to the Secondat family. After having studied at the Catholic College of Juilly, Charles-Louis de Secondat married. His wife, Jeanne de Lartigue, a Protestant, brought him a substantial dowry when he was 26. The next year, he inherited a fortune upon the death of his uncle, as well as the title Baron de Montesquieu and Président à Mortier in the Parliament of Bordeaux. By that time, England had declared itself a constitutional monarchy in the wake of its Glorious Revolution (1688–89), and had joined with Scotland in the Union of 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1715 the long-reigning Louis XIV died and was succeeded by the five-year-old Louis XV. These national transformations impacted Montesquieu greatly; he would later refer to them repeatedly in his work.
Soon afterwards, he achieved literary success with the publication of his Lettres persanes (Persian Letters, 1721), a satire based on the imaginary correspondence of a Persian visitor to Paris, pointing out the absurdities of contemporary society. He next published Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur décadence (Considerations on the Causes of the Grandeur and Decadence of the Romans, 1734), considered by some scholars a transition from The Persian Letters to his master work. De l’Esprit des Lois (The Spirit of the Laws) was originally published anonymously in 1748 and quickly rose to a position of enormous influence. In France, it met with an unfriendly reception from both supporters and opponents of the regime. The Catholic Church banned l’Esprit – along with many of Montesquieu’s other works – in 1751 and included it on the Index of Prohibited Books. It received the highest praise from the rest of Europe, especially Britain.
Montesquieu was also highly regarded in the British colonies in America as a champion of British liberty (though not of American independence). Political scientist Donald Lutz found that Montesquieu was the most frequently quoted authority on government and politics in colonial pre-revolutionary British America, cited more by the American founders than any source except for theBible. Following the American secession, Montesquieu’s work remained a powerful influence on many of the American founders, most notably James Madison of Virginia, the “Father of theConstitution”. Montesquieu’s philosophy that “government should be set up so that no man need be afraid of another” reminded Madison and others that a free and stable foundation for their new national government required a clearly defined and balanced separation of powers.
Besides composing additional works on society and politics, Montesquieu traveled for a number of years through Europe including Austria and Hungary, spending a year in Italy and 18 months inEngland before resettling in France. He was troubled by poor eyesight, and was completely blind by the time he died from a high fever in 1755. He was buried in the Église Saint-Sulpice, Paris.
Philosophy of history
Montesquieu’s philosophy of history minimized the role of individual persons and events. He expounded the view in Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur décadence that each historical event was driven by a principal movement. “[I]f a particular cause, like the accidental result of a battle, has ruined a state, there was a general cause which made the downfall of this state ensue from a single battle.”
Montesquieu illustrated this principle with examples from Roman history. In discussing the transition from the Republic to the Empire, he suggested that if Caesar and Pompey had not worked to usurp the government of the Republic, other men would have risen in their place. The cause was not the ambition of Caesar or Pompey, but the ambition of man.
Montesquieu is credited amongst the precursors of anthropology, including Herodotus and Tacitus, to be among the first to extend comparative methods of classification to the political forms in human societies. Indeed, the French political anthropologist Georges Balandier considered Montesquieu to be "the initiator of a scientific enterprise that for a time performed the role of cultural and social anthropology “. According to social anthropologist D.F. Pocock, Montesquieu's 'On the Spirit of Laws' "is the first consistent attempt to survey the varieties of human society, to classify and compare them and, within society, to study the inter-functioning of institutions" Montesquieu's political anthropology gave rise to his theories on government.
Montesquieu's most influential work divided French society into three classes (or trias politica, a term he coined): the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the commons. Montesquieu saw two types of governmental power existing: the sovereign and the administrative. The administrative powers were the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. These should be separate from and dependent upon each other so that the influence of any one power would not be able to exceed that of the other two, either singly or in combination. This was a radical idea because it completely eliminated the three Estates structure of the French Monarchy: the clergy, the aristocracy, and the people at large represented by the Estates-General, thereby erasing the last vestige of a feudalistic structure.
Likewise, there were three main forms of government, each supported by a social "principle": monarchies (free governments headed by a hereditary figure, e.g. king, queen, emperor), which rely on the principle of honor; republics (free governments headed by popularly elected leaders), which rely on the principle of virtue; and despotisms (enslaved governments headed by dictators), which rely on fear. The free governments are dependent on fragile constitutional arrangements. Montesquieu devotes four chapters of The Spirit of the Laws to a discussion of England, a contemporary free government, where liberty was sustained by a balance of powers. Montesquieu worried that in France the intermediate powers (i.e., the nobility) which moderated the power of the prince were being eroded. These ideas of the control of power were often used in the thinking of Maximilien de Robespierre.
Montesquieu was somewhat ahead of his time in advocating major reform of slavery in The Spirit of the Laws. As part of his advocacy he presented a satirical hypothetical list of arguments for slavery, which has been open to contextomy. However, like many of his generation, Montesquieu also held a number of views that might today be judged controversial. He firmly accepted the role of a hereditary aristocracy and the value of primogeniture, and while he endorsed the idea that a woman could head a state, he held that she could not be effective as the head of a family.
Meteorological climate theory
Another example of Montesquieu's anthropological thinking, outlined in On the Spirit of Laws and hinted at in Persian Letters, is his meteorological climate theory, which holds that climate may substantially influence the nature of man and his society. By placing an emphasis on environmental influences as a material condition of life, Montesquieu prefigured modern anthropology's concern with the impact of material conditions, such as available energy sources, organized production systems, and technologies, on the growth of complex socio-cultural systems.
He goes so far as to assert that certain climates are superior to others, the temperate climate of France being ideal. His view is that people living in very warm countries are "too hot-tempered," while those in northern countries are "icy" or "stiff." The climate of middle Europe is therefore optimal. On this point, Montesquieu may well have been influenced by a similar pronouncement in The Histories of Herodotus, where he makes a distinction between the 'ideal' temperate climate of Greece as opposed to the overly cold climate of Scythia and the overly warm climate of Egypt. This was a common belief at the time, and can also be found within the medical writings of Herodotus' times, including the 'On Airs, Waters, Places' of the Hippocratic corpus. One can find a similar statement in Germania by Tacitus, one of Montesquieu's favorite authors. However, the earlier works that most closely resemble Montesquieu's complex climate theory are theMuqaddimah (1377) by the Arab sociologist, Ibn Khaldun, and The Travels of Sir John Chardin in Persia and the Orient (1711) by the French traveller Jean Chardin.
From a sociological perspective Louis Althusser, in his analysis of Montesquieu's revolution in method, alluded to the seminal character of anthropology's inclusion of material factors, such as climate, in the explanation of social dynamics and political forms. Examples of certain climatic and geographical factors giving rise to increasingly complex social systems include those that were conducive to the rise of agriculture and the domestication of wild plants and animals.
List of work
Les causes de l'écho (The Causes of an Echo)
Les glandes rénales (The Renal Glands)
La cause de la pesanteur des corps (The Cause of Gravity of Bodies)
La damnation éternelle des païens (The Eternal Damnation of the Pagans, 1711)
Système des Idées (System of Ideas, 1716)
Lettres persanes (Persian Letters, 1721)
Le Temple de Gnide (The Temple of Gnide, a novel; 1724)
Histoire véritable d'Arsace et Isménie ((The True History of) Arsace and Isménie, a novel; 1730)
Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur décadence (Considerations on the Causes of the Grandeur and Decadence of the Romans, 1734)
De l'esprit des lois ((On) The Spirit of the Laws, 1748)
La défense de «L'Esprit des lois» (In Defence of "The Spirit of the Laws", 1750)
Pensées suivies de Spicilège (Thoughts after Spicilège)
Essai sur le goût (1757)
Le flux et le reflux de la mer
Mémoires sur la fièvre intermittente
Mémoires sur l'écho
Les maladies des glandes rénales
La pesanteur des corps
Le mouvement relatif
Ra (alternatively spelled Ré), Egyptian *ri:ʕu, is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the Fifth Dynasty he had become a major deity in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the mid-day sun. The meaning of the name is uncertain, but it is thought that if not a word for ‘sun’ it may be a variant of or linked to words meaning ‘creative power’ and ‘creator’.
The chief cult centre of Ra was Heliopolis (called Iunu, “Place of Pillars”, in Egyptian), where he was identified with the local sun-god Atum. Through Atum, or as Atum-Ra he was also seen as the first being and the originator of the Ennead, consisting of Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Osiris, Set, Isis and Nephthys.
In later Egyptian dynastic times, Ra was merged with the god Horus, as Re-Horakhty (“Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons”). He was believed to rule in all parts of the created world the sky, theearth, and the underworld. He was associated with the falcon or hawk. When in the New Kingdom the god Amun rose to prominence he was fused with Ra as Amun-Ra. During the Amarna Period, Akhenaten suppressed the cult of Ra in favour of another solar deity, the Aten, the deified solar disc, but after the death of Akhenaten the cult of Ra was restored.
All forms of life were believed to have been created by Ra, who called each of them into existence by speaking their secret names. Alternatively humans were created from Ra’s tears and sweat, hence the Egyptians call themselves the “Cattle of Ra.” In the myth of the Celestial Cow it is recounted how mankind plotted against Ra and how he sent his eye as the goddess Sekhmet to punish them. When she became blood thirsty she was pacified by mixing beer with red dye.
To the Egyptians, the sun represented light, warmth, and growth. This made the sun deity very important as the sun was seen as the ruler of all that he created. The sun disk was either seen as the body or eye of Ra (aka Re).
Ra was thought to travel on two solar boats called the Mandjet (the Boat of Millions of Years), or morning boat and the Mesektet, or evening boat. These boats took him on his journey through the sky and the underworld. When Ra traveled in his sun boat he was accompanied by various other deities including Sia (perception) and Hu (command) as well as Heka (magic power). Sometimes members of the Ennead helped him on his journey, including Set who overcame the serpent Apophis and Mehen who defended against the monsters of the underworld. Apophis, an enormousserpent tried to stop the sun boat’s journey every night by consuming it or by stopping it in its tracks with a hypnotic stare. In the evening the Egyptians believed that Ra set as Atum or in the form of a ram. The Mesektet or Night boat would carry him through the underworld and back towards the east in preparation for his rebirth. These myths of Ra represent the sunrise as the rebirth of the sun by the sky goddess Nut, thus attributing the concept of rebirth and renewal to Ra and strengthening his role as a creator god.
Relationship to other gods
As with most widely worshiped Egyptian deities, Ra’s identity was often combined with other gods, forming an interconnection between deities.
Amun was a member of the Ogdoad, representing creation energies with Amaunet, a very early patron of Thebes. He was believed to create via breath, and thus was identified with the wind rather than the sun. As the cults of Amun and Ra became increasingly popular in Upper and Lower Egypt respectively they were combined to create Amun-Ra, a solar creator god. The name Amun-Ra is reconstructed as [*riːʕu]). It is hard to distinguish exactly when this combination happened, but references to Amun-Ra appeared in pyramid texts as early as the fifth dynasty. The most common belief is that Amun-Ra was invented as a new state deity by the Theban rulers of the New Kingdom to unite worshipers of Amun with the older cult of Ra around the eighteenth dynasty.
Atum-Ra (or Ra-Atum) was another composite deity formed from two completely separate deities, however Ra shared more similarities with Atum than with Amun. Atum was more closely linked with the sun, and was also a creator god of the Ennead. Both Ra and Atum were regarded as the father of the deities and pharaohs, and were widely worshiped. In older myths, Atum was the creator of Tefnut and Shu, and he was born from oceanNun.
In later Egyptian mythology, Ra-Horakhty was more of a title or manifestation than a composite deity. It translates as “Ra (who is) Horus of the Horizons”. It was intended to link Horakhty (as a sunrise-oriented aspect of Horus) to Ra. It has been suggested that Ra-Horakhty simply refers to the sun’s journey from horizon to horizon as Ra, or that it means to show Ra as a symbolic deity of hope and rebirth. (See earlier section: Ra and the sun).
Khepri was a scarab beetle who rolled up the sun in the mornings, and was sometimes seen as the morning manifestation of Ra. Similarly, the ram-headed god Khnum was also seen as the evening manifestation of Ra.
The idea of different deities (or different aspects of Ra) ruling over different times of the day was fairly common, but variable. With Khepri and Khnum taking precedence over sunrise and sunset, Ra often was the representation of midday when the sun reached its peak at noon. Sometimes different aspects of Horus were used instead of Ra's aspects.
Ra is represented in a variety of forms. The most usual form was a man with the head of a hawk and a solar disk on top, a man with the head of a beetle (in his form as Khepri), or a man with the head of a ram. Ra was also pictured as a full-bodied ram, beetle, phoenix, heron, serpent, bull, cat, or lion as well as other creatures.
where he was identified with the local sun-god Atum. Through Atum, or as
Atum-Ra he was also seen as the first being and the originator of the Ennead,
His local cult began to grow from roughly the second dynasty, establishing Ra as a sun deity. By the fourth dynasty the pharaohs were seen to be Ra's manifestations on earth, referred to as "Sons of Ra". His worship increased massively in the fifth dynasty, when he became a state deity and pharaohs had specially aligned pyramids, obelisks, and solar temples built in his honor. The first Pyramid Textsbegan to arise, giving Ra more and more significance in the journey of the pharaoh through the underworld.
The Middle Kingdom saw Ra being increasingly combined and affiliated with other chief deities, especially Amun and Osiris.
During the New Kingdom, the worship of Ra became more complicated and grander. The walls of tombs were dedicated to extremely detailed texts that told of Ra's journey through the underworld. Ra was said to carry the prayers and blessings of the living with the souls of the dead on the sun boat. The idea that Ra aged with the sun became more popular with the rise of The New Kingdom.
Many acts of worship included hymns, prayers, and spells to help Ra and the sun boat overcome Apep.
Though worship of Ra was widespread, his cult center was in Heliopolis in Lower Egypt. Oddly enough, this was the home of the Ennead that was believed to be headed by Atum, with whom he was merged. The Holiday of 'The Receiving of Ra' was celebrated on May 26 in the Gregorian calendar.
The rise of Christianity in the Roman empire caused an end to the worship of Ra by the citizens of Egypt and as Ra's popularity suddenly died out, the study of Ra became purely for academic knowledge even among the Egyptian priests.