TELOSscope: The Telos Press Blog

What Makes the West the West?

Angelo M. Codevilla’s “What Makes the West the West?” appears in Telos 168 (Fall 2014). Read the full version online at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue in our store.

The intellectual-moral propositions that make the West the West are particular and exclusive to our civilization. They are indefensible, incomprehensible nonsense except in terms of Jerusalem and Athens. The ideas that distinguish the West’s forma mentis follow from the Biblical teaching that God created the universe by and through logos. This beckons our reason. The charter of human equality and freedom, unique to the West, is the Biblical teaching that man is created in the image and likeness of God. The West’s distinctiveness follows as well from Parmenides of Elea’s distinction between opinions and the truth of “the things that are.” This empowered human reason to access the logos of the universe. Consequently, reason distinguished between positive law—what is right by human will—and what is right by nature—natural law.

The West’s conflicts are unique in that they do not result from any other civilization but rather come strictly from within itself. Challenges to the West’s identity come from movements that negate, or simply transcend or forget, the West’s defining commitment to reason, as well as to the distinction between God, man, and the rest of nature. Westerners’ progressive loss of contact with these roots is destroying the West’s unique freedoms as well as its identity.

1 comment to What Makes the West the West?

  • James W. Sheffield

    I suggest that there are two Wests. One from Rome, the other from
    the city states of Etruscany (Republics of Tuscany).
    In other words Empire or freedom.