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From Jacob Burckhardt's 2nd edition of the Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy; edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
Part Six: Morality and Religion
Morality and Judgement
» Full Contents of this Part
Part Six: Morality and Religion » Morality and Judgement » Morality and Immorality » Religion in Daily Life » Strength of the Old Faith » Religion and the Spirit of the Renaissance » Influence of Ancient Superstition » General Spirit of Doubt
The relation of the various peoples of the earth to the supreme interests of life, to God, virtue, and immortality, may be investigated up to a certain point, but can never be compared to one another with absolute strictness and certainty. The more plainly in these matters our evidence seems to speak, the more carefully must we refrain from unqualified assumptions and rash generalizations.
This remark is especially true with regard to our judgement on questions of morality. It may be possible to indicate many contrasts and shades of difference among different nations, but to strike the balance of the whole is not given to human insight. The ultimate truth with respect to the character, the conscience, and the guilt of a people remains for ever a secret; if only for the reason that its defects have another side, where they reappear as peculiarities or even as virtues. We must leave those who find pleasure in passing sweeping censures on whole nations, to do so as they like. The people of Europe can maltreat, but happily not judge one another. A great nation, interwoven by its civilization, its achievements, and its fortunes with the whole life of the modern world, can afford to ignore both its advocates and its accusers. It lives on with or without the approval of theorists.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
The Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * The Making of Europe