Great War, Great Pessimism.

Welcome to another post on philosophical audio collections and lectures. Today we hit on a lecture that talks about one of the biggest changes in European thought, culture and civilisation. The lecture is called “The Great War and Cultural Pessimism” from the course “European Thought and Culture in the 20th Century“, which is taught by Professor Lloyd Kramer.

Professor Lloyd Kramer Professor Lloyd Kramer

Every now and then when I am not looking into philosophy courses, I probably end up listening to history lectures. The thing is that sometimes philosophical ideas drive the changes throughout history, but every so often it is the great events of the age that influence philosophical ideas. The Great War, otherwise known as World War I certainly influenced many ideas on the western stage.

If you manage to get hold of this course, pay some attention to this lecture, especially if you are interested in how Europeans saw themselves after the disastrous Great War. Lloyd Kramers lecturing style keeps the listener interested from start to go, especially since lectures on the Great War can be quite difficult since many historians still research on what was to blame in leading up to the clash of European nations and what led to the decline in European power and influence.

Within this lecture Lloyd covers what the Great War was about. We get to listen to why Britain, France and Russia (The Triple Entente) went to war again Germany, Austria and the Ottoman Empire (Triple Alliance). There are many questions that one needs to consider before listening to the lecture. Why did the war last so long? What were the freedoms of those who continued to sign up to the front? Even though so many died, why did many continue to go to the front? What ideas came out of the disaster of the Great War?

Professor Lloyd then moves on to the ideas of two famous people who experienced the Great War. The first is on Robert Graves who wrote the autobiography called “Good-Bye to All That”, which was released around 1929. Robert Graves book summarised what many people were thinking about the rapid changes after the great war. The good times for the previous generation were gone and now the age of pessimism begins. Robert Graves served as a British army officer during the battle of Loos. His book gives account of the horrors and realities of the Great War, which so many governments at the time were trying to hide within the cloak of nationalism.

Robert GravesRobert Graves

The next person Professor Lloyd focuses on is Oswald Spengler whose book called “The Decline of the West”, which was very popular after the war. Many Europeans were soul searching wondering if the ideals of Europe were the best to follow if it led to the disasters of the Great War. Within this book, we have Oswald explain that the west is currently in decline as with many other eras of the west.

His book mentions different cultures from the Babylonian, Chinese and 6 other cultures. He compares them to the western view of culture and states there are patterns where decline was inevitable for the west. Each culture goes through a season of changes from spring to winter, where winter would be the decline and fall.

Oswald SpenglerOswald Spengler

At the end of the lecture we get to look into who benefited from the war and who suffered.  Obviously those who lost their lives from the war gained nothing and they needed a voice.  Women’s rights gained some important changes as governments began to recognise the value, commitment and rights of women.  We then look at the break up of 3 empires after the war and touch on those who felt alienated from society after the war.