Hippokratis Kiaris, "The End of the Western Civilization?: The Intellectual Journey of Humanity to Adulthood" (Vernon Press, 2022)


Today I talked to Hippokratis Kiaris about his book The End of the Western Civilization?: The Intellectual Journey of Humanity to Adulthood (Vernon Press, 2022).

The podcast episode delves into the intellectual and philosophical exploration of the Western civilization's journey from its inception to its current "adulthood" stage, guided by the insightful narrative and analysis of Professor Hippokratis Kiaris. Framing the development of Western civilization in stages akin to human development, Kiaris articulates how each phase of societal advancement mirrors the cognitive and moral growth phases from childhood towards adulthood, as seen through the lenses of intellectual history. He stretches this analogy from the explorative and question-driven "toddler" years characteristic of the Greek civilization era, through the rigid yet foundational "childhood" of the Middle Ages, moving onto the rebellious "teenage" years of the Enlightenment period, and finally arriving at the responsible yet crisis-ridden "adulthood" of contemporary times. Professor Kiaris's exploration doesn't solely reminisce on the past milestones but rather seeks to understand the inherent responsibilities, limitations, and existential dilemmas facing the West today, particularly those related to sustainability, technological reliance, and the urgent reevaluation of values towards more qualitative, rather than quantitative, societal growth. Through discussing the shifting paradigms towards expertise and technocracy, and the concurrent depersonalization and dehumanization of society, Kiaris offers a critical perspective on the Western civilization’s current challenges and questions the path forward, advocating for a balance between technological progress and maintaining a critical, human-centric approach to societal development.

Some impactful quotes from the podcast:

"The hidden harmony is better than the obvious."

Kiaris references Heraclitus to underline the significance of uncovering patterns and analogies in intellectual traditions, suggesting a deeper understanding of our present and potential future by decoding less evident connections in our historical and societal development.

"Everything seemed possible, and the world felt as being very, very close to change."

In the Enlightenment period, this observation captures the spirit of intellectual rebellion, exploration, and the radical openness to new ideas, paralleling the expansive and optimistic mindset of adolescence.

"We should do what adults do... exercise, live healthy, and come in terms with our age."

Kiaris uses adulthood activities as metaphors for societal actions – promoting critical thinking, excising harmful ideologies, and embracing the achievements of human civilization with a view towards qualitative improvement rather than mere technological advancements.

"We dream of developing a society... where an expert will be available for everything."

This quote reflects on the current stage of Western civilization's deep trust in technocracy and expertise, questioning the impact of this reliance on public debate, individual autonomy, and the essence of democratic engagement in societal progress.

Each quote serves to weave through the broader discussion on the evolution, challenges, and potential futures of Western civilization, reflecting on how past intellectual movements inform the present and how the present might shape the future, offering a comprehensive examination of human society through intellectual, cultural, and practical lenses.

Professor Hippokratis Kiaris studied biology at the University of Athens and received his PhD at the University of Crete. After performing postdoctoral research at Tulane and Harvard Universities, he taught at the University of Athens and is now at the University of South Carolina.

Vernon Press – Bridging Scholarly Ideas and Global Readership

Vernon Press stands out as a bilingual independent publisher of scholarly books in the humanities and social sciences. Their mission is crucial — to provide a home for ideas of international importance and to embrace scholarship from underrepresented voices and perspectives. Through its diverse catalog, Vernon Press engages with global readers, contributing to academic and public discourse.

Dessy Vassileva, the Marketing & Design expert at Vernon Press, brings a 360º multidisciplinary approach to her work at Vernon Press.

Your Host

Dessy Vassileva

Dessy Vassileva, 360º: Merging Marketing, Design, and Linguistics.

View Profile