In Bruce Charlton's recent post "Christians cannot 'Be Good' in 2021 - but Can avoid being corrupted by evil", he writes in a comment

"*In the early Eastern Roman Empire, apparently everybody argued about theology on every street corner and across the dinner table.*"

This is interesting for two reasons. One is that it shows the degree to which Christianity was a part of daily life in the Eastern Roman Empire. The other reason is that the Christian theology of those days was highly abstract and intellectual. The fact that it was discussed by the general population is evidence for Bruce Charlton and Michael Woodley's idea that general intelligence has declined since the industrial revolution.

But in addition to general intelligence, special intelligence has also changed. In particular, there is reason to believe that the ancient Greeks had a special talent for understanding abstractions.

A good example of the ancient Greek approach to abstractions versus the modern is geometry versus algebra. In its heyday, ancient Greek mathematics was primarily concerned with geometry, while modern mathematics, especially since the development of Calculus in the mid to late 17th century, has been highly algebraic.

The strength of algebra is that if you can manipulate an equation according to certain steps, then it is not necessary to think. Just follow the steps to the end and you have your result. Not just in mathematics, but much modern thinking, especially abstract thinking follows this procedure. Develop a model and manipulate the model. The goal is not to take the whole system into one's mind, but to follow each step and what is at the last step is the result.

Whereas in geometry, even when aided by diagrams, it is necessary to visualize and visualizing allows one to be able to hold the problem in one's mind as a whole. Furthermore, the Greeks studied 3 dimensional geometry (for example, the Platonic Solids) yet without many of our technological means of visualizing, such as with computers. They probably did carve models, maybe out of wood, but it is necessary to hold the shape in one's mind before carving.

I believe that the Greeks viewed abstractions in this way. Similar to visualizing a shape or an interaction in geometry, they had a special talent for taking the whole abstraction into their mind and viewing it almost in a concrete way. Of course, modern people still have the capability, but imagine an entire culture where this special ability to take up abstractions was widespread. The Eastern Roman Empire was culturally and linguistically Greek and, in fact, everyone arguing about theology is exactly what you would expect in such a civilization.