Civilization and Progress

Civilization and Progress

Radoslav A. Tsanoff
Copyright Date: 1971
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Civilization and Progress
    Book Description:

    Historical and systematic in its treatment, this work reviews the idea of progress in Western thought as it relates to civilization, in a more comprehensive survey than is to be found in previous writings on the subject. In the author's view, the history of civilization reveals an increasing range of human capacity, both for good and for evil, depending upon men's choice between contending values.

    From this standpoint, the work proceeds to the exploration of such fields of social activity as the evolution of the family, the emancipation of women, economic conditions and technology, intellectual and aesthetic values, moral and religious experience.

    Civilization and Progressis marked by balanced and judicious treatment, very broad learning, and a lucid and forceful style. The author asks us to consider the alternatives we face and to reflect on the choices which men have made in the past, which confront us in the present world crisis, and on which our destiny hangs in the future. Seminal in scholarship and creativity, this work will interest those concerned with the Western intellectual tradition and with the condition of mankind.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6477-9
    Subjects: History, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Does the course of history manifest any significant trend upward and forward? Is historical development an epical rhythm of positive achievement which we can scan; or is it a continual decline; or else is it merely a fortuitous or cyclical rise and fall, or even a random, meaningless succession of events? In fact, are we warranted in speaking at all of historical development and growth? These questions are implicit in the problem of social progress.

    This problem has reemerged in a new context of harsh negation. On all sides today we hear grim words. In books and articles and in...

  5. PART ONE A Historical Review of the Idea of Social Progress
    • CHAPTER ONE Alternatives and Approaches to the Idea of Progress in Classical Antiquity
      (pp. 19-31)

      The belief in Progress was not a vital idea for classical minds. The Greeks did not view history as a process of progressive achievement, realization, and expansion of values. Even their greatest historian, Thucydides (c. 460-400), did not contemplate the events of his time in the context of an advancing march out of the past. On his first page he tells us that his inquiries into remote antiquity and into more recent times failed to reveal to him anything “on a great scale, either in war or in other matters.” No classical poet sings: “I, the heir of all the...

    • CHAPTER TWO Divine Providence and Human Progress in the Christian Tradition
      (pp. 32-60)

      In hisSyllabus of Errors(1864) Pope Pius IX declared that he could not “reconcile himself with progress, liberalism, and modern civilization.”¹ This pontifical pronouncement expressed the traditional ecclesiastical attitude toward corrupt human nature, despite many liberal voices to the contrary. Though evidence might indicate advances in various fields of human activity, church piety has had no faith in secular self-reliance in individual and social achievement. The stricter Christian outlook from the very outset was not historical-progressive but providential. For good or for ill it contemplated not human attainment or failure but rather dependence on divine blessings or judgment, a...

    • CHAPTER THREE The Upsurge of the Idea of Progress during the Renaissance and the Seventeenth Century
      (pp. 61-82)

      The Renaissance was marked by a shift in men’s thinking: in the authority they recognized and in the direction and range of their prevailing interest. Men increasingly abandoned their submission to ecclesiastical authority. They rather relied on observation and experiment or on critical analysis and inference, both in seeking knowledge and in testing the truth of their ideas. Corresponding to this basic change of method was an equally radical change in outlook. The theological perspective was replaced by an insistently secular study of physical and human nature.

      The abandonment of religious authoritarianism left self-reliance as the only alternative for modern...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Philosophies of Progress in the Eighteenth Century
      (pp. 83-114)

      The idea of Progress was a dominant theme of eighteenth-century thought, but in dramatic interplay and reversal. The vitality and perfectibility of social values was affirmed during the first half of that age with a confidence which proceeded in many cases to excessive optimism, both godly and secular. The succeeding period was marked by a wave of social and religious negations and by spreading skepticism. There were voices of discontent and dismay challenging the optimism of the early Enlightenment; on the other hand, the assured and boundless perfectibility of mankind was reaffirmed even in the darkest days of the revolution...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Problem of Progress in the Nineteenth Century
      (pp. 115-151)

      In various ways the philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) marks and determines the intellectual transition from the eighteenth century to the nineteenth. The significance of Kant’s reflections on the problem of historical progress is not to be judged by the extent of his writings on the subject. Actually these writings are very fragmentary, not to be compared with his majorCritiques.Five essays may be cited; the largest of these, on “Eternal Peace,” runs to about sixty pages, and the shortest, specifically on “The Principle of Progress,” is compressed to ten pages. On this topic Kant’s terseness compares with Turgot’s,...

    • CHAPTER SIX Contemporary Criticism
      (pp. 152-181)

      Baffled minds may describe the twentieth century as the age of frustration. Two world wars of unprecedented destruction, and a third most ruinous war threatening, have flouted modern man’s confidence in assured ongoing progress. The very conditions of modern life on which men have relied for the avoidance of war and for peaceful social advance have become incitements to conflict. Herbert Spencer had with unwitting irony used the term industrial to describe the higher stage of evolving civilization, when cooperation would replace strife. At the third decade of the century economic experts were reasoning that the advance in industry had...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Utopian Visions of the Perfect Society
      (pp. 182-210)

      In appraising our course of action, our judgment as to whether we are advancing or lagging or going astray would depend upon our view of the goal, where we are aiming to arrive. Actuality is evaluated in the perspective of ideals. So our belief or disbelief in social progress may be tested by considering men’s visions of the ideal society. In the history of thought these visions have sometimes expressed optimistically the consummation or fulfillment of men’s positive achievements; but more often they have been seen as in tragic contrast to the sorry actualities of human lives. Sir Thomas More’s...

  6. PART TWO Social Confidence and the Despair of Progress:: Alternative Judgments of Civilization
    • CHAPTER EIGHT The Evolution of the Family and the Emancipation of Women
      (pp. 213-236)

      In this section of our work we return to the consideration in our introductory chapter of the agelong controversy between optimism and pessimism in their contrasting accounts of the human enterprise. Each of these counter appraisals is impressive in its own way, with considerable historical evidence to support it, but neither one is really convincing in final judgment. An alternative view, proposed in our introductory chapter as a more adequate interpretation of the historical process, has for its basis the idea that the history of civilization is marked by an increasing range of human capacitiesfor good or for evil.The...

    • CHAPTER NINE Household Economy and Bodily Well-Being
      (pp. 237-248)

      Our previous chapter was concerned with the historical evolution of the home; it naturally leads us to consider the physical setting of home life. Our first topic here is that of housing, men’s long journey from caves to huts to cottages or mansions. Primitive men’s early dwellings were shelters of refuge from inclement weather and safety from predatory beasts or enemies. The savage imitated the animals in seeking some shade from the day’s heat and at night burrowing or crouching in some cave where he felt protected from attack. He expanded the rude housing which nature provided him; he explored...

    • CHAPTER TEN Economic Values, Technology, and Human Progress
      (pp. 249-278)

      Our preceding chapter was concerned with shelter, nourishment, health, and general vitality. These aspects of men’s well-being are themselves largely affected by or even the result of their material welfare. They depend upon the degree to which men can utilize the economic means to effective and satisfactory activity. The expression “economic means” is appropriate, for economic values are distinctively means to the realization of the other values in which human life finds effective expression. Ethical analysis has distinguished two kinds or rather aspects of values: intrinsic and contributory. All values have a contributory or instrumental aspect: they affect or enable...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Social Order and Personal Freedom
      (pp. 279-308)

      Aristotle described man not only as a rational animal but also as a political animal, a social being, the perfection of whose capacities is realized in the life of the state. In both of these essential qualities of man’s character, the rational and the political, there is a duality involving a contest, but also a harmony through and beyond the contest. Reason, the intelligent direction of thought and activity, is a stern discipline, a control and curb of resistant wayward mind, but it is also the way of the mind’s reliable self-expression, realization of truth. So in the political range:...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Intellectual and Aesthetic Values
      (pp. 309-333)

      A noted contemporary anthropologist has stated: “Of all our present creeds, none is more firmly or widely embraced than . . . belief in the attainment of knowledge as an unconditional good in prospect.”¹ Aristotle’s description of man as a rational animal and of the pursuit of knowledge as the characteristically human activity—“All men by nature desire to know”—is sustained in the history of thought by men’s positive or negative appraisals of life. There has been a persistent correlation between skepticism and pessimism; contrariwise, intellectual reassurance, rational or experimental, has tended to give our basic attitude toward life...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Moral and Religious Development
      (pp. 334-357)

      No comment on our contemporary culture is more common than that of the woeful contrast between our technical mastery and our moral confusion and decay. This ethical dismay is neither exclusively recent nor exceptional. Intelligent men through centuries have noted that people have attained more knowledge and skill than they can be trusted morally to use. In prose or in verse we hear Tennyson’s refrain, “Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.” We should appraise critically this judgment and understand its significance.

      Our problem demands a recognition of the kind of solution we can reasonably expect. It may be that the intellectual...

  7. EPILOGUE The Promethean Fire-Bringers: Pioneers in Social Progress
    (pp. 358-368)

    Folklore is the treasury of the traditional mind. Primitive society was retrospective in its outlook; it relied on beliefs and practices of immemorial antiquity, tested and tried, preserved in myths and tribal customs, imparted to growing youths with solemn authority and allowing of no deviation. But the spirit of rigid conformity to tradition was embroiled in a paradox; for while it rejected and punished any hint of radical change in its own midst, it honored its great ancestors who had led it to new heights by their inventive power and who had devised the customary practices and framework of living...

  8. Index
    (pp. 369-376)