Well, I haven’t really been reading much besides some scholarly articles in preparation for my Senior Thesis for my philosophy degree, but I have managed some more time with Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence (featured earlier on my blog) and I happened upon a choice quote today:
“The labels “ancient” and “modern” and the contrast between their ways in art and literature…fired up two factions that divided the world of letters…The moderns won out in the end, carried on by a cultural tide rather than by literary arguments…quick minds pointed out that superior work, greater wisdom–in a word, progress–takes places in all things.
This conclusion was far-reaching. With progress admitted, it follows that man and society are perfectible; and if this is possible, schemes for changing the world should be attended to. By the next century programs of reform began to flow in an endless stream. The western mind had turned from backward-looking to future-making. And when the re-orientation became general, society was kept in paradoxical discomfort: cheerful because working to improve life, and suffering guilty SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS because present conditions are so bad. Also endless war between the bold and the cautious, who ended up forming political parties undervarious names, ultimately shortened to the Left and the Right. These in turn are split into factions by the diversity of hopeful plans, though the ancients and the moderns, who are always with us, now seem to agree that the Christian view of the world as irremediably evil is not absolute. Progress is possible, an admission that points to an ever-wider SECULARISM.”
Put that in your evening coffee.