chapter  5
16 Pages

from The Illusions of Progress

Historians have traced back the question of the doctrine of progress to the dispute between the ancient and modern writers, which caused so much furor at the end of the seventeenth century. According to Brunetiere, the idea of progress depended on two important Cartesian theses related to knowledge: knowledge can never be separated from its application, and it is always increasing. The doctrine of progress would always be an essential element in the great movement that would continue up to our modern democracy, because this doctrine permits the enjoyment of the good things today in good conscience without worrying about tomorrow's difficulties. For our democrats, and for the sophisticated Cartesian intellects, progress consists neither in the accumulation of technical methods nor even of scientific knowledge. Progress is the adornment of the mind that, free of prejudice, sure of itself, and trusting in the future, has created a philosophy assuring the happiness of all who possess the means of living well.