Orthodoxy - Chapter VII: The Eternal Revolution Summary & Analysis

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Chapter VII: The Eternal Revolution Summary and Analysis

The notion of progress assumes some standard of value towards which progress is being made. This standard cannot be found in nature, as many think, since nature is totally anarchic. Nature does not say whether life is good or bad; rather, people, observing nature, impose their own standard upon it which says life is good. Some modern thinkers, then, simply see the standard as a matter of moving forward in time, as if progress happens inevitably: Whatever change happens is good. Others, like Nietzsche, hide behind vague metaphors to talk about progress—that is, they speak of "higher forms of life" without ever clarifying exactly this means. Others, still, believe that nature will take care of things and change will occur in some fashion, though they do not know when or how this will occur.

Finally, some people think that progress means the world is moving towards what they want it to be, and even if they are wrong about where the world should go, they at least are correct insofar as they see progress as movement towards some definite goal. However, one of the pitfalls of modern thinking about progress is that many people seem to think that, in different ages, the vision which should guide society—the goals it should try to attain—are changing, and this completely negates the notion of progress of any substance, because if the goal is always changing, it will be impossible to ever achieve it. Further, if work is done in a previous age towards one goal, and then the goal changes, all that previous work is now worthless. The real effect of this kind of thinking is to, ironically, keep the status quo—since progress is a moving target, no one really knows how to work to it, and those who benefit are those who like things the way they are. It is obvious, then, that the acknowledgment of a fixed goal is one requirement for true progress. Christianity recognizes this, and thus it is characterized as a constant revolt against man's sinful nature, seeking to restore that original vision of Eden.

The second characteristic of true progress is that the goal of it must not be something simple, but something composite. That is, a natural thing, like a nose, may gradually grow larger or redder, but the changes will always be in one attribute increasing or decreasing. The progress which is relevant to human affairs, however, is more like a delicate balance. For example, man's attitude towards nature should neither be total subjection and worship, like the pagans, nor should it be total disregard and hatred, like modern industrialists. Man should revere nature, not as a god, but as a beautiful creation which is worthy of respect. This attitude involves carefully opposing one attitude towards another and not letting either win out completely. All human progress is like this—measuring competing forces in a very specific way. However, if nature is capable only of producing simple changes, then such a goal must be the work of a creative mind. Once again, Christianity had already acknowledged this: The goal towards which society should march is not something material and merely natural, but something spiritual and supernatural.

A final requirement for any doctrine of progress is the recognition that if things are left alone, they decay and worsen. If things truly stayed as they were, or got better, there would be little need to act. The role of the progressive is to fight against this decay, because he recognizes that things must constantly change if he wants them not to get worse. Once again, Christianity recognizes this fact in its constant warnings that all men are subject to sin and must constantly fight against temptation. In fact, this attitude forms the strongest common bond between Christianity and democracy: Both are wary of giving too much power to one mind, lest he use it corruptly. Unless one recognizes man's natural inclination to decay morally, this attitude would be unjustified.

This section contains 687 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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