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Progress and Science: Essays in Criticism.

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Pages: 66

Language: English

Book format: An electronic version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device designed specifically for this purpose.

Publisher: General Books LLC (5 Jan. 2012)

By: Robert Shafer (Author)

Book may have numerous typos, missing text, images, or index. Purchasers can download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) from the publisher. 1922. Not illustrated. Excerpt: ... II SOCIAL PROGRESS WHEN, towards the end of the seventeenth century, the doctrine of progress, as I have said, first definitely appeared in European thought, it was confined to progress in knowledge. It was asserted that there was and would always be a necessary progressive improvement in men's knowledge of the world, but that was all. Human nature and human capacity would remain unchanged, howsoever the veneer of civilisation should change under increasing knowledgeflt was only in the eighteenth century that the doctrine of progress received additions which enable us now to recognise it as a friend. These additions it seems first to have received at the hands of the Abbe de Saint-Pierre, an extraordinary and now little-known figure who devoted his life to unsuccessful projects of moral and social reform. The Abbe was a 'natural utilitarian,' a believer in the Cartesian principles of the supremacy of reason over authority and of the invariability of natural law, a believer also in the necessary progress of knowledge. From these beginnings it was an easy step to the notion that exact moral and political sciences would contribute to human happiness in the same way as physical science. The Abbe took this step and became a believer in social progress. He believed that rational consideration of the means to social betterment, together with governors wise enough to carry out the conclusions arrived at, would insure continuous progress towards general happiness. For he believed also in 'the omnipotence of governments and laws to mould the morals of peoples' and thus to bestow happiness upon them.1 ^ I^Naive in many ways as the Abbe de Saint-Pierre certainly was, he was yet the natural precursor of the Encyclopaedists of the latter half of the eighteenth century, who in the...

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