A Study of History

By Arnold J. Toynbee; D. C. Somervell | Go to book overview

X. THE NATURE OF THE GROWTHS OF
CIVILIZATIONS

(1) TWO FALSE TRAILS

WE have found by observation that the most stimulating challenge is one of mean degree between an excess of severity and a deficiency of it, since a deficient challenge may fail to stimulate the challenged party at all, while an excessive challenge may break his spirit. But what about the challenge with which he is just capable of coping ? On a short view this is the most stimulating challenge imaginable; and, in the concrete instances of the Polynesians and the Eskimos and the Nomads and the 'Osmanlis and the Spartans, we have observed that such challenges are apt to evoke tours de force. We have also observed, however, that in the next chapter of the story these tours de force exact, from those who have performed them, a fatal penalty in the shape of an arrest in their development. Therefore, on the longer view, we must pronounce that the evocation of the greatest immediate response is not the ultimate test of whether any given challenge is the optimum from the standpoint of evoking the greatest response on the whole and in the end. The real optimum challenge is one which not only stimulates the challenged party to achieve a single successful response but also stimulates him to acquire momentum that carries him a step farther: from achievement to a fresh struggle, from the solution of one problem to the presentation of another, from Yin to Yang again. The single finite movement from a disturbance to a restoration of equilibrium is not enough if genesis is to be followed by growth. And, to convert the movement into a repetitive, recurrent rhythm, there must be an élan vital (to use Bergson's term) which carries the challenged party through equilibrium into an overbalance which exposes him to a fresh challenge and thereby inspires him to make a fresh response in the form of a further equilibrium ending in a further overbalance, and so on in a progression which is potentially infinite.

This élan, working through a series of overbalances, can be detected in the course of the Hellenic Civilization from its genesis up to its zenith in the fifth century B.C.

The first challenge presented to the new-born Hellenic Civilization was the challenge of chaos and ancient night. The disintegration of the apparented Minoan Society had left a welter of social debris—marooned Minoans and stranded Achaeans and Dorians. Would the sediment of an old civilization be buried under the

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
A Study of History
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 617

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.