The Paradox of Progressive Thought

The Paradox of Progressive Thought

The Paradox of Progressive Thought

The Paradox of Progressive Thought

Excerpt

This is an essay in interpretation; its method was inspired by Carl Becker 's The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers. It is a book, therefore, about a climate of opinion, specifically the climate of opinion shared by the men included in this book. By implication it becomes clear that I believe it is a climate of opinion shared by others of their generation. I do not believe, however, that this group of attitudes is that of all Americans who lived between 1880 and 1920. Nor do I believe it exhausts the attitudes of those discussed in this book. But it is my conviction that these attitudes are central to the intellectual life of the men involved here and extremely important to the America of their day.

To avoid confusion, I may add that it is my view that the central ideas, which I have chosen to call the climate of opinion of these progressive-minded social philosophers, were not built up concept on concept by any one particular man. Here are ideas which developed among many men during these decades. Each man emphasized particular aspects of what appears to be a common faith, a common set of assumptions about man and the world, held deeply and emotionally in the heart and not alone in the mind. I have, therefore, not tried to trace the influence of one thinker on another, an influence which, indeed, does not exist on this fundamental level of belief.

The climate of opinion described here is part of the liberal tradition of America. Since I question many of the accepted views about the philosophical basis of the liberal tradition, this study has a peculiarly timeless quality; it does not fit into a story which stops in . . .

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