CHAPTER I
THE AGE WE LIVE IN

IT was a central commonplace of Greek thought that speculation and the non-utilitarian arts rose and flourished only when man's labour had won him some leisure from the struggle to exist; that despite their late emergence in his history they were foremost among his definitory characteristics; that, having no end beyond themselves, they were the worthiest of his activities.

If this view is in general a true one, as I shall assume it to be, it would seem to follow conversely that in periods of history when mankind, or when particular nations, were losing ground in the struggle for existence or exhausted by it, speculation and the unpractical arts would dwindle and deteriorate. In prosperous epochs these luxuries born of leisure might be judged more really necessary to man than the most exquisite satisfactions of his material needs, but in days of disaster and fear, of material shortage and frustration, they would decline in general repute, diminish in vigour, and contract in scope.

To become plausible, however, this hypothesis needs two qualifications. In the first place -- it is again a commonplace -- there have been epochs of leisure and material prosperity in which the non-practical occupations have been quite busily pursued but have produced little of permanent importance. The relation of the theoretic to the practical life is subtle. Leisure is not the only condition, after natural ability and energy, of non-practical achievement. There is, at least in European man, a need that some urge, some prick of exhilaration or confident hope, be transmitted to him from the world of action before he can accomplish something great in a world of vision which exists for no practical end. He achieves greatness not in epochs of mere prosperity and leisure but rather in times when the glow of some practical triumph is yet undulled and the future still looks

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