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Progress and Religion

An Historical Inquiry (The Works of Christopher Dawson)

Christopher Dawson, Christina Scott, Mary Douglas

Publication Year: 2012

Progress and Religion was perhaps the most influential of all Christopher Dawson's books, establishing him as an interpreter of history and a historian of ideas.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xx

Thirty years have elapsed since the death of Christopher Dawson— years in which we have seen vast cultural and scientific changes—and while at first it seemed as if his work might sink into oblivion or be overtaken by new philosophies and ideas, this has evidently not been the case. ...

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pp. xxi-xxvi

Those were the days of my youth—apart from myself there will certainly be other English Catholics at school in 1929, when this book came out, who will also remember the Church in its defensive mode. The attitude of the Catholic hierarchy to knowledge was nervously sectarian. ...

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pp. 3-4

The doctrineof Progress was first clearly formulated by the Abbé de St. Pierre after the close of the War of the Spanish Succession, at a time when he was conducting his propaganda for the formation of a kind of League of Nations which should ensure perpetual peace in Europe. ...

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Dawson’s Table of Contents

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pp. 5-12

The idea of Progress has been the inspiration of the modern civilization of Western Europe. Its empirical justification. The development of machinery and applied science has produced an industrial-scientific civilization unique in the world’s history. Its value is now widely criticized. ...

Part I

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I. Sociology and the Idea of Progress

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pp. 15-29

Every period of civilization possesses certain characteristic ideas that are peculiarly its own. They express the mind of the society that has given them birth, no less than does the artistic style or the social institutions of the age. Yet so long as they are dominant, their unique and original character is never fully recognized, ...

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II. History and the Idea of Progress

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pp. 30-46

The movement of scientific rationalism which was described in the last chapter does not represent the whole development of European thought in the 19th century. In fact, that age was more lacking in intellectual and spiritual unity than any period of history since the Renaissance. ...

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III. Anthropology and the Theory of Progress: The Material Foundations of Culture

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pp. 47-62

Hitherto we have said nothing of the sciences of anthropology and ethnology which have as their special province the study of man’s origins and the development of primitive societies. For these sciences are of more recent origin than either sociology or the philosophy of history; ...

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IV. The Comparative Study of Religions and the Spiritual Element in Culture

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pp. 63-78

We have seen in the last chapter that culture, even in its highest forms, is ultimately dependent on and conditioned by physical factors. Man, like every other form of animal life, is the creature of environment, heredity and function, and consequently his culture is not an abstract intellectual construction, ...

Part II

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V. Religion and the Origins of Civilization

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pp. 81-96

If the rational and spiritual elements in a culture are those which determine its creative activity, and if the primary manifestation of these elements is to be found in the sphere of religion, it is clear that the religious factor has had a far more important share in the development of human cultures ...

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VI. The Rise of the World Religions

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pp. 97-119

It i s difficult to exaggerate the debt that the world owes to the archaic ritual cultures of the type described in the last chapter, for they laid the foundations on which the whole later development of civilization has been built. To them we owe the invention of writing and of the calendar, the discovery of the use of metals, architecture and engineering, ...

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VII. Christianity and the Rise of Western Civilization

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pp. 120-139

We have seen that the great movement of thought which passed over the ancient world about the middle of the first millennium B.C. tended to turn away men’s minds from the world of human experience to the contemplation of absolute and unchanging Being, from Time to Eternity. ...

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VIII. The Secularization of Western Culture and the Rise of the Religion of Progress

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pp. 140-157

The civilization of mediaeval Christendom was essentially dependent on the ecclesiastical organization of Europe as an international or rather supernational unity. It was irreconcilable with the conception of a number of completely independent sovereign societies such as the national states of modern Europe. ...

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IX. The Age of Science and Industrialism: The Decline of the Religion of Progress

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pp. 158-180

The current of philosophic enlightenment and political revolution which was described in the last chapter represents only one side of the great movement of change which has affected Europe and the world in the last two centuries. At the same time that the influence of the new ideas was producing an intellectual and political revolution on the continent, ...

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X. Conclusion

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pp. 181-192

We have followed the development of human culture through the ages, and have seen how at every step the religion of a society expresses its dominant attitude to life and its ultimate conception of reality. Religion is the great dynamic force in social life, and the vital changes in civilization are always linked with changes in religious beliefs and ideals. ...


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pp. 193-194

Index of Proper Names

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pp. 195-198

E-ISBN-13: 9780813218199
E-ISBN-10: 0813218195
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813210155
Print-ISBN-10: 0813210151

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012