This essay seeks to define both the nature and the operation in time and space of a unique feature of Western civilization--namely, its early identification of the idea of Humanity as a total spiritual/moral collectivity and the often erratic and uncertain, but never entirely abandoned, commitment to the realization of that comprehensive community. Its imperfect manifestation is first expressed in a religious cast, which in the course of the Renaissance passes to a more expansive and diverse secular register, where the more fragile and inevitably particularistic notion of Civilization displaces and frequently disfigures but never entirely loses the ongoing momentum of commitment to a universal jurisdiction of a common, all-inclusive humanity. The early modern period (1300-1700) provides the main context for analysis of the shift from the specifically religious to the more secular register for the continuity of this idea. In the modern period, barely suggested here, only with the near suicide of that very unique civilization in two world wars will the necessity of operating within a common, level playing field of now self-conscious, distinct civilizations and cultural groups reshape that earlier, expressly religious/spiritual message into an increasingly secular, scientific/technical register toward world community.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 291-321
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.