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Book Chapter

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Among the ideals of the Enlightenment were nature, science, humanitarianism, cosmopolitanism, toleration, and progress. The ideals of any age are those ideas and principles to which men give their allegiance, and consequently ideals are a key to understanding what an age is like in terms of its hopes and aspirations, and to some extent its practices. [excerpt]

Additional Resources

An excerpt from Columbia University's first edition, Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West, has been removed due to copyright restrictions. A later printing of this edition is available here.


This is a part of Section X: The Eighteenth Century Enlightenment. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.