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The internal reactions of our ideas and feelings, while less obvious, are of even greater significance than the changes which have occurred in our institutions. So great have these internal changes been that one writer has described them as the shaking of the foundations. This characterization reminds is of what has been of major importance to Western man: his ideas and ideals. Throughout his history it has been these ideas which have supplied both his standards and his motivations, whether they referred to something beyond nature as Augustine's City of God, something beyond the present as More's Utopia, something within nature as Stoic law, or something like Bentham's greatest happiness principle. It has been this search for an ideal and the desire to bring it into being which have accounted for Western man's restlessness, his dissatisfaction with the present, and his desire for something better. When we remember the role that such ideas have played in Western Civilization, we have a better appreciation of what their upsetting entails for man today. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section XIX: An Analysis of the Contemporary World's Search for Meaning. 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.