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Until recently, and especially in the United States, Western Civilization has been dominated by Enlightenment thought, tempered by the criticisms of the nineteenth century. One of the current questions is whether this strand of thought is adequate to cope with the problems of the age of anxiety. Those who believe that the Enlightenment ideas are still basically sound suggest the giving up of transcendent or long-term goals in favor of more immediate aims. Equality and freedom are, in such a context better when they apply to more people than when they apply to fewer. According to this way of thinking, one interpretation of justice would be better than another if it could be realized by more people. That type of security is better which more people can enjoy. Thus the Enlightenment concepts are dealt with less qualitatively than quantitatively. [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.