THE PROGRESS OF IDEAS
I assume that progress of a kind does indeed occur over the course of human history, even though it often seems we grow more monstrous with the passing centuries.
The undeniable kind of progress we human beings have achieved, however erratically and slowly, is conceptual progress, intellectual progress: the progress of ideas.
Not until we Homo sapiens devised the novel technology of language did we possess the means for forming and communicating concepts amongst ourselves. But then, as our languages grew ever more complex and subtle, our minds could grow able to grasp larger, more sophisticated ideas as functions of not only verbal languages, but also mathematical, musical, and geometrical languages, as well as other symbol systems by which we have reckoned, retained, and elaborated our ideas. These bodies of articulated ideas we call “cultures.”
Although individual human beings in our innate natures continue no less prone to sin and disgrace than were the mythical Adam and Eve, even so, cultural and societal evolution over eons has gradually developed values and institutions superior to those in primal times.
Ideals and habits of justice and dignity are now growing stronger and more pervasive on Earth (despite pockets of despotism in one or another regressive regime). Dreams of Universal Human Rights and a Global Ethic no longer seem naïve and ridiculous, but approachable.
Even what some have dubbed a Wisdom Culture may presently be emerging from the shards of earlier institutions less humane and egalitarian than what we can now more clearly recognize as our dying Dominator Culture of competitive disdain for others.
To articulate this new Wisdom Culture ethos is humanity’s urgent challenge today. To live less than wisely on so endangered a planet as Earth has now become suicidal for our own species and ecocidal for all others.