As we stand on the brink of the third millennium, a large part of the human race may feel justified in a certain complacency. We are very much in thrall to the idea that history is moving forward in a desirable - or progressive - direction. In much of the world - and certainly in its most prosperous parts - we are all basically liberal, fundamentally pacific and reasonably affluent. Anthony O'Hear argues in this text that we need to temper our optimism and self-assurance, that progress is not inevitable in any field. His theme centres around the loss which is inextricably linked with progress, especially the sort of progress made in the West over the last few centuries. Could it be that the type of material and political advancements on which we pride ourselves is directly responsible for our spiritual and aesthetic decline? O'Hear believes that our era is one of technological progress and of individual rights and needs, and that our institutions and economies are largely geared to promoting the two.
This text examines the implications of this state of affairs: that for most of us there is nothing worth striving for beyond individual happiness; and that there is little in our common culture to sustain ideas of excellence in serious pursuits. It addresses the question of real happiness and satisfaction and probes the dimensions that cannot be accounted for in scientific terms: love and beauty, the sense of moral obligation and reason itself.show more