The Idea of Progress: An Inguiry Into Its Origin and Growth

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Author: John Bagnell Bury

4.

Thus Friar Bacon’s theories of scientific reform, so far from amounting to an anticipation of the idea of Progress, illustrate how impossible it was that this idea could appear in the Middle Ages. The whole spirit of medieval Christianity excluded it. The conceptions which were entertained of the working of divine Providence, the belief that the world, surprised like a sleeping household by a thief in the night, might at any moment come to a sudden end, had the same effect as the Greek theories of the nature of change and of recurring cycles of the world. Or rather, they had a more powerful effect, because they were not reasoned conclusions, but dogmas guaranteed by divine authority. And medieval pessimism as to man’s mundane condition was darker and sterner than the pessimism of the Greeks. There was the prospect of happiness in another sphere to compensate, but this, engrossing the imagination, only rendered it less likely that any one should think of speculating about man’s destinies on earth.

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Chicago: John Bagnell Bury, "4.," The Idea of Progress: An Inguiry Into Its Origin and Growth in The Idea of Progress: An Inguiry Into Its Origin and Growth (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1932), Original Sources, accessed February 6, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94DX4PSPQXGVC7L.

MLA: Bury, John Bagnell. "4." The Idea of Progress: An Inguiry Into Its Origin and Growth, in The Idea of Progress: An Inguiry Into Its Origin and Growth, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1932, Original Sources. 6 Feb. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94DX4PSPQXGVC7L.

Harvard: Bury, JB, '4.' in The Idea of Progress: An Inguiry Into Its Origin and Growth. cited in 1932, The Idea of Progress: An Inguiry Into Its Origin and Growth, The Macmillan Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 6 February 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94DX4PSPQXGVC7L.