The title of this Section
represents probably the central question which Will Durant set out to
answer with his Story of Civilization. He first posed it as Chapter XV
of his Mansions of Philosophy (1929),100
and then concluded the thought with the concluding chapter of The
Lessons of History (1968). In both cases, he took the affirmative
position, asserting in essence that the view of "progress" as an
illusion was, in essence, a two dimensional view of a three dimensional
phenomena. As individual civilizations each make the trek outlined by
Spengler, from savagery through civilization and back again, each adds
something to overall human knowledge, and to that extent, contributes
to human "progress." Thus, the path for civilization is not a two
dimensional circle of the successive rises and falls of individual
societies, but instead the three dimensional spiral of "progress"
upward, with each civilization arising, to one degree or another, on
the backs of those which have preceded it.
There is no essential doubt that this "progress" is "real." The true issue which most people would raise with this same question is whether or not "progress" is desirable. Is mankind better off with "progress" than without it? If you cannot answer that question in the affirmative, then any measurable achievements of "progress" are, in fact, delusions, since they would have contributed adversely (or at least, nothing) to the overall health of mankind.
100 The actual title of Chapter XV was "Is Progress A Delusion?"
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