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The Hope of Progress

  • Michael Grant

Abstract

In this second reading from Enemies of Hope, Tallis defends the values of the Enlightenment and a chastened version of the Enlightenment project, freed of its scientistic and totalitarian aspirations. This means mounting a defence of certain universal values, in opposition to the relativism of much contemporary thought. The minimal principles Tallis wishes to propose are, first, that the individual has the right to choose whether he or she lives or dies, and, second, that we should favour those values that leave individuals who do not share them most free to act in accordance with their own differing values. Out of these minimal or basic principles others — such as accountability and rationality — may be derived. In explaining these ideas, Tallis recognises that there is in what he says a strand of utopianism. However, despite the catastrophic results of Utopian ideals during the twentieth century, he is convinced that the two major strands of the hope of progress — first, to alleviate suffering (the world of means), and, second, to extend the capacities of human beings to realise new possibilities (the world of ends) — are essential if mankind is to find any meaning in its struggle to get beyond the brute desire for survival. It is in creativity that the possibilities of human life find their true realisation, and the enemies of creativity, he insists, are such physical and political realities as pain, unreasonable oppression, unchallenged cruelty, unaccountable government, hunger and fear.

Keywords

Reasoning Faculty Humanist Intellectual Interpretive Community Utopian Vision Enlightenment Project 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Isaiah Berlin, ‘The Counter-Enlightenment’, in Against the Current, ed. Henry Hardy (London: The Hogarth Press, 1979), p. 3.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Isaiah Berlin, ‘Joseph de Maistre and the Origins of Happiness’, in The Crooked Timber of Humanity, ed. Henry Hardy (London: Harper Collins, 1991) p. 121.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    I am reminded by what Gellner (and after him Merquior) pointed out, ‘that all the romantic binges proffered by the counter-culture (and soon commercialized) … depend on the rational basis of the self-same culture they profess to scorn’ (J.G. Merquior, ‘In Quest of Modern Culture: Hysterical or Historical Humanism’, Critical Review 5(3) (Summer 1991): 399–420).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 10.
    Raymond Tallis, ‘Terrors of the Body’, Times Literary Supplement (1 May 1992): 3–4.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    David B. Morris, The Culture of Pain (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    Joseph de Maistre, ‘Study on Sovereignty’, in The Works of Joseph de Maistre, selected, translated and introduced by Jack Lively (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1964), p. 118.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    See Raymond Tallis, The Explicit Animal (London: Macmillan, 1991), especially chapter 6.Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    Raymond Tallis, Newton’s Sleep (London: Macmillan, 1995).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 22.
    Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1995).Google Scholar
  10. 27.
    Roland Barthes, ‘The Great Family of Man’, in Mythologies, selected and trans. Annette Lavers (London: Jonathan Cape, 1972).Google Scholar
  11. 28.
    See Avraham Barkai, ‘Volksgemeinschaft, “Aryanization” and the Holocaust’, in The Final Solution: Origins and Implementation, ed. David Cesarini (London: Routledge, 1994).Google Scholar
  12. 30.
    Peter Medawar, ‘On “The Effecting of All Things Possible”’, in The Hope of Progress (London: Methuen, 1972), p. 125.Google Scholar
  13. 34.
    Ernest Gellner, Reason and Culture (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), p. 181.Google Scholar
  14. (Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (London: Picador, 1987), p. 19)Google Scholar
  15. (quoted in Aaron Wildavsky, ‘Can Norms Rescue Self-Interest?’, Critical Review, (1991) 5(3): 305–25, at p. 315)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Raymond Tallis 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Grant
    • 1
  1. 1.Rutherford CollegeThe University of KentCanterburyUK

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