The still point of the turning world: Progress, nature and freedom

22/09/2014


Jonah Lynch
jonah.lynch@gmail.com

Priestly Fraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo, Via Boccea 761 - 00166 Roma, Italy.


 

Euresis Journal, volume 7 (2014), pages 101-100

What is the meaning of the notion of progress? For some, the word seems to suggest continual movement from wose to better. According to Kant, this movement is inevitable, because "the human race has always been in progress toward the better and will continue to be so henceforth." However, the Enlightment optimism  has run aground. As George Grant shows, following Nietzsche, the failure of progress is paradoxically rooted precisely in the project of the expansion of human freedom: once man has emancipated himself from every god and from every nature, he no longer knows what to will. Is there a way out of this impasse? The second part of this paper explores a few possibilities. I will propose that a more helpful word than "progress" is "maturity." Maturity has to do with development within a given order, and thus provides a clue to thinking freedom and nature as complementary and not antagonistic. A seed develops into a tree, maturing into what it "really" is oveer time. Two further examples open this intuition to its fully human dimensions.