The Temporal Being of Western Man

Review of Metaphysics 18 (4):629 - 646 (1965)
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Abstract

We know that all natural beings have evolved from simpler to more complex states; and we also know that man himself has evolved physically, even within the comparatively short time of his recorded history. It would therefore be strange indeed if man had not also evolved psychically or spiritually. Such psychic evolution may, I think, be discovered in many of man's cultural works; and I believe that it may also be revealed through the history of western philosophy, and, indeed, even more sharply and clearly there. If philosophy is the most general and abstract reflection of human existence, as I think it is, then the history of philosophy should be the most general and abstract expression of the history of human existence. As such it should display most purely, essentially, and definitively that evolution of western man which is manifested less clearly, essentially, and definitively in the history of any other aspect of human life. I do not mean that later stages are necessarily better than earlier ones; ancient man may very well have been better off than modern man is—and in one sense he indeed was, as my remarks may show. Better off or not, however, ancient man is still ancient and modern man modern; and the later stage is a more evolved or developed form than the earlier one in the sense that the later presupposes the earlier genetically and even logically, whereas the earlier does not presuppose the later.

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