The Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns

The quarrel of the ancients and moderns began during the Renaissance and took the form of a debate between scholars over the nature of wisdom which should guide thinkers and indeed the times.

This debate is framed in a number of manners, some more misleading than others.  Sometimes it is framed as a debate between reason and authority, wherein reason is on the side of the moderns who seek to shrug off arbitrary constraints on knowledge, particularly from the church. This takes the shape particularly in the developing scientific methods of empiricism first codified by Francis Bacon and ultimately perfected by the implementation of a mathematical and deductive method by René Descartes. The exemplary argument on behalf of this position was to point at modern technological developments.

At other times it was framed as a moral debate wherein Niccolo Machiavelli arises as an important figure who held that Europe had become Christianized in such a way that, despite the ethical systems of the ancients being superior, the scholar must work with the material on hand. This moral difference was more radically expressed by Francois Rabelais who, contrary to Machiavelli, came down on the side of the ‘modern’ Christians and wrote in his novel Gargantua, “These are no longer times when you can go around conquering Christian kingdoms and inflicting injuries on your brothers in Christ. To imitate the ancients in that way—Hercules, Alexander, Hannibal, Scipio, and the Caesars and all the others—is directly contrary to what the Bible teaches us.” (Chpt. 46)

The modern, Christian, man’s key virtue was humility. This is explained most thoroughly by Nietzsche throughout many of his works but nowhere so explicit as in The Anti-Christ:

We should not deck out and embellish Christianity: it has waged a war to the death against this higher type of man, it has put all the deepest instincts of this type under its ban, it has developed its concept of evil, of the Evil One himself, out of these instincts—the strong man as the typical reprobate, the “outcast among men.” Christianity has taken the part of all the weak, the low, the botched; it has made an ideal out of antagonism to all the self-preservative instincts of sound life; it has corrupted even the faculties of those natures that are intellectually most vigorous, by representing the highest intellectual values as sinful, as misleading, as full of temptation. (Section 5)

Again I remind you of Paul’s priceless saying: “And God hath chosen the weak things of the world, the foolish things of the world, the base things of the world, and things which are despised” (Section 51)

Machiavelli also understood the change brought about by the shift from the ancient religion of the Romans to Christianity. In the Discourses he writes:

[W]hile the highest good of the old religions consisted in magnanimity, bodily strength, and all those other qualities which make men brave, our religion places it in humility, lowliness, and contempt for the things of this world; or if it ever calls upon us to be brave, it is that we should be brave to suffer rather than to do. (Book II Chpt. II)

Still Machiavelli held out the hope that the European Christians could be morally transformed. It was not until Thomas Hobbes entirely reversed the valuation and made it the basis for effective governance:

And amongst the Passions, Courage, (by which I mean the Contempt of Wounds, and violent Death) enclineth men to private Revenges, and sometimes to endeavour the unsetling of the Publique Peace; And Timorousnesse, many times disposeth to the desertion of the Publique Defence. Both these they say cannot stand together in the same person. (Leviathan, A Review, And Conclusion)

Hobbes, writing at the time of the English Civil War, saw the instilment of humility, the fear of death, desire for peace and promotion of bourgeois values and the pursuit of trade as the means for maintaining order and the authority of the sovereign.

Ultimately, Europe has followed the path of the moderns. It maintains the value of science while simultaneously arguing that values cannot objectively be discovered due to the fact-value distinction. All the while values are nonetheless imposed upon the peoples in the West which have deep philosophical roots and far-reaching civilizationational implications.


Notre-Dame Burning, or The Future of Europe

French President Emmanuel Macron was quick to pledge himself towards the rebuilding of the damaged part of the cathedral, changing the topic of a pre-planned speech he meant to hold on the subject of the yellow vests.

Reaction to this disaster was quick and widespread, with many eulogizing on the meaning and importance of the cathedral as a symbol of France and indeed for all of Europe. An artefact of medieval and Christian Europe, immortalized by Victor Hugo as both a national symbol in the Romantic spirit and as a commemoration of the past of a people and a country.

Such rifts in the continuity of a people’s fate have the potential of revealing insights into nature of the present. The tragic nature of this event was capable of briefly covering over the disharmony within France, particularly the disaffection aroused by the President and the direction in which he is taking the country. Instead the people are unified in a ritual of national mourning directed towards a commonly cherished past whose destruction is dramatically visualized before their eyes. But is Macron’s pledge to rebuild the cathedral also a pledge to reknit the fraying threads of national unity and disintegration of national tradition?

Europe’s Current Political Climate

The past half decade in Europe has been characterized by a number of political conflicts, notably the migrant crisis, Brexit accompanied by broader disharmony within the EU, the Greek government-debt crisis. Common are warnings about extremism from both the media and political establishment and criticisms about mismanagement from anti-establishment voices reflected in the election of “populist” governments and the aforementioned yellow vest moment. Similarly, there is talk of deep political polarization in the USA and concern that general partisanship is endangering discussion between opposing political factions which increasingly see each other as “communists”, “globalists” (or “Marxists”) and “fascists”.

What is lacking is any clear value by which to orient themselves and strive in the world. The EU official states their values to be the “respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law“. All of these values are either negative values or at very most values which intentionally lack an imperative. The two exceptions are the stated value of equality and the right to education as declared in the EU’s charter of fundamental human rights.

These exceptions must be qualified by the explanation that equality in this context means equal treatment by political, legal, and social institutions and the right to education is qualified within the charter with “due respect for democratic principles and the right of parents to ensure the education and teaching of their children in conformity with their religious, philosophical and pedagogical convictions shall be respected, in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of such freedom and right”. There is in the latter statement intended a validation of democratic and parental self-determination.

In fact, all of these values are in some fashion or another intended to facilitate self-determination, as even rule of the law is intended to facilitate the freedom of self-determination in the sense of the classical formula as freedom to do what one wishes so long as it does not interfere with another’s freedom.

I have not outlined the values expressed by the EU for the sake of either censure or approval. Nonetheless I wish to illustrate the fact that they lack guidance on what ends one is to exercise one’s freedom in accomplishing. This is left entirely up to individuals in their daily affairs and nations through the established political process.

Returning to the symbol of Notre-Dame. The cathedral was not a representation of undefined self-determination, but very concrete values, whether they be the notion of beauty which guided the building’s formation or those of Christianity, which was indeed already a unifying mechanism for Europe throughout the middle ages, centred around the catholic church.

A guiding value need not be an authoritarian imperative. To assume so is to assume a false alternative. A guiding value may take the form of a common goal which may unite a divided people.

Macron has also been vocal in his calls for deeper integration in Europe centred around the idea of a common European army and greater alignment of national economic policies. These proposals are similarly misguided. Not because they are necessarily and inherently flawed, a question on which I will currently refrain from judgement, but because they entail the same lack of purpose from which Europe is currently suffering. Business, besides potentially giving one a livelihood, says nothing about what one is to do with that livelihood, and likewise existential defence says nothing about what to do with the existence which is sustained.

One may reason and argue as long as one wishes for the necessity of such policies for the continued existence of the European Union, but without clear and defined values, all such reasons could fall on deaf ears if those who would hear them are already motivated by values and goals in which the EU plays no or even an antagonistic role.

This is the existential issue with which Europe deals and, as I have taken previous steps to outline, has dealt with since the turn of the turn of the twentieth century.

If you would like to hear my opinion on how to build a way forward then please check out my post on The Central Importance of Beauty.

Nihilism and the Future of Culture

This post takes the form of a review of George Steiner’s In Bluebeard’s Castle.

The blind spot which motivates the argument in this book is so extreme that one might suspect the author of dishonesty.

I was actually with him at the beginning as he described how a disillusionment swept Europe after the French Revolution. Great hopes were placed in a total reorganization of society into something expected to be revelational. The powerful spirit of Napoleon swept the people along as much of Europe was reorganized. Then it all came to a halt and a new status quo reigned. The untapped energies of the people no longer had a clear outlet in a monumental cause. Boredom and disillusionment reigned. That disillusionment was understood as crushed hopes and betrayed dreams. Yet the memory of near apocalyptic changes remained and in the hearts of those who were disillusioned to the point of borderlining desperation, apocalyptic visions became a new obsession as nihilistic energies wished to set themselves free upon the world with no clear goal.

Where this book really starts to go wrong is in the transition towards discussing the holocaust. Steiner discusses the entrance of the monotheistic god into Europe and makes much of the fact that this god is withdrawn from the world and inaccessible. This put a pressure on Europeans which they were unable to deal with, according to Steiner. For that reason, they needed to kill the god (symbolically) which left a spiritual gulf in Europe and opened the path for the entrance of a new kind of nihilism. They targeted the Jews for being the creators of this god and killing the Jews was the final most concrete act to complete the murder of the god.

There are some big problems with this interpretation on a few levels. First, just to get it out of the way, it is the interpretation of a believer imposing his god on others who cannot handle his awesome might. But there are more concrete problems in the text. Steiner discusses how culture did not stop the Germans from committing the atrocities of the holocaust, because many Nazis were highly cultured. He then takes this as a sign that culture does not have a connection to moral behaviour.

There are two huge problems with that conclusion. The first is that the Germans were not all of Europe. The disillusionment that he spoke about in the earlier part of the book took place transnationally, yet it did not result everywhere in the same conclusions as it did in Germany. This brings us to the second huge problem with this conclusion. Steiner nowhere discusses cultural developments in Germany around the time of the rise of the Nazis and in particular those cultural products which heralded National Socialistic and anti-Semitic ideas. This is the first enormous blind spot in the book. Perhaps he did not want to ‘justify those works by giving them recognition’, but the fact remains that he has constructed a theory which completely ignores the subject which his theory is intended to explain. Anyone with intellectual honesty should raise their eyebrows at such a fact.

The next problem in this book comes when Steiner transitions towards a prospect of the future. He no doubt already feels that he has justified himself by criticizing the causal link (to my mind, as explained above, poorly) between culture and behaviour. He talks about how traditional culture is disappearing and being forgotten (an example he gives is how poetry had an internal symbolic and reference system which connected diverse poets across time and created a kind of dialogue). In its place is the dominion of music as well as the sciences. The ultimate suggestion is that one not worry about the withering of earlier culture and embrace these new emanations and whatever flowers they might produce.

There is a very serious flaw here, as I see it. Both music and science are not meaning-making, they don’t transmit values, and they don’t deal with the everyday cares of people. Steiner had earlier criticized the fact that the 20th century view of the 19th century is in a large part skewed by the depictions of novels which do not adequately express how harsh and disillusioning life was in that time.

There are a few problems with this. First is that he had already gone on at length describing the ennui and disillusionment expressed in earlier forms, but he ignores depictions of lower class conditions in writers such as Dickens but also later proletarian writers, and so on. The second problem with this is that the arts are not always a direct mirroring of the world but a sort of transmutation of the cares of people into frequently idealistic forms. For example, the poetry which he does reference which describes so intricately the facets of the countryside are not meant as scientific guides to the countryside but to teach people a greater appreciation of the countryside. To take another example not in the book, Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard would contribute to contemplation upon our mortality in the same way that memento mori did in earlier eras.

So, Steiner’s ultimate suggestion is that people be left bereft of their capacity to create and share meaning in an age which is already afflicted by nihilism.

Note of correction to “Cases for considering the European Tradition: Islam and America”

I have, since writing the post “Cases for Considering the European Tradition: Islam and America” been soundly rebuked for my analysis of the status of Christianity in the European tradition. A convincing case has been made that Christianity is not part of the European tradition but rather something foreign to it. The case was made on a number of grounds. First, my analysis of Christianity as originating within the Roman Empire is flawed because the ecumene of the Roman Empire was not Europe but rather the Mediterranean world. This does not mean that Rome is not part of the European tradition, but rather that its geographical concentration included non-European centres which have also, in effect, carried on distinct aspects of the Roman empire without carrying on the European tradition.

Besides that, there are some more obvious considerations which I did not weigh in heavily enough in the consideration, namely that the origins of Christianity are not based upon European ideas but Judaism, and also important is that the original Christians were not Europeans but also Jews.

For that reason, an analysis of the European tradition must take into consideration that Christianity is a foreign influence even as it has affected a great part of the history of Europe and the conceptual as well as value structure in European peoples today. The recommendation which I was given was that a European tradition should actually be based around tracking the traditions which originate within the distinct peoples of Europe, for example the Greco-Romans, the Slavs, Baltic, Germanic peoples, and so on.

‘The Far-Left’, ‘The Far-Right’ and The Decline of the West

Are the ideas of the ‘far-left’ or the ‘far-right’ the inheritors and continuators of the Western philosophical tradition? The answer is, perhaps oddly, that both are.

Plato puts into the mouth of Socrates the injunction ‘Do good to friends and do harm to no one’. He also teaches that the one who is just should put justice into the souls of others. These ideas are spread over a number of his works, notably Protagoras and Gorgias. While there are certainly grounds for argument over what Plato actually intends as his doctrine, whether in reference to his entire corpus or indications of esotericism in his doctrine, what is important is that these ideas have entered into the philosophical tradition.

Alternately there is the teaching of Homer which holds that prowess, great deeds and one’s ancestry is that which is admirable. Even the teaching of Aristotle holds a doctrine which holds that some are slaves by nature, and that the best and happiest man is one of sufficient power and excellence to be magnanimous which made them both deserving of praise and justified in a natural pride.

Ancillary connections to the Western philosophical tradition should suffice indicate how these ideas might develop over time, for example the entrance of Christianity into Europe which extolled virtues of charity and compassion, alternately both defence and encomiums made on behalf of aristocracy and monarchy or the formulation of Social Darwinist ideas. Add to this equation the French Revolution, its predecessors, supporters and critics, the early Utopian Socialists and the Conservative Revolutionary Movement in Germany and you will be gravitating much closer to the present state of ideas.

But there is a deeper issue at stake in the future of the West which, perhaps oddly for some, is rather the concern of those labelled ‘far-right’, though the far-left is deeply implicated. Since at least the late 19th century, what is called in cultural history the Fin de Siècle (and arguably earlier), there was in Europe a concern with the degeneration of the people and the culture. The reasons given for this perceived degeneration are multiple and sometimes not mutually exclusive. They can include rapid urbanization, loss of religion belief and with it self-certainty, an excess of luxury giving rise to lethargy and decadence. It was as an heir to these ideas that Oswald Spengler, a Conservative Revolutionary thinker and formulator of national socialist ideas, wrote that, in light of a theory that civilizations were akin to living organisms, Western Civilization was reaching the end of its natural lifespan.

The issue facing the West is generally taken as something deeper today and often posed as a conflict between forces which stand, knowingly or not, either for the bolstering of an unjust system or an active force try to corrupt and undermine a culture and a people. These are crude characterisations of the ‘far-left’ and the ‘far-right’ respectively. (Note that I put ” around ‘far-left’ and ‘far-right’ partly because neither might accept either the denotation of left/right and partly because what is considered extreme can change depending on generally accepted discourse.)

I want to now address why I said above that there is an issue for the future of the West which concerns the ‘far-right’, because to some it might seem particularly strange as the ideas circulating in that cultural sphere are even more remote for the average person than those circulating on the left.

First, the image of the West is in some ways naturally conservative, because it denotes history and traditions which are to some degree crystallized in the past and would be out of a kind of reverence progressed today rather than abandoned for the sake of alternate ideas and traditions. This is also why some are being labelled as right-wing who do not believe the label to be accurate (for example because they proclaim that they support Enlightenment ideas or Classical Liberalism).

Then there is the conception and concomitant value placed on power. Every organism, people, society, and civilization must possess some degree of power if it is to survive, flourish, or succeed in attaining its ends. This includes the power or ability to obtain and consume resources, the power to influence others, and so on. This is not unique to either the left or the right.

The crux of the matter lies in the way power is evaluated by the opposing political and philosophical doctrines as well as in a formulation of natural right. Again, for the sake of brevity, to give a very crude and perhaps misleading formulation of the difference, the conception of natural right on the left would be more akin to the doctrine of human rights, that everyone has the right to life and liberty, but also to not be taken advantage of or oppressed which would be a breach of justice. On the right, and by the right I mean the ‘far-right’, the notion of justice would be something more akin to might-makes-right. In order to give that more nuance, the position does not necessarily have to hold that one is ‘justified’ by might, but rather only sees that, by nature, it is only through the power or ability to attain something that one can achieve it at all, and so that power or ability is valued in itself, and calls of injustice would only be sublimated expressions of a will-to-power which uses inverted values to attain goods from the one with the natural power or ability to obtain the desired good in the first place.

So how does this pertain to the current state of Western Civilization and feudal politics (some may already have been able to connect the dots)? The short answer is that there is a conflict being waged over the inheritance of that civilization, particularly on material terms, but even on the level of culture wherein particularly classic expressions of Western culture are held to be inherent expressions of various injustice, and new cultural expressions are advocated as being more just, inclusive, or however you will express it.

But if I trace the ideas of the ‘far-left’ to the Western tradition, how can their ascendancy indicate a death of the civilization which is the bearer of that tradition? The answer is twofold. First, the redistribution of material inheritance to parties which stand outside or opposed to that tradition means stripping Western Civilization of its material base. Second, the devaluation of that tradition by its reinterpretation as inherently unjust and the replacement of cultural forms with expressions or representations foreign to that tradition (including peoples, as in a cultural product the people become a signifier), the tradition would incrementally be replaced by something else (i.e. something outside of that civilization).

This is where I will conclude the post. My intention in writing it was to explain the oppositions taking place and indicate the grounds being fought over.

Addendum (Apr. 18, 2019)

The Right, and that includes its racial doctrines which they would more likely consider as something like ethnos, holds that there is a spirit of a people and it would be on the basis of that shared spirit that they could instinctually communicate, relate and sympathize with each other. Where this comes back to the role of mythology, the mythology is something like a religion of the ancestors or a spiritiual history of the people. By spiritual history would be intended something like, the representation of a people’s history as well as their deepest values can be expressed by the symbolic relations of their art. It isn’t that far removed from the ideas of mythology (the study of myths) for example the Greek goddess Hestia is the goddess of the hearth and home and veneration of Hestia would be a veneration of the ideal of a home (which includes one’s dwelling, country, etc.) which is sort of a sublimation of the concrete home of the people.

Cases for considering the European Tradition: Islam and America

This post is intended to explore and expand on my previous post discussing The European Tradition. I have also since writing it considered an important correction which should be made to some of the analysis in this post which I have detailed in the new post “Note of correction to “Cases for considering the European Tradition: Islam and America”

For this purpose, I am going to take two case studies to examine the potential and limitations of change in a tradition, in this case the European tradition.

There is much talk about the increasing presence of Islam in Europe. The question for this post is, can the presence of Islam contribute to the European tradition?

First, it must be stated that Islam is not part of the European tradition. Its origins are not European and its goals have not been to strengthen Europe. From that fact one can deduce that the incorporation of Islam into Europe is not in itself an addition to the European tradition but an addition of something foreign to that tradition. The story of Islam in Europe is rather part of a history of the Islamic tradition, as well as the traditions of any people who hold to that belief. If a European converts to Islam, they are joining another tradition. These are simple statements of facts.

The question is then, can Islam contribute to the European tradition? In order for Islam to contribute to the European tradition, it would have to do so on the grounds of that tradition, not in spite of those grounds or in opposition to them. Are there tenants of Islam which would strengthen the pre-existing goals and values of Europe without undermining their tradition? That is not a question which will be addressed in this post.

It might be worth considering the introduction of Christianity into Europe, which instigated a break with Greek and Roman religion and the basis of their values. The case of Rome is both complicated and illumining in this regard. Because of Rome’s nature as an expansionist empire, the region of Judea was incorporated into the Roman empire. While the provinces of Rome were generally not granted equal rights of citizenship, there was nonetheless a regional incorporation into the empire.

This is worth considering in relation to Islam in Europe today. One might be tempted to say that the incorporation of Muslim peoples into Europe today is equivalent of the incorporation spoken of above, and that the tenants of liberalism justify such an incorporation, but there are certain important differences. Most importantly is the difference of the incorporation of land into the Roman empire. The reason for this is that geography and tradition are intimately linked, in that not all policies can be effectively applied upon every location because the conditions which affect locations differ. This means that measures for social organization will differ in various locations as well as the ideas which contribute to effectively dealing with those conditions including value-systems.

Another important consideration is that Rome did not adopt Judaism but Christianity which later arose within the new boarders of the Roman empire. In addition, the developing Christianity was not simply a re-branding of Judaism for Rome but instead made reference to the new climate, including certain gospels of the New Testament being written in Greek, as well as Epistles to the Romans becoming part of the Christian gospels.

It should also be considered that after Christianity became the state religion of Rome, the empire fell within a hundred years. That means that the story of Christianity is intimately entwined with the fall of Rome and the origins of a new era in the West. It must also be considered that neither Rome nor other regions of pagan Europe adopted Christianity as a replacement for their current practices but rather transformed Christianity, evinced in Church iconography as well as its assimilation in Northern countries most clearly evinced in the Epic tradition with such examples as Beowulf and the Icelandic Sagas. Also, insofar as Europe was not unified before Charlemagne, one cannot even speak of a European tradition proper before the inception of Christianity but rather things like Germanic, Celtic, Icelandic, and so on.

I would like to round this post off by saying a few words about America, as it demonstrates an interesting case for thinking about the European condition. When answering the question, is the United States European? The answer must be ambivalent and somewhat equivocal. To be clear, I am speaking about the political entity of the united states and not the continent.

First, the origins of America was the colonization of European powers by European peoples. This is of primary importance. But when the United States declared independence from Britain, they were effectively severing important ties from Europe and its condition. This does not automatically qualify the United States as being non-European, because it could simply be a growth of the European idea. What it did do was increase the potential for America to become something non-European.

To explain, the declaration of independence as well as the constitution of the United States is founded in large part upon ideas which developed in Europe and by those with ancestry to Europe, but the act of independence made possible the development of new ideas upon the continent to be something which is not European, namely American. That means, by carving out the potential of a new trajectory, the Americans made it possible to become something other than European. To this must be added the difference of geography as well as the presence of other peoples on the continent, most importantly the natives of America. The natives have played a significant role in the development of American ideas, evinced clearly in foundational works of American literature such as The Last of the Mohicans. The case is the same with the significant presence of Africans in America, whose history and narratives have also played a significant role in the development of American consciousness. Most importantly, this was a consciousness which developed separately and as something other than that of Europe proper.

These considerations have been intended to aid the consideration of what tradition is and how it develops with particular focus on the European Tradition.

Europe, A History of Progress? Pt. 2

Part 1:

The Enlightenment philosophers of the Scientific Revolution and Age of Enlightenment continued to make defer to God with relation to all of their ideas, but particularly those of morality. With an argument that possesses echoes of Francis Bacon’s formulation of God’s will in nature, John Locke wrote: “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker” (Two Treaties on Government, Book II, Chapter 2, Section 6)

The ideal of liberty would continue to guide the vision of an enlightened society until the French Revolution and beyond. As an absolute ideal, liberty knows no bounds and any idea of boundaries can be seen as a restraint upon that liberty.

Many of the Romantic artists were either admirers of the French Revolution or at least passionate devotees of liberty. In the realm of art and aesthetics they unseated the Classical and Neoclassical notion that beauty, and thus the artist’s ability to conjure forth that beauty, is an objective quality which follows a defined set of principles, among them symmetry, proportion, and harmony. Instead, the Romantics claimed that art was the result of individual genius making manifest his inner inspiration.

The independence of art from given rules was taken further and then famously championed by Théophile Gautier with the formulation “L’art pour l’art” or “Art for the sake of art”. The implications of this slogan were that art was separated from any guiding principle, any core set of values which become manifest through creation and inspire by those witness that creation. Consider this in light of Percy Shelley’s remark in his Defence of Poetry that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

Europe was on a trajectory towards positivism, having first passed through the Critique of Pure Reason.  But an issue lurked in the background which would haunt thinkers in the later years of the 19th century which stemmed from the fact that an empirical method cannot discover values  as values do not appear in observable facts but are an aspect of human relation to those facts.

After the spread and contemplation of the ideas of Darwin, the European mind would enter into a state of crisis regarding belief in the existence of God. The implications of this crisis can be illustrated by the words which Dostoevsky gives to his character Kirilov in his work Demons part 3, chapter 6, II: “If there’s no God, then everything is my will, and I’m bound to express my self-will.”

The question was then, where does the free will discover the foundation of values by which the self is guided in the world? In order for there to be progress, there must be a value towards which one is oriented and so can judge the difference between that progress and its opposite, deterioration.