Milton Konvitz American Ideals Lectures

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The Christian acceptance of linear time and history was challenged by contemporary Greek philosophers who held to the cyclical view. The problem that this view of history held for the Church was simply that if time and history were cyclical, the concept of free will was destroyed. For more than a thousand years, Dr. Konvitz explains, the linear view of time and history was subordinated to the influence of the Platonic and Aristotelian concepts of timeless reality. Only with the coming of the modern age (after 1800) was there a return to the linear concept of time and history as the basis for secular thought in the West. Buddhism and Hinduism traditionally hold to the cyclical view of time and history. Indian philosophy and religious thought, like that of the ancient Hebrews, could not reconcile itself to the universal suffering of mankind and hit upon the concept of karma. Karma is a universal causality in which individuals are rewarded or punished for their deeds when the soul transmigrates and becomes reincarnated. This view of time and history, Dr. Konvitz suggests, resulted in a traditional acceptance of life as it is and in a lack of historical consciousness. In contrast Judaism, Christianity, and Islam accepted the linear view. Time motion and change were real, and man had only one chance to do good in the world.

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