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Of Historical Note: Civilization's Advance

By Abraham Flexner Published 2007

The following excerpt by Abraham Flexner, Founding Director of the Institute for Advanced Study, was published in The New York Times on April 17, 1932:

The world is not yet civilized. None the less it is a better world today than at any time in history. For the moment, however, the question arises as to whether society is able to carry out and to carry on the humane programs upon which it has embarked in education and in philanthropy. There are those whose hearts are weak and who cannot see the immediate present. I belong to a different school.

All my life I have been a student of history. In some of the ups and downs of society I myself have lived. My memory goes back to the panic of 1873, and I vividly remember subsequent convulsions in which the faint-hearted lost all hope. I entertain not the slightest doubt that a decade hence we will be stronger, as I hope we may also be wiser, than during the period preceding 1929, when we were living in a fool’s paradise. Unquestionably adjustments must be made, but they are very often adjustments in feeling rather than in fact.

Published in The Institute Letter Winter 2007