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Progress and Regression

In Which We Discuss One of My Many Philosophies of Society and Life

An Essay By Trevor Stone

May 1996, Sophomore Year, New Vista High School

When assigned to write my philosophy, I immediately realized that I had to write about a subtopic. My philosophy is too large to divulge into one paper with one focus, and the changing nature of it would mean that it would be outdated within the year. Further, I don't have a defined philosophy on most of the questions you suggested. The way I see my life, my motives, my views on other people don't have individual sections and must be found using the index. At first I tried to write on the cosmoverse, but that is a philosophy still in progress which needs more scientific research. I then decided to write about a philosophy that is easier to give examples for, progress and regression.

For every step of progress there is a step of regress. What is progress? Progress is the movement (whether it be spatial, technological, mental, et ceteral) from point A to point B. Let's look at an example of progress.

Suppose Dick wants to get from point A to point B. He starts running towards point B. Every step of the way he progresses towards the good and bad parts of point B and regresses from the good and bad parts of point A.

Progress does not necessarily have to be physical movement, though. If, after several hours of progress, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich are closer to a plan for fiscal year 97, they have made progress towards that goal. Or if today's computers run 50 megahertz faster than they did two years ago, the computer industry has made progress towards faster computers.

Our society has generally labeled progress as good. People are always trying to make more progress. But progress is neither absolutely good nor absolutely bad, this has been known for more than 2500 years.

Take industrialization, widely considered as progress, as an example. We now have bigger factories, more products, and more money, but we also now have more pollution, more materialism, and more greed. They are two sides of the same coin, yin and yang. Everything has a counter-balance, and it's up to you to decide whether the good is worth the bad.

As the benefits of progress increase, so do the drawbacks. Frequently, this can lead to a cosine-wave like pattern. In Russia, for instance, capitalistic monarchy, with its bad parts and its good parts, was failing, so there was a revolution and they switched to socialism. This worked well for a while, but its drawbacks grew along with its benefits, there was unrest, and another major economic and political change happened as they went back to capitalism.

In the following cosine graph, the bottom line represents the height of capitalism and the top line represents the height of socialism. This is only the area on a cosine graph between - and , and is thus representational of a period of historical progress rather than the whole of historical progress.

[Progress Graph]

If we were to take a look at a much larger portion of history, we would see several periods of progress marked by several cycles of cosine. You can also see the cosine wave as representative of progress in a different way. In the space of one cycle there are things that are progressively good and things that are progressively bad.

This philosophy is similar to Taoism in some respects. Taoism (represented in the yin-yang) holds that everything has some good and some bad in it, and life is just a river going through it. In this way, progress is just movement, made up of some good and some bad.

This reflects on my life in many ways. I, like everybody else, began life as a pu, or uncarved block. As I grew I gained knowledge, carving away at the block. I now know more, and can do more, but I have lost much of the openness and bliss of a child. If my life is extended into the future, eventually a cosine curve would develop as I became old. I would become more childlike in my actions, forget some bits of knowledge, and caring more about whether or not it's a sunny day outside than what I have to do next week.

I also find the contrasting polarities of progress and regression in the way I follow the path of aging in society. As I grow older I progress towards more freedoms and more abilities, but I also regress towards more responsibilities and more commitments. Is it better to have freedom and responsibility, or relaxation and confinement? Or is it just better to float on the river between yin and yang? Well, that's what philosophy is designed to figure out.


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