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Comment from the essay "Culture and anarchy" written by Matthew Arnold published in 1869

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  1. Introduction
  2. Arnold's detailed description of the contemporary state of the world
  3. A love of perfection
  4. Humanism in Arnold's work
  5. Conclusion

Matthew Arnold, in his philosophical essay Culture and Anarchy, published in 1869, exposes his view of culture in a generally way, that is to say, that this view could and should be applied to any society or any group of men on the earth.
He wrote it at a time where Bentham's Utilitarianism was the prevailing thought in the recently industrialized Europe, especially in Great Britain, where the Industrial Revolution had had the greatest impact on society. It is also a period of great changing philosophy, that is to say that the previous forms of thinking didn't fit in the new society, because even the notion of time was changed. On a dialectical point of view, the transformations of the society, which brought a new dominant group at its head, the middle-class, also brought new forms of thinking, new philosophies.Arnold, on his side, tries to stand back and redefines basic words in order to give his own definition of culture, as an entity that, applied to everyone, could save the world from the danger of ?machinery' it is sinking in.

[...] To him, his philosophy is not the transcription of a brief moral situation brought by the Industrial Revolution, but a true thought line which can be proved and applied in the history, and which will also be useful for the future. People with differing philosophies, such as the Philistines or the Puritans are for Arnold sacrified generations that is to say, that they sacrify culture because they use other means than it to reach what they think perfection is. He praises the Oxford university, which is for him a university which takes a stand against liberalism, and especially through the Oxford Movement of the 1830s and 1840s, (with John Henry Newmann, who Arnold admired a lot) which rejected liberalism and was the advocate of a social conservatism. [...]

[...] For him must the word curiosity be seen in a much more positive way, because it embodies the scientific passion, and culture is a fruit of this passion But this love of perfection can be interpreted in many different ways, and on this point, Arnold takes a stand once more very different from the Utilitarianism thought. He gives many different examples to show that the Philistines also claiming that there is a perfection and that they are trying to reach it, make a mistake, not in the way they seek it, but simply because it is a wrong perfection. [...]

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