British academy

ISAIAH BERLIN LECTURE

Nomad's Progress

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood FBA, President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Tuesday 19 October 2004, 5.30pm

There was a time when the metaphor appropriate to the individual in search of moral and spiritual fulfilment was 'pilgrim'. The goal or telos of human life was known and identifiable; the problem was how to get there. From Plato's attempt to show us the way out of the Cave to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, the problems of the journey were recognised, but the point of arrival was not, in these accounts, in dispute. This implied unity of vision has unravelled through the vagaries of post-Enlightenment life. The problem today is not simply 'how to get there', but rather where 'there' is. The metaphor of 'pilgrim' has lost its force and I wish to examine the effectiveness of two alternatives 'tourist' and 'pilgrim'.