Chronological Snobbery was an idea that I first learned about my first semester at college. The term was coined by C.S. Lewis in his autobiographical work, "Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life." Today, I will discuss what exactly Chronological Snobbery is, where it can be seen today, and some counterexamples.
So what is Chronological Snobbery? There are a few hints in the name. For example, chronological implies that it will have something to do with time. A snob is someone who thinks of himself or herself as higher in standing than he or she really is. By putting these together we can come up with what this term means.
In short, a chronological snob is a person that thinks of himself or herself as more advanced than people from previous eras simply because we are more "advanced" now than they were then. In Lewis's own words in "Surprised by Joy," Chronological Snobbery is accepting that "whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited." In other words, anything from the past should be considered second-rate to those things of the present.
For example, if we use the word medieval as describing something as backwards or wrong, that is Chronological Snobbery. Or, if we use the word Victorian to represent something that is old and without use. These are both ridiculous and absurd.
However, Chronological Snobbery is still present. C.S. Lewis used the term to refer to himself. In his case, he viewed himself as better due to science. At the time Lewis was an atheist and thought that the sciences had overcome the need for religion to explain the world, and because of this, he thought of himself as better then everybody in the past who believed in religion, most notably, those in the Medieval period. In fact, this is a view that people today still hold.
What then are the counterexamples?
I will use literature. One example is Shakespeare. Although he wrote during the Renaissance, Shakespeare's works are still read and preformed today. Does this mean that Shakespeare's writings are second-rate to the best of our current literature? I would say no. While this is an arguable field, I think that many people will agree that a least some of Shakespeare's work is on par or better than today's.
Another example would be the Ancient Greek philosophers. Does the fact that they are from Ancient times mean that their teachings do not hold any relevance today? Again, I think not. What they taught and wrote is still taught today and still influences modern people.
Overall, although we live in a world that has changed much, and we have advanced so far technologically, the real question is not whether or not we are better than those who came before us, but whether or not the changes we have made to this world have changed us for the better.