Luxury and Societal Decadence

John Stuart Mill, The Spirit of the Age:

“All is not absolutely unfounded in the notion we imbibe at school, from the modern writers on the decline of the ancient commonwealths, that luxury deadens and enervates the mind. It is true that these writers (whose opinion, truly, was the result of no process of thought in their own imitative souls, but a faint impression left by a ray of the stoic philosophy of Greece and Rome themselves, refracted or bent out of its direction by the muddy medium through which it had passed) were wrong in laying it down as a principle that pleasure enervates; as if pleasure, only to be earned by labour and won by heroic deeds, ever did or ever could enervate the mind of any one. What really enervates, is the secure and unquestioned possession, without any exertion, of all those things, to gain which, mankind in general are wont to exert themselves. This secure and lazy possession, the higher classes have now for some generations enjoyed; their predecessors in the same station and privileges did not enjoy it.”

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