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Is utopia or perfection an impossible to reach ideal?

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by Darc, Jul 29, 2017.

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  1. dogman6126

    dogman6126 Community Member

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    @Ginny @Ren

    I decided to suggest this without knowing what I think of it personally. I do think Ren is right that this is a definitional thing. I think that to split the idea in this way makes it more plausible for a Utopia to exist, specifically to separate individual perfection from societal perfection. Some of the problems we've mentioned are things like individuals are imperfect because they have more to learn or they act imperfectly. If we concern ourselves only with societal perfection, these worries don't challenge the Utopia. In fact, they just might be important moving pieces for it to actually exist (allows for growth, development, etc.). However, I am sympathetic to the challenge, "does the definition of Utopia survive this split?" like what I think Ginny is pushing for. Maybe I've gravitated to "ideal world" or "best possible world" with this move (and so bit my own tail, hehe :m095:) rather than staying with "perfect world". I'd be willing to say that this idea of societal Utopia is not of the same kind as the definition of Utopia we've been working with, but I wonder if it's enough that we can still say Utopias per say can exist.

    I also don't want to say this move denies full Utopias as you might say. I'm only pushing another direction to see if I can claim Utopias exist without as many constraints.
     
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  2. Ren

    Ren Pin's android and co-founder of Stoic Café

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    Sorry for answering this a little late! I had to think a bit more about what I had meant to say.

    So far I’ve been operating with the assumption that time keeps bringing new states of affairs to the world, and so that the world can never be perfect, because it will always be at best something like “perfected world + imperfect new state of affairs” and so not perfection, and so not a Utopia.

    My insight was, what do I exactly mean by “+ imperfect new state of affairs”? A timeless world would feature no new state of affairs, and so we would have a solution to the realisation of Utopia (allowing for the very generous proposition that we can in fact perfect the finitude of state of affairs of the resulting world, which is far from obvious especially in view of some of the points you’ve made about human fallibility).

    But maybe we could locate another possible solution in – not so much a timeless world, but in a world that keeps presenting states of affairs that are in fact not substantially new, but only reconfigurations of previous states of affairs. Today I went to the workplace (why? ah, just being a workhaholic) and I had strong coffee. Yesterday I also had coffee, but weaker. Is the state of affairs I was presented with today really new, or only a reconfiguration of facts?

    On this line of interpretation, the world would contain only a finite amount of facts both actual and potential; or if “fact” does not suit, whatever it is that collectively makes a state of affairs. Historical time would then not present substantially new states of affairs, but only finite replays, in a sense, though this finitude might be so extremely wide as to appear infinite, and so “felt as new by humans” and their limited cognitive capabilities (cf. my quote above.)

    This may not suggest that humans can achieve a Utopia, but maybe it weakens the case of my proof against the very possibility of Utopia, which I developed formally a few days ago (see above). I’m feeling like my proof relied too much on the assumption that time brings in substantially new states of affairs “foreign” to the substance of the world as they enter into it, rather than (maybe) only offering new configurations or modes of that same substance.

    Regardless, I’m thoroughly enjoying demolishing my own arguments. Do they call this masochism, or true philosophical spirit? :sweatsmile:
     
    #42 Ren, Oct 29, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2017
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  3. dogman6126

    dogman6126 Community Member

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    Hmmm....you know masochism wasn't really a possibility till you mentioned it, so I would have said philospohical spirit, but you mentioning masochism has me a little concerned....after all, who knows a man better than he knows himself? heh.

    I like this solution. allow for change by accepting new configurations of perfect states. I think you'll need to outline where that variation can exist because in many cases, perfect is a single case of many possibilities. The highest number, the greatest value, etc. Where can you get that variation? I think allow for different kinds of Utopia can give us this because it moves the restriction. Do you have any other suggestions?
     
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  4. Ren

    Ren Pin's android and co-founder of Stoic Café

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    Hey @dogman6126, I’m finally getting around to answering you on the Utopia front. The point you raised about perfection got me thinking and made me realise that all along, we might have been answering a trivial question under different guises.

    The point I reached is this: the question about Utopia implies a Utopia for humans to live in. But then, the statement “A perfect human world is not possible” seems like a tautology. Given that a human world is a world made of humans, who are by definition finite, imperfect and not all-knowing, imperfection is one of the things that make the (human) world what it is. And the world constantly changes: it can never attain to timeless or unchanging perfection, sure; but this derives from the very essence of what the world is. It is not really arrived at by anything other than various reformulations of the basic tautology that the founding question phrased to begin with.

    It’s a little bit like a more complex, shrouded way of asking: “Can geese fly?” (I’m using a vulgar example on purpose). The answer is geese cannot fly, but this is not really arrived at via a string of logical arguments connected to one another. It is only trivially true. Unsurprisingly, we shifted the conversation to abstract discussions of whether a perfect world is possible. But this seems somewhat divorced from what was meant by “Utopia” in the first place. If we are going to ask about whether a Utopia is possible, we should be asking: “Can humans attain Utopia?” – which is a slightly different question. It is not about whether a perfect world is possible in abstract, but whether finite, imperfect humans can actually achieve a perfect world. This seems tautologically untrue, unless we provide a definition of perfection which is at least theoretically attainable by humans.

    The question would then become: “Supposing a Utopia is a perfect world which is at least theoretically attainable by humans, can it actually be achieved?” – This way, we would not necessarily affirm that Utopia can be achieved by humans, but we would also avert the somewhat counter-productive notion that Utopia can only make sense as being not achievable by humans. I mean counter-productive in that if so, then it’s not even that interesting to ask the question about Utopia. The question becomes interesting if we can actually have a discussion about the whole issue. This means, then, that we must define Utopia in such a way as to accommodate human fallibility. If so, then Utopia ≠ perfection in the sense in which we have used the word thus far.
     
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  5. Ginny

    Ginny Moon Witch

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    A valid point. Again coming from the etymological and semantic point of view, Utopia doesn't necessitate perfection. It is only the interpretation of Utopia which introduced the notion of perfection as a necessity into that system. Otherwise it would be an attainable state of affairs and it was designated unattainable, because it is non-existent. However, just because it doesn't/didn't exist, that doesn't make it unattainable.
     
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  6. dogman6126

    dogman6126 Community Member

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    Hi, sorry I haven't responded in a while. been soooo busy.

    Why include imperfection in the definition of human? I think that humans tend to be imperfect, but I don't think part of what makes us human is that very imperfection. To explain, I take human imperfection to be when one fails or makes a mistake. Consider how one might cheer up a friend who failed a task by saying "you're only human". I don't think this implies that humans are imperfect. Rather, there are limitations to what humans can do. For example, suppose I tasked you with lifting 2000 lbs in earth gravity with one hand and without any sort of assistance. You would fail this task. I might respond saying "don't worry, you're only human". However, I don't think that a Utopia would require humans to be able to lift 2000 lbs in earth gravity with one hand and without aid. This suggests to me that limitations in human ability create bounds on the demands for a human Utopia.

    I think this makes more sense in terms of mistakes. The very implication of a mistake is that it was possible for things to have been other wise. I made a mistake because I did x instead of y where x is actual and y was possible. I think this suggests that human perfection is bounded by human possibility.

    I don't think I fully understand the direction you are going in here. I suppose there are three questions to ask here about Utopia:
    1. Is the definition of our question inherently contradictory
    2. Are the terms "human" and "utopia" inherently contradictory
    3. is a human utopia actually attainable

    Is this distinction what you are getting at?


    I mean, I think all three of the ways to look at this question are related to each other. It kind of goes back to my first comment here about actual and theoretical possibility. For something to be actually possible, it must be theoretically possible as well. If we want to grant theoretical possibility to talk about actual possibility, then we can do that. I guess as a quick thought, I would say it is actually possible if a LOT of conditions were to go right (likely due to pre-engineering). However, just this way of putting it might beg the question. I'm basically saying if a lot of conditions were to be ideal, then we would exist in a utopia. Maybe not question begging though. Let me know if you had something else in mind with your post!
     
    #46 dogman6126, Nov 15, 2017
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  7. Ren

    Ren Pin's android and co-founder of Stoic Café

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    Yes, I agree with this. This is the gist of what I was getting at in my message. I only really meant that when we think about a "perfect world", we don't intuitively think about a human Utopia "bounded by human possibility" - or do we? Let's just call the perfect world P and the humanly perfect world P' for a minute. For instance, I would tend to associate P with a world in which there is no war nor murder. What about P', though? Does P' make room for the possibility of occasional murder, and occasional war? Or do we want to be strict and argue that P' cannot feature any kind of war or murder either? It would be interesting, even if just by way of experiment, to see how we could pre-engineer a (human) context that would make war and murder impossible without sacrificing on freedom or the integrity of the human body. Here I think we can get a whiff of why Utopian thinking can create room for totalitarianism, but anyway.

    Somehow this seems to tie with another thread in the Philosophy section, about original sin. One of the questions connected to that topic is: "Can freedom exist without evil and sin?" It seems that free will allows for sin - in your terminology, for human actions that are not 'just mistakes', but real immoral actions perhaps. If it doesn't, then it's not really free, and therefore not Utopian. But if it does, then it allows for immorality, and thus for a world which is not Utopian. So to phrase my question again, perhaps at a more abstract level this time around: how can we pre-engineer a context in which humans continue to freely exercise their freedom, but without ever, in practice, abusing it in the name of immorality? This is theoretically possible, I think, but it would be interesting to hear an argument that lays out how it can be actually possible, too.

    It would also be fascinating to attempt to describe the concrete, fundamental criteria of what would be this world of "perfection bounded by human possibility", this Utopia in the true sense in which I understand the word. Maybe, if we could agree on these 'structural' fundaments, we could then argue that as long these obtain in our world system, the world would remain a Utopia even if there are minor (non structural) disturbances in the system. Maybe this would allow us to accommodate the inflow of new (or newly configured) states of affairs that aren't perfect with our Utopia. So for example, we could make perpetual peace a fundamental part of the Utopian world system, but not individual murders. If so, a world of permanent peace would remain a Utopia even if someone were to come forward and say "but look, this person got killed by that other person who abused their radical free will." lol. Maybe it is possible to conceive of a rough perfection made of a few essential, unchanging qualities, to which are added up irreducible but definitionally eliminable imperfections.

    So in summary: let's define the fundamental criteria for a human Utopia! :sunglasses:
     
    #47 Ren, Nov 15, 2017
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  8. dogman6126

    dogman6126 Community Member

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    Is that what you guys are talking about over there? I haven't checked because it's such a long thread already, lol. I've been thinking about it more, and I don't think I can offer you a strong enough argument for this. I can establish theoretical possibility, and I might be able to push for conceivability, but I can't establish strict actual possibility. Especially for a concept as implausible as true human utopia.

    We could try to define some of the criteria, but I don't think this will establish actual possibility. However, I do think things like humans acting moral, no war, murder, disease, etc. would be needed. I don't think we'd reach new conclusions from classic conceptions of Utopia, but I'm not well read in that area to know all of what is talked about. Or even really how to begin with this, haha.
     
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  9. Ginny

    Ginny Moon Witch

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    These are seriously low expectations. They should be the minimum of attainable utopian qualities in P'. Or do we understand murder differently?

    Is there a grammatical mistake or how do you mean "that aren't perfect with our Utopia"? I believe there is an adjective missing, provided that "perfect" should actually be "perfectly". Please, explain.

    I think disease needn't necessarily be excluded from P', but it should be a given for the full-on Utopia P.
     
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  10. Ren

    Ren Pin's android and co-founder of Stoic Café

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    Perhaps I can make this clearer to you with italics: "Maybe this would allow us to accommodate the inflow of new (or newly configured) states of affairs that aren't perfect with our Utopia." The italicized part has to be understood as a complete whole. If you think that I should have made things clearer by adding more punctuation, let me already agree so we can shift our focus back to substance.

    Regarding the low expectations I have set for Utopia, I think you misunderstood me somewhat. I did not mean that "no war" and "no murder" should be the only criteria for P'. What I meant was rather: even supposing that these were the only criteria, does this not make Utopia already very difficult to achieve? I was trying to show how fundamentally different P' was going to be from P if we were to make it a Utopia actually achievable by humans. But maybe you have an insight about how to reconcile an actually achievable human Utopia with the absence of murder? It would be interesting to hear your perspective on this.
     
  11. Ginny

    Ginny Moon Witch

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    Yes, we should at least make our statements syntactically unambiguous.

    I didn't mean to imply that. I meant what I said, even if I initially misread your stance on what was the minimum towards P and P'.

    I think P' should be a mixture of our world as it is and an imaginable utopia at this point in time/development. Even if it is difficult to acheive, it is still a possible to acheive a Utopia without war and murder, at least to some degree. If war was eradicated, a great deal of murders that could potentially be comitted would be avoided, lowering the rate of casualties by a high percentage, possibly. Think about what lies at the root of war. [This is what needs to be found out and adressed. I can only take a guess.] Basically, it is the same as with murder, it's always the same. So, if we were to find the root of that rotten plant, pluck it out and prevent it from growing again by grooming the garden, we might acheive something like that. It is going to be a big step, and it's going to take a long time, but it is possible.
     
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  12. Ren

    Ren Pin's android and co-founder of Stoic Café

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    Oh c'mon, it wasn't that unambiguous. :m123:

    I agree about war, but here you also say that ending war would "lower the rate of casualties by a high percentage, possibly." To me, what this means is that eradicating war would not actually eradicate murder, just make it less frequent. So maybe we agree in the end? Although P should exclude murder by definition, P' as an actual Utopia for and by humans may not actually exclude it completely. It sounds kind of awful but I'm struggling to find an argument demonstrating the actual possibility of an entirely murder-free P'. It seems to me that for billions of agents endowed with free will to never freely commit murder, we would need some super-human principle akin to Leibniz's pre-established harmony, but in Leibniz this pre-established harmony is the work of God, not humans.

    Actually, it's quite possible that in order to say something genuinely new about Utopia, we'd have to focus on theoretical possibility and conceivability :) I think that at some point this week I'll return to the more abstract idea of reconfigurations of perfect states of affairs, even just to see where this might lead me/us.
     
  13. Ginny

    Ginny Moon Witch

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    I never said it was easy, but I was - while writing - coming to the point that in all murder, be it large or small scale - stems from the same source and this should be tackled. Now that you mentioned God, Christian doctrine actually tried to do that, but the messages got reinterpreted and submersed in mythical allegories so many times over that it has become obsolete in its use now. It is actually counterproductive and is used to spark war instead of stifling it. Not that it is the only motive, but it is a demonstrative example. Small things can have massive consequences. And it's the small things that need attention, in order to change the whole. And this way, the absence of murder in P' can be established.
     
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  14. phiphi

    phiphi Newbie

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    I hope it is not illegal here to resurrect a thread :)

    I think there has to be hardship, maybe there is a cosmic reason for that.

    If the amount of suffering is reduced to none, if people can experience hardship yet have a chance to play pokemon and feel happy, no violence, and everyone aware and together as friends, then I think that is a utopia.

    The internet has it's bad side but it's a pain necessary to know and can make us more aware and reduce death, as long as you (I speak for myself!) use the intuition and not suppress it for something remarkably stupid.

    Being ideal is great because it helps me to act and try. Better than being 'real' from a distance (or worse)
     
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  15. Lady Jolanda

    Lady Jolanda The Queen of Sophistry
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    No, it's not illegal to resurrect threads here. You're fine. :)
     
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  16. Roses In The Vineyard

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    Utopia can't exist in our current condition that people despite knowing partly what needs to be done they will never change their ways. It can be done and those in the know are aware that it is our primitive society and the evils of our time that is the problem putting it short though in truth these problems are complex.
     
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  17. kinglear

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    Is utopia or perfection an impossible to reach ideal?

    utopia for who?

    utopia for everyone?

    how can that be achieved when everyone is different?

    this is why the US constitution does not say you have a right to happiness only a right to the pursuit of happiness

    No one can guarantee your happiness

    only YOU can pursue that
     
  18. charlatan

    charlatan Community Member

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    You know, I think looking back, I was saying sort of the same thing as @Ren -- I basically was saying progress is endless/we keep perfecting things, vs having a final perfect state of affairs.

    However, just to be cautious, what about a world in which the only existing being is God (whether or not you believe God exists in our world)? There, the knowledge-is-incomplete wouldn't hold (God is omniscient), and presumably there would not need to be progress, as God is perfect. Of course, one could hold God cannot exist, ever, but that seems to me a more ambitious thesis (unless one believes in something like the ontological argument, which purports to show the possibility of God implies the actual existence of God, but that's still ambitious --- I think it's far from obvious such an argument works).
     
    #58 charlatan, Oct 17, 2018
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  19. Ren

    Ren Pin's android and co-founder of Stoic Café

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    That's an interesting take. I think that on some level it makes a lot of sense.

    Recently, while working on some other philosophical topics, I came to realize something probably obvious. If we take a strong approach to the meaning of Utopia, meaning a genuinely perfect world, then that world cannot actually exist, since actuality is becoming, and becoming is perishable and therefore not perfect. Basically, a strong Utopia would have to lie outside of time, it would have to be eternal and timeless. I think this argument alone is enough to defeat the idea of a strong "actual Utopia". But indeed, there is a being whose essence is synonymous with its existence, i.e. whose being is its becoming: God, the supreme aseitic being. So, a world in which the only existing being is God would in a sense be a perfect world.

    But I think this only highlights how "Utopia" and "perfect world" don't quite mean the same thing. It seems absurd to picture a Utopia as a world in which only God exists. I think the idea of Utopia implies the agency of human being, and that it is indeed about cultivating a movement towards perfection rather than achieving a final state of affairs. We already have that ideal final state of affairs, it is God's world, but that does not really concern us.
     
  20. wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    Well we have no reason to take that argument into consideration since there is no good explanation why we should believe that God even exists. Without a good explanation why, your hypothetical can be summarily rejected. Thats my Popperian analysis anyway.
     
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