In Praise of Utopia

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by spidergoat, Apr 8, 2010.

  1. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    Good luck.

    If it's too petty for you, feel free not to post.

    Not a delusion but rather, an illusion.
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  3. Ambrose Mason Obsidian Gael Registered Senior Member

    There is no sin.
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  5. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Of course there isn't.
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  7. baumgarten fuck the man Registered Senior Member

    Since its inception.


    So basically, everything that you like and nothing you don't.

    Sir Thomas More coined the term "utopia" when in 1516 he wrote a book of the same name describing a society that was both "eu-topos" ("Good Place") and "ou-topos" ("No Place"). The name is a play on words meant to evoke the impossibility of a perfectly harmonious society and the folly of attempting to achieve the same.

    The original "utopian" treatise was Plato's Republic, which described the ideal society. But the Republic is as much an account of the inevitable process of decay from this ideal state into eventual democracy, then anarchy and dictatorship, as it is a description of its form.

    As I shall be wont to insist during my brief stay here, it would be helpful if one were to actually read the relevant texts from classical and modern literature, especially philosophy. We must be willing to remedy by some means the unfortunate side-effect of too much immersion in pop-sci news articles, which is a loss of rigor and imagination and overall decay of the ability to think.
  8. Axiomatic Registered Member

    All power structures feat utopia, because utopia puts the central truth of power to the lie. This is what all power says: "I am the only way. It is either me, or black ruin."

    But every utopian idea says "There is another way." The greatest enemy of power in an alternative.
  9. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    I think it's a lack of imagination that causes your cynicism. Utopia is not necessarily perfection, since that would require an ideal. Utopianism isn't idealism. It's not a political system. My vision of it is as a time when wrong action is simply culturally impossible. Right now, we are an invasive species, struggling to find it's way, like the Cane Toad in Australia. But eventually, after tens of thousands of years, even the Cane Toad would find a balance in the Australian ecosystem.

    Someday we will learn to build sustainable societies, after which our growth will be more mental than physical.
  10. RAW2000 suburban Registered Senior Member

    I think Utopia would be possible we need lots of robots (but with low A.I), so many infact the only job humans would have to do would be police, judges and mad robot patrol, bish bash bosch Utopia do'able with in a few generations.
  11. baumgarten fuck the man Registered Senior Member

    By definition, Utopia is perfection, and Utopianism is idealism (in the colloquial sense). If you aren't suggesting a perfect, ideal society (although I think you actually are), then you aren't suggesting a Utopia at all.

    Anatomically modern humans had sustainable societies for roughly 200,000 years before civilization came along; the last four millenia have been a race to the finish. Once you start domesticating your food, you are using more resources than nature provides on its own. Then the population grows, and you have to find ways to keep them all fed. The more food you produce, the more babies you have. It's a feedback loop and in principle, it's unsustainable.

    But even if we solve the scarcity problem, that still isn't Utopia. Going back to the Republic, we're looking at a primarily social problem, not an economic one. It's the nature of the human condition that makes a morally perfect society unsustainable. Life is the quintessential example of an ongoing thing, but perfection is immutable. So once we reach the top, in terms of experience, we have nowhere to go but down. And we must go. Ta panta rei, as Heraclitus proclaimed -- "all is flux." For Plato, this meant that society is doomed. Any concrete realization of a value on our part is destined to fade into night. Discord and strife win out in the end.

    That's not cynicism, really. It's quite reasonable. What makes it seem cynical, to anyone who still wants to achieve a perfect and everlasting society, is this question: How do you manage to hold out hope for humanity, given the basic facts of existence? I think that's the very question that any Utopian philosophy is trying to avoid. Unsurprisingly, then, I (and many others) find Utopia to be a rather feeble, uninteresting idea. A perfection in becoming, that is, a perfection among human facticity rather than apart from it, is what one reasonably desires. But again, that isn't Utopia at all, and it doesn't necessarily involve either moral purity or an artificial achievement of abundance. It would have to be something that endured with or without either of these particular achievements, in fact with or without any particular achievement at all. So we are necessarily referring to something that is greater than the sum of its parts. A creative and ongoing "achievement" or process rather than a temporary satisfaction.

    Something like that already exists, though. We know that the already existing human society and values emerge only from the novel ways in which individual human beings connect with each other. Were we a mere collective, society would be a homogeneous monad; were we mere individuals, there would be no society to speak of. So the way we live life now depends enormously on dynamism and emergence. Additionally, the more people cooperate, the less coercive and the more creative society becomes. Obviously human beings need to be creative merely to find ways to cooperate. Otherwise we get feuds, people become distant and unchanging, and a sort of malaise emerges that threatens human livelihood.

    But man has survived that malaise since antiquity. We are doing all right. It ought to be evident that, if society is based on cooperation, then the more faith people have in people, the better off we become, in a spontaneous and emergent way. Utopianism, by demanding what is principally impossible, destroys this faith, so I think it's foolish.
    Last edited: May 19, 2010
  12. Gustav Banned Banned


    here is what "gaia" would have us do.....
    " In one well documented case, a population of 2,000-4,000 hunter-gatherers were estimated to be roaming over an area of about 25,000 square miles. This population was grouped into bands of about 50 individuals, and the average population density was no more than 10 people per square mile. "
    ja, nasty, short and brutish lives...or something like that
    as for the "feedback loop", eyeball warren thompson and his dtm model....paradoxically, prosperity begats less children rather than more

    i like it. a fella named harding essayed something similar back in 1968. something about the tragedy of the commons
    "The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.

    As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, "What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?" This utility has one negative and one positive component.

    1. The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly + 1.

    2. The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision*making herdsman is only a fraction of - 1.

    Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another.... But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit — in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.​

    so much for utopian ideals

    ps: imho this thread is not a good fit for phil. the tenor of the op makes that obvious

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