Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Case against Enlightenment

A different and potentially more serious problem with the World's goal of mastery over itself is our success in doing so. What happens when ordinary citizens and individuals join forces with the aim of perfection as its pursuit? The desire to control ourselves reveals a dangerous kind of arrogance that could lead to various unpleasant consequences. These include:

  • an increase in our moral burdens to do an inflation of our moral responsibility,
  • a decrease in our ability to promote a sense of community and togetherness,
  • and the emergence of a society unable to adjust to the unexpected or disagreeable elements it might face.
The more the World tries to achieve its goal of self-mastery by deciding exactly what the next generation of enlightened beings will be (the more it involves itself in determining which super-foods folks should eat, which educational reforms lead to enlightened thinking, which exercises promote physical, emotional, and spiritual evolution, and so forth), the more it burdens itself with a significant degree of moral responsibility over what constitutes evolvement for all of the World's citizens. The more the World does this, the more the World removes the ability of such persons to form their own judgments on enlightenment. The more the World does this, the more inflexible the World makes itself in dealing with the anomalies that will inevitably arise. And given what history has shown us, it seems quite reasonable that such things are happening and will continue to happen, regardless of whether they are brought about by the 'Gluten-free, yoga practicing, Vegan World' or not. 

So, should we conclude that the World's goal of mastery is morally wrong? As it stands, no. Let's focus for a moment on a particular argumentative strategy. Our objective is the moral evaluation of a particular goal. And our tactic in determining what distinguishes good goals from bad ones is to consider the likely consequences that would ensue if that goal were adopted. This is a fine approach as far as it goes, but it opens itself up to the counterargument that the good things likely to result from pursuing the goal have been ignored or at least downplayed. If, instead, they're given their proper due, so the counterargument goes, it'll be seen that they outweigh the bad things that are likely to happen. 

When it comes to the World, this response amounts first to acknowledging the bad things that are likely to result from the World's efforts to control the emergence of enlightenment. But then goes on to emphasize the good things that will also likely ensue, suggesting that they outweigh the bad. These good things will no doubt include saving or prolonging the lives of millions of people who still eat fast food, processed food, and who drink water from plastic bottles, which contaminate the entire planet. When the good of these saved lives is weighted against the bad of the World's increased moral responsibility and inflexibility, and even its interference with intrinsically valuable personal growth processes, it clearly seems that the former trumps the latter. 

Now should we conclude that the World's goal of mastering enlightenment principles isn't morally wrong? That, in fact, it might even be morally right? Believe it or not, the answer again is no. This is because of the inherent limitations on any speculation about the consequences of pursuing a specific goal. The problem is that the speculation is, well, speculative. What does this line of thinking amount to? The moral status of some goals is determined by the actual (versus the likely) consequences of following the goal. That's all well and good, of course, but it makes evaluating goals prior to their adoption difficult and speculative, at best. 

Where does this leave us? While some goals might be inherently bad, that is, bad regardless of a consideration of further factors, the goal of mastering ourselves is not like this. A consideration of the further relevant factors that would help us determine its moral status, however, has proved inconclusive (mostly because I don't feel like expounding on them this morning). So on this count, at least, the World has a get-out-of-enlightenment-free card. 

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