Very Short Treatise on Hope, Perfection, Utopia, and Progress

16 December 2008

hope utopia perfection progress

Part I

Theoretical Reflection

1.0 An unstable future is more likely to inspire fear than hope, but an exhaustive tradition in which everything is determined in totality is perhaps even worse than fear of the unknown.

2.0 Mature institutions converge on totality, foreclosing upon instability (hence also opportunity) in the name of order, and perhaps also in the name of perfection, as in the pursuit of a more perfect union.

3.0 In so far as perfection is understood to be a finished state, an end attained, perfection cannot incorporate progress—there can only be progress toward perfection, never progress in perfection.

3.1 Even if perfection must be innocent of progress, we can still define progress as a utopian process as contrasted to a finished utopian state of being.

3.2 While progress and utopia are mutually exclusive, they are also intimately related—there must be progress in order to achieve utopia, but in the same motion that utopia is realized, progress ceases.

3.21 The ladder of progress is to be cast away once of the summit of utopia has been surmounted; the end of history has arrived.

4.0 Hope is a disposition, not an emotion.We can distinguish between the disposition of hope and the emotion associated with hope.

4.1 While it would be inaccurate to call hope an emotion, there is a hopeful state of mind that qualifies as an emotion.

4.11 This hopeful state of mind could be called hopefulness, in order to distinguish it from hope proper.

4.12 In same way, while it would be inaccurate to call love an emotion, there is a loving state of mind that qualifies as an emotion.

4.2 Hope and love are dispositions that admit of parallelism.

4.21 The hopeful state of mind (4.1), i.e., hopefulness, and the loving state of mind (4.11) are emotions that admit of parallelism.

5.0 Hope and expectation can be distinguished.

5.1 Although hope and expectation are distinct, and can be distinguished by those who care to distinguish them, hope and expectation cannot however be disentangled in the life of any individual.

5.2 Hopes and expectations naturally escalate when things are going well, each one contributing to the other, so that expectations of a certain standard of living encourage one to hope for better, while this on-going hope for the better, if it receives any encouragement at all, often leads to an expectation of an improved standard of living, inspiring, in turn, further hopes to live better yet.

5.3 When an individual’s circumstances are declining the expectation of a declining standard of living is checked by hopes that these expectations will not be fulfilled, so that the unrealistic spiral of hopes and expectations during good times are rarely brought down to realistic levels even in poor times.

6.0 Human beings, being driven primarily by emotion, are more readily reached through hopefulness than through hope sensu stricto.

6.1 Even where hope has fled, hopefulness often remains, which explains why (5.3) when an individual’s circumstances are declining… etc.

6.2 Wittgenstein wrote in the Foreword to his Philosophical Remarks that he would like to say that he had written the book to the glory of God, but, he says, that would be chicanery today. Similarly, to mention hope today sounds like chicanery, and even those who have not read T. S. Eliot’s line that “hope would be hope for the wrong thing,” would instinctively understand the lines and believe them to be an accurate summary of our present condition.

6.21 Hope for the wrong thing is possible because hopefulness subsists even in the absence of hope.

7.0 If politics cultivated hope in the way it now cultivates anger, the world would be a different place than it is today.

Part II

Practical Application

1.0 To counteract stagnancy and despair an explicit policy of encouraging change, promoting progress, and inspiring enthusiasm for the future should be pursued without apologies to any who find the measures unrealistic, sentimental, insufficiently sophisticated for our time, or just plain wrong. Progress has had its share of critics—perhaps more than its share of critics. Perhaps it is time for the advocates of progress to make their case again. It would be difficult to identify an idea that came in for more abuse in the twentieth century than the idea of progress.

2.0 The events of the twentieth century constitute an inductive argument against progress as an operative principle of world history.

3.0 Being an operative principle of world history is a matter distinct from being worthy and admirable, or even from being the source of whatever was worthy and admirable in a century of crimes and atrocities.

4.0 We are not obliged to take facts for our ideals, and we are not in error if we are unable to transform our ideals into facts.

5.0 We are bound to history and its unsavory facts, but we are not absolutely bound, and we also have the capacity to transcend history.

5.1 The events of history, while not inevitable, occur within the parameters of the possible.

5.2 The parameters of the possible are established by past events without being determined by them.

5.21 Past events establish a point of departure for events of the future without determining events of the future.

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Grand Strategy Annex

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One Response to “Very Short Treatise on Hope, Perfection, Utopia, and Progress”

  1. […] have reason to fear. We also have reason to be hopeful. Is it even a question of erring on one side or the other? Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

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