The Structure of Hope

20 February 2015

Friday


Kant on Hope

Kant famously summed up the concerns of his vast body of philosophical work in three questions:

1) What can I know?

2) What ought I to do? and…

3) What may I hope?

These three questions roughly correspond to his three great philosophical treatises, the Critique of Pure Reason, the Critique of Practical Reason, and the Critique of Judgment, which represent, respectively, rigorous inquiries into knowledge, ethics, and teleology. However much the world has changed since Kant, we can still feel the imperative behind his three questions, and they are still three questions that we can ask today with complete sincerity. This is important, because many men who deceive themselves as to their true motives, ask themselves questions and accept answers that they do not truly believe on a visceral level. I am saying that Kant’s questions are not like this.

In other contexts I have considered what we can know, and what we ought to do. (For example, I have just reviewed some aspects of what we can know in Personal Experience and Empirical Knowledge, and in posts like The Moral Imperative of Human Spaceflight I have looked at what we ought to do.) Here I will consider the third of Kant’s questions — what we are entitled to hope. There is no more important study toward understanding the morale of a people than to grasp the structure of hope that prevails in a given society. Kant’s third question — What may I hope? — is perhaps that imperative of human longing that was felt first, has been felt most strongly through the history of our species, and will be the last that continues to be felt even while others have faded. We have all heard that hope springs eternal in the human breast.

It is hope that gives historical viability both to individuals and their communities. In so far as the ideal of historical viability is permanence, and in so far as we agree with Kenneth Clark that a sense of permanence is central to civilization, then hope that aspires to permanence is the motive force that built the great monuments of civilization that Clark identified as such, and which are the concrete expressions of aspirations to permanence. Here hope is a primary source of civilization. More recent thought might call this concrete expression of aspirations to permanence the tendency of civilizations to raise works of monumental architecture (this is, for example, the terminology employed in Big History).

Four conceptions of history -- human nature and human condition

Hope and Conceptions of History

The structure of hope mirrors the conception of history prevalent within a given society. A particular species of historical consciousness gives rise to a particular conception of history, and a particular conception of history in turn defines the parameters of hope. That is to say, the hope that is possible within a given social context is a function of the conception of history; what hope is possible, what hope makes sense, is limited to those forms of hope that are both actualized by and delimited by a conception of history. The function of delimitation puts certain forms of hope out of consideration, while the function of actualization nurtures those possible forms of hope into life-sustaining structures that, under other conceptions of history, would remain stunted and deformed growths, if they were possible forms of hope at all.

In analyzing the structure of hope I will have recourse to the conceptions of history that I have been developing in this forum. Consequently, I will identify political hope, catastrophic hope, eschatological hope, and naturalistic hope. This proves to be a conceptually fertile way to approach hope, since hope is a reflection of human agency, and I have remarked in Cosmic War: An Eschatological Conception that the four conceptions of history I have been developing are based upon a schematic understanding of the possibilities of human agency in the world.

All of these structures of hope — political, catastrophic, eschatological, and naturalistic — have played important roles in human history. Often we find more than one form of hope within a given society, which tells us that no conception of history is total, that it admits of exceptions, and the societies can admit of pluralistic manifestations of historical consciousness.

Hope begins where human agency ends but human desire still presses forward. A man with political hope looks to a better and more just society in the future, as a function of his own agency and the agency of fellow citizens; a man with catastrophic hope believes that he may win the big one, that his ship will come in, that he will be the recipient of great good fortune; a man with eschatological hope believes that he will be rewarded in the hereafter for his sacrifices and sufferings in this world; a man with naturalistic hope looks to the good life for himself and a better life for his fellow man. Each of these personal forms of hope corresponds to a society that both grows out of such personal hopes and reinforces them in turn, transforming them into social norms.

Woman's Eye and World Globes

Structure and Scope

While a conception of history governs the structure of hope, the contingent circumstances that are the events of history — the specific details that fill in the general structure of history — govern the scope of hope. The lineaments of hope are drawn jointly by its structure and scope, so that we see the particular visage of hope when we understand the historical structure and scope of a civilization.

Like structure, scope is an expression of human agency. An individual — or a society — blessed with great resources possesses great power, and thus great freedom of action. An individual or a society possessed of impoverished resources has much more limited power and therefore is constrained in freedom of action. In so far as one can act — that is to say, in so far as one is an agent — one acts in accords with the possibilities and constraints defined by the scope of one’s world. The scope of human agency has changed over historical time, largely driven by technology; much of the human condition can be defined in terms of humanity as tool makers.

Technology is incremental and cumulative, and it generally describes an exponential growth curve. We labor at a very low level for very long periods of time, so that our posterity can enjoy the fruits of our efforts in a later age of abundance. Thus our hopes for the future are tied up in our posterity and their agency in turn. And it is technology that systematically extends human agency. To a surprising degree, then, the scope of civilization corresponds to the technology of a civilization. This technology can come in different forms. Early civilizations mastered the technology of bureaucratic organization, and managed to administer great empires even with a very low level of technical expertise in material culture. This has changed over time, and political entities have grown in size and increased in stability as increasing technical mastery makes the administration of the planet entire a realistic possibility.

The scope of civilization has expanded as our technologically-assisted agency has expanded, and today as we contemplate our emerging planetary civilization such organization is within our reach because our technologies have achieved a planetary scale. Our hopes have grown along the the expanding scope of our civilization, so that justice, luck, salvation, and the good life all reflect the planetary scope of human agency familiar to us today.

earth eye

Hope in Planetary Civilization

What may we hope in our planetary civilization of today, given its peculiar possibilities and constraints? How may be answer Kant’s third question today? Do we have any answers at all, or is ours an Age of Uncertainty that denies the possibility of any and all answers?

Those of a political frame of mind, hope for, “a thriving global civilization and, therefore… the greater well-being of humanity.” (Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape) Those with a catastrophic outlook hope for some great and miraculous event that will deliver us from the difficulties in which we find ourselves immersed. Those whose hope is primarily eschatological imagine the conversion of the world entire to their particular creed, and the consequent rule of the righteous on a planetary scale. And those of a naturalistic disposition look to what human beings can do for each other, without the intervention of fortune or otherworldly salvation.

How each of these attitudes is interpreted in the scope of our current planetary civilization is largely contingent upon how an individual or group of individuals with shared interests views the growth of technology over the past century, and this splits fairly neatly into the skeptics of technology and the enthusiasts of technology, with a few sitting on the fence and waiting to see what will happen next. Among those with the catastrophic outlook on history will be the fence sitters, because they will be waiting for some contingent event to occur which will tip us in one direction or the other, into technological catastrophe or technological bonanza. Those of an eschatological outlook tend to view technology in purely instrumental terms, and the efficacy of their grand vision of a spiritually unified and righteous planet will largely depend on the pragmatism of their instrumental conception of technology. The political cast of mind also views technological instrumentally, but primarily what it can do to advance the cause of large scale social organization (which in the eschatological conception is given over to otherworldly powers).

Perhaps the greatest dichotomy is to be found in the radically different visions of technology held by those of a naturalistic outlook. The naturalistic outlook today is much more common than it appears to be, despite much heated rhetoric to the contrary, since, as I wrote above, many of us deceive ourselves as to our true motives and our true beliefs. The rise of science since the scientific revolution has transformed the world, and many accept a scientific world view without even being aware that they hold such views. Rhetorically they may give pride of place to political ideology or religious faith, but when they act they act in accordance with reason and evidence, remaining open to change if their first interpretations of reason and evidence seem to be contradicted by circumstances and consequences.

The dichotomy of the naturalistic mind today is that between human agency that retreats from technology, as though it were a failed project, and human agency that embraces technology. Each tends to think of their relation to technology in terms of liberation. For the critics of technology, we have become enslaved to The Machine, and either by overthrowing the technological system, or simply by turning out backs on it, people can help each other by living modest lives, transitioning to a sustainable economy, cultivating community gardens, watching over their neighbors, and, generally speaking, living up to (or, as if you prefer, down to) the “small is beautiful” and “limits to growth” creed that had already emerged in the early 1970s.

The contrast could not be more stark between this naturalistic form of hope and the technology-embracing naturalistic form of hope. The technological humanist also sees people helping each other, but doing so on an ever grander scale, allowing human beings to realistically strive toward levels of self-actualization and fulfillment not even possible in earlier ages, perhaps not even conceivable. The human condition, for such naturalists, has enslaved us to a biological regime, and it is the efficacy of technology that is going to liberate us from the stunted and limited lives that have been our lot since the species emerged. Ultimately, technology embracing naturalists look toward transhumanism and all that it potentially promises to human hopes, which in this context can be literally unbounded.

uncertainty ahead

Hope in the Age of Naturalism

Given the state of the world today, with all its pessimism, and the violence of contesting power centers apparently motivated by unchanged and unchanging conceptions of the human condition, the reader may be surprised that I focus on naturalism and the naturalistic conception of history. If we do not destroy ourselves in the short term, the long term belongs to naturalism. Contemporary political hope, in so far as it is pragmatic is naturalistic, and insofar as it is not pragmatic, it will fail. The hysterical and bloody depredations of religious mania in our time is only as bad as it is because, as an ideology, it is under threat form the success of naturalistically-enabled science and technology. Once the break with the past is made, eschatological hope will no longer be the basis of large-scale social organization, and therefore its ability to cause harm will be greatly limited (though it will not disappear). The catastrophic viewpoint is always limited by its shoulder-shrugging attitude to human agency.

Most people cannot bear to leave their fate to fate, but will take their fate into their own hands if they can. How people take their fate into their hands in the future, and therefore the form of hope they entertain for what they do with the fate held in their hands, will largely be defined by naturalism. Perhaps this is ironic, as it has long been assumed that, of perennial conceptions of the human condition, naturalism had the least to say about hope (and eschatology the most). That is only because the age of naturalism had not yet arrived. But naturalistic despair is just as much a reality as naturalistic hope, so that the coming of the age of naturalism will not bring a Millennia of peace, justice, and happiness for all. Human leave-taking of the ideologies of the past is largely a matter of abandoning neurotic misery in favor of ordinary human unhappiness.

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Sunday


STEM cycle epiphenomena 3

Inefficiency in the STEM cycle

In my previous post, The Open Loop of Industrial-Technological Civilization, I ended on the apparently pessimistic note of the existential risks posed to industrial-technological civilization by friction and inefficiency in the STEM cycle that drives our civilization headlong into the future. Much that is produced by the feedback loop of science, technology, and engineering is dissipated in science that does not result in technologies, technologies that are not engineered in to industries, and industries that do not produce new scientific instruments. However, just enough science feeds into technology, technology into engineering, and engineering into science to keep the STEM cycle going.

These “inefficiencies” should not be seen as a “bad” thing, since much pure science that is valuable as an intellectual contribution to civilization has few if any practical consequences. The “inefficient” science that does not contribute directly to the STEM cycle is some of the best science that does humanity credit. Indeed, G. H. Hardy was famously emphatic that all practical mathematics was “ugly” and only pure mathematics, untainted by practical application, was truly beautiful — and Hardy made it clear that beautiful mathematics was ultimately the only thing that mattered. Thus these “inefficiencies” that appear to weaken the STEM cycle and hence pose an existential risk to our industrial-technological civilization, are at the same time existential opportunities — as always, risk and opportunity are one and the same.

STEM cycle epiphenomena 4

Opportunities of the STEM cycle

The apparently pessimistic formulation of my previous took this form:

“It is entirely possible that a shift in social, economic, cultural, or other factors that influence or are influenced by the STEM cycle could increase the amount of epiphenomenal science, technology, and engineering, thus decreasing the efficiency of the STEM cycle.”

Such a formulation must be balanced by an appropriate and parallel formulation to the effect that it is entirely possible that a shift in social, economic, cultural, or other factors that influence or are influenced by the STEM cycle could decrease the amount of epiphenomenal science, technology, and engineering, thus increasing the efficiency of the STEM cycle.

However, making the STEM cycle more “efficient” might well be catastrophic, or nearly catastrophic, for civilization, as it would imply a narrowing of human life to the parameters defined by the STEM cycle. This might lead to a realization of the existential risks of permanent stagnation (i.e., the stagnation of all aspects of civilization other than those that advance industrial-technological civilization, which could prove frightening) or flawed realization, in which an acceleration or consolidation of the STEM cycle leads to the sort of civilization no one would find desirable or welcome.

There is no reason one could not, however, both strengthen the STEM cycle, making industrial-technological civilization more robust and more productive of advanced science, technology, and engineering, while at the same time also producing more pure science, more marginal technologies, and more engineering curiosities that don’t feed directly into the STEM cycle. The bigger the pie, the bigger each piece of the pie and the more to go around for everyone. Also, pure science and practical science exist in a cycle of mutual escalation of their own, in which pure science inspires practical science and practical science inspires more pure science. Perhaps the same is true also of marginal and practical technologies and the engineering of curiosities and the engineering of mass industries.

STEM cycle epiphenomena 6

Scaling the STEM cycle

The dissipation of excess productions of the STEM cycle mean that unexpected sectors of the economy (as well as unexpected sectors of society) are occasionally the recipients of disproportional inputs. These disproportional inputs, like the inefficiencies discussed above, might be understood as either risks or opportunities. Some socioeconomic sectors might be catastrophically stressed by a disproportionate input, while others might unexpected flourish with a flourishing input. To control the possibilities of catastrophic failure or flourishing success, we must consider the possibility scaling the STEM cycle.

To what degree can the STEM cycle be scaled? By this question I mean that, once we are explicitly and consciously aware that it is the STEM cycle that drives industrial-technological civilization (or, minimally, that it is among the drivers of industrial-technological civilization), if we want to further drive that civilization forward (as I would like to see it driven until earth-originating life has established extraterrestrial redundancy in the interest of existential risk mitigation) can we consciously do so? To what extent can the STEM cycle be controlled, or can its scaling be controlled? Can we consciously direct the STEM cycle so that more science begets more technology, more technology begets more engineering, and more engineering begets more science? I think that we can. But, as with the matters discussed above, we must always be aware of the risk/opportunity trade-off. Focusing too much of the STEM cycle may have disadvantages.

Once we understand an underlying mechanism of civilization, like the STEM cycle, we can consciously cultivate this mechanism if we wish to see more of this kind of civilization, or we can attempt to dampen this mechanism if we want to see less of this civilization. These attempts to cultivate or dampen a mechanism of civilization can take microscopic or macroscopic forms. Macroscopically, we are concerned with the total picture of civilization; microscopically we may discern the smallest manifestations of the mechanism, as when the STEM cycle is purposefully pursued by the R&D division of a business, which funds a certain kind of science with an eye toward creating certain technologies that can be engineered into specific industries — all in the interest of making a profit for the shareholders.

This last example is a very conscious exemplification of the STEM cycle, that might conceivably be reduced the work of a single individual, working in turn as scientist, technologist, and engineer. The very narrowness of this process which is likely to produce specific and quantifiable results is also likely to produce very little in terms of epiphenomenal manifestations of the STEM cycle, and thus may contribute little or nothing to the more edifying dimensions of civilization. But this is not necessarily the case. Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were working as scientists trying to solve a practical problem for Bell Labs when they discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation.

STEM cycle epiphenomena 7

Reason for Hope

We have at least as much reason to hope for the future as to despair of the future, if not more reason to hope. The longer civilization persists, the more robust it becomes, and the more robust civilization becomes, the more internal diversity and experimentation civilization can tolerate (i.e., greater social differentiation, as Siggi Becker has recently pointed out to me). The extreme social measures taken in the past to enforce conformity within society have been softened in Western civilization, and individuals have a great deal of latitude that was unthinkable even in the recent past.

Perhaps more significantly from the perspective of civilization, the more robust and tolerant our civilization, the more latitude there is for like-minded individuals to cooperate in the founding and advancement of innovative social movements which, if they prove to be effective and to meet a need, can result in real change to the overall structure of society, and this sort of bottom-up social change was precisely the kind of change that agrarian-ecclesiastical civilization was structured to frustrate, resist, and suppress. In this respect, if in no other, we have seen social progress in the development of civilization that is distinct from the technological and economic progress that characterizes the STEM cycle.

As I wrote in my recent Centauri Dreams post, SETI, METI, and Existential Risk, to exist is to be subject to existential risk. Given the relation of risk and opportunity, it is also the case that to exist is to choose among existential opportunities. This is why we fight so desperately to stay alive, and struggle so insistently to improve our condition once we have secured the essentials of existence. To be alive is to have countless existential opportunities within reach; once we die, all of this is lost to us. And to improve one’s condition is to increase the actionable existential opportunities within one’s grasp.

The development of civilization, for all its faults and deficiencies, is tending toward increasing the range of existential opportunities available as “live options” (as William James would say) for both individuals and communities. That this increased range of existential opportunities also comes with an increased variety of existential risks should not be employed as an excuse to attempt to reverse the real social gains bequeathed by industrial-technological civilization.

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Tuesday


William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827)

If the Sun and Moon should doubt,
They’d immediately Go out.

William Blake, Auguries of Innocence


I was thinking about confirmation bias today and what a perfect topic of study this would be for evolutionary psychology. It is one thing to get at exactly what confirmation bias is in itself, and how it functions in distorting our thinking, but it is quite another matter to get to the root of confirmation bias and understand it in an Aristotelian sense, i.e., in terms of its causes.

As soon as I started to think about confirmation bias in the context of evolutionary psychology, it immediately made sense and revealed connections to other things that I’ve thought about.

What survival benefit could possibly derive from self-deception? At first thought this seems counter-intuitive. The persistence of discredited beliefs would seem to have a negative survival value. That is to say, stubbornly persisting in believing something to be true when it is not ought to land an agent in a good deal of trouble.

Coming at this from a different perspective, however, one can easily imagine the survival value of believing in oneself. There are many situations in which the difference between believing in oneself and not believing in oneself could mean the difference between survival and death. If this is true, then confirmation bias may lead to differential survival, and differential survival is the conditio sine qua non of differential reproduction.

In the Afterword to my Political Economy of Globalization I attempted to investigate what I called the “naturalistic basis of hope.” What does this mean? Hope has traditionally been treated as one of the three “theological virtues”: faith, hope, and charity. I wanted to investigate the phenomenon of hope from a naturalistic perspective; I would like to see hope understood in a non-theological sense, i.e., as a cardinal virtue rather than a theological virtue. (I made some remarks about hope in Very Short Treatise on Hope, Perfection, Utopia, and Progress, and continued in the naturalistic project with The Structure of Hope.)

I continue to believe that this naturalistic understanding of hope is an important undertaking, but when I wrote this Afterword about the naturalistic basis of hope, I didn’t make any connection between hope and evolutionary psychology. Hope comes in many forms, and one of these forms is a hope against all rational odds that things will go well for oneself. This kind of hope is a belief in oneself that would have survival value. (There are also forms of hope that are more explicitly supernaturalistic, and which nevertheless may also have survival value.)

This not only anthropocentric but also egocentric conception of hope has obvious limitations, but it stands in relation to other forms of hope that are less anthropocentric and less egocentric. In a more general sense than a belief in oneself that might give an advantage in survival, hope is an affirmation of one’s life not only in the present moment of struggle, but also throughout the course of one’s life — past, present, and future — and, in an even larger sense, one’s life taken on the whole, must be seen in the context of one’s life in the community taken on the whole. There is a sense, then, in which an egocentric hope is an affirmation of a wider community; this sense of hope may play a role in self-sacrifice, and the role of self-sacrifice in kin selection.

To live is to engage in an existential gamble. Pascal knew this, and this is why he framed his Christian (actually, Jansenist) apologetics in terms of a wager. The existential choices that we make that shape our lives (and shape the life of the community, to the extent that we are able to use our lives to shape the larger world) are bets that we place, and, when we act, we bet that the world is one way, and not another way.

If you place your bets unwisely, and invest your existential choices in dead ends, your life is wasted for all intents and purposes. To believe this to be the case — especially with a social species whose members need each other for cooperative survival — would be debilitating. To believe that one’s life was wasted because one believed the wrong thing would constitute a kind of spiritual suicide. I can’t imagine that many persons could keep this sense of wasted effort in mind and at the same time fully invest themselves in the business of furthering personal and communal survival.

To believe in one’s existential choices is probably a condition for optimal exertion in the struggle for life. In so far as confirmation bias makes it easier to believe in the rightness and righteousness of one’s existential choices, even in the face of conflicting evidence, it would have a substantial survival value, not only for the individual, but perhaps especially in regard to kin selection.

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Fallacies and Cognitive Biases

An unnamed principle and an unnamed fallacy

The Truncation Principle

An Illustration of the Truncation Principle

The Gangster’s Fallacy

The Prescriptive Fallacy

The fallacy of state-like expectations

The Moral Horror Fallacy

The Finality Fallacy

Fallacies: Past, Present, Future

Confirmation Bias and Evolutionary Psychology

Metaphysical Fallacies

Metaphysical Biases

Pernicious Metaphysics

Metaphysical Fallacies Again

An Inquiry into Cognitive Bias by way of Memoir

The Appeal to Embargoed Evidence

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Imagining a Better World

10 November 2009

Tuesday


Oskar_Kokoschka_1917_Self_Portrait

Oskar Kokoschka: responsible for the Second World War?

Everyone knows that Hitler’s application to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts was twice rejected. It is almost impossible to avoid the temptation to ask oneself what if Hitler had been accepted. We know that Kokoschka asked himself this tantalizing what if question. In Elias Canetti’s memoir, Party in the Blitz: the English years, Canetti relates the following about Kokoschka:

At the beginning of the War, when I saw him again — two or three years after our first meeting in Prague — I hadn’t been with him for more than half an hour when he made me his monstrous confession. He was to blame for the War, in that Hitler, who had wanted to be a painter, had been driven into politics. Oskar Kokoschka and Hitler were both applying for the same scholarship from the Viennese Academy. Kokoschka was successful, Hitler turned down. If Hitler had been accepted instead of Kokoschka, Hitler would never have wound up in politics, there would have been no National Socialist Party, and no Second World War. In this way, Kokoschka was to blame for the War. He said it almost beseechingly, with far more emphasis than he usually had, and he repeated it several times, in a conversation that had moved on to other matters, he brought it back, and I had the dismaying impression that he was putting himself in Hitler’s place … It was impossible for him to be implicated in history without having some significance, even if it were guilt, a rather dubious guilt at that.

There is another version of this story (I can’t recall where I read it), less poignant, more in the vein of black humor, that has Kokoschka semi-humorously suggesting that he would have run the world rather differently if Hitler had been accepted at the Vienna Academy and he had gone on to something like Hitler’s political career.

One of Hitler's watercolors. He had applied for the same scholarship at art school as Kokoschka, but lost out and took a different path in life. What if...

Today on the BBC there was an article (Kalashnikov ‘wanted to be poet’) making the claim that Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of the AK-47, considered becoming a poet in his early life. Again, the what if question is almost irresistible: if Kalashnikov had become a poet instead of designing one of the most popular and effective firearms in history, how might things have turned out?

As a young man, Mikhail Kalashnikov wanted to be a poet, but instead he designed one of the most effective and ubiquitous firearms in the twentieth century. Again, what if...

Everyone instinctively wants a better world in the same way that everyone instinctively wishes to be happy, but “a better world” and “happiness” are differently defined by each individual, hence visions for world betterment and happiness diverge or collide, and the result is the actual world that we live in rather than the ideal world we imagine. But it only requires a compelling thought experiment to bring us back to the fantasy, however pervasive the countervailing reality.

ak47

We gain an appreciation of certain features of human psychology when we reflect that the antithetical thought experiment doesn’t feel nearly as compelling. Certainly on a personal basis we often acknowledge our near scrapes with death and disaster, but I think it is much less common for individuals to imagine the possibility of a much worse world than we actually have. That is to say, I think people are less likely to imagine close scrapes with death and disaster for the world entire than for themselves, and that they are much more likely to imagine a better world or a better life for themselves than they are to imagine a worse world or a worse life for themselves. Hope is not merely uplifting; it is a central constituent of how our minds function.

Is hope central to the way the human mind functions? If our minds were differently constituted would hope have a different role in our conception of the world?

Imagining a better world (or a better life) has about it the same kind of dishonesty as when individuals remind themselves, “This too shall pass” when in the midst of adversity. It is true that adversity will pass, but one ought, by the same token, to admonish oneself, “This too shall pass” when in the midst of celebration and good fortune, for it too certainly shall pass, no less than adversity.

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Mikhail Kalashnikov, R.I.P. — It was announced today, 23 December 2013, that Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of the AK-47, has passed away. Cf. AK47 assault rifle designer Kalashnikov dies at 94

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The alternative perspective to that of imagining a better world is that of imagining a worse world, which is arguably the more common human tendency, though when I wrote the above I was apparently coming at the problem from a different perspective. When one consciously compares the human tendency to imagine a better world with the parallel human tendency to imagine a worse world, it is difficult to say which is the more common. This would be an appropriate inquiry for experimental philosophy.

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There is a kind of poetry in the rigorously simple design on a rugged assault rifle; Kalashnikov was a poet after all.

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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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