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Chapter One: The Search for a Pragmatic Utopia

Section 5: Utopian "Good"


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Japanese Classical Dance starring Kyoko Kikuchi-Higaki.



If achievability and stability are the criteria for the pragmatic aspect of our program, what criteria correspond to the utopian aspect? The criteria must be concerned with, and yet transcend, what we like and what makes us happy. Since our futures must be shared, they must be more than merely subjective. Ultimately, we must answer the question -- "What is good?"



This question has plagued humankind throughout the ages. In fact, many people have been murdered over the issue. There is some justification for resigning ourselves to moral relativism, contending that all values are simply a matter of cultural and personal biases. This would simplify our task if it is all relative, what difference does it make how the future turns out. We could make arbitrary choices as to how to educate.



Obviously, this retreat to moral relativism is unwarranted. Some outcomes would be generally undesirable: total destruction of the human race; world-wide Nazism; pervasive hatred. Once we begin to realize there are differences, we need to develop a more refined basis in order to select a best or class of best futures.



Erich Fromm in Man for Himself made progress on this problem by proclaiming that "What is Good" is equivalent to "What is good for humankind?" While the proclamation appears somewhat arbitrary, it is probably not too broad for our purposes. As will be indicated in Chapter 3, human destinies are becoming more intertwined and our welfares are becoming more positively correlated. Furthermore, the pragmatic criterion of stability favors inclusiveness, as discussed above. Thus, one is justified in asserting that the well-being of the entire species be included in our definition of "good." (It can, and in Chapter 12 will, be argued that Fromm's definition is anthropocentrically narrow, but it will suffice for present purposes.)



Having made this first step, Fromm transforms the ethical question into a factual one. What courses of action will lead to the creation of conditions which will lead to the realization of human potentials and the corresponding subjective feelings of well-being? Fromm (who died while I was writing this paper) used his experience as a psychoanalyst to help determine what actions, conditions, and potentials were appropriate. In doing so, he established the superiority of what he called "humanistic ethics" over what he called "authoritarian ethics".



As Fromm fails to take into account some of the findings of developmental psychologists concerning human nature, his results require reworking. However, his basic approach of reducing a moral question to a factual question has made our task more manageable. Furthermore, his results are not so far off that we cannot draw upon them where they do not contradict other established findings about human development.







Book Contents

Transcultural Friendship: Our Political Future



Chapter 1 Contents

Evaluating the Global Transcultural Friendship

Next Chapter 2>> 

The Evolution of Societal Structures

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Stability -- Diachronic



Utopian "Good"

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Conclusion for Chapter 1