Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Utopianism and The Doctrine of Perfectibility

The idea of transforming the nature of human beings to create a utopia has been in disrepute for a long time now. Gertrude Himmelfarb makes some interesting comments on utopianism in Chapter 9, “History and the Idea of Progress,” of her book The New History and the Old. Here’s an excerpt:
The ideal of a utopia not only belittles any kind of progress that can be achieved short of utopia, making anything less than perfection seem radically evil, but the pursuit of that idea—whether in the form of absolute reason, absolute liberty, absolute virtue, or any combination of these—makes it all too easy to justify the use of absolute power. 
The only kind of utopia that escapes this fatal perversion is a religious one that is avowedly otherworldly. This suggests that it is not utopianism itself that is dangerous; what is dangerous is a utopianism that locates its ultimate ideal, its dream of perfection, in this world. The religious imagination at its best is able to retain the spark of divinity, the transcendent vision of perfection, without seeking to realize it on earth.

No comments: