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Laurens Rademakers


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Our current world is the best there is - we don't need change

At particular times in history, some philosophers or schools of thought appear which have a for us very unusual view on life. They think that the world as we currently know it, is the best possible world, and there's nothing we either can do or should do to change it. We should wholeheartedly accept our present reality, coldly look at it and enjoy it. Even "doing nothing" should not be a goal in itself, they say.

This view is strange to our mindset. We are gripped by notions of change, and by the idea that we must "do" something "useful" in life. We must "save" the world by actively intervening ("solving" hunger, climate change, and so on). We see injustice everywhere and we want to "break the status quo". Everything we do has to have a "purpose". Our lives are dominated by utilitarianism and goal directed labor and thought. We have to be "efficient" in everything we do.

I list some people who held the contrary view. They can be divided into two groups. (1) A conservative group, which used the "do nothing" view to keep itself in power: Byzantine emperors, the Medieval catholic church (with its notion of the unchangable God-given social order). (2) A progressive view, which contradictorily used the view to liberate "revolutionary" potential: most importantly Taoists with their notion of "wu wei" (action through inaction), Diogenes the Cynic, and a more modern figure, Friedrich Nietzsche. The latter's idea of the "amor fati" (loving your whole fate, no matter how miserable) shocked the bourgeois class of its time. It still shocks us too, perhaps.

My question: what do you think of this often re-surfacing, contrary view? Is there ever a chance for it to reappear in our generation? And what would be its advantages? Is our current utilitarian mindset blocking our creativity? I can see, that, for example, the suppression of the urge to be "useful" or "purposeful" might create more calm, posed, creative people. Should the "useless" be appreciated more deeply?


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    Mar 6 2011: Interesting! What has struck me about 'change' and 'progress' is that we often fail to recognize when a change has already occurred. I'm thinking for example of certain feminist or anti-racist goals. It may well do to sit back and realize that the fight has been won. Continuing to fight often leads to change for the sake of it, or even causes the pendulum to swing too far and effect negative changes.

    I don't think a philosophy of doing nothing at all will become dominant, but bringing it up as a counterpoint may well serve to get people to slow down and carefully identify the elements of the world that need changing, and how much and how fast.

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