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: I personally think that if we were not so damn in a hurry to change everything and make everything ''better'', and we would just enjoy it - for a brief second - then much simpler solutions would come to us. I'm not sure how to explain it, but progress is not always progress. And every advantage has a disadvantage to it, always. It's like we're always trying to build more, discover more, make more, but somehow we miss the essence of things. We miss the little moments, we miss being present and aware of our lives, who we are, and how we can contribute to our community. We have so much information available, yet so many problems, and growing. So many positive things get to be negative: internet, wealth vs obesity, for instance. We're trying too hard to find cures for the problems we have - and in the process we create other, bigger problems.

    And do you remember how facebook ''started'' (according to the movie)? It was something just for fun...a stupid idea that came out of doing nothing. Not an idea for making the world a ''better place''.
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    Mar 10 2011: I disagree with your header, but I agree with your question. The world needs deep change - there are over 2 million incarcerated people in the US, wealth inequality is disturbing given that many poor kids' brains are being damaged by lack of nutrition, etc.

    However, I think if people were more acclimated to having time to think for themselves, then yes, maybe we would have better people and fewer problems.

    "After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I've concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven't yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves." - John Gatto

    http://www.spinninglobe.net/againstschool.htm
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    Mar 9 2011: Change happens by it self. We can be more or less aware.
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    Mar 9 2011: Yes
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    Mar 7 2011: (read previous statement first) (continued) a vegan farmer with potential. We support one another and take up business and then politics , I relate more to people then you do , but you still believe you are better. You or what portion of government that may agree with you takes action of spitefulness against all people. The entire order is disrupted simply because you believe the top-most end of society holds any weight at all. Of course anything from the top established back into the order begins to carry weight, but I hope you understand it is the order, and anything that continues to be low through out its life cycle must be discarded with haste. As we speak our government wished to place such action upon many of us from an inverse perspective. Most often more propriety shared upwards then downwards, which is exactly how our government was established to operate. Though of course their always looking for extremes that created topical debate and likely want to latch on somehow improperly creating a much softer order. This goes back to standard deviation through the nature progression of society and what is allowable, Though available this deviation does not need to be carry at all or through an absolute part of life. If I don't receive Ted Credit for this I'm going to be angry. (im kidding) What's important is that you realize personal kingdom best depicted through the middle ages and brought forth today is the best and structural infrastructure that create continued lifestyles are what need be created. Propriety in ones own population, creating the best school, doing the simple things within budgets, Designer business attire , premium national goods, produce an overall greater nation and respectable push and debate in society for society.
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    Mar 7 2011: We obviously know this isn't as good as it can be., Its likely as good as it can be while still respecting all life regardless of the reason for its birth. Though our issue becomes should we respect and honor something as human beings that continues to do incorrect things. Obviously we know you can not control being born poor, but you can control continuously getting convicted of a crime. The issue becomes are people going to the library and trying act appropriate to be within society or hanging out on the corner. Are we condemning people for personal choices that we believe effect our own and are those people responsible for homo genius (similar characteristics ) dependence. Obviously the answers becomes , not if their not being paid for it specifically.

    Obviously asking such a question you do not agree nor do I. I go into the cities and I do not see the abundance of people working and living in the commonwealth, Does it exist of course, but Current American society is at an offset that has pushed the bottom portions to create smaller classes. Likely working from the top and back down. From my point of view they share responsibility for the incorrect measure as they are unable and do not respond.to many of the things they ascertain to be or be around.

    The question you ask is very American, and my concern then becomes are you feeding American structure through the system back to yourselves?

    The answer to doing nothing while creating platform is the key. One does nothing when he doesn't necessarily agree with the order or it hasn't been established. You yourself for example, Handsome man, somewhat intelligent, but possibly believe your more intelligent based on your size (for give me if I'm wrong but a good example still) You then proceed to a wife, you marry her and believe shes incredible, says a newscaster, a position we have created and possibly seems more important then it is. You then look at me and from a strategic stand point I marry a (continue)
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    Mar 7 2011: Hey Drew, Candide is a nice example.

    May I remind readers that the greatest "do nothing useful" in history -- Mister Diogenes the Cynic -- was an extreme change-maker?

    Just by doing absolutely nothing, he outraged his fellows, who then began to ask fundamental questions about themselves.

    In a kind of a simplistic principle of dialectics, we could force ourselves to always use the contrary of our own ideas, as a touching stone. "Solving global hunger": what would happen if we do exactly nothing at all? In this context, it might actually solve the problem, as more and more writers are convinced that "too much is being done on hunger" in such a way that local farmers are suffocated by do-gooders, and lose their real market incentives to produce autonomously. This is just one example.
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    Mar 7 2011: This question reminds me of Voltaire's Candide. I recommend it to anyone interested in this topic. At one point it argues that all is for the best only to resort to simply "cultivate our gardens".
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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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    Mar 6 2011: Hi i believe that change is inevitable and we should not shrug off from it saying that old is gold and we should not v changing our world.. The main point to understand about change is that we should try to bring positive changes and not the negative one. TO make my idea simpler.. Building hydrogen bombs is a negative change whereas rise of democracy is postive change.. So we should embrace the changes whole heartedly and ensure that the our changes are guided by principle of well being and should not v in wrong directions... At the end of day directly or indirectly it is we humans which are the source of any change be it increasing carbon content, decreasing green forests or population explosion or conquering the Moon and so on.. So if we can ensure that we humans understand the implications of their actions then i believe all the future changes will v positive only..
    • Mar 6 2011: "Building hydrogen bombs is a negative change whereas the rise of democracy is positive change." Is it not possible that the latter is, to some extent, a result of the former?
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        Mar 7 2011: Hi Revett nice point made.. But i believe we are here digresssing the main topic whether we need to change our world or not ?? So better we stick to it...
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    Mar 5 2011: Over the scale of decades, one could argue that the world as it is at one time is always better than it previously was. I think this trend is going to continue. It's what we call progress. There are times where changes are for the worst (World wars), but these negative changes are mitigated over the course of decades. I for one would not subscribe to a school of thought that when against progress.
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      Mar 7 2011: Perhaps in some ways, things are better, but not in all. Are people happier now even in "wealthy" countries? Arguably not. My point is it there is at least one indicator where we have not progressed. Some would argue that mass consumption has distracted people from what really matters in life. That is another indicator where we have arguably digressed.
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        Mar 8 2011: How can you compare the happiness of populations not having lived in the same eras? The whole business of happiness that exists in our time in my opinion is so overexaggerated. It's a nice thing for people to play around with because it's not something that is truly measurable with controls and fixed values. I'm not saying that the happiness of people isn't important, I'm just saying it's too easy to make conclusions about the state of happiness of people around the world and just run with it as though it was fact.
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          Mar 10 2011: Your point is well taken. You are right that happiness is not truly measurable. However, what scale are you using? You suggest a "trend" getting "better". What measurement would you use to substantiate that? How is that measurement not relative for a given part of the world or given era?
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        Mar 11 2011: Well we can make a cross-correlation between the overall levels of knowledge, scientific and technological progress, literacy rates, life expectancy rates, maybe the level of the worlds violence (on which Steven Pinker has an interesting talk) and many other things. But you're right to point out that this is just the overall state of the world and that, just like there are exceptions to the forward motion of progress within a decade, there are also exceptions within certain parts of the world. But surely doing nothing would not be a solution to these exceptions?