On Education in UtopiasIn my last essay, I examined the role of art in a utopia, and concluded that in individualistic societies, it flourishes; and that in holistic societies, it is suppressed. Similarly, the role of education seems to be divided along these lines: In the civilizations dedicated to stability, education becomes a matter of suppression of thought and the exposition of the bare minimum of knowledge required to function; in civilizations dedicated to individual expression, education becomes a matter of encouraging intellectual acumen and broadening knowledge. Today, I shall examine two societies so differentiated: That of Aldous Huxleys Brave New World, and that of his Island.
In Brave New World, the education system is dedicated to conditioning a citizen to function as a component of the World State, both in terms of developing his or her desires and in terms of developing his or her knowledge. In the first chapter, the Director of Hatcheries states that particulars are what make for a p
Incompleteness and UtopiaFinite, progressive knowledge can be modeled upon a mathematical formal system: from a small set of initial statements and rules of inference, one expands ones base of knowledge until one gets as close to complete understanding as possible, limited by Gödels Incompleteness Theorem. Infinite, instantaneous knowledge, the sort that I ascribe to a divine being, is not subject to the progression or temporality of the finite version of knowledge, but it can still be expressed to those subject to time and finitude. If a utopia is to be possible, it would require the perfection of human knowledge insofar as it is possible to eliminate malevolence, develop stable or otherwise sustainable modes of government, and determine what goal, if any, the utopia should achieve. Correspondingly, any attempt at a viable utopia must call upon the greater and transcendental knowledge of a being unfettered by the finite restrictions the human mind suffers; any real perfect society must pull its des
On OmniscienceSince Gödels Incompleteness Theorem was first published, its significance with regards to the possibility of a complete base of knowledge has been debated. On the one hand, philosophers such as Patrick Grim have argued that Gödels Incompleteness Theorem proves that there is no possibility of a complete body of knowledge, since any body of knowledge can be modeled on a formal system, subject to Gödelian incompleteness. John Lucas argues that omniscience, or at least a transcendence of incompleteness, is possible, and that knowledge is generated beyond mere mechanical manipulations. Some, such as Gödel and me, have interpreted the theorem to mean that mathematics contains truths that are objective. In this section, I shall present these three interpretations of the theorem.
One of the easiest conclusions that can be drawn from Gödels Incompleteness Theorem is that, since any formal system must necessarily be incomplete, no body of kno
Incompleteness TheoremGödels Incompleteness Theorem is one of the most surprising results to come out of twentieth-century mathematical logic. In its most basic form, the theorem states that there exist mathematical statements that are true, but cannot be proven by the mathematical framework the statements are a part of. In this section of my essay, I intend to describe its history, since the context of mathematical formalism is important to understand its significance, and the basics of its derivation and meaning.
Gödels Incompleteness Theorem first appeared in 1931, at a time when the dominant drive in mathematics was the consolidation of mathematics to the most self-evident axioms and immediately apparent axioms; the idea was to avoid even the possibility of internally inconsistent systems and to prevent mathematics from being infected with shortcuts peculiar to human thought. One of the most famous attempts to create a strictly formal mathematical systemthat is, a system with
On the Role of Art in UtopiaIn both Platos Republic and Aldous Huxleys Brave New World, art and self-expression are rigidly opposed; in Variations on a Theme by Beethoven, it is for the sake of art that immortality is sacrificed, at least occasionally, and in Huxleys Island self-realization and expression are of prime importance. Based on my readings, I believe that in a utopia dedicated to societal stability, art is banned, or heavily restricted, and that in utopias dedicated to personal contentment, art is allowed to flourish.
In Platos vision of a perfectly stable society, the person is unimportant with regards to the state. Plato suggests that individuals goals necessarily lead to the undoing of a stable society, and therefore a truly successful ideal world would ignore individual needs and, instead, be focused on the larger social body. Consequently, art is denied; it is the ultimate self-expression, and therefore the ultimate self-actualization, and therefore the mo
A Response to RelativismOne of the seven threats to the legitimacy of ethics, according to Simon Blackburn, is relativism: The resigned belief that ethics can never be significant because different cultures will have different perspectives, and therefore there can be no universal code of behavior, and therefore any attempts are worthless and should be ignored. As someone who has, for several years, felt Platonistic and Christian tendencies, I strongly disagree with the cynicism and apathy that relativism engenders. I think that relativism is, in general, a lazy way of thinking that is inappropriate for philosophical criticism; and I find that the relativists who preach futility ignore the universal common values of human existence, which ethical philosophy can and does incorporate into its frameworks.
Relativism, much like nihilism, seems to me a method of denying significance and meaning to the world. Insofar as I understand it, a relativist perspective holds that no action or thought can be universally cons