[Placeholder] Against dystopia, rally before Kant

by [anonymous] 1 min read17th Jan 201212 comments


I was just sitting there studying for an exam today (passed fine btw), when my mind, eh, made up its mind on a subject. I've been pondering Robin Hanson's happy resignation to a distant efficiency-obsessed dystopia. Then it struck me that, one meta level up, it's no different from the milder, blander current incarnation of the (neoliberal or whatever) Church of Efficiency - which LWians who work as small cogs in big corporations must be all to familliar with. And that creed, although unattractive in itself, is part of a proud tradition: utopian or generally "far-mode" thinking which clearly spelt disaster even in its inception to any thinking contemporary who held the complexity, richness and beauty of the human condition as their absolute and overriding value.

Such was the case of Dostoevsky, who rose far above his attacks on everyday anti-humanist thought when he wrote his Legend of The Grand Inquisitor. This short story, probably the most significant one in world literature, makes a thorough, convincing and compelling case for the opposition, the likes of which LW holds to be the best standard of argument. Moreover, he doesn't just hack apart the rather average faux-Nietzchean, utopian socialist, right-wing Catholic and other brands of thought, then makes a stronger enemy out of them in his Inquisitor. He, identifying with Christ, refuses to use any postulate of a benevolent God to shut down the opposition. And does his corpus of work present a convincing response to the Inquisitor's icy wall of reason? Not in any single point, as far as I've found. Yet a great idea - nearly flawless in itself, once you get rid of any debatable or weakening connotations - was already found by Kant (and reused by Dostoevsky and others from different standpoints). Importantly, the meta-meta-meta-rule of "treating humanity as an end in itself and not just the means" does not, by itself, require any connection with deontologism. My view is that any utilitarian who likes the existence of beings like themselves and is concerned about them adopt the Second Formulation without caveats, as a recipe against false second-order values like "hedons" or "efficiency" that would undermine the quality not merely of human life, but of human condition in itself if left to reign unchecked and taken to their absurd/logical conclusion. Would Calvinism, the Reign of Terror, Stalin's policy or Pol Pot's genocide have happened if the generally intelligent, unselfish people who acted as the catalysts behind all those dystopian blunders took a good, honest look at the wisdom of Kant's humanist suggestion?


Sorry, I'm tired as hell. I realize that I have nowhere near enough evidence or detail, and maybe there's a flaw in this reasoning somewhere. Will return to it later, and try to think harder.

Damn, this style does read too much like WillNewsome. No offense, Will.


Edit: OK, might be not very readable, but why don't you start arguing this so I can make the post better as the fog of not-exactly-war clears?