enter The Mayan Steven Pinker told his compatriots that there was nothing to worry about. Surely, the rains would come and things would pick up…. The Roman Steven Pinker would have praised the great accomplishments of the empire and its spread of characteristically Roman values all over the world. Sure, there were some restive tribes that occasionally swept down from the north to sack a city or two.
But it was impossible to imagine that the edifice of civilization would crumble at the hands of disgruntled barbarians…. He does so not only because they complicate his relentlessly cheerful vision of the future but also because these environmental problems are the byproduct of his treasured Enlightenment notions of progress. The environmental crisis, in other words, forces a reevaluation of all the sacred cows of modernity. Maybe the world is getting better, but not better enough, or in the right ways.
The statistics suggested that they were better off: more prosperous, more democratic, healthier, more connected to the world at large. Were they misremembering? Were they just thinking that life had been better when they were younger? In some respects, of course, life had gotten worse in Romania. And the spread of Enlightenment values of tolerance was generating a backlash among more conservative elements in society who were not thrilled about an annual Gay Pride parade.
Pinker would treat these perceptions as a mere speed bump.
But perceptions, right or wrong, determine the outcome of elections, among other things. Illiberal leaders from Trump to Putin, in responding to and reinforcing such perceptions, offer a narrative for understanding why things fall apart. Pinker seems to believe that progress has occurred almost by itself, as a result of whole populations spontaneously turning more enlightened and tolerant. The arc bending toward justice is no mystery: It bends because people force it to bend.
The focus should be on filling the glass — on struggling to make life better for those who are not well off, harnessing technology to improve conditions for everyone, and saving the planet from climate catastrophe. Some of the Enlightenment tradition will be essential in this struggle. But an eighteenth-century philosophy, unmodified, cannot solve twenty-first century problems. Saying that this is the best of all possible worlds does not make it so.
Even a leading Enlightenment thinker like Voltaire would have been the first to tell the good professor that. Republished, with permission, from Foreign Policy In Focus.
He is also the author of the dystopian novel Splinterlands Dispatch Books and its soon-to-be-released sequel Frostlands. Pinker is a liberal bourgeois. Look at history of first and second war wars; horrific events which were brought primarily through competition between capitalist nations. In 21st century it was thought that globalism and multinational corporatism have resolved the contradictions of the capitalist system.
Naive thinking! Uneven growth of capitalism, drive to maximize profit and competition in intra and inter sectors of capitalism think of coal versus oil and competition among different oil producing countries is bound to manifest itself.
The phrase "the best of all possible worlds was coined by the German polymath Gottfried Leibniz in his work Essais de Théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu. Of All Possible Worlds is a collection of science fiction stories by American writer William Tenn. It was published in hardcover by Ballantine Books in , with a.
Trade wars and break down of alliances like NATO are expected. Under capitalism? I disagree with the article in many respects, perhaps pinker does have on rose coloured glasses but capitalism has brought the world unimaginable wealth. Why do you drive a car, own a computer, have a cellphone, own a dishwasher, have light bulbs etc. People are very dishonest about the wealth and prosperity that the classical liberal order brought. Not the so called progressive ideas which are just Marxism wrapped in warm and fuzzy language. Because of so called progressive ideas we had world war one, the income tax, world war two, the federal reserve, great society programs, affirmative action etc.
You are spitting on the graves of your ancestors who came to the west to be free and you should be ashamed of yourselves. Nuff said. Since then it has been downhill, and the USA, which had the least damage ie no war on their soil! The author and the two commentators above forget that liberty and small, limited government states do not cause wars. See the history of the 20th century. It is large states with powerful central governments armed to the teeth and guided by the yankee tradition to meddle in the affairs of others that drive government induced violence.
All these odious people knew or know whats best for you and were and are willing to lie, steal and kill to give it to you good and hard whether you like it or not. They all are from the government, nurtured on statism and collectivism, and dedicated to the enslavement of the public through the use of coercion and violence. Things are better now because the public has never before had less confidence in elite, self serving institutions whether its academia, the courts, medicine, government and corporate media.
The whole right left divide is crumbling and good riddance. Both are crooks ready to take your liberty, your privacy and your dignity. For Leibniz, however, we only have a limited perspective on things and what seems unnecessary to us may be necessary precisely because it is the only thing "compossible" with the maximal amount of goodness. In other words, God didn't create a world free from evil because there is a reason that such a world would not be compossible with the maximal amount of goodness, and hence God would've acted less perfectly than he could've.
Compossibility actually gets us much closer to why Leibniz talks about "possible worlds"it has little to do with a need for comparison. One of Leibniz's earliest mentions of this comes early on in his correspondence with Arnauld where he is discussing the creation of Adam. Leibniz argues in his "Discourse on Metaphysics" which prompted the correspondence that having conceived of Adam, God, being omniscient, necessarily conceived of all that would happen from creating Adam, i.
Arnauld objected that this would seem to make God responsible for all the evil that came into the world starting with Adam. Leibniz's response is along the lines of yes, but even knowing the evil that the creation of this Adam out of all possible Adam's would bring, God still chose to create this Adam. Since God has no reason to act less perfectly than he is capable of, he must have chosen the best of all possible Adams, which is to say the Adam whose history is compossible with the maximal possible goodness.
This is where Voltaire who, importantly, lived after , saw a problem with Leibniz's arguments. Since, above all else, the earthquake in Lisbon seemed to have caused more damage than could possible justified by any amount of future goodness. And recall the quake is central to the horrors of Candide. We can only speculate how Leibniz might've responded. Nevertheless, Leibniz, quite famously, is never happy with just one way of arguing for things, and often will in one place present arguments for what in other places he takes as axioms and so on.
Leibniz's arguments for God having created the world in the most perfect way are thus, for him, compossible with a range of other arguments. All of which is to say that any attempt to give "Leibniz's knock-down argument" is doomed to failure from the start. I'll make one last observation, however, which is that Leibniz never understood himself to be engaging in theology. The problem of evil, as he addresses it, is a real problem, but a philosophical, rather than theological problem.
It's worth pointing out that Leibniz resuscitated a version of the ontological argument and so took God's perfection to be philosophically demonstrable. At one point in his correspondence with Clarke, he mocks Clarke for relying on miracles to explain the natural order which, according to Leibniz, philosophy always tries to avoid. But I picked up a Leibniz biography which I didn't read, yet , and a quick glance suggests that "the best of all possible worlds" for Leibniz means.
In short, all the evils of this actual world are logically necessary for the greater good of the best of all possible worlds. See Antognazza , p. So, Leibniz didn't think the world perfect as in: free of evils , but merely most-perfect, or: best.
Home Questions Tags Users Unanswered. What did Leibniz mean by saying this is the 'best of all possible worlds'? Ask Question. This was famously satirised by Voltaire in Candide. Is this correct? Mozibur Ullah Mozibur Ullah Leibniz probably thought like this -- "I believe MY life is ideal.
Late, but useful; the detail is extraordinary.