Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ask the Right Questions

Some people ask, "Why is there crime in the world?" For most crime, the answer is obvious. Everyone has one reason to steal stuff: the stuff! Don't you want more stuff? Don't ask why there is crime. Ask what features of the world maintain order and protect rights.

Don't ask: "What is the cause of poverty?" There is no cause of poverty. Poverty is nothingness, the lack of things that people must make. Nothing comes from nothing. Ask: "What is the cause of wealth?" Ask the right question and everything changes.

I am sure there are exceptions to this, but as a general rule I think theories about human life have to be primarily theories about the good. The reason is not metaphyscial, as the Neoplatonists would claim (good = being, bad = non-being). The reason is that everything good in human life (but not of other animals) is someone's achievement. Bad is something that happens when no one effectively moves off the zero-point to achieve needed things.

For many years, psychologists asked why people are sick and irrational. Now they are asking how healthy and rational people manage the chaos their sense-organs throw at them and navigate to success in the world. Now maybe everything will change.


Anonymous said...

The next-to-last sentence of your third paragraph states that "everything good in human life...is someone's acheivement," which suggests, perhaps inadvertently, that "good" is a product of human invention. But the last sentence seems to define good as "needed things," and this suggests that human achievements are good only if they bring about needed things. Needed things, in other words, are logically prior to achievements--as the first sentence of your paradgraph seems to imply (assuming that "the good" is synonymous with "needed things.") Therefore the goodness or badness of human actions (achievements) is determined by whether or not they tend toward the good. Achievements have their criterion in reality, in the "things" that human beings need in truth. And what, objectively speaking, do human beings most crave if not precisely to be? And doesn't this craving suggest at least an opening to metaphysics? --But quibbling aside, your general point seems right: it is better to inquire after the good than after the wrong.

Lester Hunt said...

I'll take that as a friendly ammendment. Maybe I should say that the one thing that makes the human sciences different from all others is that human beings must make what they need and first must discover what they need. Other animals sometimes make things (eg., birds: nests) but not because they figured out what their need was and how to satisfy it. That's why to understand a bird nest is not to understand an achievment.

The big question is: how the heck do we bring off this miracle?

Anonymous said...

Of course friendly! I appreciate your blog very much. I only wish there was more of it.