Classical Rationality as the Basis of Utopism

Topics: Epistemology, Reason, Logic Pages: 9 (3523 words) Published: November 26, 2005
Classical Rationality as the Basis of Utopism and its Criticism from the Viewpoints of Language and Experience

The constant return to utopian projects of re-organizing society testifies that utopism is deeply rooted in the structure of the Classical episteme. In this case to break with utopian line of thinking means to uncover and eliminate all the presuppositions which inevitably lead to the transformation of social ideals into utopias. If we approach the problem of utopism from this point of view, it becomes rather the object of epistemology than ethics or politics. The connection of Utopia with the fundamentals of Classical theory of knowledge reveals itself clearly, if we remember that the author of the first Utopia, as well as the classical model of reasoning, was the same person – Plato. In his most famous work "Republic" the possibility of constructing an ideal society follows directly from his ontology and method of reasoning. So we can say that the theory of knowledge and politics were bound together from the very beginning. Plato founds his method on the idealization procedure borrowed from mathematics and spreads this line of reasoning, where general is considered to be more cognizable and trustworthy, to all spheres of knowledge including social studies. From the logical point of view the idea/form of a thing always precedes the thing: "We should always know what equality is in itself before we know that certain things are equal". Having proved that "general" precedes "individual" logically, Plato makes a gross overstatement and treats ideas as primary to things not only logically, but also ontologically. He endows his forms/ideas with substance and places them in a special ideal world. The world of ideas "divine, mental, immortal, uniform" takes priority over the world of things "mortal, sensible, diverse, separable and perishable" not only as more cognizable but also as pertaining to "Good". Starting from the proven priority of "general/always identical with itself" over "individual/transient" Plato structures his ideal state. According to his line of thinking, it is possible to approach the ideal if we eliminate everything that divides citizens and splinters the idea of the State: family ties and private property: "What can do more harm to the state than those things that result in the abolition of unity and lead to its dissolution? . And is this not the result of cries heard everywhere: "This thing is mine!". If we add, that stability in Plato's ideal polis is kept by means of propaganda and censorship we get the complete picture of a totalitarian state based on the principles of 1) Identity (collectivism); 2) Hierarchy (natural benefits given to a certain class, in this case, philosophers); 3) Teleology (all the individual interests and efforts should serve the only goal – the enforcement of the ideal State). The further evolution of utopian thinking from metaphysical speculations on the essence of an ideal state to the description of its functioning model can be traced in the Thomas More's "Utopia". More inherited from his teacher the basic principles of reasoning: the rigid dichotomy of the proper state of things and the way they really are, the primacy of general over individual, the possibility of realizing the ideal by means of rational organization and the leading role of theoretical knowledge over experience. But being a statesman, More tries to bring the lofty dreams of the Greek philosopher closer to earth and devoid his ideals of the refined intellectualism. This tendency to "earthing" is obviously expressed in the fact that his ideal state More places on the physical plan, not meta-physical or speculative as Plato did. In contrast to Plato, More bases his concept of an ideal state not on metaphysics or ethics but on economy. The citizens of Utopia are virtuous because of their political regime, not vice versa as, for example, in religious tradition: "The political regime of utopians is...
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