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“I prefer clarity over agreement.” — Dennis Prager
I think it’s safe to assume that all of us here agree that Utopia is impossible. Yet each of the two major caucuses here — call them “traditionally conservative” and “libertarian” as a rough shorthand — often view the other as having a suspiciously Utopian intent.
BDB’s recent thread gave me an idea. I thought it would be really helpful if each caucus explained why Utopia is impossible. Accusations of Utopianism seem to be based on misinformed views. So instead of accusing the other of Utopianism, we could explain why we hold that Utopia is not possible. It occurred to me that this could go a long way to helping us understand each other. To my knowledge, we have never discussed this subject, and this may account for why we continue to misunderstand and mistrust each other. Clarity helps to avoid misunderstandings and it also fosters trust. I want to foster trust, and since you are all my compatriots who are acting in good faith, I must do better to be more clear, more trustworthy, and more patient. Actually, I need to do those things anyway, but you’ve helped to provide a motive. :)
It occurs to me that attempting to speak for one’s entire caucus is too big a task, and therefore not a very reasonable one. I would like us to end up with a few guiding principles so that members of one caucus easily understand why the other caucus holds that Utopia is impossible and Utopianism a folly. Toward this end, I think it would be helpful if disagreements are limited to intra-caucus disagreements. For example, if you are a libertarian and you disagree with me about why I say that Utopia is impossible, I’d prefer it if you didn’t voice that here on this thread. On the other hand, if you’re a libertarian and you ask me for clarification because you don’t understand something, or if you’re a Catholic and you disagree with me about how I’ve characterized man’s sinful nature, then these kinds of exchanges are entirely within the realm of what I hope to achieve here. Those are just examples, but I hope they convey my intent. I realize that the comments will proceed however they proceed, but that is my preference.
I will go first.
As many of you know, I am an orthodox Catholic. The Catholic teachings about the fall of man and man’s inclination to evil inform my views.
Catholics make quite a few truth claims about human beings, why they were created, their structure and composition, and their nature. Catholics claim that every human being inherits original sin, which was passed down to us from Adam as the result of his disobedience to God. Original sin is the loss of sanctifying grace; it is not the same as personal guilt. This loss of sanctifying grace results in the darkening of the mind and the weakening of the will.
By definition, human beings who have a darkened mind and a weakened will can never create a Utopia, but, admittedly, this won’t stop some from trying. In fact, if they don’t understand their condition, it may mean they will try all the harder, not realizing their weaknesses. Certain nations in the 20th century provide horrifying examples of what can happen when sinners try to create a “worker’s paradise.” It should be noted that even Catholic saints, who surely have stopped sinning to an exceedingly large degree, still commit some sin in some small ways (we call it “venial sin”) and still struggle with the sinful nature they acquired at their conception.
In short, since every human person is a sinner, Utopia is always an impossibility. That’s my extremely brief explanation of the impossibility of Utopia. I am happy to elaborate or clarify. Regardless of your caucus, I hope you will consider joining this discussion so that we can all understand each other better.
Why is Utopia impossible?