fredag 19 augusti 2011

Was Zarathushtra a teleologist? My answer is no!

However, the one thing that DOES change over time is technological complexity.
This means that we both get wonderful new tools like computers and the internet that connects people productively and creatively around the world.
But technology also creates rampant pollution and atomic bombs.
But as far as human beings are concerned, we are the same people and have the same genes we did 100,000 years ago.
And I mustoffer friendly disagreement with Dina on the supposed teleology of Zarathushtra. I don't see any such traces in "The Gathas". Zarathushtra is an ETHICIST and not an historicist.
And if teleology was correct, then why would we listen to a man from 3,700 years ago. We should then all be infinitely smarter than him by now. Which I happen to think is obviously not true. ;-)


2011/8/19 Special Kain

Dear Dina

As a sociologist I am very sceptical when it comes to teleology. My inner scholar tells me that we are not progressing towards a better state. We are not progressing towards The Ultimate Democracy (as in Hegel's "the end of history"). Times just change, and we change with them, for better or worse. What we can't deny is an increase in complexity and the creation of new and more efficient technologies. And if we're not completely deranged, we can learn from previous experiences. I would recommend "soft teleology" that does justice to the fundamental uncertainty of social change.


----- Weitergeleitete Message -----
Von: ""
Gesendet: 16:10 Freitag, 19.August 2011
Betreff: Re: Reply to Dino The Meaning of Asha

Dear Dino

I hope that you are well and in good spirits. Thank you for your kind words. Your comment regarding 'teleological misunderstanding' sent me flying to the dictionary (so much for my 'brilliant mind' which I assure you is far from it!). According to my dictionary 'teleological' means 'exhibiting or relating to design or purpose', so yes, I do see that in Zarathushtra's thought, and I am inclined to agree with him.

You are indeed accurate when you say that social change is hard to predict. And I fully agree that our society is not 'objectively superior' (I really dislike the notion of 'superiority' in any event). But I (with due respect) do not agree that as a society we have not, slowly but surely, improved in many (though not all) respects over our past. Let me give you a few examples:

In the Middle Ages in Europe, people who dared to think differently from the established Church -- whether in matters of science, or 'morals' or philosophical belief, were condemned as heretics. Many of them were tortured by the Inquisition, imprisoned for long years, or burned alive at the stake. This kind of control also extended to secular rulers, with Protestant rulers burning Catholics, and Catholic rulers burning Protestants. And prisoners were routinely tortured to obtain 'confessions' which were admissible in court and used to condemn them. Today, it is true that religious authorities still exercise a measure of control over people's minds (witness the fundamentalist sects in various religions, and even in mainstream sects, the control that is exercised through fear of damnation and 'hell' ), but neither church nor state has such pervasive control over human thought as they did in the Middle Ages. It is true that we do take steps backwards, (witness the brutalities and controls of the Soviet Union and the Nazis), and it is also true that we do still have the torture of individuals to obtain information, some times by a government (as we know to our shame and sorrow), but again, not to the pervasive extent that was prevalent during the Inquisition. Then it was considered "right". Today it is condemned by most people. And most courts in our societies do not accept testimony obtained through torture. It is also true that we have terrorists who blow people up, but again not to the extent of the systematic and frequent (almost routine) burning at the stake of those who were 'different' in thought, word or action, that occurred in the Middle Ages.

So yes, I do think, that slowly, with many ups and downs, -- two steps forward, one step backwards -- we nevertheless are progressing towards a better society. According to Zarathushtra, (as I understand his thought) this occurs because of the way things have been ordered (asha) which includes many factors -- the law of consequences (that we reap what we sow), the ability to think / feel, and mutual loving help, which helps to break destructive cycles (such as the abused abusing others, cycles of injustice, hatred and revenge etc.). This ability to think/feel, is a part of asha (good thinking is the comprehension of the true (correct) order of things, however incrementally). This mutual loving help is also a part of asha. It is delivered through words and actions that embody the true (correct) order of things. Such words and actions which embody asha are (in my view) the concept of aramaiti.

So I do not think that in Z's thought there is any teleological misunderstanding. I think he did see a design and purpose in the experiences that engender an evolution in our thoughts, words and actions. And I have to say that I find his idea persuasive. But my dear friend, it is perfectly all right for you to disagree with me. Zarathushtra's whole idea of the freedom to think requires that we respect differences of opinion, or it would be a hollow freedom indeed.

You are welcome to forward this to the Ushta list if you think it appropriate.

Wishing you the best,


-----Original Message-----
From: Special Kain
To: Ushta ; dinamci
Sent: Fri, Aug 19, 2011 9:19 am
Subject: Re: [Ushta] The Meaning of Asha

Dear Dina

Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us. I have always loved your brilliant mind!
If asha also applies to the mind, then should we see ourselves as progressing towards a better society built on wisdom? Isn't this a teleological misunderstanding? Frankly, I don't believe in teleology as a sociologist. Social change is hard to predict. Our future society isn't "objectively superior" to our current or any past societies.
What do you think?


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