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Ancient philosophy, religion and teleology

From the Judaism to Aristotle, to Kant, to Hegel

The humanity is destined to reach its perfection.

The field of philosophy which the mission is to look into the sense of humanity is the ancient Philosophy.

It is also called finalism or teleology.

The concept of teleology (science of the man’s purposes) is found for the first time in Aristotle’s philosophy.
In his magnum opus, Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle expresses the idea of a purpose occulted to the nature of the things.

But it is the Judaism that really shows the principle of a last and positive purpose of the humanity. This concept will go further into later with the Christianity and its notion of Apocalypse (obviously, all these teleology’s origins are debatable).

In any case, the creative and spiritual power of the 5th and 4th century before a.D. has been colossal. From Hinduism to Buddhism, to Greek philosophy, this period showed the blossoming of the main thoughts and the main experiences around rapture.

A teleological position seems to be also included in Le Banquet from Plato because we can see the love evolve progressively from primary desire to rapture. But Plato, certainly under the influence of Asiatic philosophies, is interested first of all in the individual.
In the contrary, the monotheisms, under the influence of the Judaism, are inclined towards the evolution of the whole humanity.

Later, leaning on the Bible, the main Christian thinkers (Augustine of Hippo for example) preserved this view of a purpose of the humanity.

But the first absolute scientific analysis of the human future happened with Kant.

Kant is one of the first philosophers who looked meticulously into the general evolution of the humanity; one of the first who did not place God as a starting point in his study of the creation, but historical and scientific phenomena.

It seems to me that Hegel sustained this teleological task, mixing materialism and idealism.

The main ideological and systems of the 19th century (socialism, anarchism, etc.) and its thinkers (Owen, Marx, Fourier, Comte), looking into Kant and Hegel’s theories, interested themselves in the material and social characteristics of the human evolution. Most of them have been militantly in favour of the concrete and rapid physical and social happiness of the man.

This militant view of the human future has so opened the way to the fights against alienation and to the wish to accelerate abruptly the man’s liberty and the course of history (with the revolution).

That’s about a natural, respectable and generous human wish. But this wish leads to an aberration, as showed the failure of the communism.

Ancient philosophy’s deadlock

KantFrom its origins and even nowadays (from Kant, Hegel, Marx to Fukoyama) the ancient Philosophy has been criticized and even discredited.

Many things motivated these critics:

a/ The underestimations of the time needed by the humanity be accomplished.

Scandalized by the cruelty and the human injustice, in a hurry to see the things happen while they were alive, a few philosophers tended to wish a drastic change in the world. This kind of philosophy is at the origins of the main revolutions. The revolutions have been, during a long time, the only way to reach the inaccessible mentalities of certain dominants. But this drastic way of evolution is responsible for many forms of violence and for a too fast acceleration of the society*. Nowadays, we would rather choose the consciences’ revolution (Gandhi, Martin Luther King).

Other philosophers, enthusiastic with their discovers about the purpose of the history, can imagine our specie already arrived in the perfection’s fields. In my opinion, it is about an egocentric overestimation of the present (Hegel seeing the world’s soul in Napoleon).

It is certainly also the mistake of Francis Fukuyama, when he sees the final point of the human history’s progresses in the end of the dualism east-west and the apotheosis of the liberal democracy.

I am also in a hurry to see the beginning of a peaceful world while i am alive, so the mecaniqueuniverselle is also not empty from such a wrong estimation. The humanity has many steps to cross and many problems to resolve before reaching its perfection. We can not forget that when we are reading these pages.

* It is the case, for example, of the revolutionary from the 19th century, who wanted to impose transcendental values such as equality, too soon to be accepted by the human consciences of this period.

b/ The neglecting of the spiritual meaning of such a historic happening

A few philosophers from the 19th century concentrate in the materialist part of the evolution. So, they underestimated its spiritual vocation. The materialism tends to fast the technical and industrial progress, the comfort, pleasure, leisure and freedom to act, to think and to create.
Nevertheless, without any spiritual thinking, without attaching importance to spirituality and let it a place, the evolution fatally meets the absurd, the animality and the dominion of the man by the object. In a really materialist point of view, the individual is just a sum of organs, a financial value, a mere appearance. There is not real sense to his existence.

However, the man is a spiritual being and needs spirituality. We can realize that when we see countries that spent so many years under communism and lean again now over religion.

That is why the world looses sometimes its mental balance and evolves towards a real impasse; the spirituality of the last decades has been neglected, silenced.

As Marx though, the religion has so often been the people’s opium. Nowadays, the dealer’s name is: market.

Logic of the ancient philosophy

The end of history is not so soon

logicIt seems to be a custom, for an Ancient philosopher, to think about his present as it was the height of civilization, a kind of apogee at paradise’s doors.

One day, the philosophers will very likely say it rightfully.

Apparently, it is not the case yet.

Our specie has yet many steps to cross to reach its perfection.

We can have an idea about the work we have to complete before having a universal way of living, so prized by Emmanuel Kant, if we just analyze some logics of evolution.

Where are we situated in the scale of evolution?

After having spread all over the planet, our specie began a kind of slow process of reunification.

We passed from troupe to tribe, from tribe to city, from city to country, from country to nation. Nowadays, countries and nations are joining together around a “continental” working (Europe, Asia, Africa, America).
This step seems to be prerequisite for succeeding in a universal working (wished by all the pacifists and universalists).

Even if the people are already able to live in osmosis, in partnership and mutualism to evolve, the current continental step still seems to need antagonism and violence to build itself.

This kind of violent evolution probably corresponds to the psychic of the dominants majority.

At least, it corresponds to decision-makers and conservatives’ psychology (psychologies full of aggressiveness and dominion desire).

The evil and the progress

Oeuvre sur toile de jean marc tonizzo agressAn enlarged view over history is necessary to imagine a sense in the evolution of humanity.

If fact, if we just analyze the results of progress in the scale of a few decades, it is hard to see a positive direction of the evolution.

How, for example, can we speak about positive progress at the end of the 1st and the 2nd World war?

Astonished by the monstrosities engendered with the help of progress and technology, the man could not consider any more the technical development as good for humanity.

However, the progress is not the reason of these awful inhumanities such as showed the genocide in Rwanda. The problem lives in certain human tendencies. The instinct of dominion, segregation, predation, the desire of hegemony and the capacity to use the last inventions for perverse purposes are responsible.

In the same way, with the same enlarged view, we can consider the 3 last ultraliberal decades as “regressive” regarding to moral, social and ecological fields.

But when we consider the real level of our humanity (and not the level we think we have reached), when we situate these chaotic compulsive and unfair years in the big history of evolution, then, everything make sense again.

Obviously, at any period, the progress contained risks. The first flint tools contained the possibility for the first men to massacre each other, to lead the humanity to its own extinction.

Beyond all the benefits engendered by the progress, it really contains some risks and is responsible for many incidents, complications, fears and dangers, and so, disillusions and deceptions.

The empire of our urges (fears, aggressiveness, dominion desires) is often bigger than our conscience and turns the technology against us and our congeners.

Our dominion’s instinct and our predatory tendencies are still very strong and divert our inventions from their principal objective, to redirect them towards destructive and dangerous purposes.

The progress can be used by man to kill (or to order a murder of its congeners) and the resulting excesses situate our specie low in the pacifist hierarchy scale; far from herbivores or whales for example…

We cannot forget that have, as many predators like the lion for example, the miserable capacity to kill our own children (the mythology had already understood that – see Hercules).

The question of sense

Le GrecoAfter having been neglected during more than a century, the question of the sense of humanity has an opportunity to come back to the philosophy’s minds.

We know that it is still extremely difficult to have certainties concerning the reality of the human progress (at least, when we want to give a positive sense to it).
We also know that the material world can be considered as an illusion (and this includes obviously the evolution).

To find some evidences, we should have a very clear vision of our history. We should understand very well all the steps between the beginning of humanity and what it is today.

We should know about the life conditions during the first human hordes; then during the first civilizations. We should study, without any romanticism, how was the daily life in classical Egyptian times, Greek, and then Roman. We should study about the life during Middle ages, French Revolution, at the beginning of capitalism, and then about the life conditions at the beginning of the 20th century, etc.

To estimate the ways of life in different periods, we should have not only technical elements but also have a precise vision of the human psychology during these different moments of the history.

It would be necessary to compare the affective, familiar, social and educative relations, the sanitary, medical and juridical conditions at each step of the evolution, between the first men and the present ones.

In any case, the man is full of resources. He has a certainly technical and creative future above suspicion.

When it will be time for humanity to lean again over its future, the philosophy and the science will massively carry out this matter with superior tools than those Kant or Hegel made use of.

To sum up

There are 3 ways to apprehend the human’s future:

ceramic Vallauris, from Jean Marc Tonizzo- The religious way has a positive but sometimes worrying idea of our ending (Last Judgment for example).
- The revolutionary way aims at the end of alienation, war, selfishness, egoism, but wants to impose it by force.
- The nihilist way refuses any thinking about long-term and suggests a life of immediate results and individual pleasure. The consequences of such an evolution are already exposed today (destruction of the planet, return to primate values, absurd and compulsive behaviors …).

Today, there is yet a median vision between the religious, the revolutionary and the nihilist positions concerning the evolution of humanity.

We could imagine a conscious thinking under wise lights about the human future.

Soon, I think that the humanity is going to recall new philosophic thinking about human future.


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