Wanting and Doing
posted at 5:47 pm on March 17, 2011 by Steven Den Beste
How many teleologists does it take to change a light bulb?
None. The teleologist wants the light bulb to make light, so the light bulb never burns out.
Teleology is a world view that says that the world makes sense, and must work in a way which is intellectually and esthetically pleasing to humans. It assumes a mind-body duality and places the mind, the spiritual, above the body and the physical. If an idea is pleasing then it must be true, for ultimate truth will always be pleasing.
That isn’t really how teleology began, but that’s what it’s become in the modern era. Modern transnational progressivism is, at its core, based on that rather warped and degenerate version of teleology at a deep, a priori level. It may seem strange to talk about the “spiritual” when talking about a movement which prides itself in being secular, but progressivism embraces many contradictions.
To a teleologist, the way you stop war is to put a sticker on your car that says “Imagine world peace”. If enough people just want it enough, it’ll happen. Indeed, anything is possible if you just want it enough. You can power modern industrial civilization exclusively using “green” energy, for instance. If it isn’t happening, it’s the fault of all the people who refuse to get on board to help with the wanting.
To a teleologist, socialism is obviously the way things should be. The ideal socialist utopia is such a pleasing image that it must be the way to go. Never mind that every time socialism has been tried, it has always failed badly; empirical results don’t matter to a teleologist.
As a true man of the left, our president is fundamentally teleological, and this is the explanation for a lot of things about him that people find puzzling. Again and again, Obama makes speeches about how important some thing is, but doesn’t seem to do anything about them. But that’s not puzzling if you realize that to a teleologist, wanting something is doing something.
Or take his behavior regarding Libya. John, at Powerline, writes:
Despite the urgency, it appears that the Libyan insurrection likely will be over before the Obama administration makes any decision as to what to do about it. It may well be that the best course has always been to do nothing. But if that is the case, what was the point of Obama’s pronouncement that Qaddafi “must” go? If it is important that Qaddafi go, then why is the United States unwilling to lift a finger to bring about the event that “must” happen? And how can a situation simultaneously be urgent, but not worth doing anything about?
For a teleologist, expressing your desire is how you bring about the event. If enough people say that Qaddafi “must go”, he will vanish in a puff of smoke. That’s why you work for a world consensus, for it is that consensus which alters reality.
(A slightly less implausible way to put it is that if there is strong enough international disapproval, Qaddafi will bow to peer pressure and voluntarily go into exile. But clearly that isn’t going to work with him.)
To a teleologist, it isn’t necessary, and it is obviously wrong, to use military force to depose a corrupt and brutal dictator. Soft power is obviously better.
Except for the minor fact that it isn’t very effective. But as mentioned, to teleologists, empirical results are not persuasive.
The Obama administration, combined with two years of strong Democratic majority in Congress, has caused incalculable damage to this country and the world. But we’ve recovered from worse, and it will discredit the left for a generation. The left finally gained control for two years, and now Americans have seen what that truly means. In November of 2010 American voters gave the left a stinging rebuke, and it’s going to keep happening.