Monday, February 14, 2005

On Improving the World

To change the world is not to improve it. To improve it one must make it better. For this two things are required. The first is that one must understand the world and the people in it as to what they actually are and as to what they are capable of. The second is that one must know how things objectively ought to be.

Can the various world-improvers claim to know these two things? In his eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach, Karl Marx wrote that "The philosophers have variously interpreted the world, but the point is to change it. ("Die Philosophen haben die Welt verschieden interpretiert, aber es kommt darauf an, sie zu veraendern.")

The point, however, is not merely to change the world, but to improve it, and to do that one must first understand it and the people in it -- which is precisely what Marx failed to do. As for the second desideratum, according to which one must know how things objectively ought to be, a doctrine that sees morality as but ideology is not well-positioned to satisfy it.