Eternalism in politics

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Political eternalism starts with the wistful certainty that:

There must be a correct system of government; so if we adopted it, it would solve most political problems

This attractive idea—held by nearly everyone—has no basis in reality. It’s a hopeful metaphysical belief, not something grounded in evidence or reason.

Eternalism is the stance that everything has a fixed meaning, given by some sort of Cosmic Plan.

Wistful certainty” is a ploy for maintaining eternalism. The certainty is wistful because, even if there somehow is a correct system of government, we don’t know what it is. That is unacceptable, however; governance is too important for it to be nebulous (uncertain; indefinite). If it were nebulous, the Cosmic Plan would be defective. This creates a cognitive dissonance that eternalism resolves by creating an artificial certainty that some political system is absolutely justified.

This spurious certainty can lead to hideous tyrannies. However, the root problem is just thinking that there must be some correct form. Once you have that idea, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that whatever form seems best (or is most convenient) is indeed the cosmically right one.

The ploys political eternalism uses to maintain itself in the face of doubt are strikingly similar to religious ones.

Also, for many people, political eternalism functions as an overarching all-purpose foundation for meaning, much as religions can. This has become particularly true in the past hundred years as religions have been widely discredited, but people still feel the need of a foundation for meaning.

This has been discussed widely by social theorists as “political religion”; critics rightly point out that political systems are not actually religions, although they have some of the same functions. The concept “non-theistic eternalism” is helpful here in explaining the similarities.

[This page will provide an overview of political eternalism, introducing a section on the topic. Pages in the section will cover various instances and aspects of the phenomenon.]

[Here’s a nice quote:]

The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might choose to impress upon it.
—Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, paragraph VI.II.42.

Navigation

This page is in the section Non-theistic eternalism,
      which is in Eternalism: the fixation of meaning,
      which is in Meaning and meaninglessness,
      which is in Doing meaning better.

This is the last page in its section.

The next page in book-reading order is Nihilism: the denial of meaning.

The previous page is Rationalist ideologies as eternalism. (That page introduces its own subsection.)

This page’s topics are Eternalism, Politics, and Systems.

General explanation: Meaningness is a hypertext book (in progress), plus a “metablog” that comments on it. The book begins with an appetizer. Alternatively, you might like to look at its table of contents, or some other starting points. Classification of pages by topics supplements the book and metablog structures. Terms with dotted underlining (example: meaningness) show a definition if you click on them. Pages marked with ⚒ are still under construction. Copyright ©2010–2017 David Chapman.