Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ends and Means

I was just reading a very aged copy of Aldous Huxley's 'Ends and Means' (1938) subtitled 'An Enquiry into the Nature of Ideals and into the Method employed for their Realization' in which Huxley asks a common question of what is the society we ideally want and, if that were knowable, what would we logically do for its creation. This closing quote reminded me of the central reason why this does not seem possible:

“In an age in which the fundamental beliefs of all or most members of a given society are the same, it is possible to discuss the problems of politics, or economics or education, without making any explicit reference to these beliefs. It is possible, because it is assumed by the author that the cosmology of all his readers will be the same as his own. But at the present time there are no axioms, no universally accepted postulates. In these circumstances a discussion of political, economic or educational problems, containing no reference to fundamental beliefs, is incomplete and even misleading.” (Aldous Huxley Ends and Means p329-330)

The presumption of a diversity of values must now be accepted. Analysis of the belief structures operating and their identification is essential if any public discourse is to be intelligible (or productive). To see the tensions between conceptions we need first to see those conceptions. Making the coherences of meaning visible is one means by which we find a way to our common future. That is the main reason for this research.

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