Sunday, December 29, 2013

126. Is change evil?

 There is a deep-rooted fear, in human thought, of change and contingency, human vulnerability to accident, illness and death, and consequently there is a craving for certainty and stability in universal and fixed truths and certainties, in religion or ideology. But how, then, to account for change, which is so obvious and pervasive in the world? It has been dismissed either as illusory or as associated with evil, work of the devil.

 According to Freud’s lust principle people crave for stability, lack of change. As a result, people may lust for death as the ultimate peace. If that were true, we might need religion as an alternative haven of restfulness, to stop a wave of suicide. But all this, I think, is just nonsense. How to account for the Nietzschean drive towards the excitement of sex, conquest, adventure, and discvovery that also clearly exists? Freud tries to answer this question but fails. I propose hat human beings have an urge for both rest, serenity, and excitement, ecstasy. I discussed that in the context of art, in item 81.

An ancient logical argument against change that it is either genuinely new, which would entail creation out of nothing, which is impossible, or a reconfiguration of what existed before, in which case it is not genuinely new. A counter-example is that of evolution, with species that are genuinerly novel while arising from mutations and recombinations of genes.

I propose that there is no creativity (as a ‘good’) without destruction (as an ‘evil’). Hindu philosophy recognised that with the god Shiva, next to Brahman, the source of all, and Krishna, the pinnacle of virtue.

Destruction is not annihilation (as Heidegger noted) but a de-construction, a taking down or taking apart what exists, allowing for re-construction. In economics there is Schumpeters notion of creative destruction as novel combinations.

In my theory of invention and innovation, summarized in item 31 of this blog, I offered a general ‘logic’ of how in society novelty may arise, in a cycle of discovery. An essential part of it is that what exists is subjected to novel challenges, in novel contexts, where it meets the challenge and the elements for de-construction and reconstruction from old and new elements.

Heidegger claimed that development of (philosophical) thought requires a disposition to change, i.e. a openness to it and a shift of position, and I think my cycle of discovery may clarify that, in the step to novel contexts for novel challenges.

While destruction can be creative, it does entail a break-down of what existed before. Is that evil? If it is, again we find that exclusion of evil would entail stagnation, which, I propose, is destructive of the flourishing of life. To allow for flourishing one must allow for uncertainty and risk. A society without risk is a stagnant society. Society can compensate for injustices that emerge from risk, and that is what it does, in social security, though this can go too far, eliminating willingness to take risks. It should not remove risk but compensate for it when needed. Society has been going too far in eliminating risk.