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The Revolution Will Be Kuhnian.

The Return of Progress: One Consequence of My General Theory of Wrongness

In my last post, I described a general theory of wrongness. It might be summarized:

Large scale wrongness occurs when cultural evolution in one area outpaces cultural evolution in some other area.

An example can be seen in the debates about higher education. All sorts of bad stuff comes out of the fact our old rule of thumb--human right of education to age 16--has become obsolete due to the evolution of our society, especially economic society. Thus, a general principle underlies a whole host of bad things: for-profit colleges, "colorblind" admissions requirements, student loan debt, failure to bridge race and class gaps of achievement, adjunct faculty making less than one student pays in tuition, and on and on. 

New rule of thumb needed:

  • Humans have a right to education through age 21 to 25.

But through this example we can see an unstated element in my theory: the goal.

If something is wrong, that means, by definition, something is right. So a general theory of wrongness requires a general theory of rightness. Here we go:

Given genetic evolution and environmental change, the goal of human culture is a society where every living human can

a. survive, and

b. enjoy surviving.

This is the end of the abstract philosophizing. I cannot justify a. and b. But neither can I act otherwise. Hume's lesson is that that is where we start. Then we turn to the empirical question: how do we get a and b?

The Empirical Answer

I'm willing to say that, based on our current empirical knowledge of human needs and human satisfaction, the good, subject to further empirical investigation is:

  1. Food,
  2. Water,
  3. Shelter,
  4. Challenge,
  5. Social Interactivity.

The nice thing about this general theory of wrongness/rightness is that, unlike post-modern relativism, we once again can believe in progress. Progress is measured by how close the world is to giving as many people as possible the five things above. Because the world is an open, dynamic, system, getting there is an infinite, ever changing task: conveniently just the kind of task that, empirically, we know that people derive satisfaction from.

Marion Barry

The Micro-Foundations Of Wrongness