The world problem-solver: Not a home, not free enough

The chief reason that one may spend one’s life trying to solve the world’s problems is that one believes that doing so is identical with the good life. To lead a good life is to solve the world’s problems. But this thesis cannot hold up under scrutiny.

The world problem-solver, having taken the world not to be a home at the outset, believes that it only can become a home once the major problems have been solved. But even if one were to ‘solve’ the ‘problem’ of food, one would still be spending one’s life trying to do away with what is bad. Imagine spending a life seeking to do away with what is bad–how can that be good? It does not follow that doing away with what is bad can ever get one to the shores of the good: the removal of the bad does not imply the arrival of the good. And if there is the arrival of some local good, it is still not an affirmation of the overall goodness of the world. So, even problem-solving success implies overall failure. Thus, the problem-solver who tries to make the world into a home cannot do so because it is impossible. As a result, he will always be exiled from home–from start to finish.

Alternatively, he may argue that once the major problems are removed, then everyone will be free. Yet being able to do what one wants to do is not sufficient for leading a good life. Freedom grasped as the ability to do what one wants to do is a rather juvenile concern, after all. If no one would wish to be coerced, it does not follow that a reasonable person would identify this conception of freedom with human flourishing. Just as the world’s being free a particular problem does not get us to the good, so being free of coercion gives us no guidelines concerning how best to conduct ourselves.

Consequently, the world problem-solver who assumes that the world is not as it ought to be concludes with the world’s remaining unhomely as well as with a sense of his never being entirely free–never quite free enough–either. Quite clearly, alienation begets further alienation.

Recognizing these things, one would have to exit ‘the way of problematizing’ and return to first questions: ‘How could I come to perceive the world qua world as being good? And how would I have to be in order to be prepared to receive the world as good?’

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