And if the world weren’t broken?

It is often said that the world is broken and thus in need of fixing. I do not think so.

We would not say that something is broken unless we also thought that it had once been intact. Something that is intact has all its pieces together, with each piece connected in the proper fashion to the next. Whatever is unbroken is not just intact; it makes up a whole.

The running thesis is that the world, once a whole, has come apart, resulting in shards, pieces, and fragments strewn about here and there. Thinking this to be so, one first searches for the causes of this fragmentation and second seeks to intervene by restoring the world to a prior state, creating a better state, transforming the whole, or creating something entirely new. (These four responses I wrote about yesterday.)

This can’t be right way to understand things. In Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein points out that certain concepts are at home within certain language games (or discourses). There is no conceptual trouble with claiming that a bike is broken and in need of fixing nor with insisting that a leaky faucet needs to be fixed. Yet there is conceptual trouble once ‘brokenness’ is ripped out of its discursive home and broadened well beyond the scope of its normal, everyday application with the result that ‘the world’ is said to be broken and thus in need of fixing. I am not sure how that is possible or what it would possibly mean to ‘fix the world.’ It strikes me as a misunderstanding of the character of the world in the first place and as an act of hubris on the part of the agent in the second.

Certainly, however ‘the world’ turns out to be, we would do well to return to the beginning: How is the world a whole?

Slowly, I am making my way around to connecting all of these arguments from the past month concerning the penchant for problem-solving (the world is a problem that needs to be solved), the idea that the world is fallen and in need of saving, the view that human beings are weak and thus yearning to be helped, and the thesis that the mind is prone to sickness and therefore in need of healing. How they are connected I do not know yet.

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