‘Could be broken’ and ‘is broken’

In the last couple of posts, I have been examining this argument:

2.) Because the world is broken or out-of-order, it needs to be fixed or restored.

Let me set the stage for the next post about the view that the world (or some large sections of it anyway) is already broken. So far, I have considered the thought that some system could break or is susceptible to breaking. If this is the case, then one would devise a set of common responses. Let me mention the three most prominent responses. One would be to be on the lookout for whatever it is that could break and is within one’s ken. Another would be to troubleshoot, repairing some part that isn’t working with an eye to avoiding the total breakdown of the system. And a third would be to keep upgrading a system to ensure that whatever could most likely break down does not break down or apart. One can observe these strategies being employed in everything from security to engineering to hospital care.

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‘All things could potentially go wrong’

I have returned from Banff and now take up again the arguments that make up our modern moral metaphysic. They are:

1.) Because the world is lost and fallen, it needs to be changed or ultimately saved.

2.) Because the world is broken or out-of-order, it needs to be fixed or restored.

3.) Constituted by problems, the world requires solutions.

4.) In virtue of our being inherently weak and prone to suffering, we human beings yearn to be helped.

5.) Because the human mind, like the human body, tends to be sickly and ill, it seeks healing or cures.

So far, I have argued that 3) – 5) are based on errors. I have not yet addressed the errors in 1.) and 2.). In the next set of posts, I turn my attention to the argument that the world just is broken and therefore in need of fixing. I begin with a letter I wrote to one philosophical friend rather recently.


We inquired into the belief that things could potentially go wrong. After our conversation, I happened to skim a review of the English writer Geoff Dyer’s recent work. The book reviewer Kathryn Schulz writes in passing, ‘All of them [that is, his works of nonfiction and those of fiction], meanwhile, contain things that could go catastrophically wrong.’ Surely, it could be said that I am looking for evidence of those who believe that things can go wrong in order to test my thesis. A case of cherry picking. Why else would my eyes alight upon this line as opposed to many others in this review? Granted, I would reply, yet this hardly changes the fact that the most lauded English writer living today is an example of this all-pervasive way of thinking.  Here–to select another example–is Symantec’s own write-up of Security Best Practices:

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