Unlimited Perfectibility

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Interiors                 -                     Exteriors
Conservative         -                     Liberal
Individual              -                     Environment


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The typical liberal, recall, does not believe in interior causation, or even in interiors, for that matter.

The typical liberal epistemology (e.g., John Locke) imagines that the mind is a tabula rasa, a blank slate, that is filled with pictures of the external world.

If something is wrong with the interior (if you are suffering), it is because something is first wrong with the exterior (the social institutions)—because your interior comes from the exterior.

This "blank slate" view of the human mind—with its correlates in a psychology of behaviorism and associationism, and an epistemology of empiricism—was adopted by liberalism for many reasons, not least of which that promised the "unlimited perfectibility" of human beings through various types of objective social engineering.

All innate differences, capacities, and structures were summarily rejected, and human beings, born in a state rather akin to a blob of silly putty, could thus be molded by exterior institutions and forces (behaviorism, associationism) into any desired state.

James Mill and his son John Stuart Mill embraced these ideas for a simple reason: "In psychology," John wrote of his father, "his fundamental doctrine was the formation of all human character by circumstances [objective causation], through the universal principle of association, and the consequent unlimited possibility of improving the moral and intellectual condition of mankind…."

This improvement could occur by behavioristic education, where the proper exteriors are imprinted on the interiors; or, especially in later versions, by more aggressive social engineering (which is why behaviorism—no matter how crude and incorrect in most respects—remained the state psychology of the Soviet Union, and it remains the implicit psychology of many forms of traditional liberalism).

"In one of his earliest speeches, [John Stuart] Mill announced that he shared his father's belief in perfectibility; that same faith is no less strongly expressed in the last of Mill's writings.

Innate differences he always rejected out of hand, never more passionately than in his The Subjection of Women (1869), in which he argued that even 'the least contestable differences' between the sexes are such that they may 'very well have been produced by circumstances [objective causation] without any differences of natural capacity [subjective causation]."

Always there is the blank slate, into which a more perfect world will be poured from the outside, with no thought that there might be realities on the interior that need to be addressed as well.

The "blank slate" meant radical social policy. "Associationism, in Mill's eyes, is not merely a psychological hypothesis, to be candidly examined as such: it is the essential presumption of a radical social policy."

[Ken Wilber]
'Some Thoughts on Integral Politics'


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We [...] need to abandon the Marxist critique of race, and accept that human beings are fallible creatures who discriminate and pre-judge and sometimes fall below the standards required of the anti-racist lobby;

and that it is impossible to create a society based on the assumption that people are perfectible.

[Ed West]
The Diversity Illusion, p. 239


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Circle / Spiral / Line
Individual v Environment 
Onwards and Upwards
Who's Steering the Ship?
Limited/Limitless

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