Jun 14, 2007

Rapid Rhetoric: MELIORISM

Raphael's depiction of Plato defining the difference between true and false rhetoric This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

meliorism (MEE-lee-eh-rizm) n. A philosophical doctrine that the universe, mankind, and/or human civilizations are becoming progressively and inevitably better; a belief that the improvement of society depends on human effort; a belief that the world will be made better by human effort; a theory that argues there is, in the natural world, a tendency toward better and better development.

Meliorists believe that humans, through their manipulation of the processes that would otherwise be considered natural, can produce outcomes that are an improvement over the "natural" ones. The term is derived from the Latin word melior, meaning "better."


Stephanie said...

Hmm. Are we talking planting flowers? Or, are we talking gene manipulation?

microdot said...

Oh, the very concept makes me feel old and grumpy!

historymike said...

There is likely an element of meliorism in the heart of every politician and social worker, Stephanie.

Me? I have days when I have a meliorist worldview, but lately I have become more cynical that the human race is currently improving much of anything.

Maybe human development goes in fits and starts, Like my 1996 Saturn...

historymike said...

Agreed, Microdot. There is a certain meliorism that seems connected with youth; when we are young (assuming we are not in the throes of depression, anxiety, or addiction), the world seems like a place of limitless possibilities.

As we age, those possibilities seem, well, less possible. We can still dream, but we temper those dreams with the hard realities of life.

I could stop what I am doing right now, for example, and run off to the Peace Corps, but that would leave my family in a bind (except my youngest son, who would wear all the clothes I didn't take with me).


Stephanie said...

I guess I should put the question this way: In this world-view are humans (capable of) improving things with thoughts and deeds; or is it our science and technologies that are improving things?

Do we improve by training the dog to be a good dog? Or do we improve by breeding a better dog? Or both?

Or, perhaps, I should be proactive and study it myself!