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Discuss: Modern Myths: Utopia/ Dystopia / Regeneration/ Degeneration - Essay Example

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A dystopia is an imaginary place, also situated in a particular time or place, but which is socially, morally, and politically terrible, a state in which…
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Discuss: Modern Myths: Utopia/ Dystopia / Regeneration/ Degeneration
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A utopia is an imaginary place, situated in a particular time and space, that is socially, morally, and politically ideal. A dystopia is an imaginary place, also situated in a particular time or place, but which is socially, morally, and politically terrible, a state in which people are dehumanized, oppressed, terrorized, or completely dominated. Ideologies can change as quickly and as radically as fashions; yesterdays utopia can seem like todays horror show. Furthermore, it should be understood that any utopian vision is a particular perspective that might appeal rosy to some while appearing dark and disturbing to others. One persons "utopia" may become another persons "dystopia." Hitler and his comrades had a utopia in mind when they sought to create the Thousand Year Reich…but Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and other victims of his vision would beg to differ (Tartar, 2004).
Human rationality implies, for enlightened thinkers, an attempt to gain knowledge and an understanding of the natural world. As Norman Hampson writes, "human reason, operating by means of careful observation and checking its conclusions by further observation or experiment, could for the first time in the history of man reveal the mechanism of the natural world in which he had lived for so long like a fearful and wondering child." In many ways, the extreme rationalism of Descartes, its traditional alternative and empiricist aspects and the debate between them, constitute the part of the Enlightenment which had the greatest influence in the nineteenth century. Darwin owed much of his faith in science and scientific progress to his Enlightened forebears, and Spencers Enlightened politics acquired their distinctive character only when he added to them a very Enlightened kind of science. Finally, the Enlightened thinkers were generally confident in their belief that they could use rational principles to solve problems of social interaction, just as they used rationality to understand and control the natural world. This belief led to the Enlightened faith in social progress and a corresponding optimism that the ideals of the Enlightenment would eventually culminate in a utopian society. As we shall see, Nietzsche opposed this Enlightened faith in progress as naive; however, it was here that he had the most trouble eluding the influence of Enlightenment. It was the Enlightenments utopianism that remained with Nietzsche even through his most radical critiques (Call, 1995).
A second theme involves the contradictions and tensions that necessarily exist between communality and individuality.  Human consciousness, in this view, is too easily passive in accepting ideology, doctrine, orthodoxy and mass thinking.  People are too easily duped into a false consciousness that sees reality in terms of the gospel and liturgy of this or that vested interest or interest group.  Ideology arises when certain socially constructed realities that serve the interests of one group are advanced by that group as being in everyone else’s best interest, even if others disagree or don’t understand why it should be so.
Rationality is seen by critical theory in terms of both theoretical consistency (which is to say, science, logic and philosophy) and standards of pragmatic social reality, or practical action.  Rational planning for pragmatic action necessarily involves regulative or action ideals formulated as enlightened and improved potentialities for knowledge and conduct.
Enlightenment’s theoretical reverence for reason went forth in practice in two contrary misdirections.  One stream became the instrumental reason of technological rationality.  The other culminated in the logical positivism that understands knowledge only in logico-mathematical terms that deny any truth or practical relevance to values (Regelski, 2005). 
References
Call, Lewis. (1995). Nietzsche as Critic and Captive of Enlightenment. University of California, Irvine. Accessed 15 January 2006 from .
Regelski, Thomas A. (January, 2001). Critical Theory as a Foundation for Critical Thinking in Music Education. University of Helsinki. Accessed 15 January 2006 from < http://www.rider.edu/~vrme/special_edition/vision/regelski_2005.htm>.
Tartar, Stacy. (2001). Defining Utopia. West Chester University. Accessed 15 January 2006 from < http://brainstorm-services.com/wcu-2004/utopia-defining.html>. Read More
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