Meliorism - self contradicts?

Meliorism - is an ism that I came across recently while reading about the ideas of progressives and Richard Rorty’s ideas on human ontology and progress contingent and unpredictable

“I look forward to an era in which the question “Are there absolutes?” has no resonance. To ask that question betrays an inability to live with one’s own finitude, and I should like to think that someday human beings will no longer try to escape the historicity and contingency of their existence.” Rorty 2007

Wikipedia definition of Meliorism
“Meliorism is an idea in metaphysical thinking holding that progress is a real concept leading to an improvement of the world. It holds that humans can, through their interference with processes that would otherwise be natural, produce an outcome which is an improvement over the aforementioned natural one.“

Which immediately made me think :thinking: what I’ve written below - So, I’d be pleased to know what would your thoughts be? TiA.

If we are part of the natural world then whatever happens because of us (humans) - even if determined by us - then that is part of nature and natural progress

If we (humans) are separate from nature and what is natural, then how are we?

If we were created separate and differentiated from nature, not part of contingency and chance but part of design and purpose then who or what was the designer with purpose?

We can’t declare both at the same time that we are part of contingency and chance, no more special or with special purpose than a rock or a hydrogen atom but at the same time whatever we do is not natural and we have the power to change what is natural into something of our own design, and by that, the outcome be non natural.

The very idea of meliorism immediately seems to self destruct on the principle of non contradiction as it declares us somehow special, distinct from nature, while arguing at the same time that we are homologous of and homogenous with nature


Thinking about it, I just thought that meliorism is nothing more than a rehash of determinism a switch and bait that allows humans some kind of free will (somehow) - and a Ravi would say “once you declare determinism you lose any claim to free will (and truth)”

Ravi Zacharias is taking a question from the audience about determinism and free will. The member of the audience claims that we do not have free will. Zacharias responds, “So the question is: ‘Were you free to ask this question?’”


I agree; meliorism self-destructs for the reason you outline: in this view, humans are part of nature, an accidental product of determinism with no actual free-will and are themselves just following cause and effect.

Also you could ask; if there are no absolutes; upon what basis is improvement measured? Who decides whether ‘progress’ is improvement or deterioration? :slight_smile:

Do you not have to place yourself above the system and make a truth claim; and as Ravi points out in the video below, as soon as you make a truth claim you are violating determinism. Also I believe this to be closely tied to a value judgement; saying what this progress ‘ought’ to be.

listened to a talk at the lady Mitchell Hall in 1990 by Stephen Hawking, as you know he can’t speak he uses a speech synthesizer, his whole talk was on determinism and freedom, and you know what he concluded that the tragedy with scientific materialism if we takes it as take its assumptions is that we are not free we are totally determined. That was the world’s leading physicists at that time saying the very thing you’re asking of the Christian faith, he pinned on your backs as scientific materialists. He said the only escape I have is since I don’t know what has been determined, I may as well not be. The whole auditorium moaned and groaned with an escape hatch that he gave for himself after telling us that we were completely determined. That’s the issue that is actually even what people like Dawkins will concede or Pinker you read Steven Pinker and the others, so totally determined.

So the question is were you free to ask this question. yep, so you’re actually as a machine automaton asking me this question okay but you’re not free that you’re not free you’re not making a truth statement, hear me carefully if you’re totally determined yes you’re pre-wired to think the way you do nature versus nurture yes sorry nature versus nurture nature versus nurture yes regardless and nurture may provide a different environment but the nature is your hardwired to come out to the son conclusion how to flux nothing but flux you know what you put into the computer that I’ll call to mind is gonna come out but you have to ask yourself are you making a truth claim if you are making a truth claim you’re rising above the bondage of total subjectivity and the moment you claim a truth claim you’re violating determinism

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Hi @davidsmith!

You know, when I was a kid I used to think about that. Why if a beaver cut a tree we think about it as something natural, but if a man does the same we say that is artificial or unnatural?

I think it is that way because as humans we have a law in our hearts given by God. No matter what worldview you have, the idea of destroying our world seems wrong. We as rational beings are supposed to be those who care about the balance in our world. No matter what a lion does, we see it as part of its nature and because of that it is not “guilty”. But humans are able to make moral choices and those should be aligned with our purpose (God gave Adam and Eve the order to take care of the world Genesis 1:28).

So, in that sense, Meliorism is in part right. We have a purpose. We have to care about this world and do it better and better. But our actions are not natural in the same way animals’ are. We have a moral duty and that’s because there is a moral giver above us: God.


Yes thank you Matthew and thanks for the link to the video. From the beginning meeting with God and becoming Christian my faith has been laid in this Foundational truth. Eagerly reading the ontological and epistemological philosophies of man since, and before, then - I find they all breakdown and self destruct at the point of facing truth, like the Stephen Hawkins example, they just decide to turn their backs, Why? Because they need a justification to turn their backs on God. Long convoluted theories, for ever fragmenting and being revived as something new, and while being very interesting and entertaining, even useful in some ways, ultimately, it seems, they are just a way to justify life apart from God and declare themselves as gods - which, of course Nietzsche Ironically laments upon. And what’s sad and frustrating is that it seems impossible to disabuse someone of holding to that view by coherent argument alone. But I do believe that it can open a flaw in the armour through which the arrow of the Holy Spirit can pierce, which is what happened to me, reading philosophy of science and epistemology I began to think, hang on, something’s not right here, the axioms that they pin their theories and propositions on are nothing more than The gods of religion - it was then that God came and made himself plain to me and said, “Now what are you going to do?”

Flaw replaces the word ch-ink btw but the forum blocks that word as offensive :roll_eyes:


Thanks Renzo, I’m not sure that Meliorism implies an imperative, rather just an option, we can - if we all work together toward the ‘Common Good’. I’m not sure that Meliorism was even intended as an environmentalist stance, although it can be, and has been, adopted for that purpose, but rather a humanist proposition and woven into the pragmatist and Marxist progressive world views. It perpetuates the fallacy that we as humans, just by chance, are the gods of our own destiny - and to misquote Hawkins - even tho we know we’re not, we carry on as if we were!!! :confounded:

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