Utopia within us
Topic: utopia is within us
Through discussing Rousseu’s general will, Fourier’s Phalanstery and Harvey Cox’s interpretation on humans’ dissatisfaction
My utopia is a realized moment when people perceive that present moment can be utopia. Utopian society is not what is needed to be provided, but it is about when we live utopia. Such utopia does not necessitate an external change that a structure of a society changes, but an internal change with recognition of oeuvre of living a moment.
Criteria of Utopia?
Defining what utopia is not easy. It is not so much easy because everyone values differently; philosophers argue different types of utopia depending on what they value the most and how they perceive human nature. Among varied views, this paper would assume utopia is where our total satisfaction is made. Through discussing Rousseu’s general will and Fourier’s Phalanstery, this paper will discuss what total satisfaction is. The paper will argue that the arguments from the philosophers can prescribe where maximum satisfaction may be made, but it will be an endless seeking for fulfilling our satisfaction. Total satisfaction is only seemingly approachable because there will be always void feeling from dissatisfaction. Total satisfaction cannot be made anywhere unless we realize that utopia is within us.
Is maximum satisfaction achievement is a criteria of utopia?
21st century has a very particular characteristic. As Mannheim and many other philosophers have criticized, capitalism is deeply penetrated into our society. Among other ideologies, what makes capitalism very significant is that capitalism can justify human beings’ immoral conducts. Induced abortion, ovum bank, military intervention for humanitarian purpose, doctors helping suicide and other issues which are on the debate of morality and ethics are prevailing in the current society. Capitalism can justify expanding self-interest. The ethical dilemma is generated as capitalism can justify such acts. Together with principle of equality and freedom of choice, capitalism has allowed us to perceive that pursuing self-interest or achieving the maximum satisfaction is the greatest pleasure. It became easy to regard utopia as where we can achieve endless our selfish desires.
Rousseau’s general will
Rousseau saw that capitalism, a ‘private property’ is what prevents us to go back to nature. He urges readers to go back to nature, but he assumes that we cannot go back to nature since we have a private property. Rousseau says, human being does not harm on others for its selfish gain, but their desire for something arises when human beings live together. To human beings live together, a mutual agreement, a social contract based on a ‘general will’ should have formed. Rousseu argues it is good for both of each individual and society as a whole. Nonetheless, we still see grievances in current society; it can be said that the current society may not reflect an appropriate general will to reflect mutual agreement between a society and an individual.
Fourier: an appropriate general will?
Fourier’s criticism on Civilization comes from absolute doubt(le doute absolu) on all biases, and absolute disgression(l’ecart absolu) on all theories. Any efforts made for better civilization are inevitably unnecessary. He saw civilization has itself misinterpreted relationship between human nature and nature. Fourier argues it is necessary to find a scientific mechanism behind the relationship which civilization neglected. A world where is operated by such scientific mechanism is operated by Passional Attraction [; Passional Attraction is a main engine for operating human society].
Fourier sought human society evolves gradually by taking ‘series’. All humans and society have various types of Passional Attraction; through mechanism of Passional Attraction, each Series progress eventually and evolving into stronger series. At the end of the progress, we meet harmonism. Where society achieves harmonism is concert with God. Phalanstery is where overcomes various crisis which gives the most severe harmful effects on human society: poverty, fraud, oppression, disharmony and egoism; it is where harmony is achieved through Passional Attraction. Passional Attraction implies a new mechanism to solve such crisis, and through such mechanism human beings can find happy life, an unlimited type of enjoyment.
Fourier identified twelve fundamental human passions: five of the senses (touch, taste, hearing, sight and smell); four of the soul (friendship, love, ambition and parenthood); and three that he called distributive, which ensured the balance of all the others. Fourier thought too much labor or pleasure ignites hatred or tired of it; it is not good for mental and body. Hence, in Phalanstery, people work various types of labor for two hours per day only. Such distribution helps to balance passions. Fourier thought when rational thinking constrains passion, it is inefficient. By providing different types of pleasures, it can prevent people from abusing or misuse passion and pleasure. The main argument of Fourier is that we should not constrain or oppress any sort of passion and its nature; passion should be harmoniously used hence works as harmony in general. If a certain type of passion is only encouraged and cultivated, crisis that he mentioned is inevitably broke out. The problem of civilization or enlightenment at the time was concentrating on a certain types of passion. By finding a scientific mechanism to balance our passion, he argues that we can find unlimited type of enjoyment in concert with God because society operates by principle which reflects our genuine nature.
It is not clear whether he has seen human nature or passion as sinful or brutal, but what he suggested is demonstrating a harmonious society where people can live together, and where they can pursue their self-interest without any constraint. Although it should be controversial debate, such argument can find the appropriate type of general will. Fourier’s Phalanstery is where people constantly seek for greater satisfaction or fills their hunger of satisfaction driven by their passion. By doing what they naturally want to do, people can achieve satisfaction that they desired to have.
Is satisfaction achieved from Fourier’s Phalanstery is total satisfaction?
As earlier assumed, utopia is where our total satisfaction is made. It seems, however, in Fourier’s Phalanstery, satisfaction is regarded as what has to be achieved. Satisfaction from achievement is always temporary; it would be one of reason why Fourier has introduced various passions operated society. Then, that can imply human being cannot satisfy totally. Because satisfaction from various sources has been made, it would not mean we can find total satisfaction, but constant moving toward different types of satisfaction.
In When Jesus Came to Harvard: Making Moral Choices Today, Harvey Cox says, there are several interpretation on the story of garden of Eden in Bible’s book of Genesis- Eve has broke a promise with God, eating fruit in the middle of the garden after hearing that the serpent tell that “you will not surely die; For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”. When Eve “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. [She also gave it to Adam, and Adam had it.]”(Genesis 3:1-24) The serpent deceived the woman; after they (humans) broke the promise, humans were expelled from the garden. For this interpretation, Cox suggests that human beings have rejected satisfying what they have, even the [perfect] environment [was provided] .
Rather than our utopia be a place for a constant struggle for achieving maximum satisfaction, my paper posits argument utopia is the moment when people in this world realize utopia is within us. It could have been past, it can be in future; it can be now. If there is a utopia, it would be ultimate peace and total satisfaction at every time and every moment without the need of achieving something. It does not have to find other goals to fill our hunger from our passion; despite we do nothing or from doing anything at anywhere, it can come with total satisfaction. It is as; we find maximum satisfaction at any moment. What Fourier has suggested cannot be a place for total satisfaction because when we transiting one passion to the other passion, there will be always a gap, a void feeling when our passion is depleted hence needs to transit to the other. From what we have, or from even the fact that I am breathing maximum happiness can be felt and enjoyed. It is relative and absolute conception of utopia because it is how I feel and realize and we can satisfy at anywhere and any moment.
Utopia within us
As it was mentioned earlier, it is not clear how Fourier perceived human nature, i.e. whether a man as brutal and selfish. According to him, if our passion is freely expressed, we may have a relationship based on altruistic love at the end. His argument on ‘Harmonism’ may be logical, but nevertheless, it is questionable. From my perception on human nature – human nature is selfish and brutal as Hobbes suggested-, if human being begins to value his will, self-interest as a priority, it is likely that he becomes more selfish than before. If, as Fourier has depicted, a society encourages people to pursue their will without giving a standard of morality or ethic, as capitalism does now, ethical dilemma caused from pursuing selfish interest can be legitimized. It is arguable whether how we perceive current ethical problem is indeed an ethical problem if we are wrongly perceived what is essentially good for human nature as Fourier has suggested. Nevertheless, from the point of view in this contemporary era –from how we generally see what ought to be immoral and unethical- it can result more serious ethical dilemma than how capitalism enabled us to do.
This paper’s utopia does not require a reform of a society. It is free from thought that a society has to be led in some particular path or prioritize on one value, i.e. harmonious and peaceful living with all- collective good-, or earning maximum satisfaction- individual good-, or development of human society or etc. It does not need to restrict our human nature or isolate our lives from current social order, like Amish community does. A scientific mechanism to appropriately operate our Passional Attraction is not also required for total satisfaction. However, that does not mean that this paper opposes to such ideas. As long as it is a good idea for betterment of today’s situation, it ought to be used. Because the criteria of utopia of this paper do not contain a requirement of something, it does not mean that there will be no development in our human history. Realization of utopia is not to limit us using our rational thinking, developing. As our history goes, each period may focus on different types of issues according to a type of challenge presented in a society. It is uncertain how our society will be led, but like how Nussbaum has provided a great insight for better path in this 21st capitalistic society, our society will keep moving forward. Societies will keep changing. Utopia with total satisfaction is not what society has to be changed in a certain direction. It is not what we have to achieve, but realizing it is within us.
Calude Morilhat, Charles Fourier, Imaginaire et Critique Sociale (Paris : Meridiens Klincksieck, 1991)
Charles Fourier, Theorie des Quatre Mouvements et des Destinees Generals (Paris: Les Presses du reel, 1998 reed.)
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (HarperCollins Publishers, 1977)
Harvey Cox, When Jesus Came to Harvard: Making Moral ChoicesToday (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA, 2004)
Lee-Ja, Suh, “Gender and Class in the Late Nineteenth-Century French Labor Movement: Women’s Issues in the “FTSF”” Revue coreenne d'histoire francaise (5)
 Charles Fourier, Theorie des quatre mouvements et des destinees generals (Paris: Les Presses du reel, 1998 reed.), 122.
 Ibid., 154
 Ibid., 130
 Ibid., 159.
 Calude Morilhat, Charles Fourier, imaginaire et critique sociale (Paris : Meridiens Klincksieck, 1991), 147.
 Le mouveau monde industriel et societaire, t. VI, p.77
 La fausse industrie, t. VIII, p.19
 Harvey Cox, When Jesus Came to Harvard: Making Moral ChoicesToday (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA, 2004) 113,