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Well, I'd certainly reject 1 and 4, and would have questions about 2 and 3.


I'm not sure what you mean by 'needs' in 1, but I think I reject it anyway. I also reject the rest of them.

Out of curiosity, what do you think are the 'serious consequences' of rejecting these?


Yes, the interpretation of 'salvation' and 'saved' as well as 'forced' are not obvious.

On the most natural reading, moreover, there seems to be no incompatibility. If society requires force, and society's task is to bring about salvation, the denial of 2. need not follow. It might just go to show that society has an impossible task. That's so, even if you add 1. For 1. in this context may just indicate that the world has a need that's impossible to satisfy.

However, let's add the assumption that:

5. X has a "task" or a "need" only if the thing (i.e., the task/need) can be fulfilled.

Then, the denial of 2. is still not entailed by the other three. Suppose that society must be forced onto people, and that society's task is to save the world (and that the world needs this). I will also assume something that seems implicit, which is:

6. Nothing else has the task of saving the world.

Then, it remains that salvation need not be forced onto people. Society may be forced--but the *means* by which society saves people might not be forced. After all, a society might save people by allowing a person the opportunity to leave the society. (Think of Rumspringa among the Amish). We might imagine that no adolescent is forced to leave, yet the opportunity nonetheless provides a kind of perspective which leads to salvation. (We can still stipulate, moreover, that the society is forced in the sense that not *everyone* can leave at once.)

Perhaps, then, we are assuming also that:

7. Society, if it can provide salvation, does so in virtue of some facet of living in society.

Hence, if society is forced, then facets of living in society would be forced. Hence, the salvation would be forced--meaning there is no salvation (by 2.).

Actually, this line of reasoning is also invalid. Suppose every individual wants whatever facet of living in society that leads to salvation. Still, there could be a way in which society remains forced. Perhaps a necessary condition of "society" is that there are laws, and laws must be (en)forced. Then, society couldn't exist without some forcing. Even so, individuals might freely choose to live in society, in order to experience that facet which leads to salvation.

So again, the means of salvation need not be forced, even if society (to some degree) is forced. Yet at this point, I'm starting to interpret terms like 'forced' in ways that may be contra to intention...

My best guess, however, is that the intended incompatibility is something like this:

1./4. Society ought to save people.
2. If society must be forced on people, then society cannot save people
3. Society must be forced on people.
5. Ought implies can.

This set of claims entails the contradiction that society can and cannot save people.

But here, 'ought to' is equivocal between 'ideally ought to' and 'is obligated to'. On the former reading, it is more plausible, but then 5. is less plausible on that same reading of 'ought'

Moreover, there is no obvious reason why 2. is true.

Moreover, there is no obvious reason why 3. is true.

And as we know, there is a large philosophical literature on whether 5. is true.

So this is my long-winded way of saying I am unsure what's bugging you!

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa

I'm not sure whether any of these are true. But I also don't see that they stand in any particular tension with one another. Are they inconsistent in some way that I'm missing?

Christopher Haugen

Rejecting 1. The world needs to be saved: I suppose that there are a couple of different ways that this proposition can be rejected. I suppose the most obvious way to object is the use of the term ‘save’ or ‘salvation’. One might object to the religious undertones of this term. I do not intend an overly religious connotation, and there are non-religious uses of the term. As mentioned, I intend ‘salvation’ just to be “happiness” or “fulfillment”. I do not want to try to rigorously define the term, i.e., I do not want to say “Salvation just is the maximization of virtue in a society” or “Salvation is a balance between human intentions and the world’s resources”. The purpose of the aporia is to lay down the groundwork for the work of saving the world. So, if one rejects the proposition on the basis of the term ‘salvation’, I suggest that one simply uses one’s favorite term meaning “happiness” or “fulfillment”. That is, one can simply modify the proposition to “The world needs happiness”; but, the aporia would still hold.

Another way one might reject the proposition is the use of the term “needs”. One might suppose that the world is fine just the way it is. I cannot fathom how one might reach this conclusion with the famine, political corruption, political oppression, economic oppression, slavery, poverty, war, murder, rape, robbery (legal or otherwise), apathy, and ignorance in the world—and that is just a sampling of what we do to each other. To me it is obvious that these conditions of the world—or perhaps more appropriately, “society”—that need to be changed. Moreover, all of the world’s religions make claims that these conditions need to be changed and replaced with their opposites. Furthermore, secular theories of justice and morality object to these conditions. So, I don’t think I am alone in this thought. These conditions just are the opposite of salvation; so, the world needs salvation.

Another way one might reject the proposition is the use of the phrase “to be saved”. One might claim that salvation is not something that is done to a society but something that a society needs to do. That is fine in my opinion. One can simply modify the proposition “The world needs salvation” (or, following the first paragraph, “The world needs happiness”); but, the aporia would still hold.

Christopher Haugen

Rejecting 2. Salvation cannot be forced on people: Again, a way that one might reject this proposition is an overly religious connotation of the term ‘salvation’. I refer the reader to the comments about rejecting the first proposition of the aporia. Again, one can simply modify the proposition to “Happiness cannot be forced on people” or “Fulfillment cannot be forced on people”.

Another way one might reject the proposition is the idea that salvation can be forced on people. I suggest that some of the most horrific tragedies in history are the result of trying to force someone’s version of salvation or happiness on others. Let us leave this aside for the moment. It is simply a fact of human psychology that people do not like to be forced to do anything. You can force people to perform virtuous actions, but it does not produce virtue. Similarly, you can force people to perform certain actions that are intended to produce happiness, but it will not produce happiness. For example, a meaningful relationship with family members produces happiness; but, as a good number of parents can tell you, forcing your teenager to eat dinner with the family will not produce a meaningful relationship. Happiness, fulfillment, salvation, or whatever you want to call it, has to be a matter of one’s choice.

Christopher Haugen

Rejecting 3. Society requires force: This may not be a conceptual truth. It is conceivable that a group of people endeavor to collectively lead form of life and that there are no transgressions. However, history tells a different story. To the best of my knowledge, every significant society has had some form of enforcement of its standards. More to the point, society has required force to achieve the purpose of the society. By ‘society’ I am just following standard uses of the term, e.g., “the aggregate of people living together in more or less ordered community” (OAED). At the very least, a society has required force with regard to membership.

Christopher Haugen

Rejecting 4. It is the main purpose of society to bring about salvation: This is probably the more controversial of the four. At the very least, it is the one that I find to be the least probable. On the other hand, I have an even more difficult time accepting its denial. I don’t think I am alone in this. In the Declaration of Independence, the signatories agreed that people have the rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. Moreover, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” In other words, if a government no longer enables salvation (or, in the document’s terms, “happiness”), then the government should be dissolved and replaced. I can make no sense of how this is true unless the goal of a government is bring about salvation.

One might say that government or society has less ambitious goals. One might say that society merely has the goal of safety or order for the people; happiness is simply too ambitious. I contend that the only reason why safety or order is important is because salvation is important. Moreover, there are many forms of order or safety that are unacceptable because they interfere with salvation. So, even though a government may adopt “less ambitious” goals, the purpose of those goals remains salvation.

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