The Best Idea Ever

The Best Idea Ever


My most recent post here was entitled “The Worst Idea Ever” and dealt with nominalism. Now I will write about “The Best Idea Ever.” These are big subjects and highly debatable. These are my musings about them. “Musings” indicates openness to change, present thoughts, reflections.

The reason I chose nominalism as “the worst idea ever” was because of its inexorable consequences, especially belief that only might makes right. That holds true for every logical nominalist whether they are aware of it or not and whether they are religious or not. I have explained that in some of my responses to comments and questions.

So what do I believe is “the best idea ever?”

*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*

Obviously there are many candidates for the best idea ever. What I want to do, however, is dig below the surface of ideas to that one that underlies and undergirds all others that are truly beneficial to humanity.

Here I choose to set aside revealed truths as candidates for “the best idea ever.” I want to propose one that perhaps anyone could agree with whether they are, as I am, religious or not. (Obviously, as a Christian, I believe “the best idea ever” is that God is love, but I am choosing to set that idea aside for now and select and propose an idea that is theoretically secular even if, in reality, I think all truth is God’s truth and all good things are from God.)

So, again…drumroll…what do I believe is “the best idea ever?”

The best idea that human beings have ever thought up and expressed is that all people, simply by virtue of being people (and not things) have equal and infinite (not limited) value, dignity and worth. From this one idea flows every other truly beneficial idea known to modern people.

Who originated this “best idea ever?” That’s hard to say. Some will give credit to John Locke and he certainly deserves much credit. Ultimately, I think the idea is rooted in the belief that human beings are created in God’s own image and likeness, but, unfortunately, so it would seem, it took more or less secular thinkers like Locke to bring it to concrete expression in public philosophy.

However, I want to give credit here to a British Christian, William Wilberforce, who applied this “best idea ever” to a specific, concrete issue where it was sorely lacking and badly needed: slavery.

Now, of course, this “best idea ever” is still an ideal; to the best of my knowledge it has never found concrete political reality. If it had or did, that would be a kind of utopia. However, it serves as a, perhaps the, critical principle for judging the worth of social orders.

So what is an alternative to this “best idea ever?” Well, there are many, of course. But one contemporary and very popular one is Social Darwinism—the philosophy of Ayn Rand and her followers. Some will argue that Ayn Rand affirmed the idea, but her philosophy, known as “Objectivism,” falls into conflict with it in practice if not in theory. Objectivism and Social Darwinism generally are built on Herbert Spencer’s idea of the “survival of the fittest”—biological Darwinism applied to society. In other words, any Social Darwinist or Objectivist who objected that he or she does believe in the “best idea ever” (that I expressed above) would be like the pig in Animal Farm who declared that all pigs are equal but some are more equal than others. Of course, George Orwell knew full well that not all people are absolutely equal; what he was satirizing was the idea that strength or class should correlate with opportunity—as expressed by people who claim to believe in the equality principle.

It seems to me, speaking only for myself, that today’s Republican Party in the United States is driven by an implicit, unadmitted Social Darwinism (as evidenced in its “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps” attitude toward the poor.) It also seems to me, again speaking only for myself, that today’s Democratic Party in the United States is driven by an implicit, unadmitted Nominalism (as evidenced in belief in endlessly flexible universals cut loose from transcendence).

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