Plato's The Republic envisions a philosopher that is coming out of a dark prison cave to see the light. He is then supposed to return to the cave and tell his fellow prisoners about this light. According to Svante Nordin, a professor of philosophy at Lund University, Max Weber (1864-1920), the German philosopher, says that today's scientist has to be more modest. "he cannot tell us how we ought to live, he cannot lead us out of the cave. People who think this mix the role of the scientist with that of the prophet, and is on a dangerous path".
A hundred years later people in Sweden are mostly concerned with their health and with the concept of peace on Earth according to a yearly poll from the SOM-Institute in Göteborg. Thus, due to a tremendous development of medicine, today's scientists are guiding people in their main concern--how to live a healthy life. There are of course also spiritual guidance of non-scientific character. Living a healthy life supposedly gives people a feeling of happiness.
I find thee above very interesting because I have said that my goal in life, and also my belief for the main goal of mankind, is to find out more with the help of science. Like Francis Herbert Bradley (1846-1924), a Hegel-inspired English philosopher and contemporary to Weber, I do not believe in the search for happiness as the guiding principle. Instead people set noble goals and occasionally they are rewarded with success and happiness but pleasure is secondary.
Not unlike Plato I am then envisioning scientists searching for the light and educating people about it. Not unlike priests in the Middle Ages but on a road of progress. Today we can expect, based on the history of science, that it will answer to our needs for the environment, for example. Unlike Weber I also have realized that science continues to enlighten us and because of this enlightenment I see differently on the qualities of our lives. Weber was concerned with the bureaucratization of mankind. A depersonalization. A drift from our values. I rather see life potentially more interesting today for most people than a hundred years ago. Biology and psychology are indeed helping us find out more on values as well.
So on how a dangerous path am I? I know some people are very skeptical about what science can tell us and sees potential ethical problems mostly. However, due to the evidence of scientific pursuit during the last 500 years where progress have fueled improvements for man that in turn has led to moral progress, a prerequisite for John Stuart Mills Liberty Principle, it is fair to say that the positives are greater than the negatives.
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