The Spinozist

writing by Paul Mendrik

Hope and Utopia

May 1, 2020

It is in the pessimistic context of this century that, paradoxically, a philosopher manages to consider both the concrete desires of his contemporaries, and the philosophical questions of a man of reflection. Ernst Bloch, a German philosopher, exiled in the United States, returned home to the former German Democratic Republic and then became a refugee in the former West Germany. The originality of his thinking deserves our attention. A former Marxist, who rejected its dogmatism, Ernst Bloch turned his attention to the construction of the future. Contrary to the philosophies of history who, in the footsteps of Hegel, believe that an already accomplished past, will lead to a repetitive and predetermined future, Ernst Bloch strives to understand the future as the creative work of individuals and groups. This creative work is rooted in the structures of individual consciousness which designate a relation to a sovereign good, of which the ultimate aim is happiness. 

A vulnerable existence, embraced correctly, can lead to a happy existence in the way a fire creates light, it’s the happiness of the glow that coming off the fire as it is lit. It is the ambition of such happiness, even the most difficult and most perilous or the most distant, which accounts for the movements in history. Far from being the more or less dialectical unfolding of an abstract and global necessity, its conversely, the activity of individuals turned towards a sovereign good which they place into the future. It is the work of individuals accomplished in the present, with the hope of one day seeing the emphatic emergence of that which is desired. All of Ernst Bloch's effort is devoted to the understanding of this creative dynamism. On the one hand, it analyzes all the acts of consciousness which participate in the creation of the future and, on the other hand, it describes all the work and activities which manifest this creative future, or which are the fruit of it, in all areas of human civilization. First, the very activity of consciousness. Ernst Bloch places this in the foreground, opposing his former colleagues in the GDR and after a reflection begun long before and during his exile in the United States (between 1938 and 1949). What he calls the Principle of Hope gives an account of all aspects and all the implications of the activity of present consciousness, it is in essence turned towards the future and, by definition the aim of this future is a supreme good, an extreme satisfaction, or the realisation of a dream. The Principle of Hope begins by reflecting on the active and current presence of the not-yet-realised. Consciousness is its most decisive structure, always inhabited by the not-yet-realised and always turned towards the possible. The different layers of the Principle of Hope, as well as the meaning of a Novum horizon, or front, constitute the concrete modalities of the relationship to the future, and it is this rich and multiple relationship to the future that constitutes the very present of consciousness. Thus the real action is the implementation, through consciousness, of a certain number of attitudes which account for the link from the present to the future, the new, the front, are dynamic and a constant subject of the activity. The authentic present has all of these creative dimensions and tensions, and that is why consciousness is movement. More radically, the main core of utopian consciousness, that is to say of real consciousness and the true awareness of all its powers, is the exchange. There is a lived experience whose meaning is primordial, it involves all activities of transcendence, transcendence and transgression which moving consciousness from its own present,, towards the possiblity that it anticipates to achieve, and it achieves by anticipating it. The Principle of Hope therefore does not have the propensity to lose oneself in a belief of a better future. It is the dynamic structure of consciousness defined simultaneously by the awareness of possibility, the crossing of the present and the wish for an consummate future. The very substantiality of consciousness, which creates its existence and its meaning, is in fact, desire and wish, the movement towards perfection, fullness and the ideal. The second axis of Ernst Bloch's reflection illustrates through his achievements, the meaning of this anticipating consciousness. It is then that imagination comes into play. The mediation between desire and work, both power of anticipation and power of realisation, visionary power and creative power. The richness of Ernst Bloch's analyses and culture is immense. The author starts from the simplest waking dreams, and from the most basic vital desires, to go through all the areas of human creation that allow us to see the existence and the effectiveness of this constant supreme desire and happiness. The author then meets the desired images reflected mirrors such as popular literature, dance or theatre, and he analyses at length the depictions of a better world such as medicine or technique, architecture or utopian social systems. All of these anticipations are creative and fruitful, and all imply, the idea of ​​a narrative which progresses towards the achievement of concrete happiness worthy of being considered a sovereign good. Bloch's concerns are always concrete and it is with the same perspective of wish, hope and crossing that he conducts a reflection on the eight-hour day, world peace, free time and hobbies. It is at the end of this reflection, in volume III of his great work, that the meaning of openness and hope are expressed most forcefully, it is in fact, in all movements of anticipatory and creative consciousness of a sovereign good , like happiness, intuitive and concrete, existential and absolute.

Happiness is then the perfect balance or the happy relationship between the inside and outside better known as joy.