Democratic Theory and Technological Society

By Richard B. Day; Ronald Beiner et al. | Go to book overview

bourgeois theorists for their assessment of global problems. Thus Laptev, in a commentary upon the reports issued by the Club of Rome, makes the following comment:

Analyzing them, one cannot but feel profound respect for the humanist standpoints of their authors and welcome the noble quest of scientists concerned for the future destinies of mankind.40

These shades of difference in emphasis are not fundamental, but neither are they without significance. In the writings of "cautious optimists" ethics has been accorded greater social significance, while science has correspondingly been treated with greater circumspection. For writers of this approach, the true and proper ground for optimism is not simply faith in history or in man, but also a conviction that man will be able to identify his own limits and to act accordingly. Determination of the human limits to science and technology presupposes social and political relations which will permit man to achieve self-control in order that he might more adequately control the products of his thought and his labor. Human progress requires transcendence of capitalism and alienation.


Conclusions

This brief survey of the "shades of optimism" in Soviet writing suggests the need to address at least two important questions. First, do science and morality play a different role in Soviet society than they do in the West? And second, is Soviet philosophy really capable of addressing the problems of modernity?

Many Western observers believe that the Soviet Union is far less reservedly committed to the cause of science than any other country in the world. The strength of this commitment provokes fears - particularly after the disaster at Chernobyl - that Soviet behavior may become increasingly irresponsible and dangerous. There is certainly no disputing the fact that Soviet ideology places great hope in the potential of science, a hope most directly expressed in propaganda references to the "Scientific and Technical Revolution," which is said to characterize the current period of history. But it is also clear from the ideas which I have examined that Soviet writers have diverse opinions and are not one-dimensionally committed to "technomania." It is true that even the more "cautious" philosophers are not so opposed to science and technology as certain of their Western counterparts. Yet it is equally true that these writers expose and openly question the alleged excesses of science and of scientists. Even the more conventional historical optimists declare that scientific goals must be subjected to the "objectives of

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