Conversion not Improvement


I have ranted before about the cult of improvement in our society. Certainly, a lot of what compels Transhumanism is the search for ultimate improvement. But Kant–I believe rightly–speaks to why a principled existence is a converted life not an “improved” or “bettered” lifestyle.

Betterment must be distinguished from conversion. To become better is to alter our way of life, but conversion entails possession of fixed principles and a secure basis, such that we shall never live otherwise than virtuously. We often become better through fear of death, and know not whether we are improved or converted. Had we only hoped to live longer, the improvement would not have occurred. We are converted, however, when we firmly resolve to live virtuously, no matter how long we may live. Repentance is not a good term; it derives from penances and chastisements, where a man punishes himself for his crimes. Recognizing that he deserves punishment, he inflicts it on himself, and fancies that God will not punish him thereafter. But such contrition is of no help to anyone.   The only thing that does help is inner contrition for our offences, and the firm resolve to lead a better life, and that is true penitence.

Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Ethics (1996: 216 [27:464])

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