Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsPeople sometimes say: Oh well this ideal of the humanistic good life is only really possible for people who live in places of peace and prosperity of opportunity, and there are so many hundreds of millions of people who live in conditions of deprivation, of conflict, and suffering, and impoverishment. But you know, even in those cases, when you read somebody like Primo Levi, who talks about the kindness and human fellowship that there was in the concentration camps during the holocaust, you see that even in very bad conditions, human beings can forge positive relationships with one another, and perform acts of kindness and find things that are valuable to them, and which makes their existence a little more meaningful than not.
Skip to 0 minutes and 56 secondsHowever, it’s true that the best kinds of possible lives are lives which are lived in conditions which conduce to the best possible lives. So that puts an obligation on those of us who do live in places of peace and prosperity to try to do something to help our fellow human beings so they can have something like the same opportunities as we have. This is where thinking about society, thinking about political matters for example, also places a kind of challenge before us - to be part of the story where we’re trying to make things better. Nothing in human life or human history is ever going to be perfect, but plenty of things can be made better.
Skip to 1 minute and 38 secondsThere was an old controversy between the perfectibilists and the meliorists. The perfectibilists were those who said they wanted to make the world a perfect place; well, that’s going to be very difficult to do. But meliorists are people who think that we can make things better and that we should, and I think that part of the humanist outlook on life is that we should definitely be meliorists.
Making things better
In this video AC Grayling describes how a recognition of tragedy can motivate the way we live.