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The systemic deconstruction of the function of Ideas PDF Print E-mail
Life – Consciousness

van-gogh leit ideon 250Things, usually, evolve over a length of time, and thus are not apprehended in a timely way - if one is to judge only from results, ignoring the causes, and, in the end, the relation of cause and effect, which exists in the whole process. This results in people being taken by surprise by the consequences of their inertia in gaining an understanding of causes. What is this deconstruction of ideas in human life? It is expressed in a host of ways, such as (by way of indication):

1. The fact that the citizen (of any country) does not understand that behind every one of his freedoms and rights lies a great idea as a fundamental impulse of human nature, in addition to the fact that the establishment of great ideas has been the result of conflicts, since ancient times. This points to the major strife the object of which has been the implementation of certain model-ideas, even if these have not been recognised as such. Ideas are perceived as mere tools for the satisfaction of desires, which you dispense with whenever you like, as you have absolute power over them.

2. Politics, which has been the principal (but not the only) field of ideas - apart from religion, which dominated in the earlier period - has been practised in such an irresponsible and individualistic way that it has been decried by everybody, politicians and peoples - because peoples have also taken part in this with their acts and omissions.

The material prosperity of the Western world, with the welfare state and the easy profit which have been there for many, was, in reality, a form of oblivion - and it seems that it was Bismarck (and not any democrat) who, acutely, in practice, laid the foundations of the welfare state for the purpose of averting uprisings. This is not to disparage the welfare state; the example is used here in order to reinforce the view being expressed as to how people have apprehended it: as if it were their undisputed right and as though they did not need to do anything, taking for granted that the welfare state, as an institution, would work in place of their, moral and practical, absence, and that the essence of collectivity was the safeguarding of individual interests, without any other perspective. Precisely as Bismarck had expected.

Relative material comfort, especially in recent decades, has looked down upon ideas and even thought itself as useless, because, in reality, what the average person (if not everybody) has wanted has been material prosperity and peace of mind. Ideas - whether we like it or not - bring with them a charge of moral presence and responsibility, which militates against this desire for the untroubled life and inaction. Of course, most people believe that ideas are the intellectual creations of man, and that they are visionary and do not lie precisely within the (moral, conscious, intellectual, emotional) range of man achieved up to the present. We could speculate that they lie in the hidden potentialities of the future as (if, given that the appropriate words do not exist, the expression can be permitted) fundamental impulses of man and of being, while at the same time there are others, more animalish, within a disharmony of both. For that reason, man must approach them with every prudence and respect, because ideas are related to the true self. Prudence, according to Plato, was one of the fundamental virtues, and, naturally, he did not mean by the term 'prudence' self-interested caution.

Today, however, the edifice of the welfare state is suddenly collapsing and everyone is puzzled and anxious, but, in spite of this, they still await a miracle to save them, and this salvation is seen as a return to the status quo ante, and not a radical change of consciousness which will reconfigure the aims of life, and, as a consequence, the environment.

Moreover, 'consciousness' is still an 'unknown' and hated word, because it recalls that imponderable, almost metaphysical, factor which can blow apart individual carefreeness as well as social systems, which all proclaim that they will save man, but without his doing anything within his consciousness. Others will do his thinking for him, while he himself will have to make only practical efforts at implementation and adaptation. Here we would say that Kant's words about mankind's immaturity and self-imposed dependence on others in thought and action are apt and important:[1]
"Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-imposed if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding! Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large proportion of men, even when nature has long emancipated them from alien guidance, nevertheless gladly remain immature for life. For the same reasons, it is all too easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians. [ … ] Thus it is difficult for each separate individual to work his way out of the immaturity which has become almost second nature to him. He has even grown fond of it and is really incapable for the time being of using his own understanding, because he was never allowed to make the attempt. Dogmas and formulas, those mechanical instruments for rational use (or rather misuse) of his natural endowments, are the ball and chain of his permanent immaturity."

In the end, what happens in practice points to other things, and the consciousness - not as a word which conceals foolish emotional psychological interpretations in everyday life, but as a word which expresses a process of real and laborious acquisition of self-knowledge - will of necessity enter into life; otherwise there will be no way out from the worsening problems - which will not be only economic.

But the subject of ideas is a very large one, and it is our belief that it would be necessary for it to be negotiated by more than one person, because in a collective undertaking, many points of view can be introduced which would help in a synthesis both of the content of each idea and between different ideas. And, of course, the matter would continue to remain open, even for those who will live in the distant] future. In our view, the inherent systemic nature of ideas (see The state in the 'free' economy: the state for all, or a state for a few? Part Two) has no connection with ideological systems, which have, inevitably a transitoriness because of their deficiencies, and impose a separation of ideas and an organisational planning which, though necessary for their implementation, precludes the integrated expression of the content of the ideas which they are supposed to express and serve.

3. What has changed today? That deconstruction now consists in the institutional deconstruction of fields of expression of ideas, with the field of politics first and foremost, preceded by the effective disrepute into which, as field of governance (because it was not governance, but selfish management) politicians and citizens have brought them. This institutional deconstruction of the main field of expression of ideas is brought about in different ways, among them, indicatively, the great distance, or lack of affinity, between the rulers and the ruled, not only as evidence of the elitism of the former, but as the lack of morality and knowledge, together with an absence of political will, on the part of both. As to the elitism, the meaning is clear. The moral deficiency is a fundamental deviation, because the objective is no longer the political field, in which the individual should serve on universal criteria, but another field of individual and collective vested interests. The lack of political will is, again, a deviation, because this does not exist as will when a broader vision of the future of man is absent. The element of political will is judged, on the one hand, by the quality of universality, and not of individual or collective desire, and, on the other, by that of the diachronicity of the aim. And when political will is absent, there are only individual and collective desires, fears, interests, needs - all of them conflicting with one another.

Thus the subjective factor in social organisation as a living system has gradually destroyed its structural objective features, that is, institutions (see The unadmitted deficit of democracy). Only, we do not know if there will be future institutions.

[1] Kant described this immaturity most aptly in his Essays. Kant, Immanuel, Essays - Answer to the question 'What is Enlightenment?'  Translation into Greek by E.P. Papanoutsos, publ. Dodoni, 1971.

Ioanna Moutsopoulou, lawyer
Member of the Secretariat of Solon NGO

Photo from wikipaintings


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