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The consequences of refusal to think in the field of concepts PDF Print E-mail
Life – Consciousness

thinking 300(Part Two of the article 'The need for thinking and responsibilities for our way of thinking')

In a strange way, the selfishness of not concerning oneself with the field of concepts makes man passive, even if, in practice, he may seem exceptionally active, though impelled by desires and instincts, ignoring the nature of his aims. The results of this refusal are, inter alia, that:

1.Man expects others, more active in society than himself - for example, politicians (among others) - to decide for him, without concerning himself with matters which affect him, even though, at the same time, he does not trust them - all of which is a glaring contradiction. Thus, modern man's much-vaunted 'self-definition' is not genuine. It is self-deception, based simply and solely on the fact that there is a freedom of operation for the instincts and desires, which, however, by their very nature and because of their automatism, constitute a field for easy manipulation on the part of anyone who wishes to control man, a field for enslavement, if, that is, these are allowed to have the upper hand in life. This is the case because when consciousness and understanding are minimised, subjugation increases.

In the sphere of politics also, man is unaided through his own fault, because without conceptual working out of the data of his life, the citizen cannot distinguish suitable political leaders, or, naturally, support them if they exist. And this cannot ever be achieved for as long as he denies the fact that all these things require a correct dynamic of communication with the social environment and his self, which, however, is always and without exception, inevitably carried out by way of concepts, whether it is a case of propaganda, or of sincere communication.

In reality, the quintessence of politics in particular has ended up in being passivity on the part of the many, and ease in their manipulation on the part of the few. We dwell on politics because it is in this domain that passivity is exceptionally apparent, in spite of the fact that it is present in all areas of life. Even when people demand prosperity and freedom, even then, they hope that leaders will be found who will relieve them from that point on of making the effort to solve their problems. This is a great achievement of wilful passivity and complacency on the part of the many, nor will this truth alter even if, by coincidence, the leaders work for the common good.

It will be asked what connection this has with the concepts which we have spoken of above. They are connected because concern with the conceptual understanding of life and its aims itself shows that there is an active objective, that is, the breaking down of passivity and complacency in the consciousness itself, and this is the beginning of responsibility and the expression of will.

Here we must clarify an issue, even though it is not a matter of the present article. An individual may express supposed will as an active and dynamic pursuit of his desires (e.g., enrichment, reputation), but this action in full swing, which has a distortion of fundamental ideas, concepts, and aims as its background, occurs in the field of passivity and aims brutally at the acquisition of power, because, as Ioannis Zisis observes, power is the idolisation of Being,[i] and every idol is passivity as regards the consciousness. What we have here is an active passivity which does not serve the totality of the world. All the distortions we have mentioned above are marked by a vigour in action, but also by an antisocial spirit and the degradation of fundamental values.

2. Man loses the thread connecting him with the responsibility which he himself has for his choices, because responsibility also requires an understanding of the concept of his aims, and because, always and without exception, fundamental concepts have the character of societality, that is, interconnection with other human beings (such as justice, freedom, equality). Irresponsibility and individualism always conceal conceptual distortions and do not possess aseity; they exist only, that is to say, as distortions of fundamental principles.

Self-knowledge is not a narcissistic preoccupation with oneself, but a clarification of the motives for and nature of fundamental aims, a definition of the self and of kinship with the cosmos. Through this, individual responsibility can be discerned, which is why Nietzsche rejected it as a complication in the pursuit of crude power and as a distortion, supposedly, of the self.

And the question must always be posed: how is it possible to understand your responsibilities if you refuse to think about them? You will follow blindly and automatically what is already given as customary from the past and falls within the self-evident and in the region of the instinct and of facile emotion. But even if what is old and familiar is right, it will perhaps be inadequate in the face of new conditions and challenges, and inadequacy of understanding itself will be a distortion of concepts which regulate life. This will be because understanding evolves, and, through this broader understanding, the correctness of the motive and the new, broader, conceptual content of the aims are adapted and re-confirmed. For example, devotion to the family is a basic value of man, but, in conditions of a society which is more cohesive and organised, this devotion should be harmonised with social responsibility, balancing, on the basis of principles, family and society - if this is not done, this devotion will turn into nepotism. The same motive of unselfish family devotion will be displaced into a motive of individual and collective selfishness centring on the family. The same can also happen in relation to other values such as the nation, freedom, power, and prosperity. For this kind of understanding, an understanding of fundamental concepts and aims is required.

3. Man is interested only in the field of results and not in that in which the results are prepared, and politics is the most glaring field in which this is revealed. However, the field of results already has a past in relation with the field in which these results were prepared, and this was the real present in which there could be an effective reaction. In other words, reality is prepared at the level of the shaping of aims and motives, and these are then fulfilled at the level of action; thereafter, the results of the actions occur. What, however, man calls reality is the field in which the consequences of his choices emerge and is already 'the past' in the sense that the choices have already been made and have brought about action, whereas man sees simply a reflection of their content - and this is tragic. There is an interconnection between a cause and its results, but the true present is only the cause, the prime cause. Of course, the causes too can have many stratifications of time, but this is another question which, although it is of a similar nature, is not necessary for an understanding of certain fundamental functions.

For example, we have learnt that the excessive borrowing of a country leads to its mortgaging, but this has not been caused when this became known and the repayment of the loan was demanded, but at a much earlier stage, at a time when the smallest hint at an understanding of such things would have been regarded as theorising by most people. What was here the true present? It was in an earlier phase that this economic policy was prepared and applied. However, even before that, there was a phase in which man, with his unsuitable education and models, was devoted to material prosperity and became passive, thus losing the opportunity to make beneficial use of the lessons which he learnt from world war. And, even before that, there was what we could call the endless phase in which man believed that the only thing worth pursuing in life was material prosperity and peace of mind. There is a chain of causes in which the later cause is the result of the earlier. That is why self-knowledge is so fundamental.

Another example from everyday life: the phenomenon is observable of a person being preoccupied with his/her beauty (and we know how intense and oppressive this issue is at the present time), but at the same time forgetting the matter of health (physical and psychological), which has priority as being more significant than beauty, and the issue of the self-worth of the body, which may thus become a virtually negotiable resource, which militates against the desirable rounding of individuality, self-worth, freedom, and love for self. The substantive and the more profound objective constantly eludes it. And, in order to show how essential the field of the concept is, we must add to the last example that the effort to attain to self-worth and freedom could itself be exposed to danger - that of developing in an erroneous way simply as a reaction against the restriction imposed by fashionable models of beauty, by taking the form of superciliousness, of aggressive indifference, which, however, would conceal envy and not genuine liberation from this imprisonment - in which case, again, what is fundamental is distorted.

None of these imperfect attempts, therefore, ensures the happiness of man.

Most of the moves which man makes are, sadly, marked by a tendency towards flight from reality (and these include some made by the ecological movement), as well as by rejection of the conceptual approach to the self, its aims, and the cosmos, because it is precisely this which guides man in the world and in his responsibilities. Without this approach, no move is correct, and fantasy will simply appoint itself as pragmatism, whereas pragmatism will be undervalued as theorising as a result of a blatant reversal of values. This guarantees that no attempt to achieve security or freedom will be successful, and what is worse is that, in this way, not even the necessary lessons will be learnt from failure, because this whole reaction is an outright choosing of blindness.

[i] Yiannis Zisis, 'The strength and the idolisation of Being', solon.org.gr (In Greek)

Ioanna Moutsopoulou, lawyer
Member of the Secretariat of Solon NGO

Photograph by wikimedia


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