Ideology as proof of Freedom?

Oh, why not. In this entry, I’ll post some excerpts from, well, a fragmented and incomplete essay I attempted to write suggesting that the phenomena of Ideology is proof of freedom. Of course, I mean to be deliberately provocative here as ideology, in the pejorative sense, often is thought of something that prevents freedom, or blinds and deceives us. If it be countered immediately that the notion can be positive, I would say the statements below apply just in that case as well.

OK, so the argument would develop, unsurprisingly, from some Barfieldian insights though he doesn’t make the argument I attempt to spin out of it. It relies on a distinction between thinking and thought coupled with the suggestion that it is in thinking activity that we find the clearest case for “freedom.” Other suggestive ideas [mine] to be incorporated would be the notion that in thinking as activity, we have the non-contradictory notion of “free necessity.” But that’s for another time…

Barfield makes a distinction of arch importance for his philosophy and the philosophers he writes about ( Coleridge in particular) between thinking and thought. The distinction is simple enough: thinking is the activity, thought is the product. Just as work is the product of working. [ I hope to develop this in more detail]

So where do we go from there?

Well, we build on the distinction: ideology requires the activity of thinking. But the caveat is that the product of thinking (Thought) can itself become a way of thinking. In other words, the activity of thinking itself can produce a mode of thinking. The product can itself become the activity. This is important. That there are many ways of thinking only highlights what I want to maintain, that thinking, in essence, is free – it is the free nature and plasticity of thinking that makes various ways of thinking possible. The malleability of thinking is itself proof that it is, in essence, a free activity. However, the main point that will be developed from these considerations is that Ideology depends on this free activity in order to propagate itself. Ideology is something learned not as stimulus-response but something that subtly requires my consent: the self-conscious activity of its fore-bearers. And this is why it is pernicious – when thinking, it appears, that the effort required to make a conclusion or argument is my own free activity and this is very true. However, what occurs is that the thinking act has been hijacked to a certain degree by ideology, the ideology recedes into thinking as such, becoming not a product of thought but a way of thinking. It becomes unconscious. The “solutions” that are the results of this thinking, then, are in some extent, “rigged.”

Thus, ideology is pernicious, not because of it’s unconscious nature, but because it requires the free consent of the individual, it depends on the forming of a mental habit. Because thinking is free, because I’m able to juggle concepts, ideology is dangerous. In other words, it’s the becoming unconscious that makes ideology dangerous not the mere fact that it is often unconscious. By this I mean ideology depends on the forming of a mental habit, a particular point of view, a way of seeing that itself becomes automatic but automatic not in a stimulus-response sense but by choice – an ideology requires, not merely, that I agree with a worldview but think in terms of this worldview. This thinking, however, as thinking, cannot be coerced but most be natural. I’m not forced to think that I must vote democrat or republican but I live within a culture where this seems natural to do and when it comes time to vote, I consider only these two options. I think through these options and make a decision. The forming of this mental habit requires my consent, not in the sense I have presented to me an amalgam of opinions that I then consciously choose to adopt but in the sense that this mental habit requires me to actively propagate a point of view that is itself limited to a few options…

And that’s it for the time being.

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2 Responses to Ideology as proof of Freedom?

  1. kyleschen says:

    This is fascinating. Believe what you’ve done is moved the danger of ideology up one abstraction. The wide assumption is that it’s dangerous because it holds our brain hostage in some kind of violent way but the REAL danger is that we “yes” ideology freely and that is why it’s so painful to defend against it. Especially because we can’t operate without a certain level of ideological “yes”ing. We don’t have the option to give a total “no”… even the most skeptical among us are running “no”ing by default (which itself is a “yes”).

    • Chen says:

      A reply after two years. Ah! Thanks. You nicely summarize what I’m getting at. A quick reread before reading the comment got me worried I was a bit unclear. Yes, the issue is that saying “Yes” is something we do. The problematic around Ideology really wouldn’t be much of an issue if we could not “think” with it – freely. That is some of the problem – the things taken for granted in order that an Ideology may dominate.

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