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Political Science
Mark Lippincott

The Philosophic Roots of Modern Ideology Chapter One: The Origins of Political Ideologies Plato's cave: (from book 7 of The Republic) Perhaps the most powerful and frightening of all metaphors in the history of political philosophy Insightful allegory about the dangers of domination and oppression, as well as the equally perilous (hazardous) potentials of education and liberation Plato compares the effect of a certain kind of education, and the lack of it, upon people who only know a life in a cave, shackled at the legs and neck so they remain in place. A fire is lit behind and above them and all they can see are the shadows of the men who lit the fire and all they can hear are the men's voices. This leads them to believe that life is made up of talking shadows and movement is not necessary. People wonder why anyone would believe that all there is to life is what is in front of them, but Plato claims that is the human condition. We are all born into a condition where the meanings of the world are made for us. Plato believes it is comfortable slavery where people who are unknown to us, produce what we know and believe. This results in the belief that the limited, artificial world we know (the world of the shadows) is the entire world. This makes it extremely difficult to become aware of our ignorance in relation to the broader world around us, let alone become capable of discovering the difference (assuming there is a difference) between truth and illusion. Plato then suggests that if the prisoners were to be released they may be blinded by the direct light, feels disoriented or frightened, walking would be extremely painful if even possible, and once freed from the cave the prisoner wouldn't be able to understand even the simplest things. Plato believed that the philosophic contemplation of the reality of ideas was the highest form of reflection a human being could achieve. In conclusion, the allegory suggests that although a philosopher's education is fraught with difficulties, it is the odyssey one must endure to become human, to become more fully aware of the imprisoned way of life one has led in the past. One may long for the prior comfort and security of fool's paradise, an illusion maybe, but where each question was answered. (Which shadow will come next? How many shadows are there?) Everyone is prisoner is in the cave. Anyone whom is uneducated is unaware of their state in the cave. The cave is not a realm of darkness, nor are the prisoners in the cave blind. The use of some in the textbook is inconsistent with the profs. beliefs of the story. The men that hold the artefacts are very similar to an overhead projector; their only significance is to evoke the minds of the prisoners. They are universally deceived and diluted; there are no privilege positions. Plato says we would all be like this in the absence of education, including himself. There is an exit out of the cave, a long hard path to the sun. But they think all of reality is explained by the shadows on the wall. The environment (the cave itself) creates this illusion. "You do not try to escape a prison that you don't know you're in" -prof. There are several blinding moments for Plato's prisoners. When they look at the fire, when they are on the dark path out of the cave, when they are exposed to the sun. Any prisoner who returns to the cave with be disinterested in the shadows after seeing reality. But this prisoner would be ridiculed for being different, and believing there's more to life than the shadows. This person will try and make his fellow prisoners come with him. Once you are educated and unbound, you can predict what shadow will come next because you can turn around and see! The released prisoner could revolutionize the cave itself and change its ways. We are not born into a neutral environment, we are born into ideologies. So if a prisoner wanted to change the ways of the cave, he must mobilize people to deny the original ideology and accept a new one. Ideologies are not false, they are contested and alternative versions of reality (half truths). Ideologies are a simplification of truth, have broad-based mass appeal and are logically inconsistent. The more illogical they are in terms of their core beliefs, the more powerful they can be. The more you invest into the ideology/the higher the cost for acceptance, the more belief you will have. The only way you can get insight into your own belief is by comparing it to others. We don't need tolerance, diversity of thought, freedom of speech, exposure to other cultures, etc; to make us more cosmopolitan. The demon of presumed knowledge must be tested out. Don't fall for its beliefs, find out for yourself. Than you'll have a better idea of what you know and believe, what you know and don't believe and what you believe and do not know. Ideologies do not carry the same burden as political theory. They are building a philosophic vision of politics. Cannot get learned crap out of are heads unless we are jarred by an outside force. Most people do not think of themselves as invalid. We can admit that we make mistakes, but deep down inside we want to think we are superior than others and see things more clearly. Plato's cave relative to the philosophic roots of modern ideology: Domination in this story manifests itself in several ways, but the most severe form is the human condition of self-enslavement, where individuals (mis)perceive their condition to be one in which they are free and in possession of the truth about the world they inhabit. They do not perceive their chains as chains, and they think that the have a full, clear, uncontestable understanding of the nature of the world. The prisoners actually went as far as hugging their chains, believing what they are experiencing constitutes all there is of reality. Another form of domination is shown when the prisoner is released. The raw, coercive, and immediately perceptible force designed to lead the prisoner from a condition of ignorance to awareness and knowledge of the wider world. The liberation of the prisoner is more than just freedom from physical bondage, it makes them understand the difference between life in a cage and life outside of it. They also understand that she or he had been imprisoned. Plato believes liberation means becoming a human and being more fully conscious of the world that one may inhabit. It takes the form of recognizing that the world one is born into offers one, not the only, way of seeing what appears to be reality. The journey out of the cave is described by Plato as a process where philosophers come to know a single, objective reality, as opposed to simply recognizing there are the different realities of being inside and outside the cave. The fact that we may ask whether the allegory of the cave suggests that there are as many truths as worlds people live in, or that there is a single truth about a single true reality, shows the literary and philosophical brilliance of Plato's story. The concern is not to resolve this question as much as it is to highlight Plato's provocative suggestion that what we believe, and what we are as human beings, is produced by forms of power about which we are perhaps unaware, that education involves an initial process of breaking the shadowlike chains of conventional wisdom, and that education is conceived in this way constitutes the beginning of at least one form of liberation. The story is about the difficult learning processes one must undertake to recognize the limits of one's given understanding. This process is the beginning of liberation from the belief that one knows all one can know. Plato thinks that if the released prisoners went back into the cave to free the other prisoners, they would resist leaving and even try to kill the one who tries to free them. The allegory of the cave warns against the inevitable attempts of some humans- armed with their vision of truth- who feel compelled, for our own good, to drag by force their fellow humans out of the cave and into the "light." Plato's cave offers warnings about domination and oppression and they are very relevant to the study of contemporary political ideologies. Basically from the time you are born you are taught what is "best for you" and people are committed to the proponents of each of the ideologies examined in this book. They contend that they alone understand the reality and know what is best for all of humanity. Each is intensely committed to helping us- happy and comfortable prisoners or committed students of many perspectives of reality- to see their light. The study of philosophy roots of these competing ideologies enables one to get a broader angle of vision, something we believe is an important part of becoming politically literate- capable of understanding, comparing, and examining the various claims on what is true and false in political life, of what is best and worst for humanity, and of what is and what ought to be. Plato understood that such reflection was an essential part of remaining unchained, and he also knew that the process is extraordinarily difficult, exceedingly dangerous, and impossible without having one's attention pointed in other directions. Plato's warning is taken seriously; however appealing the role of the philosopher, Plato's allegory of the cave warns teachers against treating those they seek to enlighten as simply living under illusion, as lacking any understanding of their condition. While the intention of the textbook (in terms of the cave), can be seen as a form of domination, we view it differently. We see our awareness of the dangers of domination as well as the broader angle of vision we hope to promote here as different from the manipulative position of the puppeteer who is seeking to dominate others. What we must attempt to learn, then is the ability to differentiate between the various shadows and puppets and to analyze different claims to truth and illusion. We seek to do this, not resolve the question of truth entirely, but to be in a different position from any of those fighting it out over the truth, a position wherein we may understand and examine. One of the reasons why we shouldn't just go nuts about things that offend us, or expose ourselves to craziness is the simple reason that most truths come into the world as something that we react to harshly. Some of the theories about why the world was flat were amazing, but it doesn't make them right. In order to extract we must engage in conversation about things that are alien to us. What we must attempt to learn is the ability to differentiate between various shadows and puppets and to analyze different claims to truth and illusion. We seek to do this, not to resolve the question of truth entirely, but to be in a different position from any of those fighting it out over the truth, a position wherein we may understand and examine the various claims to truth- the various ways people see what is true, just beautiful, and good. We call these ideologies. What is Ideology? The term was coined by French enlightenment philosopher Antoine Louis Claude Destutt, Comte de Tracy to mean the "science of ideas." In contemporary times, it was understood as a worldview or loosely organized folk philosophy encompassing the totality of ideals and aspirations of people. This association between ideology and falsehood has been ideology's main meaning in modern political theory, especially since Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels described what they saw as a mistaken view of capitalism as "bourgeois ideology." Non-marxists have used this term in this sense as well. Hannah Arendt declared "all ideologies contain totalitarian elements." What she meant was that ideologies distort and oversimplify reality my mimicking logical, scientific ways of thinking. In Arendt's view, ideologies appear to provide truths to live and act by, but in actuality deprive their adherents of a free and dynamic interpretive relationship with the world and others. Similarly, the renowned exponent of modern critical theory Jurgen Habermas defines ideologies as "illusions outfitted with the power of common convictions." In Habermas's view, such illusions are unfortunate, but probably inevitable, components of modern governance: the modern politician gains power by promoting such illusions through the clever use of society's political, economic, and cultural systems of power. What these usages of the concept of ideology have in common is that they see ideologies as popularly accepted distortions of reality. In this common meaning of ideology, to adhere to an ideology is to be encaged or imprisoned to some untruth. Some compare the illusion and falsity to the shadows in Plato's cave- in relation to an objective truth. This understanding of ideology also appears to imply that the user of the term- say Marx, Arendt, or Habermas- possesses Plato's philosopher's ability to distinguish the untruth from the truth, to see through the illusion to an undistorted view of reality. Why else would one describe a belief system as an ideology (illusion) if one did not think that there was a correct truth against which such a belief system could be judged? This question is enormously important in relation to the subject matter of this book. In describing liberalism, conservatism, Marxism, fascism, Nazism, and Islamism as ideologies, are we implying that these beliefs are false belief systems and that their adherents are benighted prisoners? Are we saying that the leading ideologists who have formulated these ideas are Plato's puppeteers? NO. We depart from the common critical view of ideology as illusion by understanding the concept of ideology in a different way. For us, ideologies are not necessarily untruths. They are action orienting belief systems whose adherents take them to be true. They may indeed contain some untruths; they may also contain some truths. Moreover, our recognition of the many versions of ideologies leads us to view them as contested and alternative versions of reality, not "false" ones, and we seek to be open to the possible truths of each. Ideology and Other Forms of Political Theory Three types of political theory: (1) Ideology, (2) Traditional [Classical Western] political philosophy, (3) Scientific [empiricist] theories of politics. All three share the conviction that their task is to odder compelling interpretations about the existing environment, but they differ in terms of aims and scope of their activities and their ultimate goals. Traditional political philosophy attempts to construct comprehensive philosophic systems that explain nearly every dimension of political reality. Excellent examples include: Plato, St. Augustine, Hegel, Marx, and Arendt. Such philosophical endeavours explore the standards according to which people should live their lives. They examine and evaluate various ways that government and other social institutions may be organized to enable human beings to achieve their goals. Also, they frequently render explicit moral judgements about humanity's potential. They discuss the role and function of the state, and the meanings of central concepts like politics, justice, authority, revolution, freedom, equality, inequality, oppression, and liberation. Classical political philosophy has provoked generations of international readers to search critically for intrinsic meanings about life and political existence, producing multiple interpretations of their importance, and at times attempting to adapt the ideas to real world circumstances. Traditional political philosophy bears some relation to ideology in several of these features. Modern scientific approaches to political analysis attempt to produce very general theories about humanity as well, but in a different way. Their purpose is to describe and predict human behaviour based on the accumulation of "facts" gained from scientific observation of social and political behaviour. They seek to analyze the relations between these facts, hoping to discover knowledge of the "causes" of political behaviour, both within particular societies and across them. Under what conditions to people vote, social movements rise or fall, or nations make or end wars? The ultimate aim of scientific theorizing is to understand those conditions so as to be able to predict outcomes that might occur. Unlike the classical political philosophers, modern empiricists purposefully strive to restrict their endeavours to the development of theories about the relationship between facts they identify in the world. Like natural scientists, they explicitly desire to avoid judgements of value and tend to leave the decisions of what outcomes to pursue to others. While they share with traditional political philosophy the goal of producing comprehensive accounts of reality based on observations of existing reality, they do not attempt to create or explicitly specify grand theories of ideal political communities. This is a very important difference between these two traditions of political theorizing. Classical philosophers observe the world as well, buy they do so with what the contemporary scientist would call "values" and "biases." To the classical philosopher, the values and biases are no hi
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