I find it annoying, as I think most people do, when a person who has no relationship to me approaches me on the street and tries to sell me a new religion or philosophy. It’s like the saying goes “No one cares what you know until they know you care,” in which case if they really care about you they don’t really care much about your philosophy, because they just care about you. I recognize that what I am discussing on this blog (something most people do not what to hear, a critical examination of rational thought) is akin to trying to sell people, I have little or no relationship to, a new philosophy. Yet this is a rhetorical discussion meant for the reader to examine the movements of their own consciousness, which ultimately involves going beyond philosophy and thought, to one’s lived experience.
Typically in modern Western cultures it is very difficult to establish a real relationship. Because what we usually mean by relationship means some form of mutual exploitation. As Erich Fromm so carefully describes in many of his books we live in a very unhealthy neurotic culture as Westerners. So when people protest that their lives are not about exploitation and their relationships do not exploit others they are usually coming from a naïve and non-critical way of thought that chooses not see the unhealthy side of our society. This is precisely how ideology works, according to Slavoj Žižek, who demonstrates how ideology is precisely that world view in which “we don’t know we are doing it, but we are doing it.” In order to have a real relationship with others we must first be aware of the situation and how it is filtered through our thoughts, ideas and ideals. As for typical Western liberal, left leaning, enlightened-hedonists (such as myself) Žižek suggests that we do, in fact, know what we are doing, “They know that their idea of freedom is masking a particular form of exploitation, but they still follow this idea of freedom.”* What kind of relationship do we have with ourselves and the world when at a fundamental level, our relationship with the world is based on exploitation, we know it, but we still dishonestly speak about free relationships? Here, at the personal, subjective, psychological level we have already identified the source of conflict (without eliciting the unconscious). Our use of conscious rational thought is the source of conflict in our relationships because we use thought to consciously justify our actions, even while opposing those same actions in other areas of our lives. Our relationship to others is what makes society, without these relationships there is no society. The larger social problems, are the world problems, they are the source of all the conflicts we see in the world today.
This does not suggest that we should not use thought, thought is a necessity, but thought needs to be used where necessary and examined very carefully because thought always contains ideology. Most of the results, of thought, we see today are fear based. When people are acting based on fear their reactions usually are not intelligent but their thoughts are still used to deepen and justify their non-intelligent motives. Therefore, thought is used as a tool within consciousness and as such, is an object within consciousness, not consciousness itself. This is an important distinction and will be explored further through this blog. Fear based thinking only causes more conflict within the individual and within each persons relationship to the larger world. As I have already stated, most contemporary thinking is fear based, seeking to protect ones own interests (my life, my job, my family, my country, my religion and so on). Thought based upon self interest can only lead to conflict.
In order to see how your own mind is filled with conflict, watch your reaction closely to see how you react, mentally, to the ideas presented here. Are you simply accepting them as something you already know and therefore do not need to be critical of? Or are you constantly criticizing, using thought to find fault with these ideas and protect your own way of thinking? Usually, critical responses to this criticism of rational thought are met with questions like, ‘what is your philosophy?’ or ‘what is your solution?’ or ‘what are we to do without thought?’ All of these responses are thought based, they come from a place of conflict, they demand a position be taken within the context of rational thought. That is, they demand that you use the limited mode of consciousness called rational thought and that you take part in creating conflict. For example, when you feel compassion, you feel it, you experience it, you do not arrive at compassion through rational thought – because compassion is not rational. That is not to say that it is irrational, that would be to place it in dialectic opposition with rationality, it is outside of rationality and non-rational.
Thought as a function of conscious, must of necessity use memory (regardless of what memory is composed of neurologically or phenomenally), therefore thought is a reflective action. All of our thoughts or ideas are based on the memory of what we have experienced in the past. Using thought, we have no real relationships, not only to other people but the world itself. When you use thought to think about your relationship with another person, animal or thing (i.e ‘the environment’) you have no relationship to those things because you are only in relationship with your ideas, ideals and beliefs about those things, not the things themselves. Thoughts are formulations of past experiences based on interaction with the real living present. When you use thought to analyze the present you only see what you want to see based upon similar interactions from the past. You cannot be in relationship to the other using thought, there are only ideas and idealisms which are presented to your consciousness as phenomenal objects of memory.
Asking how to have a real relationship, not based upon conflict, is still a question caught in the trap of rational thought. This discussion can only point at modes of consciousness which are beyond conflict. I hope to explore these issues in further posts.