Caring thinking about caring thinking

by Oscar Brenifier, April 2008
Revision and suggestions by Janette Poulton


Discuss / diskuter


Philosophical correctness

In our own practice, we use a concept that can be related to caring thinking, which we call “sympathy”, close to the Greek “philia”. We consider it as one of the basic attitudes conducive to thinking, along with settling down, astonishment, confrontation, suspension of judgment, etc. We distinguish those attitudes from actual thinking competencies, such as argumentation analysis, critique, conceptualization, since the first ones have to do with the way to be—you can settle down, be sympathetic or be astonished without really thinking—and the second ones being actual thinking as a process of production of ideas. And for not being thinking in action, those attitudes are not secondary, since most times, when entering a workshop, the primary task is to put into effect those attitudes, without which competencies cannot operate. And funnily enough, sympathy, a sort of minimal kindness or goodwill toward other, allows us to engage in critical thinking because there is trust. Any lack of trust would prohibit critique, since it would risk degenerating into a squabble. Or if one wants to enter a squabble, the critique would become rather irrational and violent, and probably meaningless.

Thus from a general perspective, we would have nothing against “caring thinking”, a concept that echoes philia, eros and agape, if it were not the tip of the iceberg of a “philosophical correctness”, as we have already hinted at. But to be clear, let us examine what would be the content and premises of this paradigm shift. Here are a few of its postulates, mostly made in the U.S, now considered world culture. First and foremost is the very protestant conception of the predominance of ethics above any other philosophical field: above metaphysics, aesthetics, epistemology, ontology, etc. Ethics would almost be the meta philosophical issue, that would determine what position is acceptable or not, which would of course reject numerous powerful philosophical attitudes, such as the untranslatable Greek “agon”, out of which comes the words agony and antagonism. Second is the idea that there is progress—or regress—in philosophy, a concept which we find in the founding of pragmatism, although it is not the first time this appears in the history of philosophy, as we have seen with Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, etc. But it is the only time probably in history, due to the functioning of our modern world, that an ideology has such power—technical, cultural and political—to impose itself. The criteria for this progress are largely taken from psychology, cognitive sciences, pedagogy, sociology, etc., in other words, domains that are outside of philosophy, which implies a certain instrumentalization of philosophy or control over philosophy. Third, a rejection of dualism, a certain holism, largely influenced by “New age” mentality, where monism is conceived as superior to dualism, under the cover of “holistic” or “wholistic” perspectives, which have a lot to do with pretensions to totality, or omnipotence. Fourth, a political influence, of Anglo-American liberalism, where all individuals are considered equal, sufficiently educated, free to choose, and do not need any surpassing transcendent concept or body to regulate their activity. In this context, the individual, his desires, feelings and wishes are not questionable, and no one, under the guise of a certain egalitarianism, can pretend to know for the other. This political vision can as well be called consumer society, as supply and demand determine reality. Fifth, an abandonment of transcendence in favor of immanence, where the community, a very concrete body, primes over universality, or humanity, considered as a too abstract and empty concept. Sixth, the sacredness of the individual, the human person being established as an end in itself, in opposition to any other more conceptual purpose: truth, beauty, good, reason, etc. Seventh, an ecological world vision, where science and techniques, or the general activity of man upon nature becomes highly suspicious and even dangerous, and therefore must reign in the principle of precaution, a world where Prometheus is equated to the devil. These are very general principles, which are sometimes in contradiction to one another; depending on the proclivities and axiology of the subject, one will hierarchize or order them differently. But they form as a whole the matrix of the “new dominant world thinking”. After all, just like man’s thinking in history has undergone different transformations and gone through different phases, maybe our world had for some time to abide, willy-nilly, to this world outlook. Like children have to experience their own foolishness in order to learn.

Page created: 26.01.09. Page last modified: 18.11.09 14:41.