Farabi interpreted Plato in this way: most people never get beyond the received thinking of childhood, thinking that is so which is taught to be so, seeking reward and avoiding punishment. The philosophic law-giver composes religion as the best form of received thinking, while the philosopher himself lives above the shadowy realm of religious doctrine and seeks and attains to some extent the truth. The religious community is constructed as something lower, from conclusions derived from the higher life of philosophy.
Contrast this with our idea that from within the orthodoxy of our received group thinking, confusion develops from confrontations with other doctrines, new ideas and techniques develop. The philosophical is produced from within the confused community, not merely from a confusion of ideas deliberated upon by isolated philosophers.
The philosophers who are thinking their way out of confusions developed from within the shadowy life of the religious group, when they reach new conclusions, these are necessarily practical, refer to real life lived among others. This leads to adapting the same kind of thinking to practical technology: and we know that the Arabs following the tradition expressed by Farabi of law-given orthodoxy in society failed in this application.
Philosophy as creative and protective of lower dogmatically enforced religious doctrine is a good definition of fanaticism. It involves both no loyalty to any community, no love of particular people or places or things, and an insistence on loyalty to an orthodoxy known to be partly arbitrary, and inevitably treating people for whom one has no particular love as means to the end of maintaining the partly arbitrary orthodoxy and sustaining the possibility of the philosophers' higher lives.*You wrote that six years ago. If we say our new president's religion - he calls it his art - is making money, couldn't we describe what we should be getting ready to expect from him in office as totalitarianism? With him as the king / philosopher of money leading the 'higher life'?
- Did you expect anything like this when you wrote those words? How did we get here so quickly?
- It's hasn't been all that quickly. What has come to be called Neo-Liberalism has been in the works for centuries. Remember we talked about** Foucault's last works on the subject? Neo-Liberalism when put into practice is a sort of confidence trick, a self-fulfilling prophesy.
- How so?
- Neo-Liberalism proposes the existence of a natural law of the marketplace. When theories are the basis of action intended to produce a desired result, we call that practice the application of technology. With Neo-Liberalism those results are the opposite predicted by the theory, general economic decline rather than advance, but the technology has produced a religious result that is very advantageous to those who operate it. Like application of certain technologies that produce pollution, application of Neo-Liberalism, both its partial (never close to total) opening of free markets, and the rapid monopolization of the market that develops when government regulations of the market are removed, interfere with other human practices based on knowledge, in general those that we use to say made life good and worth living. Because of this interference by polution with other lawful orders, species become extinct, and similarly, as we mentioned last time, self employment in the United States is becoming extinct. In the case of pollution the instability created by technology threatens the very existence of human beings practicing the technology, and calls in question the practice of that technology. But with Neo-Liberalism, instability creates conditions that tend to make it appear a proven fact that economic life, life of practicality, making money, has to be attended to before anything else, for it is a matter of survival. All other aspects of life must take second place.
- The more people who are put out of work, threatened by wars waged for profits of corporations, the more unstable people are and the more they must think how they are to get money to survive.
- Exactly. A leader arises who claims to know the natural laws of the market better than anyone, who demonstrates in word and action he subordinates to it all other human concerns like that for truth, beauty, peace, love, and beauty. The more disproven Neo-Liberalism is an effective technology, the more that it produces destruction instead of the claimed to be expected prosperity, the more attractive it is as a religion, and the more likely is it to become the tool of totalitarianism.
- Thus, our new president.
(From The President's People)
* Technology & Fanaticism
** Bringing Back Stray Sheep