Thursday, September 24, 2009

Are conservatism and liberalism opposite ideologies?

I say

I like the word, adjective and noun, conservative. It implies that there was good in our past and that it needs preserving.

I also like, though, the adjective and noun liberal. It evokes liberty and liberality, the generosity of a free man.

I dislike them both when they become labels for set political positions, well defined ideologies, opposing models of what social life is all about.

Actually, I should say that also the word ideology didn't always have a bad ring. This was given to it by Karl Marx, when he used it to brand his philosophical and political adversaries, and was later on taken up by these to retort the same blame on him: in an ongoing "you are an ideologist", calling for "ideologist are you".

Ideology, literally taken, is analyzable into the classical -logy of many words designating a science (e.g. geology, biology, anthropology, psychology, sociology) and ideas. It's a good word then: it would be nothing less than the science of ideas.

How could become then the name par excellence of the wrong way of thinking, anti-science?

The trouble is that ideas alone don't make knowledge: this requires also the impact of reality. As for a physicist, who to formulate a theory needs two things irreducible the one to the other: mathematical equations and experiments, so to account with the first for the latter.

The temptation, on the contrary, is to want to transfer our ideas onto reality (or also to make them emerge from reality, which is just the reverse). Giving in to this temptation gave to "ideology" its bad reputation.

Another thing is to be able, instead, to perceive ideas in reality, as what makes reality intelligible. Need I to add that this is the way of science, be it physical or political?


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