Wednesday, January 22, 2014

More on Ideology

Any diagram (or conceptual system) is, "if not exactly a fiction, is at least a creation" [CP 1.383] and what distinguishes an ideology, or ideological thinking, from other forms of diagrammatic thinking is that it is a fiction being employed without any regard for (1) the situations of it applications and (2) the consequences of its inferences.

Thus, on the one side, Marcus Rediker (The Slave Ship: A Human History) quotes the Liverpool merchant discussing their slave trade with his son in Barry Unsworth's Sacred Hunger.

"To function efficiently — to function at all — we must concentrate our effects.  Picturing things is bad for business, it is undynamic. It can choke the mind with horror if persisted in.  We have graphs and tables and balance sheets and statement of corporate philosophy to help us remain busily and safely in the realm of the abstract and comfort us with a sense of lawful endeavor and lawful profit.  And we have maps." [The Slave Ship: A Human History, p. 12]
The merchant is making an ideology out of his business model by willfully ignoring the situation of its application.  On the other side, Hannah Arendt refers to the ruthless logicality of both Hitler and Stalin. 
They took them [their ideologies] dead seriously, took pride the one in his supreme gift for "ice cold reasoning" [Hitler] and the other in the "mercilessness of his dialectics" [Stalin] and proceeded to drive ideological implications into extremes of logical consistency … ["Ideology and Terror"]
that made it a matter of pride to carry out their inferences regardless of their consequences.

But, a diagram or theory being employed without regard for any particular situation or for the consequences of what is inferred is also the nature of mathematics and logic.  Like many ideologies, these fictions ignore the import of particular situations by claiming universality, and they look only to their own internal consistency for assessing their inferences.  Not only are mathematics and logic ideologies in this sense, but seeing them thus links all the various manifestations of ideology back to the Greek roots of that term and Destutt de Tracy's coining of it as a "science of ideas."