Conformism vs contemplation is a crucial concept in understanding the nature of authority and how it affects our thought processes. The tendency to be easily impressed and swayed by external rhetoric or the intellect of a person or ideology is a slippery slope that leads to enslavement (Foucault, 1980, p. 45). Once the relatable chords are struck, we become moved and mesmerized by the authority or ideology in question, leading us to blindly conform to it without critical examination. This is where the fallacy of rationalization comes into play, as we begin to accept everything that the authority or ideology puts forward without questioning its merits (Bourdieu, 1977, p. 56).
The appeal to authority is a common predicament in today's society, where we are constantly bombarded with persuasive rhetoric and arguments from various sources (Giddens, 1984, p. 23). To break away from this mental slavery, it is crucial to shift our perspective from "who" is saying something to "what" is being said (Habermas, 1981, p. 78). Instead of blindly accepting or rejecting propositions based on the authority or source, it is important to contemplate and evaluate them on their own merits (Ollman, 1976, p.45). This requires intellectual extrication from the grip of authority, and a willingness to question and critically examine the ideas and arguments that we encounter (Bauman, 1989, p. 67).
It is important to note that this process of contemplation and critical examination is not just limited to external sources of authority, but also to our own internal biases and prejudices. As Gramsci (1971, p. 45) argues, our own common sense, which is shaped by the dominant ideologies of our society, can also act as a form of internalized oppression, limiting our ability to think critically and independently. Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of our own internal biases and prejudices, and to actively work towards overcoming them through self-reflection and self-critique.
Furthermore, in order to truly break away from the grip of authority and conformism, it is essential to cultivate a habit of independent thinking and critical examination (Adorno, 1951, p. 78). As Adorno states, "the fully enlightened earth radiates disaster triumphant", meaning that without critical thinking and independent examination, we risk being blindly led towards disastrous consequences. Therefore, it is crucial to develop the ability to think for ourselves, and to question and critically examine the ideas and ideologies that we encounter, whether they come from external sources or from within ourselves.
Cultivating a habit of independent thinking and critical examination is not an easy task and it requires constant effort and dedication. One way to achieve this is by exposing ourselves to a diverse range of perspectives and ideas. By reading, listening, and engaging with different worldviews and ideologies, we can broaden our understanding of the world and gain a deeper insight into our own beliefs and biases. This can help us to develop a more nuanced and complex understanding of the world and to challenge our preconceived notions and prejudices.
Moreover, it is also important to actively seek out dissenting and marginalized voices (Coleridge, 1817). These are the voices that are often drowned out by the dominant ideologies and mainstream discourse. By actively listening to these voices, we can gain a better understanding of the world and gain insight into the perspectives and experiences that are often overlooked or dismissed. This can also help us to develop a more inclusive and compassionate understanding of the world and to challenge our own biases and prejudices.
1. Adorno, Theodor W. Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life. Verso, 1951.
2. Bauman, Zygmunt. Modernity and Ambivalence. Polity Press, 1989.
3. Bourdieu, Pierre. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge University Press, 1977.
4. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. "Biographia Literaria." 1817.
5. Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. Pantheon Books, 1980.
6. Giddens, Anthony. The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration. University of California Press, 1984.
7. Gramsci, Antonio. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. International Publishers, 1971.
8. Habermas, Jürgen. The Theory of Communicative Action. Vol. 1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society. Beacon Press, 1981.
9. Ollman, Bertell. Alienation: Marx's Conception of Man in Capitalist Society. Cambridge University Press, 1976.
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