​​David Sprintzen

Chapter 3: Philosophy and Ideology

... knowing is a human undertaking, not an esthetic appreciation carried on by a refined class or a capitalistic possession of a few learned specialists, whether men of science or of philosophy.
John Dewey, The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy

There is no thinking which does not present itself on a background of tradition, a tradition has an intellectual quality that differentiates it from blind custom. ...-T do not mean, that a philosopher can take account of this context in the sense of making it a complete object of reflection. But he might realize the existence of such a context, and in doing so he would learn humility and would be debarred from a too unlimited and dogmatic universalization of his conclusions.
John Dewey, Context and Thought

intelligence AS intelligence is inherently forward-looking; only by ignoring its primary function does it become a mere means for an end already given. The latter IS servile even when labeled moral, religious, or esthetic.
John Dewey, The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy

It is not concern which is objectionable, even when it takes the form of bias. It is certain kinds of bias that are obnoxious. Bias for impartiality is as much a bias as is partisan prejudice, though it is a radically different quality of bias. To be "objective" in thinking is to have a certain sort of selective interest operative. One can only see from a certain standpoint, but this fact does not make all standpoints of equal value. 
John Dewey, Context and Thought

1. Scholasticism: The Atrophy of the Philosophical Function

In the critical appraisal of the ideas of a culture, philosophical activity should be concerned to analyze their structure, consider their functional location, especially in relation to the other ideas with which they are interrelated, and evaluate the purposes for which they are employed, as well as the purposes that their employment makes possible. Only on the basis of such analysis can philosophy hope to make worthwhile suggestions about how such ideas may or should be reconstituted. Such is the meaning of intelligence in action.

An essential moment in the development of intelligence involves the making of distinctions. This activity has often been parodied by non-philosophers with the assertion that whenever philosophers are faced with a problem they make a distinction. But the act of distinguishing often constitutes a critically important stage in the resolution of a problematic situation. it involves the locating of distinct aspects of a situation with respect to their differential consequence. Crucial distinctions are hard-won products of difficult investigations. They are usually not easily come by. It took sustained effort over many generations before theorists were able to clearly distinguish the concept of "reasons" from that of "causes," or "values" from "facts." And yet such distinctions, when finally achieved, may be of inestimable significance and often of liberating value with respect to the human being's relations to objective reality. These are certainly distinctions that do not come naturally to the human mind. The "primitive" mind and the mind of the ancient Greeks, among many others, did not clearly possess them, leading them often into serious confusions about such things as the causes of natural disasters. The ancient Jew and Greeks, for example, attributed failures in c-*Ur s or in birth rate to the people's moral failures which brought on the wrath of God or the retribution of Nature.

It is, thus, incorrect to suppose that philosophical investigations can make no progress. They often do. And the development of hard-won distinctions is an essential element in that progress. Yet, the act of distinguishing is a dimension of philosophical activity that often is subject to the most flagrant abuse -- an abuse that often, unfortunately, justifies those parodies to which non-philosophers often subject philosophy. For philosophers too often lose sight of the fact that inquiry is and ought self-consciously to be a purposeful activity. They forget the essentially "instrumental," that is objectively relative, nature of intelligence, namely, that with respect to their "truth" conceptual tools must be evaluated in relation to the human purposes which they are meant to serve. When this is forgotten the essential act of drawing distinctions tends to become a form of conceptual madness or imbecility. Conceptual analysis without appreciation of this "instrumentality" of ideas is like a machine gone wild, like growth without balance and limitation. It is, in short, a form of cancer in the heart of the philosophic enterprise. Distinguishing for its own sake is at best a pleasant pastime, perhaps an aesthetic delight; at worst, it is a trifling with an essential cultural activity that undermines the raison d'etre of that activity. Scholasticism in its historically developed pejorative sense is precisely such a philosophically self-destructive activity. Unfortunately, too much of contemporary western philosophy has consisted of precisely such degenerate scholasticism.

To distinguish in a proper sense requires locating an idea within the context in which it functions. Involved must be a clear attempt to articulate the purposes that the idea is meant to serve within the mindscape in which it functions, as well as an evaluation of the ability of the idea to serve those purposes. Only in such a reflectively delineated context can the idea be critically appraised and then, if necessary, constructively reconstituted. Discriminations and distinctions are usually essential elements in that reconstitution, whether we are concerned with an idea or system of ideas. To make a distinction in this context is to point out that several different purposes have been confusedly conjoined, or that different types of activity or aspects of "the Real" have been conceptually mixed in ways that impede the realization of certain purposes. It should be clear that these types of activity are quite useful in the clarification of human possibilities. And it is precisely these clarifications which are the life blood of the philosophic enterprise, which the scholastic mode has often placed in such disrepute. Having amputated this essential activity of making distinctions from any explicit purpose which bears an intrinsic relation to the wider cultural context in which intelligence is to function, the analyses of the scholastics are left without point or direction. It is no wonder then that they often tend to generate seemingly pointless yet complex theoretical edifices around often trivial- conceptual distinctions.

2. Scholasticism as Ideology

It might be appropriate here to offer a few remarks on why such scholasticism may develop and what social functions it may serve. For it would be difficult to account for its popularity at times -- for example in England and America during much of the twentieth century -- if it did not serve some cultural function. It should be clear that I do not intend the following remarks to be an exhaustive analysis of the function of philosophical scholasticism.

Since scholasticism is like an engine idling, or, perhaps better, a dilettante amusing himself -- a philosophical variety of "art for art's sake" -- it would seem difficult to conceive of it as an activity engaged in by many who were severely pressed in their material conditions of existence. What individual is likely, or group could be able, to engage for long periods of time a sophisticated intellect in practically pointless activities, unless he or they were being supported directly or indirectly by the work of others? Of course, the same remarks could be offered for art or “pure" science. But in those cases we can point clearly to the likely social resource. In the case of art, historically, it has been the upper classes who have patronized the arts for their personal satisfaction, not to speak of those periods during which art has had a clear social, religious, or educational function. Often art has been treated as an exemplification of the glory of a culture, a nation, a city, a class, or a family, somewhat like an expression of collective egoism. In recent times, it has often been governmentally supported and controlled or directed by revolutionary regimes in the service of mass education. In any case, art does not usually make its specific claim to our attention on the basis of its INTELLECTUAL content. With "pure" science, the situation is obviously otherwise. While all too often one overlooks how much of the "pure" scientist's motivation would be most appropriately described as aesthetic in nature -- that is a pure delight in the harmony, proportion, and development of pure meanings, including the cumulative satisfaction developing from successful experimental design, it is the "intellectual" dimension of "pure" science which seems to be its most significant feature, that is, its contribution to the development of "knowledge.”

"Pure" science may be taken as a classic expression of the "desire to know." But it has usually been clear to those who have engaged in such science, whether ancient Alexandria or after the inauguration of the "scientific revolution," and almost always to those who financed such activity, that "pure" science would have quite significant practical payoffs. In America today very little "pure" science is undertaken that is not financed by government or foundations with at least implicit (and usually quite explicit) recognition of its potential technological and productive (or military) uses.

I am not here trying to question the motives of those who engage in "pure" scientific research, but only to suggest that the social support for, and one crucial function of, such research has almost invariably been its practical uses. Political and economic powers can be marshaled behind science because they have had other axes to grind. The social encouragement and support of "pure" science has perhaps all too often been far from disinterested. Even if that were not the case, however, the very nature of scientific investigation (if our previous analysis is correct) would necessarily imply a changed relationship of human beings to the natural and social world. To achieve "truth" is to change our beliefs and practices in the service of a specific philosophical vision. Even "pure science," if it is not to be simply an esoteric aesthetic delight, must involve new experimental designs and differing practical activities. It must be a contribution to the development of intelligence in action. Is this the case with philosophical scholasticism? As the multiplication of distinctions without necessitating purpose -- and it is only in this context that one truly speaks of scholasticism -- it has clearly denied itself the possibility of making legitimate claim to being a contribution to the development of intelligence. The best that may be said for such activity as purported knowledge is that, like "pure" mathematics (in being a clarification of ideational meanings within a closed system of ideas), it may be at some future time usefully linked with some scientific theory that bears upon our understanding of "the Real." It might then clarify the employed methods in the service of a new understanding of reality. While I do not wish to deny, in principle, the potential significance of such investigations, it does seem very difficult to conceive of any possible uses to which much of present philosophical scholasticism could ever be put. Rather, I think we must look elsewhere for its contemporary significance.

That elsewhere to which we have to look is, I think, to the functions that it does perform and to the sources of support upon which this activity depends. Multiplying distinctions without necessity or self-transcending purpose does have the consequence that attention is drawn away from concrete evaluations of the conceptual tools at work in a society, from the mindscape within which such tools have emerged, and the wider cultural purposes to which they are put. In the guise of being a critical intellectual activity, such philosophy fails to address itself to the central problems of living, culturally undermines the potentially crucial critical function of philosophy, and thus brings philosophy into disrepute among the mass of people that it could serve. In short scholastic philosophy becomes useful to an entrenched establishment in part precisely because it is scholastic -- and hence, not popularly accessible or socially critical. Only its results may be made popularly accessible, and then only as dogma. It will be hardly surprising to find that such scholasticism (e.g., "Oxbridge" analysis or Soviet dialectical materialism), as far as content is concerned, is practically never critical of the established modes of thought of its society. It tends to accept the "conventional wisdom" incarnated in "ordinary language" or the cultural "classics." In the British case this would include the Oxford English Dictionary, for example; for the Soviets, the codified writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin. These are endlessly reworked -- but always in ways that are non-self-critical about the prevailing mindscapes. No wonder such activities have comparatively little trouble in continuing to find financial support and remain institutionally respectable.

There is, however, a deeper cultural significance to this mode of thinking -- which points toward the institutional base of its acceptance and the quality of the cultural drama in which it roots. Before we can do justice to this deeper significance of scholastic modes of thinking, however, we must explore further the logic of scholasticism and its relation to the problem of ideological mystification.

3. Ideology and Truth

a. Anti-establishment Scholasticism

Scholasticism is simply one way in which philosophy may degenerate into ideology. Its methods of "inquiry" are joined with dogmatism with respect to substantial assumptions and thus undermine the procedures of philosophical reflection, regardless of the specific content of its doctrines. Actually, it is not difficult to think of dogmatic modes of "philosophizing" which are, in fact, socially critical. One need only consider the character of much Marxist discussion that has taken place within the framework of American society during the past fifty years. It is true, of course, that such dogmatic Marxism has not itself been self-consciously critical about ITS essential assumptions and methods of thinking: that is essentially what makes it dogmatic in our phrase. And yet it has been critical of the prevailing set of ideas and beliefs, of the culturally dominant mindscapes. By dogmatically reasserting positions based upon uncritically accepted premises, however, it has tended to cut itself off from the possibility of engaging those prevailing mindscapes in meaningful dialogue. It has thus failed in several ways to serve its own avowed purposes.

First, dogmatic Marxism has denied to itself the possibility of the theoretical development that can issue from a critical confrontation with existing social practices. Such an openness to "the Real" is, however, essential to any theory which purports to be scientific. Second, such a dogmatic attitude has made it difficult if not impossible for Marxist thought to have much influence beyond the narrow confines of its convinced adherents, thus making contact with the general public. This failure has tended to reduce its adherents to political impotence. And third, consequent to these two failures, it has not been able either to speak critically and in a meaningful way to those theoreticians working within the prevailing mindscapes, nor has it been able to force such dialogue by the power of the political position it represents. In short, its dogmatic approach has played a not insignificant role in relegating Marxist thought to a marginal role in American intellectual and cultural life for all too long.

There is a further sociologic point concerning dogmatic modes of thinking that ought to be underlined here. While such thinking is in essence theoretically impotent, it is rarely such practically. Its dogmatism tends, rather, to protect admirably, those vested interests, whether Establishment, or anti-establishment, which its doctrines sustain, and from which its financial support usually comes. At the same time, its scholastic procedures inculcate general habits of thinking that make any practical-critical activity in the service of social change seem utopian.

This entire discussion has proceeded upon the assumption that scholastic methods of thinking are almost invariably wedded to dogmatism with respect to belief systems. This dogmatism, whether explicit or implicit, is a natural concomitant of a mode of thinking which is systematically devoid of any capacity to come to terms rationally with changes in experience. Fear of openness to the novel seems thus to characterize both sides of this theoretical equation. It is precisely this marriage of scholasticism and dogmatism that permits our lumping together such seemingly diverse philosophical approaches as Oxbridge analysis, Soviet Marxism and western "dogmatic" Marxism, regardless of whether or not they claim to be socially critical. It thus becomes clear that scholastic modes of thinking, by hiding the purposes that they sustain, tend to become ideological even in spite of themselves, and without regard to the specific dogmatic content which they present.

b. The Problem of ideology

On this attitude which thought assumes toward the ever-emerging novelties in experience hangs the tale. The procedures of scholasticism tend to be essentially deductive and demonstrative. They seek to assimilate the novel to pre-established patterns of belief. These patterns tend to be dogmatically asserted and maintained. In place of experiential openness we have an essentially closed system of thinking. The new is a threat whose novelty must be denied in the service of a pre-existing and unquestionable set of truths. It is in this response to experience that scholasticism and dogmatism tend almost inevitably to merge with one another, subordinating the demands of "truth" to the pre-formulated interests of the "inquirer." In being "pre-formulated," usually hidden, and held as beyond question, these interests become "vested." In short, thinking becomes ideological.

By ideology we mean a theoretical orientation towards "the Real" which, while apparently aspiring toward "truth," serves hidden purposes and undisclosed vested interests by systematically obscuring dimensions of reality. The result, if not the intent, is to mystify the believers about the nature of "the Real," thus obscuring the nature of the choices that are open to them. This may happen in two ways. The ideologist may be consciously dissimulating: he knows that his purported ''scientific" theory is only a sophisticated "rationalization" defending special interests. He strives, however, to get others to believe it is the result of an impartial investigation into the nature of "the Real.'' While such propagandistic activity is no doubt politically quite important, it does not constitute a theoretically significant matter with which our present inquiry need concern itself. Of far more interest to us is the case in which the ideologist is sincere in his professions of belief. How is one to understand the claim that a theory is ideological when its most articulate proponents are sincere in their commitment to the "truth"? The classic Marxist response to this question refers to the notion of an idea's OBJECTIVELY serving certain vested class or group interests. It is to this notion of being objectively ideological that we must turn our attention.

It is necessary first, however, to distinguish an ideological theory from one that is simply false. It would seem to be the case that a theory may be false without being ideological, while a true theory could not be ideological, even if it did serve a particular set of interests. That is, the category of ideological thinking would seem to be a species of "false" thinking, namely a false thinking that is objectively in the service of specific vested interests. (Here we have something like a sociological version of the Freudian notion of rationalization, which similarly calls for a "demystifying" critique.) But, while this approach points us in the right direction, it cannot be totally adequate, in view of our previous discussion of the nature of truth claims. There we noted that, since ideas in their truth-seeking capacity as a contribution to the development of intelligence are essentially conceptual tools, their use in the construction of theories, however scientific, is subject to the limitations prescribed by the experiential location and purposeful selectivity of the inquirer. In short, the knowledge situation is triadic, involving necessary reference to the perspectives and purposes of the inquirer as well as to the objective relations obtaining between the articulated thought and the reality to which reference is being made. The problem of ideology -- the pseudo-scientific defense of vested interests in the name of "truth" -- therefore, emerges quite directly and easily from the essentially "interested" and perspectival nature of inquiry itself. It presents itself as a continual challenge and perhaps temptation to all serious thinkers. It demands that we be self-conscious about this danger. We must ever strive to make totally clear the interests and purposes that motivate us, the experiential location out of which our thinking emerges, and the substantive and methodological assumptions that are structured by the mindscape within which we operate. Thinking is always an individual enterprise taking place within the conflicting pressures of a definite social reality; and it is incumbent upon us, if we wish to escape the pejorative appellation of "ideologues,'' that we be as clear as possible about the limitations of our perspective as well as about our relation to those social groups whose interests our theories may be furthering, whether intentionally or not.

The entire situation is further complicated by the essentially perspectival nature of truth claims. Having thus objectively relativized knowledge with respect to its rooting in a mindscape -- and even more, in a cultural drama -- we must recognize that it is logically possible that quite different mindscapes might generate very different theories which could claim equal "objective" adequacy. Yet these equally objectively verifiable "knowings" might serve very different interests, suggesting alternative actions with quite diverse consequences. And while it IS logically correct to argue, as have the linguistic analysis among others, that values can never be DEDUCED from facts, it is equally true and essential to note that a mindscape (not to speak of the cultural milieu by which it is vitalized) by its very nature tends to facilitate a definite range of programmatic options, while "discouraging" an alternative range of possibilities. Any discussion of the so-called fact-value problem that fails to place a consideration of the mindscape as programmatic at the center of its analysis simply misses the point.

The problem of ideology can thus be seen as a constant danger and a likely result of any thinking that is not self-consciously critical of its origins, sustaining mindscape, and transcending purposes. Thought may become ideological out of conscious intent or out of neglect. And it may become ideological in spite of itself. It is clearly verging on ideology whenever it subordinates the possibilities for "truth" emerging from an open dialogue with "the Real" to the fixed requirements of pre-established and unquestioned mindscapes, purposes, or interests. And it plays directly into the hands of socially vested interests, becoming ideology in spite of itself, whenever it uncritically adopts the conventionally accepted ways of defining and investigating a range of problems, working uncritically with the conceptual tools at hand within the contours of the prevailing mindscape. Herein lies the crucial challenge that the problem of ideology poses for all who aspire toward "truth" in the service of human well-being. It may be summed up in the demand that philosophy be ever open to the novel and consciously self-critical. Philosophical reflection as we understand it, must be a response precisely to this continual challenge. It must be the expression of the demand for honest, self-critical evaluation of interests, purposes, and biases, in the context of a reflective appreciation of thought's experiential location and practical consequence. it must be an attempt to continually marry the necessities of presently available means, both conceptual and practical, to the ideal demands of human well-being. it must, in short, become a thinking which is both a. critical and self-critical social practice, and a practice which is an imaginatively reconstructive social vision.

Thinking may, of course, attain self-consciousness about the limitations of its theoretical perspective and yet choose to serve certain vested interests. While it wouldn't be "science," it would not dissimulate its function and could not truly be called ideological. On the other hand, the aspiration toward "truth" does not guarantee its achievement. It would hardly be fair simply to label as ideological an honest, self-critical attempt to come to terms with "the Real." And yet such attempts may -- and usually do -- prove to be inadequate, at least in part because of the essentially interested and perspectival nature of inquiry. Such thinking would probably qualify as a legitimate contribution to the development of human knowing. It might still be helpful to certain interests as opposed to others -- and it is hard to think of any theory that would not favor certain interests over others; however, it would remain open to critical scrutiny and transformation in the light of the evidence that a dialogue with "the Real" might unearth. Falsehood, or theoretical inadequacy, is an essential moment in the process of genuine inquiry. It is not to be despised, nor to be pejoratively identified with the ideological perversion.

4. Some Examples of Philosophical Ideologies

It would seem appropriate to offer a few examples in order to concretize further the preceding general observations. No attempt is being made here to present an exhaustive analysis. We only wish to suggest the outlines of the critique of traditional philosophy towards which these observations lead. Let us first look more closely at some of the examples of ideology to which we have already referred, namely Oxbridge analysis and Soviet Marxism, before widening our critical net.

While both are scholastic in method, their dogmatic content could hardly be more diverse. The former generally limits itself to a descriptive analysis of the "logic in use" of the average, usually English-speaking person. Its avowed aim is to clarify the historically developed meanings of concepts that play a significant role in philosophical debates. it explicitly eschews the "grand design" of philosophy: It does not claim to offer substantive positions on: the nature of The REAL, The TRUE, The GOOD, and The BEAUTIFUL. Soviet Marxism, on the other hand, claims to be a total and definitive "Science." It purports to be a Logic, Ontology, Ethics, Aesthetics, and Politics; in short a total guide to human living. While Soviet Marxism is thus explicitly didactic, Oxbridge analysis hides its substantive dogmatism under the quasi-descriptive cover of a simple clarification of meanings in use. It thus may be classed within the wider category of supposed value-neutral modes of inquiry -- the hidden ideological function of which must now be laid bare. After a brief consideration of this matter, we will move to a more general treatment of Didactic philosophizing, before offering some remarks on the very different question of the hidden ideological dimension of much of "classical" philosophy. I will then conclude with some further observations concerning the nature and function of the philosophic profession.

a. "Value-Neutral" Philosophy 1: Oxbridge Analysis Again

The quasi-descriptive position maintained by Oxbridge analysis rests upon the claim that it is possible simply to describe reality -- and then to conceptually organize the material described -- without taking a position which commits one to any specific set of values or practical policies. Thus the position would be value-neutral, even if it took the descriptive investigation of values as its subject matter, and could not legitimately serve as an ideological defense of vested interests. The only position to which Oxbridge philosophers would be committed at least implicitly would concern the value of such a reflective clarification of the "logic in use" of a linguistic community.  A. J. Ayer, for example, insists upon maintaining the distinction between a "moral philosopher" and a "moralist." While the latter expresses moral preferences and explicitly tries to change peoples' values, beliefs, and behaviors, the "moral philosopher" refrains from such "unscientific" intrusions into another's personal sphere. As a "moral philosopher" he takes no partisan stance; he only seeks descriptively to reveal the manner in which moral concepts function -- their logic in use, their "real" meanings -- in order to clear up the confusions that have entered into theoretical (i.e., philosophical) debate resulting from their misuse. Such philosophy is a kind of conceptual therapy: once the malady is cleared up, thinking can return unimpeded to its correct, practical application in the furtherance of the affairs of daily living. The "moral philosopher" is thus also a pure technician: he clarifies the conceptual tools which moralists, propagandists (who thus do not theoretically differ from moralists, except that they tend to conceal their aims), and ordinary people employ when they make moral judgments, expressing preferences and seeking to change the thought and behavior of others.

Apart from the obvious, though often neglected, point that this activity of conceptual clarification is not itself a self-evident good, and that its value stands in need of a philosophical defense (which we have already in part tried to offer), the claim to moral neutrality rests essentially upon the logically prior claim of the possibility of a definitive separation between description and prescription. This distinction is, in turn, very closely related to one between form (or structure) and content. While we deny the philosophical adequacy of both of these distinctions, as our arguments in Chapters II, IV, and V should make quite clear, we wish briefly to address ourselves here to some of the hidden ideological dimensions of this position.

To seek simply to describe the logic implicit in any mode of thinking is usually to accord primary significance and implicit moral force to that mode of thinking itself. J. L. Austin has even made this position explicit by claiming that ordinary language has developed through time all of the conceptual tools which the linguistic community has found it necessary to have. It is not, therefore, the legitimate task of "philosophers" to criticize that community's conceptual tools. Even more, since the philosopher has available for his work only those same conceptual tools, it is probably not even possible to engage meaningfully in such criticism. Rather, most of the philosophic problems with which we are confronted are the result of the philosophical misuse of concepts, the result perhaps of using them in contexts and for purposes for which they were not designed. The task of philosophers today is rather simply that of conceptual clarification in order to clear up these unnecessary confusions that are currently impeding the functioning of the linguistic community. All that is needed for the English-speaking community, for example, is to return to that conceptual wisdom which has found its ultimate reference point in the Oxford English Dictionary.

It does not seem to be realized by such "philosophers" that you cannot separate the thinking that people do in the service of their practical activity from the thinking they do about that activity. The purpose of the latter is to explain and justify the former. It is essentially philosophical in nature, and is an indispensable dimension of human living. The ancient Christians understood this well when they said that man does not live by bread alone. The human being is the philosophical animal: he lives by meaning, and he must be nourished by a deep sense of the significance of his activity. It is thus ridiculous to suppose that philosophy is a kind of cultural malady from which a person must be cured by conceptual therapy.

Furthermore, and even more concretely, the Oxbridge analysts fail to appreciate adequately that a living culture is not a harmonious organization of people, interests, and values, and that differing degrees of power attach to different clusters of group interests.  Is it possible to think that the more powerful groups or individuals have not had a relatively greater role in determining, not only the institutional structure of a society, but also the ways in which that structure gets explained and justified? In short, is it not logical to expect that the prevailing language will embody those modes of thinking, employing those conceptual tools, which these powerful interests have found most useful in the furtherance of their goals? When an English dictionary "presents" the meaning of the word "industry" by noting that it is an organized activity employing "large amounts of capital and labor," is this a value-neutral description of the meaning of the term? -- or is it rather an expression of the dominant power relationships of capitalist society which have become embedded in popular usage? Or consider the "trivial" fact that it is practically impossible in English to make an impersonal third person reference without implicitly reasserting the historic male domination of western society. Must "chairmen" always be male? Cannot a woman be a "craftsman"? And what of the covert racism expressed in the phrase "flesh color"? Yet such a critical attitude toward the "language in use" in a culture seems to be ruled out in advance by their procedure. These reservations do not even enter into their mindscape as worthy of serious consideration. There is no critical standpoint from within their perspective out of which such questions can emerge. He who raises them is no longer a "moral philosopher," but a moralist who is taking a partisan position. Meanwhile the prevailing structures of power proceed upon their "merry" way, freed from the possibility of a demystifying critique.

The organic body of philosophic reflection has thus suffered the amputation of its crucial critical arm; or better, its analytical hands have been severed from its imaginative and speculative mind; it has lost its head. A methodology has, a priori and by fiat, denied to philosophy the possibility of serving any culturally radical critical function. What we are left with is an often highly technical thinking, fundamentally devoid of critical significance in which the "analysis" of conceptual tools is severed from the evaluation of the mindscapes in which they are rooted and the purposes which they serve. The "beauty" of this mode of thinking from the point of view of the established structure of power is that once you enter into its mindscape -- once you formulate your problems in accord with its assumptions and procedures -- you cannot legitimately even raise such critical questions. In fact, they would probably not even occur to you. The ideological significance of this mode of "philosophizing" should thus be patently evident.

b. Value-Neutral Philosophy II: Positivism and Scientism

Oxbridge analysis is only one contemporary version of the class of so-called value-neutral modes of inquiry. Logical Positivism, and its empirical compliment "Scientism," are others. By "Scientism," as opposed to science as the generalized method of intelligence, is here meant that dogmatism of method behind which inevitably lurk hidden substantive doctrines concerning the nature of "the Real." Like linguistic analysis, both Positivism and "Scientism" rest upon the purported separability of description from prescription, in short, of fact from value. And like the Oxbridge thinkers, proponents of Positivism and Scientism tend toward quasi-deification of the substantive concerns into which their "impartial" investigations are directed, namely natural science (and especially physics). Positivists in particular have argued for a complete logical separation of the "context of genesis" of scientific theories (including the social, political, and moral forces which shaped the mindscapes from which those theories emerged) from the "context of justification" in terms of which the truth of the theories is judged. They have often sought the construction of an ideal, ahistorical logic by which scientific "truth" could be definitively evaluated.

Implicit in this view is the rejection of any claim as to the triadic nature of truth, involving as that does its essential rooting in the historical process. Having supposedly separated scientific theories from their roots in historically generated mindscapes, these philosophers felt they could claim for their "pure" logical analyses of the pre-conditions for the assertion of truth-claims an objective status unsullied by the personal biases and moral conflicts by which previous philosophies had been burdened. The institutional consequence of this position was in part to place the professional Positivists as well as their complementary "pure" scientists in a politically impregnable position. As the guardians of objective "truth," unsullied by the partisan conflicts of practical living, they could claim to be the servants of "truth" and thus beyond the fray. It was a betrayal of self-evident liberal cannons to seek to abridge their freedom of inquiry; and it was a violation of "science" to subject that inquiry to partisan political criticism. In fact, the results of their studies, not to speak of the methods they employed, did serve to buttress the position of the reigning techno-bureaucratic establishment wedded to the principles of private property. Of course, it might be argued that was an accidental result of scientific investigations. Or it might be claimed by establishment interests, as it inevitably was, that this fact simply proved the correctness of established policies and structures. In any case, the claimed separability of ethics and politics from science buttressed the techno-bureaucracy's claim to be the impartial, scientific administrators of the public's welfare. It further reduced ethical concerns to matters of personal subjective preference, thus cutting the theoretical ground from under those who might wish to subject the prevailing institutions to a radical critique. In addition, this position implicitly incorporated the prevailing liberal doctrine of the individual, to which it joined a conception of scientific development that was little more than a disguised legitimation of the liberal faith. Their commitment to enlightenment notions of the inevitability of progress in human well-being consequent upon the application of modern science to industry was hardly even argued. Committed to a linear notion of progress, no significant place was available for the notion of "scientific revolutions," emerging as they inevitably do from fundamental conflicts in world-views. In short, the metaphysical presuppositions of scientific inquiry were denied. "Logic without ontology" became an accepted slogan. Thus the liberal-capitalist social order, rooted in individualist self-seeking within the market place of ideas and commodities, as it advanced to the stage of techno-bureaucratic organization, found its perfect theoretical counterpart in a technically sophisticated scientism legitimated by positivist philosophy. And all in the name of a value-neutral, objective inquiry into the Real.

As with Linguistic Analysis, so with Positivism and Scientism, philosophy was denied the possibility of serving any socially critical function. A highly technical job was to be done: the critical evaluation of the conceptual tools at work within a culture. But this task was severed from having any but an indirect bearing upon the moral, political, social, and cultural processes of civilization. The purposes and values, the institutions and practices, of the civilization were in principle outside the scope of critical inquiry. By its very nature, and in accord with its most fundamental assumptions, that inquiry could never lead to a critical consideration of social practices and prevailing mindscapes. While the methodological claims rendered philosophy politically neutral, the substantive but hidden metaphysics subtly incorporated establishment prejudices into the core of the inquirers' doctrine. Thus a methodological defense of the separation of fact from value, of tools from purposes, of means from ends, was joined to an implicit defense of the Status Quo. Such philosophy clearly served a triple role for the prevailing interests. First, it pre-empted the profession, making it both theoretically and practically impossible for socially critical philosophy to get a fair hearing. Second, it assisted in the critical evaluation of the conceptual tools by which the Establishment maintained and advanced its dominant position without questioning their implied mindscape or the purposes that they served. And third, it provided an ideological defense of itself and implicitly of that Establishment.

It is important, nevertheless, to underscore the point that the critical evaluation of conceptual tools is an essential philosophic function. It has been one of the central purposes of Chapter Two to clarify and develop this idea. Oxbridge Analysts and Logical Positivists have made some significant contributions to the development of philosophy in this area. Their efforts have been vitiated, however, by their failure to ground such analyses in a conception of the triadic nature of inquiry, as previously discussed, as well as by their related failure to adequately appreciate the historically developed cultural and personal mindscapes in which their efforts must be rooted. Only within such contexts, however, can philosophy serve its basic task of seeking "truth" in the service of human well-being. By sundering their critical inquiry from such wider cultural processes, and thus from the social interests and purposes they inevitably serve, Analysis and Positivism make crucial philosophical errors, that leave them prey to the "metaphysical" assumptions from which thinkers cannot be freed. Their ideological function follows directly from the separation of "technical reflection" upon means from "philosophical reflection," which dialectically links means and ends. This separation is the basis of much of the ideological thinking that goes under the name of contemporary philosophy.

C. Didactic Philosophy

The complementarity of Positivism and Scientism to which I have referred, carries with it a tale that goes deeper, taking us to the cultural roots of such reflection. The attempt to definitively separate structure from content, methods from substantial theories, logic from ontology, must always fail. What happens, in rather standard dialectical fashion, is that by paying explicit attention solely to one side of the lived totality of inquiry, the position turns into its opposite. It is not surprising that Logical Positivism subtly turns into that deification of natural science that is the substance of "Scientism." Nor should it be surprising that such Scientism does not differ significantly from Dialectical Materialism, when the latter is purged of its atrophied Marxist terminological shell, For the latter doctrine also has its cultural roots in the late nineteenth century idolization of scientific materialism, which Engels unwittingly did so much to further by casting off the dialectical insights of "critical" Marxism. Having destroyed the integrating perspective offered by a culturally-rooted but open-ended dialectical methodology, Marxism was reduced to the deification of that natural science to whose results it wished to lay claim. It simply sought, quite unsuccessfully, to place those results within the conceptual frame of a now ossified body of doctrine. The result was a most blatant and unappealing philosophical scholasticism. It thus becomes even more clear how Dialectical Materialism and value-neutral theories like Oxbridge Analysis can be brought together under the same classification. They both suffer from that central philosophical malady which is the separation of theory from practice. It is the reflective separation of methods from content, which emerges out of the denial of the dialectical totality that is lived inquiry, which gives birth to those bastard philosophical children, "value-neutral" theories and didactic partisanship.

Thinking which fails to recognize the dialectically developing totality that is living inquiry has long plagued western philosophical speculation. Among its clearest expressions may be listed Medieval Scholasticism and its present day remnants, Dialectical Materialism, Positivism, and Scientism. Such modes of thinking usually seek to ground themselves in substantive claims of privileged access to self-evident or revealed truths. Demonstration has usually taken precedence over response to novelty. While Scientism seems to constitute an exception to this rule, its apparent methodological openness is subtly compromised in advance by a fixed mindscape that substantially predetermines the shape in terms of which the novel may legitimately appear. It further delimits the scope of the possible significance of the novel by the a priori assertion of its value-neutrality, thus buttressing its metaphysical position without appearing to have one.

The points to which I would like to draw attention here, however, concern the nature of the ideological function, its interpersonal consequences, and the social roots of such didactic theorizing. It tends to be the most adequate cover for the theoretical legitimation of an entrenched power structure. The hierarchical structure of such an establishment is mirrored in the hierarchical and elitist access to the correctness of didactic basic "truths." Neither entrenched power structures nor didactic thinking are equipped to recognize, not to say, deal with, emerging novelties in experience. The cleverest expression of such entrenched power structures in the modern world tends to be the bureaucracy. Karl Marx clearly grasped the relation between scholastic modes of thinking and bureaucratic organization when he observed that:

Bureaucracy is a circle from which no one can escape. Its hierarchy is a hierarchy of knowledge. The apex entrusts the low echelons with insight into the individual while the lower echelon leaves insight into the universal to the apex.... (McClellan, pp. 72-3)

It is important to underscore this essential linkage that Marx sees existing between bureaucratic organization and functioning and the structure of "knowing" that is appropriate to it. There are two different but closely related dimensions of knowing that are involved here. There is the practical, day-to-day knowing that is essential to the functioning of the bureaucracy. And there is the general theorizing that in part legitimates the work of the bureaucracy. Marx suggests the latter, and the structural principles in terms of which it is guided, while laying emphasis upon the former. But their essential interconnection should be clear, especially in view of our insistence upon the dialectic unity of inquiry.

While the substantial dogmatic content of this legitimating knowledge tends to be a historical variable, depending on such factors as historical traditions, religious beliefs, and level of technological development, the structure of this thinking tends to have greater constancy. In fact, our claim is that it tends to mirror the needs of the bureaucratic system. (It no doubt shapes that system to some extent, too. This is precisely the reason for the partial uniqueness of the scientistic mode of dogmatic thinking. ) The needs of the bureau tend toward the "scholastic" codification of the "prevailing wisdom." "Truth" becomes an elite "possession" of the higher echelons. The novel ‑‑ always a potential threat to the established structure of power and its conception of truth ‑‑ is either squeezed into the predetermined conceptual frame or disregarded. And the mass of individuals are practically treated and theoretically "explained" as passive and obedient followers. They are to be administered, but are not allowed to have original contribution to the determination of theory or practice. A class distinction is always drawn within this closed bureaucratic‑didactic world between the elite knowers and the mass, between the leaders and the followers, between the initiates and the many. Scientism hardly differs here from more "classical modes of scholastic thinking. The "experts" tend to lay claim to an esoteric discipline, to sophisticated techniques and methods, and to a technical language, which ground their privileged access to the "Truth." A fine present example of such "science" is "Philosophy" of Behaviorism according to B. F. Skinner. The theoretical defense of the privileged access of the Experts to the "Truth," dogmatically grounded in a schematically rigidified conception of scientific methodology, results in a hardly veiled defense of the Power of the Established Authorities to go beyond the moral constraints imposed by respect for the "freedom and dignity" of the masses as they seek to manage their power. In short, the Skinnerian experts become the Controllers (or at least their self‑appointed theorists), and the mass of people are those "to be controlled." Of course, this theory is presented as value‑neutral pure science.

In a more speculative vein, we might suggest that scholastic thinking provides the perfect vehicle for the ideological defense of bureaucracy to the extent that both seem to reveal a distrust of the future. Both try to manage the novel, whether in the form of events or people, by insisting that it find its place within the framework of pre‑established procedures and beliefs. To the bureaucratic "management" of diverse people and experiences, scholasticism offers a method that seeks to locate deductively the new within the horizon of the prevailing mindscape. Neither Scholasticism nor bureaucracy is prepared or able to confront the novel on its own terms ‑‑ to engage it dialogically with a view to achieving an intelligent reordering of existing beliefs and practices. Both seek to manage the novel because they cannot, perhaps fear to, speak to and with it. Hence their theoretical retreat into assured grounds of belief, dogmatically entertained and continually reasserted, in support of which they inevitably lay claim to a privileged access to "The Truth" for their authorities, whether "specialists," "elites," or historical fore‑fathers. (It may well be, as some have suggested, that the psychic base of both bureaucracy and scholasticism lies in the "authoritarian" character‑structure.) In point of fact, while these modes of activity need not in principle rule out socially progressive positions with respect to matters of value, they tend conceptually to frame their transactions with the world in such a way as to make such options less defensible, if not actually "inappropriate." A further quite significant consequence of this procedural rooting in a privileged access to "The Truth" of their basic assumptions is that no available procedure remains for the dialogic encounter of diverse positions. A dialogue over first principles or fundamental mindscapes is ruled out in advance. Hence the interpersonal consequences of this inability intelligently to confront the novel can only be warfare, whether explicit or not, and a struggle for domination. To this question of the centrality of dialogue in matters philosophical I will return later.

d. Some Remarks on "the Classics."

All classical philosophy, it may be argued, contained a prescriptive or programmatic thrust, that is, it defended values and proposed ways of living. Sometimes this was explicit, often it remained latent. It is important to recognize this pervasive characteristic of philosophical reflection, which often lies hidden behind the articulated purpose of an impartial investigation into the Real. It certainly has not been my intention to seek to discredit this programmatic character of philosophy. As I draw out the positive conclusions of this study later on I will attempt to make quite clear some of the programmatic dimensions that I believe philosophy ought explicitly to take. It is only when the prescriptive is hidden within the confines of an unanalyzed metaphysics that genuine philosophical reflection is in danger of being made to serve alien ideological functions.

As my discussion of the problem of ideology has made clear, it is not possible objectively to draw a hard and fast line between the search for "truth" and ideology. On the personal side, this is of course not the case. There is a simple line to be drawn between one whose conscious intent is to achieve the most adequate theoretical mapping of the domain of the Real, and one whose aim is the manipulation of inquiry in the service of some fixed, prior interest, even though the latter will usually to keep his purpose hidden in order to increase the impact of his claims. But given equal sincerity in the search for truth, and abstracting from the psychodynamic question of "self‑deception" or "rationaIization," the objective philosophical problem of ideology would seem to come down finally to the question of the extent to which the inquiry in question remained open to critical and self‑critical interrogation of its assumptions and procedures ‑­of its essential mindscape ‑‑ as well as to its social location and to the consequences of its positions. Crucially in question here is the willingness to enter into dialogue with critical confrontations to its positions arising out of encounters with adherents of divergent views, as well as the continual openness to novelties in experience.

Still further, and most crucially here when "classical philosophy" is in question, the satisfaction of these procedural constraints does not obviate the need for succeeding generations to use their historical vantage point as a new perspective from which to subject the most advanced levels of philosophical inquiry to sustained critical analysis. Such analysis may reveal prejudices of past ages, which may have limited those inquiries in ways unsuspected, perhaps biasing them in the service of certain restricted social or class interests. It should be clear, therefore, that each generation must continually recreate its own philosophy in the light of the new perspectives that are ever emerging out of the movement of experience. Let me briefly concretize these remarks.

It has become clear now, even if it could not have been so then, the extent to which the political theory of John Locke is a sustained argument in support of the unlimited accumulation of private property and money. His philosophy clearly served the interests of the rising commercial bourgeoisie and, in fact, constituted a legitimation of its activities. The arguments of Leo Strauss in Natural Right and History, of C. B. MacPherson in Possessive Individualism, and of Peter Manicas in The Death of the State, for example, seem to me to place this matter beyond serious dispute. (The extent to which Locke may have course been clear himself about this thrust -- and thus insincere or deceptive in his avowed goals, in short, the question of his "intent" -- is a more complicated question into which I need not enter here.) At a more profound level still, much of the explicit epistemology and metaphysics of the other thinkers of the scientific revolution and of the Enlightenment, e.g., Hobbes, Descartes, Hume and Kant, as well as Locke, constitute a sustained argument in favor, and an implicit defense, of bourgeois individualism, private property, and the "free" market. The general doctrine of the natural egoism of human nature can now, I think not unfairly, be read as a general reflection and defense of the emerging individualism of bourgeois society.

In a similar way, a sophisticated historical analysis of the thought of Aristotle would reveal the extent to which his ethical, political, and metaphysical doctrines represented and implicitly defended the class structure of ancient Athens. John Dewey has brilliantly suggested the dimensions of such an analysis in Experience and Nature (cf., Chapters II and III). One need only consider Aristotle's distinction between manual and theoretical labor, and his claim that the former degraded its practitioners, leaving them unfit for the "higher" tasks of citizenship. This distinction found ultimate expression in his conception of the "good life": the life of contemplation beyond the sphere of practical activity. Here the defense of the privileged position of a class of citizens subtly became a defense of the special position of "pure theorists" such as Aristotle himself.

In point of fact, much of the historical tradition of philosophy is infected by such leisure class bias in which the separation of theory from practice condemns the mass of humanity, at least philosophically, to second‑class citizenship. The Marxian and Deweyian demand for the dialogic unity of theory and practice to which the present work adheres therefore constitutes an implicit critique of much of the entire tradition of western philosophy. It is a call for a new kind of philosophizing that will not be the private preserve of a leisure class. It is further a call for a philosophical thinking which will not constitute a legitimation of any exploitive class structure in which a privileged elite uses philosophy to buttress its position.

It surely would, of course, do a great injustice to much of past philosophy in general, and to Aristotle in particular, to call his brilliant philosophical achievements ideological. In the light of the sociological and philosophical insights offered by the likes of Hegel, Marx, Heidegger, and Dewey, however, it would not be so unjust to say that any contemporary philosophy worthy of its name must not fail to deal explicitly with the unity of inquiry. It must also be consciously self‑critical of the class biases that have been built into the tradition that Aristotle furthered. Any failure in these matters today, which served to further such historically outgrown perspectives, would be legitimately subject to castigation as ideological in nature ‑­however much such theorists might seek to hide their biases on this score.

5. Philosophy and Class Interest

Recognition that philosophy is a historically and culturally conditioned activity makes it incumbent upon philosophers to pay explicit attention to that inescapable dimension of their activity. Philosophers are not, and cannot be, outside of history, whatever be their secret longings. They are participants in a cultural drama that encompasses and goes beyond them. "Thinking is a partial act," said Emerson, "living is the total act." Thought is itself but a moment, however central, in the processes of individual and cultural living. The philosopher, in short, is "engage" even in spite of himself. His thought emerges out of, and functions in relation to, a mindscape that has deep roots in the processes of culture. Further, that thought, as a moment in those cultural processes, functions within a historically developing totality that always encompasses it. A philosophy that claims to encompass that process makes an empirical claim that deny our present personal and cultural needs for the special functions of the profession philosophy. Given the division of labor and specialization of function inherent in complex modern societies, such a profession of specialists has essential cultural tasks. It can secure the substantive achievements and the developed modes of thought of the philosophical tradition. It may provide an institutional location in which such activity may be continued and from which basis such culturally developed resources may be made available to the wider community in the hope that daily life will become increasingly infused with philosophic insight. The profession may thus become an institutionally defensible bastion for the nurturing of critical reflection and the projection of imaginative possibilities. It is, of course, incumbent upon the profession to get its own house in order: to clarify its role and to determine its priorities. (A profession that reduces itself solely to the study of the problems of philosophers while failing to deal with the "problems of men” -- and women -- is one which is clearly denying to itself this legitimating rationale.)

A dialogue is thus called for between the activity of philosophic professionals and the wider cultural drama in which they are immersed. A call for the abolition of the profession of philosophy can make sense only within the context of the abolition of a society that needs professions. Consideration of the nature and possible existence of such a society -- one which goes beyond the limitations not only of class society, but also beyond the division of labor – is the history of human experience seems to negate. Such claims seem to function historically either as expressions of personal egoism or as defenses for special interests. In either case, they either fail to respect, or seek to deny, that essentially open dialectic of inquiry in which theory and practice find their unitary development. This work seeks to be a contribution to the criticism of such efforts. In the light of these observations, some concluding remarks on the status of the profession of philosophy seem now in order.


I have distinguished between the activity of philosophy and the profession of philosophy. I sought to apply my conception of "philosophical reflection" to the tasks that lay before the philosophic profession. At the same time, I recognized, and in fact insisted, that the activity of philosophy is not and must not be thought to be the private preserve of any group of professionals. It ought rather to be an essential element in the practical life of all mature adults. The claim here might be phrased as “every person a philosopher," that is, a practical-critical thinker: one whose being is an intelligently self‑critical doing.

To make such a claim, however, and to insist even more that philosophical reflection is an essential ingredient in "the good life," is not to deny our present personal and cultural needs for the special functions of the profession philosophy. Given the division of labor and specialization of function inherent in complex modern societies, such a profession of specialists has essential cultural tasks. It can secure the substantive achievements and the developed modes of thought of the philosophical tradition. It may provide an institutional location in which such activity may be continued and from which basis such culturally developed resources may be made available to the wider community in the hope that daily life will become increasingly infused with philosophic insight. The profession may thus become an institutionally defensible bastion for the nurturing of critical reflection and the projection of imaginative possibilities. It is, of course, incumbent upon the profession to get its own house in order: to clarify its role and to determine its priorities. (A profession that reduces itself solely to the study of the problems of philosophers while failing to deal with the "problems of men” -- and women -- is one which is clearly denying to itself this legitimating rationale.) 

A dialogue is thus called for between the activity of philosophic professionals and the wider cultural drama in which they are immersed. A call for the abolition of the profession of philosophy can make sense only within the context of the abolition of a society that needs professions. Consideration of the nature and possible existence of such a society -- one which goes beyond the limitations not only of class society, but also beyond the division of labor – is clearly beyond the scope of this inquiry. The practical task that lies before philosophy at present concerns rather the reconceptualization of the activity of philosophy, and the consequent reconstruction of the philosophic profession. It is to those ends that this work is committed. In the remaining chapters I will try further to develop this conception of philosophy in order to suggest the directions that such a reconstruction ought to take. A more detailed consideration of the relationship that exists between philosophical reflection and the cultural and personal mindscapes which condition it is thus called for; and to that I now turn.