- Posted April 19, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
First Person: Your essays
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Marx Contra Zizek: On the Question of the Question and the Necessity of Acting on those Questions Part I
I refer to Professor Zizek’s video, Think Big, “The Purpose of Philosophy is to Ask the Right Questions”, May 28, 2013.
Here’s what the unphilosophical megalomaniac has stated on the opening salvo of his discourse:
“I’m not saying -- I’m not a philosophical megalomaniac -- that philosophy can provide answers, but it can do something which maybe is even more important, you know? As important as providing answers and a condition for it, maybe even the condition, is to ask the right question.”
Though I agree to a certain extent to the contention of the said professor that philosophy can provide all the answers, yet promptly I would like to ask: if it cannot, then what can provide us?
Here the professor’s reply is illustrative:
You see, this would be one example, not to mention ecology. Now, ecology may be the ruin of us all -- it’s a terrible crisis, but the way we formulate it, either as a pure technological problem or in this New Age way – we, humanity, are too arrogant, we are raping the mother earth, whatever, it’s already the way we perceive the question that mystifies the problem. Here philosophy enters correcting the question, enabling us to ask the right question.
Further, the professor stated that:
There are not only wrong answers. There are also wrong questions. There are questions which deal with a certain real problem but the way they are formulated they effectively obfuscate, mystify, confuse the problem. For example, my eternal example, we have to fight of course today sexism, racism and so on. But did you notice how almost automatically we tend to translate issues of sexism, racism or ethnic violence, whatever, into the terms of tolerance? This, for me, doesn't go by itself. This presupposes already a certain horizon where you naturalize the order. We have different cultures. What can we do? We can only tolerate each other. And to give you a proof how this is not self-evident: download speeches by Martin Luther King and put on search words precisely like tolerance and so on. . . . Never, he never uses them. For him -- and he was right -- it would have been an obscenity to say white people should learn to tolerate us more, or whatever.
If philosophy cannot provide all the answers and its only purpose is for people engage in philosophy or in philosophizing is/are merely to ask the correct questions or to pose the right query, then what kind of purpose or use is that?
I can detect a certain degree of contradiction to the contention of the said professor. To restate: if philosophy cannot provide all the answers and its purpose is only to reduce those people engage in philosophy to ask the right questions, then how the hell those ‘philosophers’ arrive at the right questions if they did not subjected themselves to a vigorous philosophical reflections and rigid mental exercises?
What intellectual method or ideological vehicle did those philosopher’s use to arrive at the correct questions?
In saying that philosophy cannot provide all the answers, is that not a philosophical assertion in itself? In saying what he said, did he not engage in a philosophical exercise himself before he reached that position?
On the Question of the Question
Assuming arguendo that the only role or purpose of philosophy is to ask the right question, then, after asking and posing and raising those correct questions that affect mankind and humanity: what’s next?
After we demystify, settled the obfuscation and cleared the confusion with regard to the colossal problem and burden of humanity, then what’s next?
After we cleared all the mental rubbishes that darkens our minds and perception, after we destroyed the walls that separates us from each other and after we hurdles all our barriers of our conditions, then what’s next?
What is to be done?
It is my firm and considered view that simply to raise the correct questions is not enough for a true philosopher.
Asking the right questions in my view is merely to be on the level of theory. That theory no matter how correct or even perfect is nothing without subjecting it to the furnace of practice.
Example, to ask that (I believe it is a correct question) question: “What is the best form of universal human solidarity?”
In my view that question is lifeless without acting on that question by practicing it on actual life and circumstances.
Theory and practice are inseparable. The former without the latter is dead!
Theory without acting on it is a mere academic enterprise. It has no social or human value whatsoever, except perhaps on the four corners of the bloody classroom.
Consider Lenin’s mindset in narrating a conversation he had with a comrade during the Second Congress (1903) of the Russian Social- Democratic Labor Party:
I cannot help recalling in this connection a conversation I happened to have at the Congress with one of the “Centre” delegates. “How oppressive the atmosphere is at our Congress!” he complained.
“This bitter fighting, this agitation one against the other, this biting controversy, this uncomradely attitude! . . .”
“What a splendid thing our Congress is!”
I replied. “A free and open struggle. Opinions have been stated. The shades have been revealed. The groups have taken shape. Hands have been raised. A decision has been taken. A stage has been passed. Forward! That’s the stuff for me! That’s life! That’s not like the endless, tedious word-chopping of your intellectuals, which stops not because the question has been settled, but because they are too tired to talk anymore....” (One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (THE CRISIS IN OUR PARTY), 1904)
Marx on the Question of Practice/Activity/Action/Struggle
To Marx, the word struggle occupied almost a central aspect --- both in his philosophy and in his personal life. In general, the principle refers to the activist element in the Marxian practice motivating Marx and his disciples.
The specific facet of the principles refers to Marx’s philosophy --- the principle of activity being that concept, which underlies the entire system. Marx, that is, not only theorizes about activity but also illustrates his theory in (his) life. Marx’s own life was also a great struggle!
Hence, we find the principle of activity, action and struggle both in his writing and in his doings.
Marx most often used the words Action, Tatigkeit or Praxis to refer to the principle of activity, of action and relentless struggle. No major philosopher has fully dealt with the concept of action and practice as Marx did.
Norman Livergood (1967) stated that:
With Marx philosophy descended from the cloudy towers of mere speculation to the arena of practice. Certainly Hegel’s transformation of traditional logic marked the first step in the direction of unifying theory and practice since it protested against the divorce of truth reality. But Marx’s system represents the full development of philosophy as practical.
Marx develops this idea of philosophy as practical as early as his Doctoral; Dissertation, The Difference Between Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature. This led G. Voegelin (1950) to state that:
The dissertation shows Marx dissatisfied with the semi-action of the contemporary intellectuals. He demands a transition from speculative philosophy o a “radical” critique, which can be no less than an embodiment of the idea in reality through revolutionary action.