Thursday, April 17, 2003

I gave a talk at harvard the other day at a conference on terrorism (specifically, that of the Red Army Faction - they didn't call themselves "terrorists" of course, though, as one participant asserted, "the society saw them that way." - now why would that be?). I talked about consciousness. Any organism that uses a mental picture to interact with and manipulate the world would require that this mental picture have two characteristics: it must be relatively stable, otherwise action over time and remembering where you left your food would become difficult, and it must be essentially fluid, otherwise it would be incapable of adapting to the shifting form of reality itself. Fundamentalism is rooted in the stable aspect of consciousness, and liberalism, understood as a relativistic formalism, is rooted in the other. Come to think of it, liberalism combines both aspects, in the formalism of law's rule, and in the tolerance and freedom of thought that it encourages and protects. Truth, I claimed, resided in the fluid adaptability of consciousness, in the movement from one stable state to another, and not in any particular stable state that consciousness adopts in order to negotiate a particular configuration of the real. Pedagogy should encourage this transversal movement, should teach it as the form of truth, rather than teach a specific or particular proposition. In doing so, pedagogy fulfills the Enlightenment's vision of a free humanity, a humanity made free by the truth. This is, however, the devil's pedagogy - for the devil, in the gnostic schema, frees humans by revealing to them the truth of this world's imprisoning deception. The devil, who only exists for fundamentalists after all, is not evil because he does bad things, but because he is a relativist, and thus attacks fundamentalism at an ontological level, at its foundation, just as the chaotic flux of reality itself does.