Anti-philosophical metaphysics

by CT on November 7, 2014

If you stand in any gathering in the public or private, business or institutional world, and try to make a philosophical point, you will be in a minority. Most of the time a "minority of one" as the saying goes.  Managers and  bureaucrats surrounding you will either excuse themselves or simply ignore your point saying that they are “simple” and “pragmatic” people and will refuse to discuss anything philosophical.

The most you will be able to get as a concession is that they agree that there is something like a philosophy, a “vision” somewhere “above” or beyond their immediate activities. The more daring will perhaps "value" the need for a philosophy, even if it never takes any place in the agenda.

More frequently, tragically, philosophy will be mocked, laughed at or simply rejected as a "thing of the past" if not a sad or pedantic endeavour.

Interestingly, a similar behaviour can be found in relation to modern history and politics. Here we will find even more reactive moves, hushed tones, impatience and clearly automatic refusal to discuss anything.

What these phenomena show is that the corporate world is marked simultaneously by the excision of philosophy, history and politics in a reactive, automatic, preemptive way.

One characteristic of current professional practices, especially in the more technology-centred areas, is that all our work, all our interactions occur in a void, where entire areas of human knowledge do not exist or are reduced in extreme manner. We operate in a context that has been emptied of philosophy, history and political rationality.  In this world, what is given-as-a-fact of consensual understanding is sufficient and does not leave room for other forms of rationality.

Speaking of the Technology and Computer-centred professions, I am not surprised anymore that one of the best ways to make a text invisible to the practitioners and experts is to label it as “philosophy.”  This proves the idea that even a basic form of cultural focus can represent an effective way of information hiding.

Exceptionally, when it becomes possible to engage people in a philosophical or historical discussion, those with sufficient experience and insight will end up acknowledging that there are metaphysical and scientific presuppositions at the base of everything we do and say. These presuppositions may be known or not, but they exist anyway.

Wise people will also recognise that the greatest dangers to our thinking come from unexamined presuppositions. effectively from our era’s ideological roots. There are ideologies also in our professional work and this cannot be denied when we do even a minimal analysis of our work.

In the Security professions it not strange to see anymore a persistent deviation which causes us to forget the social-historical context of our practices. While we speak of technology and transformation, we operate as if the organisational, economic, regional and global contexts did not exist of even as we should not address those when considering "practical" matters.

But what could be more "practical" than understanding the purpose of something? Why can’t we see that there is no technical security without organisational security? Why do we leave to a handful of specialists the areas around this?

Now, I concede that perhaps the individual professional may chose a role where she or he safely ignores these aspects, but then the collective professional responsibility would remain and become even more pressing. And if not the professions, then the organisations themselves: there is a fundamental need to consider Security in the context of social interactions with all the enveloping circles of staff, contractors, partners, suppliers, customers and public and private entities.  This in turn requires a keen understanding of the social scenario, what has been called "Human Security" when looked at the levels of Governments and Nations.

Ignoring or “blanking out" the social and human context is simply not acceptable. So, to enhance and develop our professions we need to analyse what leads to this real lack interest or even avoidance of non technical or managerial matters; and what makes our profession so limited when considering philosophical principles. It is my contention that we will in this way discover what makes it us ineffective when we address organisational and business matters, or better, why we can add so little to the complex business decisions related to human security and the social context.

The position I develop here is that there are ideologies, and that the anti-philosophical stance described is one of these ideologies. This tendency has become dominant (or perhaps was always dominant) due to the techno-centric roots of our disciplines.

I always propose that the way to overcome this lack and this resistance is to demonstrate that  there is a basic model which describes the interactions and positions, interests and strategies of the various groups in an organisation. This is the model of the Four Security Perspectives, developed in other parts of this web site. If we can show that there is a physical or at least a logical structure behind the different drivers and the conflicts in the organisation, this will also reveal how the anti-philosophical, anti-historical and post-cultural position represents one of those Perspectives, and what role it plays.

It is indeed the case that empiricism exists only in a context where the fundamental presuppositions of society (understanding and rationality) are in fact not simply ignored (as it may seem from the problems described above). In fact what happens is that the ultra-empirical stance takes social rationality and understandings as given, as unconstrained facts. In other words, oblivion of truth beyond facts, of history beyond the given is a radical metaphysical proposition.

(See also: )

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