Educational Projects: Deluding Mankind

So What?

What difference does it make, this inquiry into the deluding currents of cultural thought? There are insights that emerge through the activities of dispassionate and disinterested intelligence that seeks to know only to know, and oversights that draw upon a variety of flights from understanding to generate flawed images of reality, i.e., a world mediated by meaning that contains errors and misdirection, not to mention areas where people don't know what they don't know. if intelligence keeps up with the flow of events, then problems are faced and solved--or if unsolvable managed in some satisfactory way. Conditions improve; cultures thrive; and the future opens up to a world filled with possibilities. But consciously or unconsciously biased minds that, for one reason or other, seek not to know, indeed flee from any understanding of their situation, block progress, diverts attention from the important to the trivial, and wastes time and energy on ill-conceived projects, plans, and/or policies.

By delving into a number of authors we seek to uncover the blind spots in our culture, areas that we cannot see because of the rationalizations and myths used by various power-seekers and power-holders to justify their own rise to domineering social and political status. The net result is a culture filled with oversights rather than true insights, a culture that can no longer distinguish between truth and falsehood, a culture that more often than not lives in an imaginary world mediated by meaning that has little contact with what can in fact be afirmed as true.These are blind spots, places where cultural norms and social mores block the search for truth, places where people don't know what they don't know. This is a recipe for stagnation and best and rapid decline at worse.


[Those engaged in actualizing Lonergan's notion of cosmopolis are] very determined to prevent dominant groups from deluding mankind by the rationalization of their sins; if the sins of dominant groups are bad enough, still the erection of their sinning into universal principles is indefinitely worse; it is the universalization of the sin by rationalization that contributes to the longer cycle of decline; it is the rationalization that cosmopolis has to ridicule, explode, destroy. Again, cosmopolis is little interested in the shifts of power between classes and nations; it is quite aware that the dialectic sooner or later upsets the shortsighted calculations of dominant groups; and it is quite free from the nonsense that the rising star of another class or nation is going to put a different human nature in the saddle. However, while shifts of power in themselves are incidental, they commonly are accompanied by another phenomenon of quite a different character. There is the creation of myths. The old regime is depicted as monstrous; the new envisages itself as the immaculate embodiment of ideal human aspiration. Catch words that carried the new group to power assume the status of unquestionable verities. On the bandwagon of the new vision of truth there ride the adventurers in ideas that otherwise would not attain a hearing. Inversely, ideas that merit attention are ignored, unless they put on the trappings of the current fashion, unless they pretend to result from alien but commonly acceptable premises, unless they disclaim implications that are true but unwanted. It is the business of cosmopolis to prevent the formation of the screening memories by which an ascent to power hides its nastiness; it is its business to prevent the falsification of history with which the new group overstates its case; it is its business to satirize the catchwords and the claptrap and thereby to prevent the notions they express from coalescing with passions and resentments to engender obsessive nonsense for future generations; it is its business to encourage and support those that would speak the simple truth though simple truth has gone out of fashion. Unless cosmopolis undertakes this essential task, it fails in its mission. One shift of power is followed by another, and if the myths of the first survive, the myths of the second will take their stand on earlier nonsense to bring forth worse nonsense still.

Lonergan, Insight, pp. 264-5

Italics are mine

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