Wednesday, 27 July 2016
Thought and Responsibility
To think for oneself is the beginning of self-responsibility. Thoughtless people cannot be responsible because their lack of thinking stops them from considering the consequences of their actions on both a micro and a macro scale.
To think for oneself is to look past the oft-dubious nature of conventional, mainstream 'wisdom' and start accounting for one's own thoughts, emotions and actions, seeing them in the light of the whole and considering their harmony with truth and Natural Law.
Hannah Arendt's observation that Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann's lack of thoughtfulness, his over-use of linguistic cliches and stock wisdom, his empty soul led her to an insight into what she called the banality of evil, i.e. the realisation that evil stems not just from knowing malice, but also from unconscious conformity.
Equally, blind obedience and unquestioning order following also result in evil, since morality is to do what is right regardless of what you're told and obedience is to do what you're told regardless of what is right; the case of police and military generally who are by nature immoral order followers who do not question or think about their role in the world and the morality of their actions.
Thinking is an individualising activity which stops our responsibility being subsumed and destroyed by the collective allowing us to do wrong as we please because we are not yet self-owning individuals who consider the consequences of our actions on the rights of others.
The limitation of the banality of evil concept is that, of course, there is plenty of knowing evil, such as that which stems from psychopathic individuals in positions of power, but it is true to say that thoughtlessness gives these psychopathic individuals much more leeway for causing harm because to refuse to think is to fail to even begin to resist these psychopathic realities.
In an early post on this blog How to Become Master of the World I made the point that man is only really man as opposed to being animal when he thinks his habituation. Our habits, i.e. our actions, are intrinsically a matter of ethics and indeed the word ethics (as well as our word ethos) shares a root with the Greek word for habit, character, custom, i.e. habituation generally (often used by Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics): ἦθος.
In conclusion to be thoughtful is to be mindful of both the world and our actions in the world.