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August 14, 2003

Feeling beyond the logic of conflict 

2) The world's 1000 biggest organisations should be required to openly testify that they are not profiting by compounding conflicts

Below, an extract from an article of a friend whom you can read more about here. Myself, having discovered that corporations and governments currently account for themselves using numbers that are mathematically perfect for compounding conflict outside their self-defined borders, I am interested in seeing if we can reverse the global systemisation of conflicts in time. Tell me if you have an angle to popularise on this debate.



Detachment, conflict, and the rationalistic abstraction of the ‘individual self ‘ - Yvonne

For centuries, rationalistic thinkers have insisted on the abstraction of content from context, such that the ‘baby is retained whilst the bath water is discarded’. In order to be studied ‘scientifically’, the subject must be isolated from all variables other than the ones that the experimenter desires to observe. This is the essence of the experimental method. But the enthronement of abstract Reason goes far beyond the scientific realm, extending into popular discourse, for example, in the ways in which we justify our actions to ourselves.

Descartes famously uttered the rationalist dictum, Cogito ergo sum, and insisted on the separation of mind and body now referred to as the Cartesian split. This detachment of self from self, and consequently self from other, leads inevitably to conflict. Conflict between self and other, reason and emotion, rational and irrational.

The body becomes an object for the mind to control, and other people become objects in empty space – objects we can manipulate and control. The extreme form of this view was expressed with tragic consequences in nineteenth-century imperialism, and it can still be heard in the rhetoric used to justify modern imperialistic adventures.

Another consequence of the rationalist view is the notion of reductionism – that everything can be reduced to its smallest indivisible unit, the monad or atom. The problem with this procedure is that you may be able to extrapolate from the workings of a complex system to predict the behaviour of one of its constituents, but you cannot deduce the behaviour of a complex system from the behaviour of its isolated elements.

In order to maintain an illusion of control, rationalists ignore the obvious conclusions that can be derived from Relativity, and continue to regard the individual as a monad, unconnected with its context. The notion of the individual as an entity-in-its-own-right, a Ding-an-sich, leads us to quantify the rights and responsibilities of each individual, assessing them “rationally” and to weigh them against each other. This quantitative approach, where the will of the majority always outweighs the needs of the minority, inevitably leads to conflict.

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