Modern society is facing an existential crisis. People everywhere, on every occasion, talk and shout about this crisis of thought. But they do not understand what they are talking about, what it is that they are crying out for. No, in fact, speaking and shouting without understanding, and, especially, without wanting to understand, is itself a feature of the crisis of thought. What is expressed in the cries of the crisis of thought is the very lack of theoretical consciousness, the very poverty of thought. Indeed, it is not the aim of those who cry out to clarify the essence of things and to develop thought, but, instead, their purpose is the exact opposite. It is their aim to make thought impoverished, imprisoned, and empty, and thus to plot not for thought itself, but rather for the sake of some other agenda altogether. At this time, those who seek the truth of thought must not be lost, startled, or frightened by their cries, but should seek to sharpen their theoretical consciousness and become more daring. To this end, it is first and foremost necessary to clarify what is meant by the phrase “crisis of thought.”
From a purely theoretical point of view, the crisis of thought means the transformation of a certain thought into its own opposite thought. This transformation itself appears as an ideological crisis. When a thought clings to a certain ideal as truth and tries to maintain it forever as self-identical, this adhered and fixed self-identity comes to reveal itself as what it is, that is, as one-sidedness, as a restrictiveness. In other words, the thought reveals itself as the prejudice of the self. Therefore, aspect and limitation are false, as if they were one-sidedness, limitation, and falsehood. Thus, the first truth is found to be false. With this self-criticism, a certain idea shifts to its opposite. This transition is the crisis of thought, and therefore critical means critical. Such a crisis must be of great value to thought itself, because only then can thought become a movement. This is because it is only then that thought can move and develop. Thought is denied by its opponent, and at the same time, through the mediation of this, it escapes from its one-sidedness and limitation and sublimates itself. The abstract becomes concrete. Through this process, the object comes to be grasped in its entirety for the first time. In this way, crisis is the wealth and life of thought. Where there is no crisis, there is only coagulation and death.
If this is so, then for the thinker in search of truth, the crisis of thought is indeed welcome. He is not unnecessarily saddened, frightened, or indignant when something appears that denies or contradicts his own thought. Here, I speak of the individual, of a man thoroughly grounded in tradition. He sees in this an opportunity to criticize his own thought, and he gladly seizes this opportunity, knowing that by using it as a medium, he will develop his own thought and make it concrete. His activity as a thinker is most active at this time. As a thinker, it is at this time that he finds life most worthwhile. His thought has gone from being fixed and dead to being in motion and alive. He who desires to live life in truth knows that the experiences of crisis in life enrich it and make it truer. In the same way, those who are in pursuit of the truth understand that the crisis of thought is what makes thought concrete, what makes it truer. Thus, for those who recognize the inevitability of the crisis of thought and its meaning, the crisis will no longer appear as a major crisis, but as a curiosity. The insight of necessity is freedom. The man who perceives the inevitability of a crisis of thought is a free thinker, and before him the crisis cannot exist as only a so-called crisis.
By the way, it is the dialectician who sees thought as developing, and that this development is carried out through a transformation into something that contradicts itself, that is, through a crisis. Dialectical thought teaches us the way to practically overcome ideological crisis. Therefore we can say that when the crisis of thought is called out, the only realistic theoretical consciousness is dialectical thought.
For abstract thought, however, the crisis of thought remains a crisis wherever it is not overcome. Here, I speak of those who reject both history and tradition. Those who espouse the universal validity of truth, which is an abstract sort of eternity, and those who insist on the self-identity of truth, which is formal immutability – those people generally do not grasp that truth is life developed through contradictions, and oppose their own thought, forgetting that when conflicting thoughts appear, it is a danger only to their own thoughts. Instead, they generally regard it as if it were a crisis of thought itself, of truth itself, and so they cry out in vain. For them, negation is only negation and contradiction means only contradiction. These people are especially simplistic and reductionist. In their most modern incarnation, these people comprise what I will describe as the professional activist class, the perpetually aggrieved. They cling to abstract thought and proclaim that truth is truth, and falsehood is falsehood. And they think that only others are fallible and erroneous and that they, contrary to this, are the ultimate, absolute, and definitive possessors of the truth. The more such people cry out about the crisis of truth when they encounter ideas that contradict their own, the more they make the ideas themselves, the truths themselves, more abstract and unrealizable, thus depriving them of life and causing them to die. Those who plunge thought itself, and therefore their own thought, into crisis are those who can only see the crisis of thought as a mere crisis. Those who are aware of the essential relativity of thought are not those who affirm the absoluteness of the development of the life of thought. On the contrary, they are dogmatic. They absolutize and eternalize their own thought. They do not consider that they are still on the periphery of human history, and that therefore the number of people who will correct their thoughts in the future will be incomparably greater than those who have themselves corrected their thoughts. It is always these dogmatists who come to us with the cry of a crisis of thought. With dogmatism, however, we find ourselves transferred from the purely theoretical realm to other spheres. We find that dogmatism is not essentially a theoretical position. Why are there still dogmatists on the question of the crisis of thought, at a time of crisis when every pure thinker is forced to be self-critical?
I have so far considered thought mainly from the perspective of truth and falsehood. Truth and falsehood are, according to philosophical terminology, the “values” of thought. Just as beauty and ugliness are values belonging to art, and good and evil are values belonging to morality, so truth and falsehood are the values of thought. Moreover, philosophers believe that it is a value inherent only in this thing. Therefore, a thought may be true or false, but we are not allowed to say that it is a good thought or an ugly thought. That would fall to aestheticians. Despite what modern epistemology tells us, in real life we constantly call certain thoughts good or bad. That is reality. Rather than the terms “true thought” and “false thought,” in real life people seem to use the terms good thought or bad thought more often. Take, for example, the ideological term “thought-oriented guidance.” The so-called good guidance of thought does not mean guiding people towards true thought, but rather guiding them towards good thought. If it means guiding people towards the truth, then it cannot appear in the form that it is taking now in reality. Since the truth of any thought can rarely be determined, in such a case it should not be possible for people not only to control or prohibit the free study of thought in the name of the guidance of thought, but also to divert interest in the study of thought itself in various ways. However, if this is the actual form of the good guidance of thought, then what is at issue is not the truth or falsehood of ideology, but rather the goodness or badness of thought. In other words, the reason why an idea is to be controlled and oppressed is because people regard it as a bad or dangerous idea. Thus, in real life, ideas have a theoretical value of truth or falsehood, as well as a moral value of good or evil. This is clear. I would distinguish this regulation from the “value” of an idea and call it the “character” of an idea. There are other words to express the character of a thought besides good and evil, such as dangerous, moderate, reactionary, radical, and so on. Ideas are all characterized in reality. No, in our daily lives, the value of ideas as truths and falsehoods is covered up and hidden, and all ideas are always lived as character.
It should be noted here that the value and character of thought do not necessarily correspond. Good thoughts are not always true thoughts, and “dangerous thoughts” are not always false thoughts. In this era, truth is in fact often considered dangerous thought: to say that a man is a man and a woman is a woman, or that a mild respiratory virus is not the apocalypse – to publicly admit such thoughts can be tantamount to social suicide in some “elite” circles. However, in practical life, the value rules of ideas are buried and unrecognized, and ideas are understood merely according to their character, and it is precisely because of this that people often easily come to think that a good idea is immediately a true idea. It is constantly, if unconsciously, reasoned that because it is a good thought, it must be true. This is so even among scholars whose only concern should be truth. They are often conscious of their own thought not in terms of its value as true, but rather in terms of its character as good.
For this reason, the more his ideas are refuted theoretically, the more their flaws are pointed out theoretically, the more he defends them. In this defense he feels a kind of moral obligation and becomes more and more excited. His arguments turn into righteous indignation. The scholar now emerges as a zealot. He comes to regard those who hold opposing views as somehow dangerous, vile, or immoral. From experience, dogmatists most often appear in this form. The cry is always a crisis of ideas. The crisis cry of ideas is thus, in reality, most often concerned with the character of thought. What is expressed in the cry of the crisis of thought is not something that is purely theoretical, but the character of thought.
The character of a thought is a practical concept. It does not belong to thought insofar as thought is thought, but is a stipulation of the relationship in which thought acts upon human society. This is shown by the fact that the concept of good and evil, which I have counted among the names of the character of thought, is a moral and practical concept. If this is so, then the very constitution of society must be reflected in the character of thought. If this society is of class composition, as the leftists and Marxists claim, then the character of thought must be in class terms. The class structure of society is divided into a ruling class and a class that is to be ruled. And this relationship between the dominant and the dominated naturally determines good and evil as the character of thought. In other words, an idea that expresses the interests of the ruling class is, as an idea, a good idea, while an idea that serves the ruled class is, as an idea, an evil idea. In other words, the social superiority of a certain class determines the superiority of the ideology of that class in terms of character. This is because the ideology of the ruling class is the dominant ideology. Therefore, as long as the social position of this class is stable, there will be no ideological crisis.
Before I continue, one thing must be clarified with regard to class. It is, of course, no great accomplishment to discover that the American elites follow an especially pernicious form of Marxist ideology. However, there is a strange inversion to their thought, in which their elites – feminists, and especially their elites who are of a non-European, and increasingly non-Asian, background – “identify” as the oppressed, despite their unilateral control of the national discourse through their stranglehold on the media. A digression, yes, but this must be acknowledged before going further. When I mention the ruling class, I am of course referring to this delusional and often hysterical class of people.
The crisis of ideas emerges when the conflict and contradiction between the classes in society become so acute that they can no longer be concealed. At this time, the ruling class knows that its social position is insecure and unsettled, and it is forced to directly perceive the emergence of ideas that are bad for it as a crisis of ideas. The social crisis is expressed as a crisis of ideas. It is not the ideology itself that is in crisis, but rather society itself. What is to be maintained by the rejection of bad ideas is not the ideas themselves or the truth itself, but the ruling class itself. Therefore, to preach the universal validity of ideas has the meaning of asserting the eternity of this class. Therefore, the traditional defense of ideology becomes a defense of this class. What is expressed in the cry of the crisis of thought is the class, not the thought itself. No, the more the crisis of thought is shouted, the more empty it becomes. This is because it is the cry of class dogmatism. And this is because good thought does not coincide with true thought, but rather opposes it. From the standpoint of ideas themselves, the ideas of the critical class in society, that is, the emerging class, are in fact critical and therefore more true, and therefore the emergence of bad ideas can indeed be welcome. Nevertheless, at this time, the more it becomes necessary for the ruling class to cry out about the crisis of thought, the more it is coming to a crisis and therefore the more it is necessary to preserve itself by all means, the more the ideas representing this class will therefore also become dogmatic.
Dogmatism most often has a class meaning. But dogmatism, in and of itself, is ideologically impotent. In the crisis of thought, dogmatism must necessarily be the most dogmatic, and thus becomes ideologically impotent, and dogmatism turns from the standpoint of thought itself into something else. Dogmatism, which at first insisted on the need to use thought against thought, now appeals to all practical means as the crisis of thought intensifies and escalates. In dogmatism, the theoretical is inevitably transformed into the practical. This transformation, however, in this case actually means the negation of theory itself. This is because the crisis of thought is essentially a crisis of class. This is because dogmatism does not essentially stand on any idea itself. In this way, when the negation of an idea is practically carried out by a certain class from a class standpoint, the crisis of a thought becomes a crisis for thought itself.
In the crisis of thought, we have seen the theoretical transition into the practical. At the same time, we have seen the negation of theory itself being carried out there. In such a case, theoretical consciousness can no longer remain merely theoretical consciousness. This is precisely what the turn from theory to practice in dogmatism teaches. The view that separating practice from theory is the reason for maintaining a purely theoretical consciousness cannot, in a crisis of thought, be a realistic theoretical consciousness in any way. In a crisis of thought, it is this view that kills theoretical consciousness itself. It is then, for thought itself, rather a “dangerous thought.” Here I will mention one or two things that are manifested as such an unrealistic idea of crisis.
One of them is formalism. This is found both among leftists and the so-called conservatives who wish to be seen as respectable by those leftists. The formalists think theory is always formal as theory. Therefore, there can be no hierarchy. They seek a theory that transcends class. However, as long as theory, as a realistic theory, is in contact with and can work with society, it will always have a class character in the present society, which is why they consciously seek an unrealistic theory. And they attach beautiful tags to the unreality of their theories, such as universal validity. For example, they claim to be able to prove logically that there is a universally valid truth – relativism is self-contradictory because in order for relativism to make any sense at all, this claim itself has to have absolutes. Therefore, there is at least one absolute truth. Thus, formally, the universal validity of truth can be proved. There is an absolute truth, but that is the end of it. We want to know what that truth is in terms of content. Formalism does not enrich our cognition by preaching formality, but instead impoverishes it by insisting on formality. Formalism most often commands us to stop our cognitive activity. Thus, it does not satisfy our concrete theoretical consciousness, and in times of crisis of ideas, it plays a reactionary role by being the logic that impoverishes our cognition.
The other is, of course, liberalism, or leftism. Today, liberalists distinguish between freedom of action and freedom of research, and consider that freedom of thought and research can be granted, but not the realization of it in action. But can such liberalism be thoroughly enforced in today’s society? Suppose, then, that the study of “dangerous ideas” is allowed freely, and that a man is now studying these ideas, but no company and certainly no university will employ him because he is a researcher of dangerous ideas. Freedom of research means for him the freedom of poverty. His freedom of research is denied by his freedom of action at every turn. To gain freedom of action, he must deny freedom of research. No, liberalism cannot realistically exist in a class society.
In a crisis of thought, theoretical consciousness can only be real in connection with practice. Practice is not, of course, the mere negation of theory; it is the thought of the dogmatist. Practice must be elevated to theory; theory must be deepened to practice, and thus there must be a dialectical unity of theory and practice. A theoretical consciousness based on the dialectical unity of theory and practice is the only real theoretical consciousness in a crisis of thought. Such a theoretical consciousness, however, is now impossible to attain in a socially endangered class, that is, the ruling class. They are unable to think dialectically about the crisis because they are forced to accept it as an absolute crisis. Those who can grasp the crisis dialectically and recognize in it a vision of future development are the emerging classes, for whom the future is promised. Let us emerge victorious from the decadence and lies and embrace dangerous thought.
Intrepidity is required to sustain the heart during conspiracies, whereas valor alone can give it all the strength it needs amid the perils of war. – François de la Rochefoucauld