November 14, 2018


The intellectual maverick behind Brazil's conservative wave. (SILVIO SIMONETTI, November 14, 2018, Acton)

The recent victory of the conservative populist Jair Bolsonaro in the Brazilian presidential elections brought the name of the philosopher Olavo de Carvalho to the center of Brazilian political debate. Many have since stated that Carvalho is an intellectual precursor to the populist candidate - as someone who was able to reshape the Brazilian political discussion in ways that cleared an intellectual path for Bolsonaro's electoral victory. It is not a coincidence that when Bolsonaro gave his victory speech, Carvalho's best-selling book The Minimum You Need to Know not to be an Idiot (2013), was in plain sight. [...]

First, Carvalho believes that philosophy, since at least Rene Descartes, has broken with its Greek roots in the Socratic project. According to Carvalho, the philosophy developed initially by Socrates and his disciple Plato was based on the search for understanding the position of the individual in the universe. Therefore, individual experience is the raw material of philosophical reflection. By contrast, modern philosophy in the form in which it started to develop under Descartes abandoned this understanding of the importance of personal experience as a compass of philosophical construction in favor of an extreme introspection. Carvalho calls this displacement cognitive parallax.

Karl Marx is an excellent example of this phenomenon. Marx argues in his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right that the social reality of men conditions his consciousness; later, in his Theses on Feuerbach, he goes a little further and says that social reality determines our consciousness. In short, our position in society is defined by our role in the system of production and our ideas is determined by this position

The proletariat, according to Marx, is the only class capable of apprehending the reality of the historical process and contemplating reality beyond the illusion imposed by class ideology. But, we must ask ourselves, how is it that Marx, a non-proletarian, could have been the announcer of a truth that only a proletarian could contemplate? This elementary contradiction between philosophy and reality is the cognitive parallax.

Carvalho identified the most common and intense manifestation of cognitive parallax in a process he calls revolutionary mentality. This occurs when the mental framework of cognitive parallax is converted into a phenomenon of crowds. This has two characteristics. First, the revolutionary sets the hypothetical future which [...] he wants to realize as the parameter of the judgment of his actions. The past thus becomes irrelevant.  Second, the revolutionary inverts the subject and object positions; attacking the opponents of his future society and turning them in scapegoats who prevent him from achieving his plans.

In substance, then, the revolutionary process is unleashed through the systematic rejection of reality. The higher the level of alienation of the individual concerning to the reality that surrounds him, the higher will be the power exerted by the proposal to transform the present so that it [conforms] to an imaginary future. their rejection of the permanence of human nature and belief that Man can be remade if only we tweak society.

Posted by at November 14, 2018 5:42 PM