“Where do correct ideas come from? Do they drop from the skies? No. Are they innate in the mind? No. They come from social practice and from it alone . . .”
Ideas pop up in the mind as they are triggered by experience which in its most basic form is via sense perception. We call this “sense experience” from which certain description of properties and qualities of perceived objects/entities are formed in the mind. Nevertheless, ideas are likewise formed through the mental process of abstraction wherein perceptual description of properties and qualities we call sense data are combined and/or woven together. In the latter take, an idea doesn’t have to be strictly a mental representation of something that is concretely located in the external physico-material world.
When articulated, an idea is supposed to have a meaning. We can have an idea of a unicorn and articulate our understanding of what it means even if we know that in the physico-material world, no animal called unicorn may be found. An idea like this which could have represented an animal in the physico-material world is said to be fantastic or fictional, if you will. A fictional idea in simple terms is nothing but one’s figment of imagination. However, in a lot of instances, many fictional ideas have been made to “exist” and in fact “have actually seen the light of day” by way of human creativity as in movie productions.
This whole “magical process” has fed children’s imagination with a modicum of realization (as in fiction made tangible) when they don’t just see Superman, Batman and Spiderman, among others on the movie or the television screen but right before their eyes in flesh and blood shaking hands with them and signing their shirts, toys, comic books and what not at the moviehouse lobby. Ideas are therefore generally descriptive of properties and qualities of (1) those that have already been pre-existing as tangible entities in the physico-material world and (2) those that are now made to exist by actualizing the description of properties and qualities of certain fictional conceptions.
We live in a world of facts that make up states of affairs which are not only identified, described, signified and hence understood by means of ideas but they likewise spontaneously spawn new ideas that enrich human experience. In grasping and interpreting a shared or intersubjective state of affairs, an idea may either be right or wrong. Right ideas correctly and accurately identify, describe, signify and understand a state of affairs empirically and/or logically.
There are however instances when ideas are not necessarily reckoned as right or wrong. These are ideas of personal opinions which generally depend on the personal perspectives of individuals from whom such opinions issue out. Yet, we should also be critically on guard that the basis of an opinion doesn’t run contrary to facts and logical thinking. Opinions may be personal and thus perspectival but if they are grounded on false and inaccurate assumptions, they are ab initio faulty at least and impertinent at most.
In pragmatic terms, ideas may either be destructive or constructive and this consideration belongs to the philosophical province of Ethics. In other words, ideas aimed to violate human rights and dignity by way of abusive, oppressive and exploitative acts that assail the very essence of justice is morally destructive. Whereas, ideas that promote the inalienable significance of human life, human rights, justice and freedom, among others form the most valued foundation of constructive principles that uphold and sustain the supreme virtue of human flourishing to: (1) ameliorate the human condition from suffering; (2) resolve conflicts and misunderstandings; and (3) promote the well-being of humanity and the ecological condition that sustains such well-being on planet Earth.
However, “destruction” is not always immoral if seen in a context where human creativity can’t operate well because of certain systemic obstacles in the way of fully achieving higher degrees of human flourishing. In this sense, we need to open ourselves to ideas intended to destroy factors that hinder progress. With due respect to the Austrian-American economist, Joseph Schumpeter, I’d like to appropriate the term he used–“creative destruction”–to describe in a concise way the point I have raised here (though of course the original notion came from Hegel which was later likewise appropriated by Karl Marx in his political economic theorizing).
(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 24 June 2014