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What Is Wrong With Ideology?

Ideology is an intellectual pathology that has gripped the West for about three centuries.  At times, we have been told that ideology is at an end.  This was said after the close of World War II, when the most ideological age yet, the Cold War, was just beginning.  After its collapse, some 50 years later, we were again said to be entering an age without ideology.  If anything, the disease has metastasized and is stronger than ever.

Ideologies come in wildly different forms: liberalism, Marxism, socialism, fascism, conservatism, neoconservatism, feminism; but as isms, they are all corruptions of reason.  And because they mimic reason, the corruption lies hidden.

At bottom, the error of ideology is that it values one kind of knowledge too strongly over another.  Knowledge can be divided into what Aristotle called practical wisdom and theoretical wisdom, or what we might call knowing how and knowing that.  In the former, an action follows the how.  I know how to raise a question in nuclear physics, how to speak French, etc.  In the latter, a proposition or a theory follows the that.  I know that bodies attract as the inverse square of the distance, and that it is immoral to treat persons as things.  All human knowledge contains both kinds of knowledge, but they have different characteristics.  In knowing that, we have a clear self-conscious apprehension of the object. ...

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