Enlightenment, Reason, Rationality: The Other Side

A consideration on Enlightenment, reason, and rationality in the context of Malaysia – or rather the lack of it.

Immanuel Kant says hello

Immanuel Kant says hello

It is not unusual to think deeply when it comes to matters concerning ourselves and society. That has been the primary preoccupation of man for nearly 2500 years. More so if one is situated in an epoch of decline, characterised by the phenomena of a failed state and the hopelessness of a failed society.

The state of Malaysia and Malaysian society is one example. The nostalgic reminiscing of the Enlightenment and the turn to reason and rational is understandable.

Kant And The History Of Reason

It is said that the arrival of the Enlightenment was first announced by Immanuel Kant, and from him the inauguration of modern philosophy.

In his essay to the question “Was ist Aufklarung?” he argued for the free and universal use of reason in the public sphere, but more importantly he also laid down the limits of reason and its boundaries.

Additionally, the Enlightenment marked the high point of epistemological development where man not only became a human subject capable of acquiring knowledge, but become himself an object of knowledge.

The critique of rationality and reason is hence confined to(and takes off from these two points): (i) the need to firstly explore, identify, and define the limits of rationality and reason; and (ii) to show how, by man becoming an object of knowledge, the process of the construction of the self has taken place.

Rationality And The Nation-State

The nation-state is a manifestation of modern rationality and the personification of the highest form of human rationality.

It is concerned with the rational organisation of society and human life. This takes place in two forms.

In the classical juridical model, the vertical relationship of the State and society is managed through the law. The outcome of which entails the formation of State positivism.

Law, conceived within the paradigm of State positivism, is only concerned with one thing: the protection and maintainance of the State, and the disposal of anything that threatens its existence.

However the protection and maintenance of the State cannot be conceptualised only within the classical juridical model. In modern times the regulation of society does not only take place through the law, but through new techniques of power by way of discipline, performed by the perceived neutral and independent sites and economies of power; that of the bureaucracy, universities, hospitals, knowledge and medicine, among others. Here instead of law, procedures and normalisation provide the tools in which individuals and groups are defined, segregated, unified, controlled and punished.

It thus maximizes the economic utility of the individual while ensuring political obedience; disciplinary regimes creating a disciplined society.

Man as Object of Knowledge

One of the presumptions underlying the elevating of human rationality and reason is that humans are free and autonomous beings with possessed universal and transcendent values. Such presumption is the golden child of Enlightenment thought and a hallmark of modernity.

Far from being autonomous and free, the concept of man is constructed by power, knowledge, social conditions, institutions, and episteme. The idea that men have rationale and reason, and thus capable of making objective decisions is inaccurate. To understand the concept of man, it has to be placed in discursive formations so that a discourse on man can be undertaken.

Similarly the notion of transcendent and universal values is also highly misleading. Values are intelligible in so far as they are situated in specific periods of historical events. They are outcomes of particular struggles, revolutions and consciousness defined and confined to a particular society at a particular time.

Enlightenment, Rationality, Reason and Malaysia

Locating this narration within the context of Malaysia and returning to the critique of rationality and reason, the following can be summarised;

Rationality has not necessarily resulted in greater freedom for society, but in fact strengthens the hold of the State over society. The usage of the ISA, penal law, sedition law – the criminal justice system – serves to remove all dissent and to reinforce the position of this enigmatic rational entity called the State.

The regulating/disciplining of society by the rational State does not only occur in a one dimensional, top down course, but by the extension of control through multiple horizontal discursive techniques of power. They comprise of structures and knowledge. Instead of law, principles of procedure and normalisation are used. Universities function to observe and regulate youths through procedures and norms. They include administrative processes that one must conform to; the permission to use lecture halls, the permission to take part in politics, and norms; what one must wear, how one must think, the prohibition of questioning and requiring of obedience. Power thus ceases to be coercive or repressive and becomes creative or productive.

The discursive construction of the self – the concept of man – must not be overlooked. The persona of “Lina Joy” did not exist 40 to 50 years ago. It is only a recent invention. Similarly the concept of the student – as one that needed permission to think, and consent to take part in politics – did not exist 40-50 years ago. Both are recent inventions. To think of man as autonomous and capable of change, without first outlining the genealogy of the self, is dangerous.

Likewise, the cherished belief in transcendent and universal values must be abandoned. Alternatively they must be situated specifically and analysed to expose the interplay of the dynamics of power, knowledge, social conditions, institutions, and episteme. To show that values are not universal, but actually outcomes of the different discourses of truth taking place in different periods of time. Perhaps then there can be a critical understanding of why the relation between secular law, the Constitution and religion has changed significantly throughout our history.

Lingswaran Singh has been an active loyar burok since he was 5 years old. He speaks an open and disinterested language, dictated by no passion but that of humanity. Independence is his happiness, and he views things as they are, without regard to place or person; his country is the world, and his religion is to do good with compassion. He is a self proclaimed artist with an imagination beyond imagination. He finds pleasure in deconstructing and challenging social norms, he is paradoxical . He works towards educating Malaysian youths about justice, freedom, equality, human rights, and nation building. He too is an emissary of Lord Bobo Barnabus, tasked to enlighten Malaysians through www.loyarburok.com, the blawg leading the quest for world domination.

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Lingswaran Singh has been a LoyarBurokker since he was 5. He speaks an open but disinterested language, dictated not by passion but that of humanity. Independence is his happiness. His country is the world, and his religion is to do good. He too is an emissary of Lord Bobo Barnabus, tasked to enlighten Malaysians through loyarburok.com, this awesome blawg leading the quest for world domination.

Posted on 30 October 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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11 Responses to Enlightenment, Reason, Rationality: The Other Side

  1. Linzde

    HAHA.What the hell is wrong with the Weng fellow.Well Weng,you can personally get to know me if you think Lings is responding under different identities. I've a copy of his book and also been following him up right from his blogs,diskopi and loyakburok websites.He been writing great articles and I'm impress to see people with high thoughts like him. Well,I do think that your pretty great as well but you don't have to be rude here.I sensed envy in you.If your ideas contradict his,you should just say it out as in your point of view by means of respecting people's work here.

    p;s If you can't say something good ,dont bother saying anything at all=) Peace !

  2. Lingswaran Singh

    @Weng/Fatimah/Ali, what is your bloody problem? I need no different identity to deal with a scum like you. Go fly kites whoever you are!

    @Linzde, thank you but you really need not waste your time convincing these cybertroopers.

    @Hobson, i'm flattered. Never knew people have such high regards for me.

    @Yeow, i think you really don't want to waste your time layan these troopers.

    @The Cheshire Cat, i would seriously like to skin this cat alive.

    @Kay Cee, thank you for your kind words.

  3. Kay Cee

    I think Weng's rude response to Lings and his article stemmed from the fact that our system have successfully stupified the general population into no longer having the capacity to think, grasp and understand 'thought'.

    I have been following Lings' writings on Loyar Burok for a very long time and just found out that he actually has a frikking book published and he writes regularly for Merdeka Review. Personally I think we need to commend Lings for his excellent piece and I would say this is a 1st step towards "enlightenment" for our own country because people need to understand the concept and philosophy behind the entire thought process and what goes into the making of this country.

    Everything that we know today, has been constructed tens and hundreds of years ago. If we don't learn and understand simple things like these, how can we expect to build an "intellectual society"?

    Great work, Lings.. Keep it up!

  4. The Cheshire Cat

    My, my, what delicious devouring going on here. I like the way you put it Hobson. This bitch is using Derrida in dismissing Kant. What a cunt is this Lingswaran Singh, my, my what a cunt, what a cunt. This Weng being, perhaps he likes ass stoned cunts? What a wrangler this Weng. Aston Paiva has substance, and darling cunt is David Cooperfield? Take two load of different shit, sniff sniff and then say uhhh this shit has substance, while the other is an illusionist shit. A bunch of low life imbeciles get together, one writes off Gods and a dozen heretics go sniffing his arse, while calling this cunt crap. Crappy cunt cowardly changes the spotlight to Immanuel, while using Derrida quietly to deconstruct Asston's concrete solid substantiated fantastic hogwash. Conclusion, all three of them need to get laid. Maybe they should have a threesome. Bloody gay retards!.

  5. Yeow

    Dear Wengker,

    Premised on the article above, please provide the reasons for your assertions.

    You asked whether there is any editorial policy. As Lord Bobo has pointed out, there is one. Looks like you were driven by your perception and impression of the whole matter that you didn't even bother checking. Signs of haste. Signs of emotions. Signs of lack of rationality or thought or reasonable assessment.

    Premised on the above, it does suggest that your whatever you've said is based on emotion, rather than reason. There is a higher likelihood that you are more of an emotional creature, rather than a thinking one. The same goes for your mentality.

    However, I'd like to be proven wrong and I am fully aware that passing judgment on you based on the two paragraphs that you've written is unfair. Hence, I'd like to echo Lord Bobo by requesting you to respond, or better, write an article on a relevant topic or issue.

    However, seeing that your writing capabilities is limited to personal attacks, I doubt that you are able to write about anything else, especially so, when you have the choice to do so, but decided on the former instead.

    Again, on the presumption of goodness on your part, my views are supposedly biased, admittedly. Nonetheless, I can see no other interpretation in construing what you've written, unless proven otherwise.

    Thank you.

  6. Hobson

    Yea Weng, you must be a total douchebag. You give this moron way more credit than he deserves, that's probably because your a lame ass moron yourself. Your comment is somewhat exactly what Arthur Schopenhauer wrote about Hegel. He said:

    "If I were to say that the so-called philosophy of this fellow Hegel is a colossal piece of mystification which will yet provide posterity with an inexhaustible theme for laughter at our times, that it is a pseudophilosophy paralyzing all mental powers, stifling all real thinking, and, by the most outrageous misuse of language, putting in its place the hollowest, most senseless, thoughtless, and, as is confirmed by its success, most stupefying verbiage, I should be quite right."

    Hegel went on to revolutionize European philosophy and was an important precursor to the continental philosophy and Marxism.

    Lingswaran Singh, writes layman balderdash. His shit is no doubt lame, but douchebags like you keep him in demand. Ouh by the way, even that Asstoned guy writes equal shit. So the greater LOSER here would be you, cos you follow those two dickheads. Whats more interesting is that your dumb enough to expect quality writing at a site called LoyarBurok || An online journal owned by Liberal Banter Sdn Bhd. You wanna sound philosophical, fucking read Jacques Derrida. What a bunch of jokers.

  7. Linzde

    @Weng you must be an old hag. This chap writes at merdeka review, diskopi, and The Malaysian Insider along with Malaysia Kini quite frequently pick his stuff up. If his stuff was really sub-standard i dont think they would pick it up. Perhaps your the one who is attempting to sound intellectual, cos this dude he even has a book published, and its call "himpunan analisa terpilih, kaki lepak", plus looking at the fact that he finds pleasure in deconstructing and challenging social norms, and his admittance that he is paradoxical it doesnt look like he attempts so sound intellectual.Plus if your Asston has so much substance, and his is smoke and mirror, why on earth would Asston wanna ding-dong with him? What an arsehole, you must be one of the cybertroopers that keep going after this guy.

  8. Dear Weng

    We firmly and believe in freedom of thought and expression. See here: https://www.loyarburok.com/terms-of-use/

    We encourage and invite everyone and anyone to write for us, and be a LoyarBurokker! See here: https://www.loyarburok.com/relationship/

    Looking forward to your response soon.

    Thank you for stopping by.

  9. Lingswaran Singh

    You jealous is it? Go fly kite.

  10. Kantoi

    What a Kant

  11. Witch Doctor

    OMG! I almost didn't see it! People, read this article together with Aston Paiva's Egg and Sperm, Lingswaran Singh's Republic of God, and Aston Paiva's Twilight of Gods. You son of a gun! Interesting view. Reason and rationality is also subject to the experience shaped by the environment. So your saying that atheist are so not because they have independent reasons but reasons that were formed out of rationalizing their experiences and beliefs.