Gianluigi Segalerba (Vienna/Austria)#
Enlightenment is Uncovering: on the Analysis of Unmasking Processes by Means of Amartya Sen’s Thinking #
In my contribution, I would like to show that the value of the enlightenment today consists in the uncovering of deception strategies, being present especially, but not only, in the political scene, aiming at persuading individuals that there is no alternative to certain ways of thinking, to certain ways of organizing societies, to certain ways of interpreting concepts, that is, aiming at persuading individuals that a kind of single thought rules and that it is right that it be so. While individuals, in general, are victim of these strategies, children, in particular, prove to be the main victims of these same strategies.
I will develop my contribution through the analysis of some aspects of Amartya Sen’s philosophy. My principal aim will consist in finding, with the help of Sen’s observations, instruments in order to show that enlightenment today first of all means – at least in my opinion – the process of uncovering that concepts and events are not so simple and not so univocal as they very often are presented. For instance, a concept like “development” can find interpretations that are very different from each other, depending whether development is exclusively identified with economic and income growth, or, alternatively, depending whether development is to be interpreted as the whole growth of the capabilities and freedoms both of the individual and of the society (the second interpretation corresponds to Sen’s interpretation of the concept “development”).
Sen’s thinking can be portrayed as a teaching against fatalism, indifference, resignation and inaction, on the one side, and as an appeal to the assumption of one’s own responsibilities, on the other side: Sen wants to uncover the deep roots of fatalism, since fatalism is, actually, not neutral, but, on the contrary, aims at concealing precise responsibilities. Sen fights both in economics and in ethics against every kind of concealing, behind an unavoidability allegedly dictated by nature, failures actually due to human mistakes: unavoidable destiny is, actually, not so unavoidable as someone would like to present it.
Sen’s project regarding development and freedom is a project of uncovering deception strategies: for instance, Sen’s opinion that famines are not a natural, but a social phenomenon aims at uncovering all attempts to present famines as something unavoidable, in relation to which the only solution is resignation; Sen clearly uncovers that all those presenting famines as natural phenomenon, actually want to conceal their own responsibilities for the occurring of famines. Hunger and famines are not, in other words, natural phenomena against which there is nothing to do; they are social phenomena having precise responsible agents; neither do famines represent an integral, constitutive, unavoidable element of the modern world: they can be prevented, if there is the political will to prevent them. Sen continuously aims at promoting the control of government and of public authority: governments try to blame on nature the cause of catastrophes, whereas the causes of social catastrophes are to be connected to the inefficiency of governments.
Sen’s meditation proves to be a continuous defence and promotion of democracy, rights and freedom against all attempts to diminish their value: in particular, Sen sees democracy as a system which is compatible with economic growth, thus opposing all those who considers democracy as an obstacle to economic growth. My attention will, thereafter, be concentrated on Sen’s interpretation of the concept of development, which in Sen’s opinion cannot be limited to the income of the individuals or to the growth of GNP, but should be extended to individuals’ freedoms, human rights, health care, opportunities of education and further entitlements: Development is, in Sen’s opinion, the progressive growth of the individual capabilities, whereas all interpretations of development basing only on the measurement of the gross domestic product and of the individual income are insufficient. I will finally refer to Sen’s pointing out the perils related to the absolute view of the cultural identity, if this view is connected to economic and political strategies: certain interpretations of cultural identities do bring about catastrophes, as it can be shown by means of the attitudes of British politicians towards Irishmen as possessing an inferior culture during the Irish famines, or by the attitudes of British politicians towards Indians during the Great Bengal famine).