Have you ever thought much about the concept of ideas? We usually think of ideas as thought elements. My collegiate dictionary further defines ideas as products of mental activity. They can also be convictions, opinions, or principles.
There is also a purposeful, creative process of generating new ideas called ideation. This is something that inventors and brainstormers do. It encompasses the creation of an idea, actualizes it, and develops it. We find ideation used in many areas of society from business, to education, to government. The type of ideation I’m thinking of today is in problem solution.
Do ideas expand action or do they limit action? If ideas shape actions can they really solve the problem of suffering or do they merely create new ways of suffering? We find a problem and someone has the idea to take care of it and the result is supposedly a solution. Can ideas and ideation really liberate us?
Take personal transportation as an example. Ever since there have been people, we have walked or ran on foot to get from point A to point B. Eventually, some people came up with the idea to domesticate animals to use for transportation. There were many benefits to this practice, including greater speed and the diminishment of human labor. This also caused the need to acquire and care for animals, prevent the theft of them, and the problem of animal suffering.
Relatively recently, some people came up with the idea to exclusively use machinery for transportation. The benefits included the ability to travel very fast, carry several people at once, journey in comfort, and elimination of the need to cause animal suffering due to transportation. Some of the major drawbacks to mechanized transportation are the need to lay tracks or pave over great areas of territory, urban planning nightmares, pollution, and gruesome fatal accidents.
We justify the ideas we come up with by using cost-benefit analyses. Do the benefits outweigh the downsides of the ideas? In the process of eliminating old problems, we create new problems. If you think about this, you may realize this is true in most areas of life. So, what we try to do is make sure the benefits far outweigh the downsides. Still lurking in the background, are the costs or forms of suffering.
Extending the concept of ideas even more, we might say that many of us believe in collections of ideas or ideologies. Ideologies are basically organized group-think shared by many members of social groups. The ideologies consist of the core beliefs of religious, political, economic or other large scale institutions.
We might say that belief in mechanized transportation is an ideology. I’m not saying whether or not the current transportation systems are good or bad, I’m simply pointing out that the ideas behind mechanized transportation could be considered an ideology.
When we see ideas, ideation, and ideology clearly defined, we can more easily see the benefits and limitations of these concepts. More specifically, if we aim to limit or eliminate suffering, we need to examine these concepts’ limitations.
Throughout human history, we see examples of how ideology not only enhances some forms of human interaction, but also how it inhibits action. Oftentimes, ideology gets in the way of liberating us from suffering.
We know we want to live in peace with one another. Peace is an idea. We try to find a solution to the problem of having no lasting peace. We then invent an ideology, political or religious, that promises peace as the result of believing in and acting on it’s core ideas. We forget that the word or idea of peace is not really peace. We get hung up on ideation around the ideas and our own ideology of peace. Very soon our
ideology of peace comes in conflict with other ideologies of peace. Conflict is not peace. Even if all the ideologies of peace agree about the concept of peace, the concept of peace still is not actual peace.
Can there be action or peace without ideation? I don’t know for sure, but maybe action can occur without ideology and ideas. Is the best way to perform an action thoughtless or done through instinct? Probably not. Perhaps the first person to conceptualize the idea of peace noticed the many severe shortcomings of acting on instinct or pure impulse.
Maybe this is just a thought experiment we can ponder. I wonder if the leaders of our social institutions have ever contemplated this thought experiment. This line of thinking must be different and more meaningful than the act of a kitten chasing his own tail.
Of course, thease are just ideas.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this idea from John F. Kennedy: “The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”