Erich Fromm on being critical Recent blog posts

Erich Fromm on being critical

I like these extract from Fromm

on being critical that I like very much.


Introduction to Ivan D Illich Celebration of Awareness A Call for Institutional Revolution Calder & Boyars London 1969

p. 8




Introduction by Erich Fromm


Eric Fromm  In




p. 7




Fromm said Illich’s approach is “humanistic radicalism”.  By this  Fromm refers “to an attitude, to an “approach”.




pp 7, 8


To begin with this approach can be characterized by the motto: de omnibus dubitandum; everything must be doubted, particularly the ideological contexts which are virtually shared by everybody and have consequently assumed the role of indubitable commonsensical axioms.




To “doubt” [implies] the readiness and capacity for critical questioning of all assumptions and institutions which have become idols under the name of common sense, logic, and what is supposed to be “natural”. This radical questioning is possible only if one does not take the concepts of one’s own society or even of an entire historical period-like Western culture since the Renaissance-for granted, and furthermore if one enlarges the scope of one’s thinking.  Radical doubt is an act of uncovering and discovering; it is the dawning of the awareness that the Emperor is naked, and that his splendid garments are nothing but the product of one’s phantasy.




Radical doubt means to question; it does not necessarily mean to negate.  It is easy to negate by simply positing the opposite of what exists; radical doubt is dialectical inasmuch as it comprehends the process of the unfolding of opposition and aims at a new synthesis which negates and affirms.




Radical doubt is a process; a process of liberation from idolatrous thinking; a widening of awareness, of imaginative, creative vision of our possibilities and options.  The radical approach does not occur in vacuum. It does not start from nothing, but it starts from the root, and the root, as Marx once said, is man.  But to say “the root is man” is not meant in a positivistic, descriptive sense.  When we speak of man we speak of his potential for developing all his powers; those for greater intensity of being, greater harmony, greater love, greater awareness.  We speak of man with a potential to be corrupted, of his power to act being transformed into the passion for power over others, of his love of life degenerating into the passion to destroy life.




p. 9




Humanistic radicalism is radical questioning guided by insight into the dynamics of man’s nature; and by concern for man’s growth and full unfolding.  In contrast to contemporary positivistic thinking it is not “objective”, if objectivity means theorizing without a passionately held aim which impels and nourishes the process of thinking.  But it is exceedingly objective, if it means that every step in the process of thinking is based on critically sifted evidence, and furthermore if it takes a critical attitude toward common-sensical premises.  All this means that humanist radicalism questions every idea and every institution from the standpoint of whether it helps or hinders man’s capacity for greater aliveness and joy.




p. 10

Humanistic radicalism questions all those premises and is not afraid at arriving at ideas and solutions that may sound absurd.


Posted by Alon Serper on 07 January 2015 13:20:01

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