In 1781 Immanuel Kant published “The Critique of Pure Reason”, which quickly became a landmark for the theory of knowledge by defining the conditions under which science separates itself from metaphysics. With that he created new criteria to distinguish what is a opinion, relative, subjective and interested in knowledge that aspires to universality, objectivity and impartiality and which in origin is what we called truth. At the same time, he reinvented a method that involved its own re-updating: the critical method. Thus separated the knowledge, result of the comparison between concepts and phenomena and knowledge critique, the examination of the process, assumptions, conditions or points of view through which this knowledge takes place.
All information therefore depends on training. Training has two different meanings here: production of facts, data and events, but also education of subjects, users, readers, citizens or consumers, for whom knowledge will be useful, valid or relevant. Therefore, the criticism falls twice on this process, examining the deformations caused in the course of the construction of the facts and also undoing the deformations inherent to the subject's educational processes: their historical prejudices, particular beliefs and individual interests. Compressing the subject a lot, we could say that this model of criticism has determined important boundaries until today: science or politics, facts or interpretations, State or family, general laws and particular values. It was this model that also implanted the social feeling of respect for reason, the source and origin of authority that we are willing to recognize.
He said that in 1781 Kant published the “Critique of Pure Reason” and you, dear reader, must have thought of things like “this is too old", in the end "who was Kant?" or "this text is going to be boring, university and too elitist”. Mental captions like: “red leftism"and "enough criticism, we need positive, practical and problem-solving ideas” may have flashed in the left corner of your brain. When I used quasi-technical words like “science” and “metaphysics” I lost half the readers to the maxim: “don't complicate what doesn't exist” and another third for “cool, but very difficult for those who are in the rush of real life”. But I doubt that anyone has thought that the most problematic point of the previous paragraph is in its fourth word, namely: published🇧🇷 Kant published, Ou seja, made public through a book, composed of movable type printed on sheets of paper.
His ideas were first read by German-speaking university students, starting with the small Prussian town called Königsberg, where the river crossed by seven bridges. From there he became an inspiration for English moral theorists, for the understanding of what the French revolution was, for the formation of American institutions, for the models of education, culture and science in the world. Therefore, everything I said above and the whole legacy of Kant, also called the debate of lights, depends on this event that made the Kant event possible, which is the existence of a public place. It is only through the use of reason in the public space that we reach adulthood, autonomy and freedom, the means and ends of how we want to be recognized. It is in the public space that interests intersect, forming conflicts, where the dispute of ideas and words that characterizes politics in the modern sense takes place, it is also there that discourses and narratives are formed by which we make ourselves recognized and can recognize others. The critic's job, in this context, is to denounce deformations, ensuring the purity of the process, more than the winning or losing theses at each round. Hence the fundamental affect of classical criticism is guilt. Guilt for having corrupted the purity of the law with interests and inclinations.
A crucial problem arises from this: what happens when public space is deformed? If it is a condition for the exercise of criticism, as we do when it starts to be controlled in such a way that, instead of tending to involve the participation of more people, generalizing the inclusion of voices and subjects, who wanted or were able to emancipate themselves from their minorities, does it become organized, in reverse, by rules of exclusion? This is the case, for example, of public policies that remove investments from education (creating revenue ceilings), or that despise the importance of science (cutting scholarships), or that undo the role of culture (extinguishing ministries). When it is said that this is in the service of reducing the size of the State, others will object that there is an ongoing misidentification between State and public space.
Science, art and education are precisely decisive means for the qualified training of new inhabitants for the public space. It can be counter-argued here that such practices only formally enable someone to participate in the game. If the economy does not allow it, there will be no expansion of public space. There is no public space for people starving, living on the street or unemployed in what is left of their homes. That is why many public policies perceive such “undue occupants” of public space (streets, bridges and central regions of large cities) as an obstacle to be removed and not as a symptom caused by the contraction of public space itself (reduction of social support services). , health and employment, housing and movement of people). Many will intervene saying that the fundamental fact is that there is no money for everything and that in a situation of bankruptcy we must first tidy up the house of the economy and then think about education or health, after all material goods are a condition for symbolic goods. Against this, others will argue that perhaps the bankruptcy is not that deep, that the crisis is being fabricated or exaggerated to produce and justify the desirability of anti-crisis “medicines”.
Now, what the reader found in the paragraph above seems only a well-behaved and generically civilized recapitulation of the debate between left and right that will be found in more or less biased versions in the major newspapers and in the Brazilian press. The debate form is one of the aspects assumed by the use of reason in public space. Debating assumes arguments and arguments depend on facts, but also, as we have seen, on interpretations and interests. Debate therefore has a double function, it exercises and creates conditions for new legal forms and political deliberations, but it is also a formative experience, that is, it educates, it teaches how to speak and how to deal with the other through language and of reason. Another key word to understand the notion of debate is the idea of reflection. Reflecting implies suspending action and judgment, examining what is presented before us, reconstructing the process of formation of what is presented before us, whether it is a fact or an interpretation.
Reflecting also means getting out of oneself, leaving one's position and assuming the conjecture of the pertinence and existence of another place. Finally, reflection is flex again, that is, to return to oneself, but now transformed by the journey of reflection. If reflection works well, the other is also transformed by participating in our reflection. And it is even better if it implies consequence and responsibility. Now, the urgent need to rebuild the public debate in Brazil is not a legislative operation, made only of new and better laws, of the radicalization of moral attitudes, it is an urgent task. A reform of reflection, a reform of criticism, a reform of the bodies that should have taken care of the debate and the public space and that did not during the years 2013 to 2017. All this needs to happen together with the political reform. Criticism must be refounded, and like all criticism it begins with self-criticism. This implies reviewing the role of those responsible for taking care of the conversation as well as participating in it. Those who function as the representatives of the “rules of the game”, and these representatives classically are the university and the intellectuals (Kant returns here again), the press and the cultural system, education and the judiciary. It is curious how all these functions were summoned and parasitized within the debate that evolved into non-debate in 2016, culminating in the organized suspension of the logic of conversation and the assumption of the logic of the coup, post-truth and post-politics. Left and right are now together and ashamed, albeit for different reasons. The moral cleansing operation, based on the purification of evil, stopped at the ridiculous coup within a coup that keeps a corrupt person in power “for practical reasons”, just as it would have removed a corrupt person from power “for equally practical reasons”. After all, what rationality is this if not the victory of deformation over formation and information? How could so few manage to deceive so many with such deformed reasons? Those who repudiate teachers, intellectuals and artists, those who belittle public space, those who took advantage of social resentment to suspend debate, those who used the rhetoric of cleanliness to counter “pure reason”, those who gained a lot from the emergence of new Brazilian irrationalism, are now quiet, indifferent and ashamed. It is time to refound criticism, without gloating over this mistake, but understanding how it became possible.
When we identify public space with the State, when we confuse public interest with public goods, when we reduce public goods to the resources and responsibilities of the State, we would be failing to face the really crucial question, that is, the reduction of the State would not be an artifice to better control it. it in favor of private interests? Here the problem of the deformation of public space finds another version. In this case, it is not that it contracts, decreasing its size, excluding people, for example, the poor and illiterate or black people and women, but it changes ownership, it ceases to belong to everyone and becomes to belong to some, for example, those who are representing the people and what we usually call politicians. Strictly speaking, a politician is not someone who assumes it as a profession or a parliamentary career, but everyone who speaks and acts in a public space. It is only through one of these deformations, typical of the reduction of public space to a condominium logic, that this anti-political tendency reappears, expressed, for example, by the refusal or neglect of voting. Although based on a critical attitude, (note the return of the word review once again), the anti-political attitude is at bottom a suicidal policy. She boldly states that the politicians there in Brasilia are destroying Brazil (and they really are), but she doesn't realize that in saying this, lazily, she is affirming herself at the same time: “I am a childish child, who has no interest in participating in this, that is, in the public space, as it is full of interests, dirt and bargains. Furthermore, anyone who messes with it becomes immediately suspicious.”. All true. A truth so true that it enables the “non-politicians”, the “men of action and works” to practice the worst of policies, namely, the one dedicated to reducing the public space, economically and formatively, and the one that serves private friends. in the best of all possible worlds for business, that is, business that is supervised by the State in favor of some and not others. A business that is not true capitalism, but a use of the State to do good business with my family, friends or protégés.
It so happens that the crisis of Brazilian criticism involved a new element, the formation of a generation of political actors in a new language, whose support is the internet, and a new grammar of recognition, whose support are the experiences of suffering, of class, of race, gender, combined with social inclusion-exclusion processes in terms of symbolic goods, such as education, health, housing and circulation. Our classical geography, formed by clear and distinct boundaries between the public and the private, whose violation was perceived as deforming, has undergone a mutation. Social networks are spaces in which it is no longer the actor who defines his position, not even his place of speech, as an identity, but it is the discourse itself that alternates public interest and private reasons. This clashes sharply with instance-based reason, which administratively divides problems and their functions, authorities and their prerogatives. A critique based on areas or specialties, on established authorities and established reputations, has to deal with a space that can suddenly become horizontal, where everyone speaks as an equal. But this space can then be extinguished or transformed into a desert of indifference or irrelevance.
Quickly, the same anodyne space can be reoccupied by a vertical discourse of use, possession and ownership of reason. Criticism thus ceases to trust its constituted legal representatives and starts to depend on local events, on upheavals whose most interesting characteristic is that it is not readily organized in the manner of a market or a guarantee of authority. Now, this promising novelty has corroded great information empires, creating others in their place. It so happens that the production of relevant information as well as that of qualified training is very expensive, while the availability of information follows the historical curve of cheapness. This new language becomes available to an expressive contingent of Brazilians at the exact moment when social tension deepens. That is to say, at the point where we would acutely need the work of criticism it had to be, so to speak, reinvented in a hurry. This practical reinvention of criticism obviously produced new formulas and new spaces of speech, however, it also created what could be called a regressive reaction based on anti-criticism, obscurantism and the reappearance of pre-Kantian formulas of thinking about public space. . Post-truth is too new a name for a very old phenomenon. The renewal of criticism will not take place through adherence to the neutral and angelic point, a theological-political purification, in which the true elect will have to guide us to paradise. Nor will it come from exhausting blame and exposing imposters, but perhaps from reframing the experience with the shame of being deceived, and with the humility of acknowledging the extent of the problem.