Basic Causes of Failure of the Rational Intelligence in Guiding the Development of Society

Humanity is not yet ready for the sovereignty of the rational intelligence as the guide and manager of the physical and vital life.  In The Republic, Plato theorized about the rule and management of society by an educated elite as a possible way forward for human civilisation.  We can see in an ideal sense the value of subjecting the impulses of the life energy to the organisation, discipline and direction that can be provided by the reason.  At the same time, we must recognise the fact that in today’s world, the vital impulses, the desires, the physical and vital needs still rule the vast mass of humanity, and their use of the reason is for the most part limited to applying it for success and self-aggrandisement of the individual regardless of the higher ideals and principles that the rational intellect sees and wants to implement.  Society today pits people against one another and this competition is harmful to the needs of the whole of humanity, the integrity of the environment and even the society itself, as issues such as income inequality and corruption of those who are in power are creating ever-more tension and division and setting back the larger goals which rely on cooperation and oneness for their success.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “In practice it is found that these ideas will not hold for a long time.  For the ordinary man is not yet a rational being; emerging from a long infrarational past, he is not naturally able to form a reasonable judgment, but thinks either according to his own interests, impulses and prejudices or else according to the ideas of others more active in intelligence or swift in action who are able by some means to establish an influence over his mind.  Secondly, he does not yet use his reason in order to come to an agreement with his fellows, but rather to enforce his own opinions by struggle and conflict with the opinions of others.  Exceptionally he may utilise his reason for the pursuit of truth, but normally it serves for the justification of his impulses, prejudices and interests, and it is these that determine or at least quite discolour and disfigure his ideals, even when he has learned at all to have ideals.  Finally, he does not use his freedom to arrive at a rational adjustment of his life with the life of others; his natural tendency is to enforce the aims of his life even at the expense of or, as it is euphemistically put, in competition with the life of others.  There comes thus to be a wide gulf between the ideal and the first results of its practice.  There is here a disparity between fact and idea that must lead to inevitable disillusionment and failure.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 19, The Curve of the Rational Age, pg. 197

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