The Image of Thought and the Thinking of Human Rights

What is thinking? Is there an image of thought? Can we figure it out? The image of thought is the presupposition that foregrounds the appearance of thought. It is the image of thought that induces thinking. It is the image of thought that makes thinking happen. All thinking is bound to the image of thought which also provides the conditions for the signs of recognition and expressions of thinking. If that is so we may be able to deduce the image of thought from the full-blown thought. In this context, my concern is to decode the image of thought that undergirds human rights.

This quest for the image of thought cannot be pursued in a Cartesian manner. Rene Descartes wanted a pure ground or open space for all thinking. Hence, he banned the circle of thinking and embraced the line of thinking. He thought that he was putting his linear thinking on solid foundation of reason which was badly shaken by the radical empiricism of David Hume. Hume reduced all thinking to being born out of a force of habit (association). This is why perhaps Emanuel Kant invites us to be sufficiently critical of the image of thought that underlies our thinking. We can also see how G.W. Hegel arranges the previous images of thought in a dialectical chain that will flower into higher images of thought from where new ideas can burst forth.

With Gilles Deleuze, we have come to search for an image of thought whose genesis is grasped in the very act of thinking itself. Thus, in some way the image of thought in some way determines the thoughts of our thinking. This indicates that the image of thought remains exterior or outside the present of consciousness by which the thought, the unthought and yet to be thought make an appearance. This is why Michel Foucault, in his book, the Order of Things, teaches that that it the image of thought that conditions a distinctly ‘modern Cogito’. Perhaps it is in this image of thinking that we may find the image of thought that underlines our thinking of human rights.

As thinking does not leap outside the closed circle of thinking, we should be able to unearth the image of thought that fore-grounds the thinking of human rights. The thought addresses the unthought and articulates itself upon it. Hence, thinking produces novelty. We have to think difference as a relation and hence it is also as Deleuze says in-itself already a repetition. Therefore, it is a question of rediscovering at the end what was already in the beginning. Hence, the image of thought that undergirds the thinking of human rights is a question of bringing to light that which was already fore-present in some vague manner. Here we can also unearth how rights comes from the thought image of what is proper or what primarily belongs to the human. This is why what belongs properly human is worthy of dignity and honor.

The image of thought is a circular image of thought which was unfortunately abandoned by Descartes. Now to arrive at the image of thought of thinking of human rights, we have to necessarily arrive at the image of the thinking the human that is central to the thinking of human rights. This thinking is also thinking what is properly belonging to the human (human rights). To arrive at the contemporary image of thinking of the human, we will have to come to Deleuze. Deleuze teaches that the individual human is no longer a singular person. He/ she is broken into several singularities. The self of the internet is a dividual. The self is divided away from the self. This is why we may say ‘ I is an other’ . It is precisely because of this that the piracy of our privacy (our footprints) on the web especially on the social media platforms like the Facebook and Instagram does not seem to appear to us as a violation of our human rights. The internet, therefore, has become a site of fictionalization of the human rights.

We can also see the fragmented self has also made is difficult to discern the violation of the human rights under totalitarian regimes. The tyrant is then fragmented as a section of the citizenry become bearer of justice and good of the nation and the other of this nationalized self is demonized and is even rendered disposable. What is often a violation of human rights then assumes a status of acts of justice pursued for the love of the nation or an ethnic group. The fragmentation of the human or the thinking of the self has led to the fictionalization of the human rights. The image of thinking of human rights or the image of nonthinking of human right is a fragmentation of the human in our contemporary times. This fragmented self or the dividual cuts from the (in)dividual and has led to the disappearance of our thinking of the human rights. This is why no individual human is any longer thought to be worthy of dignity and honor.

The image of thought that thinks the human seems to be congruent to the ‘ self ’ of premodern time. During the pre-modern times the self in our society was yet to be born. In deed, the individual self was born with modernity. We can clearly discern it in the Cogito of Descartes. But we have to ask: is the non-presence of the self or the individual in the premodern era is also a dividual of our postmodern times? There is no dividual before coming of the individual self. What we had was a multiple singularity/ the multitude. What we have today is multiple singularities/ dividuals. The multiple singularities are not same as multiple singularity/ the multitude. The pre-individual self was a community or the multitude. The singular identities were thought in reference to the communities to which the self-belonged. This is why at that time the self was a multitudal self. Therefore, the image of thought before the actual thinking of human rights (which happened under modernity) is the good that properly belonged to the multitude. Hence, individuals were disposable. Just like the dividual in our days are disposable, the multitudal selves in the premodern times were disposable. Thus, the human rights of the multitudal self were fictionalized even before the articulation of human rights.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao