Thursday, September 11, 2008


Word for the day is Obscurantism, defined by the dictionary as opposition to the spread of knowledge: a policy of withholding knowledge from the general public (Latin obscurans, "darkening"). Plato was an early advocate of selectively restricting the propagation of knowledge, justifying the concept of a “noble lie” that a philosopher-king may sometimes commit “for the own good of the people”.

Totalitarian societies extensively depend on obscurantism whenever it allows dictators to decide on what is best for the people. Our colonial status for close to four centuries was maintained largely because of obscurantism. Because we were deemed unworthy of knowledge, we were also considered unprepared for independence. Whenever our greatest and most effective heroes saw another order when they were permitted to travel abroad was the beginning of the end of our subjugation.

Nietzsche wrote: "The essential element in the black art of obscurantism is not that it wants to darken individual understanding but that it wants to blacken our picture of the world, and darken our idea of existence.”

Obscurantism as a tool of public policy does not respect the right of individuals to make informed choices. Thomas Aquinas wrote: "...anyone upon whom the ecclesiastical authority in ignorance of true fact imposes a demand that offends against his clear conscience, should perish in excommunication rather than violate his conscience." Jose Rizal in his two novels repeatedly railed against the near absolute obscurantism reigning in his day. He ascribed most of the blame to the one sector in Philippine colonial society whose presence remained fairly constant, the various religious orders. An ironic situation, considering Matthew 10:24 “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known”.


marian said...

I'm all for enlightenment and education.

Anonymous said...

Isn't religion guilty of obscurantism?

pian said...

Giving respect is not obscurantism.