Front Page Titles (by Subject) Ideology, Relativism, & Truth - Literature of Liberty, Summer 1982, vol. 5, No. 2
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Ideology, Relativism, & Truth - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Summer 1982, vol. 5, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Ideology, Relativism, & Truth
“Ideology: An Essay in Definition.” Philosophy Today 25 (Fall 1981): 262–276.
Ideology, often used as a smear word against rival schools of thought, is poorly understood. This contributes to the problems of epistemological relativism (that is, the claim that all knowledge is relative) in the study of man and society, problems discussed in the sociology of knowledge. To understand ideology we must first define it clearly. The author inquires into existing usages of the term “ideology” to clarify its definition and answer the objections of relativism. Kendall's ideas are parallel to the work of Paul Ricoeur's hermeneutical philosophy. One of his targets is answering the Marxist “critique of ideologies,” which contributes a negative emancipation from interest-motivated ideologizing without restoring us to a right relationship with being.
Four basic usages of “ideology” occur in the writings of social scientists: (1) Most textbook definitions are vague and all-inclusive definitions of ideology as the sum total of the ideational or mental components in society. Even in this crude understanding, we find the contrast between “subjective” mental activity in contrast with some more “objective” type of cognition. (2) The Marxist perspective contrasts ideology as thought that is non-autonomous defense of class interests with a concern for truth. (3) Mannheim contrasts ideological with utopian thought. Utopian thought imagines possibilities which may be actualized but are suppressed by current social institutions and so transcends limits which ideology imposes on human possibilities. (4) A final usage is illustrated in Daniel Bell's “end-of-ideology” school, which contrasts an allegedly unknowable and subjective “absolute” truth or ultimate end (ideology) with the objective cognition represented by the pragmatic approach concerned with means, solutions to technical problems, rather than ends.
Two dimensions of a formal definition emerge from these four usages: (1) Ideology as cognition in which the perception of boundaries or limits (hence possibilities) in reality is distorted; and (2) Ideology as subjective cognition. These formal criteria are clarified and explored by the author, and he finally reaches a more adequate definition: “Since truth is the adequation of the intellect to the object, and an object is an object by virtue of its form, ideology, negatively, is thought not oriented to truth, and positively, is thought grounded in a hatred of truth.”
This refined definition of ideology is next applied to two problems of the sociology of knowledge: the problem of relativism of knowledge and the problems of the relation of the truth of an idea to its genesis.
Mannheim intended the sociology of knowledge to function as a critique of ideology, but his positivistic background made him unable to defend his own thought from the charge of being itself ideological. The author asserts that his approach, by cognitively and ontologically defining the distinguishing criteria of truth and ideology, makes his analysis non-relative and testable.
In one sense the genesis of an idea is unrelated to its truth. But in the case of an ideological scholar, who does not ground his ideas on their correspondence with reality but with other commitments, the truth or falseness of an idea he commits himself to is accidental rather than essential. In such ideological cases, we get at an idea's essence only if we see it as an effort to distort the truth (the intellect's representation or intention of the form of the object) and search for its ideological genesis.