In the history of philosophy, many ideas and discourses have taken place, bringing down falsehoods and putting into light new thoughts. As Freidrich Hegel put it, the history of men is the history of ideas. The confrontation of ideas would create dialectic and thus give rise to new ideas which would later be the catalyst for human, societal and civilization progress.
The battle of philosophy most notoriously took place when the rationalism and empiricism school of thoughts took on each other. On the rationalism side was Rene Descartes, Leibniz and Spinoza while on the empiricism side was David Hume, John Locke and George Berkeley. The rationalists generally believe that the epistemological methodology was one of reason and ideas, in that it was ideas which gave rise or create experience. On the other hand, the empiricists believe that it was not reason or rational though which gave rise to experience but it was experience which gave rise to ideas and thoughts. It was taken that the human mind, upon birth, is but an empty piece of paper, waiting to be written.
It took Immanuel Kant, a German Idealist philosopher to provide reconciliation between these two opposing or contrasting schools of thought. To him experience would be the factor of human reasoning and thought but it would also need a pre-existence of the human reason to enable these occurrences to be experienced. It later became what was to be known as transcendental idealism.
This battle raged on between the continental and analytical schools of thought and later, between phenomenology thinkers and structuralist thinkers. It was always a battle between the schools which believed of the influence of the human mind on experience, and, the other, on the influence of experience on the human mind.
It took someone by the name of Jacques Derrida, who again sought to harmonise the conflict of these two contrasting discourses. Derrida, living in an era of the phenomenology and structuralist battle, found the need to create a middle path. As a result, the theory of deconstruction was crafted. His basis for the theory of deconstruction was that nothing could ever exist on its own, and because of this we must study and question the subversive other or opposing half. The dominant one would not have meaning without the subversive other. It is the study and understanding of the subversive other that we will see the relevance of the dominant one. To study the subversive other in light of the dominant one and to challenge the latter would involve deconstruction.
Deconstruction is useful in its application in various ways. The need to give meaning to the subversive other is imperative. To be at the forefront and apex of progress, the ideas of thought must be flexible, shapeless and ever fluid. The recent economic crisis involving the collapse of the financial giants in America once again showed that the ideas of the free economy cannot last the onslaught of time, orthodoxy and human nature. The intervention of the American government shows its intimacy or fling with socialism ideas. The battle of conservatives and liberals, conservatives and labour, free market and government intervention rages on. For us in Malaysia, to take guidance from these happenings, we ought to be mindful of the need to move fluidly between ideas and hence to construct, deconstruct and later reconstruct. No idea is spared.
Within the province of law, the focus of legal thought in Malaysia has always been on liberal jurisprudence. This has however not managed to solve many of the discrepancies involving social justice and equality. The rule of law has always been the battle cry of liberal jurisprudence. It has therefore failed to take into account that law does not function in a vacuum. For law to function, it must exist for a particular reason or reasons. The whole danger in this is that it fails to move out of its perimeter or ideological framework and thus misses the point of social justice and equality. It becomes therefore merely a medicine to cure a symptom and does not work to address the underlying cause. Enquiry must be made to the reasons giving rise to the need for law and not how or why or what law may be used or formulated to put right any deficiency or inadequacies. Study must be made to the subversive other. To take liberal jurisprudence head on, the understanding of class instrumentalism or historical materialism would be an alternative.
As ideas progress, men progresses. Nothing is permanent, change is inevitable. The splendour is not in resisting change, but in embracing change without changing.
“One, who knows, knows that he knows nothing at all.”