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  • Salim Mokaddem

Secularism and numeracy

Quels sont les liens entre usages non critiques du numérique et déclin des libertés? En quoi les pathologies du monde virtuel et les addictions à l'immédiateté pulsionnelle entravent l'exercice concret de la laïcité? Quels sont les dangers du présentisme et de la "culture" numérique pour le rapport au monde, au soi, à l'autre?

Biarritz, Saturday November 27, 2021

Paganism and secularism in the era of digital intelligence

Social networks have never been so frequented and used, in a wide variety of ways, but controlled and channeled by a few owners of digital industries (including gafam) than since Covid-19 confined and stopped the global movement of ideas and people in the world. The various traditional media are increasingly neglected by populations, all social classes and ages combined, even if the uses are to be differentiated according to training, intelligence, logic of action and habits (Bourdieu, 1970) .

The fact remains that the movements of nihilism, protest, defiance, secession, revolt or positive affirmation, are multiplying on the Internet networks via applications, dedicated sites, more or less encrypted messaging and that the world economy is more and more destined to take into account this computerization of information up to and including in the so-called virtual and digital economies (cryptocurrencies, bitcoins, etc.). However, postures, proposals, affirmations, dogmas also seem to be constituted in this way: in the name of freedom or fundamental freedoms, certain movements are radicalized, while claiming to awaken (woke), to care (care), ecology (greenwashing) or well-being (sophrology, back to nature, Gaïa, etc.).

A certain acritical irrationality, without judgment or not based on rational or argued analyses, affirms in a very dogmatic and almost religious way, truths considered as untouchable and values affirmed as eternal and inviolable, for which one can go so far as to die. Intransigence and intolerance are often inversely proportional to the degree of critical rationality and logical discussion of the parties involved.

We then witness the formation of groups or ideological groupings which reinforce their position by the pure collective affirmation of propositions proclaimed without prior verification (arguments from authority) without them being validated by logical, rational, critical processes, allowing to establish its validity and truth and to test its real coherence and historical or social relevance. New gods then appear: their temple is TikTok or Instagram or Facebook, etc. : everyone goes there from their personal mythology where insult and blockage take the place of ordeals or irrefutable proof of the sacred character of their ideas, reduced to emotion or the passion of more or less clear opinions. A real emotional contagion (Walloon) then takes the place of reasoned discourse and discursive “open sesame”; a new order of discourse and language takes the form of a theology of affirmation in the name of a revelation on the truth of this or that affirmation relayed on posts or “likes” thousands of times.

The repetition and the virality of the opinion thus determine its truth: facticity is worth legitimacy and normalization then passes through the quantity of views or posts on the web. “Truths”, “idols”, are born by this process of contagion and these little lare gods are no longer questioned about their intentions, their philosophical birth certificate, their logics and their finality. The seen takes the place of the known and the posted is the official truth. Hence the question of fake news and post-truth as real (and no longer virtual) risks for social ties, the symbolic order and positive democracies.

There are ways of being to oneself, to the world, to the other which are induced by these postures of digital users who maintain a way of dogmatizing about the world, and thus allow the very idea of the world to be dissolved. common, by posing proposals, images, words, becoming dogmatic fictions worth in fact as untouchable and sacred divinities. Digital has risks:

  1. Structural presentism due to the technological fact of the relative immediacy of communication (which supplants information),

  2. absence of logical temporality and discursive causality, which causes cognitive dysfunctions (memorization, difficulty in handling the symbolic function or the game of cognitive abstractions – permutation, reversibility, lateralization, equivalence of volumes, masses, measurements, etc. .-)

  3. feeling of being in fusion with a collective that makes you sociable and apolitical

  4. impression of anonymity and omnipotence developing the drives of aggressiveness and death (Thanatopractice and thanatopolitics)

  5. disruption with the real environment at the risk of an inability to support the constraint and the social norms of the law, of the Other

  6. sublimation of lived realities, phenomenon of addiction and impulse to the act of participation in the sphere of the net and in identity communities or tribes, disorders of the perception of the world and risk of social and perceptual psychoses

  7. feeling of all technical and technological power (make the difference here) linked to the organization of the immediate and hyper-media diffusion of any impulse or representation or emotion,

  8. ontological distancing of the Real by the abolition of the historicity constitutive of meaning and of human reality,

  9. rupture of the symbolic order, of the social link and of the nature of the logos which supposes the other as the presence to oneself which builds a world of common values tested in the dialectical and critical confrontation with its reality, its point of view, its arguments, its truths,

  10. pathological development of the narcissistic and egocentric feeling of being (at and) the center of the world: process of permanent psychologization and inability to decenter to think about the world and the surrounding reality (because I am worth it, coach and personal happiness, ego oversized or off, etc.)

Secularism is the critical use of reason in all areas: a decline in the rationalization of the world leads ipso facto to a decline in secularism considered as the exercise of judgment and a separation of churches and politics considered as good. legal, philosophical, ethical and political commonality. For if cultural relativism is historical, the same is not true of sociological relativism: the universal cannot be dissolved in the subjectivism of passion or fusion in the instinctual. A theory of values supposes a humanism of the universal which is not of circumstance or relativity of the point of view or the doxa. This is the message of Plato, of the Enlightenment, of African wisdom but also of science when it reflects on itself and on the formal conditions of the production of its knowledge and its truths always linked to axioms, conditions epistemological and, structurally, conditioned by determined axiomatic contexts.

Critical vigilance consists in thinking of digital technology as a desire for knowledge and power embodied in technical instruments and standards of subjection of the actors of the planetary network of transport, transfer, and control of communications. It is then difficult to split the communication of information which depends on the way in which it is transmitted. Because the fascination for the immediate and belief without foundation or rational verification puts the spirit of secularism in danger: opinion is not right because it is majority and powerful and powerfully relayed by hyperpresent and presentist tools communication. It becomes true affirmation when it is based on reasoning, proven by rationalities, even if they are random and uncertain, and when it opens up to the Other and to his welcome, to his hospitality in discourse and not to dogmatic closure. because he is not from the same group or the same chapel as oneself.

The digital age endangers deliberative democracy and the foundations of political reason of the Enlightenment, which consisted, according to Kant's definition, of using one's own understanding, of daring to think for oneself in order to avoid the alienation and servitude of submission to any authority.

Thinking is done alone to be able to reach the universal in each of us which brings together our intimacy and our differences in the common sense of this solitary appropriation of the meaning of the world and the enigma of life.

The farthest is the closest, and the closest is the most difficult to think because it is then necessary to make a conversion in the Cave of our passions, from the light of the Belvedere to that more interior of our personal journey, more difficult and in no way written in a social network. Secularism allows and authorizes this path by guaranteeing by law and republican law the strictest right to think for oneself and to let others do the same. In this sense, we are all strangers to each other and similar in our gradually constructing subjectivity.

Secularism is a distancing of transcendence or the sacred in the immediate future and not an instinctual and emotional adherence to values confused with unreflected impulses to adhere to norms without history, without foundation, without rationality other than the proclaiming them as values in themselves. In this sense, the digital producing this disappearance of meaning, of history, of the symbolic can lead the mind into the confusion of feelings and make it think that the movement of its vital impulse within it corresponds to that of a truth outside from him.

Salim Mokaddem,

Philosopher, special adviser to the President of the Republic of Niger, head of the education unit of the Presidency.

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