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Throughout the centuries, people have relied on different ideologies in order to explain all kinds of beliefs, be they political, religious or social. There are many possible definitions of ideology. This essay will focus on the one given by Gabriel Tordjman in Darwin’s Tea Party. Ideology is thus “a system of thought that serves to excuse or justify inequality in society” (Tordjman 29). The two examples I’ll discuss in this essay are the Great Chain of Being concept and biology itself as an ideology.

There are three aspects to the definition of ideology. First, ideology is a set of ideas; it isn’t a person, an act, or a type of society. A person can believe in an ideology, an act can be motivated by an ideology, and a society can be prearranged in reference to an ideology, yet they themselves are not ideologies. Second, ideology is a set of ideas that tries “justifying” by providing an incorrect reason for inequality. Third, ideology is a set of ideas that tries “justifying” an unequal social, economic, or political system. Not all types of inequities are justified by the ideas in an ideology, only those describing certain kinds of social arrangements, economic or political systems.

Considering the above definition of ideology, political or economic systems which don’t contain inequalities won’t contain ideologies. Ideologies are also understood in three different kinds of languages: religious, philosophical and scientific. This makes them seem as if they are real and rational. It’s easier to picture an ideology from the past than one from the present. It is easy to see how the godly status of the pharaoh in ancient Egypt served an ideological objective. Yet which are the ideologies that exist today, and what kind of language would they use as reasoning for inequality and the control of society today?

The first example is the Great Chain of Being concept. According to Gabriel Tordjman’s Darwin’s Tea Party, the Great Chain of Being concept was part of a philosophical and religious perception of all of reality. This perception conveyed to many of the cultured people of the time a full representation of the universe, and the individual’s, as well as society’s, place in the universe (29). This concept had as well seemed to be clarifying and vindicating the formation of civilization which had evolved by the end of the Middle Ages. Ideology has a single function: to persuade or convince others to accept social or political measures, which may otherwise be turned down or seem a bit suspicious, too. Nevertheless, the statement that separation and discrimination of the world into higher and lower classes or assemblies in some way conveys the willpower of common sense, nature or even God, isn’t any longer only rationalization but ideological justification. Often ideology will be biased in favor of a certain class, group or form of society. Yet it may not be until much later that this bias will be recognized.

The second example is biology. Ideology is very present in a field like biology. For example, R.C Lewinton disputes the theory of reductionism in evolutionary biology and in sociobiology. Lewinton says of genes that they aren’t as important as scientists want to makes us believe. Rather social actions and experience determine human behavior. He says that reductionism is “…a reflection of the ideologies of the bourgeois revolutions of the eighteenth century that placed the individual as the center of everything”. He is trying to explain how scientists imposed their ideology to explain an aspect of biology, reductionism.

To conclude, an ideology is basically a set of ideas justifying inequality in society. Ideologies are understood by scientific, philosophical and religious languages. From the first example, we can see how the Great Chain of Being concept itself explains and justifies the structure of society. However, in the second example, biology, we see here how Lewontin wants to explain how scientists inflicted their ideology to explain reductionism. It’s amazing how much people will try to make you believe in certain things.
Published: 2006-05-14
Author: Lucille Dana

About the author or the publisher
Born in the city of Montreal, in the year 1987, in a loving home and surrounded by the most wonderful family, I was their little Lulu. Always the shy one in class, would always listen to teachers and do well on class assignments. I would almost never make any spelling or grammar mistakes which was why I decided to do something with this talent of mine. That was when I began writing my own poems, short stories, essays, articles, and many more.

More about me on my website.

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