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Ivan Illich
Full name Ivan Illich
Born September 4, 1926(1926-09-04)
Vienna, Austria
Died December 2, 2002 (aged 76)
Bremen, Germany
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Anarchism, Catholicism
Main interests Philosophy of education, Philosophy of technology

Ivan Illich (pronounced /ɪˈvɑːn ˈɪlɪtʃ/[1]) (Vienna, 4 September 1926 – Bremen, 2 December 2002) was an Austrian philosopher, Roman Catholic priest and critic of the institutions of contemporary western culture and their effects on the provenance and practice of education, medicine, work, energy use, and economic development.

Contents

Personal life

Illich was born in Vienna to a Croatian father—engineer Ivan Peter Illich and Sephardic-Jewish mother—Ellen née Regenstreif-Ortlieb[2] and had Italian, French and German as native languages.[3] He later learned Croatian, the language of his grandfathers, then Ancient Greek and Latin, in addition to Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, English, and other languages.[3] Thereafter, he studied histology and crystallography at the University of Florence (Italy) as well as theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in the Vatican (from 1942 to 1946), and medieval history in Salzburg.[3]

He wrote a dissertation focusing on the historian Arnold J. Toynbee and would return to that subject in his later years. In 1951, he was assigned as an assistant parish priest in New York City[3] after which he was appointed in 1956, at the age of 30, as the vice rector of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico.[3] It was in Puerto Rico that Illich met Everett Reimer and the two began to analyze their own functions as "educational" leaders. In 1959, he traveled throughout South America on foot and by bus.[3]

In 1961, Illich founded the Centro Intercultural de Documentación (CIDOC, or Intercultural Documentation Center) at Cuernavaca in Mexico, ostensibly a research center offering language courses to missionaries from North America and volunteers of the Alliance for Progress program[3] initiated by John F. Kennedy. His real intent was to document the participation of the Vatican in the "modern development" of the so-called Third World. Illich looked askance at the liberal pity or conservative imperiousness that motivated the rising tide of global industrial development. He viewed such emissaries as a form of industrial hegemony and, as such, an act of "war on subsistence." He sought to teach missionaries dispatched by the Church not to impose their own cultural values[4] and to identify themselves instead as guests of the host country.[citation needed]

After ten years, critical analysis from the CIDOC of the institutional actions by the Church brought the organization into conflict with the Vatican. Illich was called to Rome for questioning, due in part to a report from the CIA.[3] In 1976, Illich, apparently concerned by the influx of formal academics and the potential side effects of its own "institutionalization," shut the center down with consent from the other members of the CIDOC. Several of the members subsequently continued language schools in Cuernavaca, of which some still exist. Illich himself resigned from the active priesthood in the late 1960s (having attained the rank of monsignor), but continued to identify as a priest and occasionally performed private masses.

In the 1970s, Illich was popular among leftist intellectuals in France, his thesis having been discussed in particular by André Gorz. However, his influence declined after the 1981 election of François Mitterrand as he was considered too pessimistic at a time when the French Left took control of the government.[3]

In the 1980s and beyond, Illich traveled extensively, mainly splitting his time between the United States, Mexico, and Germany. He held an appointment as a Visiting Professor of Philosophy, Science, Technology and Society at Penn State. He also taught at the University of Bremen.

During his later years, he suffered from a cancerous growth on his face that, in accordance with his critique of professionalized medicine, was treated with traditional methods. He regularly smoked opium to deal with the pain caused by this tumor. At an early stage, he consulted a doctor about having the tumor removed, but was told that there was too great a chance of losing his ability to speak, and so he lived with the tumor as best he could. He called it "my mortality."[citation needed]

Deschooling Society

The book that brought Ivan Illich to public attention was Deschooling Society (1971), a critical discourse on education as practised in "modern" economies. Full of detail on contemporary programs and concerns, the book remains as radical today. Giving examples of the ineffectual nature of institutionalized education, Illich posited self-directed education, supported by intentional social relations, in fluid informal arrangements:

Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue's responsibility until it engulfs his pupils' lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring. We hope to contribute concepts needed by those who conduct such counterfoil research on education--and also to those who seek alternatives to other established service industries.
—Ivan Illich, [1]

The last sentence makes clear what the title suggests—that the institutionalization of education is considered to tend towards the institutionalization of society and that ideas for de-institutionalizing education may be a starting point for a de-institutionalized society.

The book is more than a critique - it contains suggestions for a reinvention of learning throughout society and lifetime. Particularly striking is his call (in 1971) for the use of advanced technology to support "learning webs."

The operation of a peer-matching network would be simple. The user would identify himself by name and address and describe the activity for which he sought a peer. A computer would send him back the names and addresses of all those who had inserted the same description. It is amazing that such a simple utility has never been used on a broad scale for publicly valued activity.
—Ivan Illich

Tools for Conviviality

Tools for Conviviality (1973) was published only two years after Deschooling Society. In this new work Illich generalized the themes that he had previously applied to the field of education: the institutionalization of specialized knowledge, the dominant role of technocratic elites in industrial society, and the need to develop new instruments for the reconquest of practical knowledge by the average citizen. Illich proposed that we should "invert the present deep structure of tools" in order to "give people tools that guarantee their right to work with independent efficiency."[5]

Tools for Conviviality attracted worldwide attention. A resume of it was published by French social philosopher André Gorz in Les Temps Modernes, under the title "Freeing the Future."[6] The book's vision of tools that would be developed and maintained by a community of users had a significant influence on the first developers of the personal computer, notably Lee Felsenstein.[7]

Medical Nemesis

In his Medical Nemesis, first published in 1975, also known as Limits to Medicine, Illich subjected contemporary western medicine to detailed attack. He argued that the medicalization in recent decades of so many of life's vicissitudes—birth and death, for example—frequently caused more harm than good and rendered many people in effect lifelong patients. He marshalled a body of statistics to show what he considered the shocking extent of post-operative side-effects and drug-induced illness in advanced industrial society. He was the first to introduce to a wider public the notion of iatrogenic disease.[8] Others have since voiced similar views, but none so trenchantly, perhaps, as Illich.[9]

Concepts

Counterproductivity

The main notion of Ivan Illich is the concept of counterproductivity which describes an inconvenient phenomenon: when they reach a critical point (and form a monopoly), big institutions of modern industrial societies become, without knowing it, impediments to their own performance. For example, Ivan Illich calculated that, in America in the 70's, if you add the time spent to work to earn the money to buy a car, the time spent in the car (including traffic jam), the time spent in the health care industry because of a car crash, the time spent in the oil industry to fuel cars ...etc, and you divide that by the number of kilometres traveled per year, you obtain the following calculation : 1600 hours per year per American divided by 10000 km per year per person equals 6 km per hour. So the real speed of a car would be about 3.7 miles per hour.

Radical monopoly

He invented the concept of radical monopoly: when a technical medium is or appears to be more effective, it creates a monopoly which denies access to other mediums. The mandatory consumption of a medium which uses a lot of energy (for example motorised transportation) narrows the fruition of use value (innate transit ability).

"By "radical monopoly" I mean the dominance of one type of product rather than the dominance of one brand. I speak about radical monopoly when one industrial production process exercises an exclusive control over the satisfaction of a pressing need, and excludes nonindustrial activities from competition." Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality, p52.

Conviviality

Illich worked to open new possibilities. He argued that we need convivial tools as opposed to machines. Tools accept more than one utilisation, sometime even distant from its original means, so a tool accepts expression from its user. On the contrary, with a machine, humans become servants, their role consisting only of running the machine in a unique purpose.

See also

References

  1. ^ See inogolo:pronunciation of Ivan Illich.
  2. ^ Hansom 2001
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Thierry Paquot, The Non-Conformist, Le Monde diplomatique, January 2003 (English) (French version freely-available, and Portuguese and Esperanto translations available)
  4. ^ du Plessix Gray 1970, pp. 44 & 49
  5. ^ Illich 1973
  6. ^ http://www.techno-science.net/?onglet=glossaire&definition=1048
  7. ^ Convivial Cybernetic Devices, From Vacuum Tube Flip-Flops to the Singing Altair, An Interview with Lee Felsenstein (Part 1), The Analytical Engine (Newsletter of the Computer History Association of California, ISSN 1071-6351), Volume 3, Number 1, November 1995, http://opencollector.org/history/homebrew/engv3n1.html
  8. ^ Illich 1974b
  9. ^ Postman 1992

List of works

  • Illich, Ivan (1951). Die philosophischen Grundlagen der Geschichtsschreibung bei Arnold J. Toynbee. Salzburg: Diss.. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1971). Celebration of Awareness. ISBN 0-7145-0837-3. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1971). Deschooling Society. ISBN 0060121394. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1973). Tools for Conviviality. ISBN 0-06-080308-8, ISBN 0-06-012138-6. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1974). Energy and Equity. ISBN 0061361535. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1974). Medical Nemesis. London: Calder & Boyars. ISBN 0714510963. OCLC 224760852. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1975). Medical Nemesis. ISBN 0-394-71245-5, ISBN 0-7145-1095-5, ISBN 0-7145-1096-3. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1978). The Right to Useful Unemployment. ISBN 0-7145-2628-2. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1978). Toward a History of Needs. ISBN 0-394-41040-8, ISBN 0-394-73501-3. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1981). Shadow Work. ISBN 0-7145-2711-4, ISBN 0-7145-2710-6. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1982). Gender. ISBN 0-394-52732-1. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1985). H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness. ISBN 0-911005-06-4. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1988). ABC: The Alphabetization of the Popular Mind. ISBN 0-86547-291-2. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1992). In the Mirror of the Past. ISBN 0-7145-2937-0. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1993). In the Vineyard of the Text: A Commentary to Hugh's Didascalicon. ISBN 0-226-37235-9. 
  • Illich, Ivan (July 1995). Blasphemy: A Radical Critique of Our Technological Culture. We the People. Morristown, NJ: Aaron Press. ISBN 978-1882206025. 
  • Illich, Ivan (1992). interviews with David Cayley. ed. Ivan Illich in Conversation. Toronto: House of Anansi Press. 
  • Illich, Ivan (2005). The Rivers North of the Future - The Testament of Ivan Illich as told to David Cayley. Toronto: House of Anansi Press. ISBN 0-88784-714-5. 
  • Illich, Ivan (2000). David Cayley. ed. Corruption of Christianity. ISBN 0-660-18099-5. 

Further reading

  • Derber, Charles; Schwartz, William A.; Magrass, Yale (1990). Power in the Highest Degree: Professionals and the Rise of a New Mandarin Order. Oxford University Press. 
  • Gabbard, D. A. (1993). Silencing Ivan Illich: A Foucauldian Analysis of Intellectual Exclusion. New York: Austin & Winfield. ISBN 1880921170. 
  • Hansom, Paul (2001). Twentieth-century European cultural theorists. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Group. pp. 212. ISBN 0-7876-4659-8. 
  • du Plessix Gray, Francine (April 25, 1970). Profiles: The Rules of the Game. The New Yorker. pp. 40–92. 
  • Postman, Neil (1992). Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Knopf. OCLC 24694343. 

External links

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General

Obituaries


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Friendship in the Greek tradition, in the Roman tradition, in the old tradition, was always viewed as the highest point which virtue can reach. Virtue, meaning here, "the habitual facility of doing the good thing," which is fostered by what the Greeks called politaea, political life, community life.

Ivan Illich (4 September 19262 December 2002) was an Austrian born anarchist, author, polymath, and polemicist.

Contents

Sourced

Learned and leisured hospitality is the only antidote to the stance of deadly cleverness that is acquired in the professional pursuit of objectively secured knowledge. I remain certain that the quest for truth cannot thrive outside the nourishment of mutual trust flowering into a commitment to friendship.
I do not believe that friendship today can flower out — can come out — of political life. I do believe that if there is something like a political life-to-be — to remain for us, in this world of technology — then it begins with friendship.
  • People need new tools to work with rather than new tools that work for them.
    • Tools for Conviviality (1973), p. 10
  • In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.
    • Tools for Conviviality (1973), Ch. 3
  • Modern medicine is a negation of health. It isn’t organised to serve human health, but only itself, as an institution. It makes more people sick than it heals.
    • Medical Nemesis (1976)
  • Learned and leisurely hospitality is the only antidote to the stance of deadly cleverness that is acquired in the professional pursuit of objectively secured knowledge. I remain certain that the quest for truth cannot thrive outside the nourishment of mutual trust flowering into a commitment to friendship. Therefore, I have tried to identify the climate that fosters and the "conditioned" air that hinders the growth of friendship.
  • Addicted to being carried along, he has lost control over the physical, social and psychic powers that reside in man's feet...He has lost confidence in his power to admit others into his presence and to share space consciously with them.
    • "Energy and Equity" (1974)

Deschooling Society (1971)

  • Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue's responsibility until it engulfs his pupils' lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring. We hope to contribute concepts needed by those who conduct such counterfoil research on education — and also to those who seek alternatives to other established service industries.
    • Introduction (November 1970)
  • I intend to discuss some perplexing issues which are raised once we embrace the hypothesis that society can be deschooled; to search for criteria which may help us distinguish institutions which merit development because they support learning in a deschooled milieu; and to clarify those personal goals which would foster the advent of an Age of Leisure (schole) as opposed to an economy dominated by service industries.
    • Introduction (November 1970)
  • Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting. Most people learn best by being "with it," yet school makes them identify their personal, cognitive growth with elaborate planning and manipulation.
    • Ritualization of Progress

Silence is a Commons (1982)

Address at the "Asahi Symposium Science and Man - The computer-managed Society," Tokyo, Japan (21 March 21 1982); as published in The CoEvolution Quarterly (Winter 1983)
  • Machines which ape people are tending to encroach on every aspect of people's lives, and that such machines force people to behave like machines. The new electronic devices do indeed have the power to force people to "communicate" with them and with each other on the terms of the machine. Whatever structurally does not fit the logic of machines is effectively filtered from a culture dominated by their use.
    The machine-like behaviour of people chained to electronics constitutes a degradation of their well-being and of their dignity which, for most people in the long run, becomes intolerable. Observations of the sickening effect of programmed environments show that people in them become indolent, impotent, narcissistic and apolitical. The political process breaks down, because people cease to be able to govern themselves; they demand to be managed.
  • Electronic management as a political issue can be approached in several ways. I propose, at the beginning of this public consultation, to approach the issue as one of political ecology. Ecology, during the last ten years, has acquired a new meaning. It is still the name for a branch of professional biology, but the term now increasingly serves as the label under which a broad, politically organized general public analyzes and influences technical decisions
  • I will clarify a distinction that I consider fundamental to political ecology. I shall distinguish the environment as commons from the environment as resource. On our ability to make this particular distinction depends not only the construction of a sound theoretical ecology, but also - and more importantly - effective ecological jurisprudence.
  • "Commons" is an Old English word. According to my Japanese friends, it is quite close to the meaning that iriai still has in Japanese "Commons," like iriai, is a word which, in preindustrial times, was used to designate certain aspects of the environment. People called commons those parts of the environment for which customary law exacted specific forms of community respect. People called commons that part of the environment which lay beyond their own thresholds and outside of their own possessions, to which, however, they had recognized claims of usage, not to produce commodities but to provide for the subsistence of their households. The customary law which humanized the environment by establishing the commons was usually unwritten. It was unwritten law not only because people did not care to write it down, but because what it protected was a reality much too complex to fit into paragraphs. The law of the commons regulates the right of way, the right to fish and to hunt, to graze, and to collect wood or medicinal plants in the forest.
    An oak tree might be in the commons. Its shade, in summer, is reserved for the shepherd and his flock; its acorns are reserved for the pigs of the neighbouring peasants; its dry branches serve as fuel for the widows of the village; some of its fresh twigs in springtime are cut as ornaments for the church — and at sunset it might be the place for the village assembly. When people spoke about commons, iriai, they designated an aspect of the environment that was limited, that was necessary for the community's survival, that was necessary for different groups in different ways, but which, in a strictly economic sense, was not perceived as scarce.
  • The enclosure of the commons inaugurates a new ecological order: Enclosure did not just physically transfer the control over grasslands from the peasants to the lord. Enclosure marked a radical change in the attitudes of society towards the environment. Before, in any juridical system, most of the environment had been considered as commons from which most people could draw most of their sustenance without needing to take recourse to the market. After enclosure, the environment became primarily a resource at the service of "enterprises" which, by organizing wage-labor, transformed nature into the goods and services on which the satisfaction of basic needs by consumers depends. This transformation is in the blind spot of political economy.
  • The appropriation of the grassland by the lords was challenged, but the more fundamental transformation of grassland (or of roads) from commons to resource has happened, until recently, without being subjected to criticism. The appropriation of the environment by the few was clearly recognized as an intolerable abuse. By contrast, the even more degrading transformation of people into members of an industrial labour force and into consumers was taken, until recently, for granted. For almost a hundred years the majority of political parties has challenged the accumulation of environmental resources in private hands. However, the issue was argued in terms of the private utilization of these resources, not the distinction of commons. Thus anticapitalist politics so far have bolstered the legitimacy of transforming commons into resources.
  • Enclosure, once accepted, redefines community. Enclosure underlines the local autonomy of community. Enclosure of the commons is thus as much in the interest of professionals and of state bureaucrats as it is in the interest of capitalists. Enclosure allows the bureaucrats to define local community as impotent — "ei-ei schau-schau!!!" — to provide for its own survival. People become economic individuals that depend for their survival on commodities that are produced for them. Fundamentally, most citizens' movements represent a rebellion against this environmentally induced redefinition of people as consumers.
  • As enclosure by the lords increased national productivity by denying the individual peasant to keep a few sheep, so the encroachment of the loudspeaker has destroyed that silence which so far had given each man and woman his or her proper and equal voice. Unless you have access to a loudspeaker, you now are silenced.
  • The issue which I propose for discussion should therefore be clear: how to counter the encroachment of new, electronic devices and systems upon commons that are more subtle and more intimate to our being than either grassland or roads — commons that are at least as valuable as silence. Silence, according to western and eastern tradition alike, is necessary for the emergence of persons. It is taken from us by machines that ape people. We could easily be made increasingly dependent on machines for speaking and for thinking, as we are already dependent on machines for moving.
  • A transformation of the environment from a commons to a productive resource constitutes the most fundamental form of environmental degradation. This degradation has a long history, which coincides with the history of capitalism but can in no way just be reduced to it. Unfortunately the importance of this transformation has been overlooked or belittled by political ecology so far. It needs to be recognized if we are to organize defense movements of what remains of the commons. This defense constitutes the crucial public task for political action during the eighties. The task must be undertaken urgently because commons can exist without police, but resources cannot. Just as traffic does, computers call for police, and for ever more of them, and in ever more subtle forms.
    By definition, resources call for defense by police. Once they are defended, their recovery as commons becomes increasingly difficult. This is a special reason for urgency.

We the People interview (1996)

Online transcript
  • During the late sixties I had a chance to give a dozen addresses to people who were concerned with education and schooling. I asked myself, since when are people born needy? In need, for instance, of education? Since when do we have to learn the language we speak by being taught by somebody? I wanted to find out where the idea came from that all over the world people have to be assembled in specific groups of not less than fifteen, otherwise it's not a class, not more than forty, otherwise they are underprivileged, for yearly, not less than 800 hours, otherwise they don't get enough, not more than 1,100 hours, otherwise it's considered a prison, for four-year periods by somebody else who has undergone this for a longer time. How did it come about that such a crazy process like schooling would become necessary? Then I realized that it was something like engineering people, that our society doesn't only produce artifact things, but artifact people. And that it doesn't do that by the content of the curriculum, but by getting them through this ritual which makes them believe that learning happens as a result of being taught; that learning can be divided into separate tasks; that learning can be measured and pieces can be added one to the other; that learning provides value for the objects which then sell in the market.
    And it's true. The more expensive the schooling of a person, the more money he will make in the course of his life. This in spite of the certainty, from a social science point of view, that there's absolutely no relationship between the curriculum content and what people actually do satisfactorily for themselves or society in life.
  • The latent function of schooling, that is, the hidden curriculum, which forms individuals into needy people who know that they have now satisfied a little bit of their needs for education, is much more important... The idea that people are born with needs, that needs can be translated into rights, that these rights can be translated into entitlements, is a development of the modem world and it's reasonable, it's acceptable, it's obvious only for people who have had some of their educational needs awakened or created, then satisfied, and then learned that they have less than others. Schooling, which we engage in and which supposedly creates equal opportunities, has become the unique, never-before-attempted way of dividing the whole society into classes. Everybody knows at which level of his twelve or sixteen years of schooling he has dropped out, and in addition knows what price tag is attached to the higher schooling he has gotten. It's a history of degrading the majority of people.
  • Increasingly people live in an artifact and become artifacts themselves, feel satisfied, feel fit for that artifact insofar as they themselves have been manipulated.
  • Inevitably modern technology has polarized society. It has polluted the environment. It has disabled very simple native abilities and made people dependent on objects... Like an automobile which makes the world inaccessible, when actually in Latin "automobile" means "using your feet to get somewhere." The automobile makes it unthinkable. I was recently told, "You're a liar!" when I said to somebody I walked down the spine of the Andes. Every Spaniard in the sixteenth, seventeenth century did that. The idea that somebody could just walk! He can jog perhaps in the morning, but he can't walk anywhere! The world has become inaccessible because we drive there.
  • Traditionally the gaze was conceived as a way of fingering, of touching. The old Greeks spoke about looking as a way of sending out my psychopodia, my soul's limbs, to touch your face and establish a relationship between the two of us. This relationship was called vision. Then, after Galileo, the idea developed that the eyes are receptors into which light brings something from the outside, keeping you separate from me even when I look at you. People began to conceive of their eyes as some kind of camera obscura. In our age people conceive of their eyes and actually use them as if they were part of a machinery. They speak about interface. Anybody who says to me, "I want to have an interface with you," I say, "please go somewhere else, to a toilet or wherever you want, to a mirror." Anybody who says, "I want to communicate with you," I say, "Can't you talk? Can't you speak? Can't you recognize that there's a deep otherness between me and you, so deep that it would be offensive for me to be programmed in the same way you are."
  • The two of us haven't seen each other for a year now, and when we saw each other we bowed in front of each other. This very idea of bowing — you don't bow in front of a screen. It's made impossible, or very difficult, for people who constantly see non-persons on the screen.
  • I want to just go back to a great rabbinical and also, as you see, monastic, Christian development beyond what the Greeks like Plato or Cicero already knew about friendship. That it is from your eye that I find myself. There's a little thing there. They called it pupilla, a "puppet" of myself which I can see in your eye. The black thing in your eye.
    Pupil, puppet, person, eye. It is not my mirror. It is you making me the gift of that which Ivan is for you. That's the one who says "I" here. I'm purposely not saying, this is my person, this is my individuality, this is my ego. No. I'm saying this is the one who answers you here, whom you have given to him.
  • I cannot come to be fully human unless I have received myself as a gift and accepted myself as a gift of somebody who has, as we say today, distorted me the way you distorted me by loving me.
  • Friendship in the Greek tradition, in the Roman tradition, in the old tradition, was always viewed as the highest point which virtue can reach. Virtue, meaning here, "the habitual facility of doing the good thing," which is fostered by what the Greeks called politaea, political life, community life. I know it was a political life in which I wouldn't have liked to participate, with the slaves around and with the women excluded, but I still have to go to Plato or to Cicero. They conceived of friendship as a supreme flowering, of the interaction which happens in a good political society
  • I do not believe that friendship today can flower out — can come out — of political life. I do believe that if there is something like a political life to be — to remain for us, in this world of technology — then it begins with friendship.
    Therefore my task is to cultivate disciplined, self-denying, careful, tasteful friendships. Mutual friendships always. I-and-you and, I hope, a third one, out of which perhaps community can grow. Because perhaps here we can find what the good is.
  • While once friendship in our western tradition was the supreme flower of politics, I think that if community life exists at all today, it is in some way the consequence of friendship cultivated by each one who initiates it. This goes beyond anything which people usually talk about, saying each one of you is responsible for the friendships he/she can develop, because society will only be as good as the political result of these friendships.
  • Here is the right word. Hospitality was a condition consequent on a good society in politics, politaea, and by now might be the starting point of politaea, of politics. But this is difficult because hospitality requires a threshold over which I can lead you — and TV, internet, newspaper, the idea of communication, abolished the walls and therefore also the friendship, the possibility of leading somebody over the door. Hospitality requires a table around which you can sit and if people get tired they can sleep. You have to belong to a subculture to say, we have a few mattresses here. It's still considered highly improper to conceive of this as the ideal moments in a day or a year. Hospitality is deeply threatened by the idea of personality, of scholastic status. I do think that if I had to choose one word to which hope can be tied it is hospitality. A practice of hospitality— recovering threshold, table, patience, listening, and from there generating seedbeds for virtue and friendship on the one hand — on the other hand radiating out for possible community, for rebirth of community.
  • This breaking of the limitations of hospitality to a small in-group, of offering it to the broadest possible in-group, and saying, you determine who your guest is, might be taken as the key message of Christianity.
    Then in the year 300 and something, finally the Church got recognition. The bishops were made into something like magistrates. The first things those guys do, these new bishops, is create houses of hospitality, institutionalizing what was given to us as a vocation by Jesus, as a personal vocation, institutionalizing it, creating roofs, refuges, for foreigners. Immediately, very interesting, quite a few of the great Christian thinkers of that time, 1600 years ago (John Chrysostom is one), shout: "If you do that, if you institutionalize charity, if you make charity or hospitality into an act of a non-person, a community, Christians will cease to remain famous for what we are now famous for, for having always an extra mattress, a crust of old bread and a candle, for him who might knock at our door." But, for political reasons, the Church became, from the year 400 or 500 on, the main device for roughly a thousand years of proving that the State can be Christian by paying the Church to take care institutionally of small fractions of those who had needs, relieving the ordinary Christian household of the most uncomfortable duty of having a door, having a threshold open for him who might knock and whom I might not choose
  • I can choose. I have to choose. I have to make my mind up whom I will take into my arms, to whom I will lose myself, whom I will treat as that vis-a-vis, that face into which I look, which I lovingly touch with my fingering gaze, from whom I accept being who I am as a gift.

Quotes about Illich

  • His charisma, brilliance and spirituality were clear to anyone who encountered him; these qualities sustained him in a heroic level of activity over the last 10 years in the context of terrible suffering caused by a disfiguring cancer. Following the thesis of Medical Nemesis, he administered his own medication against the advice of doctors, who proposed a largely sedative treatment which would have rendered his work impossible.
    • The Guardian (9 December 2002)
  • Illich was valued during his comparatively short period of fame for the destructive possibilities of his criticisms of almost all the institutions of industrial society, capitalist or communist, in books such as Deschooling Society (1971) and Medical Nemesis (1975) ... My attitude to Illich was composed half of admiration, half of irritation. He had a distinctly prophetic quality, but he could also be very silly, and some of the things he said were destructive of civilization itself... He was a flawed figure as a man and as a thinker: but so, no doubt, are we all. And unlike the other radicals of the era such as Herbert Marcuse, he still repays reading. Being not easily pigeon-holed, he forces us to think.

External links

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Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

Ivan Illich (pronounced [ɪˈvɑn ˈɪlɪtʃ][1]) (Vienna, September 4, 1926 - Bremen, December 2, 2002) was an Austrian philosopher and anarchist social critic. He authored a series of critiques of the institutions of contemporary western culture and their effects of the provenance and practice of education, medicine, work, energy use, and economic development.

Wikipedia-logo.png Run a search on Ivan Illich at Wikipedia.

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