My first general goal in life was to gain wisdom, to become an accomplished personality, a wakeful consciousness, and a source of strength, courage, and hope for the people around me. I studied philosophy and religion in search of living models of inner knowledge (and never of external stereotypes) that could guide me on the way to self-improvement. I found a lot of them: human excellence is not as rare as one might think. But I also encountered forces that opposed the attainment of my goals, forces which were extraordinarily resilient.
I decided then to devote all my efforts to the uncovering and overcoming of all hindrances that barred my path. Since they dwelled both in my own soul and everywhere around me, the fight against them had at once both an inner and an external, cultural and social, dimension. Eventually I arrived at the conclusion that even the most intimate and personal impediments to the development of consciousness resulted from wrong beliefs and bad habits that have been deeply ingrained in our cultural heritage for centuries. All that happened nearly twenty years ago. Since that time, my objective has taken on the particular and concrete form of a personal mission: to uncover the roots of the oppressive and inhumane trends of modern thought, and to help people to get rid of their influence. This meant to teach them to jump over cultural hindrances and to liberate the inner power of their intelligence to know, understand, and accept every truth in their personal experience of reality. That is the purpose of every line I write, of every word I utter.
In order to keep his ability to know truth, a person has to confess to himself every truth that he already knows. To confess the truth of something means both to declare it in words and to act in accordance with it, no matter what the cost is. The progress of a person's intelligence depends on his moral willingness to be faithful to what he knows that is true. Many people fail in searching for truth because they want to jump directly to universal and permanent truths, which they either never find, or if they find them, they quickly lose after having found them. Every universal truth becomes void and null if it is not vivified by the sincere admission of particular truths that come to us at every stage of our personal and intellectual development. Moral goodness, in its turn, is not just obedience to a general and abstract set of rules, but rather a person’s willingness to become aware and accept the moral obligations that are implicit in the content of the knowledge he has at each precise point of his life experience.
The acquisition of knowledge should be guided and graduated in accordance with its relevance to the development of our intellectual and moral consciousness at every step of our personal development.
A dear friend of mine, who was my best counselor for many years, used to say: “When you do not know what you want to do, just do your duty.” And our duty is always inscribed in the contents of our knowledge of reality. Philosophical analysis clarifies those contents and uncovers our duty; conversely, the fulfillment of our duty strengthens our power for philosophical analysis. Intellectual development as a means to discovering of personal duty, and fulfillment of duty as means for intellectual development: that is the guideline of my teaching of philosophy.
Olavo de Carvalho
President of the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought
Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities