What if your life was a battle between legality and legitimacy?

While awaiting TED’s 2010 annual conference that will be held this week (9-13th of February) in Palm Springs, French speakers can check out the Tedx conference in Paris that was held last Saturday.  Of the various speakers, I particularly enjoyed the talk given by Miguel Benasayag on the necessary differences between legality and legitimacy.  In fact, I liked it so much, that I decided to dedicate today’s “day of the thinker” to him and his work.

Let’s begin with Benasayag’s biography, from the Tedx Paris website: “Born on June 4th, 1953 in Argentina, Miguel Benasayag studied Medicine while fighting for a Guevarist revolution.  Benasayag was arrested many times for his revolutionary activities and ended up spending over three years in prison.  He was freed in 1978, along with other French revolutionaries, thanks to his dual Franco-Argentine citizenship.  Relocated in France, Benasayag briefly continued his militant activities, before going into research.  As an academic, he has written critiques of psychiatry, internal workings of the medical profession, anthropology and philosophy.  Out of his critiques, Benasayag formed the collective “Malgré Tout” (“in spite of it all”) that analyzed world events, liberty and the system.  Since 2008 Benasayg has directed the “Theoretical Biology” lab on the Campo Biologico in Buenos Aires.  As a philosopher and psychoanalyst, he has published 25 works.”

In his remarkable speech at TedxParis, Benasayag reminded us that “truth does not necessarily create legality” and that one must sometimes transgress the law.  He explains that between the opposing notions of absolute truth (which does not exist) and relative truth (which is not viable), lies a truth that puts ethics at its center.  For Benasayag, when the legal and the legitimate collide, there is no more searching, no more progress, no more life.  A perfectly transparent and legal society is one that is totalitarian, inhumane and un-livable.  For Benasayag, in order to be active in life, one must accept a certain amount of ignorance and risk—this is life’s essence.  Our lives play out between legality and legitimacy.

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