Friday, March 06, 2015

Part 4 (From Prologue to Whose Project is this Anyway): Dialogues on a Philosophy for the Individual

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2015)
With this post Flora Sapio and I (and friends from time to time) continue an experiment in collaborative dialogue. The object is to approach the issue of philosophical inquiry from another, and perhaps more fundamentally ancient, manner. We begin, with this post, to develop a philosophy for the individual that itself is grounded on the negation of the isolated self as a basis for thought, and for elaboration. This conversation, like many of its kind, will develop naturally, in fits and starts. Your participation is encouraged. For ease of reading Flora Sapio is identified as (FS), and Larry Catá Backer as (LCB).

We continue with the discussion around the preliminary question as a sort of prologue and foundation--whose project is this anyway? We are joined by friends, Betita Horn Pepulim (BHP) (Brazil, Fundação Catarinense de Cultura) and Paul van Fleet (PVF).

Contents: HERE.

(BHP) Caros Larry Cata Backer e Flora Sapio, eu me identifico com a maneira que John Locke, Hobbes e Rousseau viam a vida do homem. Eles pensavam a vida do homem na sua origem. Esta origem eles denominavam de estado de natureza.
Para John Locke no estado de natureza os homens são livres. Não dependem da vontade dos outros homens, eles vivem em situação de igualdade, todos recebem as mesmas vantagens da natureza.
Neste estado, a vida é instituída por uma lei própria. A razão é a lei natural por excelência que os homens devem respeitar, ou seja, a razão norteia todos os princípios deste estado de natureza. Os homens no estado de natureza viviam em situação de paz.
Quando um homem impõe a sua vontade a outro, instala–se o estado de guerra, e, para recuperar a paz, uma das características do estado natural, o homem utiliza o “poder político”.
O poder político tem como função fazer o homem (que vivia em estado de natureza) viver em sociedade com uma organização de governos e leis.
O indivíduo é, também,considerado uma categoria importante para a filosofia do dinamarquês Søren Aabye Kierkegaard. Para ele o indivíduo vive muito em situações limítrofes, o que mostra a existência de um processo de individualização.
Não existe um conceito de indivíduo fechado e acabado. A natureza do indivíduo é dinâmica (Kierkegaard,2010).
“Existir é arte” (Almeida; Valls, 2007, p. 54).
Neste caso, tem-se a existência, e a vontade de ser único. É esta vontade que implica no processo de individualização. Para viver este processo é necessário que ele compreenda, no mínimo um pouco, a si próprio.
Assim,com base nas minhas crenças, minha sugestão é que uma filosofia do indivíduo contemporânea deveria ser baseada, entre outras, na sua capacidade de escolher, e na sua liberdade de querer alguma coisa. Esta liberdade, eu acredito, foi suprimida com as regras e com os dogmas que surgiram ao longo da história da humanidade.

[Dear Larry Cata Backer and Flora Sapio, I identify with the way John Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau saw a man's life. They thought human life in its origin. This origin they called the state of nature.
To John Locke in the state of nature, men are free. Do not depend on the will of other men, they live on an equal footing, all receive the same advantages of nature.
In this state, life is established by its own law. The reason is the natural law of excellence that men should respect, that is, the reason guides all the principles of this state of nature. The men in the state of nature lived in peace situation.
When a man imposes his will to another, enter into a state of war, and to restore peace, one of the characteristics of the natural state, man uses the "political power".
Political power has the function to make the man (who lived in a state of nature) live in society with an organization of governments and laws.
The individual is also considered an important category for the philosophy of the Danish Søren Aabye Kierkegaard. For him the individual lives much in borderline situations, which shows the existence of a process of individuation.
There is no concept of a closed and finished individual. The nature of the individual is dynamic (Kierkegaard, 2010).
"To exist is art" (Almeida; Valls, 2007, p. 54).
In this case, we have the existence, and the desire to be unique. It is this will that implies the individualization process. To live this process is necessary for him to understand at least a little, himself.
So, based on my beliefs, my suggestion is that a philosophy of contemporary individual should be based, among others, in their ability to choose, and in its freedom from want something. This freedom, I believe, was suppressed with the rules and dogmas that have emerged throughout the history of mankind.]

(PVF) A very worthwhile endeavor! How can we speak about an "individual" without first creating a construct as to what that individual "is"? And until we resolve this question, this "is-ness", how can we speak about anything?

Can you tell I've been reading a bit of Heidegger lately? But he is on to something. If an individual cannot grasp the source of his being, which is first and foremost in his "individual-ity", then we are doomed to being spoken for by society writ large - not speaking "with it" or independently of it. This nature of being, then, is a central question for your analysis and I encourage you to take it up.

(FS) Betita, thank you.

The insight that “life is established by its own law” (a vida é instituída por uma lei própria) and “to exist is art” (existir é arte) are very important ones. The first one of them suggests that we do not, in reality, need of the rules and dogmas you mention. If life is established by its own law, then does life have the capability to know, interpret and apply its own law, without a need for a caste of interpreters – the doctors of the (natural, human or divine) law? I believe it does, but the problem then becomes searching for this capability, discovering it or bringing it to light. The state of nature is clearly a construct, but an hypothetical state of nature may not be as dangerous or chaotic as Hobbes and Locke portrayed it, and if life is established by its own law, then there may be no need for a natural law which is superior to man.

To exist is art, and I believe this is true and in a sense which I will explain very soon, poses both problems and possibilities. The problems are those of commodification and fetishistization of life, and of art as well. The possibility is the possibility to neutralize commodification, as well as the rules and dogmas that often make commodification possible. Rules and dogmas will always exist, so perhaps rather than smashing rules and dogmas only to replace them with new and equally oppressive sets and dogmas and rules; rather than breaking rules and dogmas we ought to deactivate them. The human potential (the ability to choose and the freedom from want) may then be freed, and once this happens, man can become a living potentiality. But once more the question is HOW, and finding an answer to this question requires a very practical approach.

Paul, thanks.

The greatest peril – and one I do not know how successfully I am avoiding - lies in the relationship between the “is-ness” of human beings and human beings themselves.

If the “is-ness” is distinct from them, and exists on a plane other than the human being, then the “nature of being” or “is-ness” becomes the ultimate standard of humanity we have to meet, with the consequence that we will somehow be less than human, or even completely non-human, until we will reach such a state.

If the “is-ness” is distinct from human beings, but internal to them, then an internal scission exists between at least two parts of us, between our human and our animal part; our rational and our irrational part with the implication that one part of us is human, or it has the potential to become human, while one part of us is not. The very locus of the “is-ness” - the human being – is then fundamentally non-human. Once more, we are taking upon ourselves a task which, more than being bigger than us, may just be completely artificial.

Should we rejoin the individuality to the individual and if so, then how? Should we look for a different solution?

1 comment:

Paul Van Fleet said...

Thank you, Flora, for your commentary and very salient questions regarding the nature of the individual.

Can we speak of "is-ness" without first having something that "is"? I am of the opinion that we cannot. It seems that you are thinking of the distinct "is-ness" almost like a Platonic form - there is a a Form of the "is" under which all existent things might fall. If we envision "is-ness" in such a way, then the pitfalls which you rightly point out manifest in a very acute way, and the philosophy of the individual becomes goal-driven.

But what if we envision "is-ness" as a necessary quality of something that "is" without extracting it (so to speak) from that which "is"? What if we speak of "is-ness" as simply "being-in-the-world" - where the individual is separated from the world only for the sake of bringing attention to that individual, but we remain aware that this is the only reason for the separation, and that there is no "inherent" separation of this individual from the world.

I remember Husserl's idea of the "landscape" of experience, wherein the whole landscape cannot be considered as such if even one element is removed. In this way, we can consider "is-ness" as a constituent part of the individual; without it, we have no individual. "Is-ness" is therefore not distinct from the individual, it is a fundamental part of the "landscape of the individual," and if it is seen as distinct, then we have no individual to speak of. We then are talking about the artificial thing, a mechanical thing, rather than the vibrancy and flux that is the individual.

As Wittgenstein would say, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." (Tractatus)