Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Part 5 (The Social Self and the Mother and the State of Nature)--Dialogues on a Philosophy for the Individual: The Social Self

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

Flora Sapio (FS), Beitita Horm Pepulim (BHP), and I (LCB) continue our experiment in collaborative dialogue. We move from the individual to the social self as we work toward a philosophy of the individual. While at first blush this appears to be well worn ground--who hasn't, over the course of the last 5,000 years, in every civilization with a recorded history NOT spent vast amounts of time thinking about the social self?  But much of this thinking starts at the social and works through the issues of control, management and socialization of the individual.  That is, they start from the core premise that the individual is the object of a project for which the social serves as an instrument and as an ends.  In the spirit of the emerging philosophy of the individual, we propose to invert the conversation--to start with the individual and work through the issues of control, management, and individuation of the social.

But we move from the individual in herself, to the individual as subject and as symbol, as something which, when observed and transformed from itself to the idea or symbol of itself, assumes a quite distinct, and useful, position for the organization of selves--and for the structure and operation of the law of the social.  To that end our conversation will likely flow around and through the following: 
1--the social self as the reflection of the mother
2--the social self as a reflection of the family
3--social self as a reflection/result of one's ancestors
4--the social self as a reflection of God
5-the social self as a refection of the state
6--the social self as terrorist
7--the social self as orthodox
This conversation, like many of its kind, will develop naturally, in fits and starts.  Your participation is encouraged.

In this post Flora Sapio comes back to the state of nature and LCB responds.

Contents HERE.

(FS): The state of nature: the state of nature makes me think of the distinction between the physical and the meta-physical. This distinction has been denied by some Western thinkers [I am not quoting anyone, I have decided to write this with all the books closed], and only some persons can accept such a denial.
And those who have professed a blind acceptance of the denial of the meta-physical! I have observed how, over time, their nature was/is being slowly overwhelmed by their very own denial of the meta-physical. Man needs a founding myth. In the Western tradition, such a founding myth was given by the state of nature. But, this is not the only possible founding myth.

The distinction between the Physical and the Meta-Physical does not exist in all systems of thought. It does non exist in non-European systems of thought. In Chinese philosophy, for instance, such a distinction is absent. I am working [I should be working] on Francois Jullien, and Adam Smith. Jullien has explained, in a very good way, how the Physical and the Meta-Physical are seen as being one and the same. [Figures of Immanence, a Philosophical Reading of the Book of Changes]

This view is not exclusive to Chinese traditional thought. This view was widely shared by all non-European systems of thought I am aware of - those of China, India, Africa, and some European peoples that have not yet completely severed their links to their traditions.

Example: those who grew up and live in the countryside, do not kill insects that accidentally creep into the house. They put them where they belong, because they believe they are useful to nature.

“The social self begins with the self; and the self begins with your mother.” and “to conceive of the absence of the social is, in the first instance, to conceive of a world in which conception is impossible”

Man cannot come to life, if he is not generated by a mother. But, who is the Mother? Is it the biological mother? Is it the different ideas about the Mother?

The different ideas about the Mother do not exist as things in the real world. The mother herself lives in the world, and she cannot live or conceive in the absence of the world. To exist, the mother needs the natural world. Because the natural world is that which allow all forms of life to exist and reproduce themselves. Such is the natural order. This is something everybody knows on an intuitive level. It is because of this intuitive knowledge that the condition of childlessness (unproductivity) is seen as abnormal – if such condition is observed superficially. As I tried to say in my first response.

The ancient peoples expressed this intuitive knowledge through the myths of the 'Mother Earth'. These myths were very concrete – they could be used in really practical ways, because they referred to very common situations everyone could encounter.

The "בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית" – which is not exactly the In principio creavit, but something different - can be known by us only through the natural world, as the world exists beyond the veil of mathematics, anthropology, sociology, first principles etc. The "בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית" continuously manifests itself in the natural world with all of its features and components – known and unknown, hidden and manifest, balanced and out-of-balance. [We have separated the בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית from the world...or: we have separated the head from the body – as a Thai friend used to say.]

This does not mean that “we live in the best possible world”. It does not mean that the natural world as it is now should conform itself to an original state of nature. The state of nature ended with the Fall from Heaven...and who can travel back and forth between Heaven and Earth, to find out where things went wrong and correct them? The natural world does not exist in a state of balance, it is in continuous transformation.

The state of nature may speak to the societal – an instrumental objective. But the natural world, as it exists now around each one of us, speaks to something else. Does it speak to the social?

Is it possible to be aware of oneself, to acquire a social dimension, not only through the eyes of a biological mother, but through the eyes of the natural world as it is? Biology is exclusive. The continuation of species demands that my children come before everything else. But, the natural world is inclusive, and it supports all species.
(LCB) Flora, yes, indeed, a profoundly useful elaboration to which I will add only brief comments now with more to follow as the conversation leads us.  My focus has been on the relational and on the signification of the individual--which also precedes any state of nature as we have come to understand that term.  My query goes to the formation of self meaning, and my intuition is that this self meaning is social.  That is, the the self becomes meaningful only in and through its relation to something--someone--outside the self.  The mother is a nice way of thinking about this relational emergence of self meaning.  It is, in fact, what one might consider the mother (whatever or whoever he may be in biological or societal relations) that produces the foundation of the social.  And the social provides a signification to the issue of identity, first, and placement in relation to. . . . --second. But the mother, as you suggested might be anyone.  Or anything that has itself been socialized and can serve to signify or produce self meaning, in another, perhaps even lupa standing in for Rhea Silvia as she suckled the twins who would found Rome. In that story as well, both the socialization of the twins and their societalization as they move from self knowledge to societal organization.

That initial socialization, self knowledge, self meaning  in a relational interaction with one (or more) designated for that task is perhaps a better place for finding a state of nature--not in the societal relations of individuals but in the interactions that socialize the object (infant) within the threads of knowledge of the self. These threads, when woven (by herself and others) produces not socialization of the societalizaiton fo the individuals in interaction with others.  We move from the significaiton of secondness (one knows one self in others) to thirdness (on e gives meaning to and organizes these interactions with consequences for oneself and others).

But Flora posits something even more interesting--the possibility of a societal understanding of a state of nature as a complex interplay among the physical and the metaphysical. The role of founding myths is profound.  And one might consider them as the necessary signification of the societal-  That is, in order to provide meaning to (the significance of) societal arrangements--that is the arrangements of social relations in particular and sometimes complex forms--it is necessary to anchor them.  There is no society without such an anchor, though they manifest in distinct ways.  And that anchoring itself is meant to manage both the social and the societal--to assert control over signification and the consequences of relational interactions in accordance with the metaphorical shorthand of the founding myth.  And as Flora suggests the manifestations of founding myths may be exogenous and endogenous to the societal order as it presents itself in culture, law, norms, etc. 

And that leaves the way open to the relations among nature and the meta-physical, but one possible within the societal sphere. And it in those complex relationships that the societal seeks the backwards extrapolation to the natural for its law, to the metaphysical for its justification, and to its mythos, for the foundation of interpretation that produces the distinct and sometimes odd languages of law, religion, and traditions.    

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