Friday, July 29, 2016

Part 11 (The Social Self, the State, and God)--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 (FS) responds to earlier comments

(FS) [It feels highly ironic to be writing about this, in such a very simple and hyper-compressed way, at a critical juncture in the political, social, and economic history of Europe]

The first quote I raised was indeed critically revealing. It suggested the smallness of each world, and its partiality. It suggested that Truth orders of various kinds exist.

States and communities may well be created in the image of religion. What that quote does not imply is that “the effort to project the realities of one” Truth order into the sphere of another Truth order (= colonialism) can be justified by the appeal:

1. to the Truth order that is being projected, or
2 to the abstract principle on which that Truth order is grounded.

Coming back to the first ayah of the Quran (which I learned many years ago, because of the reason I used to share a flat with a practicing Muslim), this ayah states that multiple worlds are possible, and that multiple different worlds exist. Surah 1 does not establish a hierarchy among truth orders. Further on, Surah al-Baqarah, implies that the Sabeans, a people who worshipped the seven visible planets (most likely a metaphor for all members of non-Abrahamic religions) were entitled to the same rewards as any other people (2:62), provided that they “did righteousness”.

Any Truth can be absolute only if Truth resides in an ordering principle that produces people in its own image. Producing people in its image is not, perhaps, what an ordering principle exists for. The function of an ordering principle is producing order there where disorder exists. The reintroduction of order does not involve altering the nature of persons, but acknowledging their nature as it is, and allowing it to be. If seen under this light, an ordering principle can produce different modes of truth. Such an ordering principle points out how the distinction between orthodoxy and heterodoxy is perhaps artificial, and how any mode of truth is valid in its own way.

Recent calls to build modal ontologies (where what is modal cannot be an ontology, and what is an Aristotelian ontology cannot be modal) have focused on obscure figures from early Roman law, overlooking the archetypal figures we can still see today in Italian cities. The mythological figure of the Roman Mercury, for instance, used to have the aspects of Mercurius Artaios, Mercurius Avernus, Mercurius Moccus and so on, not unlike the divinities of the Hinduist, Buddhist and Daoist pantheons. These different aspects could either allude to the various roles this specific ordering principle could play in different contexts, or refer to synchretisms between this figure, and its equivalents in non-Roman pantheons.

Impermeable and nonporous, absolute truths lend themselves to projection into other, equally impermeable Truth orders. I was thinking that impermeability of a Truth order may result from the concept of an endogenous evil. The notion of internal evil is extremely interesting: evil may be internal, yet evil is always believed to exist not in the Truth order that has created it, but externally, in a distinct order that is labelled as Untrue. The notion of internal evil may be dependent on the idea of a 'science of last things' and the conceptual apparata this science produces – the Wall of Dhul-Qarnayn and the Dajjal, to name two components of a specific apparatus.

All those pre-modern truth orders that do not concern themselves with the investigation of 'last things' - be they Western or Eastern, Northern or Southern - do have a notion of evil(s), yet this notion of evil(s) can operate in a different way.

First and most importantly, internal evil remains internal to the system that has produced such a notion. Going back to the Roman Mercury – the synchretism between Mercurius, the Greek Hermes and loosely equivalent Iberian and Celtic deities underscores how the response provided to deities that originally belonged to a different system of meaning was their inclusion into the Roman pantheon, rather than iconoclasm. Which brings me to the second point. The paradigm of the 'ban' and the 'homo sacer' may, sadly, be the product of an erroneous 'cutting off of the roots' (cfr the story of the Four Rabbis who entered the Paradise). In this case, the roots are the roots of those mythical traditions which see various agents of disorder (the djinns, the little monks and so on) as part of normality, rather than as agents of disorder.  According to popular legends and folklore, these beings may, from time to time, perform actions which are disturbing. These actions are not seen as manifestations of Evil, but as symptoms of unease or as having been caused by our own mistakes. This difference in perception is crucial, as it induces a response entirely different from the 'ban'. In all those places where they managed to survive, communication is established with the agents of 'disorder' to appease them. Alternatively, one's mistakes are corrected. While some may reason instrumentally, in terms of transposing the paradigm of any specific truth order onto a different realm, transposition would not only negate the premises, and therefore the very existence, of these truth orders, it would be entirely superfluous...

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