Thursday, September 15, 2016

Part 12 (The Social Self as a reflection/result of one's ancestors: Acts of Appropriation and Foundations of Cultural Appropriation in the West)--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 Larry Catá Backer (LCB) reflects on Flora Sapio's arguments about the Divine and from that begins to consider the issue  as a reflection/result of one's ancestors responds to earlier comments.

(LCB) Flora has been most usefully wrestling with the question of God.   Or perhaps better the many faces of God reflected in the self.  Or perhaps better the societal self reflected in God.  For to understand the self as made in the image of God is to suggest, as Flora does, a variation on the many faces of God. One can then understand a variation of the notion of God incarnate--not in the individual but in humanity.  And the variations the societal (not social) self. The binaries that produce the structures of the face of the Divine--as written into the hearts of the individual and the societal structures of the community of individuals--are variation incarnations that perhaps, and only perhaps, in aggregate over all time begin to point to the character of the sign from which they emerge.  But that sign itself leads back to that with no name, no meaning, no form, because each of those attributes would limit it, separate it from itself--from the Divine.  To speak to the social self--and to speak of the social self within the structures of the societal self--is to speak to the contours of that portion of the divine that was appropriated.

But in a sense, the notion of the relationship of the social self, or even the societal self, is embedded in the notion of appropriation.  To it is true in the Western tradition that the individual was given form from out of the void by the Divine, but it is also a fundamental part of the Western religious tradition that humanity appropriated  God when man and woman, together, ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and thus became as self aware as the Divine.  But not divine--for that required immortality. And thus the solution: [GEN 3:22] "Then the LORD God said, "See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever""-- It is in the sentence of life--and death, that the appropriate of the knowledge of good and evil, was constrained within each individual, but lives eternally through the social self, and is manifested in the societal self. in the

Humanity, then, as the aggregation of the social self in society, might be understood from its religious foundations as born (that is as becoming aware of the self--and later of the society of humans) in an act of appropriation from a greater power. But the appropriation is both social (humans become aware of their own nakedness: [GEN 3:7] "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.") and societal (they form the basic building blocks of society, the family in imitation of the Divine itself [GEN 4:1] "Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.""). Like the child with her mother, the relationship between the Divine and the individual forms the bonds of a larger social self, one that, aggregated among all humanity produces the societal self as well a reflection of the relationship with the higher power.  Thus one starts in firstness--Adam in the Garden of Eden--an individual that just is and is oblivious of being in a world in which being is problematic ([GEN 2:7-2:8 ] "then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed."). It was firstness in the individual itself--but not in the Divine.  For God, the individual was a manifestation of  Him-Herself--an (not the) incarnation of the Divine in the image of the Divine.  It was not God made flesh (for that wads to come later among those who believe) but rather a mirror of the Divine against which it could manifest itself--a sign and the essence of secondness.  The individual acquires meaning in herself only in reflection of the Divine ([GEN 1:27] "So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.") to assert dominion over the creatures created  as the Divine asserted dominion over  the Divine manifestation in the world of the Divine creation ([GEN 1:26] "Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.""). But there was no meaning. Thirdness comes in the aftermath of the activation of the sign--in the eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil--now and only now does meaning come into the world.  Which world? The world of the creation, in which the individual was placed in the image of God to assert dominion within the borders and constraints of the logic of creation itself. With the eating of that fruit, and only with the eating of that fruit, did meaning come into the world.  And note the very limited scope--meaning is constrained by the world in which meaning can be asserted--the world created by God and in which the individual is to assert dominion--and not an inch more!  

In these relationships may be found the semiotic constitution of power and knowledge.  And its quite severe limits.  We speak here of a very small universe of meaning within which the individual has authority to assert dominion--that is to give meaning. And that assertion is in its origins--the act of appropriation from a superior force by an inferior. The appropriation creates both a mimicry of the Divine order, and its transformation--perversion--within the confines of the world in which it can be asserted.  For the individual that is the reflective self consciousness of the social self, whose self consciousness is a product of the need to find meaning in the reflection of others.  For the aggregate, this is the reflective self consciousness of power, a perverse imposition of divine order on earth.  It is not for nothing that theocracy is such a powerful force within the narrative structures of this vision of meaning. And not for nothing that the move away from theocracy to kingship   (SAM 1:8-4-5 "Therefore all the elders of Israel came in a body to Samuel at Ramahand said to him, "Now that you are old, and your sons do not follow your example, appoint a king over us, as other nations have, to judge us.") was the great act of appropriation away from God and to societal norms, one that moved the societal away form the Divine to its own self constitution (Sam 1:8-7 "Grant the people's every request. It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king."). (discussed HERE)

It is in the act of appropriation--its foundation in copying and distorting to I turn to next.  That appropriation has a social characteristic (one borrows from one's "mother" as the start of reflective self consciousness--that is in the act of using mother to build self meaning). But human society knows this reiteration of Divine appropriation in its societal forms--in the power relations and community constitutive aspects that in this decade have appeared to fuel the great--and somewhat misdirected debates about cultural appropriation.  For cultural appropriation--either to the self or for the societal structures that feed on it, are manifestations of power-knowledge made possible only through the appropriation itself and its speaking of meaning. For cultural appropriation--int he societal sense--is rooted in the aggregate eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and of the protection of the meanings that emerge therefrom. It is to these characteristics and the current form of the debates that I will turn to next.  

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