Praxis

June 14, 2008

N Pepperell Has Some Things To Say About The Emergence Of Modernity. [UPDATED]

Filed under: Blogroll, History, Politics, Science, Social Theory, Vitiated by Ignorance — duncan @ 11:22 am

Okay. I’ve been spending really quite a lot of time recently talking with N Pepperell (of the Rough Theory blog) about, you know, Marx and stuff. (Conclusion, at least on my end: ‘Capital’ = work of genius, but WTF with the Hegel already?) I’ve found it all just incredibly illuminating and enjoyable. But – I guess unsurprisingly – it turns out that only a fraction of NP’s ideas actually make their way onto Rough Theory. So I’m going to perform a dubious public service, by trying to summarise one of NP’s claims. I put up endless apologies and qualifications for almost everything I post here: the coin of the realm has been sadly debased. But let me especially stress: my attempted summary is going to make complete nonsense of NP’s ideas. My sneaky plan is to force NP to jump into the comments box below to correct me – and thereby elaborate this stuff in person. The provocation, then, is as follows…

At some historical point I’m more or less vague about [since, unlike NP, I’m not the sort of person who walks into copyright libraries and says ‘bring me everything you’ve got from the thirteenth century’ ;-)] something peculiar happened. You get the emergence of 1) the natural sciences; and 2) the social sciences. Now – the social sciences proper don’t turn up until, like, the nineteenth century. And we’re talking more like the seventeenth century here, I think. [This is completely embarrassing – I know nothing; nothing - but with courage and fortitude in the face of humiliation I persist…] NP’s claim is that you start getting the theorisation of society in a way that wouldn’t have made much sense to, say, the scholastic philosophers – a theorisation that would eventually become, thanks to further historical shifts I’m unclear about, the tradition on which the social sciences proper draw. (I guess we’re talking Hobbes, here, or something.) And at more or less the same historical moment (17th century ish, I think) you get the beginnings of an obsessive search for regularity in nature.

Question: Why?

Well, I guess the standard answer – the answer I imbibed when studying A-level history (I got top marks folks! O yes…) – is the rise of the Enlightenment; the decline of arguments from authority; the death of dogmatism; the emergence of empiricism. When I was studying philosophy at uni, this stuff tended to be keyed to Descartes. Scepticism! The refusal to accept aught but personal judgement! The speech of the senses, not the dogma of the schools! It is, of course, a world-historical-class irony that Descartes’ sceptical method has become a canonical authority. An irony, indeed, that it was even communicated, if we take its actual claims seriously. But this is by the by. (I’m deep into personal preoccupations here; this has nothing to do with NP’s argument…)

Enlightenment not authority, yes? Fine. But this has some flaws, explanatory-power-wise. Because, first off, why the Enlightenment? And second off, why the emergence of the theorisation of society at around the same time? There’s no very obvious reason why natural science and the theorisation of society should go together, historically. And yet – apparently – they do.

NP’s answer: It’s about capitalism. Or, rather, it’s about the development of social structures that would make the emergence of capitalism possible. Specifically (I think): urbanisation; the movement from forms of communal organisation that are more or less personal in nature (small communities more predominant than large ones) to forms of communal organisation that require substantial mediation through impersonal structures if they are to function. Markets, I guess, in part – though NP more or less comes out in hives if you start reducing capitalism to markets. Plus more complicated things I’m in no position to gloss – stuff, I think, about the genealogy of the transformation of the concept of ‘value’ that NP’s been discussing in relation to Marx.

So – you get a reconfiguration of society. And this relates to the emergence of the category of the social. And this happens in a complex and interesting way. We’re getting to the actual content of NP’s claim now – which I’m more than a little nervous about fucking up. (It’s just inevitable.) But with the move to new and much more substantial forms of social mediation, you get a new form of sociality, which one could call (if one were in the mood ) impersonal sociality. NP has developed this idea in great detail in relation to Marx. (There NP calls it ‘real abstraction’). The point is that this is a form of sociality that can be decisively distinguished from any form of intersubjectivity. It is a form of sociality that need not be conscious; need not be meant. Now in a sense all forms of sociality possess this property, in spades. Any kind of interpersonal relation has countless features that are not present to the wakeful consciousness of the persons interrelating. (Freudian & Derridean that I am, I tend to think that such features of interpersonal relations are totally predominant; but let me stress again that I’m largely wittering on my own account here, not glossing NP). Nonetheless, with the emergence of large-scale, highly complex, highly mediated forms of social organisation, this attribute of sociality takes on a unprecedented power and prominence.

NP’s claim is that this new form of sociality is not theorised as sociality; not at the time, or for a long time after. On the contrary, this new form of sociality is theorised as natural. What is theorised as sociality is the intersubjectivity that suddenly becomes more accessible as a theoretical category because of its social differentiation from the ‘impersonally’ social. The new dominance of the impersonal social divides the social against itself. The social becomes: 1) the intersubjective (theorised as the new category of the social) and 2) the impersonally social (theorised as the natural).

And this social change is what produces the new categories of both the ‘social’ and the (law-like) ‘natural’. Intersubjectivity becomes available as an object of enquiry as never before – it becomes ‘relativised’ as social when it suddenly breaks away from a newly emergent other form of sociality. And at the same time, it becomes plausible to treat the ‘natural’ as organised on law-like principles, because the ‘impersonally’ social is being treated in this way. One could say that the impersonally social is naturalised and then projected onto the natural world (just as the political economists ‘naturalise’ the laws of political economy). But the claim isn’t that scientific endeavour is based on some misunderstanding or projection. The claim is just that people become familiar with the idea of treating a non-intersubjective, non-intentional ‘law’ as impacting their lives – because such ‘laws’ are produced by the new enacted mediations of the impersonal social realm. So it becomes intuitive to investigate nature itself for ‘natural’ laws… with all sorts of interesting results.

(There’s some connection, I guess, then, between what NP’s trying to do and the ‘strong program’ in sociology. The point is that even if we like some contingent historical project, we can’t use that as an explanation for its historical emergence. Regularities in nature themselves can’t provide an adequate explanation for the sudden desire to look for regularities in nature. Similarly, the real existence of ‘society’ can’t explain the emergence of this concept of society – a concept we can then reinscribe in our articulation of the concept’s emergence. When NP talks about ‘reflexivity’, the point is that we have to also give an account of the historical changes which produce the concepts we use to analyse those historical changes.)

Anyway – all this is no doubt a travesty of whatever NP actually thinks. So: let me end by quoting (as I like to) Wittgenstein – busy justifying the (as it turns out posthumous) publication of the ‘Philosophical Investigations’…

“Up to a short time ago I had really given up the idea of publishing my work in my lifetime. It used, indeed, to be revived from time to time: mainly because I was obliged to learn that my results (which I had communicated in lectures, typescripts and discussions), variously misunderstood, more or less mangled or watered down, were in circulation. This stung my vanity and I had difficulty in quieting it.”

I’m not planning to sting any vanity here. :-) But I hope these results, more or less mangled or watered down (and communicated in discussion) have some sort of provocative force. What’s the real deal, as regards this stuff, I wonder?

[So as I say in the comments below (and as I predicted in the post…) plenty of this misrepresents NP wildly. A few quick (attempted) corrections, then:

1) Not theorisation of society/nature. Rather, experience of society/nature.
2) Not just emphasis on natural law, but also an organicist vision of nature associated with romanticism.
3) A whole host of problems involving the characterisation of the ‘impersonally social’. Basically: the sort of things implied by the phrase ‘impersonally social’ (e.g. markets) are part of the intersubjectively social. The real ‘impersonally social’ (asocial social?) can’t be identified with institutions, but rather operates through them.
4) Strike the use of the phrase ‘real abstraction’ – which is relevant, but not like that.

Any better? Hum. Well I'm going to bed, anyway...]

15 Comments »

  1. Heh, I hope your ploy to get N. Pepperell to open up about her project works! It sounds like a really interesting project.

    If I’m understanding NP right, I take the thesis to be somewhat similar to Foucault’s work on the emergence of ‘society’ as an object of study? Except, if I remember correctly, Foucault would place the emergence at a later date than NP seems to be doing (caveat: judging from your re-construction here, Praxis). I would guess that the difference in time is a matter of the ‘natural’ sense of society that first emerged, prior to its explicit theorization. I find the centrality of ‘real abstraction’ to be especially interesting though, particularly insofar as it suggests a type of abstraction that has a real efficacious materiality to it. NP probably already knows this, but Toscano has been doing some really interesting work on real abstraction lately, for example: “The Open Secret of Real Abstraction” in Rethinking Marxism, Vol. 20, No. 2 and a forthcoming essay “The Culture of Abstraction” in the journal Theory, Culture & Society.

    Apologies, since these are more or less questions and comments to NP, but thanks for the re-construction of her project, Praxis!

    Comment by Nick — June 14, 2008 @ 6:15 pm

  2. Ho ho – and nuthin’ in this account about the fookin discovery of America? I’ve always been rather amused that Habermas, with his emphasis on how civil society grows out of the sociability that was supposed to be budding in taverns and coffehouses, never talks about why people were there: drugs and drink. And where did the drugs and drink come from? Sugar made into rum in the west indies – this new thing called coffee from Brazil – tobacco from north america – the spices from the East Indies. But this is not just what people put in their bellies – although one can only speculate about alternative histories, it is hard to see how the seventeenth century would have been that different from the fifteenth without the discovery of America. It changes everything when the extent of what has been believed about the world turns out to be completely wrong. It wasn’t Descartes doughty little demon on the santa maria, but Chris Colombus, who inserted doubt as a global matter into Christendom. In a sense, 1492 was the year zero. Nothing like it ever happened before or since. The great dying in the new world, global trade across a whole new sea, the Pacific, all that gold and silver, those spices, and the idea that Europeans were superior – with the seemingly easy fall of the Aztec and Inca empires. I mean, Europeans had thought they were superior due to being saved and all that shit, but nothing seemed to indicate they were superior in terms of ‘civilization’ to the meanest Indian Raj. Cathedrals and rush roofed huts. Both that they were totally wrong about their picture of the world and that they were “superior” – this kept percolating through, no? Hubris and skepticism.
    So, at least include the New World in your reckoning.

    Comment by roger — June 15, 2008 @ 2:11 am

  3. Hey guys. Nick – my ploy has failed, in the sense that I should have waited until NP is in a different country from me. The multidunous misrepresentations in the above have now been communicated to me in person, so I’m going to have to try to paraphrase those too – which I’ll attempt tomorrow. (*sigh*) On the ‘natural’ versus ‘theorised’ thing: yes, absolutely. For ‘theorised’ substitute ‘experienced’ in all the relevant places. This is how (NP (I hope) argues) the world is experienced, individually & collectively – theorisation comes later, which might tie things in closer to Foucault, I don’t know.

    Roger – everything’s me me me for you Yanks, innit? Have a little humility, man. ;-) But I agree that any social history that doesn’t place drink and drugs centre-stage has some serious explaining to do. NP? Anything to say about America?

    Comment by praxisblog — June 15, 2008 @ 3:38 am

  4. On second thought, I’ll have a go at answering the Columbus question: these are separate issues, sadly conflated by my post. Sure, you can see why the discovery of the New World would lead to a substantial transformation in Europe’s self-understanding: you can see why this would shake certain dogmatisms, and lead to a kind of radical doubt; and why the un-give-uppable commitment to European superiority would have to be reconfigured in the wake of these changes. That doesn’t explain why the experience of society would change in the ways it did – or why society would come to be experienced as society, with a corresponding transformation in the experience and understanding of the natural world. But more to follow when I get round to correcting the above… and when I have a clue what I’m talking about…

    Comment by praxisblog — June 15, 2008 @ 3:47 am

  5. I have very little time online, but a few gestures.

    First: as I’ve also said over at Rough Theory – Praxis is being generous in describing these thoughts as a “project” – perhaps performatively attempting to render them into one… ;-) I may or may not be even gesturally adequate to that task at some future point – certainly not now. Which doesn’t mean that I mind the discussion at all – just apologies in advance that my mind has been recently in a very different place, and so the in-person conversations this post channels have been a process of my reaching back to things that I at one point worked on more carefully and systematically, but that have lain fallow for a very very long time.

    Second: Nick – as Praxis has already suggested in the replies above, I’m actually not solely interested in the emergence of “theories” of nature and society, although that’s something that interests me as well: there are different periodisations in play with formal theoretical articulations, and some of the other shifts that interest me. As a first pass, I’m interested more in phenomena that would be captured by a sort of social history – and then in discussing the relationship of this social history to theoretical shifts as captured in intellectual history, while preserving a non-reductive sense of the relationship (Praxis captures this non-reductive dimension well, when mentioning that it’s a fundamentally separable question, whether natural or social environments have certain qualitative characteristics, versus why we begin to find certain characteristics easier to think, perceive, or experience in certain periods). When I did this sort of work before (in relation to a much earlier social transition), my interest was also less institutionally-centred than much work done in a Foucauldian space (although Foucault himself is a bit more complex, and I also may be out of date on how historians currently appropriate and attempt to apply his work).

    I am familiar with Toscano’s work on real abstractions (Toscano was the respondent for the paper I just presented here, which dealt, among other things, with the theme of real abstraction in Marx’s argument about the fetish – his comments on my paper were fantastic – very helpful in redrafting the piece into some sort of hopefully more respectable form for the chapter). I should note that the use of real abstraction in the post above, as well as the particular explanation of the impersonal social, isn’t quite what I’m after – this isn’t, though, Praxis’ fault: I find what I’m after difficult to express at the best of times, and I’m more than a little out of practice. Real abstraction is too broad a term for what I’m trying to get at by talking about the constitution of a split within the social – too many different sorts of objects are potentially picked out by this vocabulary (and the most common object picked out, the market, is specifically not what I’m trying to grasp). The discussion of impersonal social institutions is not quite what I’m after, either: many social institutions that are generally regarded as “abstract” or “impersonal” in various forms of social theory, from the standpoint of the distinction I’m trying to make, fall on the side of “overtly social” or “concrete” dimensions of the social: we don’t actually have trouble recognising that markets, bureaucracies, etc., are social – I’m trying to pick out something much more tacit than this, which may be mediated through a (changing) array of) more concrete social institutions, and whose qualitative attributes are therefore often read off onto those more concrete institutions – a sort of phenomenon Marx is also chasing in his argument about the fetish, which is a major reason his work is interesting to me. (Apologies for the condensed character of these comments – these things would be difficult for me to say briefly, even if I were more adequate to the content of my own claims than I am right now.)

    Third: Roger – I’m puzzled why you would leap to the assumption that something like the colonisation of the new world (and other massive global phenomena unfolding at the same time) would be omitted from this sort of analysis? The issue is how to capture and explore the qualitative character of the shift that takes place – and then to understand some of the implications of the shift that are sometimes overlooked, because they are themselves quite tacit and abstract – not to exceptionalise out some privileged cause driving history in a particular direction: history is too messy for that (and the colonisation of the new world is a rather large phenomenon for even the most incompetent of historians to overlook… I realise my historian’s credentials, such as they are, have not been lately much on display, but still, there’s a certain element of generosity in reading…). One of the things I’m attempting to grapple with is something that might be expressed as the qualitative form of denaturalisation – attempting not to naturalise denaturalisation itself. One implication of this, as Praxis points out in his second comment, is that I would both be very comfortable pointing to all the various factors that combine to destabilise (and crystallise) certain sorts of self-understanding, and yet still think that pointing to such factors doesn’t fully settle the question I’m grappling with, which relates to the various qualitative forms in which this destabilisation comes to be experienced, articulated, and embodied.

    Fourth: Praxis has mentioned that we discussed last night some hesitations I have about the ways in which the various points were articulated above. Some of these hesitations have already come out in this comment. There are others – the largest one is that I would significantly complicate the way the argument has been expressed above, about how a distinctive sort of social experience might render us particularly sensitive to particular qualitative characteristics in asocial environments – organimistic, as well as lawlike, characteristics – romantic as well as scientistic conceptions of nature, are of interests, as are much more subtle divergences and transitions over time within the various sciences: it is absolutely impossible to do justice to this issue briefly, and it is inevitably misleading to try to summarise in this form (although, again, there is a productiveness to attempting the summary, nevertheless). Similar concerns apply to the “intersubjective” dimension of the social – which above seems to have been equated with conscious or “meant” forms of sociality. I’m after something more complicated than this, relating to dimensions of the social that become more readily subject to contestation – dimensions that come to be rendered potentially non-doxic – not quite the same as meaning that they are intentional or already conscious enactments.

    But making this sort of argument, in this form, tends to make me feel like I’m piling implausibility onto ridiculousness – I need my archive with me to even begin to make the problem seem cogent, let alone the gropes toward that problem. I’m a long way away from being able to get back to this work – at the moment, I’m playing around at the margins by cutting a path through Marx. After that… we’ll see whether I have anything useful to say…

    Comment by N Pepperell — June 15, 2008 @ 11:50 am

  6. If I interpret this correctly through all the elaborate apologies for not being God, what with the infinite time and knowledge and perfect utterance and all, it’s really great and useful stuff.

    I agree that what you’re getting at, NP, is something more sticky than theory; it’s a little more like a foucauldian episteme or a zeitgeist or Millsian lenses or something, all unsatisfactory in the way trying to describe the outsides of the boxes we think in from the inside always is. So noticing that there’s a box always seems to be the archimedean point for a ‘standpoint of critique’, but thinking outside it when its contents are what thought is at the time is much more tricky than it might seem? Among other things because of the rationalistic fallacy that explanation is immediately effective as praxis. (Philosophers who drown after critiquing the illusion of gravity, etc.)

    At some level the point seems to be about capitalism’s creative destruction – the way Marx loved it for requiring change as its condition. So traditions get smashed, all that is solid melts into air, etc. Europeans get chased over the world by the brutal logic of their own creation; e.g. they are enabled and driven to experiment with the complete dehumanizing commodification of labor power by the discovery of the new world, availability of African slave labor, distance from embedded feudal social networks, and globalizing demand for Potosi silver and plantation products, etc. Later the same logic is applied even more rigorously to smashing those social networks, prompting Polanyi’s thesis about society desperately protecting itself against the market in _Great Transformation_. The visible, formally thematized, local and ‘personal’ interdependence of a highly regulated hierarchical social system to which the economy was carefully slaved is replaced by a global system of disembedded impersonal interdependence managed ‘informally’ and invisibly through the articulations of the division of labor to which society is slaved. Is any of this on track as the dynamic structuration of the emergence you’re talking about, or is this too much a just-so story?

    I’m really working more through Durkheim than Marx here. If he’d been just a little more marxy he might have analyzed the collective anomie that comes from the imperceptibility of systematic interdependence as resulting in the fetishization of ‘the individual’, understood naturalistically or even pseudo-theologically as a sui-generis self-regulator. REM, the units who then bring themselves to ‘intersubjectivity’ as if they were there first and then opportunities for socialization popped up.

    I’m writing impressionistically because the project of synthesis here is NP’s. I don’t see the point of producing a counter-synthesis. If any of this sparks a useful thought or opportunity for productive clarification, as I take also to be Praxis’ aim, the enabling function is fulfilled.

    Comment by Carl — June 15, 2008 @ 7:31 pm

  7. [I'm going to get well out of the way & let NP respond - but thanks for commenting, Carl. Can we have more Kliban cartoons? ;-)]

    Comment by praxisblog — June 16, 2008 @ 2:42 am

  8. [...] Praxis’ blog (in an otherwise very very interesting discussion of N Pepperell’s ideas about the emergence of modernity), and not only was he gracious about [...]

    Pingback by Commenting on Praxis « Dead Voles — June 16, 2008 @ 6:00 am

  9. [...] by Carl on June 16, 2008 At this terrific thread over on Praxis about the emergence of modernity a’ la N Pepperell we are, in effect, [...]

    Pingback by Executive summaries « Dead Voles — June 16, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

  10. [...] This post is a mess. Not up for serious reflection. But Praxis opened a discussion of something slightly related to these issues that I’ve been neglecting [...]

    Pingback by Roughtheory.org » Social Construction — June 22, 2008 @ 4:55 am

  11. I’m just going to grump mildly at the way that philosophers who equate intersubjectivity with conscious, intentional relations get to win with their definition of intersubjectivity. More critical thinkers (ooh, watch dem dere claws!) who deconstruct the Cartesian split as well (I know, so radical… ;-P) have theorised intersubjectivity as the *intertwining* of subjects, rather than the intercourse of two radically individual subjects, which is what seems to be implied by this rationalistic version. I vote to not let them monopolise the definition of the term ‘intersubjectivity’ ;-). Indeed, much of the work in relation to this critical notion of intersubjectivity is precisely concerned to denaturalise naturalised and ‘preconscious’ forms of relation. Anyway. Never mind me. I suspect this is part of my pet peeve that philosophers seem to think they don’t need to pay any attention to the critical engagements of, say, critical race and whiteness theory, feminist theory and queer theory. Grump grump… sorry to grump all over your lovely blog, Praxis. :-)

    Comment by WildlyParenthetical — June 26, 2008 @ 6:58 am

  12. WP that’s a valuable grump. I’ve been flogging G.H. Mead lately so I’m all attuned to the ways that histories of interactivity get layered into the self and become part of the complex of each new interaction. The conscious, intending self is therefore both existentially individual and constituitively social.

    Not to be snarky or anything, but for philosophers to fully engage with this idea would require them to become sociologists. Eek!

    Comment by Carl — June 27, 2008 @ 3:00 am

  13. Just a small defence of Praxis, who’s not really trying to express his own positions here: I think Praxis was trying to gloss some discussions with me, where my… er… intention hadn’t actually been to contrast unintentional/nonconscious with intentional/rational/conscious, but where I certainly wouldn’t have been expressing my points clearly enough to make this evident. I am trying to draw a distinction between what I am provisionally calling “intersubjective” and “social”, where “social” gets to be a broader category than “intersubjective”. I’m trying to do this, though, in order to pick out a qualitatively specific dimension of the social – in part in order to make sense of why us folk in the social sciences come up with some fancy new analytical toys to play with that themselves express a relativisation of certain aspects of our experience, such that it becomes easier for us to pick them out as “social”. I’ve tended to gloss these more intuitive dimensions of the social as “intersubjective”, not intending to imply conscious, intentional, or rational dimensions of our experience only, but rather just dimensions we have an easier time recognising as somehow pertaining to contingent human practices…

    Just wanting to avoid a situation where Praxis is taking fire for being a “philosopher”, when (1) he’s trying to talk about my positions, not his own; and (2) I’m a social scientist, so philosophy probably has some grounds for disclaiming responsibility for me… ;-P If the point is to take issue with me, of course, that’s fine – just wanting to make sure any ire flows to its proper target…

    Comment by N Pepperell — June 27, 2008 @ 3:39 am

  14. Well – but there’s probably something symptomatically ‘philosophical’ about the way I misrepresent / mishear NP’s argument above. So grump all you want, WP :-). I think your pet peeves are on target.

    (For what it’s worth – yes – there’s the issue of intersubjectivity not just being the face to face subjectivity-exchange of two finally seperable & self-identical consciousnesses. But also… well… I don’t know how to talk about this adequately. Even if we discuss about intersubjectivity in a far more… appealling… way, the Cartesian split can still be operative – and so can the (‘sociological’?) things involved in that split. I want to be able to talk (‘philospohically’?) not just about the intertwining of subjects, but of subjectobjects; interobjectivity. My hunch – and it is nothing nothing more than a stupid hunch – is that the basic problem with Hegel (for instance) (as the great theorist of intersubjectivity within whose wake our theorising still takes place) (have I mentioned that I haven’t read Hegel?) and his discussion of intersubjectivity; the intertwining of subject and subject; object and object… the problem is that something is still… turned away from: an ‘intertwining’ that does not involve ‘subjective’ mediation. My thinking is wholly inadequate to this stuff – not sociological enough :-). But thank you.)

    Comment by praxisblog — June 27, 2008 @ 11:18 am

  15. Mmm. I don’t think they need to be sociologists, really, Carl. They just need to be less snobbish about who they call philosophers. None of the people I’m talking about are considered (or consider themselves) sociologists; some of them consider themselves philosophers; others give up fighting for the title and stick with ‘theorists’. Although I’ll agree with you that they need some capacity to negotiate with… er… the social? Or how context shapes thought and style of being? Or something :-)

    Oh, and I know we’ve had this discussion before, NP, and I think I get how you parse it. But this grump, well, it’s a promiscuous one. It wants to be shared ;-). Oh, and I wasn’t wanting to suggest Praxis was a *philosopher* [horrified]. Sorry if that was how it came across, Praxis. It was just a protest against accepting that kind of ‘version’ of intersubjectivity, not to mention the history of philosophy as certain conservative men represent it (ooh, claws again; so sorry everyone!).

    And finally… it’s interesting you should say that, Praxis. I’ve been going back over Merleau-Ponty for thesis-related stuff, and remembering that Nick Crossley characterises MP’s “subject” as something less than a subject, and something more than an object… and of course, as fundamentally being-in-the-world. That world is both others and, well, what you’re calling objects, I think. And he suggests that any sense of kind of… “philosophically proper” subjectivity (sorry, that’s clumsy; I’m talking a liberal humanist individual) is an attempt to overcome our ambiguous situation, where we are caught between subjectivity and objectivity, between being bound up with the world and being ‘individual’. In other words, I think he thinks that philosophers are ‘immature’ coz they can’t deal with the complexities of this. I’m afraid I tend to agree. Intriguingly, though, for your thesis, Carl, this analysis arises from Melanie Klein’s investigations of kids and their self-concept. But thanks for engaging, everyone. I don’t think I’ve had a grump like this taken quite so seriously by so many. I’m a little disconcerted! ;-)

    Comment by WildlyParenthetical — June 28, 2008 @ 12:10 am


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