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February 28, 2010

a note on “selfidentity”

Appropriations posting

Yes: no hyphen. The identity that a person is is so much more than something one has, such that a wholehearted reflectivity or conception of oneself can be more and better than what’s standardly meant by ‘self-identity,’ which has two standard senses (according to M-W Unabridged online):

“(1) the identity of a thing with itself; substantial samesness.” I’m glad, when I wake up, that I “have” (without giving it a thought) the same body I had yesterday. But the idiom of “having” one’s embodiment is implicitly an alienation, a legacy of culture (born from longing that mentality survive death). One doesn’t have a body. I’m embodied. Being embodied is not basically about representations of a body that’s mine that you (or an anatomist) might also represent. The notion of body apart from my feeling and moving is an abstraction from infancy’s immediacy that cognitive development grants me ability to make. When I touch one finger to another, I at once feel being felt and feel the finger feeling felt. I move, I move. It’s not merely that a body moves, not merely that my body moves. I have an arm—I have an arm: My arm is part of my embodied being as I reach to hold with no thought of the arm reaching for whatever. Loss of an arm severely affects one’s sense of being in the world or there being selfness (ultimately as there being itself, as such, abstracted from what’s there).

I’m embodied, the moving individuated over years as, at least, growing interests, capabilities, and sensibility consolidating experience, imagination, and memory as one Self (t)here. Yet, the sameness of myself is elusive, like an intimacy of mystery. Calling myself “substantial,” in the sense that substances are, would be invalid. (Calling myself substantial in the sense of importance would be presumptuous—something likely questionable).

“(2) the identity of subject and object in life and consciousness.” I may be considered a subject, by you, by my own representations of what pertains to “me,” but “I” does the representing, I do what may be considered subjective. I’m not basically a subject to-and-for myself; I’m the considering itself. “I” is the kind of thing (“object”) that is—I am—the finding there of the thing, the momentary giving-in of myself, given over, to the thing itself, as if experience is born of the thing, and I become the thing there-ing, thinging—the oddest kind of “object” in the known universe: a human being.

My ownmost identity is almost always implicit as the confident flow of doing things, feeling (without a thought of this) coherence of the moment, the day, myself, my life. Self-determining efficacy, exemplified by representations, may reflect on its doing, its enactivity, momentary or extended (“my life”), also cumulatively (reflection on oneself all tolled), such that the sense of living gains some description as identity (self-representation of Self: individuating time representing itself as oneself, as one self). As apparently definitive of me (to myself), as especially who I “am,” that sense of identity or self may be the prevailing sense of Self (self concept) for my life: my ownmost “self” as such—being one Self, yet appropriated as articulated identity-of-oneself, with which “I” so identifies. (I’ll later try to more-usefully clarify a difference between capped and non-capped use of ‘self,’ better enacting a sense of temporal high scale from which pragmatic articulation derives.)

So, I render this psychological, this philosophical kind of investment with ‘selfidentity’ and ‘selfidentification.’ Selfidentity is my embodied, living (investing) sense of ‘self-identity’, so explicating my sense of myself, so confessedly identified “with” (as), wholeheartedly here, being as, confidently (substantially), cohering time in my own way, enactively (expressly) integrating expressibility (as such: “I”) and representation (I as to “me”) in temporally cohering lifeworldliness in terms of enacted understanding.

My sense of ‘selfidentity’ is more than an obtuse stylization of the standard meaning of ‘self-identity.’ My term emblemizes a philosophical engagement whose usefulness—exemplarity? (generalizability?)—remains to be shown, yet will be shown: as an engagement that’s “philosophical” in a very good sense.

February 14, 2010

a note on discursive reading

Appropriations posting

Consider a review of Enjoyment: the moral significance of styles of life by John Kekes. However accurate the reviewer Jason Raibley is, we have a narrative that one can work with, which is valuable relative to its cogency as discursive episode on, in this case, a sense of living well.

A keynote of the narrative’s accuracy is (1) one’s sense that the account of the author’s thought implies what one might expect an expert in the area to argue; and (2) the reviewer’s disagreements hinge on views of the author’s thought that one might expect the author to have, regardless of the reviewer’s preferred view (which would be assessed on its own apparent merits).

But the reviewer’s claim about the author that causes the reviewer to disagree may not gel well with what the reviewer has non-disagreeably claimed earlier that the reviewed author thinks or claims to be the case. An implausibility of the author’s claim which the reviewer rejects, relative to the plausibility of what the reviewer earlier claimed about the author’s case might provide reason to defend the reviewed author in terms of reviewer misreading, just on the basis of the reviewer’s own not-yet-disagreeing portrait of the author’s case. In short, one may side with the reviewed author against the reviewer just on the basis of what the reviewer says about the reviewed author.

So, we have a narrative, a discursive episode with its own integrity. Whether or not reviewer misprision is taking place for the sake of the reviewer’s own views, a narrative has its own coherence or plausibility, in terms of the case(s) at hand. I may engage myself with the review as autonomous narrative, without a lot of concern about reviewer accuracy toward the reviewed author, just because the narrative is discursively cogent, educive (or provocative), and thereby useful.

However, I believe that Raibley reads Kekes accurately. I can see how Kekes might have the views that Raibley disagrees with. But I can side with Kekes against some of Raibley’s disagreements. And I can also agree with some of Raibley’s disagreements as a chance to improve the view of “Kekes,” as a discursive stance in a narrative I engage with, like I might respond to a letter.

So, Raibley’s review becomes an autonomous occasion for thinking about living well, relative to his reading of Kekes. As if there is no book, but merely a narrative of arguable views, the review provides an occasion to think about a conceptuality of living well. I read the narrative with much interest in “Kekes’” view, seeing how to make it better. I find Raibley’s disagreements useful in that venture. My sense of how to make Kekes’ view better (and avoid Raibley’s disagreements) derives from the approach to the well-growing life that I’ve developed (more or less). The review (as autonomous narrative) is an occasion to explicate the approach I want to take, by engaging with the Kekes/Raibley narrative.

But what I prefer to do is to go my own way, come back to the Raibley review relative to what I’ve done; then go to Kekes’ book to test myself. That would be giving pride of place to Kekes in my explication of an approach to the well-growing life. But others already have a place in line: Frankfurt, Slote, Velleman, and Brandon. So, I’ll engage Raibley’s narrative online, later this month, before moving on to “my” primary others.

I want to note one point, at the end of Raibley’s review. He says, appropriately, I think: “The synthetic abilities that are required for Kekes’ style of philosophical thinking and writing are perhaps undervalued in professional philosophy at present. But analytical acumen is also valuable and necessary, and in many spots, Kekes….[could have been] more clear and precise.” Kekes has written many books, including one titled The Art of Life, providing ample chances for precision in Kekes’ thought, though that fact alone doesn’t undermine Raibley’s point about lack of precision in Enjoyment. But one might expect that synthetic abilities might prevail later in a career and implicitly ask of the reader that a late book not be read in isolation. I’m not familiar with Kekes’ earlier books, so maybe Raibley’s point remains well-taken relative to Kekes’ career. But it seems to me, from Raibley’s review, that precision can be provided to Kekes’ view. Not dealing with other recent philosophers, as Raibley complains at the end of his review, is typical of mature philosophers.

But here is the point I want to make, why I’ve singled out Raibley’s endpoint: Synthetic abilities are undervalued in professional philosophy because they are so commonly miscarried, implying metaphysicalist desires (if not overt stances) that are untenable. But it’s not the business of a venture in cohering to be, at the same time, a venture in analysis. Analytic work might develop into synthetic positions (not in the sense of ‘synthetic’ that belongs to the analytic/synthetic distinction in Analytic philosophy). But synthetic positions are usually not meant to be derivations. A completely tenable position might have enough to do just by explicating what, it is claimed, can be argued with precision. An excellent floor plan for an awesome house is not claiming to be every subcontractor’s blueprint.

February 11, 2010

a conceptual reverie

Appropriations posting

Wanting to understand art is an admirable thing to want. Failing to do so exemplarily has no bearing on the value of seeking to understand.

Idealizing that value is a good thing, even if the diversity of arts inhibits a generalizable understanding of art “as such.” If no generally valid sense of art is possible, due to the individualizing nature of art, then understanding that—the individualizing nature—may be possible in a general way, except inasmuch as the individualizing pertains to a specific art’s nature, i.e., the art individuates itself as such (a self-formativity of the art—or self-reconstitutive capacity of the art), such that various individualizing natures become evident, to the implausible limit point of each given work of art implying a genre all to itself (like highly-individuated persons, where a proper name becomes generic) in a garden of as many kinds of art as there are works (implausible because the talent required for such diversity of distinguished works is scarce).

Such recursiveness suggests nothing to me from the history of art, though art has evolved its basic character; but not at the level of the singular work becoming a genre.

Yet, in that limit case (of my reverie, as a matter of conceptual recreation), understanding art can generally be only something like understanding a dynamic of diversification or individuation (like: how children may grow into truly unique persons, each child growing into no merely-idiosyncratic-assemblage of widely-shared traits, may be theorized in terms of some culturally-independent or multicultural individuation-as-such).

But that limit case is implausible (my conceptual recreation). Memic resources provided by genres and history and craft give arts likely participation in legacies of accomplishment that notable works build on, imply, mirror, echo, educe, promote. A common ground of legacy and genre gives an art a potential in cultural evolving that otherwise likely makes the “art” idiosyncratic.

A practical point I take from this is that pursuit of idealized understanding can be very fruitful or generative, even though the road of travel sees the horizon ever receding. Also, there’s the Odysseyian point reiterated by T.S. Eliot that one comes back to know one’s home for the first time (at least as a place in the round that’s not the center of the world).

Understanding art, at its limit point, is like understanding individuality in a world where human development is commonly high, where so much diversity is less idiosyncratic and more expressive of human potential for distinguished individuation. To seek to understand this is to seek to understand the nature of our humanity like understanding all art, which belongs to our humanity, along with every other area of humanities and sciences and professions that evolve through higher education and cultural devotions.

Seeking idealized understanding is a conceptual art whose value is—it seems to me—worth as much as any reason to live. It seems to me exemplary of human flourishing and a fine excursion into living time.