The Land of We All

Check out Charles’ latest Freeman article, this one on the healthcare debate.

(The title of this blog post comes from a piece by Richard Mitchell.)

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20 Responses to The Land of We All

  1. MBH December 23, 2009 at 12:46 am #

    A general question about individualism: where does it account for latent desire? I mean, I know you would maintain that “there’s no escaping the endoxa.” I understand that as an implicit acknowledgement of the fundamental nature of what Husserl called the lifeworld — the we-subjectivity. So, through those lights, the ‘I’ is a perspective within the lifeworld. But the ‘I’ is conditioned by the shape of the we-subjectivity. I mean, the individual’s perspective understands the ‘I’ through that which is prior to itself. My sense is that individualism has difficulty accounting for when the ‘I’ is the conditioned understanding of itself and when the ‘I’ holds an unconditioned understanding of itself. How does individualism make this distinction — between the conditioned ‘I’ and the unconditioned ‘I’ — without reference to the we-subjectivity?

    • Roderick December 23, 2009 at 1:20 am #

      Why does it need to?

      • MBH December 23, 2009 at 1:45 am #

        If there is no unconditioned “space” then choice is an illusion. Doesn’t individualism depend on the reality of choice?

        • Roderick December 23, 2009 at 11:47 am #

          If there is no unconditioned “space” then choice is an illusion

          That’s not obvious to me. Unless you’re taking “conditioned” and “unconditioned” in some suped-up transcendental way. Can you explain?

  2. MBH December 23, 2009 at 1:40 pm #

    I can try. I think of the conditioned as entirely describable by functionalism. So the unconditioned would be anything one step removed from functionalism. I’ve heard Zen Buddhists describe it as bare attention. I think Wittgenstein is talking about it when he mentions “the world as limited whole” towards the end of The Tractatus. David Bohm describes it as the perception of movement. I don’t know that I can say anything about what it is so much as what it is not. So it’s probably best to just say that the unconditioned is something beyond functionalism.

    • Roderick December 23, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

      Well, okay, but I still miss the problem. I don’t think functionalism is adequate as a description of much of anything mental. But where exactly is the problem for individualism?

      • Roderick December 23, 2009 at 2:36 pm #

        Above you seemed to think that if the ‘I’ relies on endoxa then it’s conditioned. Now you say that being conditioned means being explainable in functionalist terms. So if I’m understanding you, your claim, or worry, is that if the ‘I’ relies on endoxa then it’s explainable in functionalist terms. But if that’s what you’re saying, why do you think that? I don’t think functionalism is any better at handling endoxa than it is at anything else.

        • MBH December 23, 2009 at 5:25 pm #

          I don’t think functionalism is adequate as a description of much of anything mental.

          I think functionalism is nearly perfect in describing almost everything mental. I think you would agree that writing and speech, for instance, are direct presentations of thought. So when we read other people’s writing or listen to another speak we are, in effect, reading and hearing their thoughts. Street signs and fingers pointing are untangle-able from mental events. I think functionalism does a good job at explaining all that — which is a good bit of our experience.

          But then there’s discernment. I mean, we don’t have to follow the finger or the street sign if we choose not to. And that might come from something mental or internal, but that’s — at least it would seem — a small portion of the mental experience. So I want to say that functionalism covers the passive part of perception while something else covers the active part of perception. Maybe you could say that individualism is the active part of perception — the unconditioned. But it’s still a kind of focus on the passive part of perception. I mean, discernment is a way of looking at the endoxa — like a sifting through.

          The more I think it through, the more I start to agree with you: maybe there isn’t a problem for individualism. Just because it’s only part of the story doesn’t mean that it’s incomplete — unless it claims to be complete. So the problem is not individualism but individualism-without-a-background.

          So I could understand then if you say that — by definition — the individual is the unconditioned. Is that how you think of it?

        • MBH December 24, 2009 at 10:47 am #

          Really? A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would suffice.

        • Roderick December 24, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

          Well, I’m still not sure how to answer, because I’m still not sure I grasp how you’re thinking of conditioned and unconditioned.

          I’m also not sure how you’re thinking of functionalism. It sounds like it’s the externalist aspect of functionalism that you’re appealing to. Well, I have no objection to externalism per se; quite the contrary. But I see functionalism as a reductionist form of externalism; it defines mental states in terms of causal interactions among events, where those events themselves are definable in non-mental terms.

        • Roderick December 24, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

          Now why does the timestamp on that last post say 12:00?

        • Roderick December 24, 2009 at 12:02 pm #

          And that one says 12:00 too. Looks like the time indicator is fritzin’.

        • Roderick December 24, 2009 at 12:03 pm #

          At this moment the correct time is 11:22 central time.

        • MBH December 24, 2009 at 2:11 pm #

          Epistemically, I would say that the unconditioned is the point at which externalism and internalism are indistinguishable. Internalism (as mode of perception) is always tainted by emotions which are conditioned by individual prior experiences and mental associations. Externalism (as mode of perception) is always tainted by a lack of insight into how already-existing-conceptual-frameworks are shaping the information gathered.

          So I’m speaking of a mode of perception in which the external view is aware of how conceptual frameworks shape information and the internal view is aware of how history (personal and collective) shapes information. I think those awarenesses would constitute an unconditioned experience.

          But for the internal view to be aware of how collective history shapes information, it would need to reference the endoxa. To do so would require the perspective from the we-subjectivity. I don’t see how individualism can access the we-subjectivity. To access the we-subjectivity, the ‘I’ has to loosen its grip from one perspective and understand itself as a collective perspective. Where does individualism allow the ‘I’ to resituate in that way?

        • Roderick December 24, 2009 at 6:16 pm #

          I don’t understand what you mean in describing internalism and externalism as “modes of perception.” As I understand them, internalism and externalism are theories about whether the existence and/or nature of a mental state depends on external/environmental context (with internalism saying no and externalism saying yes). And I still don’t understand what you mean by “conditioned” and “unconditioned.”

          Further, I don’t understand what you mean in saying that the ‘I’ has to “loosen its grip” and “resituate itself.” As I see it, the ‘I’ is “always already” embedded in what you’re calling the we-subjectivity; it doesn’t have to travel anywhere. Maybe you think that contradicts individualism. I don’t see that it does; but maybe I don’t understand what you mean by individualism.

        • MBH December 24, 2009 at 9:43 pm #

          …[I]nternalism and externalism are theories…

          I don’t understand what you mean by “theories.” I would agree that depending-or-not-on-environmental-context is part of what’s in question. But the word ‘theory’ comes from the Greek word ‘theoria’ meaning “to view.” So, in that sense, I think that all “theories” are modes of perception.

          And I still don’t understand what you mean by “conditioned” and “unconditioned.”

          Krishnamurti can do a much better job than I can.

          …[T]he ‘I’ is “always already” embedded in what you’re calling the we-subjectivity…

          Will you say why that doesn’t contradict individualism?

        • MBH December 24, 2009 at 11:46 pm #

          I should say: if the ‘I’ is always already embedded in the we-subjectivity then that would not contradict individualism. But how is that kind of individualism distinct from collectivism?

        • Roderick December 25, 2009 at 3:04 am #

          Well, I guess this would be my longer statement as to why views that recognise social embeddedness can count as individualist, and indeed as radically individualist.

        • MBH December 25, 2009 at 6:21 am #

          I understand how organic individualism is rooted in the we-subjectivity in regards to the political and economic realms. But I don’t think it’s that clear in the motivational realm. How can organic individualism maintain the we-subjectivity and methodological subjectivism? I understand how the atomistic individualist uses methodological subjectivism. But for the organic individualist, beliefs, desires, and preferences are embedded in a culture. They can be individuated through reflection. But reflection is non-interactive and so up-rooted from the we-subjectivity. Will you say how methodological subjectivism can stay embedded within the we-subjectivity?

  3. Natailya Petrova December 23, 2009 at 6:47 pm #

    The irony will be whether or not Progressives support the bill without regard for public opinion.

    All arguments about the Bush admin. rooted in “the majority oppose it and he won’t listen to the people” will then fall apart as shams rationalizing whatever the person advocates.

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