19 Aug 2007

Postmodernist bollocks...



So there I am thinking about ‘mixedness’ and suchlike and I come across this:

Extract from 'LEVINAS, TOTALITY AND THE OTHER' BY MARTIN JENKINS

Second article in http://www.philosophypathways.com/newsletter/issue126.html

Western Philosophy and ethical systems devised within it, have practiced a methodology of systematic foundationalism. In other words, consequences and corollaries are developed and deduced from founding first principles constituting a closed, reflexive system. As phenomena are categorised and judged from within such epistemological and ontological monoliths, 'Identity' and 'Sameness' are practiced. The system is total in its explanation and account of phenomena -- hence Levinas' term, 'Totalisation'. Whatever is within the system is legitimate because defined by and identical with it. Whatever is outside the system is either incorporated into it (thus repressing its otherness and extending the violent sameness of the same) or is denied any existence whatsoever.

Existing ethics such as Immanuel Kant's Deontology[4] and Jeremy Bentham's Utilitarianism[5] operate totalisation. Kant's defence of the individual as an end in itself intrinsically deserving of autonomy and respect, practices a totalising sameness of the same in its emphasis on rationality inherent to each and every individual. Utilitarianism treats the individual as an instrumental cog in the felicific calculation of the sum total of happiness. The individual qua individual is smothered and definitively pre-judged by prior existing categories. As such his/ her Otherness to the totalisation of sameness is deemed insignificant.

Transcendence

Although totalisation is unavoidable in its acting as an operational guide for everyday human interaction, it is subject to Transcendence. The Other founds the self and society as it is the primordial and original relation. It constitutes the beginning of everything human as it is only through the Other that I can become myself, so that the event of the Other marks the beginning of language, of community and of course, the beginning of ethics. The sheer presence of the Other is unavoidable: it demands my attention by charging into my world and disrupting it in a profound way that a rock or tree does not. Although established upon the revelation of the Other, subsequent culture smothers the Other under the edifices and categories of totalised sameness.

The Face of the Other is not a physical appearance but an Epi-Phany. This epiphanic event of irruption disrupts the sameness of the self and breaks its expectation of linear totalised categories of Being constituting the world. Its revelation demands a response and the nature of the ethical is to provide the appropriate response. This event is so profound it evokes an Infinity which from its exuding plenitude, overflows and transcends the existing representational structures of totalisation. For example, the presence and caress of a lover is such an instance of transcendence. We may use a word to thematise the event and those involved but the sheer presence of the Other, as lover, cannot be contained in a mere description as a theme or event. Overflowing mere conceptual representation, it transcends totality.

This event of the Other cannot -- on pain of being re-absorbed into the existing schemas of conceptual totalisation -- be represented. It is an event of such magnitude and height that it discloses 'signification without content'.

And much as I hate the way these postmodernists write, and keen as I am to dismiss it all as waffle and mystification, I can’t help noticing that I’m thinking, oh yeah, that’s what’s going on with this new obsession with mixed race identity. What is outside the system is being incorporated into it (thus repressing its otherness and extending the violent sameness of the same). So I have to look for what else one might do… um what’s an epiphany? “A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something. A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization.” The meaning of what though, God? Oneself perhaps? I’m not too sure, but it does seem to me a little that for society at large and for the individual who is mixed race, there is something threatening and dangerous in the undefined nature of mixedness which academics and politicians are trying to control and absorb into the pervasive sameness of the liberal democratic monoculture. These strange ‘others’ must be made part of ‘us’ in order to enter the ‘same’ moral framework. The CRE conference is a desperate attempt to cope with people who somehow fail to be part of the total scheme of things. But in this case, the ‘other, as lover’ is equally keen to be absorbed into the system. It is so hard to be the constant occasion of another’s transcendence.

1 comment:

Guzmán. said...

Jiddu Krishnamurti;

“There are three monks, who had been sitting in deep meditation for many years amidst the Himalayan snow peaks, never speaking a word, in utter silence. One morning, one of the three suddenly speaks up and says, ‘What a lovely morning this is.’ And he falls silent again. Five years of silence pass, when all at once the second monk speaks up and says, ‘But we could do with some rain.’ There is silence among them for another five years, when suddenly the third monk says, ‘Why can’t you two stop chattering?”


http://www.katinkahesselink.net/kr/jokes.html
http://jiddukrishnamurti.multiply.com/photos/album/1/Jiddu_Krishnamurti.
http://seaunaluzparaustedmismo.blogspot.com/