More overheard conversation

Sometimes, it starts to seem simple.

What does?

Everything.  All of it.

Simple?

Yeah.  Sometimes I think I see the simple pattern of all the struggles that our common life together seems to bring.

Really?

Yes.  Let me explain.  I read the following sentences in a book:

 In what measure and by what means can individuals accept themselves as mortal without any imaginary instituted compensation; in what measure can thought hold together the demands of the identitary logic which are rooted in the Legein and the exigencies of what is (which is surely not identitary without becoming for that reason incoherent); in what measure, finally and especially, can society truly recognize in its institution its own self-creation, recognize itself as institution, auto-institute itself explicitly, and surmount the self-perpetuation of the instituted by showing itself capable of taking it up and transforming it according to its own exigencies and not according to the inertia of the instituted, to recognize itself as the source of its own alterity?  These are the questions, the question of revolution, which not only go beyond the frontier of the theorizable but situate themselves right away on another terrain…the terrain of the creativity of history.  [Cornelius Castoriades, cited by Dick Howard, The Marxian Legacy, 298-299.]

Say what, now?

Yeah, dense, isn’t it?  But what is the simple meaning?  To me, this  goes back to Aristotle, at least.  What is the good life?  It is the life that is best for us to lead.  How do we know it?  How do we learn it?  We learn it by watching others and forming habits.  But what if the habits we form by watching others whom society says are worth imitating, what if that leads us to vice, not virtue?  What if the whole society is corrupt?  Is there any hope?  Yes, because although moral virtue is very important, there is more to being a human than moral virtue.  There is what Aristotle calls intellectual virtue, which is being able to see what is—even past the habits and practices and institutions of our own society.  With those intellectual virtues, we always have access to the other, to the unexpressed, to the not-now visible possibilities.  Indeed, this goes further back, to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” in which the prisoner somehow slips his bonds (but how?) and gets out of the darkness of illusion and can see what is in its truth.  But the prisoner does not—cannot—live in this “realm” because he is human.  He needs his institutions in order to live.  Those institutions make life possible AND impossible at the same time.  To say this in a formula:  I am in society, but not wholly of it.  I carry my alterity with me.  I need the bonds of identitary logic to live AND I am always more and other than how that logic “identifies” me, how it turns me into a (mere) identity.

Perhaps that goes even further back to the very edge of thought:  the many and the one, identity and difference, analysis and synthesis.

Indeed, it does.  The truth is in the middle and the margin, in the in-between and at the edges.

But is what you claimed, right?  Is what you just tried to say simple?

Yes.  It is just that simple.

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