Saturday, May 26, 2007

Charles Taylor and Modernity.

May 4, 2010 at 1:14 P.M. Two more "errors" inserted and corrected.

May 3, 2010 at 7:00 P.M. The "hotheads" in New Jersey have engaged in a wave of attacks against writings at these blogs. I am doing my best to defend against these attacks and to correct inserted "errors." I am working from a second public computer. I may move on to a third public computer to continue working. The goal for hackers is to use repetitive induced frustrations to bring about a collapse into depression or psychosis by a victim. I do not believe that this censorship effort against me will succeed.

My essay entitled "Is this atheism's moment?" has been submitted to Quodlibet, an Internet journal of theology and philosophy, but it was returned to me unopened for some reason. "David Foutz" is identified as the editor of this journal. How curious? Perhaps I will try again. and I resubmitted the essay. I have received no response. ("Rose Madder?")

January 16, 2010 at 4:02 P.M. "Errors" were again inserted in this essay. I will do my best to correct them. ("Debbie Poritz Likes the Ladies!" and "Is Joel T. Leyner, Esq. New Jersey's Slimiest Fixer?")

To ensure that a distorted version of this essay does not appear, I will retain and republish the original for purposes of comparison. On May 22, 2007 at 2:30 P.M. there were 639 intrusion attempts against my computer and 106 web sites were blocked. The day is young. Main attacker (NJ)

On May 24, 2007 I cannot print out items from my msn group. This is the sort of insult that may help to illustrate my argument in this essay. I only get a blank piece of paper with the following address on it:;sz=728x90;ord=159625831?cli...

I have reason to believe that the true number of visitors to my book's site is not recorded accurately. On May 27, 2007 at 6:07 A.M. there were 743 intrusion attempts against my computer, 130 web sites blocked and numerous illegal connections to my computer and spyware, which I will detail in a future post.

If you care about the First Amendment, then these crimes committed against me over a period of years, on a daily basis -- probably with the blessings of the authorities in at least one state -- should trouble you. Today, it's me. Next week it may be you or your favorite newspaper or writer that is censored by government. Below are my primary sources for this essay on the work of Charles Taylor:

Charles Taylor, "The Politics of Recognition," in Multiculturalism (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 25.

Commentaries on this paper by leading scholars are published with the original:

Amy Gutman, editor and Introduction.

K. Anthony Appiah
Jurgen Habermas
Steven C. Rockerfeller
Michael Walzer
Susan Wolf

Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity (Cambridge: Harvrad University Press, 1992), entirety.
Charles Taylor, The Malaise of Modernity (Ontario: Anansi, 1991), entirety.
Charles Taylor, "Overcoming Epistemology," in K. Baynes, J. Bohman, T. McCarthy, eds., After Philosophy: End or Transformation (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991), p. 459.
Charles Taylor, Hegel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), pp. 127-214.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self (Cambridge: Harvrad University Press, 1989), chapter 3 and 15.

This essay is for Angela Davis and Armando Valladares.

I. "Mirror, mirror on the wall ..."

Many problems in the world today, both at the national and international level, are reducible to fundamental conflicts over recognition. "I see you, but do you see me?" There is a natural -- maybe it is only a Western -- tendency to reduce others to something less that fully autonomous and self-determining beings, turning them into objects of manipulation and control, or instruction. ("Behaviorism is Evil" and "What is it like to be tortured?")

The best defense against such efforts is to provide dehumanizers with a lifeless replicant of the self, a stereotype or caricature satisfying their own demeaning representations and expectations, a caricature that can then be debased or destroyed by the powerful, as victims retain their humanity, keeping a safe distance from the caricature of themselves created by -- then for -- the powerful, while continuing to struggle. (See Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.) Many people in the world have adopted this strategy in response to perceived American stereotyping or attempts at manipulation.

The human tendency to bend moral space around intentionality expresses itself collectively and individually: "We will improve you. "We will teach you." "We will make you good." I am among those unfortunate persons who have heard these and similar phrases spoken by powerful "others," assuming a natural superiority of some kind, often on the basis of no discernible evidence of such superiority. Such an experience is a reduction of a person to the status of a slave. ("Sybil R. Moses and Conduct Unbecoming to the Judiciary in New Jersey.")

Suppressed fury at denials of human equality and dignity can be lethal, both for bearers of such slights and for those who impose them. An important point argued by Professor Taylor is that non-recognition or misrecognition "shows not just a lack of respect. It can inflict a grievous wound, saddling its victims with a crippling self-hatred. Due recognition is not just a courtesy we owe people. It is a vital human need." (Multiculturalism, p. 26.)

Much of the violence and military struggle in the world today can be traced to failures of recognition, often based on torturers' lack of comprehension. "You," an Iraqui insurgent said to an American soldier, "do not respect the people." Any "errors" to be inserted in this essay today? It continues to baffle me that we are determined to insult billions of people on the planet through sheer thoughtlessness.

What that insurgent fails to realize is how many of those American soldiers in his country -- and other Americans at home -- are also denied their measure of respect. To be burdened with paralyzing life-long pain and limitations as a result of idiotic plans of instruction or improvement -- let alone criminal violations of one's rights which are sanctioned by corrupt officials -- will remain a source of seething rage forever. I am referring to the kind of rage which deforms and destroys people, producing catastrophe on a massive scale. Think of suicide bombers and the attacks on 9/11.

Fortunately, there is art and philosophy, together with shared moral commitments, especially the peaceful struggle waged by billions of persons today for respect and recognition. No wonder they want to silence me for saying such terrible things and to prevent my expression of these ideas for the benefit of the "little brown people." My books will always be suppressed to some extent in America. I believe that the daily infliction of insults, harassments, and suppressions of speech are intended to produce a violent reaction that will serve to legitimate the conduct that produces that reaction. I am not cooperating with this tactic.

"To know who I am is a species of knowing where I stand. My identity is defined by the commitments and identifications which provide the frame of horizon within which I can try to determine from case to case what is good, or valuable, or what ought to be done, or what I endorse or oppose. In other words, it is the horizon," Charles Taylor writes, "within which I am capable of taking a stand." (Sources of the Self, p. 26.)

We are certainly forced to "see" perpetrators after they commit their crimes. It must be possible to do so before tragedies occur. I have suggested that art and philosophy have a role to play in making peaceful expressions of legitimate outrage and aspirations for justice possible. This may be one response to that Iraqui insurgent. There is (or should be) a center of value within a person from which he or she will not be moved, even at the cost of that person's life. (See "Saving Private Ryan.")

This attempt to express "dangerous thoughts" in writing may explain continuing defacements of my texts. If you destroy a person's moral space, his or her cultural environment so as to disconfirm his identity, you will produce a kind of human monster. This is because persons can only thrive in communities. (See the film "No Such Thing.") American prisons are factories for the production of human monsters. ("Foucault, Rose, Davis and the Meanings of Prison" and "America's Love of Violence.")

The pointless destruction of identity-confirming relationships and blighting of lives produced by ideologies of "normalization" or "cultural imperialism" and "adjustment" is a cause of lingering anger, as I suggest, but also of hope. There is always the power of love against oppression. Indeed, this is one of the issues to be discussed later. Hence, the Palestinian struggle (if it is ever conducted exclusively in peaceful ways) and Nelson Mandela's "stations of the cross," to say nothing of the sufferings resulting from the "troubles" of the Irish people in Northern Ireland and African-American history in its entirety. The worst possible mistake is to pretend that such tensions do not exist when it is clear that they do. (I plan to see soon "The Colors of the Cross.")

More close to home and obvious are the mixed messages in traditions of chivalry and romance now seen as ambiguous, both lovely and aesthetically admirable -- yet, potentially, diminishing the equality of women. Part of the challenge faced by my generation of men and women -- and all who come after us -- is to reinterpret these traditions in order to retain all that is beautiful in them, cherishing love and mutuality of concern, while insisting on equality between sexes. Creative reversals of traditional roles can be useful in achieving these goals. (See "Thoughts of a Domestic Revolutionary" and "Let's Hear it for the Boys.")

Why are we in Iraq? Weapons of mass destruction? Exporting democracy? Importing oil? No. We are there because it is "for their own good." "Wear your seat belt!" "Wear your helmet!" "Wear a condom." We are -- especially in America -- very concerned about what is good for other people. This is most true when paternalism also happens to be really good for us -- if we are, say, Halliburton Corporation. Terry Tuchin? However, we are deeply resentful of other people's attempts to control us or dictate what Dr. Phil calls, "life-values." We should be. Such a thing is a denigration of one's humanity. In the case of any individual who commits no crime, subjection to forced "improvement" -- by anyone -- in violation of his or her natural rights is a form of psychological torture which is "crime against humanity":

"... two American physicians, Andrew Ivy and psychiatrist Leo Alexander, wrote the ten-point Nuremberg Code for ethical human experimentation. At the heart of the code, which America promoted as natural law that should be respected by all, was the principle that the interests of science should never take precedence over the rights of the human subject. Research subjects were not to be seen as a means to a scientific end, and they needed to give [unimpaired] informed consent [at every stage of any such "experiment"]. As Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel later wrote: 'The respect for human rights in human experimentation demands'" -- demands -- "'that we see persons as unique, as ends in themselves.' ..."

Robert Whitaker, Mad in America (Cambridge: Perseus, 2002), p. 235.

The same and higher requirements apply to any so-called "treatment." Nothing done to you, against your will, is properly called "therapy." Deciding what is for my own good -- morally or spiritually, aesthetically or in terms of my relationships -- is my business. It is not something for any government agent to determine on my behalf. We rightly resent attempts by strangers to tell us what is for our own good. Naturally, we are good and wise in our own eyes, so it is o.k. for us to tell others how to live their lives. It is never for anyone to tell us how to live our lives, certainly never acting secretly upon those lives as they do so. I consent to and accept no instruction on these matters. ("An Open Letter to My Torturers in New Jersey, Terry Tuchin and Diana Lisa Riccioli.")

Dictatorial governments answer: "Daddy" -- especially a white, middle-class-comfortable daddy -- "knows best." Yes, Freudians ... we know. Well, he doesn't. Not anymore. We live in a "post-daddy" world. This is something for future American presidents to remember. Most of the people of the world want to make this point to American governments: "We don't want a white daddy telling us what to do." Partnerships in the interest of peace that are mutually beneficial are always welcome. This explains both Mr. Lula's statement concerning the greed of SOME "blue-eyed" people and his handshake with Barack Obama. America should extend an invitation to the world to enter into a "partnership for peace" with us, as equals. (Contrast "'For America to Lead Again': A Speech for President Barack Obama" with "'America's Real Strength is Character': A Speech for President John McCain.")

My drafts of speeches for the two candidates (at the time) for the U.S. Presidency were posted at my MSN group, Critique. I am told that MSN groups has closed and that my essays at that site no longer exist. If they exist -- along with the images accompanying them -- then I urge readers to see my works there. I do not believe that the censorship and harassments that I struggle against are possible without governmental participation.

This antinomy between autonomy and altruism (or community) is at the center of the paradox of modernity/postmodernity, where we find ourselves placed by history, like it or not. Even in the coolest neighborhoods of Manhattan, we must now live between worldviews. My neighborhood would not be described by most people as "fashionable," perhaps. But this is our way of achieving coolness in northern Manhattan. We keep our greatness (and affordable rents) to ourselves.

To borrow Lenin's question: "What is to be done?" The challenge of recognition is one of the great subjects of Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor's work. I wish to examine one famous essay by this McGill University Professor, after saying something concerning Taylor's general philosophical stance, then to offer a response to some aspects of Taylor's essay that, I am sure, are especially important today, both politically and culturally.

A. Taylor's Philosophical Sources and Placement.

"Charles Taylor describes his work as a contribution to philosophical anthropology. His initial approach was largely polemical. He attacked the view that the natural sciences should serve as a model for the methods and procedures of the human sciences. Whether in the form of classical behaviorism, functionalism, AI-based psychology, or any other reductivist explanatory strategy, 'naturalism,' Taylor argued, 'is inappropriate to the sciences of man,' because they must incorporate into their explanations the common meanings that are embedded in social institutions and practices, as well as in agents' self-interpretations." After Philosophy, p. 459.

"Naturalism," as used by Taylor, refers to classical materialism and scientism. Taylor alludes to the denial of a spiritual or communicative and aesthetic reason in some social settings. Both are crucial to understanding persons and events, while materialist reductivism is seen as the great error in contemporary social sciences and philosophy. Psychobabblers should take note.

Taylor is not suggesting that science is irrelevant to human self-understandings or that there is a "supernatural" realm to be consulted by using a crystal ball if we are to decipher political events. He welcomes analogizing on the basis of scientific learning to social predicaments. Taylor is well-versed in the history of science and contemporary developments in the so-called "hard sciences." However, Taylor opposes all forms of reductivism that deny the vital importance of communicative reason and interpretive rationality in social theory and philosophy. Communicative reason, culture, is a kind of figurative crystal ball. In art and theory we "prefigure" or foreshadow the future. The dialogue between Taylor and Habermas is particularly interesting. (Spacing may be affected, again, by New Jersey's hackers.)

"Taylor revives this classical distinction" -- between Natur- and Geistwissenschaften -- "on the grounds that the latter necessarily include a hermeneutic dimension in a way the former do not. At the same time, Taylor's critique of naturalism and its underlying conceptions of the self, language, and knowledge has led to the development of an alternative that draws heavily on the expressivist tradition of Hegel and Romanticism." Ibid.

For Charles Taylor, human beings are "self-interpreting" animals, defined by our self understandings and self-descriptions. On this view, the self is connected to its projects. Accordingly, human identity is constituted by self-chosen and self-understood purposes which -- if denied -- result in dehumanization or a kind of killing of one's humanity. All conditioning of responses to stimuli is a kind of affront to human dignity. Hence, the insistence on individual recognition:

"... when we think of a human being, we do not simply mean a living organism, but a being who can think, feel, decide, be moved, respond, enter into relations with others; and all this implies a language, a related set of ways of experiencing the world, of interpreting his feelings, understanding his relations to others, to the past, the future, the absolute, and so on. It is the particular way he situates himself within his cultural world that we call his identity." (Hegel, p. 380.)

Richard Bernstein comments on this passage:

"The institutions and practices which make up the public life of a community are not merely external constraints on what we are. For they themselves are expressions of what we are."

"Why Hegel Now?," in Philosophical Profiles (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1986), pp. 173-174.

This central human need, capacity and yearning is linked to the collective project of modernity, from Kant to Hegel, then Marx. Subjects are constituted by intersubjective meaning in a "hermeneutics of freedom" (Paul Ricoeur), which must be rooted in a community providing recognition. Professor Taylor brings together Kant's transcendental ego with Hegel's understanding of Stillichkeit. (Hegel, pp. 376-378.)

"The path to this conception leads to a kind of 'transcendental argument' that discloses the indispensable conditions of experiencing a world, that is, of intentionality. Perusing this path in the footsteps of [Kant, Hegel, Marx and] Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and Merleau-Ponty immediately reveals the untenability of the picture of the self as disengaged and disembodied, punctual and atomistic, related to the natural and social worlds, and even to parts of the self, only as objects of disinterested knowledge and instrumental control. It reveals that we are first and foremost embodied agents in a natural and social world." After Philosophy, p. 459.

This should be sufficient to set the stage for Taylor's comments on multiculturalism.

II. Multiculturalism and Identity.

Taylor formulates the issue with great care and precision:

"The demand for recognition ... is given urgency by the supposed links between recognition and identity, where this latter term designates something like a person's understanding of who they are, of their fundamental defining characteristics as a human being. The thesis is that our identity is partly shaped by recognition or its absence, often by the mis-recognition of others, and so a person or group of people can suffer real damage, real distortion, if the people or society around them mirror back to them a confining or demeaning or contemptible picture of themselves. Nonrecognition or misrecognition can inflict harm, can be a form of oppression, imprisoning someone in a false, distorted, and reduced mode of being." ( Multiculturalism, p. 25.)
"Errors" were inserted in this foregoing paragraph since my last reading of this essay. Not only am I insulted, but so is Charles Taylor. Since writing the foregoing sentence, spacing was affected in this essay, again, and a letter was changed in a title. I am making corrections at a public computer.

The evils in racism immediately come to mind. Feminism has also appropriated these arguments. Gays and transgendered persons must be among those who have endured such torments. Also, the deliberate infliction of harm by psychologists seeking to condition socially desired behaviors or to force "adjustment" on persons are terrible, destructive and wounding violations of human autonomy, usually with disastrous permanent consequences in terms of future functional capacities of victims. Again: "Due recognition is not just a courtesy we owe people. It is a vital human need." (p. 26.)

The emergence of recognition as a social value coincides with Modernity because the traditional code of "honor," reserving recognition to the elites in European societies, burdening all others with obligations of obedience, came to be replaced with a universal and egalitarian sense of human "dignity" -- dignity was given implied expression, for example, in America's founding documents. (See "William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft" and "Manifesto for the Unfinished American Revolution.")

The sense of inwardness, inner life, particularity, of identity as self-creation -- all of these things would have been incomprehensible to people before the modern era. Such pre-modern individuals would have said that your identity is shaped by what is not particular to you, by what is spiritual and timeless. Identity had nothing to do with choice. Your identity is not merely universal, for these pre-moderns, it is eternal and determined before your life began. Your essence precedes your concrete existence. Sartre would reverse this phrase in the twentieth century. For Sartre and atheistic existentialists: "existence precedes essence."

The proverbial medieval peasant when asked "Who are you?" would answer "I am a child of God." With modernity, identity becomes much more specific and social, a matter of confirmation or disconfirmation. Identity is, thus, much more dynamic -- for moderns. Who you are is determined by your place within a social, familial, and intimate scheme of relations. Holistic schemes of meaning become important.

An ingenious form of oppression is to disconfirm and deny the merits of members of oppressed groups, as I say, to feed back to them a negative self-image, with the hope that persons will accept that negative self-image and internalize it. To do such a thing is to commit psychological suicide. Intelligence and talent are simply unacceptable in some people -- like me. Sometimes this process of feeding back a negative self-image is very subtle, at other times the process is just plain brutal. (See photos of the Holocaust and records of slave ships, or the haunting images from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.) Stephen E. Eisenman, The Abu Ghraib Effect (London: Reaktion Books, 2007), p. 9 ("The Abu Ghraib Effect").

This set of issues has led to the fusion of perspectives derived from Continental thought and contemporary physics seeking to define the self in terms of its social space and moral context, or as a set of entanglement relations. Like a chameleon placed in an environment, selves become an accomodation to what is confirmed and disconfirmed in them. This process is a matter of negotiation and struggle that never ends. It is, as I like to suggest borrowing Anthony Powell's title, "a dance to the music of time." ("Terry Tuchin, Diana Lisa Riccioli, and New Jersey's Agency of Torture.")

Among the most disturbing discoveries of psychologists is the delight in inflicting suffering on others displayed by those given power -- especially power without accountability -- that quickly degenerates to vicious and horrifying levels of sadism in the creation of hellish social environments aimed at the destruction of a human mind. Psychologists and analysts are not immune to these human tendencies. Concentration camps in the twentieth century -- or torture chambers and killing fields -- make such discoveries all too believable and familiar to us by now. This is especially true for persons (like me) who have experienced comparable evils. (Milgram, Zimbardo) Right, Terry Tuchin? (Again: "Terry Tuchin, Diana Lisa Riccioli, and New Jersey's Agency of Torture" and "What is it like to be tortured?" then "How censorship works in America.")

With this shift in the focus of identity, feelings and authenticity become much more important to selfhood as a project in time. After the French and American Revolutions, the whole of Western culture takes a massive "subjective turn." (p. 29.) See E.J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution 1789-1848 (New York: New American Library, 1962), pp. 22-101. Taylor speaks of the "subjective turn of modern culture, a new form of inwardness, in which we come to think of ourselves as beings with inner depths."(p. 26.)

Total adjustment to any society amounts to a sacrifice of identity. "Not only should I not mold my life to the demands of external conformity; I can't even find the model by which to live outside myself. I can only find it within myself." (pp. 30-31.)

Bear this point in mind when encountering my quotes from the writings of R.D. Laing. From the Romantics to Picasso, Surrealism and Existentialism, sixties hippies and postmodernist chaos -- these ideas wind their way through Western history in a dialectic with the forces of instrumental reason, conformity, totalitarianism, order and efficiency in mechanization and commercialization, centralized economies and the politics of control, behaviorism and totalitarianism. (One new "error" discovered since my last reading of this essay, so far.)

Each side of this equation expresses itself in both the sciences and humanities. Authenticity tends to be identified with Hegel's "subjective spirit" (Neo); whereas conformity is associated with Hegel's "objective spirit" (Agent Smith). Solutions have tended to resemble Hegel's attempts at reconciliation and transcendence of these values in a new unity of self and other. ("Is Western Philosophy Racist?")

Rather than being allied with God or spiritual truth, objectivity is identified with reason in the modern world. However, meaning becomes the province of soul (yes, I am invoking African-American philosophy) and expression, based on feeling. This bifurcation in the psyche would have been impossible in the medieval era, where other problems were indeed philosophically predictable. The medieval universe was purposive, reason and feeling were one in devotion to God's will, which was perceived and expressed in all things. Hegel's goal was to find a new way to achieve such unity, after the Kantian revolution in Western thought. If you want an image of the young Hegel's dream made flesh (and this would have shocked Hegel!), it is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "beautiful soul."

Think of the film "The Advocate." In the medieval era, the prosecuting of animals made sense in a universe in which all aspects of nature reflected God's purposes and will, so that they were meaningless apart from morality. Thus, any act of evil was a disruption in the cosmic order calling for restoration. How could the law not punish the animal causing harm? Impossible. Freedom and agency were secondary or meaningless considerations. Like today's behavioral scientists, medieval jurists focused on external actions and "order." Lloyd L. Weinreb, Natural Law and Justice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), p. 1: "In its origins and principal development, the philosophy of natural law was an effort to mediate these dual aspects of human existence." (See also Professor Weinreb's chapter "Kosmos," pp. 15-43.)

Psychoanalysis is the product of late Romanticism and misleadingly makes use of the jargon of scientific objectivity to conduct its inquiries into subjective "truths of the mind." Psychoanalysis is really only another form of German idealism. The noumenal (Kant) becomes Will (Schopenhauer), before being captured in Freud's concept of the id. All three, for Hegel, are only expressions of Spirit's self-discovery in history. Jung tosses all of these other guys and their concepts into the territory of the "collective subconscious." Similarly, New Jersey mobsters relegate their underlings to a life of struggle in places like Bayonne or North Bergen.

Many of our difficulties stem from this very German displacing of feeling from the province of objective reason -- which is related to sexism -- dividing authenticity from social adjustment, subjective from objective. Richard Rorty, from a very different direction, sets forth arguments reflecting similar insights.

Before proceeding with my discussion of Taylor's views, I wish to take a look at some of those "other" thinkers concerned in various ways with modernity and its discontents. The popularity of the discussion concerning the "Problematic of Modernity," multiculturalism and identity, suggests that Taylor's "issues" are important. Why is modernity so much of a problem now? Why is it that philosophers are so often unaware of relevant work being done by scholars in other areas?

B. "Round up the usual suspects."

From multiple angles these dialectical tensions are detected and challenged today, as the traditional modernist world view is crumbling. I will mention some important books that others may not see as related. I suggest that they are related since each is seeking to articulate this growing dissatisfaction with the conceptual architecture of Western modernity:

John Raulston Saul, Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason (New York: Free Press, 1992), p. 8:

"Thus, among the illusions which have invested our civilization is an absolute belief that the solution to our problems must be a more determined application of rationally organized expertise. The reality is that our problems are largely the products of that application." (Historian)

Agnes Heller & Ferenc Feher, The Postmodern Political Condition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), p. 1:

"Politically speaking those who have chosen to understand themselves as postmodern are in the first place after the 'the grand narrative.' [The ideologies of reason.] The grand narrative, not to be confused with holism, which is, according to Lyotard, conducive to totalitarianism, is world interpretation of a very peculiar kind." (Political Theorists)

Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), pp. 7-9:

"The aim of this book is to undermine the reader's confidence in 'the mind' as something about which one should have a 'philosophical' view, in 'knowledge' as something about which there ought to be a 'theory' and which has 'foundations' and in 'philosophy' as it has been conceived since Kant."

What follows is my highlighted passage from Rorty's book purchased in the early eighties. I was then a graduate student and found this work puzzling in a different way from how it puzzles me today:

"The very idea of 'philosophy' as something distinct from 'science' would make little sense without the Cartesian claim that by turning inward [subjectivity] we could find ineluctable truth, and the Kantian claim that this truth imposes limits on the possible results of empirical inquiry. [objectivity] ... "

I then wrote a question mark next to this passage:

"If we have a Deweyan conception of knowledge, as what we are justified in believing, then we will not imagine that there are enduring constraints on what can count as knowledge, since we will see 'justification' as a social phenomenon rather than a transaction between 'the knowing subject' and 'reality.' ..." (Philosopher, Literary theorist, Political Figure)

Is this hermeneutics? Pragmatism? Literary criticism? All of the above. Notice that Rorty suggests justification is dialogical and can never be an imposition from above. Reality? Dewey began life as a Hegelian, so did Rorty. In connection with this controversial reading of modern thought, Rorty's interpretations and conclusions are challenged by (thus far) unindicted New Jersey person, John W. Yolton, who teaches at Rutgers University: "Mirrors and Veils, Thoughts and Things: The Epistemological Problematic," in A. Malachowski, ed., Reading Rorty (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), pp. 58-74. For a follow-up on the big issues in metaphysics, see John W. Yolton, Realism and Appearances: An Essay in Ontology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). Rorty's laid-back style can be deceptive concerning the radical suggestions that he offers.

Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Indiana: Ujniversity of Notre Dame, 1984), p. 257:

"In chapter 9 I posed a stark question: Nietzsche or Aristotle? The argument which led to the posing of that question had two central premises. The first was that the language -- and therefore also to some large degree the practice -- of morality today is in a state of grave disorder. That disorder arises from the prevailing cultural power of an idiom in which ill-assorted conceptual fragments from various parts of our past are deployed together in public and private debates which are noted chiefly for the unsettlable character of the controversies thus carried on and the apparent arbitrariness of each of the contending parties." (Philosopher, Religious Thinker)

Terry Pinkard, "MacIntyre's Critique of Modernity," in Mark C. Murphy, ed., Alasdair MacIntyre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 187:

"... irrational modes of social and moral reality inflict so many psychological wounds on their members that they can only be sustained both by the construction of elaborate ideologies [scientism] that justify the suffering imposed as historically and socially necessary and by sustaining practices and institutions that, although inimical to the reigning social practice, are necessary for its sustenance ..." (emphasis added)

Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Knowledge and Politics (New York: Free Press, 1975), pp. 3-5:

"... it became clear that the problems of legal theory, the immediate subject of my interest, are not only connected with each other, but are also strikingly analogous to the basic issues in many other social disciplines. Second, it seemed that the views that give rise to these problems and the theories used to deal with them are aspects of a single mode of thought. Though taken apart and refined, this style of thought [Modernity] has neither been refuted nor abandoned."


"Thus, the house of reason in which I was working proved to be a prison house of paradox whose rooms did not connect and whose passageways led nowhere. ... The premises of this vision of the world are few; they are tied together; and they are as powerful in their hold over the mind as they are unacknowledged and forgotten. They took their classic form in the seventeenth century. For reasons that will become clear I resolved to call them the liberal doctrine, [Modernity] even though the area they include is much broader than the one occuppied by what we now ordinarily take for liberalism. This system of ideas is indeed the guard that watches over the prison house." (Legal and Social Theorist)

Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind (New York: Ballantine, 1991), pp. 396-397:

"... In this understanding the world cannot be said to possess any features in principle prior to interpretation. [This does not deprive us of objectivity or truth.] The world does not exist as a thing-in-itself, independent of interpretation; rather, it comes into being only in and through interpretations" -- some of these interpretations are necessary and objectively true! -- "The subject of knowledge is already embedded in the object of knowledge: the human mind never stands outside the world, judging it from an external standpoint. Every object of knowledge is already part of a preinterpreted context, and beyond that context are only other preinterpreted contexts. All human knowledge is mediated by signs and symbols of uncertain provenance, constituted by historically and culturally variable predispositions, and influenced by often unconscious human interests. Hence, the nature of truth and reality, in science no less than in philosophy, religion, or art, is radically ambiguous." (Therapist, Teacher, Philosopher)

Notice that Tarnas is not saying "ambiguity" is equal to non-existence or meaninglessness. This paragraph contains a truth claim about knowledge -- which is often misread by nihilists -- and also the suggestion that truth may be different when it comes to relationships as compared with tax accounting, but that where there is truth, that truth remains absolute and real to the extent that it exists. I might quote Terry Eagleton and (this may surprise you) Bernard Williams, along with many others in support of these ideas. And F.H. Bradley does not, by any stretch of the imagination, help nihilists in light of Bradley's concept of the Absolute.

What is challenged by Mr. Tarnas and others is an exhausted theory of truth. And that challenge is based on reworking and developing ideas at the dawn of Modernity, in the light of current scientific understandings, especially the ideas of thinkers like Kant and Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche, James and Wittgenstein. Among contemporaries, in addition to those quoted above, there are Foucault and Derrida, Butler and Davis, West and Putnam.

Robert Pippin, Modernity as a Philosophical Problem (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), p. 3:

"As I shall try to show, this complex of problems should lead us back to a number of philosophical issues -- problems about the very possibility of autonomy, critical self-reflection, and self-rule -- most at home in the German Idealist tradition, and its aftermath, a tradition I shall claim, not yet accorded the attention it deserves in the current discussion." (Philosopher)

R.D. Laing, "Us and Them," in The Politics of Experience (New York: Pantheon, 1967), p. 84 and p. 109. Laing is explicitly echoing Hegel in this section:

"When we have installed Them in our hearts, we are only a plurality of solitudes [subjectivities] in which what each person has in common is his allocation to the other of the necessity of his own actions. [Objectivity] Each person, however, as other to the other, is the other's necessity. Each denies any internal bond with the others; each person claims his own inessentiality, [to his or her own peril.] ... "

I am in search of another who is my necessity. I think Western culture finds itself in a similar predicament. We cannot find a solution to this predicament by torturing other people. We cannot "make others good." We cannot tell others what to believe or how to live their lives. We can only INVITE others to a dialogue with us on these matters, remaining open to the possibility that any transformation will be mutual. I will not be anyone's slave. African-Americans are already a part of you -- if you are any kind of American -- because African-American culture is central to U.S. identity. You cannot have "separate, but equal" forms of citizenship in this society. Such a thing is now absurd, besides being immoral. Racism inevitably devours its children. The racist will end by hating himself. No African-American, especially, should contribute to the enslavement of another person. ("America's Holocaust.")

I will close this section of quotations with another passage from Laing's book. Laing returned to Hegel by way of Sartre's Being and Nothingness. At about the same time, Charles Taylor -- and later Robert C. Solomon -- also returned to Hegel hoping to resolve these outworn oppositions. Scientists, like Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend provide similar statements and recognitions. Other scientists today make surprisingly similar statements from a more Kantian direction -- notably quantum theorist David Deutsch. Finally, given the inescapable nature of these philosophical divisions and the need for recognition, Laing's most urgent warning seems more timely than ever:

"I think, however, that schizophrenics have more to teach psychiatrists about the inner world than psychiatrists their patients." (Psychoanalyst, Philosopher, Teacher, Poet.)

This may be a crucial insight to understand not only Charles Taylor's essay, but Hegel's philosophy of Spirit in a time when Western culture displays schizoid and autistic tendencies. An "error" was inserted in the foregoing sentence not found in earlier print versions of this essay. Do you really believe that these tactics help you? ("Miami's Cubanoids Protest AGAINST Peace!")

The choice is between recognition for the displaced Other or mutual self-destruction, within and among persons, as cultures collide in endless military struggles. As I write this sentence, factions of the Palestinian people are killing each other. This has nothing to do with Israeli forces. We are witnessing a people's self-destruction. What is Israel supposed to do? Who do Israelis talk to in order to negotiate for peace? Do they intervene? Do Israelis "respect" Palestinian autonomy and allow a massacre to take place? Egypt's revolution concerns Israel, but there is nothing Israel can or should do about what is happening in Cairo.

Clearly, the issues raised by these philosophers extend beyond Western culture. Cuban-Americans may wish to re-think their stance concerning their brothers and sisters living on the island of Cuba. I just revised this foregoing sentence for about the tenth time in the same way. I am being subjected to the same dehumanizing and criminal treatment that I oppose when it is applied to all others. Perhaps my would-be censors are supplying me with an argument ad demonstrandum.

III. Back to Taylor on Multiculturalism and Identity.

A. From Personal to Social.

Professor Taylor develops the idea of recognition and its connection with identity in two directions: Taylor begins by insisting on a Hegelian point which was much neglected at the time when scholarly interest first refocused on Hegel (late sixties) --

"-- to understand the close connection between identity and recognition, we have to take into account a crucial feature of the human condition that has been rendered almost invisible by the overwhelmingly monological bent of mainstream modern philosophy." (p. 32.)

The next paragraph is crucial:

"We become full human agents capable of understanding ourselves, and of defining our identity, through our acquisition of rich human languages of expression. ... I want to take language in a broad sense, covering not only the words we speak, but also other modes of expression whereby we define ourselves, including 'languages' of art, of gesture, of love, and the like. But we learn these modes of expression through exchanges with others. People do not acquire the languages needed for self-definition on their own. Rather, we are introduced to them through interaction with others who matter to us -- what George Herbert Mead called 'significant others.' The genesis of the human mind is in this sense not monological, not something each person accomplishes on his or her own, but dialogical." (p. 32.) (emphasis added)

Insisting on being seen in the mirroring gaze of the other is the demand for recognition of what we struggle to present to the world, our best selves. Languages in which we are defined may include violence or sex. The human mind is not reducible to any individual's brain. In loving relationships this self-presentation is most completely -- or, perhaps, exclusively -- achieved. Hence, mind or mentality cannot be reduced to the individual isolated brain, self, or identity. An analogy may be drawn to ideas developed in higher mathematics ("fractals") and physics ("Supersymmetry"). Self-similarity, for example, is symmetry accross scale. "It implies recursion, pattern inside pattern." James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science (New York: Viking, 1987), p. 103. For a comparison, see Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature (New York: Freeman, 1977).

With people, unlike Mandelbrot's other entities and objects, it is precisely the rough edges that do not allow for a perfect "fit" that create romantic "symbiosis." This analogy allows for a linking of the thoughts of Mandelbrot and David Deutsch, together with Brian Greene on "supersymmetry" and Lee Smolin's cautions as a useful corrective. Socially, "rough-fit" is always best because it leaves room for growth and improvement. Needless to say, Lisa Randall is responsible for making sure the boys "play nicely together." Warped Passages (New York: Harper & Collins, 2005), pp. 256-276, and compare pp. 342-343.

We can only become our best selves in dialogue with a few other special persons, ultimately, with all others in a community. Hence, the enormity of the deprivation and psychological harm done to persons -- like slaves separated involuntarily from family members, or persons shipped off to concentration camps who are brutally parted from loved-ones -- torn out of a community and set of relationships to be thrust into another much harsher social setting or none at all.

Similar harm is inflicted on the person whose self-expressions are destroyed or damaged before his eyes, as a way of communicating the message that such expressive content cannot matter because their creator does not matter. It also says that adversaries have no intelligent response to these arguments. Dehumanization through censorship is an act of desperation by torturers that is aimed at controlling others. You cannot disprove what I am saying by altering these writings. You will only undermine your own credibility by trying to censor me. ("Cubanazos Pose a Threat to National Security.")

"A woman I love ... becomes internal to my identity, even as I become part of her perception and understanding of the world." Where do I end so that she begins? We are a unity, one community, subjects and objects: "Love relationships are not just important because of the general emphasis in modern culture on the fulfillments of ordinary needs. They are also crucial because they are crucibles of inwardly generated identity." (p. 32.) (emphasis added)

The identical correction has been made in this paragraph on many occasions. It is made again now. Hackers will make it necessary for me to correct the same sentence again, in the same way, each time that I read this essay -- so that I will be frustrated and discouraged from writing in the future. The effect on me may not be what is expected. ("Barack Obama and 'The New Yorker.'" then "The Soldier and the Ballerina.")

People who love each other can only "be" (flourish) in relation to each other, seeing and confirming what is best about one another. Thus, the unique aspects of a loved-one's personality, which may be visible only to someone who loves her, will atrophy or wither away and disappear -- if they are not reinforced and confirmed in the mirror of her lover's persona. For this to happen, he must remain a powerful physical presence in her life. This is true in all loving relationships. My child will stop playing the piano if I do not encourage and applaud her efforts. Human lives are "entangled," bound together with the lives of all others in a community.

The damage done to those demeaned and insulted -- sometimes in order to hurt family members or "others" -- by powerful forces in society seeking to deny their identities, to manipulate or control them, is devastating and permanent. There is a political insight here that needs to be developed socially or culturally. People denied justice and recognition, within their own cultural institutions and as members of the human family in collective loving relationships, will degenerate into desperate forms of violence as a final plea for recognition of pain. ("What a man's gotta do.")

Love is the only answer to this plea. Violence is never the solution. Think again of my reference to the current battles among Palestinian forces. The worst option is always the denial of recognition. ("U.S. Courts Must Not Condone Torture.")

"How can anyone become a suicide bomber?" A member of an Islamic militant group was asked this question by a BBC interviewer. He answered that a man who has nothing. No weapons. No family members or friends left alive who can be trusted. A man who is oppressed and humiliated, an object of ridicule and insults, assaulted and deprived of his meager earnings in his own land -- such a man will use his body, because it is all he has left, as a weapon or even a bomb in an eloquent statement of the human need for respect and recognition. Our robot bombs in Pakistan are creating generations of suicide bombers who will strike at us in the years to come. This may be the moment to insert yet another "error" in this essay that frightens you.

A suicide bomber is always attempting to communicate with us. I suggest that he use his mind instead of his body, by engaging in acts of philosophical violence. Loving and angry expressions of legitimate aspirations for recognition and outrage will be more successful than physical violence. This is because philosophy, by definition and a priori, is invitational. Philosophy implies a kind of recognition in itself. Philosophy is a great equalizer which cannot be taken away from us -- the powerless billions -- not even by the powerful few, since as we are tortured or face death, as our writings are disfigured or destroyed, philosophical truth stands. This may be the moment for New Jersey to insert another "error" in this essay. Come on. Don't disappoint me. ("John Finnis and Ethical Cognitivism" and "Why I am not an ethical relativist.")

To engage in philosophical effort is to postulate the importance of reason and respect for your interlocutor, whose intelligence must be equal to the communication submitted for his or her consideration. Internet brawls have very little to do with real philosophy. True philosophy, like love, is the opposite of torture or terrorism, or censorship. Your efforts to destroy my philosophical arguments have been turned into an argument for my position -- and you do not realize it. Any more "errors" to be inserted? ("Jacques Derrida's Philosophy as Jazz.")

If one dispenses with reason, however, and reduces all disputes to struggles over power, then any attempt at rational persuasion will seem (and will be) pointless. I refuse to be that pessimistic concerning the limits of human reason. I am sure that we can reason together about such questions, that justice or something like that concept is a pretty universal human value that will allow for the recognition of hostile or competing claims. Twenty-year attempts to destroy a mind or rival philosophical view are not the answer to disagreement, not even in New Jersey. ("Fidel Castro's 'History Will Absolve Me" and "The Allegory of the Cave" then "Manifesto for the Unfinished American Revolution.")

I am certain that these final gestures of physical violence -- these "fatal strategies" -- are always self-defeating and futile. In resorting to violence -- censorship is a kind of violence -- you have surrendered that dignity that inspires your passion by denying it to others. Brutality, even in response to brutality, makes you less than human. However, asserting and demanding recognition of your humanity and pain at the hands of oppressors and torturers does just the opposite.

The killing of innocent civilians by anyone -- including Fidel Castro or his Cuban-American opponents -- is a terrible crime and must be treated as such. Persons convicted of such crimes must be punished in accordance with the law. This is not to deny or undervalue the importance of philosophical criticisms of Cuba or the American government. ("American Hypocrisy and Luis Posada Carriles.")

America's fundamental Constitutional commitment is to reason and human dignity as against power. Americans will make mistakes, like any other people, but our core values are expressive of this recognition -- I will always believe and argue this view -- that free debate and discussion will allow truth to emerge. Each person's spiritual and philosophical opinions are subject to formulation within the psyche and may be exposed to public scrutiny -- as I am doing here -- if the individual chooses to do so, yet they remain a matter of conscience for the individual and not, properly, subject to determination by government. This would be a good time to insert more "errors."

You are INVITED to disagree with me, reject my views and arguments, decide that I am not very intelligent or well-informed. However, you are legally prohibited from censoring, destroying or suppressing my expressions of ideas or values, works of art or political advocacy, even if you are an elected official or small town judge in New Jersey. You are also not to plagiarize or steal my writings for personal gain. I will spend the rest of my life helping New Jersey's Cuban-American elected officials to understand this point. ("Is Senator Bob 'For' Human Rights?" and "Senator Menendez Struggles to Find His Conscience.")

In a professional setting years ago -- and, just moments ago, thanks to a caller on the phone -- I was refused the minimal courtesy of being addressed by my surname. My first name is used, unquestioningly, by people who are not my friends or persons I have invited to refer to me in such a manner. I have decided to do the same to them. I am hoping that this method will make my point clear. I am not something to be patronized and instructed by self-professed "superiors."

Feisty debate is sometimes called for; violence never can be -- except as self-defense against attackers and only until the threat of harm against us is quelled. Noise and other distractions "enrich" my writing experience today. ("Does Senator Menendez Have Mafia Friends?")

Recognition of human dignity and of the unspeakable crimes to which so many of us are subjected by comfortable hypocrites, who then have the nerve to speak to us of "ethics" and "legality," can only happen by insisting on loving confrontation. We must say to torturers: "This is what you have done and are doing. This is what you have become." ("Deborah T. Poritz and Conduct Unbecoming to the Judiciary in New Jersey," then "Anne Milgram Does It Again" and "Stuart Rabner and Conduct Unbecoming to the Judiciary in New Jersey.")

We must remain an irremovable presence before evil and corrupt power. The naked humanity in each of us compels all others to alter the moral space surrounding them to accomodate us, whether they wish to do so or not. We will not be moved or deterred in our quest. Think of the students in Tiananmen Square. Perhaps the transformations in China -- and the possibility that some of those students who were protesting then now work for the government -- is a tribute to one society's successful transition during a difficult period in its history. Perhaps there is a lesson for others in the Chinese experience. I will always express solidarity with persons incarcerated for the expression of opinions. I respectfully request of ALL governments, including our own, tolerance of dissent and minority or radical views. ("Time to End the Embargo Against Cuba.")

My best teacher on this subject is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many others have taught this lesson in our century: Ghandi, Bishop Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Anwar Sadat's mission to Israel (had his life not been cut short) might have led to even greater achievements for displaced persons and all Palestinians in the Middle East. Simone Weil, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, F.D.R., Robert Kennedy, Mario Cuomo -- many others have come to similiar conclusions in their lives, embarking on the same journey. Professor Taylor's philosophical essay, thus, leads to a new Kantian-Hegelian politics for postmodernist societies. Are these really the ideas that you wish to suppress -- and to be seen suppressing by the world! -- as you argue for "greater freedom and democracy" in Miami Beach? I doubt it. ("Havana Nights and C.I.A. Tapes.")

An American language of associations would invoke Jefferson (autonomy) and our great nation-builder Lincoln (national unity in community), freedom with equality. The U.S. is a much more fascinating place than anti-American stereotypes would have you believe. If you put together Jefferson, Lincoln and King, the result is Obama. (We hope.)

"For Kant, whose use of the term dignity was one of the earliest influential invocations of this idea, what commanded respect in us was our status as rational agents, capable of directing our lives through principles. Something like this has been the basis of our institutions of equal dignity ever since, though the detailed definition of it may have changed." (p. 41.) (Freedom)


"This new critique of pride, leading not only to solitary mortification, but to a new politics of equal dignity, is what Hegel took up and made famous in his dialectic of master and slave. ... [Hegel] takes it as fundamental that we can flourish only to the extent that we are recognized." (p. 41.) (Equality, Social Justice)

In light of the two quotes that appear above, see my essay: "Manifesto for the Unfinished American Revolution." (Among persons I value in America's current political discussion are President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, Justice Breyer, and in opposition to my views, Senator McCain, Justice Scalia, Philosopher Hadley Arkes.)

The quest for recognition has been part of the African-American struggle for centuries. The search for freedom and respect was the motive for Nelson Mandela's life-journey. This is the homecoming sought by the Jewish people, after the Holocaust, in returning to Israel. This very universal human quest, paradoxically, may yet become the locus for a meeting with their Palestinian neighbors, bringing about a peaceful resolution in war-torn regions. The Jews in 1948 were the Palestinians of today; today's Palestinians are experiencing their own diaspora. In conclusion, I will quote Albert Camus' invitation to join in the struggle in which so many of us find ourselves involved at this dark time in human history:

"The great citizens of a country are not those who bend the knee before authority but rather those who, against authority if need be, are adamant as to the honor and freedom of that country. And your country will always recognize in you its great citizen, as we are doing here, because you, scorning all opportunism, managed to bear up against the total injustice that was inflicted upon you. At a moment when the most shortsighted realism, a debased conception of power, the passion for dishonor, and the ravages of fear disfigure the world, at the very moment when it is possible to think that all is lost, something on the other hand, is beginning, since we have nothing more to lose. What is beginning is the period of the individual men [and women] devoted to the unconditional defense of liberty. This is why your attitude serves as an example and a comfort to all of those who, like me, have now broken with many of their traditional friends by rejecting any complicity, even temporary, even and above all tactical, with regimes or parties whether of the Right or of the Left that justify, however little, the suppression of a single one of our liberties."

"Homage to an Exile," in Resistance, Rebellion, and Death (New York: Vintage, 1960), pp. 105-106.

The word "homage" has been corrected many times. The French spelling of the word allows for two "m's," so that it can be written several ways, but N.J.'s hackers prefer to alter my English version of the word in order to see me make the correction, repeatedly. Keep the "errors" coming. You are helping to prove my point.

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