Society to Society - Point 2
A big difference between the direction attempted in a society philosophy from ideal philosophies is the attempt to shift the frame of reference from talking about something from outside it to a frame of reference where speaker and listener speak to each other. To some degree even subject and object are seen to speak "to each other." It is an attempt to shift from a grammatical third person preference (They, them, it) to at least a similar confidence in second person (I to you). In a dramatic sense it is an attempt to frame a horizontal metaphysics around the old preference for a vertical metaphysics. Hence, the discussion about returning to the excitement of living in a web and a recognition of interdependence.
This Page, this Point:
The frame of reference shifts doubly; it also shifts from third person frames of speech to first person since meaning within is so enormously and continually discoverable that we must continually be on guard/opportunity with the question of "Who am I?"
The old vertical metaphysics places the subject in an exalted, "God's-eye-view" above the vista of reality to assume a kind of know-it-all position. This metaphysics is typified by its primary use of the book as claims of finality of this is what it is.
The problem with this approach, among other problems, is that it has more than reached its limit of usefulness. The barrage of written material in print today, the multiplicity of points of view all armed with the self assurance of omniscience are making for a cultural commons that is an ice storm of tectonic collisions all insisting on supremacy without adequate avenues of finding much common dialogue between them. Amidst this ideological carnage many people have taken more personal, cross-cultural and cross-specialties dialogues as a way to escape the fray and to forge genuine and interesting connections. Society philosophy is an attempt to make this new cultural commons more understandable and available for more confident interactions. This point lays out the I to Thou level of horizontal interaction with its horizontal openness as prototypical.
"On the far side of the subjective, on this side of the objective, on the narrow ridge, where I and Thou meet, there is the realm of 'between.'
"This reality, whose disclosure has begun in our time, shows the way, leading beyond individualism and collectivism, for the life decision of future generations. Here the genuine third alternative is indicated, the knowledge of which will help to bring about the genuine person again and to establish genuine community.
"I become through my relation to the Thou; as I become I, I say Thou. All real living is meeting." I and Thou, Martin Buber from The Way of Response Martin Buber, Nahum Glatzer, Schocken Books, New York, 1966, pp. 48, 55.
ďIím right; my opponent is wrong. This closure thwarts discourse with outsiders. It precludes agreement (that isnít surprising) but its worst political effect is that it obstructs disagreement: It makes argument untenable by undercutting its necessary conditions. People donít need to hold the same beliefs to argue, or to achieve decisions and execute policies. They need only reach agreement on a viable measure of their differences that permits working agreements, compromise, and consensus.Ē Willard, Charles Arthur. Liberalism and the Problem of Knowledge: A New Rhetoric for Modern Democracy. University of Chicago Press. 1996. p. 129.
"From the viewpoint of the users of the language, each such sub-system [of types of truth] constitutes a unitary, seamless sensitivity. It is we [outsiders to a culture] who have in retrospect sorted it out into two strands, and, above all, into two strands of radically different kinds. One of them is referential: its claims stand or fall in accordance with objective states of affairs. It is properly 'operationalized', and linked to its own bit of 'nature', which decides its 'truth' or 'falsehood'. The other, despite the great variety of functions it can perform, serves above all the affirmation of commitment to shared concepts by the users of the language. They are, at the same time, members of the same community. Loyalty to concepts makes possible loyalty to the community.
"A concept is, of course, far more than a 'mere' concept: it encapsulates and communicates and authorizes a shared way of classifying, valuing, a shared range of social and natural expectations and obligations. It makes cooperation and communication possible. It limits behaviour and sensibility, otherwise endowed with a potentially infinite diversity, into circumscribed bounds, and thereby establishes a 'culture', and makes communication possible." Gellner, Ernest. Plough, Sword and Book; The Structure of Human History. University of Chicago Press. 1988. p. 55.
If I am a society and I accept you as a society, then our differences and our radical under-knowability are assumed as given as we construct and discover our paired society and seek to make it produce a pleasing economy in goods of our choice such as joy, support, struggle, humor or learning. We are neither facts nor subjects but builders in ever evolving societies.
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Page updated 3/5/03