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Re: [xmca] dichotomizing

Fascinating problem this dichotomising, isn't it Mike. Although dualism v monsim probably goes back 1,000 years in European civilisation, I think Martin picked the opening salvo of the war against dichotomy in that quote about Fichte.

Others who know more about French philosophy may correct me if I get it wrong, but I think the French - Foucault, Derrida in particular - and then after them people like Judith Butler, have been very successful in a method of uncovering and denouncing dichotomies, even making a big moral question out of it: it's become a moral outrage to use a dichotomy! In political practice it has been very successful mostly by *blurring the boundary*. So for example, if you thought people could be divided into male and female, this turns out to be a social construct with very blurred edges. If you thought people were either straight or homosexual, it turns out that there are dozens of kinds of sexuality. These strategies have been, IMHO, stunningly successful and need to be respected.

My quandry has been this: People like Judith Butler agree with Wm James that thinking in dichotomies is a fixed habit of thought, and add that it is oppressive and discriminatory. Does it make sense to say it is "wrong"? What I mean is, if I describe the world, I need to use some dichotomy, precisely because the manufacture of dichotomies is a fixed habit and objectified social practice which is productive of the rotten world we live in.

One approach is to denounce dichotmies and try to avoid them with categories which have blurred boundaries and multiplicity. Another approach is to use Marx and Hegel's approach which allows for a dynamic and productive monism, and out of this, we can derive and explain dichotomies and therefore see them as relative and come to the same critical attitude that for example Foucault of Butler come from.

So I think it is a very interesting problem, but I tend to react against gestures of denuniciation. I actually think that Hegel is the only one who really solved this problem by moving away from ontological solutions (there are many kinds of sexuaity, there are many not two kinds) to logical and methodological solutions - mediation, unit of analysis, trichotomy, etc.


Mike Cole wrote:
The rich discourse is washing over me and I am glad for the archive which
will allow me to return for proper study. Meantime, for
other pressing purposes I have come across the following from William James
which may not be considered correct because it talks of a me-you dualism,
but might be considered useful to the current conversation on units,
microcosms, etc.
....One great splitting of the whole universe into  two halves is made by
each of us; and for each of us almost all of the  interest attaches to one
of the halves; but we all draw the line of division  between them in a
different place. When I say that we all call the two  halves by the same
names, and that those names are 'me' and 'not-me'  respectively, it will at
once be seen what I mean. The altogether unique  kind of interest which each
human mind feels in those parts of creation  which it can call me or mine
may be a moral riddle, but it is a fundamental  psychological fact. No mind
can take the same interest in his neighbor's me  as in his own. The
neighbor's me falls together with all the rest of things  in one foreign
mass against which his own me stands cut in startling relief.  Even the
trodden worm, as Lotze somewhere says, contrasts his own suffering  self
with the whole remaining universe, though he have no clear conception
either of himself or of what the universe may be. He is for me a mere part
of the world; for him it is I who am the mere part. Each of us dichotomizes
the Kosmos in a different place. (Lotze is author of *Mikrocosmos, *among
other writings).
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