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[xmca] The God Terminus and other forbidden topics

Greg, the other thread is so long ans so deep in wonderful reflections that
I thought I wanted to pull out your post and "remediate" it to develop
further meaning.

You wrote

Here is where I'm going to do two things ill advised in academic
conversation, particularly not those conversations on this list.
First, I'm going to disagree with Hegel, and second I'm going to get
religion (foreshadowed in previous email...).
But before making either of these faux pas, thanks to Andy for
pointing me in the direction of Philosophy of Spirit. I doubt that I
will be able to take it on anytime soon (and only in little bits when
I do), but I appreciate the heads up that this would be fertile ground
for writing/developing some of Hegel's ideas.
So to my first faux pas, my beef with Hegel is that his idea for the
origin of self-consciousness lacks feeling. The historical moment that
Hegel describes of coming to self-consciousness does not adequately
capture, imHo, the role that feeling/emotion plays in the emergence of
self-consciousness. For Hegel, this seems to be a very self-conscious
struggle, and when it eventually develops beyond struggle, it
continues to have a kind of rationalistic feel to it - as if it is
knowledge without feeling (and this even when he speaks of recognition
in the form of love). Take, e.g., Hegel's opening description of
self-consciousness in Philosophy of Spirit:
"Self-consciousness is the truth of consciousness: the latter is a
consequence of the former, all consciousness of an other object being
as a matter of fact also self-consciousness. The object is my idea: I
am aware of the object as mine; and thus in it I am aware of me. The
formula of self-consciousness is I = I: - abstract freedom, pure
'Ideality'; and thus it lacks 'reality': for as it is its own object,
there is strictly speaking no object, because there is no distinction
between it and the object."
This is not so much a 'feeling' of self-consciousness as it is a
'knowledge' of self-consciousness.
And on to my second faux pas, turning to religion, Durkheim's
Elementary Forms of Religious Life presents an argument that, for me,
does much of the work that is missing in Hegel's conception of
recognition. In Elementary Forms, Durkheim takes on Kant's a prior
conception of the categories of the understanding and argues that
Kant's categories of the understanding are, in fact, derived from
social life. And, similar to Hegel, he has a narrative to describe how
this has happened in the history of humankind, and it goes like this
(albeit a massive oversimplification): social gatherings create
emotional experiences that become more than the immediacy of life, and
which become identified with the clan. This social/religious feeling
makes possible the first true notion of "kind", the clan. D follows
the same argument through with the category of "cause". What is
critical here, imho, is that Durkheiim is pointing to the origin of
the categories of the understanding in the emotions. It is feeling
that is at the heart of thought.
That was kind of sketchy, so let me offer another example of how these
might be conceptually brought together using the history of religion
and right vis a vis property.
In Roman religion, Terminus was the god who protected boundary
markers; his name was the Latin word for such a marker. Siculus
Flaccus, a writer on land surveying, records the ritual by which the
stone was sanctified: the bones, ashes, and blood of a sacrificial
victim, along with crops, honeycombs, and wine, were placed into a
hole at a point where estates converged, and the stone was driven in
on top. On February 23 annually, a festival called the Terminalia was
celebrated in Terminus' honor, involving practices which can be
regarded as a reflection or "yearly renewal" of this foundational
ritual. Neighboring families would garland their respective sides of
the marker and make offerings to Terminus at an altar—Ovid identifies
these, again, as crops, honeycombs, and wine. The marker itself would
be drenched in the blood of a sacrificed lamb or pig. There followed a
communal feast and hymns in praise of Terminus.
The god of Terminus likely came into existence somewhere around 750 BC.
To present my critique and extension of Hegel's position, I draw on
Williams description of Hegel's notion of "right":
“Right is properly appreciated only when its rational-universal
grounding in intersubjective recognition is understood. If there were
no recognition, there would be no right, but only the subjective
certainty of freedom. In such a circumstance, right would not be
actual but merely a claim or an idea. Everything else that is said
about right or rights is an articulation of recognition in its various
determinate modes and Gestalten” (Williams, p. 111).
I suspect that Andy will have some concerns with this, but the core
idea that I am taking up here is that right is a matter of a mediated
ideation that is primarily a matter of rational thought. In contrast,
Terminus and its associated Feast of Terminalia (in which people would
march out the boundaries of their property) suggests something quite
different. With the ancient Greeks, the Right is ensured by the
feeling that individuals have of not wanting to upset the Terminus.
The location of the terminal stone that marks off one's property is a
religious matter - a matter of feeling. One does not trample on one's
neighbor's property not because of an intellectual understanding of
the Right of one's neighbor. Rather, one does not trample on one's
neighbor's property because one fears the wrath of a god. Here emotion
plays a critical role in the historical moment of the origination of
the Right that I don't think is appreciated in the Hegelian approach.
[I'll add that Andy's post as of 2 hrs ago in which he suggests that
"Right exists as something objective" might offer a way of reconciling
Hegel with the Feast of Terminalia and the religious feeling, but not


I personally found the historical links between Terminus and the
mythological origins to our current notions of property rights
fascinating.  Andy may be calling our aention to the foundation of Hegel's
notion of recognition in sense and feeling but I agree we need more
specific narratives to bring home this "general" truth.

Greg, I also want to amplify your calling us to emotions and feelings as
contrasted to more abstract rational explanations as alternative ways to
express our humanness. This reminds me of Cooley's call to "sympathy"
Thomas Scheff's notions of shame and humiliation, Christine's call for
"appreciation" and Gadamer's call for understanding.

The bigger question I have is why you felt this topic is a faux pas on THIS
site.  The way we self-edit how we present our ideas and ieals to inhabit
languages of "semiotic remediation" that may be re-mediating us over time
from more feeling stories of the God Terminus and how we intersubjectively
gather together in practices that express deep meaning and feelings and
these stories get re-transcribed into more abstract narratives of
"objective" "principled" rights.  As you say this transcription comes at a
COST.  Hermeneutically I wonder if we also need to be re-mediating our
"rights" type narratives back into stories that express feelings and

Not that either "attitude" or "stance" is more or less "correct" or even
more or less "useful" but Correct or useful wihin WHAT PARTICULAR
SITUATIONS. Greg, your hesitating [and using the term faux pas]  seems to
require a "backward glance" to ask why are we always looking over our
shoulders when exploring "sense & sensibility"

All in all a fascinating topic.

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