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Re: [xmca] The God Terminus and other forbidden topics

My preface was intended maybe more of tongue in cheek or the word with
a wink than it was a word glancing backwards (but maybe the word with
a sideways glance). Who would think to disagree with Hegel? (esp. with
as meager an understanding as I have). But at the same time, I think I
mentioned this to Andy, that this is what motivates much of academic
discourse - making too big claims and having someone respond strongly
and then, over time, eventually coming closer to something useful for
understanding reality and for doing something with it ("truth" seems
to be reaching too far for me).
As for the second part, the wink was a kind of acknowledgment that
religious discourse is much maligned in most academic circles. I
obviously didn't take religion that far (i.e. to actually 'get
religion', i.e. to assert a religious stance, as I had suggested
initially), but it is worth noting how each community has its totems
and taboos (both of which are constantly being tested and re-valorized
with new ones constantly emerging through practice. These totems and
taboos are important for constituting the drives for individual
motivation (and this turns back to Terminus and feeling), and, of
course, they speak directly to the issue of attaining recognition (and
avoiding shame) by being noticed. Mike's issue of "value" is critical
here as well. Lots more in that little word.

Thanks to Andy for helping me to understand how thought/feeling works
with Hegel (although I don't have a handle on it yet, I've at least
got a glimpse of it).

And Larry, many thanks for noticing.


On Wed, Dec 28, 2011 at 3:02 PM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
> 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
> sure].
> 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
> emotions.
> 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.
> Larry
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Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Scholar
Department of Communication
University of California, San Diego
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