Re: [xmca] ego, self, etc.

From: Steve Gabosch <sgabosch who-is-at>
Date: Fri Feb 01 2008 - 00:38:05 PST

Thanks for this, Andy, and all your responses to my pesky questions.
Much appreciated.
- Steve

On Jan 31, 2008, at 5:59 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:

> Mmm. I wouldn't use "subjectivism" in a way quite symmetrical with
> "objectivism." I still reserve "subjectivism" for the way it was
> used in "Party talk," meaning talking things personally, or simply
> from one's own point of view, not a theoretical standpoint at all.
> Nevertheless, there are of course all sorts of ways people can over-
> emphasise or overestimate the role of the individual, the will, the
> subject, etc., in history or consciousness.
> Andy
> At 11:48 AM 31/01/2008 -0500, you wrote:
>> Thank you for all these definitions, Andy. I have been finding your
>> responses helpful. I appreciate you taking the time to discuss and
>> compare these complex terms; ego, self, identity, cogito, psyche,
>> spirit, consciousness, mind, agent, personage, habitus, hexis, etc.
>> Before we let this thread dissolve, may I ask you yet another
>> question, touching off from an interesting point you just made about
>> objectivism. You state, pardon my paraphrasing, that the objectivist
>> underestimates the roles that human self-awareness and self-
>> determination play in human activities.
>> I have been wanting to ask you about the other side of that issue.
>> How do you describe subjectivism?
>> - Steve
>> On Jan 30, 2008, at 6:14 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>> I only know the concept form Bourdieu though I knew it dates back to
>>> Mauss (and Aristotle actually). Whether the 1st definition is
>>> correct in going so far as hexis "anchoring" habitus or it's just "a
>>> part" of habitus is not important to me. I think it is arguable that
>>> habitus is anchored in the body. It has always been something of a
>>> natural wonder to me that within 2 seconds of a person walking into
>>> the room, we usually know most of what we need to know about where
>>> they are "coming from." (Mistakes in this respect are of course all
>>> about habitus as well. I mean habitus is about the practice of
>>> classification not objective truth.)
>>> Bourdieu is mostly regarded as an extreme "objectivist", that is,
>>> someone who estimates as low as possible the capacity of the
>>> individual person to be critically aware of themself as occupying a
>>> particular social position and act accordingly. But I find that he
>>> gives us concepts which facilitate a rational approach to
>>> subjectivity, because "habitus" gives one an objective standard
>>> against which to measure the degree of self-determination that an
>>> individual exercises.
>>> Andy
>>> At 05:21 AM 30/01/2008 -0500, you wrote:
>>>> Thanks, Andy. The definition of "habitus" in the Dictionary of
>>>> Anthropology has an interesting sentence: "Habitus may be
>>>> understood
>>>> as a variant of culture that is anchored in the body."
>>>> "Concept from Bourdieu (with roots going back to Mauss and beyond),
>>>> denoting the totality of learned, bodily skills, habits, style,
>>>> taste
>>>> etc. Habitus may be understood as a variant of culture that is
>>>> anchored in the body. "Hexis" is that part of habitus, where
>>>> communication between people takes place through fine-grained body-
>>>> language: tiny movements, micro-mimicking etc. Researchers like
>>>> Hall
>>>> have, from a completely different point of view, done work on
>>>> similar
>>>> problems."
>>>> How do the meanings you assign compare?
>>>> - Steve
>>>> On Jan 29, 2008, at 5:33 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>> Paul Dillon may like to chime in on this one. Paul is far better
>>>>> read on Bourdieu than I am and disagrees somewhat with how I see
>>>>> habitus. I think the definition of habitus is a "social space" of
>>>>> shared, unspoken dispositions or "classifications" (what is good/
>>>>> bad, what we/they do, what is to be valued/decried, what is manly/
>>>>> feminine, etc.) what mark out and constitute a class-fraction.
>>>>> Although the word "habitus" is just the Latinisation of the Greek
>>>>> "hexis", rightly or wrongly until I am educated accordingly, I use
>>>>> "hexis" as in the phrase "bodily hexis" for the embodiment of
>>>>> those
>>>>> dispositions in an individual. I guess the difference is slight.
>>>>> I tend to associate "habitus" with Hegel's Subjective Spirit, in
>>>>> contrast to Objective SPirit. I think any individual does have the
>>>>> possibility to actively appropriate or challenge their habitus and
>>>>> innovate it through their interactions with those around them,
>>>>> in a
>>>>> way which I distinguish from the larger society occupied by law,
>>>>> political parties, legal institutions, science and so on, which
>>>>> constitute "objective spirit" though the two of course mutually
>>>>> constitute one another.
>>>>> Andy
>>>>> At 09:43 AM 29/01/2008 -0500, you wrote:
>>>>>> Yes, it certainly is a huge and muddy territory. Thank you for
>>>>>> your
>>>>>> thoughts on these terms, Andy. I found your response very
>>>>>> helpful.
>>>>>> Part of what I am looking for, by thinking and asking about terms
>>>>>> like
>>>>>> ego and self and the others you touch on, is a vocabulary with
>>>>>> which
>>>>>> to describe a person's subjectivity in terms of their specific
>>>>>> class
>>>>>> and cultural experience. "Habitus" is one term that comes to
>>>>>> mind.
>>>>>> What does that particular term mean to you, and what terms do you
>>>>>> suggest for endeavoring to create that kind of description?
>>>>>> - Steve
>>>>>> On Jan 29, 2008, at 1:30 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>>>> Isn't this a huge and indescribably muddy territory, Steve? It
>>>>>>> would
>>>>>>> be interesting to hear the range of views we have on xmca about
>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>> usage of these terms. Can I just give you a one-liner on each
>>>>>>> perhaps and let's see where it goes:
>>>>>>> "SUBJECT" as you mention I have tracked in
>>>>>>> but the most common relevant usage today is that dating from
>>>>>>> Kant,
>>>>>>> in which the subject is "nothing real", but that which is the
>>>>>>> subject of all the predicates attributable to a person; it is
>>>>>>> both
>>>>>>> that which knows and that which wills - being a nothing it is
>>>>>>> not
>>>>>>> possible to differentiate between the two I think. Hegel
>>>>>>> rejected
>>>>>>> this idea of the subject as a "nothing" behind cultural-
>>>>>>> historical
>>>>>>> determination (though he also occasionally uses it just to
>>>>>>> confuse
>>>>>>> things) and his notion is the origin of the idea of "collective
>>>>>>> subject" when one talks of parties and classes as agents, but I
>>>>>>> will
>>>>>>> not try to go into it here. Hegel's subject is a kind of
>>>>>>> "node" in
>>>>>>> social consciousness, cutting completely across the idea of
>>>>>>> society
>>>>>>> as a sum of individuals.
>>>>>>> "EGO" I believe is the Latin word for "I" and in German
>>>>>>> philosophy,
>>>>>>> e.g., Fichte, the word was "Ich" but translated into English
>>>>>>> using
>>>>>>> the Latin word instead to make it sound better, I suppose. For
>>>>>>> Fichte and Hegel the Ego was "pure activity." The Young
>>>>>>> Hegelians
>>>>>>> developed the idea of the Ego as SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS a lot and I
>>>>>>> think it became associated with extreme libertarianism. Freud
>>>>>>> then
>>>>>>> so far as I know gave it the most dominant contemporary meaning
>>>>>>> as a
>>>>>>> certain neurological formation which is understood within
>>>>>>> psychoanalysis:- EGO, ID and SUPER-EGO.
>>>>>>> "SELF" is surely the most neutral and vague of all these words
>>>>>>> as it
>>>>>>> can be applied to any process. Since it always plays the role of
>>>>>>> an
>>>>>>> OBJECT in a construction in which the Subject or Ego acts, it
>>>>>>> can be
>>>>>>> likened to Mead's ME, in his construction of the SELF as I/ME?
>>>>>>> "IDENTITY" seems to have two shades of meaning and is highly
>>>>>>> contested. For postmodern theorists, deconstructionists and so
>>>>>>> on, I
>>>>>>> think "Identity" is like an Althusserian subject position, it is
>>>>>>> something imposed upon an actor from outside (a slot into which
>>>>>>> you
>>>>>>> are inserted), by "society" or the action of the structure,
>>>>>>> and in
>>>>>>> general these people understand it in terms of binary, abstract
>>>>>>> categories: woman, gay, working class, etc., etc. On the other
>>>>>>> hand,
>>>>>>> even this interpretation does not seem to me to close off the
>>>>>>> idea
>>>>>>> that an identity or "subject position" is voluntarily adopted by
>>>>>>> an
>>>>>>> actor, even if only under determinate social conditions. The
>>>>>>> other
>>>>>>> shade of meaning is what people sometimes call identity as a
>>>>>>> "verb",
>>>>>>> especially that process whereby a self-consciousness identifies
>>>>>>> itself as an actor continuously throughout a lifetime as "the
>>>>>>> same"
>>>>>>> actor. This same idea applies well to "extended" concepts of
>>>>>>> Mind as
>>>>>>> well, e.g., the idea of the nation (or state, or class) as being
>>>>>>> an
>>>>>>> actor in history over an extended period of time, and an
>>>>>>> individual
>>>>>>> "identifying" herself with that extended Identity.
>>>>>>> "PSYCHE" I have tried to retain as a word for "CONSCIOUSNESS"
>>>>>>> limited to the INDIVIDUAL moment of consciousness. Like Kant's
>>>>>>> SUBJECT, the Psyche is not anything real, it is just a concept
>>>>>>> in
>>>>>>> its individuality. One could say it is a "STATE OF MIND" if it
>>>>>>> were
>>>>>>> conceivable to talk of the "MIND" as something which has a
>>>>>>> certain
>>>>>>> "state" or even had "contents" as in the ideas which are in our
>>>>>>> mind, or psyche. (I would not accept any of these approaches as
>>>>>>> scientific or consistent.) Nevertheless, "EXTENDED MIND"
>>>>>>> notwithstanding it is inescapable that there is something
>>>>>>> individual
>>>>>>> and private about consciousness, and that I call PSYCHE. It is
>>>>>>> not a
>>>>>>> "brain state" though, do not misunderstand me.
>>>>>>> As to "SOUL", while it is quite possible to use the word in a
>>>>>>> poetic
>>>>>>> way, to me "Soul" connotes something separable from the body,
>>>>>>> but of
>>>>>>> course many have used the concept in a non-religious way. For
>>>>>>> Hegel,
>>>>>>> "soul" meant the feeling self, "awareness" what a human beings
>>>>>>> has
>>>>>>> before or underneath any conception or communicative relation.
>>>>>>> There
>>>>>>> is also "SPIRIT", which I insist on continuing to use, as in
>>>>>>> Zeitgeist (Spirit of the Times) or "Spiritual" meaning needs
>>>>>>> over
>>>>>>> and above material needs.
>>>>>>> I use "COGITO" to designate a knowing consciousness, the implied
>>>>>>> subject in "I know" as an aspect of Mind which is not
>>>>>>> necessarily
>>>>>>> human, but is essential to humanness - the "subject" of Kant's
>>>>>>> epistemology, suitably extended for Hegel and Marx.
>>>>>>> There is likewise "AGENT" which for Althusser is a mere
>>>>>>> carrier of
>>>>>>> something, as in "The mosquito is the agent for the spread of
>>>>>>> malaria" but I take it to be in the sense of moral
>>>>>>> responsibility
>>>>>>> for an action, as when one signs a form on behalf of an
>>>>>>> invalid as
>>>>>>> their "agent", acting on their behalf. Acting of a natural
>>>>>>> process
>>>>>>> has to be distinguished from action by a subject who has moral
>>>>>>> responsibility. So "the market" is a process without a subject
>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>> cannot bear moral responsibility, but one could argue that
>>>>>>> capital
>>>>>>> always has a personification and therefore the capitalist class
>>>>>>> bears moral responsibility, insofar as there is a corporate
>>>>>>> consciousness acting for it.
>>>>>>> Marx uses the term "PERSONAGE" in "The 18th Brumaire" to
>>>>>>> indicate
>>>>>>> the players on the stage of history.
>>>>>>> What do other people think are the key concepts here?
>>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>>> At 12:36 AM 29/01/2008 -0500, you wrote:
>>>>>>>> Andy, (and anyone else interested) if I may take advantage of
>>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>> momentary lull in xmca messages (or is my email
>>>>>>>> malfunctioning?) ...
>>>>>>>> and see if you would be willing to weigh in with some more of
>>>>>>>> your
>>>>>>>> interesting perspectives on human subjectivity. You have
>>>>>>>> studied
>>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>> colorful history of the term "subject" - I looked at an article
>>>>>>>> you
>>>>>>>> wrote on this that you had mentioned a while back. Lots to
>>>>>>>> learn
>>>>>>>> there (perhaps you could summarize that study?). I am
>>>>>>>> particularly
>>>>>>>> interested in your thoughts on some of the other words often
>>>>>>>> used
>>>>>>>> to
>>>>>>>> refer to individual selfhood and significant aspects thereof.
>>>>>>>> I am
>>>>>>>> thinking in particular about the words "ego" and "self." You
>>>>>>>> have
>>>>>>>> adopted the term "identity," a term I would also like to
>>>>>>>> understand
>>>>>>>> better. Other terms also might be worthwhile taking a look at,
>>>>>>>> such
>>>>>>>> as "psyche" and "soul." And of course, there are other such
>>>>>>>> words
>>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>>> terms - not to mention, of course, the many variations of these
>>>>>>>> concepts in other languages. From the Hegelian-Marxian-CHAT
>>>>>>>> perspective that you are developing, perhaps using the
>>>>>>>> tripartite
>>>>>>>> criteria you introduced in your paper, how might these words
>>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>>> their
>>>>>>>> evolving meanings be better understood?
>>>>>>>> Best,
>>>>>>>> - Steve
>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
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>>>>>>> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380
>>>>>>> 9435,
>>>>>>> mobile 0409 358 651
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>>>>> 9435,
>>>>> mobile 0409 358 651
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