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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: January ::
Re: Development of Individualism
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0042.  Monday, 15 January 1996.

(1)     From:   Thomas G. Bishop <
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        Date:   Sunday, 14 Jan 1996 14:30:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0037  Re: Development of Individualism

(2)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Sunday, 14 Jan 1996 20:21:53 -0800
        Subj:   Re: Development of Individualism

(3)     From:   Shirley Kagan <
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        Date:   Monday, 15 Jan 1996 01:34:34 -1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0037 Re: Development of Individualism

(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas G. Bishop <
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Date:           Sunday, 14 Jan 1996 14:30:00 -0500
Subject: 7.0037  Re: Development of Individualism
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0037  Re: Development of Individualism

Robert Appelbaum is quite right to warn us that what needs more careful
investigation (however difficult a task) is the set of questions we could lump
together under the rubric of "culture" and how various cultures that differ
from, but also inherit from and interact with, one another imagine (or whatever
other verb you want) "selfhood".  I'm not sure I would myself know how to begin
separating what he categorizes as "theories of the self, representations of the
self, discourses of the self and technologies of the self" as it seems to me
each is likely to include the others. Nor am i sure I would know what to do
when I had artfully segregated these categories, except perhaps to explore
their modes of reintegration. Is, to take an earlier example I used, Pindar's
2nd Olympian a theory, a representation, a discourse or a technology? It is
surely all these things, and a great deal more. It encodes archaic Greek
understandings of the relations between fame, effort, the names and relations
of individuals both mortal and immortal, the stories told of these figures
before and including the present one, and the very ancient verbal techniques
traditionally used to represent all these things.

In order to understand such an artifact, the most scrupulous care is needed,
and nothing short of a developed acquaintance with the whole of archaic Greek
culture (and several other cultures) will do. I do not have that acquaintance.
And while I agree that "by golly, they're just like us" is hardly a critical
judgment, I believe the brooding historicist solitude that insists "they're so
remote they can have nothing in common with us" is likewise premature, as
usually practised. Their difference and similarity are alike objects of
historical and imaginative contemplation, and we short-change both ourselves
and them if we pass over either.

On a thawing day in the heart of winter,

        Tom

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Sunday, 14 Jan 1996 20:21:53 -0800
Subject:        Re: Development of Individualism

Stephanie Hughes's incredible views call for an answer

> We will
> always find a way to share part of what we are with others. We will always
> feels ourselves separate from others as well. This is one of the primary
> dichotomies of existence, like day and night, youth and age, male
> and female, black and white. All life is a rhythm between the two. The
> glass is half empty or half full.

So, life is a rhythm between "youth and age", between "black and white", etc?
What on earth do you think that means? Pseudo-spiritual drivel like this should
be kept to oneself and not broadcast. I'm surprised you didn't mention yin and
yang and 'value-free binary oppositions'. If you are opposed to the critical
practice of deconstruction then say so. Did you expect anyone else to read this
list you made up and say 'Oooh yes, those ARE the primary dichotomies of
existence'.

> Stone age communities share each others lives in the way a herd of animals
> shares each others lives. As communities become more "civilized", that is,
> larger, urbanized, with individuals that are more and more interchangable,
> with work ever more specialized, with the use of written language, and
> those who specialize in written language increasing a special field of
> consciousness that remains beyond the limits of the three generational
> limits of human memory. At this point, concepts such as "individualism"
> are born. It is as though a blind community began to see the world
> around them, and invented the word "blue" to describe the sky. The sky
> wasn't born at that time, merely the concept.

This is plagiarized from that crypto-fascist, Plato. There's an odd use of
tense here: are there "stone age communities" now in existence, or did you mean
"shared each others lives" and "became more 'civilized'"? Is there an error in
the second sentence, or does it intentionally lack a main verb?

I've just spotted your method! We have not yet reached the stage of
civilization, hence even "those who specialize in written language" cannot
string a sentence together. Derridean technique in action!

> There seems to be enough evidence that the Middle Ages, also known as "the
> Dark Ages", were among the valleys of human consciousness, not the peaks.
> That's not to say they weren't having a good time. Perhaps the concept of
> "individualism" is less likely to occur with communities who have a good
> time.

We're really into flights of positivist fantasy here. The implication is that
our would-be sky-watchers popped back into their dark cave for a thousand years
(say 500 to 1500) and then emerged again (ie were reborn, hence 'Renaissance').

> Perhaps it is not pure coincidence that the rise of this particular
> form of consciousness coincides with the repression of the revels on
> holidays by an increasingly puritannical English establishment.

I want to hear you substantiate this claim. Who or what do you think the
"English establishment" was?

Gabriel Egan

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Shirley Kagan <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Jan 1996 01:34:34 -1000
Subject: 7.0037 Re: Development of Individualism
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0037 Re: Development of Individualism

I am confused about a great many things in Stephanie Hughes' post that was
meant to clarify her first post.  The crux of my credulity is, perhaps, a
chicken and egg dilemma, but I can't understand why Ms. Hughes assumes that
explaining humanity's social tendency as a natural fact should be
satisfactiory.  Perhaps we became "herd animals" specifically because of
individual self consciousness?  In other words, because a few of the evolved
individuals realized that it would be easier and more productive to live
communaly, we all got together.

I am also confused about the following:

"the reality of individualism is and always has been a given, while
"individualism" as a concept, arises wherever a certain kind of consciousness
arises."

Why would the reality of individualism always have been a given?  Who made it
so?  Is it not, rather, completely reliant on the perception of individualism
as a concept?  Furthermore, doesn't the concept of individualism automatically
exist as a function of consciousness?  I agree that different
individulas/societies/communities may exist in differing relationships to the
concept of individualism, but this only enforces its need to exist as a concept
in these individuals/societies/communities.

Shirley Kagan.
 

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