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Survivalism and Communicationalism [was Choice and Action]

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  • Tommy Beavitt
    Dear SWM, ... If you think that to try to talk to [Other] out of this or to appease them through concessions or national self abasement is folly then it
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 13 3:49 PM
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      Dear SWM,

      At 10:40 am +0000 13/3/02, swmaerske wrote:
      >Chris made the comment to you about how we are to handle attempting
      >communication with someone who only wants to toss bombs at us or (I
      >would add) to blow up our buildings with us inside it. Certainly they
      >have a different point of view! They favor bringing down our society
      >and the values we espouse in order to replace these with a closed
      >society and values they espouse which, in many cases, are
      >antithetical to what we believe in or can even imagine ourselves
      >living with. Not only do I not see much hope in trying to talk them
      >out of this or to appease them through concessions or national self-
      >abasment, I also think to do so is folly. I think that is the feeling
      >of many these days though you have been clear here, before, that you
      >don't share this feeling.

      If you think that to "try to talk to [Other] out of this or to
      appease them through concessions or national self abasement" is folly
      then it appears to me that you are relying on an assumption of the
      good, which would be jeopardised by the folly of the act. This good,
      the foundation of your ethic, seems to me to be what might be
      described as a survivalist position: the position that individual,
      indissoluble (except by death) Self exists and the good is the
      prolonged existence of that Self in time. I contrast this position
      with the position I am taking which is that the existence of
      individual, indissoluble Self is in question (never mind the
      assumption that existence/time is a quantitative good) and the good
      is the quality of communication between self and other. You are
      right, there is no bottom to my position any more than there is to
      yours: it is simply a position that I have adopted.

      >Personally speaking, my big problem is that I want to say that there
      >is some measure of "absoluteness" in the values I favor which justify
      >me in my desire to oppose the intolerant. But, regrettably, I do not
      >yet see that there is. Chris, I think, sees some absoluteness in his
      >beliefs in that he's willing to talk about natural rights. I do not
      >see rights as anything more than a social construct and, as such,
      >they do not seem to me to have any authority outside the society and
      >worldview in which we live. If that's the case, then there are no
      >grounds, as you have suggested before, for challenging the beliefs of
      >the Osama bin Ladens of the world. But, if that's the case, and all
      >is relative, a matter of what you happen to subscribe to based on
      >where you're from, how you've been educated, etc., then, in the end,
      >might does make right. And that's not a very ethical position, it
      >seems to me.

      A communicationalist does not say there are "no grounds for
      challenging the beliefs of the Osama bin Ladens of this world". On
      the contrary, the ground is found in the quality of communication
      consisting in the challenge Self presents to Other.
      Communicationalism refutes relativism because the position of Self,
      although defined by Other, is also fixed by its communicating
      relative to Whole. What is 'absolute', after all, if not relativity
      to Whole.

      >Now as to your points about "communicationalism". I have to say that
      >while much of what you are saying sounds very pretty, I am not clear
      >as to what you are basing it on. It sounds to me very much like a
      >variant form of religion, i.e., your premises about a unified being
      >and communication as the end of all our activities in order to foster
      >the unification and the elimination of distinctions between selves
      >and others all smack of the old ideas of God, etc., but in different
      >clothes. How do we get to this supposition that all is really a
      >single being? I am not saying that it's not the case but: 1) I am not
      >sure of what you mean when you state this and 2) I am not sure of the
      >basis of this claim. Is it that you feel this way? That you have
      >arguments which can be marshalled to "prove" this view? Is there some
      >kind of intuition you have which others can access as well if they
      >take the right steps? In sum, I think your formulations very
      >attractive but attractive in a religious way and, as such, merely a
      >modern reformulation of religious thinking. Now that is not bad in
      >itself, since I at least believe that religious thinking is a
      >legitimate aspect of what we do as human beings. But it should be
      >recognized for what it is and approached in that manner. As you have
      >laid it out, so far, I am uncertain how to approach it
      >philosophically.

      The concept of wholeness or universality does have some precedents in
      philosophy. It is resistant to refutation because if we are a part it
      is not going to be possible (for us) to view the whole because of the
      nature of perspective. This means it is also impossible to prove but
      that doesn't necessarily make it a bad concept.

      It seems more philosophically sound to have as our original premise
      that our values are governed by our perspectives rather than begin to
      talk about absoluteness of values as if they were something that we
      could define or comprehend. Sartre made this point irrefutably clear
      but the question he left us with is: to what are the value
      perspectives relative to?

      He also remained silent on the question of whether existentialism is
      confined to individual, indissoluble human beings-for-themselves or
      whether a corporate entity can also said to have being-for-itself
      quality. In law, a corporate entity is said to have personhood in
      terms of its rights and responsibilities. Is there any reason why we
      cannot apply the existentialist paradigm to corporate 'persons' as
      well as individual human beings? Likewise, some animals, or other
      organisations of matter and energy other than humans,may have
      qualities which qualify them for the accolade, being-for-itself.

      Because of the seeming universality of communication between entities
      that are aware of Self and of Other, therefore, we can posit that
      this communication as well as being between distinct (or
      semi-distinct) beings and each other is also between these distinct
      (or semi-distinct) beings and the Whole. It might also seem that the
      ability to communicate with a greater range of distinct beings would
      result in an increase in perception of Own perspective by mapping
      with relation to perspective of distinct (or semi-distinct) Other
      and, as this map grows more populated by known perspectives, an
      increase in perception of Own perspective to Whole.

      The Whole can then be approximately said to be that towards which the
      mapping of perspective of Self relative to perspective of Other
      tends. This is not a hard and fast proof of the existence of Whole
      but it is one which develops through praxis and doesn't rely on faith.

      Having thus 'proved' the existence of Whole and determined that the
      understanding of Self which leads to identification with Whole by
      encounter with Other is existentially constructive of Whole, we can
      now say that the communication between Self and Other, which results
      in the mapping of relative perspectives, enabling knowledge or
      construction of Whole, is a good in itself.

      This is because the realisation of the relation of Self relative to
      Whole allows Self to engage in understanding Other through love
      because what is more important than preserving Own position or
      perspective is understanding the interconnectedness of relations
      between Self and Other predicating Whole. Own position can then be
      said to be less important than the communication between differing
      perspectives, replacing the survivalist foundation to an ethic with a
      communicationalist one.

      The result of replacing survivalism with communicationalism is to
      allow negative emotions such as fear, anger, jealousy, hatred,
      self-pity and guilt experienced as a result of threat to Own position
      to be expunged leading to happiness. Please note that the happiness
      is not the good in itself, it is simply the by-product. Happiness is
      not defined as the decrease of pleasure or the increase in pain.
      Communication (eg. conversation, sex, battle, music, politics)
      entails both pleasure and pain. Happiness is the result of forsaking
      negative emotion.

      Well, this is the best I am able to come up with for now in terms of
      philosophical argument. Maybe one day I will have time to do some
      proper research and be able provide references to existing bodies of
      work to support my theory.

      Tommy Beavitt


      >
      >--- In WisdomForum@y..., Tommy Beavitt <tommy@s...> wrote:
      >> I like what you are saying here. You are absolutely right (I think)
      >to say that a truly open society results in the need to judge people
      >by their standards rather than our own. You are also right to say
      >that sometimes this will result in us being required to adopt a
      >perspective that is diametrically opposed to our own - and it is to
      >the extent that our open society begins to close that we ignore this
      >need.
      >
      >>What if, instead of holding the good to be what is good for us and
      >then extending this further than it can reasonably be extended to
      >embrace the good of the Other, we hold the good to be precisely this
      >act of attempting to see the perspective of the Other? It then
      >becomes immaterial (for the purposes of our ethical foundation)
      >whether the good is actualised: it is the act of seeing that is the
      >good and the good follows from this.
      >
      >>My argument is based on a number of key assumptions: (1) there is a
      >unitary being which pervades the universe which can be said to have a
      >purpose, (2) that purpose is increasing the total amount of internal
      >communication within that being, (3) to the extent that there is any
      >meaning or lasting value it is to be found (by us) in an examination
      >of the relationship we have with the unitary being (which is the
      >relationship of constituent part to whole) (4) the concept of Other
      >relates to the opposition between Self and its opposite component
      >within the whole whether that be along lines of gender, sex, culture,
      >species language, etc. (5) that communication is a qualitative
      >relation and the degree of quality of a communication is directly
      >proportional to the effort expended in reaching out from Self to
      >Other ie. the extent of the difference and (6) that Love (as the good
      >which is irreducible to component parts) is necessarily a function of
      >the extent to which the Lover is distinct from Self (ie. a
      >transcending of personal ego) and the quality of communication
      >achieved through the act of Loving.
      >
      >>There is that old saw about love being equivalent to war, it goes
      >something like: I'm married, I do both. There is more to this than
      >meets the eye. If a marriage is not to be a fossilisation of love, a
      >fixing of something which is by nature dynamic, it must be open to
      >internal conflict: indeed, it must have at its core the conflict
      >between Self and (as differentiated by sex and gender) Other.
      >
      >>Likewise, the relations between the "world's only superpower" and
      >its nearest challenger in terms of fixity of purpose, that radical
      >Islamic Other as differentiated by culture, are seen in terms of
      >quality of communication. We see that communication in terms of the
      >column miles generated within contemporary media, in the word counts
      >of our email programs and the extent to which we are being made to
      >think (before 9/11 I had become disillusioned by philosophy, couldn't
      >be bothered to read let alone respond to all those tiresome texts),
      >in the diplomacy, rhetoric; yea, in the very act of war where
      >representatives of cultural Self grapple with the representatives of
      >cultural Other in the macabre dance of battle. This is high quality
      >communication although in the later examples I have listed Self can
      >only be conceived of in corporate terms with expendable individual
      >parts.
      >
      >>I am using the term "communicationalism" to describe this ethical
      >position, which is derived both from Sartrean existentialism and
      >eastern mysticism such as can be found in the writings of sufis such
      >as Rumi, and would be grateful for any critiques.
      >
      >> Tommy Beavitt
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