Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Secularism, per se, doesn’t intrinsically tell us anything about subject-object dualism

N Pepperell wrote: Okay…Now we’ll move into the part that I’ll undoubtedly say very badly: in both of our ways of understanding the narrow sense of immanence, my sense is that this narrow meaning does not follow in any inevitable way from the broad meaning - that secularism, per se, doesn’t intrinsically tell us anything about subject-object dualism. I’m very happy to be corrected here - this is an open question. It’s just that, while I know that these issues intertwine around one another in practice - with questions about secularism twisting around questions of subject-object dualism - I’m not clear that the connection is as necessary as the practical or intuitive interconnection suggests. The intuitive connection reminds me, in some ways, of Hacking’s analysis of the dual meanings of the concept of probability - refering both to aleatory conditions and to degrees of belief. Hacking asks how these two things should come to be perceived as intertwined into the same term. I have a similar curiosity, I think, about the notion of immanence.
Hypothetically (there are, of course, real-world examples) one could embrace immanence in the sense of rejecting subject-object dualism, while retaining a religious worldview; and one could also assert a secular worldview, and retain various forms of subject-object dualism. So the two moments within our concepts of immanence can in principle be separated - and yet, here both of us are, albeit with perhaps different emphases, grouping these moments comfortably under the umbrella of a single term. Just as a placeholder, I am curious about the intuitiveness of this combination. I can’t go anywhere with this curiosity at this time - but just raise it as something to bracket for the future. I’m open to the suggestion that I am puzzled about something profoundly stupid here (I’m very tired - this tangent may be in the character of one of those things that strikes one as significant in a dream, and gets disspelled as irrelevant on waking - perhaps this is why I can’t go anywhere with my curiosity)… ;-P And, in any event, this point has nothing to do with what you were asking, and I raise it more as a placeholder for my own thinking…
On the question you’ve actually asked, of whether I think I am analysing something that is immanent to something else: my position here is strange, I think. I suspect that most social scientists - probably most social theorists - are doing exactly what worries you. I’m not sure that I am doing the same thing - I might be, but I suspect what I’m doing looks more similar than it should to a standard “embedded in culture” or “embedded in history” analysis, because of the specific sorts of issues I tend to write about. I suspect, if I were speaking on a different level of abstraction, or on a longer historical register, I would probably start sounding much more similar to you, than I sound when I speak about the narrow collection of historically-specified issues that tend to draw my attention.
My immanence, I think, is perhaps a bit… lumpy, particularly once one zooms in to a particular moment in time. So I see part of what I’m trying to do is to understand how, to persons individuated in a particular moment, the way things operate - around these parts, around this time - might render it plausible to characterise, experience and practice that moment in particular ways (because that is, in fact, what it’s like “around here, at the moment” - things appear as they are…). This doesn’t mean that our moment is immanent to something else (although this might be a plausible Newtonian approximation of the experience, so to speak) - but that immanence in our moment instantiates itself in a specific way, and I focus most of my thought on understanding that specificity, rather than on a more general ontology. Apologies for how exceptionally poorly formulated all this is… If you ask me about this in public, I’ll deny every word… ;-P ...Sorry that this is such a ramble…Tuesday, 24/04/2007 at 12:41 pm Permalink

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