Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fragment: Hybrid Vigor

If none of us are absolutely free and likewise we are not absolutely without freedom, perhaps we must use those parts of us that are free to liberate the remainder.

Is this possible? Does liberation exist? Is freedom as hokey as all of its self-proclaimed defenders?

Is there any part of our lives in which freedom is unadulterated and unconditional? Is freedom as mythical as any other ideal? If so, then what is it precisely that I want so badly? What is it, precisely, that any of us bitches about?


  1. I don not think a person can be liberated, as an experiencing person. Without giving credence to "Eastern mysticism," liberation cannot be imposed.

    That written, it is quite possible to liberate people from actual conditions of captivity, enslavement and colonization.

    The trick is, I think, to understand that they (1) may not welcome it, (2) might not comprehend the act as liberation, (3) may very well actively oppose liberation, and (4) quite possibly become unyielding adversaries, if not enemies, as a result (see American smallholders and their odd antipathy to the State which serves them best).

  2. If they don't perceive it as freedom, what makes it freedom?

    If someone doesn't recognize liberation (if it comes from they themselves or from others), is it liberation?

  3. Cuneyt,

    I don't think objectivity is a universal, but I think we can be objective. And objectively, a person can be literally bound as a slave and liberated from that condition.

    I don't think the symbolic naming matters as much as the description of the event. For example, if John Q forces himself sexually upon Jane X, but calls it "love and devotion" and sincerely believes that his act is as far from rape as possible, he has still raped her. His belief(s) about the event don't matter, for third parties (or Jane) to accurately describe what actually occurred.

  4. Jack's example sucks. Women have been known to change their minds about their drunken sex, regret it the next day, and allege "rape."

  5. Because the word "forces" is a null set, of course...

  6. Liberty to me means "to the greatest extent possible." Absolute liberty can exist if you live alone on an island and nobody knows or, if they know, cares about you and what happens to you. You are free to do what you will, live as you will, without coercion. That's liberty.

    Outside this one-man-on-an-island scenario, the key is maximizing liberty in a society where many people desire liberty.

    And it's bullshit mysticism, Jack, to allege we cannot know liberty.

  7. Jack, if you want a verbal fight, please be direct.


  8. I'm not interested in a fight. I'm interested in discussion with people who can avoid confusing an ugly but ultimately banal misogyny with original and independent thought.

  9. Jack, forgive what may seem a stupid question.

    If rape is wrong, why is it wrong? Is it made wrong, argued to be wrong, or inherently wrong?

  10. For the sake of the argument, we don't have to establish if rape is right or wrong, Cuneyt.

    If we accept as valid that the definition of rape is something alike to "the forcible or coercive sexual penetration of an unwilling person," we can apply that description to events, even if we refuse to make a judgment about rightness or wrongness.

    Returning to the original example - John Q forces himself sexually upon Jane X. John Q does not believe he has raped Jane X. He believes that he has shown her his love with extreme and enduring passion. Perhaps he even believes that he needed to overcome her barriers.

    All we need to know about Jane is if she consented or not. If she did not consent, or withdrew her consent at any point, John has raped Jane.

    What John calls his act of non-consensual penetration doesn't matter at all. His symbolic representation of events communicate very little about the act of penetration.

    We don't have to make a single judgment of right or wrong to use a common or previously accepted description of rape and apply it properly to John's behavior towards Jane.

    My point in using the rape example was only to illustrate that the symbolic naming has less value than accurate descriptions of events, because symbolic names can convey zero to erroneous information about occurrences.

    Let's apply this back to the original: a person may or may not believe that he is in a condition of slavery. In fact, he may call actual involuntary servitude "holy service to God." His subjective experience of mandatory bondage communicates less about the relationship between him and his material owner than an ordinary language description of that relationship.

    A person who is materially and objectively bonded to another may not understand the third party rending of those bonds as "liberation" because he may not give the symbolic name "bondage" to his condition.

    To understand this in more modern terms, imagine an abused house wife or a drug addict who does not conceive of her conditions as oppressive, or as bondage.

    She may in fact resist efforts to liberate her from her servitude, because she conceives of it emotionally-symbolically as "holy matrimony, blessed by God," and not as "for the last three days, my husband has enforced his will upon me sexually, with his fists, and by manipulating my thoughts and emotions."

  11. If Jane says she has not been raped, then the same actions have occurred. You are right. Are you arguing, Jack, that rape can be normalized and accepted if the victim wishes it so? Or is that a contradiction in terms?

    Or are you truly making an amoral statement?

  12. To better illustrate how description can and might even necessarily be distinct from judgment, Cuneyt, we have only to examine the "act of murder."

    Murder is killing, but not all killing is murder. "Murder" is a judgment about the unlawfulness, illicitness or general rejection of certain kinds of killing.

    We can say that David killed George by shooting him in the back. We are describing what happened and one aspect of the outcome, and this will mostly be intelligible to the majority of users of our common language, because most people beyond a certain developmental age understand that killing results in a corpse (even if they disagree about what happens to personality, "soul" or "spirit.")

    If we say that John killed George to stop George from killing Jennifer, it is quite likely that we will describe John's act as a "justified killing" and George's as "attempted murder."

    Both "justified killing" and "murder' attach symbolic-emotional judgments to the observational description of the killing of a human person. But, we can still accurately describe how John killed George, and the condition in which George's no longer animated corpse was discovered, without drawing immediate symbolic or emotional judgments about the act or results, as well.

  13. Cuneyt,

    If we are discussing an act which can be documented by third parties, for example by credible witnesses or by an exosomatic recording device, it might be possible to describe John's actions towards Jane as rape even if Jane does not understand them as such.

    Where matters become troublesome, and this was my original point about liberation and the reception of it, is that we (1) have less experiential commonality than is often presumed and (2) we don't always use normative terms with similar intent, or from shared perspective.

    It is quite possible to precisely judge an event as liberation, murder or rape, without the participants reaching the same conclusion.

    Those judgments carry, I think, the symbol-logical added value of "rightness" or "wrongness," and are therefore less secure as descriptions than a more observational perspective would tend to provide. But, they can still be more or less valid, within the common usage of language.

    When I suggested, earlier, that rightness or wrongness are not necessary components of an accurate descriptions, it was to separate one usage of language from another, but not necessarily to assume that this must always be the case.

    I can, for example, describe a younger brother as a misogynist and as a man who is exceptionally tender, kind and solicitous to his girlfriend of more than a decade. I could go into great detail about how well he treats this one woman, and have most of those details be observational descriptions, and this would not necessarily exclude the simultaneous judgment that he is otherwise a misogynist.

  14. Cuneyt,

    Sorry for multiple replies. Really thought provoking work you're doing here. Let me reiterate, again, that I'm personally happy that you are doing it.

    If we are discussing rape as a judgment and as a description, used within normative parameters, we might encounter the troublesome feminist theory of patriarchy. I say troublesome, because the descriptions of patriarchy are inseparable from the judgments about it, perhaps because the critique itself is revolutionary, and the confusions of terms results from the early failure to separate definitions from descriptions, at least within the larger pool of terms understood as ordinary language.

    A recent feminist argument (here: http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2011/08/09/kurrent-events-korner/ ) assumes that women cannot rightly consent to any sex act (even one which is representation and simulation) "within patriarchy" because the very existence of patriarchy (again, it is presumed and communicated using terms which purport to describe, but which in fact operate almost solely as self-referential judgment) preconditions all women as involuntary subjects of men.

    According to this theory, most male-female actions, because they occur "within patriarchy" have the quality of coercion, whether or not the parties understand this to be true. This is a judgment which, distinct from being right or wrong, assumes a third party perspective with access to a flawless standard, and then attempts to describe contingent relations as if that standard can be immediately intelligible (which is why I use the word "troublesome" to describe it).

    Removing ourselves from feminist theory, but using an outlook which shares a number of overlaps, we can find some of the problems (and emotional/symbolic strengths, simultaneously) of anarchism.

    Because anarchist critique and argument assumes that the state necessarily coerces, even if the agent of the State and the object of that agent's attention do not experience their interactions as coercive, or symbolically name them as such.

  15. Consider the phenomenon of akrasia. I do that which I do not want to do, of my own free will. Freedom is not rational. We swim in the coercive brine of our culture. This is passive coercion that seeps through our pores. Actions are free, but desires are bent.

  16. "We may do what we will, but not will what we will."

  17. Pretty clever turn of phrase Mr. Cüneyt.

  18. I wish I could claim it; it's Schopenhauer.