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Fr. 293

March 20, 2013

It remains to be seen if MacIntyre’s account, first, makes note of such a motor, regardless of its composition, underlying the evolution of traditions and, secondly, if his theory can account for it. It is still unclear if he can, in fact, make sense of opposite and rivality within a tradition (and not just without). By what internal and immanent mechanic could traditions evolve that does not thereby suppose a preexisting divergence of the individual’s practical rationality and conceptions of justice? In this case, the burden of proof lies with MacIntyre, as per his own conception of critique. Indeed, the thinker emphasizes and practices immanent critique in which the critic first learns the language of a rival tradition, exposes certain of its lacuna in its own terms so as to provoke an epistemological crisis to which the tradition in question must respond in order to remain a viable alternative. This is the goal of this sketch of traditionalism: to expose, through its own language, precisely where traditionalism has certain shortcomings, namely, in its inability to give a satisfying account of what makes traditions evolve. Insofar as this notion is central to traditionalism, i.e. its evolution over time, there must be at some point be an evolutionary principle (in the broad sense) at work.

Otherwise, traditionalism finds itself in need of some other principle by which to explain its inner workings. Certainly, traditionalism has an advantage in that it accurately describes and predicts intercommunal divergences, but it fails to address the steps leading up to the expression of those intercommunal differences: the intracommunal debates and rival interpretations that make the tradition a discursive formation extended in time. It is for this reason that it seems necessary to suppose a deeper-seated individuality, which does not necessarily correspond to Rawslian agency and overcoming contingency, although it could to some extent. Instead, such individuality could easily be located in something more deeply rooted, even cognitively unavailable, though it need not imply any sort of intuitionism, such as the “Yuck” test.

To put it somewhat differently, traditionalism rightfully complicates the relationship between traditions but leaves their internal economy underdetermined. More concretely, is it possible for the individual to move between traditions or from one to another? Can he or she belong to several simultaneously? Why is there a need to integrate traditions or translate them? At first blush, it would seem that the impetus for all these possibilities entails some underlying individuality; there must be some need for translation, integration, movement felt on an individual level. Indeed, MacIntyre’s own personal history would seem to confirm this. It is not simply that traditions fall into ruins, and individuals formerly belonging to this tradition come to be dissociated from it, floating in the void. Instead, they already belonged in part to another tradition, or, faced with the challenges of another tradition, these adherents decided to move to another. After all, as traditions manifest and effect themselves in individuals and their reasoning, the internal economy of traditions should reflect this.

In short, the proposal of this sketch is the following: the transfer of certain of MacIntyre’s macro-level innovations to the micro-level. This would entail regarding the individual as being a cross-section of traditions and building the notion of rivality into the individual itself. This would not simply be to succumb again to the compartmentalization that the thinker so deplores in Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, but to recognize each individual in and through his or her being resolves the tension between his or her commitments in a comprehensive, personal rationality.

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  1. Fr. 620 | Anaesthete

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