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Fr. 641

June 11, 2015

Le sens [de rhuthmos] est: forme distinctive, figure proportionnée, disposition; très proche et différent de schèmaSchèma = forme fixe, réalisée, posée comme un objet (statue, orateur, figure chorégraphique). Schèma = forme, dans l’instant qu’elle est assumée par ce qui est mouvant, mobile, fluide, forme de ce qui n’a pas de consistance organique. Rhuthmos = pattern d’un élément fluide (lettre, péplos, humeur), forme improvisée, modifiable. Dans la doctrine, manière particulière, pour les atomes, de fluer; configuration sans fixité ni nécessité naturelle: un “fluement” […]. (Barthes, Comment vivre ensemble, p. 38)

The meaning [of rhuthmos] is: distinctive shape, proportioned figure, disposition; very close yet different from schèmaSchèma = set shape, realized, put forth as an object (statue, orateur, choreographic form). Schèma = shape, from the moment that it is taken on by that which is moving, mobile, fluid, the shape of that which lacks an organic whole. Rhuthmos = a fluid element’s pattern (letter, péplos, humor), an improvised and changeable shape. In doctrine, a peculiar manner, for the atoms, to flow: a configuration with neither stability nor natural necessity: a “flowing” […]. (Barthes, Comment vivre ensemble, p. 38)

When the primary literature on self attempts to give an image of self, it resorts most often to images suggesting multiplicity: the threads of Habermas’ glove turned inside out, Taylor’s talk of a many-sided object. Yet none of the images yet encountered seems entirely up to the task, for each, in giving self a shape, also fixes it in place to a greater or lesser extent. It is difficult to picture the threads of the glove multiplying or changing shape, just as it is difficult to imagine an object, however many its sides, acquiring new ones. For this reason, Barthes’ image of a fluid element and its flowing seems rather more appropriate to the object under consideration and to the requirements set out by Taylor for non-empirical objects in Sources of the Self.

On one hand, it captures the way in which a flow is liable to change over time, whether greater or shorter, such as the tone or content of a letter from opening to closing. If not always improvised by an agent, the shape remains changeable due to environmental factors. On the other, Barthes, by making using of the singular, underlines that the fluid element remains an element, regardless of its lack of an easily definable whole. It proves, above, all a configuration or constellation or conjugation of movements. If the flow lacks both stability and natural necessity, it is nonetheless possible to determine with close study its evolution from one shape to another and the reasons behind it, independently of any schema that would fix once and for all the laws governing the object’s future change.

It is precisely in this fluid element, susceptible to agent actions, environmental conditions and changes over time, that it is possible to find something like the self as determinable non-empirical object.

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