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Fr. 645

June 24, 2015

1.) From what image does our account proceed?

2.) From what purpose does this image set out?

Naturally, to 1.), we can provide no definitive answer, as the inquiry remains in its initial stages. Nonetheless, we can provide a sketch in the way of response, particularly as regards the relation of our image to those outlined above. At this stage, we propose as image of self a “linguistic polyrhythm”, or, in other words, the simultaneous expression of two or more distinct or conflicting subelements of identity. From where do we derive these terms?

“Linguistic”. The inspiration for this term owes in large part to Stout, for whom justification and progress towards truth pass, in greater or lesser measure, through language, expression and discourse. If there is no explicit link between language and self in Stout’s work, there remain a striking number of parallels between descriptions of language and descriptions of the individual as historically situated. This parallelism is quite accentuated in Ethics After Babel where the object consists precisely in the study of different moral languages and their interference within Moral Language. It proves easy enough to map subelements of identity onto Identity in just such a way. Moreover, given that self-knowledge and self-articulation (particularly in reason-giving) pass necessarily through the medium of language, the self, as available to ourselves and others, likewise retains (or takes on) a linguistic character.

“Poly-“. Here, we draw more heavily on Taylor’s notion of a manysided object. As suggested elsewhere, it is to Taylor’s credit that he secures a framework by which to paint self in broad strokes and that he can gesture at the multiplicity at play in the self. Yet, however many the sides of the object, the image itself does not allow for evolution or change in the number or relation of sides and, without addendum, fails to capture an important feature of self: change over time.

“Rhythm”. Indeed, it seems precisely for this reason that Taylor’s contribution stands as a suffix to the base term of “rhythm”, as seen with Barthes and rhuthmos. For rhythm captures the idea both of a changing whole, as well as the freedom concerning those changes (understood as the lack of natural necessity). Additionally, rhythm can be analyzed without pretending to exhaustivity and hence yields certain abstract terms by which to work. And this proves its great advantage with regards to Taylor’s image.

In short, our image, far from an invention of its own, rather seems a a conjugation of three: a rhythm in which traits make themselves apparent in language and which we can map in abstract strokes without betraying the particularist intuitions at its root. Certainly, this suffices as a preliminary response to 1.).

What then of 2.)? What is our purpose in pursuing this inquiry? On this count, our position seems rather closer to that of Rawls and Stout than the others in that we are interested in the conditions of a society of fair discourse, in which subject and individual, expression and rights are mutually reinforcing. Of that, more has been said and remains to be said.

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