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Fr. 659

August 6, 2015

If we set out from questions of individuation, i.e. the manner in which one sets out one language or person from another, we will close with considerations of explanation. For setting persons out from one another can only be a preliminary step in a process which ends with bringing them together. More simply, individuation serves only to further reconciliation, in some broader sense.

Stout gestures to just such a need when he speaks, by way of example, of reactions to polygamy:

Given my beliefs about polygamy, I need to explain how others came to believe differently […] I may point to metaphysical beliefs […] In any event, however, I have differences to explain (p. 85).

When the differences permitting the individuation of persons emerge and enable perspicuous contrast, the conversation does not end there. Certainly, perspicuous contrast could take such a tack either with the aim of explaining away differences, with reference to beginnings, throughlines, etc., or by leaving the process at merely explaining the reason for differences. Instead, we should aim to explain to another the reason for differences and this by reference not only to our moral language, but also to self, identity and individual. For the need to tell a story to others about our differences from others hinges on the capacity to tell a story about our radical contingency, the factors at play in our nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, upbringing, etc.. Anything short of this serves merely to gesture at a dilemma for which it can provide no solution.

The above reminds us to what extent a grammar of identity, as defined for present purposes, can bear fruit only in magnifying and reconciling difference. Explaining away, obscuring or reconciling too quickly undercuts the point of the undertaking itself: greater understanding of difference, greater basis for comparison, greater capacity for communication. It is only now that we understand Stout’s considerable affinity with Hegel and Vernunft.

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