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Fr. 709

January 28, 2016

If we place emphasis on the notion of identity (as self-image) and individual (as concrete personal history) as a means of getting discourse back on track, this will necessarily pass through a form of self-articulation or -expression. Certain people may be more or less capable of such feats than others and may, thus, require assistance in articulation and expression, be this explicitly from a professional or implicitly from one’s audience.

In both cases, this assistance may give some to worry that the understandings and notions advanced encourage philosophers and the lay alike to play at amateur psychologist, with all the dangers that this runs. For, if to know something is to know its composition and formation, to know something is then also to understand both that which causes it and which it causes. From there, it is only step to making use of that knowledge to influence composition and formation. In other words, knowledge can work in the interest of power or domination.

Indeed, this would seem particularly pertinent for the case of identity and individual, self-articulation and expression. For to know both a person’s self-image and her reasons for that self-image is to know a great many things about the person. In this knowledge and the preceding analysis, the person under consideration may experience a feeling akin to oppression, invasion or instrumentalization. The more theoretically inclined may, like Foucault, recognize therein the interest of disciplinary regimes in making the person an object of knowledge and study.

To understand and to facilitate self-articulation and expression can be, whether inherently, incidentally or otherwise, a means to instrumentalization, as with other tools. It is incumbent upon us to find ways to limit properly the scope of these tools in grounding them in public and political discourse.

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