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Fr. 714

February 22, 2016

The foregoing shows to what extent the integration of greater relationality into Western conceptions of self would not amount to a mere modus vivendi. Often enough, integration of such from other cultures will pass through the latter two modes above, i.e. modified fitting or thoroughgoing translation. Whether this be necessary, it remains beyond the scope of this provisional study to prove.

If worries about increased cultural comparison ending in a mere modus vivendi persist, the author can have no other recourse than to underline the importance of a critical approach and highlight the dangers. As to the first of these modes of integration above, i.e. wholecloth adoption, he suggests that we must remain wary, for with greater relationality can also come greater deference and fewer possibilities for resistance via individuality. Such a quandary is highlighted when Baggini recalls:

We might also consider the value of Confucian harmony in politics, as Daniel Bell urges us to do in his recent book “The China Model.” Harmony is found when our social relations are good, and to be good they require openness about disagreement and conflicts of interest. Harmony is not an aspiration for bland uniformity. As Bell points out, “One of the most famous lines in the Analects of Confucius – known to most educated Chinese – is that exemplary persons should pursue harmony but not consensus (or uniformity).”

Again, relationality as regards politics requires openness and divergence, rather than a universal tendency towards uniformity. Thus, wholecloth adoption could not consistently be carried out across the board without losing sight of the very reasons for which we initially undertook the study. The translation of relationality, as well as the principles of openness and divergence, can perhaps be best seen in pragmatic deliberative democracy and the organizing to which we have previously made reference. Insofar as these open a space for individuals to discuss their concerns, be it within or across cultural boundaries, and accumulate power through their collected tellings and listenings, they resist the powers that be via their connection in other-regarding behavior and, perhaps more importantly, their very individuality, i.e. their unwillingness to adopt wholecloth types.

If the foregoing may make it seem that there exists an ideal arrangement in order to maximize individual/selfhood and relationality, such a reading must be reeled in. For there can be no perfectly maximizing institutional arrangement. Any such appropriation from comparative relationality studies will encounter limits as not all principles can be simultaneously instantiated. Baggini hones in on such a point when he notes:

However, such appropriation has its limits because of what Isaiah Berlin called the plurality of values, meaning that more than one set is justifiable but they may also be incompatible. Gains from greater community, for example, result in losses for real values arising from individual autonomy. If we therefore set out to decide which set of values is right and which is wrong we often ask the wrong question. Both have their losses and gains, and you can’t have one with the other.

In a word, everything comes with a cost; to greater expenses for relationality may be joined real costs for individuality. Practices and institutions can admit of no ideal relationality formulae, but this should in and of itself offer no deterrent to vigorous experimentation in our conception of other-regarding work on the self.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2016 10:05 am

    I suspect the universal tendency towards uniformity exists for a reason. I see the right cloth…light / dynamic / fluid could cover (or at least shade) everything. It seems the cloth’s thread would have to be chameleon like (color spectrum and translucent) with incredible strength, yet fragility when holding certain things softly. :)

    • February 26, 2016 8:32 am

      That is always the sticking point. Is it possible to find a common cloth for all to wear as citizens and subjects which nonetheless allows their underlying individuality to be seen through the material? Perhaps the only solution lies in binocularity, seeing the two not at once but in two separate instances, or transversal identities, which cut across communities.

      • February 28, 2016 1:32 am


        I Am, Like Everyone An Individual Indivisible Presentation Of That Which Is Whole. Are the 13 words that work for me…transversal enough for you? :)

      • February 29, 2016 4:05 pm

        For this person, yes, that would suffice, but it may require a more concrete wording and illustration as to its intersection with others (e.g. a civic-minded preacher, the principal of a race-divided school, the university professor who coaches community sports, etc.) This naturally comes with no intended slight towards your wording.

      • February 29, 2016 5:02 pm

        Yeah, I’ll be intersecting out a book soon…the wording in my blog being pretty sloppy. 🎱

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