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Current Issue: Volume 25, No. 3 , Week of August 21, 2005

Sorting Out Love and Evil

Sorting Out Love and Evil

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: August 18, 2005
Latest Update: August 26, 2005

E-Mail Icon jeannecurran@habermas.org
takata@uwp.edu

Topic of the Week:
Sorting Out Love and Evil

Whenever we feel certain about a belief, we are confronted with how to treat the Other who disagrees. When Beau reminded me that love does not conquer what we are wont to call either evil or closed-mindedness, I floundered. Trying to find some way not to respond with either PollyAnna insensitivity to the sufferings of this world or the depression of we're all going to hell in a hand-basket, anyway individualism, having given up on the masses and "their" social issues. Albert O. Hirschman would say that either extreme is indicative only of our resort to screaming rhetoric at one another instead of engaging in meaningful governance discourse. (Hirschman, Reaction to Rhetroric.)

I think I want to structure my first answer to Beau's "Love doesn't conquer all, jeanne," on the principle of illocutionary discourse. Illocutionary discourse, you will recall, as explained in Maria Pia Lara's Moral Textures, speaks of interaction, human social interaction, as affecting all members of that interaction. This means that if I listen to you out of love (a good faith willingness to respect that you, like I, have answerability), and if you in turn are willing to listen to the voicing of my validity claims in good faith, then we have both changed through that interaction, for it is the accumulation of human interactions that makes up our experiences. We may still not agree with each other. We may still each be convinced that we are right and the Other is wrong, but in the process of good faith listening and attempt to understand the Other's context and claim, we move away just a little from the need to kill each other over our differences.

I remember the Dean asking me once if I couldn't just write off and ignore the attacks of a colleague, which the Dean and I both considered implausible, inappropriate, and non-collegial. "Just write him off as a jerk!" I tired. I couldn't. Why? I thought I had a problem with low self-esteem because he was as arrogant as they come. But as I ponder Beau's "love doesn't conquer all," I realize I couldn't on principle. Not a principle I chose, but one I seem to have to live by. To ignore the Other, to turn him off, is to deny a part of the human context in which I live. That might work if one person did it, but what if we all ignore those whom we just "know" to be wrong? Soon we have an "us" and "them" mentality that fosters the demonology that lets us war with one another.

Now, I'm reading good and evil from the Buddhist perspective, and searching all the training I've ever had in Christianity, Judaism, and Zen. But it took me the better part of a week to start on this answer. I guess I'm a philosopher-sociologist at heart. I came back ultimately to Habermas and Pia Lara. Survival and evolution as a human group depends on human social interactions. And the climate in which those interactions take place is our social group. Used to be family, once upon a time. But long ago in Europe and in America, the extended family gave way to first, the industrial world, and then the corporate world. Today we have a corporate envronment that has more money and power than our nation-states.

This final global expansion to corporate empires means that the Other is no longer simply our fellow nation-state citizens. Today the empire could most reasonably divided into classes from elite to worker to unpaid and coerced worker. That makes a difference in how we govern this world. To the extent that I box myself off and try to live with my own personal and/or religious and/or nation-state values, I deny the world around me. I cannot decide that Middle-Easterners are dangerous and not to be trusted as they may be potential terrorists. That's as simplistic and ignorant as Hitler's proclamation that Jews were the cause of Germany's distress. Some Middle-Easterners are terrorists. Some native-born WASP Americans are terrorists. Some Irish are terrorists. Some "good" people, misguided or not, are terrorists, some really evil (sociopathic and psychopathic) people are terrorists. And some terrorists are misguided ordinary people whose context and fortunes cast them as unsuccessful. They are pissed off at what appears (and actually is) an unfair playing field in their own and our collective globe, and there is very little in the way of world governance discourse to satisfy their need for answerability.

I want to come out from hiding in the spurious safety of my box and try to find ways of hearing the validity claims of all, and I want to struggle with finding solutions to the issues like AIDS, and oppression, and genocide, and poverty, and hunger, and greed that have harmed so many of us, either by violence, or by staving off our own humanity through the denial of that violence and inhumanity. But that means I believe in Justice as fairness (Rawls), and that there are libertarians who disagree with me that it is either possible or reasonable to try to eliminate AIDS, and oppression, and genocide, and poverty, and hunger, and greed. Some Others believe that illocutionary discourse is a waste of time better spent by individuals on furthering their own achivements. I believe that illocutionary discourse is an obligation. I want my own humanity to grow through the loving approach of tying to understand in good faith the validity claims of Others. And I believe that we will all come closer to a world worthy of humanity in the process of our good faith interactions with one another.

Now, back to my sources for what they have to say on this issue. More soon.

love and peace, jeanne

NEWS, Announcements, and

Current Discussion Topics:

  • Booklist for Fall 2005 for all of jeanne's classes.

  • Learning Records for jeann'es classes, Fall 2005:

    Check the date. I set these up last week. jeanne

    • Soc. 220-01: Analytical Statistics
    • Soc. 370-01: Moot Court
    • Soc. 386-01: Sociology of the Helping Professions
    • Soc. 395-01: Special Topics in Sociology - Love 1A

    • Student Research Day at CSUDH Since we are preparing projects continually for presentation and sharing, you should consider taking part in this. Abstracts are due by September 30, so you should let me know as soon as possible that you'd like to take part.

      Wisconsin you're welcome to take part, too, but I don't think the CSUDH people will understand Wisconsin's presence, and we're too far away for you to make the presentations. But you could submit for a local criminal justice presentation and still share in preparation with us. jeanne

    • Instructions page for joining transform_dom and transspan

      Famous People and Concepts We Should Have Heard Of, But Often Haven't.

        People

      • John Rawls Biography.
      • Robert Nozick
      • Albert O. Hirschman

        Concepts:

      • answerability - recall that by answerability we refer to a phenomenon not unlike that of illocutionary discourse. Answerability is the ability we each have, as humans, to answer the Other. Answerability, like finding one's own Voice, requires learning and skill development. What struck Bakhtin as so important was that whenever we make an utterance, the Other, just like us, can answer, can agree or disagree, can express offense, fear, can challenge the validity of our claim. Bakhtin was peculiarly aware of the role of the Other in our community, in the shaping of that community, and he saw the shaping of that community through its interrealtionships as an aesthetic process. Why aesthetic? Because we enter into the process with our individual skills, values, and motives, and out of the process will come some new product - some new aesthetic product unique to our production of it from our own past lived experiences, beliefs, and skills. For example, we have discovered ways of teaching with answerability this semester, and out of those interaction patterns has come our learning community, and now, our exhibit. But until it happens, no one can tell precisely what the exhibit will be like. We will have some idea as we curate it; but the process of the exhibit itself has come from the naked space and is still answerable. Only when it's over will we know for sure what the exhibit was and whether it fulfilled its goal of making our learning answerable. And so it must be, if we are to remain open to the Other and reject domination and exploitation. Reference: Greg Nielsen on Bakhtin.

      • illocutionary discourse - the concept in Maria Pia Lara's work that the feminist theory and its vison of peace and equality requires that there be another kind of discourse, different from that we associate with instrumental reason and trying to persuade one another and come to consensus. In illocutionary discourse the objective is not to agree or disagree, but to understand. To see the Other, as a human with validity claims just like ours, drawn from the Other's aesthetic process of creating community and from the same concerns we have for balancing the tension between self and group. The Other's validity claims, drawn from different fractal patterns in different cultures and different structural contexts, will differ from ours. Our goal in illocutionary discourse is to understand the Other in her and our difference, and to move from there to the aesthetic process of discovering how each interaction, each utterance of ours answered by the Other, leads us to a new interrelationship, a new product of community in which both we and the Other become a part of a shared community, and with neither of us excluded excluded because of our differences. Reference: Moral Textures, Maria Pia Lara.

      • transparency - we added the concept of transparency to explicate the role of trust in the process. Like the Modigliani masked eyes in George Wilkin's remembered horse story. Modigliani's eyes are sometimes referred to as windows onto the soul. If I let you see me, if I do not dissimulate, and I greet you genuinely, I must trust that you will not harm me by using against me that which you see. Ours is an age given little to trust. Our news is full of scandals in personal life, neighborhood life, public life, corporate life, and government life. The old man in George's favorite story did not trust enough to let his friends and colleagues know that we was blind. Only the horse knew. We do not trust enough in school to share the doing of our learning. I fear that you will steal my knowledge and not give me credit, not put forth the discipline that would make that knowledge your own (plagiarism and cheating); and you fear that I will trick you, seek out some esoteric bit of learning you might have missed. Such lack of trust hurts; it hurts us all. We need illocutionary discourse and answerability to begin to hear each other and trust each other again. Reference: Modigliani and Transparency

      • responsibility - responsibility has to do with what we owe each other. We have used responsibility in an unforgiveably loose way in this country. "I didn't have slaves. It's not my fault." But you did have all the advantages of the privilege of being a "not slave." Maybe you didn't have the advantages of the Rockefellers, and so don't feel advantaged. But the privilege of whiteness counts terribly. But you point out rightfully that you were not there and had nothing to do with slavery. So be it. But the responsibility of which we now speak is that of taking the privileges that have come to you unbidden and denying that they are privileges. That becomes complicity with the system that created and maintained slavery, and that brings with it reponsibility for the present ills visited upon those who came through slavery. How do you handle complicity? Acknowledge it. There are times in your life, and you will know them, when you can speak up, make your voice heard, in opposing the harm that came to so many through slavery. There are other times when such action is not feasible. But acknowledge it. Do not deny it. That hurts as badly as the original enslavement, to hear someone deny any connection to or responsibility for slavery. It was a terrible nation-wide sickness. And just as with the Truth Commissions in South Africa and Peru, those who suffered need the closure of acknowledgement from those who gained in awareness or not.

        No, you are not as responsible as those who were actively involved. But taking responsibility for the benefits that redounded to whites, bidden or no, acknowledges the truth of what happened to those who need that acknowledgement, and makes us conscious of needing to repair the harm that was done in our name, if not by us.

        We have emphasized that answerability is not responsibility. One has a human right to answerability. But one must learn to use that answerability. It takes great skill to do so effectively. Those who have been denied the use of that right in monologic answerability do not automatically begin to shout out in revolutionary fervor when given an opportunity for dialogic answerability. The Rush Limbaugh incident provided a good example for this. Reference: Race and Answerability

        Responsibility is often called accountability. That's what politicians tell us teachers should be. In this respect, read F.B.I. May Scrap Vital Overhaul of Its Outdated Computer System. Time we all learn to be accountable. Enron and the FBI, too.

      • structural violence and structural -isms - Structural violence is violence done by the rules, the traditions, the accepted usage that no one questions, that no one directs at any given person, but that continues to harm those who have less, those who have been excluded in whatever way. In structural violence there is no perpetrator; no one on one racism you can expose for what it is. There are just people harmed by the rules and traditions. A financial aid office that closes at 5:30, forcing you to take off early from work if you need their services and are a night student. Expectations of middle class dress and hair styles that result in your not being hired when your appearance is sufficiently different. The expectation that the teacher always knows when you have cheated, and is thus right in any accusation. The assumption in court that you are guilty because after all the police did catch you and arrest you and you're here.

        Structural violence is assosciated with disciplinary power as opposed to sovereign power. Sovereign power is up front authority to tell you what to do. Disciplinary power is not up front and seems to come from nowhere, making it harder to argue with, and harder to recognize. Reference: Power Goes to School: Teachers, Students, and Discipline John F. Covaleskie, Northern Michigan University. Philosophy of Education Yearbook.

      Jeanne's Lectures for Fall 2005

      Visual Sociology

NY Times, August 21, 2005, photograph of sand painting by Jim Deveran

NY Times, August 21, 2005, photograph of sand painting by Jim Deveran

Academic Support

Using Academic Language Effectively

Merriam-Webster Dictionary Search:

and Careers

  • Resumes:

  • Letters of Recommendation:

    • Letters of Recommendation: How to get me to respond to your request. Many of you need letters. If you will follow this format, I can do them quickly and make them good.
    • Dog Letters If you do not give me adequate information, but do manage to get my attention, you may end up with a dog letter. That is a letter that says that you work well with people, that you are enthusiastic, that you persist at getting things done, and that everyone likes you. Of course, my dog gets along well with people, brings his ball to them, is enthusiastic, and persists at getting them to take his ball. Everyone likes my dog. That's a dog letter. It's so general it could be about my dog. jeanne

  • Career Options You Might Not Have Considered

    • visual media and their interdependence with other means of knowing to understand that we are not totally rational creatures deciding things apart from our feelings and values. Wolfowitz (new President of the World Bank to aid developing countries AND principle advocate of the Iraq War) might feel very differently when he is exposed to visual and aural images of the poor developing countries that have not before been his primary concern. So we want to know how best to present those developing countries visually. And we might find that we can have a career doing that sort of thing, so it does reflect on us as individuals. Added April 2, 2005.

That Was Fun! Sneaky Strokes and Flying Good Dogs

Flying Dog is also a painting by Zhang Kai. Best I've ever come across to illustrate our site with magic numbers and unicorns and whipped cream cats and now, flying dogs: