Mar 9, 2010 [01:02]
Mar 9, 2010 [01:03]
Consider universal tolerance (the oxymoronic "universal difference"). The following sounds like merely a superficial point: doesn't the principle of universal tolerance show intolerance towards those who are intolerant? A superficial point, right? We are familiar with these simple paradoxes and usually push them aside -- we grow impatient at those who try sit there and try to find little flaws in our argument, via the formula, "You say that you are X, but you yourself do not-X!" -- eg, "You preach universal tolerance, but you yourself are intolerant towards those who refuse this principle!" There are a few canned responses we can perhaps give to this:
(1) "Aren't you agreeing with me, then, by assuming X?"
(2) "You find contradictions because don't understand it!"
(3) "The point of real listening, is to resolve these paradoxes by yourself!"
(4) "That's merely semantics!"
(5) "I've been thinking about this for years! And you claim you can rush in, and find a glaring hole in my life work? I am /being disrespected/ right now!"
etc. etc. etc.
In short, the responses to the "easy paradox argument" can be quite intense, quite surprising considering it's triviality. How intense? Consider that last night, in my very own home, I punched my ... I guess he would be considered ethnically... Arabic? ... roommate in the face precisely because he used this easy paradox argument one time too many. Yes, we were having an argument about the principle of universal tolerance, otherwise known as Christianity. Around a dinner table ... and he used the easy paradox argument. And I used canned response #5. And he gave me no room to back down. Push went to shove, I told him we were going to have to fight it out, he told me to throw the first punch -- I did --
-- and then he called the cops. And now, I'm moving, again.
There is something /extraordinarily/ interesting about this series of events. What, for example, is the relationship between Christianity and the /fist fight/ -- which, in retrospect, almost approaches the logic of martyrdom? (I expected to be soundly beaten -- he was about half a foot taller than me.) If there is a principle to turn the other cheek, then even earlier than that principle seems to be the principle to /put one self in a position when one is forced to turn the other cheek/, ie, "taking a stand". Aggression and ultimate passivity at the same time. Maybe turning the other cheek is the same as /insisting on a fight no matter what/, without foresight, without thought of consequence. Something absolute, in either case. (I'm no martyr of course, I only /act/ like a martyr when it's safe to do so.)
The world is dominated by /many different absolutes/ -- no, more, by many intolerant philosophies of universal tolerance. And there is no possibility of resolving this via any particular principle of tolerance, since that principle is just one of the many principles that dominate the world. Whenever we hear tolerance, our next question has to be: what kind of tolerance? Tolerance of what? If tolerance implies, human rights for all man, than what is man? As, when the principle of equality always evokes the (legitimate) question: when is someone more equal than another?
I was just talking to a Chinese friend (well, about as Chinese as I am) about this situation, who told me that there were certain things that would bring him to a fistfight. As best as I understand it, one of those things would be the kind of American (or Christian) self-righteousness, which he finds hypocritical. The argument is that history is a record of brutality, and that any claim of moral superiority is therefore shortsighted. The best course of action, then, would be to trust each people with governing itself -- some kind of /nationalistic/ model of tolerance, where each country would be free to determine the principles by which human can become the most human. (The principle of governance is not universal happiness, but making the human the most human it can be.) By this view, a universalistic human rights would be merely an excuse for one country to invade and exploit another -- which is at least partly true.
The responses to the easy paradox argument (which can be addressed to any religion in the world) call upon experience, insight, thinking, and so forth. They insist, it seems, on some path of thinking, they accuse the questioner of laziness. There is somewhere the notion that work was necessary for truth. Or, perhaps, they insist on truth as being this almost mystical, self-confirming experience: If I am not allowed to question you until I understand, then when will I know I understand? -- You will know when that moment comes. (The only way to know is to know that you will know).
When we speak of this circular configuration of knowledge (to know that one knows), we are speaking about something that is somehow very fundamental, so fundamental as to be self-evident, somehow, yet not obvious -- something that one will eventually find.
Consider the notion of the trial -- why does the trial have to be so long? It is because a trial is a seeking of something that is not obvious. This is not merely because we are uncertain whether the defendant is innocent or guilty, but, more importantly, we are trying to think about the intentions are. The trial takes place, and takes such a long time -- and yet, in the end, a judgment can always be made. Even if we acknowledge that such a judgment is not always correct, there is still the hope that it could be correct -- something on the order of a difficult but self-evident truth that emerges out of the disjoint pieces of the trial.
When we speak of intention, we are speaking of the subconscious. In the course of the trial, we are always fearing the possibility that the subconscious can be /written/, artificially. This is always the fear of the trial, that the evidence can be arranged in some way as to tell completely different stories regarding the intention, or the subconsciousness. In other words, if the trial is premised on the possibility of discovering the true subconscious (as the difficult but self-evident truth of religion), then there are always defensive policies in place that ward off the possibility that this truth will not be discovered (will not be allowed to slowly emerge or come to light) but will be written in the course of the trial.
To put it bluntly, the subconscious is written. If we discover recurring (ie, apparently "natural") structures, it is simply a matter of finding what we had planted there (ie, not during the trial itself, but before the trial, throughout life.)
It's strange how the most general and public (a mode of universal law) can also be linked with the most private and personal. This is perhaps thought of in the notion of responsibility. That which one fights for or takes personal responsibility for, that which is private and yet should be public, that which is about to emerge from the future (such as understanding, insight). What we will be interested in next is how the ghost fits into all this. The ghost makes undecidable the question of something or nothing, whether there is something there, meaningful for us and our future, whether there is an insight there. In short, the ghost calls into question our relationship to the absolute (to the self-evident truth, truth as light), it speaks the undecidable -- ie, self-evident but unverifiable -- truth of truth.
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