[These writings were originally posted on a well-known philosophy forum, responses to someone in academia. As the forum rejected the last post I sent, I am reposting the whole series here, including the rejected post.]
2012-10-09 (Original posting date)
Thank you for your response.
“The word is a doublet of treason”
Tradition and treason, the link is interesting.
Together with your neology, “treadition”, it suggests that the hostilities of mutual exclusion practiced by insular traditions always try to appropriate neutral parties into forms of partisanship determined by such insularity. If they fail to do this, they characterise the neutral autonomy of otherness as treason(ous). This is typical of those who wish to impose their ignorance on others.
“Yes, ‘consciousness’ is not natural. But the question is what is its non-naturalness made up of.”
“I suppose that would depend on the degree to which ‘consciousness’ and its products can be considered as falling within the scope of the ‘natural’.”
This supposition attempts to convey the indeterminate relationship between two concepts of variable determinacy: ‘nature’ and ‘consciousness’.
“Like ‘human’, the word ‘nature’ is a Latin term, a translation of the Greek concept, physis. And traditions of philosophy are emergences like any other.”
Acknowledging the indeterminacies of the preceding formulation, these two sentences subsume both terms, ‘nature’ and ‘consciousness’, under the concept of physis, which I render here as ’emergence’. I guess Heidegger is the reference here. But there could easily be others.
With these provisos in mind, your earlier unsureness concerning “the natural existence of “one’s own traditions” (OOT)” seems problematic. Why? Because your underlying points about ideology, hybridity, and so forth, rest on a particular mapping of nature and culture, a mapping that they question, but only up to a point.
Whether traditions are ‘natural’ or ‘artificial’ very much revolves around the conceptual distributions one allocates. It is possible to use either the ‘logic of nature’ or the ‘logic of culture’ to account for the totality. Both can subsume each other. The ‘physical objects of Nature’ are subject to the variabilities of interpretative artifice, to ‘representation’. And the deepest ‘mentalistic interiorities’ can be read in terms of their ‘functions’ or ‘effects’ within a consensual vocabulary of ‘objects’ accepted as forming a ‘logic of the Natural’.
If all traditions are artifice, ‘nature’ is an irrelevant consideration, there is only ‘ideology’. If all traditions are natural, there can be no ‘artificiality’, or ‘ideology’. Both perspectives are available. I realise your use of “the natural” is nuanced with respect to received notions of sociopolitical discourse that allow colonial appropriations to be subsumed under artifice, and thus under anthropic agency, such agency being responsible. Such a responsibility is always structured in accord with the systematic play of possibilities occurring within the opposition, Subject/Object. And one could say that there is a continuum of realisation with respect to this play of possibilities: from a mystical awareness of possibilities to their ”collapse’ into the said-imented understandings of realitas, the reifications of language, community, society. It is not an insignificant point that all such reifications are particular forms of ‘collapse’, each form being a network of consensuality; each ‘network’ being the accretion, over time, of agreements; and wherever there is agreement, there are scenarios of ‘choice’; ideology would consist in the excavation of forgotten or disputed choices, questioning a historical sequence of agreements, especially those considered hegemonic, and especially so if they are in discord with desirable ideals or practices.
Thus, ‘ideology’ would be those consensual networks which any ‘hermeneutics of of suspicion’ (Ricoeur) can reveal as chosen realities. Moreover, if such revelations also index the play of vested interests, discouragement of questioning, ‘resistance’ to what is revealed, etc., then people speak of ideological mystification. And it is here that a politics of disagreement develops, as neglected or exploited realms each coalesce as systematic articulation, position, and perspective. Such coalescences, if sustained, themselves become ‘consensual networks’, countering and contesting the hegemonic forces they were originally a response to. And perhaps they become new forms of hegemony?
All this, the preceding, is uncontroversial. We all know how it goes. And isn’t that the point? It’s all become ‘appropriated’, institutionalised critiques of uncertain value.
Anyway, my two earlier formulations perhaps attempt to keep a distance from the received uses of the ‘nature/culture’ divide common to traditional discourses of ideological analysis, without ignoring them completely: this sidesteps any characterisations of sociopolitical agency that might prove metaphysically restrictive: characterisations positioning themselves (somewhere along the continuum between ‘Nature’ and ‘Consciousness’-‘Culture’-‘Artifice’) in ways that might ossify into a deeper unquestioned, perhaps unperceived, form of ideological stasis.
“This is why one tended to prefer a ‘treadition'(in relation to a rather cautious path) than the ‘traditon’ at hand, which not being an insider to it/any, I have always viewed sceptically. This is also why, I have never been able to see a ‘tradition’ which is not somewhat syncretic, whether it carries the official label for it or not. Besides, I seem to see a tautology in the use of the terms non-doctrinaire and syncretic. On the other hand, one would like to see tensions between the doctrines that emerge in exclusivising contexts, and the syncretisms that counter such hegemonic exclusivisms. This happens in any context, traditonal or not, unless of course someone deliberatley, chooses to project only the doctrinarity of one context and only the syncretism of another context or vice versa.”
I’m sure that exclusivities of all sorts have been rife in India for thousands of years. The Laws of Manu gave expression to perhaps the worst phase of such practices. I’m also sure that many of them were imported or emphasised by those who imposed themselves through coercive invasions, and settled, accruing enforced privileges for themselves.
“Besides, I seem to see a tautology in the use of the terms non-doctrinaire and syncretic.”
I did not speak of the non-doctrinaire, I spoke of a range of doctrinal variance, one so vast that it subsumes every possibility. This is what I meant by Pacific/Pond. It is this vast variance that constitutes the syncreticism. Such a variance is only possible where alternative doctrines are accepted for what they are, rather than as ‘heresies’. The notion of heresy, and the hostility towards it, is perhaps the distinguishing characteristic between Asian belief systems and those of a more contentious cast, further west.
Of course, it is undeniable that all systems of belief have produced great spiritual resources. That is not in question. That all of these traditions can be seen as flawed in different ways, cannot be denied, either. But one must ask, which traditions more readily resorted to coercion, violation, and invasion, to further their ‘influence? Neither China nor India were expansionist in the last thousand years.
“On the other hand, one would like to see tensions between the doctrines that emerge in exclusivising contexts, and the syncretisms that counter such hegemonic exclusivisms.”
Yes, tensions can be productive. Buddhism and Hinduism mutually enriched each other. Syncretism can encompass mutually exclusive doctrines. Theistic spirituality, monotheism, polytheism, materialism, atheism, etc., are all represented within Hinduism.
“someone deliberateley, chooses to project only the doctrinarity of one context and only the syncretism of another context or vice versa.”
Crucifixions, pogroms, jihads, Holy Wars and Crusades: these are expressions of Occidental ‘belief’. Do Asian ‘beliefs’ have a similar history of contentions?
Did Hindus war with Buddhists? Did Buddhism spread to China through invasion?
As for syncretism, I suppose Catholic theologians can be wildly catholic in their interests.
If you’re implying that I have been projecting in such a fashion of deliberation, you’re probably right.
But do I have good reasons for such a gesture? I think I do.
“The veil of Orientalism-Indology… the noble thoughts of Nagarjuna or Shankara”
How would Nagarjuna or Shankara characterise “the modern (Enlightenment-Romantic) world” ?
Perhaps such a question is the root, or guide, of any viable reconfiguration?
Reflections On [*******’s] Reflections On Treadition/Tradition
“First, we may ask where do we begin to draw the spatial, temporal, and historical limits of what we call ‘a traditon.'”
As Derrida says: “Meaning is context-bound, but context is boundless.”
If we are contrasting comparatively recent Occidental traditions with older Asian traditions, this difference in age complicates things.
“And then, we might have to consider what, in a traditon, could be handed over and what was not or could not be.”
Yes. But the question of what could be received and understood is significant.
Exegesis alone could be infinite.
Who is to say what future interpretations may bring?
There is always the possibility of new texts being found.
What traditions, ‘lost’ to received discourses, await discovery?
The ancient world may be very different from ‘accepted’ Occidental historical accounts.
“there cannot be a tradition-to-come, because, what is already handed over cannot come (back); there can only be handing over, or gift, or giving, on the basis of the ‘bits and pieces’ or fragments or unwholes (not even syncretic) we are and allow ourselves to become.”
Whatever is given is not thereby exhausted in the instance of the gift.
To paraphrase your own words:”where do we begin to draw the spatial, temporal, and historical limits of what we call a” ‘gift’ ?
If you remove the ‘whole’, the ‘fragments’ disappear, too.
I like Adorno’s “The whole is the false.” But that was probably a reaction to Hegel.
I haven’t read Derrida’s 90s works, but I am aware that he talks about a democracy-to-come. With that in mind, the phrase ‘overcoming-to-come’ suggested itself to me.
Although my skit on Derrida was a playful offering, it does have a logic to it that can be validated.
If you respond to this post, that is the tradition-to-come, as is this very post you read.
“I’d like to express my gratitude for your deeply thoughtful response that has greatly enabled me to think on our common problem.”
Thank you for your kind words. It is a great honour that you find my writings worth consideration.