Thanks Carrol will have a proper look later. In Paediatrics it is often said
"there is no such thing as a baby" which suggests at least one industry
From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf
Of Carrol Cox
Sent: Tuesday, 26 February 2013 7:45 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: The " abstract - isolated - human individual" was Can less be more?
(Comment at end)
Peter Dillane wrote: in the Milton essay you say:
'As Arthos notes Adam and Eve are separated from any historical context, any
web of social relations, [ he] presumably sees this as reflecting a basic
reality, corresponding to the human condition or the permanent (ahistorical)
nature of man, rather than a powerful and necessary illusion grounded in
historically determinate social relations. This latter assumption, however,
would have the advantage of freeing the critic from either engaging in
ideological quarrels with Milton or from attempting to defend Milton or any
other poet for his moral or political profundity,'
are you saying a deterministic understanding can be had in the individual
situation and if so is this like the Schrodinger wave equation something we
believes would tell us everything if we could solve it for all situations
which we can't.
On the (metaphysical? Ontological?) question of "freedom" or "free will"
I'll duck. If Dante can duck it (not even the highest order of angels
understands the mystery of freedom & predestination) I certainly can. But I
guess this passage, at least by itself, left something to be desired for
It is the concept of "the individual" in the modern sense that is at issue.
You and I exist now, not in the 12th-c, and that is certainly determined.
What is at issue is whether it makes sense to speak of Carrol or Peter
existing prior to and independently of the social relations in which we find
ourselves. I would argue (assume) that wherever and whenever we find
ourselves we are always already enmeshed in a ensemble of social relations;
that it is not meaningful to think of ourselves as existing independently of
those relations. This is in contradiction to assumption Arthos makes, when
he speaks of our "at any moment in history and at any place entering upon
an unknown life." That is what I refer to as corresponding (in Arthos's
view) "to the human condition or the permanent (ahistorical) nature of man."
Crudely, Arthos assumes that "individuals" exist prior to and independently
of society or social relations (or history) and that what we call "society"
is merely the collection of those "abstract" individuals.
"Abstract" may raise questions. Consider the characters of Chaucer's
Prologue: The miller did not 'choose' to be a miller: that is why he can be
called John the Miller rather than "John Miller." His place in society was a
_given_; the place existed independently of the person, and thus defined who
the person was. The question "Who am I?" is characteristically _modern_. The
medieval serf was not to 'blame' for being a serf, as the modern factory
operative, university professor, or beggar seems to have "chosen" to be what
he/she is. He/she is an "abstract - isolated - human individual" (see
below), one who (as Arthos suggests) "enters" into history - e.g., 'chooses'
(abstractly) to be a professor or a Kroger clerk. (Later in the article I
refer to this as "compulsory free choice."
The context is provided by the sixth Thesis on Feuerbach:
***Feuerbach resolves the religious essence into the human essence. But the
human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual.
In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations.
Feuerbach, who does not enter upon a criticism of this real essence, is
1. To abstract from the historical process and to fix the religious
sentiment as something by itself and to presuppose an abstract - isolated -
2. Essence, therefore, can be comprehended only as "genus", as an internal,
dumb generality which naturally unites the many individuals.***