The organization of folly

"... none of you should expect me to follow the path worn by the common herd of rhetoricians, that is, to explain my subject matter - myself - by a definition, much less to divide it into parts. Either technique would be an unpropitious beginning - to circumscribe within the narrow limits of a definition a person whose power extends so widely or to break up into separate pieces someone who enjoys the combined worship of all kinds of creatures." - Erasmus, In praise of folly

Folly, authenticity and sects

The nature of the dialogue between society and the person who experiences 'soul-suffering' conditions the way society engages the person. As irrationality arises in the social process, it introduces complexities into the way rational procedures impact the business of madness. We find certain inauthenticities of situation due to common irrationalities, or 'imaginary' topics, 2 that arise, concurrently and in parallel, in both parties to the dialogue. When, as it must, joint action by these parties leans on these common irrationalities, it constructs new, alienated social phenomena whose transparency is quite problematic.

We consider the effect of rational procedures for giving coherence to process, for dealing with irrationalities consequent on discourse. In order to keep irrationality from getting out of hand, the rational paradigm requires some sort of explanation and provides some sort of prescription for action, it anticipates imposing a pattern or order. When this rationalized activity is instituted, it engenders or leads to an additional quality of irrationality in social relations. If we add to this study a madness situation, it unfolds to us the possibility that this new irrationality will confuse and convolute the nature of the event.

In other words, common irrationality organizes the inauthenticities of social process that such rational procedures instigate. From this derives a kind of rational narrative which explains away the irrationality in a way that lacks veridicality outside of its own discourse. We call the social organization of this common irrationality a sect, 3 a discourse network where a certain such rational narrative holds sway. It is a commonplace that people connected with such a sect adopt an outlook of the sort that extends a rational universal to a kind of folly, turning inauthenticity into rationality.

To the event of 'soul-suffering', then, there correspond not only direct discourse breakdown phenomena but, also, indirect madness phenomena generating an extension of rhetoric to topics of common irrationality. The differencing of such individually limited, rational discourses provides the grounds for a variety of sects and an attendant collection of secondary interactions. For the 'soul-suffering' experience, this complexity of the field of irrationalities is restricting, is penalizing, and generally will increase its harshness. As a result, we need to extend our discussion of rationality to the traffic problem' of discourses on the sect boundaries.

Social being and self-interest cover stories

Shall we illustrate how current rationalist theories of social behavior relate to the irrationalities of social activity? Common irrationalities of discourse intrude on the rationality of behavior, producing a 'cacophony' of noisy (non-harmonious) activity around the topic denoted irrational. When sociality is related to a topic and rationalized in terms of one side of that topic, we then attribute social irrationality to its other face, producing a kind of behavior that is 'rationally-invisible'. The phenomenology of 'soul-suffering' thus incorporates not only irrationality vis-…-vis the topics of rationality, but the complexity of an inchoate interaction with uncharted, sectarian behavior.

Knowing by being-in-touch engages the process of discourse itself, with the individual's experiencing an other "who presses against him (sic.), or resists him," 4 that is, a 'social object'. The 'imaginary' topics accruing to irrationalities of the 'social object' give irrationality itself an originary social nature, which the individual takes in, and in a way that challenges reason. The complexity of the way irrationality intrinsically enters into discourse inveighs against any simple idea of 'social object' - rather, we find we need to understand its business. And yet we are not reflexively trapped by this irrational, 'carnal' 5 situation, for instance, we may study and reflect on the stages of the concepting process (Mead) and hope to acquire some kind of training in the discipline of knowing. 6

In order to attribute rationality to social relations, we must look at controlling the irrationality of invisible topics by an analog to mechanical advantage. We could impose behavioral regularization of the individual by restructuring his/her handle on invisible topics, by shifting the process of knowing by being-in-touch. However, just as leverage requires a place to stand, so the trade-off on a technology of vicarious learning is that an artificial social circumstance, an 'observation booth', must be postulated. Mechanisms of (pure) self-regulation are nothing but `epicycles' of representation, as in any case we are making a deal by managing the business of irrationality to some purpose's better advantage.

Now consider how any discipline of knowing by being-in-touch is, in effect, compromised by a deal that subordinates behavior to considerations of self- interest rationality. For the invisible topics of common irrationalities are re-cast as icons of self-interest rationality, thereby rendering operative a new level or quality of inauthenticity. An enterprise of managing the falsely described expressions of being is 'advertising fluff', is a business of managing character in the service of the framing rationality. Taken to its logical extreme, we have a social psychology of character assassination, as being performed by manipulation of aspects of character to conceal them within 'rationally-invisible' topics.

Sectarianism and 'totalizing'

Advocacy for self-interest, as the foregoing suggests, makes up a rational discourse of social behavior with particular and problematic characteristics. The implication of the self-interested definition of and assault on people's characters is that a new kind of irrationality emerges in the social dynamics. The narrative deriving from forcing the self-interest perspective on the discourse produces a monologue or entrapping disconnect from the other due to social pressure. The process of knowing by being-in-touch is thus prone to being 'jammed' in an obstructive or harsh fashion, in a narrative entrapment or 'sect dysfunction' that promotes in turn its own impetus to irrationality. 7

Locke derives the rationality of self-interest thinking from the labor involved in appropriating for use available materials from the clearing he calls the commons. Such a perspective inspires the culture of 'life, liberty and the pursuit of property', a specific rational practice where context and environment tend to get out of focus and refract irrationalities. 'Imaginary' topics arise from the gaps in discourses of possession and the repetition of self-interest monologues, ultimately promoting a dynamic of irrational communication. Finally, that same spirit that moves the rational procedure of self-interest advocacy also makes for a habit of narrow, insistent argumentativeness.

Supplanting conversation with over-focused rational routines and the attendant irrationality of unresolved and embattled differences produces pain and subverts communication dangerously. We have conditions for what Burke called the aesthetic of sublimity, we have conditions conducive to the development of a disconnected, `sectarian mentality'. A mindset inspired by sublimity and driven by a focal interest tends to be monologic and disconnected from the process of knowing by being-in-touch. In effect it can 'totalize' the understanding of reality in a limited and incomplete discourse where irrationality is 'buried' in the style of engaging and appreciating reality.

Of course, those who fear the irrationality of 'sectarian mentality' may avoid its manifestation, but the need is to engage it and invent a way to work with it. The frenzy of overly coherent narrations developing 'imaginary' topics tends to lead to a discourse breakdown and a perceived need for a new level of discourse. So, new rational containers of sorts may develop for handling this business, for example, the rationality of social being as articulated by the formal interaction theory of Simmel. Free enterprise in rational procedures, serving to denature the discourse between people, may have the impact of subverting the narrowing effect of 'totalizing' with a degree of creativity - still, does it turn sectarianism to productivity?

Madness and the narrative tailspin

Look now at what it takes to be involved with an irrationality, if the use of a rational procedure to manage the strained discourse, the narrative entrapment, of sectarianism, is recognized as problematic. We would want to embrace the self-interest narratives that engender in effect sublime irrationalities and thus offer 'leaden' encumbrances to wholesome communication. Where confusion and negativity reign, what kind of technique or discipline could merge with the flow of disconnected communication cross-currents, in order to bring sensuous knowing? It becomes essential (following the Renaissance humanist Pontano) to distinguish private, rational, and monologic discourse and the needyway of the experience that requires caring and involvement.

While self-interested individuality is the logic of rational involvement, it is also understandable as the illusion of rationality in an environment of sectarian irrationality. To each such reified individual there comes then the madness of society to inform the personality, apart from and in addition to the person's situated functional limitations. But this social irrationality can be rendered productive by a discipline of rhetorical invention, as adaptive individuals construct and enlarge the range of immanent social possibilities. What arises is neither a rationalized nor systematic social construction, rather it comes to a 'bottom-up' process with the potential to stabilize and organize the context of the sectarian discourse breakdown.

Our rationalization of the inchoate reality of social 'cacophony' makes available to us only a disordered, weakly conceptualized interface that does not lend itself readily to being-in-touch. To rearrange the rationality in a way that promotes social value, we construct the social environment for the 'bottom-up' practice of inventive behavior. The constricted ironies characteristic of orderly, monological belief systems then needs to be resuscicated by new attention to the two-sidedness of topics. Ultimately, the irrational experience is touched by an experience of getting involved in the tension of the word (verbum) and its connection with the real thing (res).

Just as the social act from which personality emerges is expression - gesture, language, communication - so too the rationality of expression is set in the ground of irrationality of process. What Derrida has as the tension of the said and the not-said leads to differance, to the pregnant possibility of discourse enrichment, to break out from sectarian monologue. The pressing need is to get the word right, to combat the illusion of 'totalized' expression with the method, with the wordsmithing of philology. 8 So it comes to the word properly becoming the text of irrationality, the wonder of the 'clearing' revealing being, not simply the rationality of representing beings.

Emotion and abusive behavior