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,
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,
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
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,"
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'
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.
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
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
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
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