202112221249 📃 the impotence of the individual
The impotence of the individual: a theory
¶1. Beginning with the simplest forms, words, we find that no word has meaning by itself. “Cat” means nothing except because (1) of its sense and (2) of its referent (cf. Frege). In the first place, we find that it has meaning through a synchronic manifold (cf. Saussure, Dewey) and through a diachronic development (cf. Saussure, Dewey, Nietzsche). The first is loosely its dictionary definition (always defined in terms of other words), the second is its historical change (its etymology, also possible only through other words). Now the sense is bound up with the referent pragmatically, so that all reference occurs in a definite speech-act. Similarly, all speech-acts are possible only through semantic relations, so that references are bound up with sense. In short, the word as word is nothing — the word as a nexus in the middle of a diverse set of relations is everything.
¶2. The above is a theoretical view. Let us go further and be practical. Suppose I go up to someone and utter a word, any word. It will mean nothing to them in and of itself. How? Because a word always exists within a context, a speech-act. Thus, if I say “cat” or “gratuity” or “supercilious,” I will immediately be taken to have a meaning which is obscured by the oddity of the utterance. Thus the word will mean nothing to the person who hears me except as they have heard it — the individual word is a meaningless nothing. The person who overhears me will wonder “why did he say that?” without ever asking me. The person who believes I have addressed them will wonder “what could he want me to know by that?” and he will go on to ask “huh?” or “what?” or “what did you say?”. In the practical instance of speaking, the individual word is nothing.
¶3. Let us go further still. The individual word, despite its presence theoretical and practical manifolds as a singular “this,” has even less meaning in everyday speech. How? Because the individual word appears more often in a sentence than by itself, so that we’ll more often say “The cat walked past the door” than we will say the singular “cat.” Here we are predicating of the term “cat” so far as it refers. “Cat” and all its individual meanings in ¶2’s speech-acts collapse into a definite reference of “that cat which walks,” or “the cat walking,” or “the cat that did walk.” At this point, the translation of any sentence into a definite referent becomes impossible, for no references are definite within a predicate scheme. If I assert in the past tense, for instance, I am already doing so in a conversation, and here the pragmatics of the reference to the individual cat multiply so exorbitantly that to speak of individuals now is to speak of a brick in a veritable Tower of Babel. Of course, the individual reference is present as constitutive of the tower, but the tower is so large and reaching such heights that the word’s constitution thereof is so minimal as to be a nothing in comparison. Of course, it still is something, but here is where this comparison begins to fail. We ought sooner say that the individual word is as though a drop in the ocean for, in this case, the tower sways as Pisa, in constant movement. All references are no longer discrete bricks but, rather, infinitely merging with those references around them. Who can find the single drop in the ocean? He can’t, unless he selects for it — he must take an eyedropper and suck a drop up. So must we do when we begin to analyze individual references. These are present, but they must be selected for in instances of definite inquiry, acts which modify the possibility of finding the reference itself. The reference to the individual cat, then, as present is only so as an amorphous thing whose contours are in perpetual change through every speech-act in the conversation. Though constitutive of the conversation, it is so inchoate as to be nothing without the conversation itself.
¶4. Thus we have an indefatigable conclusion: the individual is nothing without the group. at least with respect to the pragmatics and semantics of language. We have shown this in ¶1 theoretically, in ¶2 practically, and in ¶3 discursively. Now let us show it ontologically. NO individual object exists without its respective group, at least for us. Forget objects in themselves “out there” in the world. Think only of objects as we understand them. Show me anything, and I will show you another of which it can be compared. There is no tree so individual that we cannot call it a tree — or else, we wouldn’t call it a tree at all! As soon as we have referred to anything with a label, we have grouped it with all objects towards which the label implicitly extends. Indeed! “Object” “this” and “anything” are among the most general terms of this sort — they are the bottommost tools with which we carve up reality as referable. For, all things are objects, all things can be called a “this,” and all such things are “anything”. Here is our ontological proof: no term is applied except with reference to all possible references towards which it might apply.
¶5. The proofs can continue, but let us now move to the human-existential situation. No individual man is anything without his context. Indeed — let a babe be born in the woods, and it will know nothing. It will BE nothing. Without culture with which to clothe and feed him, it will die. Here is existential proof 1: the man without others cannot survive.
¶6. Let us go further still. Without sex, no child is born. All children born depend on parental sex. Here is existential proof 2: the man without others does not exist.
¶7. All men depend on others to exist and for survival. Let us proceed with this absolute, undeniable, unshakeable fact in mind. All men had to learn speech from someone else. existential proof 3: no man can speak without others.
¶8. Enter Wittgenstein. Speech is always a speaking-of. Yet, we do not speak-of unless we speak-to. existential proof 4: no man can mean without others. (This is double: no one learns semantics or pragmatics except from others. This is meaning-in-use. Yet, no one can perform a speech-act except with reference to someone. They may speak to themselves, but this redounds to the previous sentences: self-speech only occurs through social learning.) There is no private language. There is no private meaning.
¶9. The envelope of individuality now pushes to its breaking point. If meaning is always social, then what the individual thinks is his alone is always co-constitutive with what is not his, such that his haecceity is only ever a moment of his sociality. Only in spatial tangibility-to-hand and readiness-to-consciousness does the individual have priority. With respect to (1) his survival, (2) his existence in time, (3) his speech, and (4) his meaning the GROUP is prior. But space-time is a manifold. Therefore spatial readiness-to-consciousness is a self-serving sham. For, no spatial presence can occur outside of time. But time proves the priority of the group. Therefore, spatial presence cannot occur without the group. Therefore, even individual spatial presence proves the priority of the group. Therefore, as said at the outset, the individual is only a moment of the group. QED. Call this existential proof 5.
¶10. Corollary: the individual man exists in his own spatial and temporal manifolds just as the individual word exists in its own synchronic and diachronic manifolds. The synchrony of the word is as the spatiality of the man: he is in his space with his objects, just as the word is defined in terms of its cousins. The diachrony of the word is as the temporality of the man: he was caused by his parents just as the word was born by its etymological ancestors. No word’s definition occurs without diachronic development. No man’s spatial presence and associations occurs without temporal causality. Therefore, even the individual presence of its space to itself is a moment of the temporal and the grouped.
¶11. Show me the man who acts on his own, and I will show you the men and things around him which made the action possible. No man is an island.
¶12. The individual is nothing without the group. He is (1) dead, (2) impossible, (3) mute, (4) dumb, (5) not even present to himself. Show me this so-called individual, and I will show you a stinking pile of meat and bones devoid of existence. This, individualists, is your individual — a smelly meat-bag who can barely stand on two feet, who wears a diaper stinking of piss and shit. No wonder your world is corrupt! Here is the basis for all action in your scheme: an infinitely impotent, rotten mass of nothing!
- group priority of words
- theoretical (¶1)
- practical (¶2)
- discursive (¶3)
- ontological-referential (¶4)
- group priority of men
- survival (¶5)
- existence (¶6)
- speech (¶7)
- meaning (¶8)
- spatial presence (¶9-10)
- conclusions (¶11-12)
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