Lecture 8

Lecture 8

The uniqueness of individual existence is signified in the first place by a unique logos with which the individual concerned is to be addressed, namely, the Eigenname, the proper or ownmost name which should not be confused with any other. An individual human is a specific being, a to/de ti, in having its own proper name or o)/noma. The proper name is a special logos by which an individual human being as such is named, called, addressed.

Calling and naming: bearing a proper name

Calling and addressing each other by one's proper name are social acts which are embedded in the dimension of esteem and recognition. The first act of social recognition is to address an individual by its proper, ownmost name. To be recognized as this unique individual, it is not sufficient for me to be addressed by those categories which are applicable also to beings in the third person such as a 'human' or a 'customer' or a 'citizen'.

We need to ask about the reinterpretation of the leading category of Greek metaphysics, ou)si/a, whose translations, substance and essence, have played a dominant role throughout Western thinking. Can ou)si/a be understood also with regard to the second-person dimension of whoness? In its most elaborate meaning as to\ ti/ h)=n ei)=nai, ou)si/a is what the being always already was in its descent from the 'look' or ei)=doj which defines ( o(ri/zein) it through its limits (pe/rata cf. Aristotle Metaphysics Book Delta Ch. 8). What is the definition of a person as who in the look it presents to others which is analagous to the look of a being such as a solid body delimited and outlined as what it is by its surface? A human being, too, has a body whose defining limits are seen by others in everyday life, and this look of the human individual concerned is also unique. But to be the look of this unique individual, the physical look has to be linked indelibly with the proper name borne by that individual. The proper name is the first defining characteristic of a person in its whoness, i.e. its being as somewho.

Being held to be: reputation

The physical look which an individual presents in social life is not merely a physical look of a human for physical sense perception but is loaded with social significance. What does that mean? It means that the physical look of a person is always already understood as a social standing, i.e. of who that person is in the togetherness of a community. Being somewho always means presenting oneself in the look of someone with a standing in the community. Such social standing is not merely a matter of physical looks but of who that person is held to be, of do/ca. Physical looks include the attractiveness or otherwise or a face, and also clothes as an indication of social standing. The momentary standing of how one finds oneself in a given situation is also shown off by the 'body language', i.e. the bodily indications of mood. I signal whether I am uplifted in a firm, self-confident, strong stand or dejected in a low, depressed situation by, say, whether there is a smile on my face or whether my posture is upright. The strength of a stand as who is conveyed in physical showing-off by the smile on my face or the glint in my eye. Those presenting themselves to the public, say, at a photo opportunity, do so with a smile on their face. Only because human being is open to and understands second-person being or whoness do indications such as smiles and bodily postures have significance. This corporeal showing-off is to be distinguished from do/ca.

Do/ca comes from dokei=n, 'to seem, appear', 'to resolve', 'to be of an opinion, to hold a view, to hold something to be something', 'to give the appearance of being'. Do/ca is thus the 'appearance which something presents of itself, the impression', the 'opinion held about something', the 'doctrine' or 'plan, resolution' (according to how a situation is held to be), but also the 'reputation', 'name' or 'fame' which somebody has, the 'regard' they enjoy. Do/ca and ei)=doj are therefore closely related; they both signify how something or someone appears, the face or look it presents to the world. Being and truth are intertwined. Something or someone is only insofar as it stands in the openness of being and presents an appearance.

In Greek thinking do/ca as 'mere opinion' as how things are held to be is counterposed to e)pisth/mh, as well-founded knowledge of how things reveal themselves of themselves in their truth derived from first principles. As a kind of do/ca, reputation is who one is held to be by others. The phenomenon of reputation indicates that who I am lies not just in my own hands in how I show myself off, but essentially also in the hands of others, or rather in the opinions they hold about and over me. Whoness as a social phenomenon refers to others and reveals itself to be lacking a standing in itself since all whoness is a showing-off in a shared world. The opinion which others hold about me is always an estimation of me in the dimension of esteem. In social life, my being as who is always already valued by others in whom they hold me to be, no matter whether that opinion is well-founded or merely prejudice. Being somewho is a phenomenon of truth, or disclosure of myself as a being in the openness of being, and more particularly in the shared openness of (the truth of) being in social life.

To be continued...

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