Lecture 11

Lecture 11

Standing as who endangered

Here, however, we are considering how a man, or, more precisely, a manly human being, comes to stand in the world as somewho in the regard of both himself and others. What is beneficial or detrimental for such a stand in the world, provided in the first place by one's vocation, has to be seen with respect to others who are encountered in the world. Specifically, the reputation which I enjoy in the world, who I am held to be by others, can be either confirmed or denied, and I can thus be either respected or defamed as somewho. Who I am, i.e. my being-in-the-world itself, is exposed to the vicissitudes of assessment and appraisal by others. This is an essential moment of the phenomenon of sharing the world with others, i.e. of being a z%=on politiko/n. Human being as 'political living' signifies being in the polis with others in such a way that the logos defines this presence. This does not mean only that humans share their being in the world by talking about the affairs which mutually concern them, i.e. by communicating (which is the primary traditional and fairly innocuous view of how z%=on politiko/n is to be interpreted), but that humans share the world with each other in such a way that they reciprocally define through the logos who they are as somewho or other. Reputation is a phenomenon constitutive of social being itself, and social being is not a mere supplement to human being but constitutive of human being itself. The German word for defamation, Rufmord, literally 'murder committed against a reputation', is no exaggeration of the significance of the phenomenon of defamation or character assassination, which can indeed decide the existence of a human being. There are therefore dangers in being someone with a reputation as somewho in a shared world, a polis, and the condition of possibility of such dangers is ontological in the sense that human being is shared being defined and delineated by a shared lo/goj. Such dangers can be considered in more depth with regard to the mood of fo/boj, fear, which Aristotle analyzes in depth in his Rhetoric.

Aristotle defines fear as lu/ph tij h)\ taraxh\ e)k fantasi/aj me/llontoj kakou= fqartikou= h)\ luphrou= (Rhet. B 5 1382a23), i.e. as "a dejection or confusion from imagining something detrimental or downcasting as imminent" and explicitly discusses those whom one can be afraid of as harbouring the possibility of doing one imminent harm (1382b) including "those who are our contestors for the same things" (tw=n au)tw=n a)ntagwnistai/ 1382b13 cf. GA18:256f). As Aristotle's list shows, there is good reason to be afraid of others in many situations in life shared with others. Such a list is not important as a record of the kind of people and situations which a thinker has seen as fear-inducing, but for the indication it provides of the ontological dimensions in which people can do harm to each other. If whoness is a genuine fold in the manifold dimensions of being, and social, sociated, shared being-in-the-world in particular, then the phenomena of fear of others and struggling against others, too, must be visible as aspects of whoness.

To this point, we have delineated the phenomenon of whoness in its moments of bearing a proper name and having a name in the sense of having a reputation. The striving for esteem is to have one's name and in particular, the name which one has made for oneself in one's reputation, held in high estimation by others. Because the standing in esteem depends on others, it can also be withdrawn by them. A reputation can be lost, one's standing in the community can suffer a downfall if the way I show myself off in the world is held by others not to warrant their respect or esteem. Such a downfall can be either justified or unjustified. It is justified if the display I make of my abilities is a sham (a poor car mechanic gets known as someone who doesn't know his trade), or if I myself act unjustly and harm others (a known thief or fraudster loses his reputation). It is an injustice if the 'definition' of me provided in the hearsay circulated about me distorts how I disclose myself in truth, i.e. if I am slandered. The phenomenon of slander as opposed to that of, say, theft, throws a light on whoness in contrast to whatness. My property is what I own in the third person. It is my ou)si/a, my estate. I suffer an injustice if someone else robs my of the things that belong to me. But I also own my reputation, although it is not part of my estate. My reputation is a good that contributes to me living well in the community. My reputation is my good standing in the shared world. This standing is not a self-standing, i.e. it is not autonomous, but relies on the inclination of others towards me and also on my inclination towards them in the sense of my striving to stand in the good opinion of others and have my reputation held in high estimation by them.

I am a social being as somewho in the first place by virtue of bearing a proper name and having a vocation. A vocation is a calling, originally by the Christian God to a station in life, but more ordinarily it is the calling of others who call on me to do something for them because they know, through my reputation, that I have the ability to provide some sort of good service. Such a calling shows a further aspect of how the logos constitutes my social being. Not only in what is said about me as my reputation constitutes essentially my social being, but also the calling of my vocation through which I am called and recognized by others.

Standing as who in a vertical dimension

My vocation is the first definition of where I stand in society. It is the first phenomenal form of my social standing, my place in society. Just as in Greek metaphysics, physical beings all have a place (to/poj) which delimits them like a skin, and even a proper place towards which they tend (up or down), so too do human beings have a social place at which they stand in society. Such social standing is defined in the first place by vocation, but this is only the first aspect of social standing. Social standing is defined in its being also by property owned (ou)si/a, timh/) and the office (timh/) which one holds in the social hierarchy or polity and thus the power which one wields.

To be continued...

Posts: 25 | Location: Cologne, Germany | Registered: December 06, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
  Powered by Social Strata  

All posts, unless otherwise publishèd, are © their several authors.