Separation / Connection

Left hemisphere      -         Right hemisphere
Separate                   -        Connected
Centrifugal              -         Centripetal
Rights                      -         Responsibilities
Individual                -         Collective
Masculine                -         Feminine

I suggest that there are two opposing ways of dealing with the world that are both vital but are fundamentally incompatible, and that therefore, even before humans came on the scene, required separate treatment, even neurological sequestration from one another. 

One tendency, important for being able to get things from the world for one's own purposes, involves isolation of one thing from the next, and isolation of the living being, perceived as subjective, from the world, perceived as objective.

The drive here is towards manipulation, and its ruling value is utility.

It began in my view by colonising the left hemisphere, and with the increasing capacity for distance from the world mediated by the expansion of the frontal lobes as one ascends the evolutionary tree, resulted in a physical expansion of the area designed to facilitate manipulation of the environment, symbolically and physically, in the higher monkeys and apes. Eventually that expansion became the natural seat of referential language in humans.

The other tendency was centripetal, rather than centrifugal: towards the sense of the connectedness of things, before reflection isolates them, and therefore towards engagement with the world, towards a relationship of ‘betweenness’ with whatever lies outside the self.

With the growth of the frontal lobes, this tendency was enhanced by the possibility of empathy, the seat of which is the right frontal expansion in social primates, including humans.

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and his Emissary, p. 127-8

That there is a discrepancy between concepts of womanhood and adulthood is nowhere more clearly evident than in the series of studies on sex-role stereotypes […]

The repeated finding of these studies is that the qualities deemed necessary for adult- hood—the capacity for autonomous thinking, clear decision making, and responsible action—are those associated with masculinity but considered undesirable as attributes of the feminine self. 

The stereotypes suggest a splitting of love and work that relegates the expressive capacities requisite for the former to women while the instrumental abilities necessary for the latter reside in the masculine domain. 

Yet, looked at from a different perspective, these stereotypes reflect a conception of adulthood that is itself out of balance, favoring the separateness of the individual self over its connection to others and leaning more toward an autonomous life of work than toward the interdependence of love and care.

[Carol Gilligan]
‘In a Different Voice’, Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 47, No. 4, p. 482

There is a dialectic between "relatedness" and "differentiation" that can never be permanently resolved.

The "strangeness" of distance is reduced and partially overcome by periodic ceremonially sanctioned gatherings and marriage exchange. Ritual, marriage, and the production of "social" individuals with ceremonial relationships to each other are essential components of the superstructure that opposes the centrifugal tendencies.

[Fred R. Myers]
Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self, p.170

Political strategy in Pintupi meetings aims at sustaining the relationship among speakers rather than encouraging antagonistic debates about policy.

The formal features of speech reflect the meeting's function of constituting the polity. Thus, in meetings Pintupi emphasize their concern with "shame" and show themselves as recognizing shared identity with others. They avoid direct refusal and open contradiction of other speakers as shameful. Seeming self-important, willful, or lacking in control are similarly unacceptable.

Maintaining respect dictates that individual assertiveness should be downplayed in public speech. So speakers are likely not only to be self-deprecatory but also to present their own contributions as depersonalized, as "that word.”

In these and other ways, Pintupi speech reflects the characteristic orientation to this world's events as conforming to an already objectified, external authority or "law." Interruption and depersonalization contribute to making a meeting's outcome "anonymous", detached from the egotism, will, and responsibility of individuals. Because the outcome - the consensus no one opposes - appears to come from outside, no one's autonomy is diminished. 

This reflexive property of meetings makes "consensus" as important in constituting a polity as it is in formulating a policy. Certain talented speakers gain prestige from bringing meetings to this sort of fruition, sustaining a focus within a general framework of "anonymization."

The emphasis remains on producing or sustaining a sense of shared identity, or of having "one word". Those who are capable of bridging dissension in difficult situations-usually men of considerable oratorical skills are highly valued and sought out.

Given the Pintupi view of residential groups as a temporary product of individual affiliations, a meeting is the polity and defines it, however momentarily: It is the domain in which consensus can occur. Communities exist only as long as people view themselves as related.

Therefore, this polity is not a structure that should be taken for granted, nor is it an enduring accomplishment. Severe opposition and debate would deny the very basis on which resolution could take place at all.

Recognizing this, Pintupi would rather not have a meeting until at least some of the opposition has diminished. To do otherwise would invite violence, what they call "setting up" a fight.

[Fred R. Myers]
Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self, p.271, 274

The idolization of “diversity” in the form of personal identity was sewn into the deepest fabric of the liberal project, and with it the diminution of a common civic and fostering of a common weal. 

The only common allegiance that would remain was to a political project that supported ever more individuation, fragmentation, and expansion of “diversity in the faculties."

[Patrick Deneen]
Why Liberalism Failed, p.166

A self-organising system reacts to the state of affairs in the environment, but simultaneously transforms itself as a result of these affairs, often affecting the environment in turn. Processes in the system are therefore neither simply passive reflections of the outside, nor are they actively determined from the inside.

The very distinction between active and passive, as well as that between inside and outside, comes under pressure. In a complex system, control does not emanate from a single source. Should this happen, the system would become degenerate, lose its adaptability and survive only as long as the environment remained stable.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.108

Collective consciousness creates a community without communication. For the villagers, there is one story, continuously repeated, and this story is the world: "They do not have opinions on this or that, but incessantly tell just one great story."

There is a tacit agreement in the village, and nobody disturbs this agreement with their personal experiences or opinions. No one tries to be heard or to attract attention. Attention is primarily directed at the community itself.

[Byung-Chul Han]
The Disappearance of Rituals, p.30-1

[...] it is only once we think of mankind as by nature dangerously egoistic that altruism becomes at once socially necessary and yet apparently impossible and, if and when it occurs, inexplicable.

On the traditional Aristotelian view such problems do not arise. For what education in the virtues teaches me is that my good as a man is one and the same as the good of those others with whom I am bound up in human community. There is no way of my pursuing my good which is necessarily antagonistic to you pursuing yours because the good is neither mine peculiarly nor yours peculiarly - goods are not private property.

Hence Aristotle's definition of friendship, the fundamental form of human relationship, is in terms of shared goods. The egoist is thus, in the ancient and medieval world, always someone who has made a fundamental mistake about where his own good lies and someone who has thus and to that extent excluded himself from human relationships.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.266

Related posts: