On traditional wisdom and qualitative individualism

David Meskill invited an important question in response to my coming out as gender-fluid. He expects 😛 TAGEND

I’m puzzled about how your personal change might relate to your interest in traditional profundity. Has it feigned your views of institution? Have those views informed your transformation in any way?

I said a little with a view to responding to his note( and in the previous post itself ), but I’d like to expand on it here.( David is correct in thinking I have addressed the question somewhat in earlier poles; I will link to many of those here in this post .) As I noted in the previous post, my conviction that gender identity does not have to correspond to biological sex is deeply informed by qualitative individualism, which is a largely modern movement, though( like nearly every modern movement) “its one” with premodern beginnings. But I do think it’s important to understand our philosophies historically and even understand ourselves as belonging rationally to a tradition, and I think there is a great deal to be found in premodern traditions that is lacking in more modern ones( such as Marxism ). I am willing to characterize my relationship to Buddhism, specially, as one of faith. So how does all of this fit together?

I’ll first expand on my time from the comment: it helps a lot, regarding this matter, to be a Buddhist. This is not at all to say that premodern Buddhist tradition was in sympathy with modern beliefs about gender; it wasn’t. The vinaya( celibate powers) is quite explicit about excluding parties we would classify as lesbian, trans or otherwise homosexual, and gratuitously enforces extra burdens on female friars that are not imposed on the male ones.

But there is something surprisingly empowering in that unusually gratuitousness. That is: as far as I can tell, there isn’t anything intrinsic to classical Buddhist philosophical systems that would require the enforcement of gender criteria. Within vinaya in particular, the justification established for most of the rules is pragmatic and social: monks behaved in ways that were socially disapproved, this injured the standing of the sangha, and therefore the Buddha apprise the monks not to do that. And, there is no doubt that the historical Buddha lived in, and that the vinaya was structured in, a deeply sexist, patriarchal and sex-segregated society. So treating men and women as equals, or allowing in people who cross that binary, would have hurt the sangha’s reputation and thus driven beings away from it- and from liberation. But of course, if social reputation is the purpose for the vinaya’s traditional sexism( which I think it is, though that’s disputed ), then in a modern context that’s reason to include lesbian parties and to treat women with equality, for far greater social shaming now falls upon organizations that aren’t so inclusive.

What there isn’t in classical Buddhism is any sense of complementarianism, any feel of biological sexuality as have contributed to naturally consecrated normative ethical personas. This, I anticipate, has to do with Buddhism’s relationship to reproduction: Buddhism is against family qualities, in a way that does not hold for many other premodern institutions. The volume of Genesis says” Male and female He procreated them”, and much else in the Abrahamic traditions attaches a sacredness to a natural process of breeding, in which a human with a functioning vagina and one with a functioning penis combine to produce brand-new man. Reproduction is a core part of the sacred guild that God created and is as it should be. All of this is part of a wider view that takes quality as normative, where the practice the world does work is in some sense how it should work.( Confucians, I repute, have a similar goal in the concept of tian Tian: the ultimate normative guild underlying the universe, which is frequently altered “nature” as well as “heaven”. Thus Mencius ratifies a patriarchal department of labour as regular and natural .) But nothing of that is there in classical Indian Buddhism: mood is samsara, and therefore a source of agony, which you’re trying to get out of.( Thus, aesthetically, the Pure Land of the Shorter Sukhavativyuha Sutra is no pristine natural Eden, but glitters with gold and gems and rings .) So I examine very little in classical Buddhist tradition that tells me not to express myself as female- though there is plenty to prompt me that I shouldn’t get caught up in wanting quite brand-new kits!

However, my Buddhism doesn’t get me off the hook now exclusively. For while I do consider myself a Buddhist, I also consider myself an Aristotelian- and Aristotle, I reflect, has a much stronger sense of the normativity of quality. Our telos has its roots in our natures as human being; thus Aristotle’s scientific works on physis have a significant connection to his moralities. And so he endorses a traditional patriarchal lineage design, with household capacities specified as different for mother and papa( as his educator Plato does not ).

It is for that reason that I have wasted some time exploring the premodern beginnings of qualitative individualism, in digits like Duns Scotus and Leibniz- for I contemplate those figures facilitate bring out a qualitative freethinker aspect in Aristotelianism, one which I think is there at least latently. While remaining an Aristotelian, Duns Scotus helps us move our scrutiny from the telos of human-beings-as-such to the telos of this human being, of me, of you- which is not very far from the qualitative freethinker mind, central to the transgender movement, that everyone is should convey a true self that can be quashed by social standards and possibilities.( Ideas of a true-blue soul are certainly in their own deep tension with Buddhism, but that’s a different question .)

The latter point, I hope, disappears some nature to answering more of David’s original remark, which focused in particular on the concept of identity and its modern provenance. David points out that in traditional societies one’s status was commonly ascribed at birth( though being a monk was a major exception; in cultures that allowed that, it was often something one could have preferred to do ).” Modern name has hugely expanded the choices existing and obliged one’s identity- one’s options and speeches of them- of central, often existential important .” I think this statement is generally correct, and at the heart of qualitative individualism- but I would increase the importance of choice per se, as often it is not so much you choose these key names as that they choice you. Few “theyre saying” ” I chose to be trans “. It has been widely accepted for a while, I contemplate, that while one can choose to act or not act on homosexual desire- just as one can on heterosexual desire- one has little choice as to whether one’s hungers are lesbian, heterosexual or both. In numerous respects I would not even say that I “chose” to be a Buddhist; I simply chose to call myself one.

But the point is: yes, modernity does allow much more room for individual self-expression, and that formulation often “re coming” in terms of the self’s identity. And I considered that in the transition from Aristotle through Duns Scotus and Leibniz to the likes of Herder and Humboldt and Goethe, we can find a way to ground such individual faces within Aristotelianism.

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What do you think?

Written by WHS


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