File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1996/96-05-20.182, message 94

Date: Wed, 06 Mar 1996 11:43:38 +0000
Subject: Re: Bhaskar 'concrete singularity'

Thanks to Bwanika, but I feel I am missing something here.

>Let me look at *body mutulation* from a sociological point of view. Then we
>can translate that to Bhasakarian philosophy and see were we stand today.
>In a small East African country Uganda, gender issues have been lifted
>shoulder high. From an educational  to universalistic view pont. That is to
>say women are cardinal in bring about "human agency".  Therefore the
>restructration of this country is hinged on women total emanicipation.

This just seems to assume so much. Who determines whether or not gender
issues have been lifted shoulder high? (i)Is it the women? (ii) Is it the
men? (iii) Is it the government? Is there any difference between (ii) and (iii)?

>In the 80's, the question of body mutulation was brought to the fore.
>Debated and suggested that the act should be stopped immediately. That issue
>concerned only one small tribal grouping in the East of the country.
>This was as if , the debate which banned the practice has fuelled the
>practice itself. 

But did the debate emerge out of nowhere? Were the practices not still in
place? Is there not a difference between consensual mutilation and enforced?
And how might we tell the difference?

>That is when even University graduates, who had left their
>villages for so many years, though of going back to do what was banned by
law !!

This seems a particularly suspect monocausal claim from a critical realist
perspective. Is it being claimed that if the 'well-meaning liberals' had
kept their noses out of that which they did not understand then the
practices would not have continued? Moreover, body-mutilation may well play
a role in society. In Britain, as pointed out, Punks regularly engage in
various forms of 'body mutilation'. This can be as an identity marker, for
reasons of vanity, etc. But from a sociological perspective can we take the
accounts of the agents themselves as incorrigible? They may be unaware of
the 'real' reasons for their practices. And what if male punks decided
against the wishes of the female punks to carry out genital mutilation on
them, would this be acceptable? What if the female punks voluntarily
accepted this practice through fear of ostracisation, or perhaps a belief
that the "God" Johnny Rotten, would visit them and bestow upon them untold
powers, would this be acceptable? Is any form of practice acceptable if it
plays a social role?

>These practices  are human values , do we really know what brings them
>about? Or do we really understand there intrisinc value to human survival ?

No, we clearly don't, at least, not in an ahistorical universal sense. Each
explanation will be time-space specific. But nonetheless we can attempt to
navigate these stormy waters. Do we have any other choice?

>A view from the western world will point into the same direction. Now, this
>not called body mutulation. 

Why? This assumes a universal 'western' perspective. Mutilation is not a
word that applies in all instances. Is the voluntary piercing of one's nose
the same as the enforced removal of one's clitoris? Yes, why do such
practices endure is a vital question. What role do they play? What role do
the people subject to such practices think the practices play? What power
structures do the practices help to keep in place? I, by the way have very
few answers to these questions, nonetheless this shouldn't stop us asking them. 

>Here then, we can really study Bhaskarian philosophy in it true colours.

Can you elaborate what you mean by this, please? In terms of the original
question of the priority of elements within the 'concrete singularity'
Bwanika seems to want to give priority to social forms. Although I could
simply have misunderstood the posting.

I can't do better than end with a quote from Feyerabend, when questioned on
whether anything really goes.

"No, Let me start from a completely different end. All over the world people
are dying, they are being gunned down, they are starving, do not have enough
medicine, there is not enough clean water and so on. They may still be
people who say, "we cannot interfere because this is a culture of its own
and we must not touch any culture which hass gone according to a different
history and so on." I say to this, "NO! Where there is misery, there must be
interference. My limit is where people start suffering." ('Three Interviews
with Paul K, Feyerabend': Telos, 1995)

Of course, what is meant by interference is an interesting question, but in
todays interdependent world we already interfere. And inaction in the face
of suffering may well be the most telling form of action.

The 'rubbish tip of 'history' is littered with failed attempts to eradicate
suffering, buit does this mean we should stop trying?




Colin Wight
Department of International Politics
University of Wales, Aberystwyth
SY23 3DA




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