… breaking through paradigms?

Note: This post first featured on “The Art of…” blog, under my name: David Atkinson http://davidsartof.blogspot.com/

This is not a resumption of full time blogging… but:

A reader of one of my earlier posts asked “What is your opinion… upon the focus of The Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society (SCIS) as one example of breaking through paradigms”.

Not actually being familiar with The Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society (SCIS) I decided to look them up. What follows in response, is therefore a mere reflection of a first impression.

I quote from the SCIS web site. ‘…The terms “individual” and “society” have given rise to many definitions and conceptualisations. Manifold are the proposed interconnections and causal relationships between the two… [The SCIS] think that “the individual and society” does not narrow down possibilities as much [as the individual in society].’ The “individual and society” or the “individual in society” that is the question…!

What I see here is the SCIS choice, at a conceptual level, to reify (in some way) the conceptual position of the conjunction “and” as superior and more all-embracing than a consideration of the conjunction “in”. An interesting and, to a point, noble attempt at a new focus. But is this, as my questioner suggests, in any sense “breaking through paradigms”?

The positioning of the individual in society, as SCIS relates, ‘…assumes a number of things and prioritises certain theoretical bases…’ Yes (perhaps)! But cannot the same be said about the individual and society? Conceptually, is not a society to be wholly construed as a conjunction of many individuals and “the” individual therefore exists wholly within “a” society? If this is the case does not the individual and society pose a problematic relationship of the individual in a sense comparable with society on its own terms?

If we consider the two objects of our interest, there are in fact four logically possible states of interest. Firstly, we have the state where neither the individual nor society exists. Of course this state provides little of real interest in the context of this present discussion. In the second and third states we may consider each object separately from its other: that is to say, secondly, we consider merely the individual without regard to society and, thirdly, we consider society without regard to the individual. In the fourth state we place the individual “and” society in conjunction.

To turn to my reader’s question: In my own opinion, consideration of the “individual in society” is the difficult task of the holistic, non-separate, consideration of both the individual and society in this conjunctive, fourth state. Any separation of the “individual” and “society”, beit in the second or third states, is no more than a function of a rationalistic drive for determining characteristics of the individual and society that will provide insight into the “proposed interconnections and causal relationships between the two”.

I think, therefore, that what is proposed by SCIS is no example of “breaking through paradigms”. Yet SCIS does propose a valid attempt at reconciling rationalistic thinking to a new whole; the problem being that this new whole is a socially constructed ontology of rationalistic abstractions; it does, in my belief, miss something of the richness of context that can only be retained by studying the “in” that cannot be resolved to any set of constitutive elements.

Without the “one” there can be no “other” and the problematic might be seen, not as a narrowing of possibilities of a study of the in, but as a lack of an effective paradigm for its realisation.