At its regularly scheduled reading and discussion group on the third Tuesday of the month, the Camden Philosophical Society meets to discuss a wide range of topics. Topics and readings will be announced in the weeks leading up to each event. Here is the description of the topic to be discussed March 19:
The next gathering of the Camden Philosophical Society reading and discussion group, on Tuesday, March 19, will be the second in a series of discussions based on readings that incorporate aspects of the “process philosophy” developed by Alfred North Whitehead. Following up on last month’s readings by Etienne Souriau, the group in March will read and discuss the work of fellow French philosopher Paul Ricoeur. The discussions take place on the third Tuesday of the month in the Picker Room of the Camden Public Library.
The time has been moved to 3:30-5:30 pm, a half hour earlier than in previous months. All are welcome.
The March discussion will be led by Chuck Marecic, who explains: The second aspect of Whitehead’s process philosophy that we will explore is relationability (relational ontology). For both Whitehead and Souriau, the fundamental building blocks of existence — and of their respective philosophies — are the relationships between entities. In order to more fully exist, any entity A must enter into a relationship with an entity B, thereby “becoming” more complete, more real. This applies across the modes of existence from the concrete to the virtual, to the spiritual etc. It is this interaction that creates such things as progress, growth, resolution, decision, meaning. Entities themselves are assemblages of relationships. One might even argue that, for Whitehead and Souriau, it is relationships all the way down.
According to Souriau, and within the context of the sculptor and the sculpture model, the relationship revolves around a drama with three characters: the work to-be-made, the work made, and the one who is responsible for the instauration (bringing the two modes together). All three interact, respond, challenge and critique each other until a provisional harmony is achieved — the abolition of the distance between the work made and the work to-be-made. This model can describe particularly well the process of unitary creator-creation: Sculptor creates sculpture; engineer designs bridge; musician writes concerto, etc. This model would apply equally well to a group of individuals focused on a common goal.
However, how can this model apply to a larger social goal, such as universal suffrage or health care, environmental responsibility, or social cohesion where interests, incentives, and participation are uneven, ambiguous, contradictory or nonexistent? Here, it is not just an issue of an instaurative drama, but also one of a multiplicity of potential instaurative agents. Too many cooks…!
In our next discussion, we will explore how these relationships are made, promulgated, and expressed within a broader social context. We will discuss Paul Ricoeur’s article, “Ideology and Utopia as Cultural Imagination.” Ricoeur has argued that ideology is more than a mere set of political objectives. In fact, it is a fundamental organizing principle that enables the individual to make sense out of a complex and chaotic world. In this, he follows the anthropologist Clifford Geertz, who, in his article “Ideology as a Cultural System,” argues that ideology provides the interpretive tools needed to navigate socio-political existence. Ideology provides context, cohesion, and common points of reference that enable a given society to function.
The primary texts for this month’s discussion are:
Ideology and Utopia as Cultural Imagination (1976)
Clifford Geertz, “Ideology as a Cultural System” from The Interpretation of Culture (1973)
If you have the time, I would also recommend reading these three samples that describe the ubiquitous and complex relationship between ideology and society:
Nick Romeo and Ian Tewksbury, “Rebirth of the Body Politic”, aeon
The Manifesto of Human Diversity and Unity
These short YouTube videos can help to provide some context for Ricoeur’s philosophical position:
Ricoeur’s Threefold Mimesis
Hermeneutics: A Very Short Introduction
Monty Python: Constitutional Peasants Scene
Some Background information about Paul Ricoeur:
“Paul Ricoeur, the philosopher behind Emmanuel Macron”, The Irish Times, May 30, 2017