We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Wax Argument

Our thinking about the world depends upon its (relative) viscosity. Form necessarily entails a certain resistance to deformation. But the world is also characterized by fluidity and duality. Things are "in motion" ("in flux") and thought, if it is to be honest to things, needs swiftly to adapt, as possible. The quest for a 'fluid mechanics' of thought has been brief and fleeting. But the part of dialectics that can be quickly grasped is the replacement of the logic of either/or with that of both/and. In other words, Schmitt's complexio oppositorum. The challenge -- "Is it either x or y?" -- needs replacing by the acknowledgement -- "It is both x and y."

The salience of this for Anglicanism is, perforce, obvious: catholic or reformed? But partisans name those who seek consistency in a single, unsullied identity, one purged of all traces of the alternative. 'Complexity', from this perspective, seems incoherent. But all that is really required is easy: simply to give up the bugbear of consistency.

What is ... the party, the church, the nation, the union? German sociology introduced another dichotomy, that between Gemeinschaft–Gesellschaft.

According to the dichotomy, social ties can be categorized, on one hand, as belonging to personal social interactions, and the roles, values, and beliefs based on such interactions (Gemeinschaft, German, commonly translated as "community"), or on the other hand as belonging to indirect interactions, impersonal roles, formal values, and beliefs based on such interactions (Gesellschaft, German, commonly translated as "society") ... Weber ... argued that Gemeinschaft is rooted in a "subjective feeling" that may be "affectual or traditional". Gesellschaft-based relationships, according to Weber, are rooted in "rational agreement by mutual consent", the best example of which is a commercial contract. To emphasize the fluidity and amorphousness of the relationship between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, Weber modified the terms in German to Vergemeinschaftung, and Vergesellschaftung, which are the gerund forms of the German words.

As usual, we didn't need German sociology as this distinction had already been wrestled with in Roman law, by means of the (respective) concepts of societas and universitas. Per Oakeshott,

The idea societas is that of agents who, by choice or circumstance, are related to one another so as to compose an identifiable association of a certain sort. The tie which joins them, and in respect of which each recognizes himself to be socius, is not that of an engagement in an enterprise to pursue a common susbtantive purpose or to promote a common interest, but that of loyalty to one another ... [on the other hand] universitas ... is persons associated in a manner such as to constitute them a natural person, a partnership of persons which is itself a Person, or in some important respects like a person [On Human Conduct, pp. 201 & 203].

In those aforementioned organizations (party, church, nation, or union) are we societizing or universitizing? It appears that we must simultaneously be doing both, moving fluidly between these two activities, on the fly. To insist on one to the sharp detriment of the other names the only error.

With respect to what may appear to be a revival of senseless theological polemic -- what are the oblata? -- it needs bearing in mind that the "gift" we seek to yield to God (not because He needs it, but because it is a debt owed nonetheless) is turned into the "grace" that He freely gives to us. If that doesn't mess with our logic, what will?


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