August 30, 2008

THREE KINDS OF MULTIVOCALITY: This post mentioned the idea of multivocality, and now I think maybe I should explain what I meant by it.

It’s obvious that our world is characterized by conflict, by conflicting loves and loyalties and definitions and norms.

There are at least three ways to respond to that conflict.

#1: Heighten both sides as much as possible, and then reconcile them in some beloved. This is the basic philosophical movement of the Catholic Church. Everything gets raised to a fever pitch–reason is amazing! but so is mysticism! Celibacy is witness to Heaven–but so is marriage! The individual is so important that his life must be defended even before he has any self-consciousness; and yet the self must be offered up as a sacrifice. It’s like everything in the world gets turned up to 11.

#2: Acknowledge conflicts, and reconcile them in the sovereign self. This is what I did back when I was a feminist. I loved all those “I wear makeup, but I’m totally a feminist!” anthologies which were such a hallmark of the 1990s. You could do whatever you wanted to do as long as you a) acknowledged that most of your persona was a subset of patriarchy and b) decided that a) was okay because you were a self-actualized self-esteeming Selfette.

#3: Just state completely conflicting personae and worldviews as compellingly as possible, and then stand back. This is the Shakespeare tactic. It’s why he’s raw material for philosophy, rather than himself being a philosopher–it’s simply not true that Measure for Measure and Hamlet take place in the same universe, or Love’s Labour’s Lost and King Lear.

I think there are ways to get past this anatomy; Sexual Personae, for example, gets in on all three of these options, without (IMO) ever developing a viable fourth alternative. But I don’t know… I wish leftists would acknowledge that almost all of their attempts to wrestle the past end up in option #2, and if I don’t like that, I’m not some kind of simplistic moron who can’t fathom more than one side of a fight.

“After all, I’m not a progressive,” she said with a wry grin.


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