Saturday, September 02, 2006

the autonomy and heteronomy problematic

the two central motifs in cc's thought are autonomy and (self) creation. although the one is not subsumed by the other, sometimes he seems to hesitate at their points of overlap. on the other hand, cc's distinction between autonomy and heteronomy is starkly drawn (although there are implicit points of that relativize their dichotomy within his own thought). there have been two historical, albeit partial, breakthroughs to autonomy: in ancient greece and with the onset of modernity. i for one do not think it's very helpful to consign the rest of world history to heteronomy, but neither would i want to collapse the distinction altogether. i think it could be important to look for - and recognize - more oblique and partial forms of autonomy within contexts that have conventionally been designated as 'heteronomous'. if 'partial breakthroughs' to autonomy can be recognized in the graeco-western trajectory, why not in other civilizational constellations as well? do we need to think autonomy more from an inter-cultural perspective?


At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Ingerid S. said...

I think you're pointing at something important here, which perhaps concerns the problem I've posed earlier, that "autonomy" can be talked of in rather different ways. Maybe we could even talk of different notions for different spheres of action. What you talk of as a stark opposition between autonomy and heteronomy could then correspond to the philosophical definition of autonomy, whereas the partial forms of autonomy would be more suited to practical-philosophical matters such as politics and psychoanalysis.

At 3:02 AM, Blogger suzi said...

it makes sense to rethink autonomy and heteronomy on the practical philosophical level, and it's good to start dialoguing about these points. but i wouldn't want to retain the polarization of autonomy and heteronomy at the philosohpical level as you suggest (anyway, i think the philosophical overlaps with the other levels and is not to be thought of as 'theoretical' as opposed to 'practical'). i think the problematics of 'creative interpretation', and 'interpretative challenges' which come in at all levels of poietic doing - whether they be more 'philosophical' or more 'political' - brings their own momentum to rethinking this context. part of what i'm writing on at the moment tries to argue that creative interpretationsm in that they form a stuctured field of conflicting interpretations, are impliictly problematizing ie that the imagination can be implicitly interrogative as well.

At 6:15 PM, Blogger Ingerid S. said...

I am still working on the possible differentiation of different notions of autonomy, following Nietzsche's claim that only weak thinking fails to make disctinctions between thought that is really not about the same ... or something like that :-) Will get back to this if and when I make som thought progress.
For now, I want to support your statement that it would be very problematic to "consign the rest of the world history to heteronomy". How much more eurocentric can one get?

At 11:40 PM, Blogger Ingerid S. said...

How does Castoriadis think that it is possible to move from heteronomy to autonomy, if it is psychologically impossible to be autonomous (individuals) in heteronomous society?

At 10:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is it that moves over the body of a society? It is always flows, and a person is always a cutting off [coupure] of a flow. A person is always a point of departure for the production of a flow, a point of destination for the reception of a flow, a flow of any kind; or, better yet, an interception of many flows.

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Ingerid S. said...

The notion of a person as a "cutting off of a flow", ties in with the notion of natality of Hannah Arendt. To her, every individual is, through their birth, a new beginning and a possible beginner, through which society is created once again and anew. The birth of the human being is in a certain sense the birth of the principle of beginning itself, as to begin is to act (agere) and create forms (archè). This is a much more Arendtian than a Castoriadian thought (cf. the discussion above on Arendt and CC).

At 11:14 AM, Blogger AMichelsen said...

In relation to this, take a look at Vincent Descombes ongoing dialogue with CC, e.g. in The Barometer of Modern Reason (1994) or Le Complément de sujet (2004).

At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Ingerid S. said...

Why don't you tell us a little bit of what's there?

At 12:51 AM, Anonymous simon said...

I really like this discussion and problematic on the thinking of CC.
Having read extensively CC trying
to grasp how he thinks, i can say
that there's a closure in his way.
"An autonomous society is based on
Autonomous individuals. An autonomous
Individual is a fiction outside an
Autonomous society." How to exit this?
Of course we are molded by "society".
Yet how come those "aberant" cases
Not conforming to it? What are the
Parameters responsible for this?
My view is that the important issue
Is the individual self-tranformation
(To the point that this can be achieved). Self autoreflexion.
And the big problem (for me) to connect
my individual praxis with my social praxis. After 50+ years, zero so far.
As for "autonomy" in other cultures, sorry, but you have to provide examples and proof.
Thanks, Simon.


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