Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Russia & The Economist

When reading international news, a reader is ideally presented with facts and then compelled to form an opinionated judgment based on impartial information. This process being a form of non-passive discourse that takes place in the mind of the reader as they assess information. While this scenario might be the lofty ideal of objective journalism, it’s rarely seen in international reportage. Instead news predominantly serves an ideological means to communicate certain information to a specific demographic, with the objective ideal only functioning as a comparative reference point. This format positions the reader as a passive spectator of subjective and agreeable news that has inherent value not in impartial truths but in simple limited truths. Aware of the disproportion between representations of the complexity of the ideal and degrees of the actual, readers have sought out media strongholds that have historically been reputable sources of unbiased news.  
One such source is the British publication, The Economist. The weekly print and online magazine was founded in 1843 on the basis of 19th century liberalism and utilitarianism, and was politically described as “the extreme centre” by mid 20th century editor Geoffrey Crowther. This established position is appealing to discriminating readers of a Western, First World mindset seeking an equitable source of international news. Though the veracity of The Economist’s centrist position is questionable when examined through non-Western ideological perspectives. This is not entirely unforeseen, in that the magazine or newspaper as its called in the UK, is a product of and for Western society. And while open-minded cultural sensibilities to non-Western viewpoints are appreciated by an informed public seeking the “extreme centre,” in practice this has proven to be a complicated area for The Economist’s journalists. Namely representations of the Second World of the Soviet Bloc, or now the Russian Federation and its sphere of influence. Over time Russia has been depicted as a threat to Western interests, an ideological enemy, and as a confused entity that’s occasionally enlightened with Western values, that cumulatively amounts to an overall negative gestalt. These notions lead to the question of Russia being simply misunderstood or unjustly portrayed in the discourse of The Economist.
The first discursive point is the anonymity of most of The Economist’s articles. The publication’s website “About Us” page states:
Why is it anonymous? Many hands write The Economist, but it speaks with a collective voice. Leaders are discussed, often disputed, each week in meetings that are open to all members of the editorial staff. Journalists often co-operate on articles. And some articles are heavily edited. The main reason for anonymity, however, is a belief that what is written is more important than who writes it. As Geoffrey Crowther, editor from 1938 to 1956, put it, anonymity keeps the editor "not the master but the servant of something far greater than himself. You can call that ancestor-worship if you wish, but it gives to the paper an astonishing momentum of thought and principle."
By adhering to this principle, the magazine simultaneously realizes an aggregate ethos and a nullification of journalistic ownership. In the former, this allows The Economist to maintain a generic discourse that aids hard content rather than personal authorial flourishes. The magazine is able to move slower and more conservatively through current events that possibly turn into significant historical occurrences. The banal yet opinionated “collective voice” is most likely a component in its continuing longevity, and is what the website designates as “plain language,” while additionally 19th century editor Walter Bagehot describes it as a “conversational” writing style that’s used in the “most direct and picturesque manner.” This voice of The Economist is a device that’s able to weather ideological shifts in history while also playing a part in the creation of preserved epistemic history, or what Michel Foucault might term an épistème to define a set systematic and related events that characterize a historical period.
This épistème may be suspected of being something like a world-view, a slice of history common to all branches of knowledge, which imposes on each one the same norms and postulates, a general stage of reason, a certain structure of thought that the men of a particular period cannot escape – a great body of legislation written once and for all by some anonymous hand (Foucault, Archeology of Knowledge).
Events preserved in The Economist, no matter the validity or the point at which the “extreme centre” happens to be at the time, are a priori pieces of discursive information. As a priori knowledge, the articles are not written from a perspective of direct experience, as in a participant or witness to an event, but rather from a position that enables an opinion, inductive or deductive reasoning, or imagines an event that has or hasn’t happened. In this way, journalistic discourse operates in a speculative fashion as opposed to a definitive record of information. This allows the magazine to take authorial license in the creation of historical knowledge regarding a traditional ideological foe like Russia to the West. 
Regarding journalistic ownership, authorial voices are eliminated to account less for individual viewpoints that could damage the publication’s reputation or hijack it altogether in the service of a few notable journalists. This discursive practice places greater emphasis on the interpretive abilities of the reader. It allows for multiple interpretations of a text thereby insuring a varied overall comprehension that would rarely extend to the polemical. With this method, the magazine manages to sustain an objective or “extreme centre” philosophy in its reportage. Hence The Economist uses a discursive construct more known to Literary Fiction than media journalism. The approach recalls Roland Barthes’ concept of “Death of the Author,” where the mind of the journalist is less an individualized viewpoint and more of a channel in which language distills a zeitgeist that is only truly complete with the receiving perceptions of the reader. The Economist does possess a definitive comprehensive standpoint that makes ideological shifts, though this fact is confounded by the anonymous nature of its discourse.
If The Economist can be said to have a Western bias, this does not mean its articles are false. In an article called “Crisis of Confidence” dated May 8th 1943 concerning the status of Poland during WWII, a Western leaning, conciliatory stance is established. The beginning of the piece mentions the need for “the Great Powers” (USA, UK, and USSR) to restore order to war-torn Europe after the then current war. The last sentence of the introductory paragraph reads;
The avowed principles of Britain, Russia and America on such matters as peace, disarmament, co-operation, neighbourly relations between states and respect for the rights of other nations very largely coincide; and however clear sighted the British people may be about the need for understanding, their major premise is always that it must be firmly rooted in justice and good will.
Textually, the sentence exaggerates the uniting “avowed principles” of the nation-states. These embellishments mark a desperate tone that’s not meant to communicate literal truths. Instead the text’s “principles” function to assuage an audience and call for an end to the war, regardless of conflicting ideologies. It was known then, as well as now, that the absolute uniting principle in the European theater was the defeat of Germany. Later in the article, The Economist questions unreferenced statements from the Russians. “The Russians want a ‘free and independent’ Poland. They have said so. Yet is it absolutely certain that the terms are not being used ambiguously? Could ‘free’ mean ‘Soviet’? Could ‘independent’ mean free only to opt for inclusion in the Soviet Union?” This works in the intertextual realm to establish Russian intentions because the magazine gives no indication as to where, when, or how contextually the paraphrased statements originated, making the resulting questions function as rhetorical accusations. This discourse would satisfy a Western audience that realizes cooperation with the USSR is necessary, but views the country as backward and dangerous. Though as time progressed through the end of WWII and the beginning of the Cold War, The Economist’s prophetic discourse turned out to be correct.
At times the language and discourse in The Economist are portentous and excessive, and exploits limited truths to misrepresent authenticity. In an article extravagantly titled, “The view from the Kremlin: Putin’s War on the West” from February 14th 2015, partial truths are utilized to invoke sentiment and subjective morality.
For Mr. Putin the only good neighbour is a weak one; vassals are better than allies. Only the wilfully blind would think his revanchism has been sated. Sooner or later it may encompass the Baltic states—members of both the European Union and NATO, and home to Russian minorities of the kind he pledges to “protect”. The EU and NATO are Mr. Putin’s ultimate targets.
In the first sentence of this section, the magazine inculcates that Vladimir Putin wants subservient nation-states as partners in a modern Russian feudalism. The next sentence attempts to qualify the first statement by invoking an ad hominem fallacy on a potential disagreeing party. It suggests someone, be it reader or one with differing views on the matter, is purposefully denying the previous claims as well as the cause of Russian irredentism or retaliatory expansionism out of willful ignorance. Then the language forewarns of potential consequences along the lines of crying wolf with boisterous claims and concludes with a reiteration of the article’s title. Comparing this writing from The Economist to a similarly anonymous piece in Al Jazeera called, “The Baltic and the Bear” dated July 29th 2015, the same issues are discussed;
For months, NATO has been building up its military presence in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania amid fears that, after the Russian sponsored separatist conflict in Eastern Ukraine, their turn may be next.
But have these nations, part of the Soviet Union until the early 1990s, been adding to the tension by discriminating against their large ethnic-Russian minorities?
The tone here is less harsh but just as suggestive. Instead of insinuating revenge incited expansionism, this article implies the statuses of four former Soviet republics may be linked through a faulty generalization. It also implies irredentism as the cause, but additionally gives a possibility for the fear generating rhetoric. Contextually these article excerpts discuss the same subjects, but in clearly different attitudes. Both fail to mention the historical scope of NATO as a Western military alliance created to thwart a Soviet attack, along with the condition in 1990 of German reunification and NATO membership that the USSR had been assured by US and West German governments that NATO would never expand eastward. NATO has not only expanded eastward but has member states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) formerly belonging to the USSR and Warsaw Pact, the Eastern Bloc’s military alliance created to counter NATO. While this history is fairly well known, the articles portray NATO as an innocent victim of Russian aggression. Qatar based Al Jazeera has Western ties that are subtly represented, while The Economist is naturally aligned to the West and yet uses saber-rattling language more akin to propaganda to sensationalize and exaggerate an unlikely Russian threat. The Western bias is so salient and overbearing that it disqualifies the content and ultimate veracity of the The Economist’s editorial voice.  
            The original neutral intentions of The Economist have been whittled down to narrow representations through the gradual internalization of a pro Western stance. This should not be surprising, but since the end of the Cold War and the emergence of a unipolar world order that has been equated as a triumph of Western values, it has become harder to realize and then document an objective view. When ideological power shifts and generational time erodes past ethical values, a new tradition becomes the projection of moral good that seems to be the pinnacle or accumulation of all previous eras. In this cycle the origin is lost, though objectivity appears to reside with the holder of power. Jean Baudrillard defines this further; “The circularization of power, of knowledge, of discourse puts an end to any localization of instances and poles... The ‘power’ of the interpreter does not come from any outside instance but from the interpreted himself” (Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation). Essentially the original mid 19th century “collective voice” of a multipolar word order has had to adapt to a singular voice that serves a new version of normality. This can lead to reactionary and invective discourses that cease to be intellectually valuable. In an article titled, “What Russia wants: From cold war to hot war” dated February 14th 2015, The Economist states; “Anti-Americanism is not only the reason for war and the main pillar of state power, but also an ideology that Russia is trying to export to Europe, as it once exported communism.” This claim concerning the Ukrainian civil war is bold and once again rhetorically invokes Europe as a victim of Russia’s ideologies that could possibly require a Truman Doctrine-like response from the West. In the same article, a different Russian past is recalled; “Mikhail Gorbachev’s revolution consisted not in damping down Marxism but in proclaiming the supremacy of universal human values over the state, opening up Russia to the West.” This sentence grandly equates human dignity with the West and recalls the positioning of the “Other” in constructions of historical knowledge. For The Economist, Russia is the primary “Other” of the modern era that demands a transformation of itself in a way similar to Edward Said’s representations of Oriental (Middle Eastern) transformations through Western constructs;
One ought again to remember that all cultures impose corrections on raw reality, changing it from free-floating objects into units of knowledge. The problem is not that conversion takes place. It is perfectly natural for the human mind to resist the assault on it of untreated strangeness; therefore cultures have always been inclined to impose complete transformations on other cultures, receiving these cultures not as they are but as, for the benefit of the receiver, as the way they ought to be (Said, Orientalism).
The linguistic discourse in The Economist suggests the view of a Russia and its people desiring to be more democratic and Western-like. This is the narrow normality the magazine is functioning through. In this mindset, it seems ridiculous to think any culture would not want what the West can bestow.   
            Misunderstanding of the Russian psyche figures prominently into the deconstructive discourse of historical interpretation and prediction found in The Economist. As has been said, this misunderstanding doesn’t mean the magazine is incorrect. It means rather that The Economist in misunderstanding Russia conveys an unjust representation of that nation-state. This in fact hurts Russia very little in the reality of hard/soft power relations, and does more to damage the overall view of Western interpretive analyses of the non Western world. The notion that The Economist embodies the “extreme centre” further marginalizes the magazine into skewed journalism that survives by selling sensation. With this discourse in mind, the mission statement-like claim that the editorial voice is “not the master but the servant of something far greater than himself” construes a very different meaning than what was originally and now currently intended.     

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Eight Brief Interpretations of Immanuel Kant's Philosophies

I. Transcendental Realism and Idealism
II. Knowledge and Judgment
III. Space
IV. Time
V. Intuitions and Concepts
VI. Threefold Synthesis
VII. Moral Law and Human Nature
VIII. Moral Law as a Categorical Imperative

I. Transcendental Realism and Idealism

When Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) published his first and second editions of the Critique of Pure Reason in the late 18th century, science was having a growing influence on philosophy. Kant was influenced by the science of Isaac Newton and ultimately wanted to apply modern science to metaphysics. At the time in philosophy, there were two perspectives; a teleological and mechanistic worldview. Teleology functions to explain a purpose with an end in mind. It employs the four Aristotelian causes as; Material (matter), Formal (the essence or form), Efficient (the origin of a cause), and Final (the purpose of an end). The teleological perspective is concerned with priorities being final, causality, and events being forthcoming or in the future. The mechanistic view is that of modern science with no place for metaphysics, that focuses on priorities being efficient, causality, and events being post or after. In regard to Epistemology, there were two contending approaches in the forms of Rationalism and Empiricism. Kant associated these two perspectives with Transcendental Realism, which he sought to eliminate by merging Rationalism and Empiricism.
            Before the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant was somewhat influenced by the Rationalist philosophy of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 – 1716) and Christian Wolff’s (1659 – 1754) interpretation of Leibnizian thought. Though later he would claim that the Empiricism of David Hume (1711 – 1776) helped him to see Leibnizian Rationalism as dogmatic. Kant viewed Rationalism and Empiricism as limited philosophical approaches that were insufficient on their own, in that neither could provide a means to obtain knowledge that is necessarily true (a necessary truth is one in which it is impossible to be untrue or produces a contradiction in negation, e.g. 3+3=6). Kant sought to combine elements of both into one philosophic perspective that possessed necessary and substantive knowledge without a reliance on dogmatism. For Kant, the respective ideas of Leibniz and Hume on Rationalism and Empiricism fell into a conceptual apparatus known as Transcendental Realism. 
            In Transcendental Realism, the subject (our minds) and object (the world) are completely separate. Objects in the world, and the world itself, exist without the necessity of a human mind to interpret them. In the rationalist Leibnizian view, there are two epistemic ways to understand the world; Truths of Reason and Truths of Fact. In Truths of Reason, the use of reason explicitly establishes a necessary truth by way of a contradiction being impossible. The statements, “all squares have four sides” and “all squares are squares” cannot be contradicted. In Truths of Fact, the quality of truth is known through human senses and is contingent (a contingent truth is not necessarily true and possibly false, e.g. the statement “grass is sometimes green” might be true or false and is therefore a contingent truth). Kant sought to disprove that Truths of Fact can be known through human senses. In the empiricist views of Hume, there are two variations of belief; Relations of Ideas and Matters of Fact. In the former, “relations” refers to the structural relationships of thought itself. This is the realm of mathematical and logical processes that produce necessary truths without the need for an external reference. Hume considers Relations of Ideas to be vacuous truths (a vacuous truth is a truth disqualified of meaning by a another purported truth, e.g. “When pigs fly, Stafford plays guitar exactly like Eddie Van Halen.” Since pigs don’t ever fly, Stafford will never play exactly like EVH [even though he is greatly influenced by his original approach to the instrument, Stafford has never wanted to play like EVH even if pigs are flying, and has more appreciated the idea of playing or making art in the original way EVH does]). Matters of Fact are substantive and contingent truths that describe objects or events as they seem to be through human sense experience. The belief in scientific thinking for Hume falls into beliefs that are Matters of Fact. He proved this to be contingent by using the example of the Sun that will always rise tomorrow. Hume said this belief is based on our past experiences of causal connections, as in scientific reasoning and that the event has never not happened in our empirical experience. However this is not enough to convincingly believe that the Sun will indeed rise tomorrow because the belief is based solely on past observation and experience. For these reasons Hume is a skeptic because no external experience can ever be 100% true.
            For Kant, these philosophic perspectives of Leibniz and Hume embodied Transcendental Realism. He associated Truths of Reason and Relations of Ideas to knowledge that’s independent of experience, while associating Truths of Fact and Matters of Fact with contingent knowledge based on experience. When combined together, the resultant doctrine of Transcendental Realism provides a clear demarcation between the human mind (subject) and the world we know (object). In the first two Leibnizian and Humean views, Kant claims the mind can only examine itself using necessary truths that cannot be contradicted. Similarly by applying the Truths of Fact and Matters of Fact, Kant claims the mind can only ever receive information about the world passively. In this way, our minds have no influence on how the world is interpreted and merely records sensory data. The world would exist as we know it without a human mind or indeed any humans to experience it. This transcendentally real perspective is paradigmatic in human thinking, and in fact can be said to be “common sense” but Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason, claimed this view was false. He was motivated to construct a new framework that combined necessary and substantive knowledge without a reliance on dogmatism. Kant proposed a new way of understanding the relationship of mind and world, while also going so far as to claim it to be a “Copernican Revolution” in philosophy. This was his theory of Transcendental Idealism.            
            In Transcendental Idealism, the subject (our minds) and object (the world) are not separate but have an interdependent relationship. The human mind, according to Kant, is constructed of 14 structuring principles (two of which are space and time, and I’ll get to them later) that institute order in regard to how humans interpret the world. In fact, through these Transcendentally Ideal structuring principles, the world exists as it is known to us only because our minds perceive it that way. In this doctrine, our mind as subject is ideal, while the world as we know it is only objectively real. In this sense, the world would not exist outside of the influence of a human mind. This Transcendentally Ideal perspective views the world, as Kant calls it, as the phenomenal or representational realm, which is dependent on a human mind to know the phenomena humans experience through senses. Likewise the part of the world that is unknown through the filter of a human mind is the noumenal realm. The Kantian view of Metaphysics (concepts that exist outside of scientific reasoning like; God, freedom, immortality) holds that the limits of the human mind prevent us from knowing these concepts completely. He acknowledges that they are indeed part of our reality but exist as what he calls noumena or alternately as “things in themselves” that are not accessible to a human mind. In articulating this concept in the preface to his second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant wrote, “I therefore had to annul knowledge in order to make room for faith” (B xxx).
            Kant realized his Transcendental Idealism was counterintuitive, but nevertheless correct. In re-conceptualizing the subject/mind relationship in philosophy, Kant likened this impact equal to the change Nicolaus Copernicus initiated in astronomy. Recall that before Copernicus the Sun and planets of the solar system revolved around the Earth as a geocentric model. After the Copernican Revolution, the solar system including the Earth revolved around the Sun as a heliocentric model. Before Kant and his Transcendental Idealism, the subject (our mind and intellect) was dependent on the object (the world). And after Kant, the essence of the objective world is now dependent on our subjective mind.

II. Knowledge and Judgment

            Kant distinguishes between two types of knowledge as, a priori and a posteriori. Traditionally a priori refers to knowledge that is independent of experience, while a posteriori is knowledge attained empirically or with experience. Kant describes a priori as non-innate knowledge that is necessarily true. Further he defines a posteriori as contingently true knowledge. In both types of knowledge, his criteria for assessing the veracity of truth is experiential. If knowledge is experientially irrefutable, then it is necessarily true and a priori. If knowledge is experientially refutable, then it is contingently true and a posteriori.
            Similarly Kant differentiates between two types of judgments when applied to propositions (statements that are either true or false) as analytic and synthetic. In analytic judgments, the predicate is within the subject or is entirely the subject, e.g. respectively “squares are four sided” or “squares are squares.” For Kant analytic judgments have the potential to be “elucidatory” (B 11) In synthetic judgments, the predicate is not within the subject but nevertheless attached to the subject in what Kant communicates as “expansive” (B 11). An example of a synthetic judgment would be, “the square is red.” In this mode of judgment, a denial of the statement is not a contradiction.
            To further differentiate Transcendental Realism and Transcendental Idealism, Kant describes the possible combinations of knowledge and judgments of the two doctrines. In Transcendental Realism, Kant uses Hume’s Relations of Ideas and Leibniz’s Truths of Reason concepts of necessary truths to qualify analytic judgments to known a priori knowledge. In this first combination it’s important to note that if a judgment is analytic, then it will be known with knowledge that’s a priori. Though a priori knowledge does not imply analytic judgments. The analytic known a priori combination functions as a Transcendentally Real concept, thus making it acceptable to Kant, because it favors a Rationalist perspective. Rationalism uses this combination to have an irrefutable judgment that deduces knowledge without experience. A second combination is also possible in Transcendental Realism using Hume and Leibniz’s respective Matters of Fact and Truths of Fact that describe contingent truths as synthetic judgments to known a posteriori knowledge. This combination is Empirical in that a judgment’s contrary is not self-contradictory while possessing knowledge that’s completely derived from experience. For the Transcendental Realist, these two judgments to knowledge combinations function because they embrace Rationalism and Empiricism independently. 
Kant establishes a new synthesis of judgments to knowledge in his Transcendental Idealism. He does this by coupling synthetic judgments to known a priori knowledge. In this way, Kant imparts that humans know and are aware of the world through empirical senses but only realize an understanding of it through a rational intellect. This is only possible by applying the Transcendentally Ideal structuring principles to interpret conceptual apparatus like space and time relations as a product of a priori knowledge unknown to experience and synthetic judgment that is dependent on experience. 

III. Space

In the section of the Critique of Pure Reason entitled Transcendental Doctrine of Elements, Part I, Transcendental Aesthetic, Kant establishes his notions of intuition, sensibility, and concept. He states, “In whatever way and by whatever means a cognition may refer to objects, still intuition is that by which a cognition refers to objects directly, and at which all thought aims as a means” (A 19/ B 33). Kant communicates that objects of intuitions are the result of direct experience. He later goes on to write;
The capacity (a receptivity) to acquire presentations as a result of the way in which we are affected by objects is called sensibility. Hence by means of sensibility objects are given to us, and it alone supplies us with intuitions. Through understanding, on the other hand, objects are thought, and from it arise concepts (A 19/ B 33).
In summation, Kant states that sensibility allows for direct experience that leads to intuitions, objects that are given affections, and receptivity.
            In Section I of the Transcendental Aesthetic, Kant presents a metaphysical exposition of space. He begins, “By means of outer sense (a property of our mind) we present objects as outside us, and present them one and all in space” (B 37). As a form of outer experience, Kant goes on to establish space as an a priori intuition with four arguments.
            Argument 1 initiates that “Space is not an empirical concept that has been abstracted from outer experiences” (B 38). Essentially space cannot be known to humans as an empirical abstraction or as something derived from an experience. Also space cannot be presented in a way that relates objects to one another, because this too would be an empirical experience. This leaves space as an a priori necessary truth.
            Argument 2 puts forth that “Space is a necessary a priori presentation that underlies all outer intuitions” (A 24/ B 39). Kant goes on to admit that humans can conceive of there being no objects present in space, but ultimately there can never be an object or objects without space. He conveys that space is a necessary condition for there to be any possibility of an appearance of an object. Kant also proves space to be an a priori intuition by using the geometric principle of the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If space were to be an a posteriori construct, then contingent truths through empirical perceptions would reveal the possibility of there being more than one way to have a straight line between two points. And this scenario cannot exist in a space that is known to be three dimensional, therefore space can only be an a priori construct.
            At this point it is necessary to proceed to argument 4 in order to establish the difference between intuitions and concepts. Kant first writes that space is presented “as an infinite given magnitude” (B 40). Space is an a priori intuition because it is something that is of infinite magnitude and something that possesses “boundlessness in the progression of intuition” (B 40). In that space has no limits, it can be divided into infinite parts that Kant states, “all parts of space, ad infinitum, are simultaneous” (B 40). This is to say space is an individual thing that comes before its infinite parts, but the parts of space cannot exist outside of itself (space) and only within space. So in difference to an intuition, Kant writes “every concept must be thought as a presentation that is contained in an infinite multitude of different possible presentations (as their common characteristic) and hence the concept contains these presentations under itself” (B 40). This means a concept, say e.g. the notion of structures as in buildings, can have infinite instances of independent and different buildings “under” it but not within it as part of it (a concept) as it is for space. He concludes the argument by asserting, “Therefore the original presentation of space is an a priori intuition, not a concept” (B 40).   
            Going back to argument 3, Kant states that space as an individual whole thing precedes the parts or other spaces in which the whole is made. Space as a whole precedes the parts of spaces, and space as a whole is not dependent on its parts within it. Kant states;
first, we can present only one space; and when we speak of many spaces, we mean by that only parts of one and the same unique space. Nor, second, can these parts precede the one all-encompassing space, as its constituents, as it were (from which it can be assembled); rather, they can be thought only as in it (A 25).
Also other particular individual things that aren’t space, are composed of parts that precede the whole and the whole thus, is dependent on its parts. E.g. the parts of a structural building precede the building, and as such, the building is dependent on its parts.
            Following this metaphysical exposition of space that concerns ordinary experience of outer objects, Kant argues a further transcendental exposition of space that employs geometry in its justifications. He uses geometry because, “[it] is a science that determines the properties of space synthetically and yet a priori” (B 41). Kant posits that geometry can only exist in space as a priori knowledge and synthetic judgments. He writes, “Our explication of the concept of space is, therefore, the only one that makes comprehensible the possibility of geometry as a kind of synthetic a priori cognition” (B 41).
For these metaphysical and transcendental reasons, space is a Transcendentally Ideal construct. Kant’s construct of space has shown to operate on synthetic a priori judgments that apply geometry to prove a necessary truth in regard to the capabilities of three dimensional space. 

IV. Time

In Section II of the Transcendental Aesthetic, Kant presents metaphysical and transcendental arguments that present time as an a priori intuition in a similar manner as that of space.
He begins the first metaphysical argument by stating, “Time is not an empirical concept that has been abstracted from any experience. For simultaneity or succession would not even enter our perception if the presentation of time did not underlie them a priori” (B 46). Thus, time is not known by any means of empirical abstraction. And the presentation of time as an a priori necessary condition is inferred by temporal experience.
Argument 2 dictates that time without any objects (appearances) is conceivable, but objects without or outside of time are inconceivable. Kant writes, “Appearances, one and all, may go away; but time itself (as a universal condition of their possibility) cannot be annulled” (A 31).
As in the argument for space, it’s necessary to continue to Kant’s fourth argument to differentiate between time as an a priori intuition and a concept. He starts off by claiming, “Time is not a discursive or, as it is called, universal concept; rather, it is a pure form of sensible intuition. Different times are only parts of one and the same time; and the kind of presentation that can be given only through a single object is intuition” (B 47). Like space, time is an infinite whole with an infinite number of divisible parts (individual particulars) that exist within the whole of time. Time is an individual thing that precedes its parts. Likewise, a concept in relation to time is different in that a concept, such as the notion of structures that are buildings, can have infinite instances of independent and different buildings apart from it but not within it as part of it (a concept) in the way that it is for time.   
Argument 3 for time establishes that time as an individual whole entity precedes the sequential parts in which the whole is made, as well as this whole is not dependent on its parts of time within it. In proving that time is indeed an a priori intuition, Kant states, “Time has only one dimension; different times are not simultaneous but sequential (just as different spaces are not sequential but simultaneous). These principles cannot be obtained from experience” (B 47).
A fifth argument for time begins, “To say that time is infinite means nothing more than that any determinate magnitude of time is possible only through limitations put on a single underlying time” (B 48). Kant then communicates that if something like time and the parts within it can be shown through limitations, then a whole conceptual display is impossible because concepts only incorporate fractional presentations.
In Kant’s transcendental exposition of time, he address the notions of change and motion within time. He claims that without an inner a priori intuition like time, no concept would allow for the possibility of change in place, as in motion, to a human understanding in time’s one dimensional, sequential direction. Time puts forth the opportunity to know synthetic a priori cognition through motion.
Kant shows that time is a Transcendentally Ideal construct by proving that it is understood by way of a priori synthetic judgments. Further, the temporal axioms or science of time exist in a one dimensional realm. Like the geometry of space, the sequential nature of time allows for a conceivable (synthetic) placement of a human in different parts of the time sequence, but ultimately it proves to be not possible (a priori).

V. Intuitions and Concepts

In part two of the Transcendental Doctrine of Elements, titled Transcendental Logic, Kant explains how the human mind understands representation. He begins, “Our cognition arises from two basic sources of the mind. The first is our ability to receive presentations; the second is our ability to cognize an object through these presentations” (A 50/ B 74). In the first source he assigns the term “sensibility” to define the mind’s ability to receive presentations. The rules of sensibility, is the science of aesthetic. This is the mind’s function of intuiting data in the spatiotemporal. The second source is “understanding” which is the ability of the mind to produce presentations. The rules of understanding, is the science of logic. This is the mind’s function of conceptualizing objects through Kant’s 12 categories of understating. Sensibility and understanding correlate to one another in that, “Without sensibility no object would be given to us; and without understanding no object would be thought” (B 76).
            Kant then differentiates between two forms of logic. The first is “logic of the understanding’s general use” that he equates as elementary. This formal logic is used for rules of thought that are necessary for understanding, or a proper process of abstract thinking. The second is “logic of its[understanding] special use” or transcendental logic. This logic is a system of understanding rules of thought pertaining to phenomenal objects, or rather objects that are physically available to human senses and not of the metaphysical.
            One aspect of logic stipulates that there are intuitions and concepts. To distinguish between the meanings of the two words Kant invokes this comparison, “Thoughts without content are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind” (B 76). In this way intuitions are the mind’s raw perceptions with no organizing device to discern meaning from the perception. The intuition is an observation of something singular and immediate at a place and time. Most objects have more than one immediate defining feature in that an object is composed of many intuitions. Kant’s term for more than one intuition perceived together is a manifold. Concepts are the organizing devices in which intuition or a manifold of intuitions are observed, and specifically empirical concepts are necessary for experience. The concepts give no information as to when or what happens before or after a sequence but instead link the intuition to characteristics that make the object what it is.
            An example of a physical object like a baseball can be used to further illustrate the meanings of intuitions and concepts. As an intuition the baseball would not be a baseball, but rather an empirical object that is experienced at a point in time and as a presence in a space. Space and time are both pure intuitions. The object is an immediate empirical intuition. It exists in a space and time with no other knowledge known to the mind’s representation. A concept is a shared characteristic that is experienced through sequences of intuitions. The white surface, spherical shape, and protruding red stiches of the intuition are concepts that make links of meanings into a framework to know what the intuition is. As Kant wrote “intuitions without concepts are blind” likewise the intuition is needed to verify the validity of the applied concepts. This synergetic process of synthesis between intuition and concept happens simultaneously in the mind.
            For Kant, once an intuition is conceptualized, the intuition acquires objective status. In the case of the Transcendental Idealist, objective status means an intuition as the object or event does in fact exist and has really happened. This is opposed to subjective status, where an intuition as the object or event only seems to exist and has only seemed to happen. Further objective status is dependent on the human mind to understand, whereas subjective status is completely independent of the mind’s interpretation. It’s also important to note that for the Transcendental Realist, the objective view would be mind independent and what really happened to an object, while the subjective view would be mind dependent and only what seemed to happen to an object.
            To demonstrate an intuition’s acquisition of objective status by way of empirical concept, the baseball example can be used. Suppose there is an object rolling off a ledge at one point in time. An observer perceives this and then blinks. After blinking the observer now sees, at a second point in time, the object unattached to anything and in a free-fall. Another blink and now the object is on the ground at rest at a third point in time. During the blinks between the points in time and space, the observer has applied a concept to frame the three events together. The concept known to the observer through empirical experience that an unattached object will fall in a straight line toward the ground by way of gravity, links the three spatiotemporal instances. The interruptions caused by blinking do not interfere with the progression of intuitions in the spatiotemporal events to be three separate events, because the aforementioned empirical concept has unified the intuitions into an objective status. In this way the human mind has taken part in the experience of the object falling off a ledge, free-falling, and then hitting the ground. The experience is not raw data hitting the mind. The experience is dependent on the symbiotic relationship between mind and world, or the subject/object interdependent relationship. Likewise the object in question is linked by characteristics to be a particular type of physical object. It is three-dimensional, spherical, predominantly white in color, and has protruding red stiches. These characteristics are concepts in themselves and through rules that bring them together as an intuition, the resulting tandem concept/intuition becomes a recognizable object (a baseball) in a spatiotemporal realm.

VI. Threefold Synthesis

For a complete understanding of an object in its spatiotemporal condition to human cognition, Kant argues that a synthesis must take place. Again general logic is used to abstract empirically, while transcendental logic is concerned with rules in relation to a priori content. Within the synthesis are the previously mentioned intuitions and concepts that Kant further divides into the a priori and empirical(a posteriori), “Only pure intuitions or concepts are possible a priori; empirical ones are possible only a posteriori” (B 75/ A 51). In the synthesis an intuition cannot be alone, it has to be part of a manifold of intuitions. Also a pure intuition needs to be objectified by situating it under the structure of a pure concept. Kant writes; “By synthesis, in the most general sense of the term, I mean the act of putting various presentations with one another and of comprising their manifoldness in one cognition. Such synthesis is pure if the manifold is given not empirically but a priori (as is the manifold in space and time)” (B 103). Kant’s threefold synthesis is: 1. Synthesis of Apprehension 2. Synthesis of Reproduction 3. Synthesis of Recognition.
            In the synthesis of apprehension the manifold of intuitions is held together as a series of united intuitions. Both pure and empirical intuitions are linked as manifolds. The pure intuitions of events in time are synthesized into pure temporal manifolds. The pure intuitions of time are more fundamental to the process than are the empirical intuitions of places in space. To illustrate this, imagine separate instances or points in time. These points in time are linked in a linear progression of time. The human mind synthesizes each of these pure points of time into a linked manifold of sequential intuitions. Similarly spatial or empirical events are linked on the basis of the pure intuitions. Imagine an object falling off a ledge as one empirical event. Next the object will be in a different position as it falls, and this is the second empirical event or intuition. Finally the object is at rest on a surface and this is the third intuition. Like the pure intuitions of time, these spatial events are linked as a progression on the basis of time to form an empirical manifold. The synthesis of apprehension holds the pure and empirical manifolds together.
            In the synthesis of reproduction, the mind actively remembers pure and empirical intuitions. The succession of intuitions follow rules that allow the mind to interpret past points in time as well as positions in space. The succession becomes a manifold of intuitions by adhering to rules. The recalling of spatiotemporal instances is the reason the sequence makes logical sense to the mind. If there was no memory of previous times and positions, the mind would interpret each spatiotemporal intuition as separate unique and new intuitions. To exemplify this process, imagine the linear time dimension. Each pure intuition is at a point in time that proceeds in a linear fashion. The synthesis of reproduction allows the mind to recall previous points in the history of the progression. If an object was on a ledge and is now on the ground, the mind remembers the temporal intuitions that preceded the intuition in which the object is at rest on the ground. This is similar to thinking of a progression as having a beginning, middle, and end. Since time never stops and only proceeds in one way, it’s possible to know the object has a sequential history by the time the end intuition is present. In the same fashion, empirical pasts are also remembered in this synthesis of intuitions. The first intuition has the object on the ledge, the next has it free-falling, and the final intuition has it on the ground. In remembering the position in space the object was, the mind synthesizes the memories together to form knowledge of the present position of the object. This how the mind understands that the same object on the ground was once on the ledge. This synthesis of pure and empirical intuitions allow the manifold to exist as a connected series of remembered spatiotemporal intuitions.
            In the synthesis of recognition, the mind understands the difference between present pure and empirical intuitions in regard to past spatiotemporal intuitions. The mind understands that a present intuition has necessary previous intuitions, and that these previous intuitions are not the same as a present intuition. Empirical concepts are the rules that group the pure and empirical intuitions and allow the mind to understand the sequential progression of prior necessary spatiotemporal intuitions. In a pure temporal example, imagine the sequence of previous intuitions as a first point in time, a second point, and then third actual point. This synthesis makes possible the understanding that the first point came before the second, and not say, the first was directly previous to the actual intuition. Kant himself likens this synthesis to counting, “If, in counting, I were to forget that the units now hovering before my mind were added up by me little by little, then I would not cognize the amount’s being produced through this successive addition of one [unit] to another; nor, therefore, would I cognize the number” (A 103). Similarly the sequential progress of empirical intuitions allows the mind to know that the necessary previous intuition of a falling object came after the intuition where the same object was on the ledge. In the actual present spatial intuition, the order of this series is understood by the “recognition” aspect of this synthesis.
            It follows that these three syntheses are mutually dependent on one another’s functions for the whole threefold system to work. In the first two, syntheses of apprehension and reproduction, there are only pure and empirical intuitions at work. In the third synthesis of recognition, empirical and pure intuitions are at work with the pure intuitions being put under the rules of pure concepts in which space and time themselves behave. In this way, the pure concepts make it possible to discover empirical concepts and manifolds that govern the sequential recognition of the third synthesis.    

VII. Moral Law and Human Nature

In 1785 Kant published the Groundwork of Metaphysical Morals detailing his ethical theories. He positions himself against and the utilitarianism of consequentialism. The ethical theory of consequentialism holds that a moral judgment is made based on the the consequence of an action. For example if one were to take a man’s money to buy food, this would be okay. The consequences of the robber allow him to be in a better place than he was (he didn’t have food before, now he has money to buy food) no matter what becomes of the man he robbed. Kant says this ethical position is wrong. He situates himself instead as a deontologist. In this ethical theory a person is bound by rules that determine the morality of an act. The outcome of an action is insignificant and what’s important is that duty based principles are adhered to. An example would be lying is never good, even if a lie has a positive outcome. If a thief said he was going to steal a car and he asked someone where the car was, the answer could not contain a lie even if it prevented the car being stolen.
            In Kant’s view there are two ways that originate in interpreting morality. The first is the way of natural science. This is the world of cause and effect having consequences. These can be referred to as natural laws and are how things happen in the world. The second is the way of ethics. This is the science of the noumenal world that is concerned with laws of freedom that lead to moral laws and the determination of free-will. These moral laws can be broken. Kant assigns two words to each division; “is” refers to the natural laws or how things happen, and “ought” refers to the moral laws and how things ought to happen.
            Natural laws give the world unbreakable laws like gravity and the first law of thermodynamics. As a subset of natural law are laws of desire, or inclinations. These are scientific laws that produce inclinations as in being hungry and then pursuing food or needing sleep and then seeking sleep. These laws can be broken in that one doesn’t have to eat just because of hunger. However humans normally make choices according to the laws of desire. To act in accordance with moral law, one has to ignore the natural laws of desire. If a desire is sated then the action that led to it is not moral. For Kant, to be morally good is to act based on duty and motives, and rational choice presupposes a moral act.
            The problem that Kant saw was the conflict between moral law and laws of desire. Humans make decisions based on natural laws that can be both unbreakable (gravity) and breakable desires (hunger). It is for this reason that Kant found a conflict between moral law and natural law, and why moral law cannot be derived from human nature. Moral law is also breakable. This ultimately was the problem of prior ethical theories. For Kant the conflict is evidence of the difference between moral and natural law. In this way, morality is this difference of “is” and how things happen, and “ought” and how this should happen.
            Kant argues that prior ethical theories were mistakenly based on human morality, which as he points out is breakable. A mistake is deriving moral principles from human nature in two ways. The first is through the empiricism of practical reason, in which humans as embodied through physical hedonism and eudaemonism act to self preserve and pursue happiness in a utilitarian manner. The second is the mysticism of practical reason in which humans as Platonic rational souls seek a higher purpose than fulfilling physical desires. In both of these cases Kant says desire is used to determine moral law and is thus confusing the “is” and “ought” of desire. These scenarios treat the human as a phenomenal object of the natural world where human behavior would always be motivated by different forms of desire. This would leave out free-will which is equated with morality. In these forms of ethics with a foundation of desire, natural law based morality leads to the cause and effect of consequentialism. 

VIII. Moral Law as a Categorical Imperative

Kant believes moral law is conveyed as an imperative or command. There are two types of imperatives; hypothetical and categorical. As to the former Kant writes, “Hypothetical imperatives declare a possible action to be practically necessary as a means to the attainment of something else that one wills (or that one may will)” (82). In this sense, the imperative or command is done because good wants to be done. An example would be giving money to a charity. If one wants to be or feel good, then the imperative states that something like money needs to be given to an organization that needs it. The result is good for the charity but the good that was wanted by the giver was motivated by desire, and morality cannot be the result of a desire. The command obeyed was at the request of an instrumental good. This can be shown to be morally empty when the same person bestows money unwilling to a charity and then doesn’t feel good because he did not desire to feel good. Kant then goes on to explain “A categorical imperative would be one which represented an action as objectively necessary in itself apart from its relation to a further end” (82). Instead good wanting to be done as with the hypothetical, good is simply just done. There are no other motivations dictating a reason that something should be done. An example would be if someone had the opportunity to steal money knowing they’d never be caught and that it’d be a good benefit to them, and then does not steal the money because it is wrong. They are operating on their duty to do good, or not do wrong. This would be intrinsically good because the objective itself is good.
            For Kant, moral law must be stated as a categorical imperative because morality then becomes the end in itself with no other influencing factors. One way to understand this is with the universal maxim principle. Kant describes this as, “I ought never to act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become universal law” (70). In this fashion a maxim is a principle that one follows to be capable of morality. However, morality can only be understood if the maxim is in accordance with a universality. Meaning a conception (maxim) that can be applied to the entire population of the planet, or just a fair amount of people, without generating a self-contradiction. An example would be lying. If lying were to be tested universally as a maxim, then the liar would have to ask, “If everyone on the planet lied, would or wouldn’t this produce a self-contradiction?” This would produce a self-contradiction because if everyone lied there would be no such thing as “the truth” and no one would believe each other. Or if the liar went ahead and lied despite the knowledge of it being a self-contradiction, then the liar would have to reject themself, thereby failing the categorical imperative. A universal maxim is something that would not produce a self-contradiction. It also accomplishes the duty without the dependence of the consequence of the action, making Kant’s morality a deontological theory. The categorical imperative is the testing tool for moral law.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Ever Evolving Individual

Impressions of individuality written within a narrative framework are part of the stock and trade of most writers of literary fiction. In fact, one might argue that through character study and portrayal, storytellers have been attempting to get to the bottom of the human condition since there’s been at least an audience of one to interpret the findings. And the condition of the individual, not the plot, has been the primary quest of this genre that sometimes still aims to seek out and define what it means to be human. No matter the point in time the author writes, this pursuit has always been a fundamental construct of the novel form.   

Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen present a wide range of distinct characters in their respective works, Mrs. Dalloway and Sense and Sensibility, elucidating the nature of individuality within human connectedness. While an individual character on the surface is just that, commitment to another and to the Other, are bound to alter the sense of being held by both parties. Through this balance of individual and union, Woolf and Austen weave their characters into relational enigmas that offset and further develop the mentalities of all depicted.

In Sense and Sensibility, the individuality of Marianne Dashwood is drastically altered by her vexed relationship with John Willoughby. In the 1811 novel, Marianne is initially portrayed as an emotional, creative, naïve girl of 16 in pre-Victorian Britain. She finds deep meaning in literature, art, and music as she’s contrasted against her elder sister Elinor, who follows a more pragmatic path. The identity of Marianne constructed by Austen is one of an amateur aesthete that blithely falls in love with a charming yet flippant man that in turn amplifies Marianne’s emotional response to the situations she encounters. Her commitment to Willoughby, as he comes to be known, heightens her emotional senses during the relationship by attaching inspired feelings of love and dedication that Marianne interprets through creative forms of evocation. The bond shared between the two characters propels Marianne to almost manic episodes of excitement and whimsy that she channels into artistic expression. When Willoughby leaves Barton Cottage for London, Austen renders Marianne as a character lost in sadness that only knows emotional expression as a coping mechanism:
She played over every favourite song that she had been used to play to Willoughby, every air in which their voices had been oftenest joined, and sat the instrument gazing on every line of music that he had written out for her, till her heart was so heavy that no farther sadness could be gained; and this nourishment of grief was every day applied. She spent whole hours at the piano-forte alternately singing and crying; her voice often totally suspended by her tears. 
With the union now broken, Marianne operates on a primal level in which only her basic needs to function are met. Her sense of belonging is so altered by Willoughby’s absence, an emotional vacuum develops which she’s only able to endure with expression. 

Later in the novel, Marianne confronts and accepts Willoughby’s betrayal, subsequently wrestling with her feelings to find meaning in the broken commitment. She turns once again to artistic expression and education:
I mean never to be later in rising than six, and from that time till dinner I shall divide every moment between music and reading. I have formed my plan, and am determined to enter on a course of serious study… I shall gain in the course of a twelvemonth a great deal of instruction which I now feel myself to want. 
This announcement of intent shows a radical shift in perspective. Now Marianne’s sole commitment is to herself. Although an individual ethos is always transitory, she comes to realize this through a stronger understanding of her own nature. Thus, the confidence of character resulting of the experience and recovery, embodies a new wisdom that’s permanent in Marianne’s mindset. Austen subtlety poses to the reader that willed purpose is tantamount, perhaps a prerequisite, to fulfilling sustainability in human bonds. 

In Woolf’s 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway, the role of Lucrezia Smith is to support her mentally damaged husband, Septimus Warren Smith, a British veteran of World War I. Lucrezia or just the diminutive Rezia, personifies the sense of selfless duty required in the caring of another. Her identity, in the course of the day the novel takes place, is so tied to Septimus and his struggle, that the two characters in effect assimilate into one entity. Rezia has relinquished and pared down aspects of her character to dedicate herself to the recovery of Septimus, and hence the assurance of their continued marriage. However, while still honoring this commitment despite his sometimes inward struggle turned outward, she becomes conflicted with feelings of doubt that question the essence of the situation. While in London’s Regent’s Park, Woolf portrays Rezia fighting her feelings of apprehension toward her husband: 
It’s wicked; why should I suffer? She was asking, as she walked down the broad path. No; I can’t stand it any longer, she was saying, having left Septimus, who wasn’t Septimus any longer, to say hard, cruel, wicked things, to talk to himself, to talk to a dead man, on the seat over there… 
A child playing in the park accidently runs into Rezia which she finds momentarily comforting, but her thoughts described in the narration further her self-questioning: 
But for herself she had done nothing wrong; she had loved Septimus; she had been happy; she had had a beautiful home, and there her sisters lived still, making hats. Why should she suffer? 
In these passages, Lucrezia’s individuality is compromised by her commitment to what she feels is the greater good of the relationship she shares with her husband. Rezia is shown as a fiercely loyal woman, however conflicted, always surrenders her individual sovereignty to the dual cause of marriage and Septimus’ deteriorated mental condition. Rezia’s conflict emerges with knowledge that’s made implicit to the reader, in that Septimus had been a different man before the war. This knowledge illustrates her struggle to maintain a relationship that has transformed into a different commitment, marked by the suffering of each individual. Lucrezia and Septimus have both lost elements of their individuality that have consequently diminished the strength of their commitment to one another. 

Finally at their residence where Septimus is to receive in-home psychiatric treatment, Rezia comforts him and contemplates: 
And she said, nothing should separate them. She sat down beside him and called him by the name of that hawk or crow which being malicious and a great destroyer of crops was precisely like him. No one could separate them, she said. 
However reassured Rezia has become in this moment, ultimately Septimus betrays the commitment by jumping out a window and killing himself. It is Septimus that separates them with his suicide, leaveing Rezia figuratively dead too. She is left unmoored and disoriented to the point that she begins to experience a trauma similar to the condition she was trying to ameliorate: 
She put on her hat, and ran through cornfields – where could it have been? – On to some hill, somewhere near the sea, for there were ships, gulls, butterflies, they sat on a cliff. In London too, there they sat, and, half dreaming, came to her through the bedroom door, rain falling, whisperings, stirrings among dry corn, the caress of the sea, as it seemed to her, hollowing them in its arched shell and murmuring to her laid on shore, strewn she felt, like flying flowers over some tomb. 
Both Lucrezia and Septimus have sacrificed their individuality; she in her bond to him, and he to death. Rezia turns and then speaks to a woman watching her: 
’He is dead’ 
These scenarios crafted by Austen and Woolf show the balance that’s often present but unnoticed when individuals define their identities. In modernity, many sentient qualities are considered to be inborn and deterministic, yet through these literary works that notion is confronted by posing a question to the reader; “Am I the individual I think I am?” The question directs the reader to consider the balance of others within a dynamic environment as affecting individuality. Lucrezia comes to balance off Septimus in a way that defines her character, but is altogether destroyed when he takes his life. The reader is meant to feel a devastation of character left unresolved to further illustrate the death of an identity that had been tied to another. Marianne balances against Willoughby to define her happiness, though once the equation is altered, she learns to shift that balance toward herself and the family around her. In both cases, commitment alters the identities of perceived individuality. 

The ideas of individuality within human connections represented in Sense and Sensibility and Mrs. Dalloway are divergent. Yet the polarizing examples of identity in Marianne and Lucrezia’s commitments inform the reader how far individual motivations will reach to achieve a sense of belonging with others. The confluence of these two characters in Austen and Woolf’s works, reveal the permeability and ever-changing nature of concepts assumed to be static. What’s experienced by the reader is a general conception of self that’s not as independent and self-determining as often thought, but one more informed by a mixture of personal uniqueness influenced by surrounding personalities. Individuality exists on a periphery of ever-changing influences while orbiting a core of mostly fixed traits. The reader of these works, and generally all literary fiction, experience the author’s characterizations intermingled with their own interpretations to understand individuality as a constantly evolving set of characteristics. And so a piece of the human condition is somewhat glimpsed at when individuality is seen through the window of commitment, connection, and choices characters make in fiction and life.   

Painting: Lane Near a Small Town, by Alfred Sisley