Topic: 28. THE PHILOSOPHICAL-ANTHROPOLOGY OF PROPERTY

I.
The human being is the first being to think of himself.  This he did originally in his capacity as a hunter.  The hunted animal, a faster runner than the man, quickly disappeared into the bush.  The human began stalking--and thinking.  The hunter could follow the animal, not first physically (the human was slow moving), but in his mind.  But there is more.  The animal was not the only entity in the mind of the hunter.  The hunter himself was in that picture of the hunt.  The hunter had to be there, inasmuch as the real hunter, the one who as a centered being was the thinker, calculated his own capacity in relation to the animal.  The hunter saw himself as a hunter with certain energy and speed and so forth. This primal situation was the occasion of the first self concept or sense of identity. The human brain evolved.  This thinking turned into a precise calculus with the hunter himself, or his mental counterpart, at the center--a new center--of the equasion.  I said earlier that this mental picture that the hunter had of himself is the first enounter of the human being with his self.  This was an ex-centric self.

But there is more.  The ex-centric self is itself a drifter and a wanderer; it's ex-centricity derives from its inherent motive to be free of a center.  But this in itself is an empty existence.  The ex-centric self strives for a new home or resting place, away from the original center of life.  The disposition to turn from hunting to the settled life of agricuture is an impulse to find this new center.  Such a life, rooted to the fields, anticipates later ideas of property.  The agricultural field constituted a new, yet not precisely a biologically or racially centric, point of orientation.  Property, on the other hand, as I define the word, could be "mobile"--detachable and alienable.  The idea of "social" property in the modern as opposed to agricultural sense is a further "ex-centric" attempt to free the idea of possession from its own implied centricity.   "Dialectically" the agricultural fields oppose their own centernedness to become expressions of "liquid" or social possession.  Then, in turn, the freedom of humans from agriculture--a freedom we call civilization--counters itself with immodilare, or stationary property that is not agricultural.   [:(...here I am sadly tangled up; will continue later]

Freedom--ex-centricity--follows rootedness and attachment.  The ex-centric self asserts its inherent freedom.  Even so, the self in this assertion of freedom must inhibit the freedom, which would otherwise be contentless and pointless drifting.  The self anchors itself in territory and property, which themselves are ex-centric or abstract concepts.  It is precisely through property, I suggest, that the human being becomes social.  The human being must "locate" his property in reference to that of other human beings.   A need to "legitimize" possessions--call them property--leads to agencies of legitimization.  We call these agencies society itself.  I have considered this legitimacy and these agencies earlier in this blog.

Hunting finally disappeared as a way of life.  Also, the drifting about of human beings came to an end as humans turned to agriculture.  I am saying that people settled on farms not to improve their source of food, but rather in order to find a center in their lives.   There began what we may here call a "dialectic of culture."   Culture and society (and human history as a whole) unfold as the ex-centric person attempts to center himself.  First the hunter, originally consigned to drift endlessly, put an end to his wandering through the practice of agriculture.  The human being became, through agriculture, himself "plantlike."  He was no longer drifting; he was rooted.       

Property and physical territory are concepts in relation to other concepts.  I talked about property in my last section and believe this material should be expanded and qualified.  I say that property (as is territory) is a concept.    We say here that there is no property instinct, as such, or any inborn proclivity to acquire physical possessions.  The apes are without property, and so are human beings naturalistically considered.   Stating the issue of property in the framework of Plessner's dichotomy of centric and ex-centric principles, a centric or centered being does not need property.  To be totally centered means that a being does not distinguish itself, precisely, from its surroundings.  To use a cliche phrase, the being is "at one" with its surroundings.   We may say that the living being as a centric being is in a status quo relationship with its surroundings.  This is not an inert (stone-like) relationship, as I have already said;  the living being, and especially the potentially uprooted animal, resists movement.  Movement and the necessity to counter movement are  what we are presently talking about.  Property in these terms is a concept that balances the person as an ex-centric being and fixes him to a definite spot in space.  Property "locates" the person. 

The first humans were, as hunters, entirely mobile.  Their only orientation in space was to follow the animals they were chasing.  The hunters went here and there, drifted this way and that.  The last phase of hunting, of the Upper Paleolithic cultural period 50-10,000 years ago, passed from Europe to Asia where it disappeared.    At that time, animals were drifting away from the now warmer climate of Europe toward colder regions of northern Asia; the Cro-Magnons followed close behind.  It would be false to say that these hunters had "territories."  Even today we see, among the surviving hunters of the world, notably the Bushmen of the African Kalahari, do not precisely defend territories; skirmishes with neighboring hunters are brief and not violent.  The Bushmen are occasionally adduced to prove the contrary point, namely that humans do not generally have a territorial instinct.  That anti-nationalist view is affirmed in the present essay.  The notion that such hunters had territories which they defended is a myth promulgated by nationalistic philosophers.  I spoke earlier of this modern myth.  But there is more.  Obviously political boundaries enclosing space are a reality of the modern world.  Ethologists call these boundaries "territory."  Nationalism, first French and Spanish nationalism (these were the first nations in the modern sense), has appeared as the political and social form of higher civilization.  What nationalism is, it is suggested here, is a counter-concept of the ex-centric human being; this counter-concept locates the human in precise space.  Territorialism, we say, inhibits motion.  The tendency of humans to drift about in space is countered by territory.  The same is true of property, at different periods of history.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-02-06 16:49:25)

Re: 28. THE PHILOSOPHICAL-ANTHROPOLOGY OF PROPERTY

II.
What we propose is very simple.  We are looking now at what I will call a "theoretical person."  This person is a "subject," in Schopenhauerian  terms; but this is only to say he is a subject "theoretically."  The subject itself is life itself.  The theoretical subject is not however life itself; it is only a vision or mental apparition that appears (somehow) out of life. 

The hunter pursuing an animal-- one which has presently disappeared from sight--has a mental picture or vision.  That vision is of an animal which to the hunter represents food.  But there is more.   Within that same vision is also of the hunter as he "sees"--through his internal "sight"--himself.  We may ask how this self-image is constituted, that is, through what sources does the vision or image come to be.  We are saying something rather simple.    That is, the self-image that the hunter has is obviously not constituted through sense impressions; the hunter cannot directly see himself.  Rather, the vision of the hunter himself is made up of elements or "data" coming from various sources.  These sources would of course come partly from the hunter's experience of himself in the past:  how he functioned in other hunts.  He would know his own speed and strength.  So these things, speed and strength, go into his image of himself.    We may carry this thought a bit further.  There will be also  comments and criticism from other members of his social group.  Is he, for instance, an esteemed hunter?  If he is, he wouldl have that extra self confidence.  We are saying only that what the hunter thinks of himself is the result, partly, of what other persons of his group think of him.  We are contemplating here the hunter in a typical day of hunting, as he walks at a steady pace, hoping--he may only hope--that the animal that he guesses is there is indeed there.  It is altogether as important to him that he knows who he is as, of course, he knows the animal.  The thought in the hunter's mind is of himself as well as the animal.  This is necessary to his success.  But, while his hunger and the absolute subjectivity of his present situation and need propels him onward in the hunt, his image of himself--which I now call "theoretical"--is a creation of his mind.  In that sense, the vision that he has of himself is not absolute in the sense of absolutely subjective, but only secondarily subjective. By "secondarily subjective" I mean that a vision originally had an objective character but was designated, in relation to another object (the prey), a stand-in or "theoretical" subject.  [confusion reigns here!]   The image is subject to change over time and even a certain manipulation.    The image of himself that the hunter carries in his mind is also a social image, one that he derives by virtue of his membership in his band or clan. 

Connected with this image are notions of pride, self-respect, desire to please others--his wife waits for the food--and status within the group.  These are also elements of a self image that exist side by side with the simple notion, of course, that he the hunter is just hungry and the animal he's chasing consistutes food.   Present for our contemplation are several things.  We are considering a subject, which I will call simply the "animal center" of all living existence; secondly we are thinking of an "object," or a thing present to this animal's (also human's) senses; thirdly we are thinking of an object, which was originally the hunter's animal prey or target; and finally of the "theoretical person" of which I have just spoken.  We now have four elements in our equasion, a four-sided relationship each of which has an effect on the whole. Finally, the mental vision that the hunter has is an entirely theoretical, and in that sense an objective, construct.

The hunger that the theoretical hunter has is theoretical hunger.  The strength and speed that the theoretical hunter has is theoretical.    The hunter himself is theoretical.  This hunter is related, somehow, to the actual hunter--but only ex-centrically.  The implications of this relationship are profound.   The animal has to, and can, deal with only one relationship:  that of an absolute subject to an absolute object.   The prey or food source of the animal is all that the animal thinks about--or simply sees (because seeing is all there is to thinking in an animal).  The animal does not think about its own hunger.  Hunger for the animal is purely subjective and, since the subject is the source of the thinking, cannot see itself, know itself or think about itself.    The human being, on the other hand, has to have in mind at all times during his hunt, a four-sided equasion.  He must know a theoretical subject in relation to a theoretical object.  Finally, he must know the relationship between this theoretical subject-object connection and, on the other hand, his own subjectivity.  The human being can constructively objectify, finally, his own subjectivity.    Only then can he build a complete entity capable of a true human hunt.

Re: 28. THE PHILOSOPHICAL-ANTHROPOLOGY OF PROPERTY

III.
The "real man" is a cliche of philosophy just as it is a cliche of democratic and communistic political theory.    Marxism states that the "real man" is a materialist.  Democracy says something else (we won't trouble ourselves with the intricacies of these traditions).  Post-Hegelian philosophy, at any rate, has presented an imigo homini that opposes  whatever else came before Hegel; we think here of Christianity.   The other-worldly viewpoint of Christianity, which depicts the "real" human being as in spiritual touch with a deity, has lately been deemed old-fashioned.  These convoluted arguments are not something we want to engage in ourselves.  My presentation turns on the idea, on the other hand, that the very word "man" is a misnomer, insofar as there is no fixed or permanently identifiable phenomenon that corresponds to the word.  Nature is a churning process in which a species is anticipated, eventually appears and, finally, is obliterated.  Race is the active process of nature which brings about this or that physical reality.  In the words of Nietzsche, "Man" is a being that shall be overcome.  We follow this Nietzschian viewpoint.  Finally, if by "society" we mean "somethng of man," society itself is nothing we can speculate on.  Here we affirm a concept of "individual," assuming, of course, that we carefully define what we are talking about.

Marx-Engelism distinguishes between individual and social commodities.  Marx-Engelism defines as social commodities as anything made by a group of persons rather than by just an individual.  Our focus here, on the other hand, is on the psychology of possessions.  We do not agree with Marxists that simply because a thing is made socially it "must" be possessed socially; or that there is any contradiction between the social manufacture of a thing and the individual possession of that thing.  We are saying, on the other hand, that the word possession has no clear definition.  We mean by possession only what this or that person has with or by himself, which could be a thing casually used, not used as all or simply a familiar object within the person's perimeter of vision or sensation.  A thing might be a possession just because it lies next to a person.  We assume that the person has a "possessive" attitude toward his possession.  Someone else could claim that object, in which case there might be a struggle.  The reason that possessions are not as such defined is that there is no agreement concerning them.  Such an agreement would consist of an understanding between the possessor and some other person who, for his part, "agrees" to "allow" the first person to continue in his possession.  The agreement consists of an understanding between men that there will be no argument concerning this or that object.  This state of agreement I have discussed in Section -- of this blog.  The agreement defines all of three things:  the relationship of a person to a thing; the relationship of one person to another; and the relationship of the possessor to a generality of humans.  Through the agreement the possessed thing becomes "social."   It is through this agreement that the objects concerned--once possessions--become property.

Property, we are saying, constitutes a center or anchor or point of reference for an ex-centric being.   This center is "new," in the sense of not original.  We say that property is a discretionary center.   The original center of the ex-centric being--the center which the being is first ex-centric in relation to--is life and nature.  This is a truth I have repeated several times.  The new center, then, or what we call property, is a physical object--so in that sense, this property is "of nature."   But there is more.  The relationship of the being to this physical object is not given to the being at the being's time of origin; rather the relationship is acquired sometime during the lifetime of the being and also in a way that suits the being.  One's place in nature is not acquired but given; one's property, however, and the relation one has with his property, is acquired.  Property could be created by the person; but it could also be found or transferred from another person.  In any case, the property consists of fixed points in space and time which the ex-centric being can, in passing, adhere to.   The real relation a person has with property is fundamentally that the property centers an ex-centric being in a secondary sense, as a center, so to speak, away from the original--life-based--center.  There is a dimension of arbitrariness in property.  Property can be found, as I have already said, or be transferred from one person to another.  It is the physical and "external" dimension of property that the ex-centric being "seizes" as this human being passes by.  In the end, however, the origin and final destiny of the being, centrically or ex-centrically considered, is the absolute creative force of nature, which we have identified as race. 

The essential conclusion we are driven to, finally, is that we may define society as an entity consisting not of human beings, as such, but of things.  Society is a relationship of things defined by law.  Such a relationship is "constructive" insofar as the relation lacks subjectivity.  Society consists of interdependent parts objectively definable, but things, too, that are interchangeable--and replaceable--according to need.  Society, we are saying, is essentially a machine.  What is the relationship of humans to this machine?  The identity of persons (we are saying) has been absorbed into the things they call property; while the relation of persons to one another is through, or mediated by, the relations between property.  We may pause for a moment to consider the communism of Engels.  Engels regarded property as antithetical to society, as an obstacle to the "naturally" cooperative relations of man to man, or "real men" to one another.  Engels was mistaken.  Society exists only as property itself, or the relation to definable, discrete elements attached to individual human owners.  Thus a communal society is a contradiction in terms.  Engels proposed that property would be transcended.  We may ponder the full implications of communism.  To do as Engels would have us do--to abolish property--would be to abolish society.  I have already discussed my ideological position in regards to Engels' position:  these points of view are by no means adversarial.   My own position is "anarchist," so that the dissolution of society would not be regretable.  Property is an obstacle to a final and direct relationship of white people to one another, constituted through the power or "race" of nature.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-02-03 15:30:47)