Ben Turner

What do you think about the concept of the social other? Does it makes sense to you or do you have questions about it?
Why does James place so much emphasis on the social other being prior to us?

When we are children we hardly feel any sense of separation between us and the world. The acknowledged reality that children then have a greater innate spiritual “sensibility” about them, indeed as Jesus talks about when he says so directly that “the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these” is not then as surprising when we start to approach things from the theological angle James seems to be coming from. That is the freedom to approach things from a philosophical place of open-minded and trusting subjectivity and to affirm experience rather then as Christianity has become accustomed to, appealing straightaway to Dogma and Tradition which ends up becoming a closed circle. Instead to appreciate how we come to know about the world through learning, or the practical intellect, (which I think might be a phrase Aquinas uses or Jacques Maritain borrows when talking about aesthetics in the context of theology) the innate capacity to pick things up and develop as James mentions is so plastic and remarkable. That we “discern intention” in other humans as infants, that the world is responsive to being interpreted at all and that we are capable of such multi-layered perception are such amazing things; to use an artistic analogy, that we see a collection of marks in a cave and we identify them as a drawing or painting from the past not just an array of marks- that we perceive meaning at all is a metaphysical wonder. But I don’t think its any accident that all artists try to recapture a child-like way of seeing in their spirit or style, youre trying to find the current which seems to run between you and the world which feels the most natural way of being and without there being any sense of obstacle. But what is this obstacle?

In terms of the social other being prior to us I suppose I wonder if there could exist any hypothetical universe with beings in it that didn’t experience a “givenness” or a receiving of qualities which formed them? How could you have any functioning universe where information isn’t received. I know that’s another kind of anthropic principle type approach- were here because were here. So maybe we have to examine the quality of the values we experience in relation to the world with various open-minded hypotheses, relying on subjectivity to get at a reasonable objectivity (as Kierkegaard says “subjectivity is truth, truth is subjectivity”)- If there was a God what might we expect things to be like etc. Things like the teleology in creation that James talks about with regard to physiology. Is the correlation too good to be true or the opposite?
If God was real then you might expect there to be a foundational sense of potential divine relation and belief incorporated within us. For us to be of God in some way. I think Alvin Plantinga talks about this as properly basic belief- but people like Daniel Dennett say you might as well be referring to a giant flying saucer in the sky when using the word God. I guess its about trusting what is good to take you somewhere even better with the help of any notion of faith because God should be so total that He is “the whole show” of existence and more, and present unconsciously or not in everything that is good.
This is the weird bit maybe, granted there are many layers to reality, the world and human beings, but why is God not more obvious but so “hidden” or passive if He is so amazing? Why does Jesus say “that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” In other words why are there so many obstacles in life that in order to become children of God we have to let go of so much, to recover ourselves. Maybe its to do with being embodied because in the West we have such issues with the body yet in the video of this module and for Christ the body is such a focus- Jesus’ body was broken yet his resurrected body was even more real, more alive: its like we are constantly trying to retrieve something prior to our bodies because our bodies are where a lot of the impact of the world happens and a lot of it is obviously not good. I think that’s why we need the prior bit.