Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tricksters 1 / Philosophers

I have been thinking about Hyde's "TheTrickster makes the World".  The trickster, according to Hyde moves in the borderlands, in places where the markers have been moved, and new things are discovered there.  It's an interesting point and certainly new things are discovered when we are discomfited, the borders have shifted, the surprising has happened, good or bad.  In a sense God dying on the cross for our sins was a shocker and a scandal.

 But I don't know if being in a borderland requires a trickster, in a sense, someone who operates outside of common morality.  Life provides plenty of these situations all the time, all by itself.  I am thinking just getting married and trying to fit into an in-law-family is one of these situation.  All the sudden what you have been taken for granted is no longer the accepted norm.  Your new family has different ideas, even if they are close culturally.  There are so many little things...

Hyde as Frederick Douglass as this figure who moved in the borderland.  Yes, he seems to be in that sort of place, but I would not see why you would call him a trickster.  He was a slave who learned how to read and speak with rhetorical skill.  This was a surprise to many and not even welcome to the abolitionists, who wanted a more standard black speech at rallies.

What interests me is the information in the paragraph below. -- We have met racism in Voltaire.  And here we meet it in Hume, Kant, Hegel and Jefferson.  (The bolding is mine.)  It seems that our philosophers moved in a kind of borderland of complete ignorance. I would be curious to explore the reasoning further.

"Having learned to read and write, having studies eloquence, Douglass proceeds, simply enough, to write and to speak, and these acts by themselves undercut plantation culture, for that culture had as one of its "eternals", the notion that writing and speaking belonged inherently to whites, that their absence was inherent to blacks.  In one of his essays, Henry Louis Gates Jr., offers a good summary of places where this racist division is asserted in high European philosophy;  it appears in Hume, in Kant, and in Hegel;  in America we find it in Thomas Jefferson.  To take but one example, Hegel says that Africa "is no historical part of the World;  it has no movement or development to exhibit.... What we properly understand by Africa, is the Unhistorical, Undeveloped Spirit, still involved in the conditions of mere nature...."  For Hegel, black Africans are part of nature and different in kind from whites because they have no written history.  "The absence and presence of writing,"  says Gates, "of a collective black voice that could in some sense be overheard, were drawn upon by European philosophers to deprive African slaves of their humanity."  (Hyde,  "The Trickster Makes This World" p. 229)

I came across this today:  Mark Twain  said in 1897  “ In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.” 

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