Challenging the Singular Horizon

by Giuseppe Mastruzzo

Mission Impossible: demythologizing ourselves (and the IUC). In understanding ourselves, let’s think plural: while “globalization” deceitfully states itself as an only master narrative that progressively and positively interconnects all local identities, our “common horizons” must understand and even forge themselves as contingent cultural constructs.

Let’s be deeply democratic. Let’s be lovely and live in a community that is plural and aware of its contingency (the IUC!), where any kind of horizon is challenged which leads to uniformity of views, enforced or otherwise.

Yes, I’d love to start a conversation with myself — and whoever wants to butt in — by acknowledging the end of grand horizons. To start with (incipit, principle), let’s ask ourselves: Is our will to have a common horizon legitimate?

Legitimation in the Enlightenment was tied to meta-narratives (grand narratives, common horizons), to total philosophies of history that make ethical and political prescriptions for the community, and regulate the adjudication of what is considered truth (and, with it, they regulate decision-making and give power). Meta-narratives (grand narratives, common horizons) provide one with the principles one’s community is founded on (incipit: they trigger our sense of community), thus forming the basis of our common bond.

The meta-narratives of the Enlightenment were about grand quests. The progressive liberation of humanity through science (“technology”, we would say today) is a meta-narrative. The quest for a universally valid philosophy for the whole of humankind is a meta-narrative (as perhaps is our quest for a common horizon). Yet, our “common horizons” will be plural plural plural — and more than one….

Don’t be mistaken: the ideas in this discussion will be a manifestation of relations of power and domination (the IUC too, after all). However, there is dialectical thinking and identity thinking (a touch of classics, of authority, of authorized context to support my text): “dialectics seek to say what something is, while ‘identarian’ thinking says what something comes under, what it exemplifies or represents, and what, accordingly, it is not itself.” (T. W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, tr. E.B. Ashton, London: Routledge, 1990, p. 149).

Thus, our ideas, our language — our being, even — should challenge the systematic misrepresentation of reality that we were taught to make through a hierarchical consideration of peculiar contingent facts under universal classificatory designations (and somehow eternal) that were given to us as points of reference to assemble our knowledge and understanding of reality (“the truth”).

While this shared horizon may give us the benefit of easing our handling of the context we are in (the IUC, and its “mission”), it does so by ignoring the peculiarity and contingency of that context (us): everything becomes a sample — a paradigm, a standard — and this is how identity thinking misrepresents its object (this is how we misrepresent ourselves). It is also how we institutionalize our condition, we crystallize it, with the eventual consequence of not having conscious control over it (Adorno would argue that this is the way enlightenment reverts to mythology). Or, perhaps: “when the map covers the whole territory, something like the principle of reality disappears” (in democracy, it’s elegant to refer to more than one authority: J. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, tr. S. Faria Glaser, Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1994, p.123).

Let’s not make of ourselves a system (let’s go on with revolution and the IUC, instead). You see, our incapacity of perception to distinguish reality from fiction begins once we perceive our topography of reality as complete (and we perceive our horizon as “common”). And I can see that today at the IUC our common identity is forming, and our previous horizons, our previous ways of understanding and living our “own space” are changing (into a “new”, “wider”, “common horizon”).

Let’s stick to a plurality of “horizons”, then; let’s not allow our common horizon to expand into a grand narrative that blurs the awareness of our contingent, deeply democratic selves. Let’s just be common up to a point.

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