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Tragedy & Identity

Thought for further study:

Twin tragedies of modernity:
I) the modern turn to reflective identity
II) the pressure, under liberalism, towards identity bifurcation in one of two modes:
i) vertical/hierarchical -- the subordination of one identity under another, i.e. citizen before Xtian, Jew, etcetera, or vice versa.
ii) horizontal/spatial -- identity is bifurcated between spaces, i.e. one is a citizen or consumer within the public sphere, and an Xtian, Jew, or whathaveyou in private.

Obviously, under such circumstances, identity, already ill-defined, but presumably freely created through the intentionalistic acts of the ego, becomes a logical impossibility. One cannot be identical to oneself insofar as one must maintain a private identity which is separate from that of the public, which must result from paths sketched-out by Rawls and by Locke. "Identity politics" under such circumstances are unrealizable, by definition.

The essentially tragic character of Option (i) has been sketched-out theoretically, and at length, by Sophocles, Plato, and by Augustine among others. One must negotiate existence betwixt and between the City of God and the City of Man, the Politeia of the soul and the Polis, the law of the gods and that of the city. These authors, however, recognized that human character was not constituted in reflective identity, but was already bound-up in forces beyond a self-willed ego.

Some thinkers of the Enlightenment have attempted to resolve the issue through the subordination of identity to the state, much as some Prophets and paracletes have attempted to resolve identity under the direct presence of God (or the nearest secular or gnostic substitute). Hobbes, Rousseau, and Hegel come to mind, as does Heidegger.

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