What follows are the reflections of individuals. We make no greater claim for them but we offer them in the spirit of exchange and dialogue.
Last week Roberto wrote about the broad social dimension of the principles. This week I wanted to share some thoughts about who is the “other” to whom that the principle refers.
It’s a subject that reminds me of somethings Silo wrote in his book the Human Landscape (the third part of the collection Humanize the Earth).
Personally I find the chapter a bit heavy going but well worth the effort.
III. The Human Body as the Object of Intention
1. The body, as a natural object, is subject to natural modifications, and thanks to human intention is, of course, susceptible to transformation—not only in its most external expressions but also in its innermost functioning. One’s own body takes on its greatest significance when viewed in this way—as the prosthesis of intention. However, a social process intervenes between the immediate (unmediated) governance of one’s own body and the adaptation of the body to the needs and purposes of others. This process does not depend on the isolated individual but entails others as well.
2. Ownership of my psychophysical structure is given by my intentionality, while external objects present themselves to me as only indirectly subject to my control (through the action of my body) and outside of my immediate ownership. There is a particular type of object, however, that I intuit as the property of a foreign intention, and that is the body of the other. That otherness puts me in the position of being “seen from outside,” seen from someone else’s intention. My vision of the other is, therefore, an interpretation—a landscape extending to every object that carries the mark of human intention, whether produced or used today or in the past.
In that human landscape I can obliterate the intention of others by considering them prostheses of my own body, in which case I must “empty” them of their subjectivity, at least in those areas of thought, feeling, or action that I wish to control directly. But this objectification of others necessarily dehumanizes me as well, and so I justify this situation by claiming that it is the consequence of “Passion,” “God,” “A Cause,” “Natural Inequity,” “Fate,” “Society,” and so forth.
If, like me, you find that exposition a bit difficult here’s something based a talk Silo gave on the Psychology of the Image. Among other things it addresses a point Jorge raised about the claim for an “improved” version of the golden rule. It’s from September 9, 1989 in Potrerillos, Argentina.
Some say we have to “treat the other as the other wants to be treated”. But we don’t know what the other really wants, or how they feel. And we certainly can’t tell them what they should do. For us the emphasis is placed on my action, leaving me with a memory of having acted with unity.
I recognize in the other an intentionality like mine, and a field of freedom that places limits on me. We are not alone, isolated in our own consciousness. On the contrary we are inter-connected, we influence others and they influence us. From this point of view it is not indifferent to your evolution what you do, or how you treat others.