Okay, I have a lit crit…

Okay, I have a lit crit question, if anyone wants to take a stab at it. I'm reviewing my Derrida this morning, and have gotten this far:

  • influenced by Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, and Saussure
  • structuralism depends upon structures, and structures depend on centers, and Derrida called into question the idea of a stable center -- which gives us post-structuralism (other big thinkers in this area: Kristeva, Barthes, Deleuze, Guattari and Foucault)
  • he asserts that Western thought has been based on the idea of a center (origin, Truth, Ideal Form, Fixed Point, Immovable Mover, Essence, God, Presence)
  • one of the problems with centers is that they attempt to exclude; in doing so they ignore, repress or marginalize others (which becomes the Other)
  • thus, the longing for a center spawns binary opposites, with one term of the opposition central (and therefore privileged) and the other marginal (man/woman, white/black, nature/culture, etc.)
  • centers want to fix, or freeze the play of binary opposites
Okay, so before I go further -- are these binary opposites essentially what's at work in what JanMohammed calls the Manichean allegory? Which, if I understand it, states that white=good, black=evil. And if so, where does he get that term? Where does Manichean come from? He's using it like everyone knows it, and it sounds vaguely familiar to me, but I can't think from where. Help?

2 thoughts on “Okay, I have a lit crit…”

  1. Um, but I forgot, there’s more to it than that. The term often comes up in the phrase “the Manichean heresy,” which includes the notion (I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m oversimplifying too much) that evil comes from outside of humanity and is thus beyond our control. Whereas Augustine, who initially believed in the heresy, later changed his mind and wrote De Libero Arbitrio (On Free Will), as described in this article:

    Augustine believed the Manichean error absolved individuals of moral responsibility. In De Libero Arbitrio he was combating the Manichean heresy that evil’s origin was independent of humanity. Instead, he demonstrates that evil is a product of liberum arbitrium or free choice of the will. Moreover, Augustine explains why God gives freedom and that it is compatible with divine foreknowledge.

    The abovementioned article on Manicheism and Zoroastrianism, btw, from the Marcus Garvey BBS, has some interesting stuff about race (black/white duality in modern times) and about Augustine’s discussion of sexual desire. Probably pretty relevant to the kinds of things you’re looking at, even if it doesn’t seem so initially. But it argues that despite his rejection of Manicheism, Augustine’s later philosophy was essentially grounded in it (the mind/body duality thing); I’m not sure how mainstream a notion that is, and I haven’t actually read Augustine. I’m sure someone who knows what they’re talking about will post further info.

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