Deena Lin: "Providing Meaning to the Human Experience in Spite of Epistemic Distance"
In this paper, I will present a philosophical anthropology that rests on some notions that provide meaning to the self-reflective human agent, and yet, I am not seeking to reify or universalize any one of them. The nodes of meaning I present result from the fact that I am located, and have been conditioned by my education, culture, upbringing, religious beliefs, and place in history. I continue to maintain, however, that within our globalizing society it is important to bridge the differences between human beings. This is my attempt to provide some meaning to human agency in the hope that it may allow for points of convergence to arise between individuals as they speak of what it means to be human. It should be noted, however, that my attempt at addressing human subjectivity is not an effort to promote a universal claim about human nature as such, for I am in agreement with the postmodern stance on epistemic distance, and the limitations placed upon individuals as social agents who are embedded, yet not limited by language.
The philosophical anthropology I will present in this paper promotes a notion of agency that is inspired by Judith Butler’s magnum opus: Gender Trouble.1This humble attempt to provide meaning to human agency in the midst of the linguistic confusions Butler enlightens us to in her work. Though Butler’s interest is not anthropological in nature, in this paper I will use her philosophy as a springboard to facilitate rethinking the way the agency is constructed. I will begin by presenting a brief synopsis of Butler’s theory of performativity, secondly I will present the limits of this philosophy in terms of providing meaning to agency, and I will conclude by presenting some ways of gaining meaning that I am advocating present an opaque picture of the self, that remains in flux via the myriad of ways in which the self gathers meaning throughout one’s life experiences.
15 July 2008