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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) November 21, 2021: The Canadian Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor (born in 1931) announces his general topic in the title and subtitle of his 600-page book Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Harvard University Press, 1989). Taylor's use of the definite "the" in his subtitle appears to stipulate that "The Modern Identity" is to be understood as emerging historically in the early modern and modern periods in Western culture -- over against what I will here style "The Pre-Modern Identity" - which may have also continued to exist somehow in a residual form into what Taylor might consider the early modern and modern periods in Western cultural history.
Indeed, residual overlapping patterns is precisely what David Riesman describes in his widely read book with Nathan Glazer and Reuel Denney, The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character (Yale University Press, 1950). In the terminology that I just posited as "The Pre-Modern Identity," Riesman's outer-directed (also known as tradition-directed) character type continued to co-exist in American culture alongside the inner-directed character type and the then-emerging other-directed character type. As we will see momentarily, Riesman's inner-directed character type manifests what Taylor refers to in Part II as "Inwardness" (pages 109-207), the characteristic central to "The Modern Identity" in Taylor's terminology.
Even though I can readily align Riesman's terminology about inner-directed character types in American culture with Taylor's historical survey of inwardness in Western culture, I find nothing in Taylor's 1989 book with which I can align Riesman's terminology about outer-directed (or tradition-directed) character types in American culture. Because Riesman's terminology strikes me as elastic and protean, I want to raise the question here, "Can we also aptly use the terminology outer-directed (or tradition-directed) character types to describe our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors as well as our farmer and city-dweller ancient ancestors?
I would align Riesman's terminology about outer-directed (or tradition-directed) character types in American culture with what the American Jesuit Renaissance specialist and cultural historian Walter J. Ong refers to as the world-as-event sense of life in his fine article "World as View and World as Event" in the journal the American Anthropologist, volume 71, number 4 (August 1969): pages 634-647. Conversely, I would align what Ong refers to as the world-as-view sense of life with Riesman's terminology about inner-directed character types in American culture.
Ong's 1969 essay "World as View and World as Event" is reprinted in volume three of Ong's Faith and Contexts, edited by Thomas J. Farrell and Paul A. Soukup (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995, pages 69-90).
At first blush, Ong seems to be suggesting an either/or choice between the world-as-event sense of life and the world-as-view sense of life. Up to a point, this appears to be the case. However, for Ong, there is also a catch. The catch is that the emerging world-as-view sense of life may co-exist, as it were, close to the world-as-event sense of life, as a kind of residual form, as it were. Because Ong's favorite target in Western philosophy is Plato, Plato can serve here as representing the emerging world-as-view sense of life. Western philosophical thought permeates Plato's dialogues. This Western philosophical thought represents the emergence of the world-as-view sense of life in ancient Greek culture. However, a certain number of myths or stories can also be found in Plato's dialogues. They represent residual forms of the world-as-event sense of life that Plato was still close to.
See John Alexander Stewart's bilingual book The Myths of Plato (New York: Macmillan, 1905).
Most ancient and medieval Western philosophers and theologians embraced the world-as-view sense of life embodied in Western philosophy from the time of Plato and Aristotle onward. But most ancient and medieval Western philosophers and theologians co-existed side by side with the world-as-event sense of life in the various residually oral cultures around them. However, this kind of co-existence tended to diminish under the influence of the Gutenberg printing press from the mid-1450s onward in Western culture in the early modern and modern periods. In short, the print culture in Western culture after the Gutenberg printing press emerged tended to be characterized predominantly with the world-as-view sense of life.
Concerning ancient and medieval Western theology, see my article "Early Christian Creeds and Controversies in the light of the Orality-Literacy Hypothesis [as Advanced by Walter J. Ong]" in the journal Oral Tradition, volume 2, number 1 (January 1987): pages 132-149.
For further discussion of what Ong refers to as the world-as-event sense of life and of what he refers to as the world as view sense of life, see my article "Walter Ong and Harold Bloom Can Help Us Understand the Hebrew Bible" in the journal Explorations in Media Ecology, volume 11, number 3&4 (2012): pages 255-272.
James L. Kugel does not happen to advert explicitly to Ong's 1969 article "World as View and World as Event" in his book The Great Shift: Encountering God in Biblical Times (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017). Nevertheless, "The Great Shift" Kugel detects in the texts of the Hebrew Bible can be interpreted as the written record of the shift from the early world-as-event sense of life to the subsequent world-as-view sense of life as Ong discusses these.
Ong discusses the aural-to-visual shift in cognitive processing in his book Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason Harvard University Press, 1958; see the "Index" for specific page references to the aural-to-visual shift [page 396]). Ong's Art of Reason refers to the Age of Reason (also known as the Enlightenment and as Taylor's modernity).
I hasten to point out here that Ong himself credits (page 338, note 54) the French Catholic philosopher Louis Lavelle (1883-1951) with suggesting the aural-to-visual shift in cognitive processing to him through his book La parole et l'ecriture (Paris: L'Artisan du livre, 1942).
For further discussion of what Ong refers to as the world-as-event sense of life, see David Abram's book The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (New York: Pantheon Books/ Random House, 1996).
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