Left, Right, and Identity

During the Three Fork discussions (see this morning’s post, which I didn’t want to be longer than it already was) I began to relate the tension between left and right to the tension between the two parts of our “self” in time, that Paul Ricoeur refers to as the ipse and the idem. The ipse is the “selfhood” – the you that was living in a moment sitting at school listening (or not) to a teacher talk, the you that is living in the moment right now reading these words, and the you that will be in the moment in ten years, twenty years, thirty years on in your future. This is the part of you that is constantly changing, defined by the separation, living in the present within a continuum of time. In accounting terms this might be seen as the Balance Sheet at any single point in time. The idem is the “Sameness” – the part of you that was you at ten, and is still you at sixty. It is the long-term trajectory of one entity in time. In accounting terms it’s the Profit and Loss Statement – observed through it’s changing values during a defined period. Ricoeur posits that the idem and the ipse are joined through narrative. Aspects of narratives communication include: promises (to which an idem works to hold the two separate ipse’s accountable for), convictions (the motivation for working to fulfil a promise), memories (one cannot fulfil a promise that they do not remember making), forgiveness (the ability to promise contains the ability to reverse that promise, and part of life living is the freedom of future idems), and finally the forgetting (the letting go, the moving on, the closure and space for new beginnings). What the right side is to the left side of the brain, the ipse is to the idem of a personal identity. Selfhood within Sameness. Separation within Connection. Conflict within Conformity. Neither side of the brain can operate without the other. Some doses and mixtures of either part can be destructive, while other doses and mixtures of the two can be creative. [1] We face these tensions in our daily life: one ipse’s decides to lose five kilos, yet one’s future ipse may decide to eat a block of chocolate. The long-term state of a person relies on the short-term decisions that person makes. Similarly the long-term state of a society relies on the short-term decisions of its citizens. Peace or violence? In a way this tension between Right and Left, the tension of the Collective and the Individualist, the tension between “you” and the “you-in-this-moment”, and also relates to the tension between Structure and Agency (that is, the power of the collective institutions and processes Vs the power of individuals who act and react within those systems). A life led by the right side of the brain = peace in the short-term, bliss in the moment of feeling united and at one; but without the left it … Continue reading Left, Right, and Identity