Le concept d'individuation

Séminaire du 1er décembre 2010

D'abord lever un malentendu sur l'articulation que j'établis entre les observations sociologiques ou ethnographiques (qui fourniraient des preuves, "evidences," de la thèse que je défends) et les spéculations philosophiques (formulées dans les textes philosophiques, "textual cosmologies"). Ensuite définir «le principe d'individuation» tel qu'il est utilisé dans les textes hindous et bouddhiques pour expliquer la fragmentation du monde sensible (le monde de la mâyâ). Tout en considérant que ce qui suit relève intégralement de l'anthropologie, j'insiste sur ma volonté d'accéder aux principes sous-jacents.

Comme le dit Triloki N. Madan dans une note en bas de page autojustificatrice dans Non-Renunciation. Themes and Interpretations of Hindu Culture, Delhi, OUP, 1987, p.17, n.1: "The issues dealt with in this chapter . . . are of the nature of the principles underlying social action rather than its details as observed in everyday life."

Pour nous élever des détails aux principes de l'action sociale, nous avons besoin de recourir aux catégories de pensée et de langue. Voilà pourquoi j'introduis les mots et les concepts d'individuation, les dividual persons, l'amitié pour toutes les créatures, le monde des apparences (la mâyâ), la fragmentation. Le néologisme forgé par McKim Marriott dans les années 1970 pour établir un contraste entre l'individu et la personne dividuelle, dividual person, se fonde implicitement et confusément sur le principe d'individuation. Confusément, car Marriott m'a affirmé qu'il ne connaissait pas les spéculations philosophiques tant indiennes qu'occidentales sur l'individuation. Le concept d'individuation, selon moi, enveloppe le concept de dividualité si par ce néologisme nous désignons un processus de fragmentation du monde des apparences en individus à personnalités multiples ou dont la personnalité est à facettes et l'identité illusoire. Je m'efforce de décrire et expliquer ci-dessous le lien d'équivalence entre individuation et production de personnes dividuelles.

Je reprends ce que j'ai écrit dans Medical individualism and the dividual person (2013).

I am reflecting upon particular medical situations observed in South Asian urban settings, where individualism is a social value and where some freedom of interpretation is left to the educated patient, who is making choices between different therapeutic methods as well as coping with ideological and institutional constraints which only make sense in so far as patients construe them as constitutive of their specific lived world. All these patients, as observed there and today [là-bas en Inde et aujourd'hui en milieux urbains, observation anthropologique], share the Western attitude in which we logically organize our field of sensations into comprehensible individual objects and the Western ideology acknowledging the seemingly basic format of all human experience, viz., individual objects dispersed throughout space and time, causally related to one another. This is a traditional view in the West according to which we are responsible for the individuated world of appearances.

A few remarks on words employed are in order. Since after Marriott I shall be arguing for the "dividuality" of the human person, would it not be less confusing to avoid using the contrasting term "individual" which suggests the idea of an independent, indivisible person?

"[Since] you seem to be accepting, modifying, and/or arguing for the "dividuality" of the ayurvedic person, Kim Marriott wrote to me, would it not be less confusing to avoid using the contrasting, perhaps even contradictory term "individual"? A two-word phrase such as "separate entity" could substitute for "individual," except where you intend to evoke the modern Western ideal of the independent, indivisible person." (McKim Marriott, communication personnelle.)

However, we are not faced here with a sheer contrast between a world of separate (discrete) entities and a world of fragmented (multi-faceted) entities. The concept of individuation encompasses the concept of dividuality, and the dividual person also is seeing himself or herself as an individual at all times in his or her lived experience. The word individuation is used here with the following meaning. We use to distinguish particular persons from an otherwise undifferentiated mass of people by giving them names, and attributing them identities, illusions of independence, perhaps pride in their distinctness, etc., and this is how we are individuating them. Individuation is the process by which individuals become differentiated from one another. Hindus and Buddhists think that this world of lived experience, illusory as it may be, is the product of such a fragmentation.  Before the human being comes on to the scene, there are no individuals. It is the human being that, in its very effort to know anything, objectifies an appearance for itself that involves the fragmentation of the lived world and its breakup into a display of individuals transacting with one another on the social scene. What is experienced, in India as anywhere else, is violence and competition between individuals. What is adduced as an explanation is the process of individuation.

Then, I should like to clarify my understanding of the word dividual which was coined by McKim Marriott to qualify personal identity, within the framework of his ethnosociological model of the South Asian "dividual person" introduced in the 1970s. Beneath the surface of social relations and our transactions with other living beings, our cattle and our trees, all relations and transactions which apparently are occurring between individual beings, another attitude, different from the Western one, will be to — confusedly, maybe emotionally and unconsciously — experience the fact that facets of our personality or personal constitution (be it defined as psychological or physiological) are shared with others. Dividuality is the process (illusory or ideologically construed maybe) through which an individual shares facets of his or her constitution or personality with others.

In the ideology and practice of Ayurvedic medicine, this is a twofold process. On the one hand, it is the transaction of saps and humors. All living beings thriving on the same soil imbibe the same saps and humors. Being a person this way is sharing the personality and humoral constitution of one's village, one's neighbors, one's cattle and trees. In a sense one can say that the theory of humors is a theory of dividual persons.

Dividuality thus is a name for the psychological and physiological process of fragmentation of the lived world into dividual persons who share facets of themselves with others. Another way of displaying dividuality in Ayurvedic medicine and other learned traditions in India is to adopt an attitude of "friendliness" (maitrī) in which the friendly person implicitly acknowledges a natural and universal relationship with all other living beings who are recognized as both the same as, and different from, the self beyond the death or the skin of an individual patient (his or her death and skin representing two sorts of boundaries for a human individual). The Sanskrit word maitrī means "friendliness" as a mental attitude or a frame of mind. When applied to relationships between all inhabitants of the same land, the same word designates a bond of friendship between fellow creatures. To quote Cakrapāṇidatta's gloss at Carakasaṃhitā, Sūtra 8.29: maitrī sarvabhūteṣv ātmanīvāpratikūlā pravṛttiḥ, "Friendliness is an unrestricted liking for all creatures as for oneself."

My surmise is that the principle of friendliness (maitrī) in doctor-patient encounters supports Marriott's description of South Asian traditional concepts of multiple selves. The doctor's attitude to the patient is based on "dividuality," a commonality of sorts between all creatures, the recognition of which enables the ethical principle of friendliness in the strict sense of the word.

The principle of individuation (Schopenhauer)

Robert Wicks, Arthur Schopenhauer, in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
(First published Mon May 12, 2003; substantive revision Sat Nov 17, 2007)

"Among his other criticisms of Kant (see the appendix to the first volume of The World as Will and Representation, entitled, "Criticism of the Kantian Philosophy"), Schopenhauer maintains that Kant's twelve categories of the human understanding — the various categories through which we logically organize our field of sensations into comprehensible individual objects — are reducible to the single category of causality, and that this category, along with the forms of space and time, is sufficient to explain the basic format of all human experience, viz., individual objects dispersed throughout space and time, causally related to one another.

Schopenhauer further comprehends these three (and for him, interdependent) principles as expressions of a single principle, namely, the principle of sufficient reason, whose fourfold root he had examined in his doctoral dissertation. In The World as Will and Representation, Schopenhauer often refers to the principle of sufficient reason as the principle of individuation, thereby linking the idea of individuation with space and time, mainly, but also with rationality, necessity, systematicity and determinism. He uses the principle of sufficient reason and the principle of individuation as shorthand expressions for what Kant had more complexly referred to as space, time and the twelve categories of the understanding (viz., unity, plurality, totality, reality, negation, limitation, substance, causality, reciprocity, possibility, actuality [Dasein], and necessity). […]

Since the principle of sufficient reason is — given Schopenhauer's inspiration from Kant — the epistemological form of the human mind itself, the spatio-temporal world is the world of our own reflection. To that extent, as Schopenhauer says, life is like a dream. […]

Before the human being comes onto the scene with its principle of sufficient reason (or principle of individuation) there are no individuals. It is the human being that, in its very effort to know anything, objectifies an appearance for itself that involves the fragmentation of the Will and its breakup into a comprehensible set of individuals. The result of this fragmentation, given the nature of the Will, is terrible: it is a world of constant struggle, where each individual thing strives against every other individual thing; the result is a permanent "war of all against all" akin to what Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) characterized as the state of nature."