Question of Interpersonality


Respect, recognition and reciprocity are crucial to ethical interpersonal encounters. (Image by Ron Mader on Flickr.)

Humans are herd Animals and as such is cooperation and rational altruism evolutionarily pivotal. Humans derive a sense of dignity from playing a role in the lives of others. However, this sense of self-importance can be attained by either oppressing others or by aiding others aid themselves although there are many intermediary forms of those social behaviors. Helping others is however not limited to helping human others.

One key problem with modernity is how humans misconceive of themselves in zoological terms as most of the time do they not even conceive of themselves in zoological terms at all. E.g. does the liberal ethos wrongly presume that humans are so to speak “lone wolves” rather than zoological herd animals. If we do not understand ourselves as herd Animals then will we inevitably structurally misunderstand ourselves both as individuals and as collectives. E.g. many perceived individual problems are derived from living either alone, in too small social units or simply with the wrong persons. Traumas serve an evolutionary function of protecting us from dangers by warning us of recurring dangers and so environmental stimuli that remind of a trauma may trigger the mnemonic reaction. Therefore can emigration or other relocation be an effective way to treat and/or manage a trauma.

One common idea in 20th century Europe was the notion of seeking that perceived essence known as “the meaning of life”. That of course is a teleological question of superficially secularized Christian metaphysics which strictly speaking is the wrong question. What then is the right question? The answer to that is the following: What does the person seeking that perceived essence actually seek? Or in other words what is it that the person actually longs for?

The answer is interpersonality, namely in this case human quest for building social structures of interdependence. Interdependence makes us survive as human Animals and so our desire for interpersonality is a herd instinct for evolutionary survival. The metaphysical quest for “the meaning of life” is thus not only performative but an instinct indeed although this instinct is much diversely expressed in different human cultures and subcultures and so “seeking the meaning of life” is merely one socially constructed expression of this fundamental zoological instinct which indeed helps us individually survive as human herd Animals by more or less forcing us to forge connections and build communities and ventures. This instinct is however variously strongly present in different persons and may also be variously sublimated in terms of assigned/elective community, worldview and lifestyle respectively.

However once we understand that interpersonality is that performative sense which is referred to as “the meaning of life”, then can we also commence to think in terms of how interpersonality ought to be devised, designed and socially constructed indeed.

Interpersonality (i.e. interpersonal connection) is often referred to as culture, society, religion etc. but the terms social construction and performativity also capture important aspects of this phenomenon. If we rather than asking what the meaning of life is (the answer varies of course as to how interpersonality is socially constructed) instead ask how interpersonality ought to become, then can we start to design contexts through social/conceptual innovation that  respond to the underlying instinctual quest for interpersonality in a more ethical and functional manner.

Rather than merely endeavoring to modify existing contexts where interpersonality is expressed is it much much more effective to devise new ones. How do we create new social contexts? We can do that by creating new communities with new etiquettes and we can and need also re-appropriate public space in creating new and innovative configurations in public space as well, including by means of innovative semiotic warfare in public space IRL.

Interpersonality furthermore needs to become the subject of scientific study in helping us learn how interpersonality becomes psychologically, economically, socially and intimately relevant indeed. In traditional societies is interpersonality compulsory and in modernity is interpersonality instead conceived of as purportedly elective. A closer look at modernity shows instead that free choice is not actually that free but compulsory indeed and typically limited to a few pre-designed options.

If we however rethink free choice from choosing between existing options into devising, designing and innovating new options can we thus also reinvent the contemporary state of interpersonality itself. The question is not whether we desire interpersonality (most humans do) but instead what kind of interpersonality that we indeed should seek? First, this is of course individual in the sense that we individually seek different individual expressions of interpersonality and second is this an ethical question as well. The two are however umbilically connected in that interpersonality needs precisely be both idiosyncratic and ethical indeed.

We thus need to rethink freedom from merely choosing from an existing menu to constantly designing new, better and more functional and ethical menus for ourselves and others. The conception of freedom thus needs to become reappropriated from its modern hegemonic sense of phallogocentric agency to one of ethico-politically constantly recreating meaningful connection through reciprocal interpersonality. Many heterocultural males seem to believe that coitus is the holy grail of interpersonality,  many heterocultural females seem to think that romance and marriage are the holy grail of interpersonality, others seek to sublimate interpersonality through financial accumulation of capital and yet other seek to enslave fellow person (human and non-human) through economic, social, cultural and sexual relations in thus making themselves seem relevant to themselves indeed when in fact they are anything but relevant! This is pure illusion for how relevant is actually the slave owner to the enslaved person other than as an imposed oppressor? This reminds us of the necessity of ethical expression of freedom, including particularly the performative expression of necessarily ethical interpersonality indeed. Why ethical then? First the answer to that question is obviously intuitive and second ethical interpersonality serves in evolutionary terms those involved better than imposed interpersonality.

Interpersonality is thus expressed through a spectrum of performativity from the physically coercive on the one hand to the self-designedly elective on the other. Ethical interpersonality also requires understanding how we are varyingly different and similar to each other and that those differences/similarities are a matter of degree rather than fixed categories of phantasmatic typologies and taxonomies. This is thus not merely a matter of accepting diversity but crucially one of embracing the idiosyncratic singularity of personhood. Personhood is so varyingly embodied and socially expressed both individually and collectively so and hence embracing personhood of others (humans Animals and non-Human persons alike) in also sharing our own is that which we as human beings yearn for indeed although the instinctual yearning for interpersonality is hardly unique to the homo genus indeed.

We need however disentangle biologically instinctual interpersonality from various Eurocentric and ethnocentric ideologies that prejudicially constrain ethico-political conceptual/social innovation in the self-design of increasingly advanced & sophisticated reciprocity in interpersonality that respects difference/similarity in reciprocal interpersonality.

While we need to continue to critique existing socially constructed forms of interpersonality through critical theory and public debate need we also move from limiting ourself to mere reform and engage in increasingly advanced/sophisticated conceptual/social innovation. For example critiquing patriarchy and patriarchal institutions is insufficient in the sense that this is much less transformative unless we offer, devise and design new and innovative social settings to supplant existing ones. Someone critical of organized religion need to think in terms of what ought to be devised in its stead. Someone critical of capitalism need to think and design something else. Someone critical of the institution of socio-typical marriage need to innovate and popularize social institutions of polyamory in making these social models increasingly available to the public. Someone critical of the immense suffering taking place in what are euphemistically known as “ecosystems” need to think in terms of reinventing nature and so one and so forth.

While religions endeavor to explain, package and indeed socially construct our desire for interpersonality is there no single universal expression since interpersonality need be idiosyncratic, reciprocal and ethical, indeed all at once or else it is probably some degree of coercion and/or structural oppression.

Interpersonality is thus the fundamental teleology of ethics and so since diversity is not reducible to a system is interpersonality also irreducible to systems generally. This irreducible nature of interpersonality may seem perplexing but is simply a mere cybernetic convergence of performativity and genetics. This however does not mean that interpersonality is either relative or absolute but is rather a matter of degree in respect, reciprocity, mutual recognition and convergence/differentiation in interpersonal encounters.

The question of interpersonality thus needs to be considered in an interdisciplinary context as well as in terms of creating a new scientific field as devoted to the study of the diverse expression and individualized ethics of interpersonality indeed.