Charles Spinosa: Families of Identities

Charles Spinosa has written a thoughtful and thought-provoking reply to my last 2 posts, and I reproduce it here as an article in its own right:

Terence,
I am delighted that you translating my phenomenological description and insights into the language of Deleuze and Guattari. Since theirs is not a language I can easily speak, I cannot really tell what is happening in the translation. It would be the same way if you translated my English into French. I’d simply hear my English and not what the French did to it. I wish it were otherwise on both counts.

I do notice that you caught one small blunder I made. Here is what you write.

He argues from the fact that we can reidentify the same person, over different worlds, as for example a friend and then a colleague (and later, why not?, as a business rival, a lover, or a spiritual guide), that this person may be said to have an identity outside the language-games and practices and their constitutive worlds.

The phrase « may be said to » was too strong. I should have written « may » alone. I meant to say that, given my understanding of multiple worlds, it is coherent to claim that the person could have an identity outside the language games and so forth. It is not my preferred interpretation of identity, but not one I see as utterly incoherent. I prefer to interpret each of us as a family of identities. They are held together by the family relationship roughly as Wittgenstein describes the family relationship. Actually, it is a bit stronger than Wittgenstein’s sense. I do not want to include as normal cases the kind of multiple identities that schizophrenics can have. The knowledge, familiarity, and compatibility of each with the other is much higher than I believe it to be in the schizophrenic case. (I am far from an expert on the schozophrenic cases. Consider this formulation of the difference a tentative way I understand myself.)

I wonder, however, if the account I just gave of the multiplicity of identity fits with what you are saying in this passage, which I find mysterious.

However, « identity », the fact that you can re-identify the same person, takes on a different meaning once you accept the existence of a plurality of micro-worlds. Identity itself, in this new pluralist sense, contains an inherent multiplicity of partial identities and a flow between them.

I get stuck on the word « contains. » It suggests to me a super-identity which has within its structure a number of sub-identities. From everything I understand you are saying, you do not mean « contains » in that way. But when I ask myself what your do mean, I only hear my own account of what I mean when I speak of multiple identities.

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