Issue Seven

•July 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Published by: Eli Kanon

Reviewers:  Parish Conkling, Anthony Cross, Eric Gilbertson, Peter Hutcheson, Eric Gilbertson, Audrey McKenny,  Russell G. Moses, Robert O’Connor, Burkay Ozturk, Nevitt Reesor, Issac Wiegman


Kayla Ingram, Southwestern University, “Binary is for computers, 00100001 01110000 01110000 01101100: NonBinary Identities, and Gender Construction”

Travis Wright, Texas State University, “Ethical Witch-Hunting”

Hanna Kinzel, Southwestern University, “Conversations and Applications of Anti-Dualism

Jonathan Lauret,  Southwestern University, “Bergson’s Time and Duration”

Binary is for computers, 00100001 01110000 01110000 01101100: NonBinary Identities, and Gender Construction

Kayla Ingram, Southwestern University

The subject of nonbinary genders is typically pushed into the realm of queer studies, andeven there it is often neglected or assimilated into transgender topics. It isn’t often considered a feminist issue, but I believe it should be. Apart from the fact that nonbinary people face discrimination based on their gender, a feminist consideration of the nonbinary perspective can shed light on many subjects. Specifically, I believe this perspective highlights the fact that many gender construction theories neglect to consider how gender functions as a part of a person’s identity. When this is considered, the many ways in which people interpret gender for themselves, constructing what it means to them specifically, becomes evident.

The concept of gender construction gained traction with second wave feminism. Simone de Beauvoir played a key role in developing this idea. In her essay The Second Sex, she concludes that to be biologically female is not to be a ‘woman’. She writes that “all agree in recognizing the fact that females exist in the human species… yet we are told that femininity is in danger” (Beauvoir 27). So, if being female doesn’t make one a woman, what does? Beauvoir’s theory asserts that society constructs what woman means, and that women are defined in opposition with men. To be a woman was to be ‘other’. “A man is right in being a man; it is the woman who is in the wrong” (Beauvoir 28). She explained that men construct women as lesser to elevate themselves, while simultaneously trapping themselves in masculinity. Man is afraid of woman because he cannot be like her, “Man is concerned with the effort to appear male… he feels hostility for women because he is afraid of them, he is afraid… of the personage, the image, with which he identifies” (Beauvoir 385). She believed that the solution to this problem is to break down the definition of ‘woman’ and for men and women, in her own words, to “unequivocally affirm their brotherhood” (Beauvoir 391).

While her essay raises many good points, it considers ‘woman’ as more of a title, given to a person by those around them, than a part of a person’s identity. She doesn’t consider how females connect to the word, or the implications of her argument on the identity of females who are neither feminine nor masculine. Her theory is clearly rooted in western concepts of gender and her arguments of women being as domestic and weaker fails to consider the construction of women of different races or classes. She writes about one consistent definition of ‘woman’ within a culture, which is something that doesn’t really exist.

A more contemporary view of gender can be found in Sandra Bartky’s Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power. Bartky takes a closer look at how gender is constructed, and the mechanisms it works through. She believes that gender is constructed by the enforcement of rules on individuals. Breaking of these rules is met with social repercussion, everything from judgement to harassment, to financial loss when breaking these rules impedes employment and promotion. She writes that “We are born male or female, but not masculine or feminine. Femininity is an artifice, and achievement, ‘a mode of enacting and reenacting received gender norms which surface as so many styles of flesh’” (Bartky 27). As these rules are internalized, women begin to also internalize that feeling of being watched, the feeling that judgment could be passed. As a result, they become their own watchers. “Women punish themselves too for failure to conform” (Bartky 38). Bartky believes it is this internalization that creates femininity. Women are feminine because they’re constructed to be, and femininity is subservience and compliance with the patriarchy. According to her, “We cannot begin the re-vision our own bodies (…) until we come to see that even when the mastery of the disciplines of femininity produces a triumphant result, we are still only women” (Bartky 44).

Her argument is rooted in the binary system, and still seems to rely heavily on the idea that while female doesn’t mean feminine, it still means something. She also neglects the performance of men. It’s hard to ignore the effects of hyper-masculinity. The toxic stifling performances of manliness and heteronormativity creates many problems for all genders. She condemns femininity, ignoring the positive attributes it has in favor of arguing that it’s an act of submission, constructed to be inferior from its conception. The expression of emotion is a good example of how femininity is beneficial. Women are allowed to express emotion, and while this probably comes from and leads to the characterization of women as ‘hysterical’, it also allows women to be healthier in the way they experience pain and sadness. This aspect of femininity isn’t subservience. In her view of femininity as smaller and weaker, she ignores the way femininity is also strong, and contributes to the patriarchal characterization of it as lesser. Beyond these issues, her theory about gender construction as the imposition of rules by society raises many questions for me about how this construction functions for trans or nonbinary people, who are often constructed by society as a gender with which they don’t identify. Trans women break the rules to be feminine, so could their femininity be subservient? Nonbinary people break the rules to exist in an often unrecognized third (or fourth or fifth or…). Is it possible for a category to exist if there aren’t rules to construct it? Much like Simone de Beauvoir’s argument, this theory neglected gender as a part of identity. In addition, her argument runs the risk of invalidating marginalized genders by depending on the rules of society to construct them.

Judith Butler looks less at gender construction and more at how the understanding of gender impacts feminism. She attempts to look closer at the concept of ‘woman’ and to prove that dependence on this category is an obstacle to the feminist movement. Her primary point is that a feminism rooted in defining and acknowledging difference (i.e. difference feminism) cannot function, but in her writing she also outlines her argument about gender construction. She writes that “feminist theory has assumed that there is some existing identity, understood through the category of women” (Butler 145). Her belief is that there is no universal ‘woman’ because no woman has the same experiences, both in life and in oppression. Seeking a united identity inevitably leaves someone out, and runs the risk of creating oppression within the movement (Butler 145).  After demonstrating this, she moves on to look more closely at gender and sex. She asserts that since gender doesn’t equal sex, men aren’t restricted to male bodies, or women to female ones. She even quotes Simone de Beauvoir in her argument. “One is not born a woman, but, rather becomes one” (Beauvoir 35). She then takes it a step further, writing that “even if the sexes appear to be unproblematically binary… there is no reason to assume that genders ought also to remain as two” (Butler 148). She makes the point that there can be no one definition of ‘woman’ and therefore there can be no one ‘woman’. She draws attention to the idea that while gender is constructed, its construction doesn’t lead to a stable singular definition. She makes good points about how gender construction leaves room for people to operate outside the binary, something many philosophers neglect to consider.

Before continuing I would like to consider a few of the many ways gender is experienced beyond the male/female binary. These nonbinary experiences have existed for hundreds, if not thousands of years. In spite of the lack of literature about them, nonbinary genders are not a new concept. Experiences so widespread shouldn’t be controversial shouldn’t be controversial and yet they are. This is largely due to imperialism and its insistence on a binary gender, and the continued effects it has had on these communities.

In India, Pakistan, and several other counties, there exists a group of people known as hijras. I will be discussing Pakistan specifically, but they exist diversely, across many regions. In Pakistan, they are viewed as a sort of middle gender, between male or female. Hijras are assigned male at birth, and as they grow older they begin to display more feminine tendencies. After this is realized, they often leave home “to develop new identities by joining hijra communities as chelas (students) of gurus (teachers, appointed by other hijras)” (Pamment 30). Some families make the choice for their children, kicking them out of the house. This is because despite their rich history, the perception of hijras is often very negative. Before colonialism Hijras were viewed as spiritual, more in touch with the Hindu Gods due to their ability to contain both the female and the male mind. They were often called upon to bless weddings, births, and other similarly important events. Christian colonization didn’t just stigmatize these communities, it even made them illegal (Ishikawa 213-216). This has had a profound impact on the way society views hijras, and while today they often participate in ceremonies and spiritual practices, they are also often pushed into prostitution and are equated far too often to homosexuals (Ishikawa 220-224). Hijras often describe themselves as “like women… but unable to procreate” (Pamment 30). Pamment describes that they are “socially considered less than a man… more than a woman, adopting a burlesque femininity, incongruous with the conventional female demeanor” (30). This allows them to occupy both male and female spaces. They occupy a unique space and while social climates have changed, hijras still make up an important part of gender systems across the world.

Many Native American cultures also have nonbinary systems of gender. Many people understand this diversity through the term ‘Two-Spirit’. Qwo-Li Driskill explains in an essay, Stolen From Our Bodies: First Nations Two-Spirits/Queers and the Journey to a Sovereign Erotic, that It was “never meant to create a monolithic understanding of Native traditions regarding what dominant European… traditions call ‘alternative’ genders and sexualities” (52). The term was coined at a 1990s gathering of native queer people looking for an alternative to the word ‘berdache’. While Two-Spirit isn’t meant to identify one specific gender or sexuality, looking at specific experiences of gender doesn’t make things easier to clarify in English. Qwo- LI Driskill writes that “it is only within the rigid gender regimes of white America that I become Trans or Queer”, “I’m not necessarily transgender in the Cherokee sense, because I’m just the gender that I am” (52). Native cultures have also been touched by imperialism. Many nonbinary gender systems suffered, or were wiped out through the discrimination and criminalization brought by colonists. Despite this many communities have revived, they redefined themselves as Two-Spirit, and have had large roles in the naive queer community.

There are other cultures with amazing nonbinary gender systems and communities, many of whom have been impacted by colonization, and it is worth noting that attempting to explain these systems through opposition with dominant European rooted systems cannot do them justice. While understanding the specifics is difficult if not impossible when removed from the culture itself, respect and understand in perfectly reachable. But European cultures have also begun to develop nonbinary communities as well. There is a small but growing number of people who use the pronouns they/them/theirs. Some identify as agender, fitting in with neither male nor female identities, some are gender fluid, fluctuating between identification and often even pronouns. Some are questioning, and find less tension in a neutral identifier. New York City posted a PDF to their website after passing an antidiscrimination law meant to protect members of marginalized genders or gender expression. It lists a few recognized genders. Just a few of those genders are Bi-Gender, Cross-Dresser, Drag King/Queen, Femme Queen, Transgender, Genderqueer, Hijra, Pan-Gender, Transsexual, Man, Woman, Two-Spirit, Agender, Third Sex, Gender Fluid, Non-Binary Transgender Androgyne, Gender Gifted, Androgynous (XXX) and more (Blasio). Time magazine has stated that we are in the middle of a “Gender Revolution”, titling one of their additions just that. In an online article, Trudie Styler writes that “Yes, we still face inequality simply because of our gender. But to focus the battle for equal rights on only women simplifies human sexuality and belies the fact that gender — so long thought of in binary terms, female or male — is much more complex.” Dominant Eurocentric society is starting to realize the complexity associated with gender, and while the great number of genders identifiers currently being used could be argued as a symptom of the division created by difference theory, they are still being used and identified with. While there is a high degree of hate and ignorance with regard to gender, from hijra to Two-Spirit to agender, nonbinary genders are being identified with regardless of whether society fully acknowledges or understands them.

Gender is a large part of identity. This is something I feel many theories of gender construction neglect, something that becomes impossible to do when specifically considering nonbinary genders. Identity is something that exists both internally and externally. It is how you view yourself, and how others view you. Madan Sarup’s theory of identity as story works very well to mediate both the internal and external aspects of identity. “Identity has a history. At one time it was taken for granted that a person had a ‘given’ identity. The debates around it today assume that identity is not an inherent quality of a person but that it arises in interaction with others and the focus is on the processes by which identity is constructed” (Sarup 14). Sarup discusses the debates around identity as either a fixed thing, or as fabricated and always changing. According to her “these overlap… Neither of these models can fully explain what most people experience. Identities… are fragmented, full of contradictions and ambiguities” (Sarup 14). She believes that our identities are constructed both as we live, and as we come to understand and to tell our own story. “if you ask someone about their identity, a story soon appears. Our identity is not separate from what has happened” (15). Certain aspects of ourselves are undeniable. External forces act upon our stories and we don’t control those. Labeling is a huge part of that. We attach labels to one another in an attempt to understand and connect to each other. These labels have an effect, “But our identities are not only influenced by events or actions and their consequences in the past, but also how these events/actions are interpreted retroactively” (Sarup 14). No two people experience the same event in the same way, so their identity cannot be just that they experienced the event. My identity cannot be just that I experience subjugation, it must also be how I experienced that subjugation.

Identity is also about how we identify with other people. Just like labels, identification functions as both an internal and external force. “Men and women are not born with an identity. We have to identify to get one” (Sarup 30). According to Sarup’s theory, “Identity… is a mediating concept between the external and the internal, the individual and society, theory and practice. Identity is a convenient ‘tool’ through which to try and understand many aspects— personal, philosophical, political—of our lives” (28). Identity is a story of how the world externally constructs us, and how we respond in turn, it is always changing, we both write our own identities and don’t. It is contradictory and complicated but when played out it becomes evident that in many ways we choose how to see ourselves, and this in turn, changes how the world see us.

Sarup’s theory of identity as storytelling is comparable to Ricoeur’s theory of the hermeneutic self. Through this theory he attempts to understand how identity can possess both permanence and change. To reconcile the contradiction of something being both permanent and changing he breaks the self into two concepts, writing “Let me recall the terms of the confrontation: on one side, identity as sameness (Latin idem…); on the other side, identity as selfhood (Latin ipse…)” (Ricoeur 116). He then moves to understand these terms through narrative, which he breaks into history and fiction. History in narrative is not the perfect retelling of events, instead history “draws upon figures of literature… in order to communicate the sense of an absent world that has left its mark” (Crowley 2).  History understood through narrative  only gives the sense of this world, not a perfect copy or understanding. Fiction in narrative is instead the “‘what might have been’ of the past” (Crowley 2). History is to idem as ipse is to fiction. Ricoeur’s theory states that narrative identity comes into being through 3 moments. First, an individual experiences the world- “I shall show how the identity of the character is constructed in connection with that of the plot” (Ricoeur 141). Second, those experiences are structured into narrative, a narrative of both history and fiction, what was and what could have been- “From this correlation between action and character in a narrative there results a dialectic internal to the character” (Ricoeur 147). Third, the individual ‘reads’ their own narrative, shaping their understanding of themself in the world- “The past of narration is but the quasi past of narrative voice. Now among the facts recounted in the past tense we find projects, expectations, and anticipations,” (Ricoeur 163). “In other words, narrative also recounts care. In a sense, it only recounts care” (Ricoeur 163). “Ricoeur’s argument is that narrative identity can account for change within the general configuration of a life… and that the subject can be both the writer and reader in his own life” (Crowley 3). The dependence on the concept of narrative ties Ricoeur’s theory to Sarup’s. They both understand identity through the process of ‘telling’ the story of one’s life. Sarup looks closer as identity as identification and the impact this has on the construction of an identity but the core concepts are essentially the same. Identity is the ‘writing’ of our story, our understanding of what might have been, and our interpretation of this story we have created.

Gender, while being a part of identity, is constructed much in the same way identity is. While society has a significant role in the portrayal of gender, that portrayal is ultimately received and responded to by individuals. No two people receive the same information or respond in the same way. On top of that, individuals can choose how to understand the information they receive, and as a result, the self constructs gender. It is also worth noting that gender must be understood not as a true solid existing thing, but rather as a social fiction created to allow individuals to classify and relate to one another. The word ‘woman’ is as much a linguistic tool as it is a part of my identity. When considering the many gender systems that exist and the great variety between them, this becomes even more apparent and accounts for the “Gender Revolution”. When language fails to function, when the right words just aren’t there, people make their own. Our identities are built on an ability to relate to and identify with one another, and an inability to do this efficiently causes people to seek change. Gender is one of the ways we relate to and identify with one another, it is a “convenient ‘tool’ through which to try and understand many aspects… of our lives” (Sarup 29). When people don’t have a way to represent themselves–when they can’t identify–they find people like them and identify with one another. Sometimes they even create the language they need, constructing their own gender, both as a group, defining the language and community, and within themselves, interpreting the experience as a part of their own identity.

Gender identity is a well studied concept. Experts in fields like psychology, history and queer theory have all weighed in on the subject. In The Epistemology of Gender Identity: Implications for Social Policy, by Maryann Ayim and Barbara Houston, gender identity is defined as “ an individual’s sense of belonging to one sex or the other (or neither)” (27). This paper looks at the theory of a “core gender identity”, one that is immutable, and the relationship this would have on early childhood development. This paper is one of many seeking to understand how gender identity functions. Feminism has certainly not forgotten gender identity. Judith Butler, who I spoke about earlier, is one feminist figure who has taken particular care to consider at nonbinary genders and gender identity. In an interview regarding her work Troubling Genders, she states that “identities are not made in a singular moment in time. They are made again and again… This is not just a question of a private struggle with the self, but of the social terms by which identities are supported and articulated” (Butler 116). Her concept of a more fluid identity that exists in both a private and public sphere has many similarities to the theories presented by Sarup and Ricoeur. While gender identity, gender construction and even nonbinary genders have all been spoken about at length, I feel the three subjects have not been considered in relation to one another nearly as often as they should be. I believe that many popular gender construction theories are challenged in positive ways when considered in relation to nonbinary genders and identity.

Identity and gender are deeply intertwined. They cannot be separated from each other, and many well-intentioned gender construction theories do just that. I believe that when viewing gender construction through the lens of nonbinary identity, this is even more evident. A concept of gender as story, as fluid and different for every person, helps to pick up the slack left by other theories of construction. It accounts for the changes across time in the way gender is viewed, and the ways gender changes within smaller communities. Feminism loses valuable input when it pushes the nonbinary perspective into queer studies. The nonbinary view is a good example of the value of intersectionality, and gender theory in particular could benefit from it. People receive information about gender, but then they interpret it through their own experiences and desires, changing what it means for them. The many nonbinary communities across the world clearly demonstrate how powerful this process is.

Works Cited

Ayim, Maryann, and Barbara Houston. “The Epistemology of Gender Identity: Implications for Social Policy.” Social Theory and Practice, vol. 11, no. 1, 1985, pp. 27. JSTOR,

Bartky, Sandra L. Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power. Feminism and Foucault: Reflections on resistance, edited by Irene Diamond and Lee Quinby, Northeastern University Press, 1988, pp. 25-45.

Butler, Judith. Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire, Feminist Theory, A Philosophical Anthology, edited by Ann E. Cudd and Robin O. Andreasen, Blackwell Publishing, Malden, 2005, pp. 145-153.

Butler, Judith, and Vasu Reddy. “Troubling Genders, Subverting Identities: Interview with Judith Butler.” African Feminisms, vol. 2, no. 62, Taylor and Francis Ltd., 2004, pp. 116.

Crowley, Patrick. “Paul Ricœur: the Concept of Narrative Identity, the Trace of Autobiography.” Paragraph, vol. 26, no. 3, 2003, pp. 1–12.,

De Blasio, Bill.,, pdf file.

De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. Feminist Theory, A Philosophical Anthology, edited by Ann E. Cudd and Robin O. Andreasen, Blackwell Publishing, Malden, 2005, pp. 27-36, pp. 383-391.

Driskill, Qwo-Li. “Stolen From Our Bodies: First Nations Two-Spirits/Queers and the Journey to a Sovereign Erotic.” Studies in American Indian Literatures, vol. 16, no. 2, University of Nebraska Press, 2004, pp. 50-64,

Ishikawa, Takeshi. “Hijras” Indian Literature, vol. 55, no. 6, Sahitya Akademi, 2011, pp. 213-228,

Pamment, Claire. Hijraism: Jostling for a Third Space in Pakistani Politics. vol. 54, no. 2, The MIT Press, 2010, pp. 29-50,

Ricoeur, Paul. Oneself as Another, translated by Kathleen Blamey, University of Chicago Press, 1992, pp. 113-168.

Sarup, Madan, and Tasneem Raja. Identity, Culture, and the Postmodern World. Edinburgh University Press, 1998. EBSCOhost,

Styler, Trudie. “Society Must Accept Every Person’s Gender Reality”. Time, April 19 2017,

Ethical Witch-Hunting

Travis Wright, Texas State University

Part One: The Project

 It is easy to look back across time, place, and context, find some bit of historical atrocity, and condemn it. It is easy to shake our heads sadly at the past. It is easy to move on with our lives under the comfortable assumption that “they” were “evil” or “crazy” But dismissing persons in this way does injustice to both us and them. What happens if we instead take seriously Aristotle’s claim that the good is that towards which all things aim? [Aristotle, Book I Section I]  What happens if we use as a guiding principle the idea that all human action is directed at good? Of course this is no bar from declaring an act bad – just because something aims at goodness does not mean that it hits its mark.

I propose that by building an ethic that justifies an obviously negative situation, we can discover important moral truths and improve our own understanding of morality. Therefore, this paper will be an experiment in the methodology of ethics on a meta-ethical level in addition to an exploration of practical moral thought. I will examine the activity (1) of the 17th CE witch-hunting duo Mathew Hopkins and John Stearne and attempt to build an ethical framework for their actions in order to answer the question: “What would have to be true about morality in order for the acts of Hopkins and Stearne to have been good acts?” In other words, this method builds a reductio ad absurdum by starting with the absurd conclusion and then discovering what sorts of premises might support it.

To do this I will place Hopkins’ and Stearne’s activity in its appropriate social, historical, and intellectual context in order to better understand it. I will examine some details of particular cases in order to provide specific examples. I will look at their actions through the lens of three mainstream western ethical viewpoints: Consequentialism as exemplified generally by the Utilitarians, Kantian Intentionalism, and from the perspective of a virtue ethics. I will ask of each of these what it is that makes acts right or wrong, and then look for those elements in the story of Hopkins and Stearne. Finally, I will put together a reasonable ethical framework in which Hopkins’ and Stearne’s actions would be justified, i.e., a reductio.

Some limits need to be specified. I first emphasize that this project must be kept reasonable and within the scope of ethics. It does no good to just say something like “Well, if witches were really killing children, then hunting witches would be justifiable.” This approach is unreasonable for more reasons than just asking us to believe in witchcraft. Though the statement is out of bounds since it asks us to believe in witches – and that is a question of metaphysics or religion, not of ethics – It also implies an acceptance of capital punishment that I do not wish to assume. Besides, there would still be questions of evidence to be solved, and so such a statement does not really answer the question anyway.

Similarly, we are not helped by proposing something like the following: “There are not really any morals, so we are free to do whatever we want.” While this premise does in fact justify Hopkins and Stearne, and may be perfectly reasonable (2) in a broader philosophical context, it is unreasonable for our purpose here in the sense that it is self-contradictory to write a paper offering moral guidance while denying the existence of morality. Along these same lines, I consider ad hoc solutions unreasonable in this study. We can posit premises such as: “The moral community extends to all persons except those accused of witchcraft” (3) or “If there are lizards, then witch-hunting is acceptable” but these are unreasonable and unhelpful. I aim for reasonableness throughout.

There are good reasons to doubt much of this story, not the least of which is the inclusion of pacts with the Devil. In addition to elements which may seem fanciful or absurd to the modern reader, Hopkins and Stearne sometimes contradict themselves in their own versions of events, and Hopkins seems caught in an outright lie at least once. Nevertheless, too much speculation on the truth of events will pointlessly destroy this project just as quickly as ad hoc premises will.

For example, simply choosing to believe that the witch-finders made all of it up for pay is not a position that anyone can build a reasonable ethic around. For the purposes of this paper, some credulity is required. With this in mind I will stay within the bounds of recorded history. If the records say that there was a ‘witch’, I will use that term. But I will use it to mean something like “The record declares Anne West a witch” not “Anne West is actually a witch” If the record indicates that a certain method of interrogation was used or not used, I will say that method was used or not used in accordance with the record, though I may mention if there is good reason to doubt. This is by no means a statement of actual credulity on my part, it is just the reflection of a desire to use real world problems to gain real world ethical insight.

One final note about reasonableness. According to Brian Levack, English witch-hunting in the 1600’s was the least extreme in Early Modern Europe. The use of torture was illegal and that prohibition was generally enforced. (4) Even the period of Hopkins and Stearne’s activity, which was extreme by English standards at the time, was mild by Continental European standards. [Levack, pp. 217-222] I am using this period for this study precisely because it was a relatively mild period. It is more conducive to use examples which are obviously wrong but not totally extreme, because the ethic that can be built from them will be less extreme and more sensible.

Part Two: The Story

 Hopkins and Sterne operated in East Anglia in England in the mid 1640’s. S.F. Davies notes the outstanding historical bleakness of this time and place. Disease, civil war, and religious unrest were the standards of the day. Puritans were abundant in East Anglia, and their conflict with Archbishop Laud and Charles I became militant with the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642 and official in the form of William Dowsing’s iconoclastic commission. [Davies, p. vii] Even the weather was bad. Christmas in Essex 1644 – just before the start of Hopkins and Stearne’s hunt – was especially cold and occurred on the date of a mandatory fast, but food was short and celebrations were illegal anyway. [Gaskill, p. 1] Good Puritans simply did not participate in such superstitions – or so said the hard line preachers that everywhere warned of Satan and the Papists.

Belief in witches was more than common at the time, it was as much a part of the popular belief system of 17th century East Anglians as atoms are for typical 21st century Americans.

Davies claims that a thorough belief in the reality and danger of witches must have been present at all levels of society for the hunt to gain any momentum. He notes that in the years leading up to Hopkins and Stearne’s hunt, the number of prosecutions for witchcraft had be on the decline and of those prosecuted, almost none were convicted. This was not due to the absence of popular belief in witches, however. Instead, it was because of a rigorous trial system and less belief in the upper echelons of power. In other words, in the years preceding the English Civil War, magistrates and judges were more incredulous than they were once the war began and the society that supported them began to crumble. But the surge in prosecutions and convictions once those in power began to become more credulous indicates that such beliefs were active all along, bursting to the surface once they had the opportunity. [Davies, pp. vii-ix] This fits with the general pattern of witch hunting as described by Levack. [Davies, p. ix]

Though none were prosecuted, there were serious accusations of witchcraft in the local area in the years preceding Hopkins and Stearne’s hunt. Sarah Hatyn was accused of using witchcraft to kill a constable’s wife, two of their children, and a family servant after the constable had drafted Hatyn’s husband into military service. Margaret Moone was accused of bewitching the occupants of a house from which she had previously been evicted, along with supernaturally killing a baby girl. An elderly widow named Elizabeth Clarke was accused of infanticide as well. [Gaskill, p. 39] These cases and others describe the kinds of things that people in East Anglia thought that witches were up to. They were ready for someone to take action.

It was in this climate that Mathew Hopkins decided to be that someone. Over Christmas in 1644 a tailor named John Rivet began to become convinced that his wife was suffering a supernatural malady. As the woman – identified as “Goodwife Rivet” – gradually slipped closer to her death, her symptoms seemed to her husband just too cruel for God to inflict on a pious family. When his prayers for her health went unanswered, he sought the aid of a woman whose services were illegal, but, it seemed to John Rivet, not immoral. This woman, Goodwife Hovey, likely cast a spell to divine the cause of Goodwife Rivet’s troubles. She identified the source of the illness as witchcraft, and John Rivet thought he knew who was to blame. Elizabeth Clarke lived just up the hill from the Rivets. Not only had she had previously been accused of witchcraft, but some of her family had been executed as witches and it was thought that witchery ran in families. [Gaskill, pp. 1-4]

It was her name that Hopkins first heard in connection with witchcraft of the day, but, according to Hopkins, he first heard it not from the rumors of accusation which were widespread at the time, but from overhearing sabbats near his house. In his short defense of his activity as a witch-finder, Hopkins relates the story of stumbling upon a sect of witches. He claims to have overheard them from his window. According to Hopkins, they gathered near his house every six weeks on Friday nights to make sacrifices to the Devil. One night while spying on them, Hopkins claims to have overheard a witch talking to her imps – which were believed to be demons who carried out the wishes of the witch as a part of a pact with the Devil – and telling them to go and help Elizabeth Clarke – something one witch would only do for another. [Hopkins, pp. 2-3] Oddly, nothing was done about Rivet’s suspicion of Clarke that winter [Gaskill, p. 5], and Hopkins did not report the sect until much later – even though he claimed they sent “a Devill like a Beare” to kill him in his garden for spying. [Hopkins, p. 3] Nevertheless, these were the circumstances that would launch Hopkins’ first investigation in the spring of 1645. What follows is the story of Clark’s interrogation and confession, told from the perspectives of Hopkins and Stearne with some commentary.

On Friday, March 21st 1645 a group of women came to Elizabeth Clarke’s house under orders from the magistrate to search her body for marks believed to be indicative of a pact with the Devil. [Gaskill, p. 48] These marks were thought to be places where imps would suckle blood from a witch’s body. The women reported finding three such marks, which was enough to move the interrogation into the next stage, known as watching. According to Hopkins, the accused would be kept from sleep for two or three nights in order for a group of “watchers” to observe her imps come to suckle. [Hopkins, p. 1] Though observing an accused witch for some period of time in order to try to see demons appear and actually suckle the identified marks does seem sensible under the East Anglian belief system at the time, the stated purpose of keeping the accused awake is not so understandable. Hopkins states that if an accused witch were allowed to lie down, imps would arrive to scare the watchers and hearten the witch. This is the sort of thing which calls Hopkins’ integrity into question, since the arrival of imps was the very thing the watchers were waiting for.

In Clarke’s case, the watching period turned out to be three nights and three days, ending on the fourth night. According to Hopkins, on the fourth night Elizabeth Clarke’s imps appeared. Hopkins is somewhat brief about the events of that night. He says that Clarke announced that her imps would be arriving about 15 minutes before the actually did arrive. He says that she called them by name, and that they came to her call. In the period between when she called them and when they arrived, Hopkins claims that Clarke described what they would look like when they arrived.

The first to enter was named “Holt” and he looked like “a white kilting” Next was “Jamara, who came in like a fat spaniel, without any legs at all, she said she kept him fat, for she clapt her hand on her belly, and said he sukt good blood from her body”. After Jamara was “Vinegar Tom, who was like a long-legg’d Greyhound, with an head like an Oxe, with a long taile and broad eyes, who when this discoverer (5) spoke to, and bade him goe to the place provided for him and his Angels, immediately transformed himselfe into the shape of a child of foure yeeres old without a head, and gave halfe a dozen turnes about the house, and vanished at the doore.” Vinegar Tom was followed by “Sack and Sugar, like a black Rabbet” Fifth to enter the room was “Newes, like a Polecat”. After these five came and left, Hopkins relates that Clarke confessed the names of several other witches, how many marks these witches had, where the marks were located, and what kinds of imps they had, and the names of the imps. Later, Hopkins claimed, this information would be verified as accurate. [Hopkins, pp. 2-3]

Stearne’s account of the night matches up with Hopkins’ account, and provides a few more details. According to Stearne, he and Hopkins were just about to leave when Clarke called them back into the room and told them to sit and wait for her imps. They were ready to come, she said. Stearne relates that Hopkins asked if they should be afraid of the imps, to which Clarke responded “[N]o […] did you think I am afraid of my children?” The next question was asked by one of the watchers: “Hath not the Devill had the use of your body?” Clarke replied in the affirmative, so Hopkins asked what form the devil had taken. Clarke replied that he was a “tall, proper, black haired gentleman” After this, Stearne records how six watchers plus Hopkins and himself all witnessed the imps come to Clarke. His descriptions largely agree with Hopkins, but there are some dissimilarities in the case of Jamara. First, Stearne recorded that imp’s name as “Jermarah”, a slight difference in spelling which may indicate that the two men’s accounts were not written in concert. Second, Stearne says that the imp had legs, but that they were the size of fingers. [Stearne, p.15]

The next part of Clarke’s story comes from historian Malcolm Gaskill. He relates how the next morning Hopkins, Stearne, the search-women, and the watchers gave testimony to the local magistrates. He points out that six witnesses in addition to Hopkins and Stearne adds serious credibility to their statements. Though I am no legal scholar, eight witnesses seem like enough for a guilty verdict in any American courtroom. Be that as it may, neither Gaskill nor I claim to know what actually happened that night.

In any case, the accounts of the night before prompted the magistrates to bring in Clarke for questioning, but not before she be given sleep to make sure she was clear headed. Once she was brought in, she told her story starting from when she said she first became a witch. Clarke said that she made a pact with the Devil after Anne West had approached her and told her that she could live a better life than that of a destitute widow. She recounted that West sent two imps to bring her food that night, and that the imps told her that they would bring her a husband to take care of her. That husband turned out to be the Devil. Hearing all of this seemed to galvanize Hopkins and Stearne. Gaskill thinks, and I agree, that they viewed their witch finding as a deadly serious mission. He thinks they set out on what they thought of as a difficult, dangerous, and holy mission undertaken for the good of the local populace. [Gaskill, pp. 50-54]

The witch hunts continued in a similar fashion until 1647. Hopkins and Stearne would be asked to investigate witches in a town and would interrogate them using watching and another tactic called “running” Running was just what it sounds like, the accused were made to run or walk around in the watching room. Hopkins claimed running was used minimally, and only to keep the accused awake during watching, [Hopkins, p. 5] but in at least one case a critic reported that a man was run “until he was weary of his life and scarce sensible of what he did” [Davies, p. xiv] These techniques would produce a confession that implicated others as witches, and so the hunt would continue, but not in a manner that warrants the hunts being thought of as “chain reaction hunts” [Levack, p. 219]  Stearne claimed that over 200 witches were executed between 1645 and 1647. [Davies, p. xiv]

Though there is much about this method of evidence gathering that sounds poor to a modern reader, it is worth pointing out that English standards for witch trial and evidence were the strictest in Europe at the time, even though they were at a low point in England due to the partial collapse of society as a result of the ongoing civil war. Unlike other places in Europe, and notwithstanding the practices of watching and running which certainly constitute torture by modern standards, there was a good deal of prohibition of torture in England. Also unlike other places in Europe, witches received a jury trial in England, which proved to be a more lenient method of trial. [Levack, pp. 218-219] With this in mind it is safe to say that the standard of evidence and trial was actually very high for its time and place. To be fair to Hopkins and Stearne, we should keep in mind that they were likely operating in good faith that their evidence was some of the best in Europe.

In the interest of brevity, I will not go into any more detail about other specific cases of Hopkins and Stearne’s victims. From this story I hope to have drawn out four points which I think will suffice for the ethical analysis which follows. First, Hopkins and Stearne believed themselves to be acting in the public good. Second, that the public also believed that Hopkins and Stearne were acting in their interest, at least for a time. Third, that they had little concern for the accused themselves. Fourth, Hopkins and Stearne set about their activity as agents of one of the most skeptical legal systems of its day.

Part Three: The Ethics

 Now it is time to ask what would have to be true about morality in order for the actions of Hopkins and Stearne to have been good acts. To answer this question, we will take a look from the perspective of Kant, from a utilitarian perspective, and we will think about virtues.

Kant, famously, cared about intent and duty. For Kant, the only thing of inherent value is the will to do one’s duty. [Palmer, p. 288] On this count it does seem as though Hopkins and Stearne can pass moral muster. They seem to have been motivated by exactly this sense of duty. This is especially true if we consider one’s duty to be towards society as a whole rather than towards each individual member of society. But Kant is not so simple as that. He specifically directs us to treat each individual person as an end in themselves. [Palmer, p. 289]  In other words, the Kantian perspective requires that we hold each individual person as the final goal towards which our duty is oriented.

This need not exclude Hopkins and Stearne’s actions from the realm of moral goodness from a Kantian perspective however. Indeed, retaliation and punishment for wrongs is a central aspect of Kant’s theory. Kant thinks that punishment should not be seen as being perpetrated on the punished by some outside force, but rather that the wrongdoer brought about punishment on themselves from their own actions. Kant finds that our duty towards individuals includes handing out reward and punishment based on the actions of those individuals.[Murtagh, IEP, “Punishment”] Therefore, Hopkins and Stearne can be seen as carrying out their duty to the accused witches by bringing them to trial. So long as they did their best to maintain fair trials, it is hard to find fault with their action from a Kantian perspective.

Having found that Hopkins and Stearne’s actions can be justified from the perspective of Kant, let us see if the Utilitarians can judge Hopkins and Stearne morally blameworthy. At first glance, it seems as though the Utilitarian emphasis on generating happy, optimific outcomes takes Hopkins and Stearne apart with ease. After all, killing and cruelty are the very things that Utilitarianism seeks to avoid – they are certainly not happy things. But as usual, things are not as simple as they seem at first glance.

When we (6) in modern times prosecute someone for a violent crime and find them guilty, we may think that their incarceration (7) is unfortunate, but ultimately for the best. It is not an uncommon feeling that dangerous people have to be taken out of society for the good of everyone. This sentiment is essentially Utilitarian in nature. It reflects the fact that we often think that less harm is caused by incarceration than by allowing a dangerous person to go free. We rightfully think that as long as we are as sure as possible that the person is guilty, we ought to protect ourselves and our children from the accused’s malevolence. Of course if the accused were found guilty of heinous crimes like infanticide or a slow and gruesome murder, a Utilitarian would be further justified in seeing them prosecuted. In other words, prosecution of suspected wrongdoers may well produce optimific results. Of course to be reasonably sure that we are being optimific, we must use the best standards of evidence available and give the fairest possible trial. But Hopkins and Stearne can reasonably claim that is exactly what they did.

There is another shade of Utilitarian thought worth examining. J. J. C. Smart discusses whether or not it would be morally right to save Hitler from drowning in his paper “Extreme and Restricted Utilitarianism” Smart asks his reader to consider the hypothetical case of a person who sees a man drowning. A person who jumped in and saved the man without knowing who it was and then later discovered that the man was Hitler would have committed a wrong act in Smart’s view. [Smart, p. 78] This is because Smart is not concerned with what the actor believed they were doing, or what the usual result of the act might be. Instead, he is solely concerned with the actual result of the act.

In the case of Hopkins and Stearne, this means that regardless of what they thought they were doing, the two men must be judged on the actual consequences of their actions – the deaths of many people who had practically no chance of actually being guilty of making a pact with the Devil or any of the other crimes they were accused of. On this reading, it seems that Hopkins and Stearne are guilty unless some optimific result of their actions can be discovered. But it may be the case that their actions were in fact optimific, regardless of the guilt of the accused.

How could Hopkins and Stearne’s actions be in fact optimific? Since witch hunting already had a place in Protestant culture, it could be an example of a cultural institution or structure which either met the psychological needs of the members of East Anglian society or maintained some degree of equilibrium in the society. In other words, Hopkins and Stearne’s acts could have had a cultural function as described by either psychological or structural functionalism. [McGee and Warms, p. 151] In either case, Hopkins and Stearne’s hunt could have been the needed ritual by which the East Anglians vented their frustrations and kept that region from devolving further into the even more deadly conflict of civil war. Perhaps this is what Davies meant when he said that Hopkins and Stearne were performing a service for the towns that called on them. [Davies, p. xix] So it looks as though the Utilitarians may not be off the hook after all.

A critic will ask: “With this reasoning, could not the Holocaust be justified?” To which I will reply that using this reasoning, any suffering is justified so long as it prevents more suffering. Suppose that the East Anglian Protestants spent more effort opposing the crown and less effort persecuting each other. If they had, it is plausible that East Anglia may have been on the receiving end of a military campaign which may have cause more suffering than the witch hunts caused. So by directing their violence inward rather than outward, East Anglian Protestant culture may have actually averted suffering. Whether they actually did prevent suffering or not is irrelevant; it is enough to show that Smart’s theory is capable of justifying Hopkins and Stearne. By contrast, it is hard to imagine a tragedy that could have befallen Europe that would have resulted in more suffering than Nazism. Thus it is not plausible to suppose that Hitler prevented suffering.

Virtue ethicists will also struggle with condemning Hopkins and Stearne, but they may have the best time of it. Much will come down to how the virtues are defined, and which virtues are valued. Hopkins and Stearne might be called courageous, for example, if courage is defined as doing what one thinks is right in the face of perceived danger. In fact, the duo might be considered moral exemplars as defined by Shafer-Landau. [Shafer-Landau, p. 254] A person who leaves behind a comfortable life (8) in exchange for the hardships of 17th century cross country travel in order to fight against what was perceived to be a dire danger for no financial gain may well be fit for such a title if the virtue of courage is under consideration. On the other hand, their actions do not show compassion under any reasonable interpretation of the word.

Though much can be said pro and con from the perspective of a virtue ethicist, it will suffice to leave out debate on a number of particular virtues. What is important is that Hopkins and Stearne seem more virtuous if one assumes that violence is sometimes justified or that the guilty should be punished. In other words, they seem more justified in terms of what Shafer Landau calls “traditionally masculine” assumptions. [Shafer-Landau, p. 275]  But Hopkins and Stearne seem less virtuous if one assumes that caring virtues such as compassion, respect for each individual, or tolerance form the bedrock of ethical activity. From one perspective Clarke’s case is, if true, an example of a person who violated the most important rules and deserved punishment. From the other perspective, however, she was a desperate person in dire straits who could have been helped. This to be an especially relevant point which virtue ethics highlights.

Part Four: In Conclusion

 What then, is the ethic that Hopkins and Stearne exemplify? I have shown how they could be justified under all three mainstream ethical viewpoints. Does this mean all three need to be thrown out? Is this what my reductio demonstrates? I think not. Does this show that my method did not work? I think not. Let us first take a look at the experimental method of this paper to make sure we get the right conclusion.

What this method has done so far is create a long list of premises that can be used to support an absurd conclusion. But it has not given us any means to detect which premise is really false. For example, we could say that this method gave us either of the following:

  1. The good of the many outweighs the good of the individual. So wrongdoers should be punished in order to keep society safe. Accordingly, we are justified in punishing whoever we find to be a wrongdoer with our best standards of evidence. This is what Hopkins and Stearne did, so their actions are justified.
  2. The only thing that is intrinsically valuable is the honest desire to do one’s duty, it is irrelevant if one fails to bring about an optimific result as long as they sincerely try. One duty is to protect society from dangers when one is sanctioned to do so by that society, i.e., when one has the appropriate legal authority. One can only be expected to protect society from the dangers that society believes exist. Therefore, if a properly sanctioned individual – such as a police officer, for example – sincerely tries to protect society from a danger that the society has entrusted the officer to defend against, then their action is right. This is just what Hopkins and Stearne did, so their actions are right.

But neither argument on its own gives any indication which premise might be the false premise that allows for Hopkins and Stearne’s actions to be justified. So there must be another step to this method. I suggest that this is next step is old fashioned critical thinking, analysis, and dialectic.

In the dialectical spirit, I will now propose what I find to be the false premises about morality uncovered by this investigation.

The first false premise is: We are permitted to consider the needs of the whole of society above the needs of its members. I suggest instead that if the needs of the whole of society conflict with the needs of some of its members, this indicates that society needs reformation, not the individual.

The second false premise is: Violence is sometimes justified by its consequences.

 However, as Martin, Harrod, and Perez point out, violence is an integral part the human story and experience, so I suggest instead that violence may sometimes be excused on the basis of passion. [Martin, et. al., p. xi]  In other words, and there are some situations wherein a violent act may be excused. For example, my use of violence may be excused if I am defending myself from direct threat of bodily harm. But this is not because the violence is actually right, it is because an expectation of total pacifism seems impossibly strict.

The third false premise is: “Traditionally masculine” values such as justice and fairness are more important than values such as care and compassion. I suggest that this is the most clearly false premise exposed in this study. It is striking that swapping care for punishment would have prevented practically all of what seems most heinous on the part of Hopkins and Stearne.

Now that I have listed what I take to be the false premises found by the reductio, it looks as though the experimental method is a success. I have taken an obviously wrong set of actions and provided multiple reasonable ethics to justify them. Then I took a critical look at the possibly false premises of the reductio ad absurdum and set out those that I find to be actually false and why. Yet there is another step that must be taken. It is now up to my reader to challenge me by pointing out premises that I missed, or by denying some from my list are actually wrong.


1 I have chosen to use terms like ‘activity’ or ‘act’ instead of ‘work’ or throughout this paper to describe witch-hunting, even though it was an occupation for the two men. This is because ‘work’ seems too noble a term.

2 Hume and Thrasymachus come to mind.

3 An interesting and related premise that seems ad hoc but might still be worth considering for historical reasons is one based in Calvanism where “the scope of the moral community extends only to the elect” or “earthly suffering is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things” It may in fact be that Hopkins and Stearne did think that the suffering of the accused was irrelevant because of one of these reasons.

4 Though during the English Civil War, when Hopkins and Stearne operated, enforcement of law became more difficult. Hopkins and Stearne used some torture.

5 “this discoverer” is Hopkins.

6 Forgive my loose use of ‘we’.

7 Or possibly execution.

8 Neither Hopkins nor Stearne were gentry, but both lived well above average lives before witch-hunting.

Works Cited

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford World’s Classics). Trans. W. D. Ross. Ed. Lesley Brown. N.p.: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

Davies, S.F., Matthew Hopkins, and John Stearne. The Discovery of Witches and Witchcraft: the writings of the witchfinders. Brighton: Puckrel Publishing, 2007.

Gaskill, Malcolm. Witchfinders A Seventeenth Century English Tragedy. Harvard Univ Pr, 2007.

Levack, Brian P. The witch-hunt in early modern Europe. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2013. MacGee, R. Jon, and Richard L. Warms. Anthropological theory: an introductory history. 5th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2013.

Martin, Debra L., Ryan P. Harrod, and Ventura R. Pérez. 2012. The bioarchaeology of violence. n.p.: Gainesville : University Press of Florida, ©2012., 2012. Texas State – Alkek Library’s Catalog, EBSCOhost (accessed April 11, 2017).

Murtagh, Kevin J. “Punishment.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed April 11, 2017.

Palmer, Donald. Does the Center Hold?: an introduction to western philosophy. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2014.

Shafer-Landau, Russ. The Fundamentals of Ethics. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 2015.

Smart, J.J.C. Extreme and Restricted Utilitarianism. 1956. Philosophical Quarterly. In The Ethical Life: Fundamental readings in ethics and moral problems, edited by Russ Shafer- Landau, 77-86. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Conversations and Applications of Anti-Dualism

 Hanna Kinzel, Southwestern University

 Existing within the environment along with being a part of a living body has posed a mystery to people since humans have been able to reflect on their experiences. It is our experiences in the world that shape our understanding of our mind in relation to our body and our self in relation to the world. Dewey highlights this interconnection between mindbody and selfworld. He argues that mind and body are not separate entities, but are one continuous activity. For example, it is not the mind telling the body to eat, but it is the correlation of the two that allows the activity to unfold. It is these physio-chemical processes that are embedded with purpose and meaning. That is not to say that they have some preexisting harmony, like Leibnitz would suggest. However, the purpose grows from past activity and the phenomenon around it.

This concept of interconnectivity was highlighted by the podcast From Tree To Shining Tree. The podcast highlighted the hidden underground network of trees and rhizomes. Rhizomes act as a member of a greater interacting organization of a larger body. Digging into the ground below the trees and their roots, billions of fungal tubes are found. These tubes are what provide the tree with nutrient uptake, while also getting other nutrients from the roots. This symbiotic relationship between the trees and tubes create an organized pattern of activity that maintains itself. They both need together in order to accomplish a common goal. We can interact the same way, but with a different organization of activity. I hesitate to argue that our patterns of activity are more complex than those of plants because although our relationships may be more complex than that of the tree and the rhizomes, the homeostasis and environmental interactions cannot be compared or contrasted. Like the tubes and the trees, mind and intention are increasingly sensitive interactions in an environment that is always connected. We are not bodies in an environment like a tree is not trees in the woods.

Although there is a connection between bodymind and selfworld their activities are differentiated by their levels of degrees. Dewey writes, “We may, however attempt a recapitulation by premising that while there is no isolated occurrence in nature, yet interaction and connection are not wholesale and homogenous. Interacting events have tighter and looser ties, which qualify them with certain beginnings and endings, and which mark them off from other fields of interaction” (271-272). It is this measure of complexity that determines the degrees. Pattern of complexity creates different arrangements. These different arrangements are what distinguishes the difference of someone being in a room and out of the room. The absence of the body changes the room’s pattern of activity.

Language is created by the measurement of these degrees of activates. In order to communicate with others what we are carving up we engage in language. That being said, the activity of language is not the act of talking about specific bits of world. In contrast, language calls out kinds of bits. This is a form of generalization. When we call out these bits of world we turn them into a type of species. When we language, we point at the kind of thing something is. When we point to a book, we are not saying that it is that specific arrangement of activity of that specific book in that environment, but a general term for all patterns of activity that arrange themselves in bookish form. It is this language that invokes a pattern of activity that things exhibit. However, it is this same language that carves up dualisms. Dewey addressed his concerns with language by writing, “Body-mind designates an affair with its own properties. A large part of the difficulty in its discussion, perhaps the whole of the difficulty in general apart from detailed questions, is due to vocabulary. Our language is so permeated with consequences of theories which have divided the body and mind from each other, making separate existential realms out of them, that we lack words to designate the actual existential” (284). It is language that speciates. This assignment of a kind of meaning is how we assign qualities to generalized terms. Dewey discusses how the colors we encounter signal different meanings. For example, when we encounter the color red we now perceive it proleptically. I find this generalization especially dangerous because each experience carves out a different outcome. For instance, a red berry to one could signal a food source due to previous experience, where as it could signal poison to another.

When we dismiss experience and rely on language speciation, we fall victim to the cracks in between the dualism. Dewy touches on the complications of communication by writing, “The difficulty in the way of identifying the qualities as acts conditioned by proprioceptor organs is notoriously enormous. They just merge in the general situation. If they entered into communication as shared means to social consequences, they would acquire the same objective distinctiveness as do qualities conditioned by the extero-ceptor organs” (260). Something so simple as the color of clothing can be the cause of international conflict if not appropriated to the proper culture’s definition. In Hindu weddings, the red wedding dress symbolized virginity and rebirth, where as in westernized popular culture red clothing is a symbol of power. Although it may seem arbitrary to use clothing as an example, the meaning of objects is most often signaled by its colors. Humans have adapted that concept by wearing certain clothes with specific colors to signal the roles we wish to inhabit in order to carve out our identity.

Operating under this assumption, unless I experience the world as red, I cannot ignore its redness. If I want to characterize red on the spectrum, I have to recognize it is red first and foremost. It has to have meaning directly before it can have meaning as a numerical measurement. Dewey discusses the importance of recognizing a pattern of activity first and foremost by stating, “Apart from sentiency and life, the career of an event can indeed be fully described without any reference to its having red as a quality, though even in this case, since description is an event which happens only through mental events, dependence upon an overt or actualized quality of red is required in order to delimit the phenomenon of which a mathematicalmechanical statement” (268). Meaning therefore must occur in the event or experience. We therefore must choose to eat the red berry because of the history of our people eating berries that sustained life.

Language discriminates the actions of feelings. Dewey writes about feelings in that, “The qualities never were “in” the organism; they always were qualities of interactions in which both extra-organic things and organisms partake. When named, they enable identification and discrimination of things to take place as means in a further course of inclusive interaction. Hence they are as much qualities of the things engaged as of the organism” (259). In this statement I find that Dewey is saying that feelings are not innate characteristics of humans, but are negotiations between humans and their environment.     That being said, behavior is of an environment not in an environment because it is an interaction of the environment with itself that fulfills purpose and needs. When someone is watching a sunset and they exclaim, “ah, how beautiful!” Their behavior is not a separate experience from the sunset. Seeing this activity of world and this exclamation of the world are an activity of the whole. It is this oneness of self and world that is the interconnection of activity. The sunset and the exclaimer exist only in relation with each other. They cannot be entirely separated from each other.

Although it may be pleasant to think of oneself as one with the world, what real life applications can viewing the world this way have? If feelings and qualities are a negotiation between the human and the environment, then one would be much less certain of an individual’s essential qualities. In fact, it would completely negate any essentialist ideology. I think that this way of thought can be applied to the treatment and perception of women. What is possible for a woman in the world is primarily her environment not her body. Instead of perceiving women in terms of sex, one could think instead at their interactions of their environment. Then, society would be much less certain of what they can or cannot do. When viewing a woman in terms of solely sex, this reduction makes them a thing with determinant properties. For example, if a knife is dull and too thick for cutting, it instead could be used as an excellent pry bar. In correlation to sex, it is the activity of the object rather than any intrinsic function.

Works Cited

Dewey, John. Experience and nature. Vol. 1. Courier Corporation, 1958. “From Tree to Shining Tree.” Radiolab. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

Bergson’s Time and Duration

Jonathan Lauret,  Southwestern University

Our relationship with the future is a complicated one. To Henri Bergson, it seems that, due to apparently practical reasons, we have traditionally fashioned the future in our minds as something which can be known in a rather definite way, and not only have we fashioned the future as such, but the past and the present as well. We have crystallized our perception of the change and motion of reality, conceived of it as we would a solid spatial object (or rather a number of objects), and Bergson has a few objections to this which he asserts in his text Creative Mind.. A key aspect of our traditional view of time is its seeming stasis which makes it appear quite definite and knowable, and this knowing occurs in ways such as these: The past has happened and is thus seemingly crystallized, what has happened is fixed, immovable, and thus fully knowable; the present is being known as it occurs and continually flows into the past, becoming the past (as well as apparently static and fully knowable) almost immediately; and the future is something which we cannot immediately experience, but nevertheless can be known by tracing the trail of the past and present which leads into a definite future. If the past and present are defined, so is the future due to the fact that the future seems to rest on, and be traced from the past and present. An example comes to mind of two points on a linear graph; one point is point A, the other, point B. If I have point A and point B and am attempting to find point C (or any point further down the line after point B), all that I must do is find a straight-edge, line point A and B up, and draw the line further to a next point, C. This action connects the static points A and B, the past and the present, and extends their reach into C, the future, making C visible, knowable, and static. It is in this rather linear way that time is traditionally thought of, and this line quality of time is exactly what Bergson uses to explain his thoughts on what time is usually thought to be.

Bergson gives a very specific and, to me, highly illustrative example to describe traditional time: a single line. We conceive of time as a singular line, usually with lots of little notches in it signifying particular events or separating off certain chunks in the line. When I read of this example, I think back and remember a particular assignment I was given multiple times in middle school, sometimes in History class, sometimes in English, where I was given a paper with a single line, and instructed to write down in the correct chronological order certain events which had happened, either in a particular book’s story or chunk of history. This idea of time as a line, and thusly as something “mathematical” [Bergson, p. 2], is then not at all unfamiliar to me, and this conceptualization of time seems accurate enough. A person is born (beginning of the line), is an infant, a baby, a toddler, a prepubescent child, an adolescent child, a teenager, a young adult, an adult, middle aged adult, a senior, (all of which are designated by notches on the line, segmenting them off from each other) and then dies (end of line). This is what you might call the life cycle of a human, similar to that of a ladybug or butterfly in the sense that there is a beginning, end, and segmented sections which designate a particular way of being in the world. This conception tends to make sense until you become aware of the idea that Bergson calls attention to. Time as a line is “immobile,” and “complete”. [Bergson, p. 2] By “immobile,” Bergson is referring to the fact that time as a line is something which does not move (draw a line and notice how it does not continue being drawn by itself, it is static), and if we can agree on the idea that a sort of movement is change, then in not moving it does not change. But how is it that the way we usually think of time presupposes the idea that things in time do not change? To think in this way would be in contradiction with lived experience, as everyone experiences things changing. However, it may seem that in time-as-line things still do change; as said before in the example, the baby changes to toddler, which changes to child, and so on; is that not change? Things may change in the time-as-line framework in this way, but Bergson notes that this change is a very particular kind of change which is very different from the change and motion that is actually experienced. Change in a world of time-as-line is not change at all (not the type experienced in our day-to-day lives), but is an object of static, unmoving, singular moments. Notice that in this linear life cycle of a human, everything which occurs does so in a rather “blocky” fashion; one singular, static, thing happens, and then another, and then another, and so on. This blocky “succession” from one static state to another static state [Bergson, p. 7] is not the type of change we experience in our day-to-day lives according to Bergson. If time-as-line is a sort of reduction of what Bergson would call actual time (duration), then this purely successional and static “change” may be seen as a further reduction of even time-as-line, though time-as-line facilitates this idea. Time-as-line is a line with points, but mere successional, static “change” may be visualized more accurately as points alone following a line which is not drawn. In this framework, the child becomes/changes into the teenager at an instant, the teenager becomes/changes into the adult at once, change is but a turning of a page, a flick of a switch, instant, immediate, and obvious. This is where it becomes apparent that time-as-line, in facilitating this conception of successional “change,” does not map onto our lived experience of change. Change in our lived experience is not always obvious, and happens gradually; for example, think of day and night. For day to occur at a particular point on Earth, the Sun moves around the earth, from being hidden by the earth, to revealing itself on the East horizon, to continually and gradually moving across the sky above the viewer until it hides itself behind the Earth once more on the West horizon. The thing to pay attention to in this example is the fact that the Sun has to move all the way across the sky, all the way around the Earth (from the point of view of the Earth), in order to create two points in our mind: day and night. The Sun is not above us, then immediately below us, then immediately above us again as the days and nights go on; the Sun moves gradually across our sky and under us, and only if we are not paying attention to the Sun and its gradual, continuous movement does it seem like broken, immediate succession of day and night. This broken succession which attempts to present itself as change and time is facilitated by the conception of time-as-line in its mathematic immobility and is not at all what Bergson thinks actual time (duration) is.

The idea of a blocky, static, and broken succession is conveyed on page seven of Creative Mind, as Bergson brings up the specific example of a cinematographic film and that time-as-linehas motion and change only in the way that a cinematographic film does. When you watch a film, you are not seeing motion in the sense that the things portrayed on the screen are actually moving as we move, rather, you see a multitude of frames, static pictures, rolled through a projector at a particular speed in order to create the illusion of movement and of change, this is why another word for film is motion picture. Not only is each individual moment (picture) of a film in stasis, but a film as a whole is made, and once it is made finished, it is complete and static. No matter how much we plead at the characters of the movie Titanic, no matter how much we wish they would act differently and save the ship and the lives of countless people in the story, the ship in the movie will always sink. The whole of the film reel, which includes the beginning, middle, and ending of the movie, is present in our actual present and past. The end (the future) is finished and immovable in a completed film, the end (future) of reality, however, is not here with us now. Though the instruments of the end, the things which exist now and may exist further on in the future, are here with us in the present, the event of the future itself is not! The future is always that, the future, always out of reach in its indefiniteness, never fully predetermined. The future in this example of film is more closely described by the end of a movie that hasn’t been finished by its writers, an end which is never finished, a film which creates itself and grows continuously. A film, then, is different than lived change and motion in two ways, one way being that a film as a whole is static, broken succession where lived reality is a gradual flow, the other way being that a film does not grow, its length is definitively pre-set. In these ways is time-as-line immobile: the stasis in its length as well as the stasis in what makes it up. The fact that we traditionally conceive of time as a line makes time seem as though it is static, and this stasis is very important to understand due to the fact that its full consequences on us and our worldview are rarely recognized. Bergson writes that time-as-line is immobile, but also says it is complete. What he means by complete may be more straightforward. Please picture, once again, a line on a paper; notice, again, the fact that it does not continue to draw itself, what might that mean for time? This means time-as-line is fixed, determined in every aspect of itself. Point to any given place on the line and you will find a definite place or event which will have either happened, be happening, or happen in the future depending on where you are located on the line (in history maybe). Before the events of September 11 2001 transpired, it was already determined to happen, it has always been on the line, we just had to wait to get there in order for it to happen, just like a finished film. Thus, this deterministic approach to time is the result of this time-as-line framework since time in this way is complete, always has been complete, and always will be complete and defined in every aspect.

If this mathematical, line, film-like thing called time isn’t a very accurate representation of that thing we experience, then what is? Well whatever it is, it shouldn’t be called “time” according to Bergson, mainly because it isn’t what we refer to when we use the word “time.” Time, as I attempted to explain in the previous paragraph, has become spatialized in that it refers to blocks, segments, parts, or pieces of “temporal” stuff. Blocks, segments, parts, and pieces, however, are things, spatial objects, so the word time, rather than referring to what we think we mean when we say time, refers to a spatialized concept, not temporal. The word Bergson uses for this thing we suddenly don’t have a word for is “duration,” and what this refers to is, rather than  a line or something of the sort, “the trajectory of a body in motion” [Bergson, p. 2]. This quote, when put in contrast with the description of time (as-line) as something mathematical, reveals a particularly important aspect of duration. Duration, rather than being a sort of mathematical abstraction of the lived and experienced here and now, is bodily motion itself (bodily in the sense of general things which exist, not limited to the human body), fundamentally embedded in the lived here and now. In other words, it seems that duration is something which is always right in front of us in contrast to time which must be created or interpreted by us in relative abstraction. This idea of experience being distinguished from interpretation or the knowledge of something relates to certain ideas in William James’ texts A World of Pure Experience and The Place of Affectional Facts in a World of Pure Experience, which may be summarized in the words “that” and what. [James (1905), p. 284]  Let’s say that time and duration are two separate things, time is something which attempts to measure duration (in that it cuts duration into spatial pieces in order to generate a number with which to determine something) and, in a sense, translate it into spatial terms (since duration is something not at all spatial), and duration is something which is completely temporal and which can be interpreted or seen through the lens of time. The that in James’ texts refers to what he calls “a pure experience, a phenomenon, or datum” [James (1905), p. 284], things (or nonthings) which we personally, intimately, and immediately experience; perhaps, in other words, it refers to experience itself. In A World of Pure Experience, when he writes of the specific example of the Memorial Hall at Cambridge; James’ experience/perceiving of the thing which is the Hall, “that percept” separate from what it later “meant” as an idea (539 A World of Pure Experience), is that.  The what in James’ text refers to the thing which comes to us after the experience of the that; we may say that the what is one’s interpretation or measurement of the that. In the Memorial Hall example, his remembered idea of of the Hall (of that), his “mental image” which “might to some degree have resembled it,” and what the “percept” “meant” (539 A World of Pure Experience), is the what. An example that comes to mind of these concepts would be someone walking outside who comes upon a shiny rock. The person sees the rock and has an experience of said rock being shiny, without having to think to themselves “Wow, that rock sure is shiny.” After having this experience of the rock, the person may indeed have this explicit thought which recognizes the rock being seen as shiny. The experience of the rock being shiny before the conscious recognition of the rock’s shininess would be the that, and the conscious recognition would be the what. Another way to look at it is through the word recognition itself. A quick google search revealed that the word stems from the Latin word recognoscere, which means to “know again, recall to mind.” When you recognize something you’re experiencing in the world to be a particular thing, you are re-cognizing, re-calling, rather than simply initially cognizing something. This initial cognition is the that, and that is what Bergson wants to say duration is like. Duration is that which we are always cognizing/experiencing as movement, time is what we re-cognize duration to be (though it is not). The problem which Bergson is attempting to reveal to us is the fact that we seem to confuse time for duration, the what for the that. To confuse time for duration, we come to think that a temporal thing (duration) is actually quite spatial since time is spatial (as it is measured in chunks of things/objects like minutes), however temporality is not spatial, and spatiality is not temporal (as they are two different things), so when we think of time we aren’t thinking of temporal duration at all (which is what we usually believe we are thinking of), we’re thinking of spatial objects which are thought to be set on to temporality. To compare this to the what and the that, confusing the what for the that in the same way has us confusing “shiny” and “rock” for that thing which is experienced as such. What has occurred in this instance of confusion is the that conceptions of “shiny” and “rock” replace that thing which is actually experienced as a thing, the thing which is merely present, even without such conceptions. We don’t have to know what “shiny” is, nor do we have to know what “rock” is, in order to come across and experience that thing which is present there (the thing interpreted as “shiny rock”). In this same fashion are time and duration confused, the conceived interpretation (spatial time) of a present phenomenon (temporal duration) takes the place of said phenomenon in our minds, having us believe that there is only time, only years, days, and minutes. This replacement makes it quite easy for us to forget that there is such a thing as experienced change and movement even without the existence of a clock. We do experience unadulterated temporality (duration), and this experience does not rely on calendars and wrist-watches.

I more or less have attempted to describe the relationship between duration and time in the previous paragraph, but there is still not a firm grasp of the concept of duration which I’ve attempted to explain. As I understand Bergson’s text, a more concrete explanation of duration would be that it is the indivisible, continuous flow of movement or change. What this means is that duration, rather than a static succession of parts one after the other, is the primary flow of movement and/or change, it is movement/change. A way to illustrate this would be to think of a stream. You are sitting outside with a stream before you flowing in one direction; from where you’re sitting, you aren’t able to see the beginning and end of the stream (if there even is such thing), you only see the flow. This flow is viewed from a particular vantage point and, unlike a block unfolding its segments or a film roll revealing multiple singular pictures in succession, there is no part of the stream which can be said to succeed the other due to the fact that there is no thing which can succeed or be succeeded. The stream is the amalgam, “the aggregate,” of water which has passed and is passing through it [Bergson, p. 7] Duration is the stream, as it is experienced from a particular vantage point, and is experienced (initially) as pure, indivisible flow of change/motion. This initially indivisible experience of change/motion can be compared again to the that, the flow is what we experience and live, unadulterated by our time, and it is what we forget exists (though it does) when we confuse the two as well. Also, not only is duration a full, unadulterated flow or stream of motion and change, but it is, as Bergson describes it, also creative (rather than being [pre]determined). Think back to the example of a film; every aspect of a finished film, every event, is determined and never changes (the Titanic always sinks at the end, and Darth Vader is always Luke Skywalker’s father). The future for lived duration, unlike the (pre)determined, ready-made film and time-as-line, cannot be known definitively since it is created and recreated as it flows on in every passing moment. It is in duration that the line moves and draws itself forever onward, the film changes and creates itself indefinitely, and the past, present, and future are in a constant flux which is creative and novel.

If duration is the that, insofar as something we more directly experience in our living in the world, why is it that we have its what, time, the mutilation of duration, in the first place? To Bergson, time exists in the way it does (mathematically/line/film-like) due to the fact that we use it as a way to accomplish things in the world. When do I have to go to a meeting with my supervisor? When are my classes? Not only that, but how am I to calculate the velocity of a moving object? To do these things effectively, we are forced to mutilate duration, cut it up into spatial segments and give words to those segments, words such as 1:00 PM, Tuesday the Fourth, April, 2017. Think, again, back to the example of the shiny rock; the thing which I recognize as “shiny” and “rock” is a thing which can never be fully encompassed by our interpretation of it. Yes that thing is a rock, and yes, it is shiny, but there is so much more and so much less that that thing could be interpreted as. I could look at it more closely and say it is rock which is circular, rugged, dry, grey, on the ground, of the Earth, and, oh yes, shiny; however even these descriptions are up for question. Someone may say, no that rock is black, or smooth, or not even shiny! It may even be that the questioner is myself, as I may not be able to tell whether the rock is grey or black. However one thing is for sure, there is something which is present, though my interpretation of that thing may never fully encompass it or even touch it. But even though I can’t encompass this thing in all it is, I still must have words for it! Why? Because if I ever become so lucky as to come across a pretty shiny rock and wish to tell someone about it, I’d have to use these words regardless of the fact that they cannot fully do justice to the that. In this way do we use time, a spatialized version of duration, to do stuff in the world practically; the problem reveals itself, however, when we conflate spatial time (time-as-line) with temporal duration.

I would assert that another reason why we have time more readily in our grasp today rather than duration is because, to some extent, duration can’t be experienced in its fullness by us in the vantage point we inhabit and is thus evasive. When I say this, I have in mind this example of a tree. If someone were to plant a tree, put a seed in the ground, water it, and wait, one would not see the tree’s motion and change into a tree as a continuous flow. If we did see a tree as flow, I would not have had to use a stream as an example of the flow of duration; I would’ve been able to use any pattern of change and/or motion in the world. The thing is, with something such as a tree, we don’t immediately, or maybe rather perceptibly, become aware of the flow. The fact that the tree is constantly moving/changing, constantly turning into something which is the same but different than what it was at any given moment before now, escapes us due to the fact that we can’t see that. We only seem to see this: seed, tiny stem, small sapling, large sapling, tree. Why? Because we are not looking at the tree at every moment (we can’t), and even if we were, the amount of motion/change going on in a tree’s growth may be imperceptible to us in its detailed complexity. We can’t see the whole process paint goes through when it dries, the same goes for when grass grows, it only looks to us as if the paint is wet and then is dry, the grass is not there and then is there.

Works Cited

Bergson, Henri, and Mabelle L. Andison. The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics. Mineola, NY: Dover Publ., 2013. Print.

“Definition of Recognition in English:.” Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press, 2017. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.

James, William. “A World of Pure Experience.” The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods. Vol. 1, No. 20 (1904): 533-43. JSTOR. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

James, William. “The Place of Affectional Facts in a World of Pure Experience.” The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods. Vol. 2, No. 11 (May 25, 1905): 281-287. JSTOR. Web. 20 June 2017.