Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reference and Deference

My knowledge is beholden to a system of reference, to identifications of named things. My power is beholden to a system of deference, to differentiations from named people. Indeed, only things actually have identities, i.e., only things are that which they are. People (you and I and them) are not simply who we are. Our existence is our difference from others. That is why our knowledge of things is conditioned by reference (knowledge is a capacity for accurate reference) and our power over people is conditioned by deference (power is a capacity for accurate deference).

When I "identify" a person, I am not merely saying, "This body goes by this name." I am saying, "This is not my body. I will defer to this body under such and such circumstances." No general principles define those circumstances. They are determined exactly by who the person is, and who the person quite specifically is not, namely, I. The person's name, then, does not simply refer to the person. Instead, the name stands for a particular apparatus of (set of dispositions for) deference in me. My power is implicit in that apparatus. "Accuracy of deference" means simply that I defer to the "right" people.

See also: "Notes on the Practice of Deference"

1 comment:

Presskorn said...

I've taken note of this post, since it seems related to an earlier post we discussed, but since I am handing in a ph.d.-application tuesday, I am too busy (and theorectically confused!) to respond now... Hope you've had a great summer...