[a trio of Seminars-Short Version: Seminar Three IV. 2013] a trio of Seminars on Sovereignties Seminar Three

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[A Trio of Seminars—Short Version: Seminar Three 8.iv.2013]

A Trio of Seminars on Sovereignties – Seminar Three

The Third Sovereignty Seminar: The Individual*

Peter McCormick

Individual Sovereignties

§14. Individual Sovereignties

14.1 A Composite Account of Self-Sovereignty
14.2 Immanence and Transcendence
14.3 Evaluating the Composite Account
Discussion Seminar Three §14 and Concluding Remarks
§15. Cycladic Europe: the Marble Lady of Naxos

15.1 Early Cycladic Marble Figurines

15.2 Nature and Provenance
15.3 A Canonical Folded-Arm Figurine
15.4 Another Folded-Arm Figurine

Discussion Seminar Three §15 and Concluding Remarks

*Copyright C 2013 by Peter McCormick. All Rights Reserved.

Draft Only: not authorized for citation in present unrevised form.

§16. Cultural Meanings

16.1 Cultural Meaning

16.2 Religious Contexts
16.3 Meanings: Philosophical vs. Cultural?

Discussion Seminar Three §16 and Concluding Remaks

§17. Philosophical Significance: TBA

Discussion Seminar Three §17 and Concluding Remarks
§18. A Third Set of Interim Conclusions:

Bounded Sovereignties III (TBA)

18.1 Endogenously limited individual sovereignties
18.2 Exogenously limited individual sovereignties
18.3 Religiously limited individual sovereignties
In Brief

  • A final stage of our inquiry here into the earliest European backgrounds for an enlarged understanding of today’s overly narrow interpretations of sovereignty as almost exclusively state sovereignty focuses now on the idea neither of limited political sovereignty nor of limited social sovereignty but on that of individual sovereignty as also necessarily limited.

  • We begin as earlier with a critical description and appraisal of another contemporary account of individual sovereignty under the guise of a so-called composite account of self-sovereignty.

  • Recalling several salient details of this account will then sharpen our awareness of what we may be able to retrieve from another step back into the Aegean Bronze Age historical and conceptual origins of modern notions of individual sovereignty that are still at the center of our reflections today.

  • Proto-European Aegean Cycladic cultures (ca. 3200-2000 BCE arguably reached one its several highpoints in the sculptured human forms first developed in the Early Cycladic II Period from 2800 to 2300 BCE.1

  • The symbolic representations of this highpoint of Cycladic culture may be found especially in the unprecedented sculptural creations of what appears to have been a loosely related school of outstanding artists.

  • Archeological interpretations of one of these artist’s most striking creations point to the fundamental salience of a certain form of individuality. This individuality is very carefully traced in the sculpturally detailed forms of individual standing persons, mostly but not exclusively women, called figurines.

  • The quite particular characterization in these figurines is evident in the various artistic means chosen not just to stylize but also to individualize a genuine kind of individual sovereignty.

  • This individualized sovereignty may perhaps best be illustrated with the details of the outstanding Folded-Arm Figurine from the Spedos Phase of Cycladic culture with its sculpted torso, lower body, and carefully shaped legs together with its lyre-shaped and upward turned flattened face.

  • This individualized sovereignty, however extensive, was nonetheless also clearly limited by at least the creation of other major figurines in several other competing Cycladic island workshops such as at Saliagos, Melos, and elsewhere.

§14. Individual Sovereignties
In Seminar Two we focused on the significance of the Middle Minoan culture’s male statuette, the Palaikastro Kouros, for identifying representations of several more of the earliest settled European values. With the help of the reflective work of John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas we also saw how some artistically represented ethical values might be taken as provoking second thoughts today about just what ethical and in particular social values might figure in various draft preambles to an historically sensitive eventual EU constitution.

We need now in Seminar Three to deepen our reflective concerns with a larger than exclusively political understanding of sovereignties in the light of culturally meaningful and philosophical significant aspects today of some of the most significant artworks from the origins of European civilization in the Bronze Age Aegean.

After our reflections on political sovereignties in the first part of our inquiries and then on social sovereignties in the second part, we now take up in this third and final part related issues concerning individual sovereignties. Some distinguished work in contemporary political theory will be our initial guide.2

14.1 A Composite Account of Self-Sovereignty

In her 2005-2006 Gifford Lectures, published in expanded form under the title Sovereignty: God, State, and Self,3 Jean Bethge-Elshtain sets out both an historical as well as thematic account of different kinds of sovereignty. Her perspective, like that of R. Jackson (2007) whom we took as our initial guide in Seminar One, combines both political science and the history of ideas.
Unlike Jackson’s perspective, however, Bethge Elshtain is more concerned with political theory rather than with political science as such. Moreover, she places much more historical emphasis on the medieval and pre-modern periods. Still more, unlike Jackson she explores in great detail both the natural theologies of Augustine and Aquinas as well as the work of the central Protestant reformers, Luther and Calvin.
Finally – and it is this aspect of her account that will occupy us here – Bethge Elshtain’s account of sovereignty pays much attention to the idea of the self, or what she calls “self-sovereignty,” in the contexts of personal or individual sovereignty. because the scope of her treatment of sovereignty is much wider than any exclusively political account or social account, we will find it convenient to refer to her work hereafter as a “composite account” of sovereignty.4

The first key idea in this composite account derives from the understanding of medieval political theory in terms of “a bewildering variety of overlapping jurisdictions, none of which could claim de facto the kind of absolutism that sovereigns began to embrace from the sixteenth century or so on” (p. xv). These overlapping jurisdictions, while requiring today fresh analysis and discrimination, nonetheless had the virtue of taking sovereignty itself as being an “inclusive” rather than an “exclusive” notion.

That is, not only political but also religious considerations were then understood as being part of the basic notion of sovereignty itself. In this respect, medieval political theory might be said to have imitated medieval practice where no clear borders stood between the regnum and the sacerdotum (pp. 40-47). 5
Now, part of the greatness of Hobbes’s achievements with respect to delimiting the notion of sovereignty was to eliminate all such overlaps by taking political sovereignty as absolute sovereignty. Thanks largely to that extraordinary work, the Westphalians6 in 1648 were able conceptually to mark out absolute state sovereignty in such clear, if later much disputed, terms that the recurring devastations and catastrophes of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) came to an end.
The reverse side of Hobbes’s intellectual achievement, however, was that no larger notion of sovereignty was left on the table. Neither any notion of divine sovereignty nor of social sovereignty nor of individual sovereignty could compete with the absolute political sovereignty that Hobbes so magisterially laid out against the backgrounds of his bleak views on human nature in his 1651 masterpiece, Leviathan.7 Only later, when John Locke brought back into discussion, mainly in his 1689 Essay Concerning Human Understanding, some of the previously banished connections between politics and religion, was there a new move set on foot to recapture some of the earlier breadth of vision that the pre-Hobbesian uses of sovereignty had already included.8
Besides this idea of the importance of an inclusive understanding of sovereignty that that the composite account emphasizes, a second key idea about individual sovereignty in this account also deserves special attention. That idea is a suggested distinction between hard and soft versions of self-sovereignty.
Since Augustine’s debates with the Pelagians about whether human beings could take the first steps towards salvation without God’s grace, what may be called hard self-sovereignty can be understood in terms of power. On this view, the self is both “legislator and enforcer: the self is a kind of law unto itself, taking the form of a faux categorical imperative, faux in the sense that one could not coherently will that there be no daylight between one’s own will and universal willing” (p. 172). Thus, the hard version of self-sovereignty is all about “power, self-encoded, enacted whenever the self sees fit” (Ibid.). Hard sovereignty is the sovereignty of the Pelagian individual.

By contrast, the soft version of self-sovereignty is all about relaxing or repudiating “any standards on, or for, the self” (p. 173). On this version of self-sovereignty, the soft sovereign self “ongoingly affirms itself, validates itself . . . [for] the only valid rules are those I make for myself” (Ibid.). Soft sovereignty is the sovereignty of the Augustinian person.

What is especially important about this distinction between hard and soft self-sovereignty for our concerns with trying to win a fuller understanding of necessarily limited individual sovereignties is the realization that neither of these kinds of self-sovereignty is satisfactory. For the hard version of self-sovereignty, with its commitment to the absolute autonomy of the self, rules out any genuine community of personal sovereignties. And the soft version of self-sovereignty, with its commitment to the exaggerated fluidity of the self, leads to the loss of any proper critical distance from community.
On this composite account, then, “each features a monistic, voluntaristic notion of the self, the self ‘as one’ with its projects” (p. 204). If hard sovereign selves stand alone, soft sovereign selves “are absorbed in a collective or group project” (Ibid.).
Thus, this composite account of self-sovereignty, or of what we are calling here individual sovereignty, comprises at least two key notions. The first is the idea that individual sovereignty must be properly inclusive, and the second is the idea that properly inclusive individual sovereignty must be neither a hard nor a soft self-sovereignty. Rather, a properly inclusive individual sovereignty must be open to the transcendence of both the state and society, of both political and social sovereignties.
Individual sovereignty, in short, must finally be construed in such terms that the relations between transcendence and immanence determine its proper limitations.

14.2 Immanence and Transcendance

One persisting problem with these two key elements of the composite account of individual sovereignties is the unresolved tension between the individual’s necessary participation in a political and social world and the individual’s necessary critical distance form any particular political or social world as such.
The participation is necessary in the sense that part of what it means to be a human being is to be socially and politically part of a larger whole. And the critical distance is necessary in the sense that part of what it also means to be a human being is to exercise the capacities of self-consciousness in such ways as to remain irreducible to one’s political and social world. Or, in the familiar religious idiom on which this composite account often relies, one must, so to speak, be in the world but not of it.
How then can we reconcile this double necessity, the necessity of belonging and the necessity of critical distancing?
On several of the terms of this composite account, individual sovereignty is properly a matter of making room for transcendence in the midst of immanence. Making some sense here of that distinction will be fruitful for making still more specific our intuition that individual sovereignties, like political and social ones (even if not “just like” them), are necessarily limited sovereignties.

Transcendence on the composite account comes into discussion when one takes a close look at the nature of the absolute monarchy during the French Revolution. For the theorists of the time, the absolute monarch was the intermediary between the two realms of the worldly and the other-worldly, of the immanent and the transcendent. Indeed, the task of the French revolutionaries, as they themselves understood it, was “dethroning the semi-sacred body of the one – the king – the living mediator between heaven and earth, the transcendent and the immanent – and rethroning [sic], via a ‘religion of reason’ a collective sacral body, le people, the people, the general will to which all must pledge ‘Amen’ without reservation” (pp. 141-142).9

On this composite account, the revolutionary program of radically replacing an individual royal person (the king) with a collective person (the people) as the intermediary between the transcendent and the immanent had two central consequences. Together, these two consequences resulted in changing radically many of the previous understandings of both the transcendent and the immanent.
Thus, for one, the transcendent lost its consistency. The transcendent became “remote, gauzy, dematerialized, a vague ‘beyond’ but, in reality, presentist and based on a particular manifestation of the self” (p. 142). Conversely, the immanent became more substantive. The immanent, “rather than emerging chastened from the experience of ‘revolutionary virtue’ and less tempted toward sovereign excess and grandiosity, goes in the other direction and sacralizes a finite set of temporal arrangements” (Ibid.).
The general outcome of these two consequences was promotion of the immanent at the expense of the transcendent at both the political and the individual levels. “Denial of the transcendent and a correlative divinizing of the experiences of ‘self’ or the state,” Bethge Elshtain writes in summary, “fuels a self driven to certain sorts of extreme ‘on the edge’ experiences as a way to feel wonder and awe, and a state driven to a form of ‘overcoming’ or transcendence that courts triumphalism: there are markers of monism, even nihilism” (Ibid.).

14.3 Evaluating the Composite Account of Sovereignty

There is much that is helpful in this composite account of individual self-sovereignty. The retrieval of the quite important medieval backgrounds to the major elaboration of the key notion of sovereignty today in the seventeenth century as well as the careful reminders of the relations between politics and religion in some of the central writings of the Reformers are significant correctives to what can often be a rather blinkered or overly abbreviated reading of the origins of modern understandings of sovereignty.
Moreover, as we have seen, the composite account of individual self-sovereignty usefully reminds us of several crucial distinctions in trying to understand sovereignty better. The distinctions are between inclusive and exclusive sovereignties, between hard and soft sovereignties, and between the vertical sovereignties of transcendence and the horizontal ones of immanence.
Nonetheless, at least three critical points suggest the need for still further reflection about the nature of individual sovereignties as necessarily limited sovereignties.
The first critical point concerns the pertinence of the exclusive-inclusive distinction with respect to individual sovereignties in particular. Admittedly, this distinction applies in a fruitful way to our understandings today of political and even social sovereignties. Still, its application to the quite different domain of individual sovereignties is not so evident. For in this domain, unlike in the other two domains, whether one can speak properly of the exclusive and the inclusive is questionable.
Thus, rather than speaking about how individual sovereignty can be exclusive of other sovereignties such as the political or the social, perhaps we do better to speak of individual sovereignties not in terms of exclusive and inclusive but in those of internal and external. Thus, political and social sovereignties arguably are better understood as being external to individual sovereignties rather than individual sovereignties being such as to exclude political and social sovereignties.
A second critical point arises with respect to the usefulness of the distinction between hard and soft individual sovereignties. For it is not evident what gains we may realize in terms of better understanding the necessary limits of individual sovereignties by talking freshly of hard and soft individual sovereignties instead of continuing to talk about absolute and relative individual sovereignties. The second, traditional distinction, for example, arguably renders more service than the more contemporary one in this composite account between hard and soft individual sovereignties. This is especially the case when we try to account for some of the causal mechanisms that mainly bring about the negative consequences of any exaggerated individual sovereignties.
And a third critical point, the most important one, concerns the central distinction in this composite account between the transcendent and the immanent. This distinction, unlike perhaps the other two, is certainly pertinent to our concerns with understanding the necessary limitations of individual sovereignty. For it captures a dimension that the previous accounts of political and social sovereignty have, perhaps for good enough reasons, underplayed. That underlying and very important distinction is between the political and the religious. And as we have noted one of the strengths of the composite account is its emphasis on the major significance of the religious. For it is the religious that brings into critical discussion the ineluctable human tensions between the immanent and the transcendent.
On reflection, however, what seems still lacking in the composite discussion of immanence and transcendence is a higher resolution in the analyses of each of the two central terms.10 That is, if we are to understand better the limitations of individual sovereignty, then we need to refine our understanding of both the immanent as such and the transcendent as such. Restricting our account just to their roles as correlatives if we have not provided independent account of each of these notions in particular is insufficient.
There are of course different basic types of transcendence and different basic types of immanence. Moreover, not all of these different types can be properly paired as correlatives. Still more, the roles of these different and polymorphic concepts differ appreciably depending, to take but one of several factors, for instance on the particular domains in which we are employing them. Thus, the immanent in the domain of issues arising in the philosophy of art is not necessarily the same at all as the immanent in the domain of metaphysics. Similarly, the transcendent in the domain of the philosophy of religion is not necessarily the same at all as the transcendent in the domain of social epistemology.
In our continuing inquiries then into the necessity of limited individual sovereignties we will need to be more careful about specifying our particular domains of inquiry. Morover, we will need to take note of some important non-correlations between various senses of transcendence and immanence than seem to be the case in the composite account of self-sovereignty we have looked at here briefly.

Concluding Remarks

Among many other virtues, the composite account of self-sovereignty is rich in history and in distinctions. After noting those virtues and, in addition, having noted as well several critical points that must be kept in mind, we may now find it useful to take up still another and here final excursus into the Aegean Bronze Age cultures where so many of our central cultural notions today first took their very tentative forms.
Specifically, we will now look at the earliest proto-European culture in the Aegean Bronze Age, namely the Cycladic culture. Our concern will be to retrieve if we can, with both sufficient historical and conceptual care, several almost forgotten insights into the nature in particular of individual sovereignties as necessarily limited.

§15. Cycladic Europe: the Marble Lady of Naxos

Following on our considerations of symbolic golden embossed funerary masks dating from the closing centuries of the Late Helladic Bronze Age on the Greek mainland, and on our reflections on a symbolic Minoan male statuette dating from the Middle Aegean Bronze Age on Crete, we now turn still farther back. Here we take up the appearance in the Early Aegean Bronze Age (ca. 3200-2000 BCE) of the familiar symbolic white marble female figurines dating from the first permanent settlements in the Cycladic islands of the Aegean Sea.

15.1 Early Cycladic Marble Figurines

Archeologists and ancient historians tell us, cautiously, that the singular culture if not civilization in the Greek Aegean of what Herodotus called the Cyclades 11 begins with the first Neolithic permanent settlement known there so far.12 This culture appears roughly at the middle of the fifth millennium BCE.i The Greek mainland backgrounds to the Cycladic figurines are to be found in the Middle Neolithic (ca. 5800-5300) ii double figurines from Thessaly.13

Archeological excavations on the tiny islet of Saliagos in the straits between the Cycladic islands of Antiparos and Paros have uncovered evidence for a much later communally organized permanent settlement in the collectively constructed defensive works and in the several stone houses these works enclose.14 Other later sites exhibiting features of the same Saliagos culture have also been found elsewhere in the Cyclades, notably on Naxos, Mykonos, and Thera.15

By the end of the so-called “Keros-Syros Phase” of Cycladic culture in the transitions between the Early Cycladic II and III periods ca. 2300 BCE,iii a great decline occurs in the carving of these white marble figurines. They are succeeded by much less artistically realized schematic figurines and “the solid, soulless forms which confirm the poverty of the period.” 16

Many scholars currently understand the Late Neolithic Saliagos settlement as, among other things, a center for preparing the much prized obsidian, a black, sharp, volcanic, glassy stone, for export and distribution to many earlier Neolithic permanent settlements on the Greek mainland.17 There, mainlanders would further work the obsidian into cutting devices not just for butchering but also for carving marble, which is a white, soft, crystalline stone.

As imported obsidian remains from the Franchthi cave in the Argolid and other evidence demonstrate,18 however, long before the founding of the Saliagos settlement some Neolithic mainlanders were already braving the seas to visit the Cyclades from roughly 8000-7000 BCE onwards.19 They continued to do so for the next several thousand years. But only with the later development of more reliable boats and seafaring skills 20 of the late Neolithic could mainlanders establish permanent settlements on Saliagos and on other islands in the Cyclades such as on Melos for more obsidian and on Naxos for emery.21

With these settlements the elements for the emergence of one of the most singular manifestations of Cycladic culture generally were in place. iv “With obsidian,” as one specialist has written, “the prehistoric islanders could cut the soft marble into shapes.” 22 And with emery they then could “polish and smooth [the] marble without leaving behind any scuffs or colors,” thus imparting to the soft marble “the soft patina of the stones on the shore.” 23 This innovative technology made possible, among other inventions, the creation of the early Cycladic distinctive artifacts first discovered at the end of the nineteenth century and now called Cycladic figurines.24

Before, however, trying to discuss the cultural meanings of several of the most representative of these artifacts, specifying their nature and their provenance is a priority.25 Indeed, to be thorough, one would need “to record the location and number of found figurines, the other objects they are found with, their depositional histories, how they were made and later broken, the history of their existence, and their use life from the moment they were formed, through the many uses and reuses, to their recycling and eventual discard.” 26 Also, originally many of these figurines displayed tattoos, 27 painted features,v and jewelry.

Here, we must settle for something much more modest.

15.2 Nature and Provenance

During the third millennium BCE 28 almost 2000 figurines are now known to have been produced in the Aegean areas.vi Figurines are “small-scale representations of humans, animals, and objects,” the same specialist writes, “that were regularly produced throughout the Bronze Age in the Aegean, continuing an extant tradition from the Neolithic period.” 29

Cycladic and Minoan figurines continue to appear after the end of the Early Aegean Bronze Age. By contrast “the mainland tradition of female figurines with exaggerated body features dies out in the Early Bronze Age.” It is important to remember, however, that the production of figurines has its high point in the Early Aegean Bronze Age and then declines afterwards in the Middle Aegean Bronze Age while at the same time their production increases dramatically in Crete.30

Figurines are handmade, small (between 0.05 and 0.20 m. in height), rather numerous, and found mainly in cemetery graves and sometimes in the households of settlements. Materials vary but most early figurines are made of clay and a good number are also made of white marble. In some cases details of the early marble figurines are highlighted in bright colors.31

In these respects figurines are unlike figures. Figures are larger than figurines; they are between 0.35 to 0.69 m. They are also rarer --only 43 late Minoan and 17 Mycenaean figures are currently known. Figures, for example the “Palaikastro Kouros,” are similar to small statues. Figures thus are statuettes. Further, figures are wheel made. Moreover, they are found perhaps exclusively in sanctuaries and ritual sites like the ritual site where the “Palaiskatro Kouros” was found. Well-documented examples are from the excavations at the Phylakopi 32 settlement on the Cycladic island of Melos and from the so-called “Keros Hoard” under excavation since the 1950s.33

Figurines from the “Keros Hoard” are notoriously difficult to study because grave robbers in the 1960s devastated the site where very many fragmented objects were found. They destroyed the architectural contexts, and then flooded the antiquities markets with the stolen goods as well as with fake figurines.34 Although there is as yet no scholarly consensus regarding the functions of these specific figurines, whether strictly ritual or not, they have been found mainly in cemeteries and settlements. Ongoing excavations on Keros are partly designed to provide much needed further information on this point.

Archeologists have found many figurines (“up to fourteen”) in individual

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