Saturday, November 12, 2011

An Idealist Interpretation of Revolutionary Girl Utena

Introduction to the Setting of the Ohtori Academy


"Revolutionary Girl Utena" is a shōjo, or 'magical girl', animated series which presents the adventures of a tomboyish girl, Utena Tenjou and her ambition to become a prince. The series is set at the prestigious Ohtori Academy for teenage students. The Ohtori Academy is apparently ruled by a Student Council of tremendous authority and self-importance, whose five select members wear a rose-seal ring and are uniquely permitted to enter the forbidden forest dueling arena. The Student Council is directed by a succession of letters mailed from the mysterious "End of the World", whose millenarian instructions are said will soon bring about the about the "World Revolution". The Academy is richly decorated in French fantasy-gothic architecture, stained-glass windows, and accompanied by grandiose organ music. French ornament, letters and Empire-style costumes are continually employed throughout the series, lending the Academy a classical north-European motif (at one point in the series, a teacher mentions there is a sister-school in the Netherlands). The geographic dislocation of this foreign occidental design hints at the spacio-temporal dislocation of the setting. Through a baffling variety of surreal psychosexual imagery and supernatural occurrences "Revolutionary Girl Utena" continuously destabilizes a coherent or literal interpretation of the characters and themes. For this reason, "Revolutionary Girl Utena" has been described as an example of a post-modernist fairy-tale.

You are welcome to download full-length PDF through this weblink:
https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B1LiBr9ItuHwY2RmYmY4NmItY2JhYS00NDJkLTg5NTctZDc3OTM1ZWI0ODQy

Mike and the Rose Bride from Episode 5, "the Sunlit Garden"(4:45)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n8HvsIadv0

Utena and Juri duel in Episode 7, "Unfulfilled Juri"(3:27)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbX59Xqmw6E

Indecision at the End of the World in Episode 37, "the One to Revolutionize the World"(2:25)

Life and Desire in Self-Consciousness of the Phenomenology of Spirit

by Ryan Haecker


The first three sections of G.W.F. Hegel’s the Phenomenology of Spirit fall under the heading A. Consciousness, while the fourth section begins with the heading B. Self-Consciousness. In the phenomenological dialectic of Consciousness, the protagonist of the narrative had sought to achieve certain knowledge of the object of consciousness. This protagonist had investigated an object of knowledge which was supposed to exist independently and be other than itself. In the section on Self-Consciousness, Hegel begins with the intention to transition from the narrative of Consciousness to a new stage in which the phenomenological protagonist can achieve his knowledge of the object of self-consciousness through embodied actions upon the cosmos. Hegel writes in the beginning of Self-Consciousness that the “notion” (a concept which is incompletely developed) has been shown to “vanish” in the phenomenological dialectic of Consciousness.


In the previous modes of certainty what is true for consciousness is something other than itself. But the notion of this truth vanishes in the experience of it. (*PoS par. 166) Hegel believes himself to have shown in the preceding chapters that those objects previously known to Consciousness had been merely “moments” of consciousness whose untruth has been revealed. In Self-Consciousness he continues to investigate the truth of self-consciousness in an embodied social realm.

Hegel can say, in proposing the topic he is to explain and justify, that the “being” of sense-certainty, the “universality” of perception, and the “empty inner being of the understanding” are now no longer “essences” but are to be understood as “moments of self-conciousness” (Pippin 1989 p. 145)


But now there has arisen what did not emerge in these previous relationships [ofConsciousness], viz a certainty which is identical with its truth; for the certainty is to itself its own object and consciousness is to itself the truth. (PoS par. 166)

Henceforth the protagonist of the phenomenological dialectic of Self-Consciousness will investigate both the subject and the object, or the notion and the object, as these are beheld by self-consciousness.


If we call Notion what the object is in itself, but call object what it is qua object or for an other, then it is clear that being-in-itself and being-for-an-other are one and the same. (PoS par. 166)


[Self-consciousness] is characterized by a reflection not on the structure of the things about which we are conscious, but on the structure of our conscious attending and takings themselves. (Pinkard 1994 p.146)


Consciousness has now become a reflective self-consciousness which knows that both the self and the other are simultaneously beheld for and within itself. Hegel claims that this model of self-consciousness has preserved all of those epistemological faculties which had characterized the preceding dialectical movements, and has thereby come to resemble the native powers of the human mind.


With self-consciousness, then, we have therefore entered the native realm of truth. If we consider this new shape of knowing, the knowing itself, in relation to that which preceded, viz. the knowing other, then we see that though this other has indeed vanished, its moments have at the same time no less been preserved, and the loss consists in this, that here they are present as they are in themselves. (PoS par. 167)


The truth which self-consciousness begins to investigate is not an independent object but an apprehension of the unity of itself, the self-conscious subject, with the object of its investigation. However apprehension of the object, and the truth for self-consciousness, has yet to be realized because the cosmos has not yet been investigated. Nor has the truth of this object, the cosmos, become known to the subject. This curiosity of the subject to know and act upon its object is described by Hegel as the Desire of self-consciousness.


The truth, viz. the unity of self-consciousness with itself; this unity must become essential to self-consciousness, i.e. self-consciousness is Desire in general… In this sphere, self-consciousness exhibits itself as the movement in which this antithesis is removed and the identity of itself with itself becomes explicit for it. (PoS par. 167)


Self-consciousness now desires to overcome the epistemic division between the subject and the object of knowledge. Self-Consciousness aspires to unite its object within itself through knowledge and action. Although the subject acts upon the material within the field of perception, the unity of the subject with its object is intelligibly apprehended as an ideal relation of subject and object within self-consciousness.


Hegel is also engaged in an idealist reformulation of the notions of the practical, desire, life, and purposiveness and it is that transformation that, we shall see, helps explain the kind of dissatisfaction with the immediacy of desire that leads to the reintroduction of explicitly philosophical and theoretical considerations. (Pippin 1989 p.149)


As with the previous models of consciousness, self-consciousness applies a uniform epistemological method to its investigation of the object of the intelligible cosmos. The epistemological method in Self-Consciousness is a conceptual apprehension of the teleological relation of parts of the whole within a succession of living organisms.


Hegel seems initially here to be suggesting the beginning of his infamous spirit monism, the suppression of all apparent differences in a single organic, living whole. Hegel may be introducing here his own version of the romantic program we have discussed before, the Greek notion of a living, incarnated (but now self-conscious) Nature that he had so recently shared with Holderin and Schelling... As Poggeler succinctly puts it, at this point the Notion under consideration appears to be “everything that is basically is self-consciousness” [Poggeler 1973c, 248] (Pippin 1989 p.144)


The first object of self-consciousness investigation is nothing less than the entire cosmos as a living organism, or the essence of Life as a universal organism. To be "reflected into itself", or self-negating, is to distinguish parts are within the totality of the whole organism, or to organically live and grow.


…the object has become life. What self-consciousness distinguishes from itself as having being, also has in it, in so far as it is posited as being, not merely the character of sense-certainty and perception, but it is being that is reflected into itself, and the object of immediate desire is a living thing. (PoS par. 168)


In his characterization of Life Hegel adopts the Aristotelian notion of a teleological organism. He would later describe in the Encyclopedia Logic(¶ 204A) that Immanuel Kant had in the Critique of Teleological Judgement had effected a "resuscitation" of Aristotle's insights (Kreines, the Logic of Life 2008).


[Hegel is] trying to indicate by these notions a characterization of such a subjectivity borrowed loosely from Aristotle. A living being has its “principle of motion” within itself. Its purposiveness, its “leading” of its life, is not acquired but internal. (Pippin 1989 p.150)


Hegel defines the essence of Life as (i) a movement through which an organism differentiates parts from the whole within itself. This essential process of differentiation is the creation of organs as parts within the whole of the organism. Hegel describes this process as infinite because, rather than having been set in motion by the "external purposiveness" of an alien causal-agent, Life appears to be self-caused through the "inner purposiveness" of the organism itself (Kreines, the Logic of Life 2008). He believes Life to be uniquely the self-cause of its motions in time and self-organization of its parts in space.

Essence is infinity as the supersession of all distinctions, the pure movement of axial rotation, its self-repose being an absolutely restless infinity; independence itself, in which the differences of the movement are resolved, the simple essence of Time which, in this equality with itself, has the stable shape of Space. (PoS par. 169)


When Hegel wants to stress the empirical independence of such an autonomously self-determining categoriality, he invokes the notion of “infinity”, thought purely determining itself or even “revolving on its own axis.” (Pippin 1989 p.150)


A teleological organism contains within itself (ii) the essential power of Life’s “inner purposiveness” to grow, from germ to adult, towards the complete actualization of its mature and final end. Hegel describes growth in the same terms as (i) the self-differentiation of the parts of an organism because growth requires an organism to continually reproduce its parts within itself. Hegel describes growth as the infinite “dividedness’, “negation”, "supersession" or "sublation” of the organism in-itself.


It is this very flux as a self-identical independence which is itself an enduring existence, in which therefore, they are present as distinct members and parts existing on their own account. Being no longer has the significance of abstract being, nor has their pure essentiality the significance of abstract universality; on the contrary; their being is precisely that simple fluid substance of pure movement within itself… This substance, however, is infinite, and hence the shape in its very subsistence is a dividedness within itself, or the supersession of its being-for-itself. (PoS par. 169-170)


In a continuation of essential Life processes of (i) the self-differentiation of parts and (ii) growth, Hegel describes the emergence of independent organisms from the organic totality of the cosmos as the “separating-out” of an independent other from the “universal fluid medium”.


The independent members are for themselves… This independence of the shape appears as something determinate, for an other, for the shape is divided within itself; and the supersession of this dividedness accordingly takes place through an other... Life in the universal fluid medium, a passive separating-out of shapes becomes, just by so doing, a movement of those shapes or becomes Life as a process. The simple universal fluid medium is the in-itself, and the difference of the shapes is the other. (PoS par. 170-171)


[Footnote 13] The immediate sentiment of self thus introduced by life as a “shape of Spirit” allows Hegel to begin to discuss a number of elements crucial for his full theory of subjectivity. Life also involves a kind of “separation” of the subject from itself; it not only lives but must continue to pursue or lead its life; it is in a relation of independence and dependence with respect to its “other.” And it is not simply a living individual, but lives out the life of the species; its life reproduces in its general structure the life of the species, and even literally reproduces that “universal life.” (Pippin 1989 p.289)


To complete this speculative cosmogenesis of life Hegel describes an ontological inversion, similar to the inversion of perception and understanding described in Chapter 3, in which the greater complexity of the newly independent organisms allows them to devour, sublate and incorporate into themselves the passive medium of the organic cosmos from which they had emerged.


The simple universal fluid medium is the in-itself, and the difference of the shapes is the other. But this fluid medium itself becomes the other through this difference; for now it is for the difference which exists in and for itself, and consequently is the ceaseless movement by which this passive medium is consumed: Life as a living thing. (PoS par. 171)


The consumption of the passive medium of the cosmos by independent organisms is a practical satisfaction of Desire. Yet Hegel does not merely intend to refer to a Desire for material consumption. On the contrary, he intends Desire to be understood as (iii) a general relation of the subject towards its object in which the living subject seeks to possess, comprehend and assimilate the object into itself.


In Hegel’s language, such a subject, or living being, is simply and immediately “for itself” in its relation to objects. This means that it senses itself only in desiring, and that its other, objects of all kind, are object is simply to be negated, overcome, controlled, mastered. (Pippin 1989 p.150)

This relation of Desire, in which the subject masters and sublates its object, is the basis for the predation of Life in the natural world. The most superbly adapted organisms prey upon victims, which are then superseded and united within the more adapted organisms. Life is essentially characterized by (i) the potential for adaptive self-differentiation, (ii) an Aristotelian teleology of growth, and (iii) the predatory relation of the Desire of the subject towards its object. This adaptive, purposive organic process of continual sublation persists until the emergence of an organism with the power of continual sublation within itself- or a reflective self-consciousness which negates the object of its subjective consciousness.


On account of the independence of the object, therefore, it can achieve satisfaction only when the object itself effects the negation within itself; and it must carry out this negation of itself in itself, for it is in itself the negative, and must be for the other what it is. Since the object is in its own self negation, and it being so is at the same time independent, it is consciousness… this universal independent nature in which negation is present as absolute negation, is the genus as such, or the genus as self-consciousness. Self-consciousness achieves its satisfaction only in another self-consciousness. (PoS par. 175)


The self-conscious being which has emerged possesses both an organic body and a conscious mind. The nature of Self-consciousness is absolute negation because self-consciousness has as its essential power the potential for infinite self-negation, or the unceasing sublation of its object. Self-consciousness’s sublation of its object destroys the independence of this object as a thing-in-itself. In coming to know and control the thing-in-itself, the subject unites this object within itself so that the object no longer exists for itself, but only in and for self-consciousness. The Desire of self-consciousness is the aspiration for practical and intellectual mastery over its other through the sublation, apprehension, and domination of the entire organic cosmos within itself.


…self-consciousness is thus certain of itself only by superseding this other that presents itself to self-consciousness as an independent life; self-consciousness is Desire. Certain of the nothingness of this other, it explicitly affirms that this nothingness is for it the truth of the other; it destroys the independent object and thereby gives itself the certainty of itself as a true certainty, a certainty which has become explicit for self-consciousness itself in an objective manner. (PoS par. 174)


We must understand the active pursuit of life, the overcoming of external objects as obstacles to life, or the use of them as means, and so their negation as independent. (Pippin 1989 p.151)


Yet when self-consciousness encounters another self-conscious being with comparable rational and practical autonomy, the particularity of its self-consciousness becomes known explicitly to the self-conscious subject through the apprehension of the property of self-consciousness in its object. The appearance of the doppelgänger self-consciousness makes the subject explicitly aware of its own existence as a particular self-consciousness in relation to the other self-conscious being.


A self-consciousness exists for a self-consciousness. Only so is it in fact self-consciousness; for only in this way does the unity of itself in its otherness become explicit for it… the object of Desire, however, is only independent, for it is the universal indestructible substance, the fluid self-identical essence. A self-consciousness, in being an object, is just as much ‘I’ as ‘object’. With this, we already have before us the Notion of Spirit. (PoS par. 177)


The awareness of another self-consciousness is the beginning of the Notion of Spirit because through this awareness each self-consciousness becomes aware of the possibility of some knowledge for another self-consciousness which withheld from itself. The suspicion of some knowledge which is exclusively known to the other self-consciousness results in the subject’s Desire to sublate this exclusive knowledge through the sublation of the other self-consciousness. As each self-consciousness recognizes the other as the object of its Desire, each attempts to sublate the other within itself. This conflict precipitates the duel of self-consciousnesses in the famous Master-Slave dialectic ofLordship and Bondsman.


In the preceding chapters Hegel believed himself to have illustrated the impossibility of achieving direct knowledge of the world, or the truth of the object, through any possible epistemological method. In Self-Consciousness he will accordingly redirect the attention of the subject towards pragmatic action upon an object of knowledge within a social community of other self-conscious beings.


Hegel is [in the chapter on Self-Conciousness] carrying over the antirealist dimensions of the first three chapters into an explicit, full-blown anti-realism, pragmatism. Hegel appears to be saying that the problem of objectivity, of what we are willing to count as an objective claim in the first place, is the problem of the satisfaction of desire, that the “truth” is wholly relativized to pragmatic end. (Pippin 1989 p.148)


The duel of consciousnesses in Lordship and Bondage is the basic epistemological and practical relation of self-consciousness to another self-conscious being. What had inConsciousness been the private epistemological inquiry of its own object becomes in Self-Consciousness the organized social practice of a community to collectively inquire into their understanding of the cosmos.


[in self-consciousness] the pursuit of knowledge will, as a result of this chapter’s claims, be reconceived as participation in a social practice or institution, a rule governed, collective, teleological activity. (Pippin 1989 p.147)


-----

[This essay was written for Prof. Ian Proop's Seminar on G.W.F. Hegel's the Phenomenology of Spirit]

*PoS = the Phenomenology of Spirit

Sunday, September 25, 2011

An Essay on the Theoretical Origin and Social Function of Modesty

by Ryan Haecker


“How beautiful then is modesty and what a gem among virtues it is.” - St. Bernard of Clairvaux


A. The Concept of Modesty:

There are two connotations associated with the word modesty: the first (i) is that humility and undervaluation of oneself which pertains to ones abstract self-consciousness and the second (ii) is that restriction upon the exhibitions of natural features which pertains to the innate eroticism of the sexes. Julia Driver explains: "there is the sexual sense of modesty (ii), usually considered a womanly virtue, which primarily consists in a chaste and unassertive countenance. There is also the more usual sense (i) that is associated with self-deprecation, or an underestimation of one's self-worth."[1] These two connotations of 'modesty' are conceptually related, and must therefore be treated together: the second meaning (ii) which is actually manifested within social relations will be shown to be derived from the first meaning (i) which pertains to the abstract self-consciousness. The first meaning of 'modest' is the virtue of practical wisdom which Aristotle implicitly describes in the Nicomachean Ethics as the habit of choosing the mean between excessive and deficient public expression of one's self-worth. This 'modesty' of honoring oneself according to ones worth may be understood as the virtue of accurately appraising and expressing the worth of ones abstract self-consciousness. Aristotle writes:


"The man who judges himself worthy of great honors and is in fact unworthy is conceited... On the other hand, the man who thinks he deserves lesser honors than he deserves - whether the honors be great, ordinary, or little - is pusillanimous. This will be especially evident in one capable of splendid achievements... However, the magnanimous man holds an extreme in extension but a mean in appropriateness, for he thinks himself deserving in accord with his worth. Others exceed or fall short of this mean."[2]


Thus, according to Aristotle, a man practices the mean of modesty when he neither judges himself too highly (conceited) nor too meekly (pusillanimous), but moderates his practices between between excess and deficiency, always appraising himself according to what he truly deserves. The private judgment of a man whether he be conceited or pusillanimous may be visibly manifested whenever a man acts upon the world under the determination of this judgment: as the intellect is constituted by prior judgments, and actions are determined by the intellect, so the actions which manifest these judgments of our self-worth must be determined by the private judgments of the value of oneself. Thus this self-evaluation of the honors one deserves is expressed in a social setting, and is there elevated from the subjective appraisal of abstract self-consciousness to the public acclamation of ones value within an inter-subjective community. While this public acclamation of ones self-worth may be expressed through an inestimable variety of mediums, from propertied possessions to political positions, it ascends to a hazardous extremity in the exhibition of those natural features of the body which elicit the innate eroticism of the sexes.


The hazardousness of exhibiting these erotic natural features of our bodies is associated with the second sense (ii) of 'modesty' which is the moderation upon excessive public self-displays. This second sense (ii) manifests (i) the private valuation of abstract self-consciousness within an actual, public and social setting. This manifestation is likewise the actualization of the former abstract concept (i) in (ii) the social realm of inter-subjective experience (i => ii). Following the form of syllogistic deduction, (ii) the social manifestation of 'modesty' may be understood to be conceptually deduced from (i) the private evaluation of abstract self-consciousness, just as particular terms are deduced from universal terms.[3] For the syllogism, the concept of (i) abstract modesty is the universal term which is instantiated in the particular term, which is (ii) the actual realm of our social experience. Following this description, (ii) ‘modesty’ within a social setting is inexplicable outside of its deductive relation to (i) the abstract concept of modesty for self-consciousness. Due to the inexplicability of outside of its deductive relation to (i), ‘modesty’ will here refer to both senses of the word, (i) and (ii), as they are understood within the syllogism of related concepts.


B. Response to Conundrums with the Virtue of Modesty:

Modesty is generally conceived of as a particularly womanly virtue. Under this conception, women are held to be, far more than men, imminently and ubiquitously concerned with the flamboyant exhibition of their bodies for others. Yet this syllogism, from (i) the universal concept of self-evaluation to (ii) the social expression of this evaluation, pertains not merely to women but to all reflective self-consciousness beings, i.e. for all mankind. Thus regardless of the distinctive social exhibitionism of the sexes, modesty must be acknowledged to be a universal concern of applied ethics; which Aristotle terms practical wisdom. Aristotle defines a virtue as the habit of action according to right reason. But the concept of modesty presents three prominent rational conundrums (a,b, & c), and these conundrums threaten to eject modesty from the canon of virtues.


(a) First, modesty is socially exhibited with signs and markers which may be comprehensible to observers familiar with these variegated customs, yet customs can in no way be deduced a priori. There can be no a priori deduction of these because what is a priori must be known prior to experience, yet both customs and signs are apprehensible only through experience, or a posteriori: customs are the result of practical action and signs which are received through our senses. And as the mean of modesty cannot be formally deduced or strictly determined, it may perhaps be alleged that modesty is no genuine virtue but merely a shadowy phantasm of naïve moralizers.


This criticism supposes that virtues must be established by pure reason, which is that reason which is both purely formal and a priori. The belief that virtues and prescriptions must be so established is termed ethical formalism, and for which Kant gave brief expression to in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. As Kant later realized,[4] because ethical formalism constructs a priori concepts which our beyond all possible experience, such constructions can provide no sound basis for ethical prescriptions a posteriori, or within the world of our sensory experience. Thus if ethical inquiry be fruitful, it must inquir into prescriptions for action within the world, for which many practices are found to be generally beneficent and ennobling without allowing for the possibility either a formal deduction or a strict determination. Now custom is the result of strong habits and practices within a society. The strength of these habits and practices cannot be deduced but must be observed and judged. Observation and judgment of these habits and practices requires a patient and dedicated observer within this society: hence he who wishes to ascertain these practices and the mean of modesty most become intimately familiar with the society in which modesty is expressed. Thus modesty is neither, as with truthfulness, a virtue which can be understood according to the subjects’ intentions, nor is it, as with reciprocity, a virtue which may obtain merely among individuals. Rather, modesty is a virtue, the meaning of whose signs and markers, are apprehensible only within a social context and for a dedicated observer of society.


(b) Secondly, it will be denied that the virtue modesty will fall within Aristotle’s definition of virtue as an action according to right reason as modesty requires, not merely that one’s self-expression be accurate to one’s relative social-worth, but a self-conscious undervaluing of one’s self-worth. Modesty does not require an evaluation of oneself which is equivalent to one’s true worth relative to others, but a self-conscious undervaluing of this worth as it is expressed in society. For Aristotle, this would require modesty to be a virtue which aims below and not equal to the mean of self- depreciation and self-aggrandizement. If virtue is acting according to the mean of right reason, then it would seem that because modesty aims below the mean it cannot be a virtue.


For modesty to be retained in the canon of virtues it must find some additional reason, apart from the Aristotelian mean, to motivate a self-conscious under-evaluation. Julia Driver attempts to give such a reason in her essay Modesty and Ignorance:[5] “I have argued that the best account of modesty is anunderestimation account. On this view, modesty involves—or at least can involve—an agent underestimating self-worth in some respect, to some limited degree. The degree of underestimation must be limited in order to differentiate modesty from a vice such as self-deprecation.” Thus modesty is not a mean between self-aggrandizement and self- depreciation, but a further mean between this first mean and self-depreciation. The additional reason why the self-depreciation of modesty is valued is not disclosed through considerations of subjective intentionality, such as with lying, or through interpersonal relationships, such as with reciprocity. Modesty is rather a higher-order virtue which only becomes meaningful within and in reference to the general customs of society. Because modesty is a mean within and in reference to the customs of a society it cannot be independently derived but must be judged in accordance with the customs of a society.


(c) Thirdly, the cultivation of modesty may be said to itself become an expression of immodesty, in which case modesty may be made to be the vehicle of exhibitionism. Because immodesty has been described as an excess of public self-acclamation, and this acclamation may be expressed through many mediums and exhibit any good attribute, even the virtue or modesty which is ostensibly opposed to immodesty may become the medium through which immodesty is expressed. To phrase this another way; because modesty is considered a virtue, virtues are actions directed by practical reason towards that which is good, and immodesty is the exhibition of what is good pertaining to self-consciousness, the good of modesty may presumably be exhibited in an immodest manner.


However this criticism fails to notice that when the virtue of modesty is exhibited immodestly, it has at that same moment become immodesty. This criticism presumes that the expression of modesty may both become immodesty and continue to be modesty; or, that it may both be and not be that which it is. To say that a thing both possesses a property and does not possess a property in the same manner and in the same way is the description which Aristotle gives of a substantial contradiction. Because a substantial contradiction can neither be nor be conceived, it is both impossible and inconceivable.


C. The Public expression of Modesty and Immodesty:

Though it may first ascend to prominence in the soundless depths of (i) self-consciousness, self-evaluation is afterwards visibly manifested in (ii) public self-expressions. The manifestation of the value of the self, from ideal self-consciousness to real externality, follows the form of a syllogistic deduction from (S) universal, to (M) mediation, to (P) particular: the ideal self-consciousness is the (S) universal term of self-evaluation, the practical expressions through speech, movement and bodily adornment are altogether the (M) mediating term, and the real externality is the (P) particular term (S-M-P; Some S is M, All M is P, .: Some S is P). This is the syllogism of self-expression whereby private evaluations for the self are externalized for others and become apprehensible to and efficacious upon public spectators. The evaluative concepts, which had hitherto been closeted within the bastion of self-consciousness, are then wildly jettisoned from these ramparts as projectiles upon other minds. The darts and arrows of self-consciousness differ in violence and volatility: among the most hazardous is undoubtedly the exhibition of the body for others through speech, dress and manners.


Two social phenomena commonly result from the hazardous exhibition of the body: (m) the competitiveness of public displays, and (n) the innate eroticism of the sexes. The first (m) arises from the perennial contest for dominance within the inter-subjective public domain of social self-consciousness. G.W.F. Hegel describes the origin of this contest in his celebrated parable of Lordship and Bondsman: “Self-consciousness has before it another self-consciousness; it has come outside itself. This has a double significance. First it has lost its own self, since it finds itself as an other being; secondly, it has thereby sublated that other, for it does not regard the other as essentially real, but sees its own self in the other. It must cancel this, its other.”[6] Hegel illustrates how the contest for dominance in public settings arises from the desire among many self-conscious beings to mutually cancel the free externalization of concepts by their neighbors. In public exhibitions of the body, this contest for the dominance is transfigured into an unspoken contest for the public exhibition of the body for the adoration of public spectators.


The innate eroticism of the sexes (n) is a consequence of the primordial division of the sexes, and the consequent innate striving towards their subsequent conjugation and sexual reproduction. While asexual reproduction is the function of a single organism, sexual reproduction requires the conjugation of the opposed male and female sexes, or two organisms; a requirement which allows for selectivity among many mating partners. Male and female organisms to seek that mate whose traits are most advantageous because the selection of sexual mates determines the hereditary traits of their progeny. Seeking the most advantageous mate requires an assessment of the mates fitness for reproduction; a fitness which is physiologically express through features of sexual dimorphism, or the innate sexed differentiation of organisms. Sexual dimorphism takes different forms in different animal species. While all animals have sexed reproductive organs, or primary sexual features, some animal species possess more or less prominent secondary features of sexual dimorphism. Human males are principally dimorphized by their broad shoulders, greater muscle to body fat ratio, oily skin, height, sharp features, androgen hair and beards. Human females are principally dimorphized by their broad pelvis, protruding breasts, curvilinear features and predominance of vellus hair (which his most salient in beardlessness). The prominence of these traits in the physiological composition of an organism can, apart from the reproductive organs, present a reliable picture of that organism’s relative sexual dimorphism, and hence also of their relative fitness for sexual reproduction. The dimorphized features of the sexes (n), which display an organism's fitness for reproduction, may be modestly or immodesty exhibited within a public social setting of competitive displays (ii). This exhibition follows the general syllogism of modesty (S-M-P) in which an (i) evaluation for self-consciousness is (ii) externalized in a real social setting.


D. The Social Virtue of Modesty:

The evaluation of oneself, which finds its nascent beginning under the cloak of self-consciousness, is afterwards revealed, in the manner of a syllogism, through the medium of artifice and action in the world. Neither artifice nor action are the fruits of nature. Rather, these are freely manifested from the intrinsic and ineliminable power of self-conscious reason, or the power of the human spirit. This is why St. Thomas writes in the Summa Theologiae: “Although outward attire does not come from nature, it belongs to natural reason to moderate it; so that we are naturally inclined to be the recipients of the virtue that moderates outward raiment.” Although modesty may be manifested through an uncounted variety of mediums, in clothing it finds the most enduring and visible expression. The selection and adoption of clothing is the work of man’s reason and artifice through which he gives to himself a second form to envelop and re-represent his natural form.


As clothing re-represents the body to the spectator, it is formally composed as a second-skin to mimic and highlights the sexual dimorphism of male and female bodies. As the most express and enduring visual indicator of the self, clothing is the principle artificial means through which men and women modestly indicate and excessively highlight their respective sexual features. Clothing may indicate and highlight sexual features through clothing which (p) overlaps and mimics the form of sexual features, or (q) selectively reveal sexual features which are customarily covered. For example, ties and dresses (p) mimic the sexual features of men and women, while (q) exposed arms and bosoms may selectively reveal these features. Some clothing, such as tight-fitting corsets for women, may both (p) mimic and (q) selectively reveal sexual features. Because sight is the most immediate means by which the fitness of a potential mate may be assessed, the exhibition of sexual features through the medium of clothing (p & q) is among the most express means of inducing the concupiscent desire of the opposite sex.


Clothing is a form manifested man’s self-conscious reason upon the world; thus this determination proceeds from the very same locus of self-consciousness. Sharing the same origin in self-consciousness, the particular expression of clothing may be conceived as subsumed under the more general syllogism of modesty (S-M-P). An outward determination of clothing ought to be selected according to the mean between under-evaluation and over-evaluation, or modesty and immodesty. Modest exhibitions may be said to be those which result from (b) an under-evaluation of self-worth and may indicate features of sexual dimorphism without excessively highlighting them. Immodest exhibitions arise from an excessive evaluation of self-worth which may be expressed through the highlighting features of sexual dimorphism.


For self-consciousness the virtue of modesty may merely be the virtue of moderation between the extremes self-debasement and self-aggrandizement, yet within a social setting this virtue serves the further and more prominent end of pacifying the endemic contest of wills amongst self-conscious beings in their immediate apprehension of one another. This contest of wills, which Hegel has illustrated in the parable of Lordship and Bondage, finds its most express and salient vehicle in the plums, cuts and billows of fashionability. And this competitiveness of public exhibition is moreover intensified as a consequence of the innate eroticism of the sexes, through which the visual exhibition of the body assumes a psychic intensity and moral gravity altogether disproportionate to their cause. Clothing may indicated, emphasize, and highlight those features of sexual dimorphism which induce the sexes towards their conjugal union. Thus does the immodest exhibition and re-representation of the body through clothing invite the extremest hazards which follow upon the intercourse of the sexes; such as coquetry, bastardry and adultery. Thus Augustine writes: "Whoever uses outward things in such a way as to exceed the bounds observed by the good people among whom he dwells, either signifies something by so doing, or is guilty of sin, inasmuch as he uses these things for sensual pleasure or ostentation." (St. Augustine, De Doctre. Christ. Iii,12)


[1] The Virtue of Ignorance, Julia Driver


[2] Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 1123b8-15, 739-741


[3] A syllogism is an Aristotelian deductive formula which contains a major premise and a minor premise, the deduction of which, results in a concluding premise


[4] Kant abandoned the method of ethical formalism in his later ethical works, the Critique of Practical Reason and the Metaphysics of Morals.


[5] Julia Driver, Modesty and Ignorance


[6] Hegel, G.W.F. the Phenomenology of Spirit, Miller translation par.178