Thursday, August 27, 2020
This is part 1 of “being an American (with conceptual issues)”
I guess that one’s first take on the meaning of ‘conventional’ is like “being conformative” or customary—and passive irt a convention.
(My use of ‘irt’= “in relating to” has become so customary for me in writing that I no longer define ‘irt’; I just use it.)
But the first meaning of ‘convention’ stood for something active: “1 : a: an agreement between persons or parties” (M-W. Unabridged). Being conventional, beginning for English in the 15thC, was something “1 : a: based on, settled by, or formed by agreement or compact.”
The agreement can be with/to oneself: resolved, self-realization, appreciating who “I” am, truly, to-and-for myself.
A convention is an action-orienting value that makes one’s action worthwhile.
Knowing the basis for a convention, then orienting one’s action accordingly, is different from accepting the action-orientality of a convention without knowledge of (or care to know) its basis. (I’ll use
‘a-o’ for action-oriented, action-orienting, and action-orientality, to be distinguished by context).
So, it matters whether one’s conformance (or show of a-o worth) is genuine (informed and acceded) or assimilated, ungenuine.
One might subscribe to a worthwhile orientation through someone else genuinely, thanks to trusting the other; or one may subscribe due to dependence. One might also comply without acceding, due to external factors.
To genuinely orient oneself by a convention—an a-o value—thanks to trusting an exemplar (or another’s exemplification, which may not be exemplary, but is appealing enough) is not yet to genuinely orient oneself by the convention; rather, to orient oneself by trust in another’s example (or guidance) or worthwhile orientation.
A young person might genuinely not yet appreciate any difference between orientation by trust and orientation by insight and deliberate approval. Action-oriental worth is simply what one does, where the one (who prevails for guidance) is the reference person.
Much action is non-conventional—most action, perhaps. Its aim is to satisfy its intent. All action wants to be worthwhile. Action prefers one aim over another. That aim may be conventional. The a-o value may be different from someone else’s expected conformance.
Strictly speaking, all action is oriented by preferences, values, sense of worthwhileness, which may be conventional for the actor. In that sense, any action may imply conventionality of the a-o worth for the actor. To say that an action is “pre-conventional” is accordingly to say that the action is relativized to a particular convention (or kind of convention: conventionality), not that the action has no aim that the actor regards as conventional. Orientation that is “pre-conventional” for an observer is merely action not yet meeting a given expectation, which may be inapt. The alleged pre-conventionality may be oriented by some other (or unknown) convention.
Calling an action “post-conventional” is again relative to a given conventionality. Another’s apparent a-o value may be pre-conventional to someone expecting conformance with a particular convention, but post-conventional to the actor who deliberately prefers an a-o value that is better than the expected value.
A given series of actions by an actor may seem self-contradictory to one observer, but to the actor implies a flexibility of response—a situ-
ationality—that the one observer doesn’t appreciate. To the actor, the series may exhibit a singular sense of flexibility that is conventional for that actor (but unappreciated by the observer).
All of the above could be said of a group-consensual action; i.e., all members of the group act according to a given convention C. In that sense, the group itself acts according to C, for a given situation.
When a set of persons come together as “2 : b(1): a body or assembly of persons met for some common purpose,” the a-o value is (i) defined membership responding to (ii) scheduled event. The passive convention of acting as a member responds to the entrusted officers’ stipulated convention that members meet at a scheduled time. A convening becomes conventional as being of the scheduled meeting, being of the convention, thus instancing an ephemeral convention that is the event—the eventing, one might say, of all that happens during the event.
Yet, the conventional event may also seek to re-define itself as a conventional membership, thus transforming its self understanding as a membership. In light of that, being a member afterwards becomes conventional in a new sense.
In any event, the convention likely has leading members, in case transformative action events itself, either by stipulation (legitimate official discretion), by acclamation at the convention (thereby estab-
lishing leadership as newly conventional), or by appeal of presence
(e.g., among contenders for the better appeal) that proffers the better case for conventionality.
Inasmuch as the membership finds their new conventionality action-oriental, then the conventional sense of being a member—the conven-
tionality of the convention—changes. Inasmuch as new conventionality (call it convention A) is genuinely preferable to what earlier prevailed, then the renewal may be progressive (better relative to what prevailed). Inasmuch as A becomes institutional for the membership, then organized action in light of A may be validly said to evolve. (I’m not being stipulative; I’m conceptually prospecting.)
So, consider a group within a conventional event who have grand appeal by acclamation as the standard bearers of the convention’s self understanding: the leading a-o conventionality of the conventional event.
For fun (but seriously), I will consider that the Democratic National Convention of 2020 deserves to have a self understanding—and indeed gave itself to this and is to have the self understanding—of four members that I will regard as leading: historian Jon Meacham, Joe Biden, and Michelle and Barack Obama. I want to pretend that together (in effect), they formed a deserving conventionality about being American, being small-d democratic, appreciating leadership, and advancing global exemplarity.
Inasmuch as the public finds their conventionality action-oriental, then the conventional sense of being a democratic American advancing leadership in a global environment changes. Inasmuch as new conven-
tionality (A) is preferable to what prevailed, then the renewal may be progressive (better relative to what prevailed). Inasmuch as A becomes institutional, then the kind of conventionality—political identity—may be validly said to evolve.
next—> “for a world beyond throwaway words,” part 2 of “being an American...”
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