When I was first introduced to the idea of formal logic and the Kantian a priori. I was thoroughly confused. How can that be? How can “a = a” when nothing is ever the same as itself?
This was back in my college days. I’ve finally mastered the English spoken language in a social context; I can now speak as a native and no one could tell I ever spent any time in China. My curiosity shifted to the underground tunnels so named for logic and reasoning. The concept of freedom is fascinating and I saw inherent value in its presence; but I had a hard time seeing it in the fabrics of my surroundings. So I began my quest.
I first began with classical reasoning, Aristotle and the likes. Syllogisms taught me much why my American friends believed the way they do and so sure of their freedom. I recently came to light of a wisdom connecting our modern laws with Christian Theology (thank you Professor Shirley).
I often wonder if I am also intrigued by the Spartans but for Plato. It is all very absolute. I went to war to learn that and I still have no certainty that things in this world are absolute.
I came from a relative ontology, the Chinese in me saw everything depended on the others. The social phenomenon is in part with the family structures and formalities and China and most of Asia have Confucius to thank for this influence. To me, the axiom “a = a” made no sense empirically and “a iff b” seemed more plausible. I had toyed with the idea that we could learn much if we shifted our axioms fundamentally to the bi-conditional statement, but now I realize just how much of society is depended on that “identity” axiom; changing it would be impossible or would cause serious social disharmony.
I learned that this is the American way, I cannot change but I can gain knowledge from it.
I also saw this murkiness of the “identity” axiom in quantum physics in the uncertainty principle and the nonlocal behaviors in the EPR paradox. I had a hard time comprehend the kind of metaphysics depended on the existence of something abstract; again, ‘a’ is just never going to be just exactly and equal to itself ‘a’, there is just no way. That is what I thought was plaguing the contradictions at the quantum level, and interestingly also with the theory of thermodynamics.
Plato’s Form Theory seemed contradictory as well but I accepted them for the sake of inquiry. I had attempted to reconcile the paradox in a linguistic sense: if Gödel is right and we cannot validate our language then it’s not that there is a paradox, but that we do not have the necessary linguistic tools to relate to it and accurately describe it. I later realized this is the precise point made by Wittgenstein. Yet I proposed no solutions and it was therefore a moot point to make.
How foolish I was thinking I would be a philosopher. I was too young. That was why I went to war. My students at the time were older than I and have served my new country. One bluntly told me I should discover how “certain” the world is, I should join the Army to find out for myself. I did and like I said, I know less of that exact equality and identity. I still maintain a conditional identity statement is more coherent. But that is besides the point. I have a feeling neither an American “identity” or a Chinese “conditional relation” is the right view; only a side of a coin.
I’m constantly flipping that coin to see where it lands – the story of my life.
Now turning to Solidarity.
It was interesting for me to see the impacts of an “identity” and “conditional relation” clash. I don’t think it’s necessarily a duality but I’m still searching for proofs. I see the Chinese Communism, or their new socialist autocracy, is very much like the government structure they’ve had for generations. Granted with a few new modern twists, it is still very much Chinese. I suspect this is why the leaders of China are always almost enshrined, like the emperor – a son of the haven. The strength is with its unified will to accomplish great things and build and invent with great prosperity. This was the China during the early part of the millennium; but China has a saying, “the river runs thirty years to the east, and thirty years to the west.”
The emperor doesn’t like it when the authority is questioned. This is still something I see strength in American style sovereignty – governed by organic (political) process, capable of improvements however slow. American governance shifts with intent of the people and is inherently more stable. The string of politics is in near harmonious sync with the will of the majority, never giving the people enough reason to violently overthrow the government. I cannot say this for an absolute autocracy where the string becomes too much out of sync and breaks by the force of social vibrations. So the only way for the Chinese style “conditional relation” to work is for the autocracy yield with the noble thing for its people. This is what Confucius calls “JunZi”; often Chinese people forget that we should not have blind obedience rather, obedience for the sake of progress.
This is where I see Solidarity: the ability for each nation learn from one another and benefit for the common goal of global sustainability. America is sometimes too slow and if there is no adequate education in place, its political process becomes susceptible to undue influence. Its people need must appreciate education and focus on formalism in cooperation as opposed to unnecessary litigation. Litigation to set standards or change outdated legal principles are necessary, but it should not only serve to waste public resources. Those types of conflicts ought to be resolved by mediation or ADR. This will improve America’s strength in preserving a harmonious relationship with its people.
China should recognize the necessity of “individual” or the private rights of its people to become in sync with its people. In today’s media climate, China really has no choice but to accept the international norm in human rights. But this does not mean China must do but it means China must know how to relate to this international human rights norm and bend its wills to match the exposure of its people. I believe this will bring a new generation of stable governance and innovations China saw in the early part of the millennium.
"Solidarity does not assume that our struggles are the same struggles, or that our pain is the same pain, or that our hope is for the same future. Solidarity involves commitment, and work, as well as the recognition that even if we do not have the same feelings, or the same lives, or the same bodies, we do live on common ground." - Sarah Ahmed