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Talking shop…

February 9, 2011

3.1 Formal versus Substantive


In Chapter 1,

I explained the general thesis for which I am arguing in this book:

that action is self-constitution…

By this I mean that we human beings constitute our own personal or practical identities—

and at the same time our own agency—

through action itself…

We make ourselves the authors of our actions,

by the way that we act…

As I said before,

this apparently paradoxical thesis depends on the ideas that action requires agency,

and agency requires unity…

An action is a movement attributable to an agent considered as an integrated whole,

not a movement attributable merely to a part of an agent,

or to some force working in her or on her…

Since some ways of acting unify their agents better than others,

the extent to which a movement is an action is a matter of degree:

some actions are more genuinely actions than others (1.4.8)…

— in Self-Constitution: Agency, Identity, and Integrity by Christine M. Korsgaard

When I was working through,

my undergrad,

at UBC,

in the late 80’s,

I had a few associates,

who were in fraternities…

And I was remembering how,

as part of the successful completion,

of their degrees,

and graduation,

some of these young men,

were awarded,

a few months,

all expenses paid,

in Thailand,

by their parents…

Part of the bragging rights,

included a hut on a beach,

with 24/7 access to a girl,

and no protection…

When I heard such things,

at the tender age of 19,

and 20,

I felt like I’d been punched,

in the stomach…

When I went to Thailand,

and Indonesia,

and Turkey,

a couple years later,

at the still tender age,

of twenty-one,

and twenty-two,

I saw something else

And you can go ahead,

and call me frigid,

because when I saw it,

I sure as hell,

froze up,

all sick,

to my stomach…

Seeing it,

and then seeing your friends involved in it,

brings it so much closer to home,

especially when it comes along,

on a camping trip,

to Jasper National Park…

I did have a friend,

who worked in Indonesia,

off and on,

for years…

And she couldn’t wait,

to show me,

photos of herself,

and her boyfriends,

like a trophy hunter,


his mounts,

in the den…

These possessions,

of picture proof,

being used as claims,

of what she could get,

who she thought she wanted to be,

and who she wanted me to think she was,

only backfired,

with the costs,

of STD’s…

Kisses of drama,


and deception,

in the superficial high…

One needn’t go on,

an exotic holiday,

to score,

such a shady deal…

Using the term loosely,

once upon a time,

I had a friend,

who claimed that she and her husband,

after six or so years,

of so-called marriage,

were still active,

in the romance department…

Little Buddy,

she would say,

As once a weekers,

we’re in line with the national average…

Every Sunday morning,

like clockwork,

I let him relieve himself…

After he rolls off,

we get up,

and go ice-skating…

After her delivery,

of this unwanted text,

I was left wondering,

how she was going to teach,

her children well,

about what matters most,

when you’re,

being with,

another person…

Back in the Spring of 1990,

I found myself,

sitting in front of the Hagia Sophia,

on a bench,

with a gathering of Turkish men…

Like some long lost sister,

in a spontaneous,

philosopher’s cafe,

I questioned,

and listened to the stories,

of foreign girlfriends…

And who they were willing to do,

for the money,

wasn’t pretty…

But the difference between these experiences,

and those of a poor girl,

in Bangkok,

is among other things,

an absence of ownership,

an inequation of power,

and the freedom to walk away,

for something,

with a higher rate,

of return…

Last night Starshine and I calculated,

how many days it would take,

to drive our big red car,

door to door,

all the way to Minneapolis,

and back,

in the name of a rescue

And we figured,

if we played our cards right,

and the weather worked,

in our favour,

we could get a visit in,

with some real wild horses,

along the way…

Funny how,

just as I was writing this,

the phone rang,

all the way from North Dakota,

and the recorded message,

mentioned something,

about the clearing,

of all outstanding debts…

Three for the lady on the radio...

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