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October 2 2005

SeeAlso: RuleUsingAnimals.

<Anonymous> Hi Brennan,

This is Jeremy. Nice to meet you in virtual space!

I don't know this debate you've been in, but it struck me that one big change between medieval and modern thought is the way we understand the purpose of rules. In St. B's order, rules are for the end of putting people in their place, which should be -metaphorically and sometimes literally- kneeling before the Lord. Hence the figures of humbling. But in modern thought, rules are for empowering or opening up life. Since we are animals that use rules, I find it helpful to frame the discussion of rules in terms of how rules open life up for people, that is, when and in what way they do.

<Brennen> Hey Jeremy - Likewise.

It's an interesting point. I know I've read a lot of commentary to the effect that medieval society was built on the idea of a natural place for every individual. I'm not especially sympathetic to the mindset, but it's been pointed out that it wasn't a pure negative - in theory, at least, it entailed responsibility for those with power and protection for those without. (I doubt he originated the argument, but I think Marx wrote some stuff drawing on that notion, and I've seen it in KennethRexroth's stuff.)

Anyway, I do think that talking about rules in terms of their potential for expanding life or maximizing opportunity is useful. It's an angle probably missing from the kinds of "order vs. freedom" shouting matches I sometimes trick myself into. On the other hand, aren't there major strains of modern thought that still flow from something like "to everyone their proper place", or something like it?

<Molly> You weird, funny boy.

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last edited October 3, 2005