[Reader-list] Re: Problematizing Definitions

V NR vnr1995 at gmail.com
Thu Dec 22 15:06:00 IST 2005

Dear Mr. Zainab,

Theories of human rights are kind of watered down versions of natural rights
theories of Christian Theology. Secular counterparts of such theories are
founded in legal positivism. Theories founded in theology are more powerful
than those founded in legal positivism, explanatorily speaking; legal
positivism cant answer many problems: for example, one, with the help of
gangs, can force others to obey their duties towards the rights subject ,
while, at the same time, disregarding one's duties towards others' rights
subjects.  For more, check Balagangadhara: we shall not cease from

Surely, every theory has a domain of applicability. If the domain is of
entire humans, then it is universal. Rights are universal insofar as one
accepts the presuppositions of Christian Theology. Here, a progressive
Indian intellectual may remonstrate that denying rights entails despotism or
immorality: but that entailment is invalid, because one is denying a
particular conceptualization, but not the phenomenon, or a set of em. Lesson
is that a relative distinction between fact and phenomenon is made (S.
Amsterdamski: Between metaphysics and Experience)

Krober and Kluckhohn in "Culture, a critical review of concepts and
definitions" listed 160 definitions of cultures, definitions that are found
in the literature theretofore. They also said: "... concepts have a way of
coming to a dead end unless they are bound together in a testable theory. In
anthropology at present we have plenty of definitions but too little theory"

Again, we need to distinguish identity and individuation: a) What is
culture, or how is culture distinguished from every thing else? b) How one
culture is distinguished from another culture?
Here, one may regurgitate postmodern criticism: cultures are not monolithic.
Sure, I of yesterday am different from myself of today: yet we can talk
about a particular human being that I am; and we can also talk about humans
in general. Whenever we talk about something at object level, we presuppose
macrolevel unity, as well as microlevel disunity. Any book on Identity and
Individuation deals with these problems.

Lastly, it makes to talk about culture of elites, culture of masses, African
culture, Western culture. So, is the difference between African and Western
cultures of the same order that between mass and elite cultures? Is African
culture on par with the culture of software folks? These are all
mixed-category problems; which shows lack of theory, or lack of
understanding what culture is. Definitely, we all have intuitive notions of
what culture is: these are all presystematic concepts. Disputing such
concepts is tantamount to disputing about tastes: that is, there is no
terminus to such discussions, thats why 'culture' is essentially contested
concept!  Whenever we hear of essentially contested concepts, it is a sign
of not having a theory: a theory is not a set of definitions, nor a set of
concepts, but a set of high level hypotheses/laws with intermediate and
low-level consequences.

On 12/20/05, zainab at xtdnet.nl <zainab at xtdnet.nl> wrote:
> a). Is there anything as universal rights? What constitutes universality?
> b). How do we define culture? What acts constitute culturality?
> c). What is the relationship between culture and lifestyles?
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