Eerder verschenen: Intensifying and De-intensifying Distinctions

In het tijdschrift Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society [5.2, pp. 493-515] verscheen mijn artikel ‘Intensifying and De-intensifying Distinctions. A Meditation on Imagining the Form of a Border‘.

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Abstract: In this article I explore different ways of imagining distinctions in the form of borders and on the attitudes that people assume towards them. A distinction is primarily a cognitive operation, but appears as such in human communication (people talking about differences and identities), and in constructions that shape the material space people live in (borders, buildings, and the like). I explore two extreme positions, the one de-intensifying distinctions by focusing on their logical and contingent forms, the other intensifying distinctions by making them a potential cause of conflict. The first one is exemplified by Spencer Brown’s and Niklas Luhmann’s reflection on the logical and sociological aspects of distinctions; the second one by Carl Schmitt’s theory of ‘the political’ and its key notion of the distinction between friend and enemy. Both positions are relevant to understand a major debate and struggle in the world of today between liberal cosmopolitans and authoritarian nationalists. I show in what way both positions are aspects of the human condition, and what makes that alternately the one or the other is stressed.