Marcelo Dascal
Endangered Languages

An Ontological Argument

Here I will rely on the twentieth century Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, who argued that there is no "I" without "Thou" -- that what constitutes ultimate reality is not the individual subject alone but rather the Zwischenmenschlich, the Inter-human, the "We", the community formed through the set of "I"-"Thou" dialogues (19k) .

Identity-construction and alterity-construction of a group go hand in hand. "Everyone invents himself by inventing, for that purpose, the others" (Manuel Gutierrez Estevez). Just as a group defines its "enemies", from which it tries to differentiate itself, so too it defines its "ancestors" or "relatives" -- groups whose achievements are admired and to which "we" want to be affiliated.

Recently arrived in a new land, unknown and "without face", the anonymous Mexica affiliate themselves with the grandeur of the ancient Toltec, the builders of the magnificent sanctuaries and cities in the Mexican highlands.

Before writing this book, we studied the beliefs the ancient Maya recorded in their art and architecture as if they were part of the fascinating alternate reality that had little relevance to our personal lives. We did what scientists are supposed to do-keep an objective distance. Like the majority of our colleagues, we were secure in the superiority of our own worldview. Preparing this book has changed our attitude. We now come to this alien world with respect and awe, knowing that the worldview created by the Maya was, and is, just as powerful, meaningful, and viable as our own.

D. Friedel, L. Schele, J. Parker

I propose to extend Buber's view and claim that the "We" in fact cannot exist without the "You" (Plural) -- the "Other" community of dialogue (21k) which faces the "We". This "We" is the real, enhanced "(we)2".

Just as the "Thou" does not threaten the "I", but complements and, to some extent, constitutes it, so too, the "You", the other community, is not necessarily opposed to the "We", but complements it.

Just as each community is formed and enriched by the plurality of intra-community I-Thou pairs, so too humankind as a whole results from the exponential growth of inter-community dialogical pairs, here represented 'algebraically' by the operation of raising to the square power (42k).

But, unlike what this representation suggests, I repeat: the individual subject should not be considered a basic, independent 'particle' of human reality, for as much as it constitutes social reality, it is constituted by it.

Similarly, the separate social group should not be viewed as an independent 'molecule', for its very existence depends upon the interaction - cooperative as well as conflictual - with other social groups.

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