Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Nested Hierarchies of Spontaneous Orders

Larry Arnhart has an excellent post on property rights. Of note is his observation that "the property claims of the [California gold] miners moved through three levels--natural possession, customary rules, and formal laws. This manifests the general structure of Darwinian social order as the joint product of natural desires, cultural practices, and deliberate judgments." This is spontaneous order in a nutshell.

Those wishing to find spontaneous orders at work in literature should thus be on the lookout for expressions of natural desire, the cultural practices/customary rules that emerge from those desires, and the deliberate judgments and even formal laws that arise to solidify or guide those practices and rules. We must also keep in mind that one of the roles of literature is to act as eminent criticism -- judgment -- of those orders represented. And the literary critic acts as eminent critic of those representations and critiques.

The implication here is that our natural desires, including emotions, morals, trade, etc., give rise to spontaneous orders that are critiqued through other spontaneous orders, such as philosophy and literature, that themselves emerge through other natural desires (understanding the world and storytelling-- which overlap -- respectively). Eminent criticism is itself a natural desire, and gives rise to a variety of spontaneous orders, from literature and philosophy to literary criticism and cultural criticism. There is even now metacriticism, the existence of which points to criticism itself now being a spontaneous order. And in identifying metacriticism as the eminent criticism of criticism itself, where does that place such a critique as this? Meta-metacriticism? Or merely another form of metacriticism, only self-referential? I have perhaps outpostmoderned postmodernism!

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