What Is Left?

Consider the following sentence, which I encountered somewhere or other: “Family matters more than the individuals who make up family”. Really? So what is this thing called family if it is not the individuals who make it up? If we deduct the individuals, what do we have left? If they are all sacrificed on the altar of family, what exactly goes on to matter more than them?

We may consider the same logical structure with other members, thus: the United Kingdom matters more than England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Now, if someone were to pontificate to that effect, we might gloss them as trying – quite incompetently – to say that the four countries, individually, had interests best addressed by remaining in the Union. Well, such a thing would be possible, and would make more sense than the sentence as it originally stood. Unfortunately, however, we might suspect that the speaker is treating the United Kingdom as some sort of metaphysical entity with a separate existence of its own. A Scot would probably suspect that this metaphysical entity equated with English interests.

Might, then, the sentence about family actually mean that the individual members had interests best addressed by collective action as a family? Or are we again looking at a metaphysical entity, subject to the equivalent suspicion of the Scot’s, namely that one member of this family thought of zirself as for some reason incarnating the family, as the other members did not? So what would go on after a sacrifice, what would matter more than the (other) individuals, is none other than – zirself.

Leave a Reply