The Topology of Community in Aristotle
This work responds to the question of community at an ontological level before notions such as identity and subjectivity have been assumed. I ask the question of community in terms of the principles that give rise to the being-togetherness of people. Modern philosophy’s responses are famously a version of Laws, social contracts, universal definitions, ideals, and values. Post-enlightenment philosophy assumes such categories as laws, norms, and religions across the board, applying them to all gatherings of peoples. Especially with respect to the Islamic community, and more particularly during the colonial era, categories such as religion and religious laws were used by orientalists to define Muslims, non-Muslims, and different sectors among them. Against this background, this work attempts to study the gathering of “a people” and the genesis of the laws at an ontological level. This approach will ultimately show how one’s interpretation of the existence of beings in general reflects one’s reading of the legal or political gatherings in particular. I will argue that Heideggerian and post-Heideggerian phenomenology can serve as allies since they have already initiated this line of questioning by their radical critique of the authority of the subject. Heidegger separates his way from the mainstream phenomenology by formulating his critique of subjectivity by way of reviving the Greek, especially Aristotle’s philosophy. Through what he calls Destruktion, or deconstruction of the tradition, he shows that the above-mentioned modern formulations of the self and the world are ultimately based on a certain scholastic reading of Aristotle, which reduces all meanings of being to a categorial one. Derrida carries this critique of identity over to the ethical and political realm. He investigates human beings’ interpretive relation to “otherness” by replacing identity or self with “following.” The “otherness” that we are in “following” can be a god, another human being, the animals and the environment, or the tradition of the past. In all these relationships, the hermeneutic strategy towards “otherness” is principally the same. Derrida’s suggestion for the most authentic mode of ‘following’ is deconstruction itself. He shows that there are the same schematic formulations involved in explaining the coming-to-be and gathering of things in nature as are involved with “a people” in a community. The genesis and the function of laws are the same in the creation of events and bodies in a natural world as the actions and productions in a political and ethical realm. Following such a critique, especially through Derrida’s deconstruction, I try to reveal the forces in Aristotle’s text that can potentially lead to two different formulations of the gathering of a people. For Aristotle, the notions of hylomorphism and teleology explain the genesis of multiplicity and difference. In the political and ethical realm, these principles give rise to the constitution of a just “exchange community.” The critique of these notions opens the door for alternative modes of gathering. By questioning the predetermined end (telos), I will suggest that the generation of multiplicity and gatherings become “nomadic.” Thus, deconstruction as the most authentic attitude towards “otherness,” when applied to Aristotle’s teleology, turns into “nomadic distribution” and “nomadic following” of the other. As an example of the effect of this critique and its actual ethical and legal consequence, in the history of philosophy and among actual communities, I examine the genesis of gatherings and laws in Islam and among Muslims. I explain what it means to “follow” the other in nature and in human society in Islam. Finally, I examine what it means to be a nomadic follower of the laws of Islam. I argue that the rituals of Islam, like Hajj, illustrate the being of Muslims as the followers of otherness in the most explicit way. The analysis of Hajj reveals the conflict of laws and justice because the ritual is not about mere obedience to laws. Instead, through performing it, Muslims are led to contemplate and wonder about their relationship to God, nature, and their fellow human beings. In Hajj, the nature of “following” is illustrated and brought to light.