“Difference is endless, and so we are endlessly—infinitely—tangled in it.” –Catherine Keller
It struck me recently that All Lives Matter, the defiant, pious, racist push-back to the very important Black Lives Matter movement, should also be filed under the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.
The fallacy of misplaced concreteness is one of my favorite Whiteheadian theories; Whitehead coined the term when he was criticizing mechanistic, Newtonian physics, I believe. Matt Segall describes the theory this way: “the Newtonian scheme had the practical effect of leading many to fall into the fallacy of misplaced concreteness by overgeneralizing its simplified abstractions as if they could explain the full complexity of concrete reality.” Whitehead’s ontology is pluralistic, thus for Whitehead the world is made up of very particular “actual entities,” which are inter-related societies of “actual occasions of experience,” i.e. the “universe” is actually an evolving, co-creating, ecosystem of organisms which co-constitute each other all the way down. SO, given all of this, it would be appropriate to be very weary of false universalisms that seek to imperialistically collapse and destroy difference, because persons are always persons-in-community, and who a person is cannot be separated from her relations with others or, for that matter, her race, gender, ethnicity, etc.
Rabbi Brad Artson illustrates the practical implications of this beautifully in an interview he did on Homebrewed Christianity: “…if you’re concerned about the World, you can only be concerned about particular individuals…[e.g.] you can’t love trees in the abstract, if you don’t love particular trees then you actually don’t love trees.”
I think Rabbi Artson’s example here is quite fitting for this discussion, and If we re-configure it a bit we could say this: you can’t love lives in the abstract, if you don’t love particular peoples lives then you actually don’t love lives. Saying “all lives matter” is an example of mistaking the map for the territory. Sure, theoretically and abstractly speaking, all lives do matter, but we can only concretely love lives by loving particular lives, which is why Jesus was very concerned with the most un-protected, marginalized, and vulnerable lives in his day and why we should be concerned with those lives in our day as well.
Painting above by Abanindranath Tagore