The Social Type of the Adventurer and Its Relation to the Unexpectedness of Events

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Simon LAFONTAINE, Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
Reconstructing the ambivalent logic of ordinary experience and action in the social world is a growing concern in contemporary sociological debates about the praxeological definition of sociology. Such an account depends on a renewed awareness to randomness, creativity, and historicity without entirely sacrificing the problem of the reproduction of social structures through human action.

Bearing that in mind, the present communication revisits the social type of the adventurer as depicted by Simmel. The adventurer epitomizes a form of experience in which the experiencing subject is directed toward the unexpectedness of events. This implies a restless impulse that counteracts the course of everyday activities and reaches out by intimate necessity a “transcendent” meaning in the shifts, accidental episodes, encounters that shape one’s life.

Life transcends itself and through this movement of incessant formation it creates “something more”, “extra-social imponderables”, that “fragment” the continuity of social and individual forms. The experience of transcendence is indeed a fragmentary one. And yet, being fragmented is no mere state of incompleteness but has a more fundamental significance: being only fragments of the social world and of our own unique possibilities.

In this respect, the adventurer is intimately acquainted with individuality and difference in meaning by embracing the usually unnoticed and incidental rush of life against historical patterns, cultural and personal forms. Since the adventurer qua social type remains a part of the world and of the self, the form of experience assumed here does not lead to an openness to the absolute indeterminacy of life. As a projection and expectation of upcoming experiences, it continuously shapes the future and therefore paves the way for an active readiness and flexibility that both generate differences in everyday journeys and enable the coordination of action through a hold of their potentially surprising character.