February 2007

As the agony of waiting continues, I continue rereading Anti-Oedipus. This waiting really is hell. Fortunately I’m caught up with grading at the moment. At any rate, I came across these passages today in Anti-Oedipus. At some point I think I’ll have to write a book on the relationship between Deleuze and Guattari and Lacan. Given my background, I think that I’m in perhaps a unique position to do this. In chapter 2, “Psychoanalysis and Familialism: The Holy Family”, Deleuze and Guattari write:

For us, however, the problem is one of knowing if, indeed, that is where the difference enters in [the difference between the symbolic and the imaginary]. Wouldn’t the real difference be between Oedipus, structural as well as imaginary, and something else that all the Oedipuses crush and repress: desiring-production– the machines of desire that no longer allow themselves to be reduced to the structure any more than to persons, and that constitute the Real in itself, beyond or beneath the Symbolic as well as the Imaginary? We in no way claim to be taking up an endeavor such as Malinowski’s, showing that the figures vary according to the social form under consideration. We even believe what we are told when Oedipus is presented as a kind of invariant. But the question is altogether different: is there an equivalence between the productions of the unconscious and this invariant– between the desiring-machines and the Oedipal structure? (AO, 52-53)


Courtesy of Thomas Svolos:

Report of the 12th International Seminar of the Freudian Field
New York

“What has changed in the Analytic Treatment of Psychosis”
Guest Speaker: Alexandre Stevens

February 23 and 24, 2007

Sponsored by The Freudian Field, Fordham University and The New York Freud-Lacan Analytic Group (NYFLAG) .

On a cold and sunny winter weekend, we gathered at the prestigious site of Fordham University for the 12th International Seminar of the Freudian Field in New York with Alexandre Stevens who joined us for the third time; he has given two International Seminars and one Lecture in New York .

On Friday, February 23 was the Lecture “Psychosis and the paternal function: Can one choose one’s Father?” Alexandre Stevens retraced the connection between the paternal function and psychosis since Freud. It was first linked to Narcissism, later to a fusion between mother and child, which lead to the question of guilt. Lacan proposed that psychosis is not due to a maternal default but to the lack of inscription of a signifier: the Name-of-the- Father. When the imaginary couple is ruptured by the irruption of a third element the psychotic subject has to seek the signification of his being elsewhere than in the foreclosed Name-of-the- Father giving way to the psychotic phenomena. Alexandre Stevens reviewed the three moments of the Oedipus complex: the first is the dependence of the child and mother, the second moment is the father as interdictor and the third moment, the lacanian moment is the father who says yes. Stevens referred to Lacan’s Seminar IV to illustrate with the clinical example of Little Hans. He also insisted in the fact pointed by Lacan that the Paternal Function is multiple. At the end he considered the different ways in which we choose a master, an analyst, a Rabbi, and how we always choose a Father.

Tolga has written a beautiful and thoughtful response to Foucault Is Dead’s recent post on communities and my recent post asking what will we have been. There Tolga writes,

OK. I am probably repeating a well-known cliche.

It seems to me, being in positions like “drug cultures, blogsphere” (though I have not been in the former and only reader of your ‘communitiy’) cannot hide the class conflict between the members. On the contrary, you realize it more, exactly because they are attempts to repress it.

Yesterday, I watched the longest mevie I have seen (it was 5.5 hours!), 1900 of Bertolucci. This post reminded me that movie, it just rang a bell. Its entire content was nearly about that conflict occuring between two main characters, the peasant (Depardieu) and patrone (De Niro).

In one scene they “try” to have sexual affair with a whore. In another, they dance with their couples in the same hall. When they are kids, wealthy De Niro desperately makes an effort to mimic the poor kid’s ugly habits: like screwing the earth, touching the face to mud etc. But it cannot be resolved. All these attempts are failures, which made the movie so wonderful to me.

In specific to Sinthome’s remarks about the multitude like continental philosophy blogosphere, as a reader of that community I can basically see those “real” contradictions and as Badiou said in one of his recent interviews:

“Negri remains inside this classical opposition, while using other names: Empire for state, multitude for movement. But new names are not new things.”

Shortly, as an outsider I think the differences are too much to make them that dream like multitude. Since new names are not new things.

Why do some of them prefer linkin Lenin’s Tomb for instance, while some are more intereted in their academic positions? Please, do not misunderstand, I am not judging anyone, just saying that they are rather different in the sense of real.
Sorry, if I got outside of the road. This was a quick light occured to me when I read your post.

First, I am in agreement with Tolga regarding the issue of antagonism. Nothing in my original post, nor, if I can be so bold, in, I think, FiD’s post, was meant to suggest that blogging or counter-cultural communities are somehow a solution to antagonism. Nonetheless, I think Tolga is right to draw attention back to the centrality of antagonism in the formation of these communities. When I evoked the word “multitudes”, Negri and Hardt didn’t even occur to me as, perhaps embarrassingly, they really aren’t central theoretical reference points for me. Perhaps this will change next year when I teach a learning community on empire with one of the anthropologists here at my college, where I plan to torture the students with Empire. Rather, in evoking the term “multitudes” I was instead trying to be polite, and to emphasize that those of us in this little blogosphere come from very different theoretical orientations, backgrounds, forms of employment, and lifestyles, thus underlining that we are not homegeneous, yet still find some way to discourse or engage one another. In fact, I think these differences are a productive principle as they tend to function as a curative to theoretical myopia that, for me at least, sometimes becomes an occupational hazard. If I am to discourse with, for instance, Kenneth Rufo who I very much appreciate, I must take into account our very different reference points. Such an encounter then becomes a creative moment where I’m drawn out of my own theoretical assumptions and become something other than what I was.

This morning I had an interesting discussion with one of my colleagues who is a rhetorician and who just presented a paper at a local conference on what rhetoric should be. Like many in the world of literature department, he is dissatisfied with the way in which rhetoric programs these days seem so focused on “high-brow theory”, and have abdicated their traditional focus on pedagogy. That is, when he reads rhetoric journals and attends rhetoric conferences, the papers are more about figures such as Bakhtin, Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari, or Burke than about the actual practice of rhetoric. As such, he has adopted an “anti-theory” stance and has begun to focus his research on actual rhetorical practices such as you might find among ministers, teachers, and public speakers. From his point of view, rhetoric programs need to return to their roots and focus once again on figures such as Quintillian, Seneca, and Cicero.

Foucault is Dead has written a moving post on communities as multitudes and his own questions about blogging and communities:

It was February 1996 and I remember riding on a bus through the snow to visit my grandmother. I’d been a movie geek since my early teens and was reading the film magazine Empire. The magazine contained a report on a film which spliced my interest in cinema with my new interest in Scottish drug culture. That film, of course, was Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting. I remember this moment in crisp detail: the snow, the grey sky, the cold bus. I remember all this because I have no memory of 1995 and that particular moment in February 1996 was when I started remembering again.

Well worth the read. Get the rest here.

I haven’t had much time to write lately as I’m inundated with grading and a host of other things. Basically I’ve been a nervous wreck waiting to find out about the job. I know, I know, it’s only been a week… After all, I just returned from Ohio on Friday 16th and the last candidate was interviewed on Monday the 19th, but nonetheless… The fun part of these things is that all my obsessional symptoms begin to come to the fore. In his case study on the Rat Man and elsewhere, Freud underlined the strong relationship between superstitious or magical thought and obsessional neurosis. For instance, the Rat Man would worry that thinking certain thoughts would lead to the death of his father, despite the fact that his father was already dead! I won’t trouble you with the sorts of connections playing about in my mind. They aren’t pretty.

At any rate, some of you might recall that one of my first posts here was about the relationship between Lacanian psychoanalysis and Deleuze and Guattari’s schizoanalysis. Indeed, it was the thoughts behind this post that motivated me to start this blog, on a whim one night, in the first place. My friend Melanie had been gushing about the whole blog phenomenon– in particular she had been lurking about on I Cite and Infinite Thought –so lest I lose my “hip factor” I decided, with bottle of wine in hand, to poke about one night while I was on vacation (it must have been Spring Break). I had participated for years on academic discussion lists– indeed I am even the moderator of a few such lists –but had never ventured forth into the daunting land of theory blogs. Was I hip enough to be a blogger, I wondered? Did I have what it takes to rant endlessly and in a self-absorbed fashion about the minor drama that is my life? Could I write freely and of my own accord, without having the instigation of other list members annoying the hell out of me with their particular thoughts and thus prompting me to respond? At any rate, as I poked about in my semi-drunken stupor, I came across a blog devoted to Deleuze and Guattari, and was enraged by the sort of standard claims you come across in these venues about psychoanalysis (this wasn’t, of course, on I Cite or Infinite Thought). When I tried to post my rejoinder, pointing out how heavily Deleuze and Guattari draw on Lacan and how Anti-Oedipus tends to except Lacan from the sorts of criticisms they level against folk like Melanie Klein and Freud, the computer froze and I lost the comment.

In that moment Larval Subjects was born. Basically I said screw it, quickly set up a blog with blogger, wrote a post on the death of god and then another on Deleuze, Guattari, and Lacan. Having gotten it out of my system, I didn’t give the blog another thought, yet to my great surprise someone posted: Orla. “Whoa, perhaps people actually read these things!” A few days later I got the courage to post on Jodi Dean’s I Cite with a link to something I’d written. She frontpaged me and then a few other blogs followed in kind, and voila! So I kept writing. It would be no exaggeration to say that Jodi Dean and Sujet-barre made me in more ways than one when they front paged me. The traffic that ensued and the comments that arose encouraged me to continue writing and to explore my ideas in ways that I never had before, pushing me to develop my own thoughts rather than simply engaging in commentary. While my style is still very citational, I nonetheless continue to develop thoughts of some sort, for good or ill. My interactions here have motivated me to submit far more papers and have made me more confident in my professional interactions. Blogging has been, for me, a life changing event. Such is the power of networks. At any rate, my rage about an offhand comment from an enthusiast of Deleuze and Guattari was the result of years of frustration borne out of my own interactions with Deleuzians on various online discussion lists and at conferences. As Deleuze and Guattari point out,

Let us remember once again one of Marx’s caveats: we cannot tell from the mere taste of wheat who grew it; the product gives us no hint as to the system and the relations of production. The product appears to be all the more specific, incredibly specific and readily describable, the more closely the theoretician relates it to ideal forms of causation, comprehension, or expression, rather than to the real process of production on which it depends. (AO, 24)

Perhaps this is one of the quasi-transcendental sources of stupidity that I was lamenting in my recent post on learning: our tendency to think in terms of products and results, rather than processes of production. I always try to remind myself of this, that I do not know their field of individuation or from whence they have come, when I encounter someone who is responding to something in a particularly impassioned way, though I am seldom good at keeping this in mind. In a similar vein, if my irritation with the treatment of Lacan by American enthusiasts of Deleuze and Guattari is so impassioned, then this is due to years and years of hearing the same tired points trotted out again and again, when what is written there on the page in black and white says something completely different.

And, of course, there is my own sympathy towards psychoanalysis, having spent years in analysis myself, having struggled with Lacan’s own difficult and imposing theoretical edifice, and practicing as an analyst myself. Sometimes I cannot prevent myself from having dark and self-serving thoughts, smugly thinking of certain Deleuzians as academic dilettantes playing a game of letters, who have never sat before and been responsible to another genuinely suffering person and had to assume responsibility for the consequences of their own interventions. As Lacan remarks in his tenth seminar, L’angoisse, the analyst must learn, above all, how to use her own anxiety as a productive principle. And anxiety is certainly legion on the analyst’s end of things. It is my view that every thinker, every philosopher, should have a concrete practice so as to remind themselves of that little bit of the real, or so as to encounter a point of opacity and resistance within the otherwise “smooth” world of conceptual creation where we are all little gods. I know these are ugly thoughts and I try not to have them. Spinoza had his lenses to grind. Kant had his physics. Descartes had his mathematics. Leibniz all his inventions. And Lacan his patients. I do not like that I sometimes conceitedly think such things. Yet I get frustrated.

At long last we now have a source that gives us genuine, reliable, and unbiased knowledge! I present to you the Conservapedia.

Finally a reference source that cuts through all the bs! Take, for instance, this courageous observation about global warming:

The theory is widely accepted within the scientific community despite a lack of any conclusive evidence, though that is not to say there is no evidence at all.[1][2] On February 2, 2007, an internatonal panel of hundreds of scientists and representatives of 113 governments issued a report concluding:

The observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and ocean, together with ice-mass loss, support the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forcing, and very likely that is not due to known natural causes alone.”[3]

It should be noted that these scientists are motivated by a need for grant money in their field of climatology. Therefore, their work can not be considered unbiased, though no more than any scientist in any other field .[4]. Also, these scientists are mostly liberal athiests, untroubled by the hubris that man can destroy the Earth which God gave him.[5]

I encourage all of you to make use of this terrific resource in your own research. It is of vital importance that we overcome reality’s leftwing bias. And finally, a source free of hubris that brings God back into science.

A good friend of mine, Craig Greenman, used to wax utopian about Loyola Beach in Chicago. Loyola Beach, said Craig, was a non-striated space, and he was right. People from all walks of life congregated there. I lived on Morse Avenue at the time, in Roger’s Park, just off Sheridan. It was one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago, with a diverse Indian, Eastern European, Jewish, Hispanic, Muslim, and African-American community. And Loyola Beach? We all congregated there, the poor and the wealthy, the educated and the uneducated, all different groups, religions, economic strata, and ethnicities. The fourth of July was a sight to behold. Fireworks would explode. Everyone would cook out. The air would be filled with smoke from burning fireworks and campfires. Everyone was welcome even though it was Babel, even though we didn’t speak the same language. We all strolled and laughed with one another.

Often I find myself waxing utopian about this community that we’ve formed. I’ve always dreamt of a new Agora, of an empty space where discourse takes place. Will all of this have been anything? What will my encounters with N.Pepperell, Jodi Dean, Lars, K-Punk, Anthony Paul Smith, Infinite Thought or Nina, Aleatorist, Yusef, Orla, PEBird, Scott Eric Kaufmann, Foucault is Dead, Blah-Feme, Dejan, Fido the Yak, Ken Rufo, Dr. X, Susan, and all the others have been about? Here we have a non-striated space where difference in academics, orientations, and backgrounds fall into the shadows and where we speak freely. Will the trace of our speech have been preserved? Will we have done anything at all? Will we have accomplished anything at all? I try to cultivate a cynical and pessimistic attitude in all things, weaving myself as suspicious of all utopian aspirations, yet it is difficult for me not to be enthusiastic about our discourses.

If one adopts Deleuze’s account of individuation it is clear that the problems of philosophy are significantly transformed. For instance, epistemology can no longer be conceived as the question of how we arrive at a knowledge of “true reality”, precisely because the objects of knowledge are themselves the result of processes of individuation where both the subject and object of knowledge are simultaneously produced. As Deleuze will argue in chapter 3 of Difference and Repetition, “The Image of Thought”– the chapter, incidentally, that he suggests was the most important for all his subsequent work (DR, xvii) –truth itself must be seen as the result of a genesis. “We always have as much truth as we deserve in accordance with the sense of what we say. Sense is the genesis or the production of the true, and truth is only the empirical result of sense” (DR, 154). This genesis just is the process of individuation, or the movement from problems to solutions.

Sense is located in the problem itself. Sense is constituted in the complex theme, but the complex theme is that set of problems and questions in relation to which the propositions serve as elements of response and cases of solution. This definition, however, requires us to rid ourselves of an illusion which belongs to the dogmatic image of thought: problems and questions must no longer be traced from corresponding propositions which serve, or can serve, as responses. We know the agent of this illusion: it is interrogation which, within the framework of a community, dismembers problems and questions, and reconstitutes them in accordance with the propositions of the common empirical consciousness– in other words, according to the probable truths of simple doxa… The failure to see that sense or the problem is extra-propositional, that it differs in kind from every proposition, leads us to miss the essential: the genesis of the act of thought, the operation of the faculties. Dialectic is the art of problems and questions, the combinatory or calculus of problems as such.

“Problem”, for Deleuze, is synonymous with what he refers to as Ideas or Multiplicities. That is, a problem is a field of differential relations and their accompanying singularities or potentialities. Consequently, we are not to understand problems as negative entities or mental entities, but as properly ontological instances presiding over the process of individuation. Problems are. This is why Deleuze, in Difference and Repetition, will use the term “Ideas” to refer to these multiplicities, thereby referring back to the ontological status of Ideas in Plato, while also drawing on Kant’s theory of Ideas as problems that admit of no solution but which organize all thought in The Critique of Pure Reason. Deleuze, of course, develops his own theory of Problems-Ideas-Multiplicities that will escape the representational assumptions of Plato and Kant.

For some reason, today, I found my mind continuously returning to the epigraph of Deleuze’s charming little book Spinoza: A Practical Philosophy. There Deleuze draws a passage from Malamud’s text, The Fixer.

“Let me ask you what brought you to Spinoza? Is it that he was a Jew?”

“No, your honor. I didn’t know who or what he was when I first came across the book– they don’t exactly love hi9m in the synagogue, if you’ve read the story of his life. I found it in a junkyard in a nearby town, paid a kopek and left cursing myself for wasting money hard to come by. Later I read through a few pages and kept on going as though there were a whirlwind at my back. As I say, I didn’t understand every word but when you’re dealing with such ideas you feel as though you were taking a witch’es ride. After that I wasn’t the same man…”

“Would you mind explaining what you think Spinoza’s work means? IN other words if it’s a philosophy what does it state?”

“That’s not so easy to say… The book means different things according to the subject of the chapters, though it’s all united underneath. But what I think it means is that he was out to make a free man of himself– as much as one can according to his philosophy, if you understand my meaning –by thinking things through and connecting everything up, if you’ll go along with that, your honor.”

“That isn’t a bad approach, through the man rather than the work. But…”

I’m feeling rather despondant today, a bit dim. Perhaps I’m suffering from post-traumatic interview syndrome, or maybe it’s everything going on with the book. Occasionally I feel as if I go through these periods where I become all but autistic; where I lose my will to speak with anyone or think at all. Yet nonetheless I found that I couldn’t shake this passage from my mind, even though it’s been so long since I read the book. Similarly, when I returned home from the office I found myself delving back into Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura, a book that I’ve kept beside my bed for many years and that I read when I wake up in the middle of the night.

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