December 2008


universeThe new issue of the IJZS, Žižek and Lacan, is now available online. My article introduces a new Lacanian concept (universes of discourse), as well as four new discourses (the discourse of the capitalist, the discourse of biopower, the discourse of immaterial labor, and the discourse of critical theory), showing how Žižek’s mode of engagement is distinguished from psychoanalytic clinical engagement. In addition to that, the appendix develops the other possible 16 permutations of Lacan’s discourse theory. Here’s the abstract:

Žižek’s New Universe of Discourse: Politics and the Discourse of the Capitalist (warning pdf)
Levi R. Bryant

In what way is the thought of Slavoj Žižek to be distinguished from that of Jacques Lacan? This paper argues that the thought of Lacan and Žižek are to be distinguished at the level of the formal structure of discourse. Although Žižek often situates his own theoretical project in terms of the discourse of the analyst, his work occupies an uneasy place in this position insofar as the discourse of the analyst is directed at the singularity of the subject’s symptom, rather than shared political causes. Drawing on his “Milan Discourse” where Lacan presents the discourse of the capitalist, this paper argues that Žižek discourse inhabits the universe of capitalism, rather than the universe of mastery. Through the development of a modified version of Lacan’s discourse of the capitalist, it is shown that it is possible to derive three additional discourses– the discourse of biopower, the discourse of immaterial labor, and the discourse of critical theory –from the initial discourse of the capitalist. A psychoanalytic approach to these discourses using Lacanian discourse theory goes beyond standard accounts of biopolotical production and immaterial labor by revealing the function of the unconscious and real at work in these discourses, thereby opening new possibilities of engagement. Žižek’s theoretical project is shown to be an important cartography of this new universe of discourse, revealing both how the discourses inhabiting this universe contain certain constitutive deadlocks and devising strategies for engagement where the foe– due to the disappearance of the master and new forms of capitalism that can no longer be properly situated in terms of the discourse of the university –is no longer entirely clear.

Other Contributors:

Žižek: silence and the real desert
Rob Weatherill

Female Rivals: Feminism, Lacan & Žižek try to think of something new to say
Kareen Ror Malone

On Reading Žižek: Notes for Lacanian Clinicians (or what to do when a little bit of Žižek gets stuck in the throat)
Carol Owens

Embracing the Paradox: Zizek’s Illogical Logic
Sheila Kunkle

Lacan after Žižek: Self-Reflexivity in the Automodern Enjoyment of Psychoanalysis
Robert Samuels

Happy New Years!

Nick over at Speculative Heresy has posted links to some texts by Ray Brassier, Peter Hallward, and Graham Harman. So far I have only read Hallward’s review of Logics of Worlds, but all the works look exceptionally interesting. Hallward develops a substantial, cogent and penetrating critique of Badiou’s ontology and the insufficiency of his account of existence or the ontic and relation that I’ve been gropingly trying to articulate. Enjoy!

Open Humanities Press has announced a new book series devoted to the publication of original metaphysical systems. This is an exciting moment in Continental thought and a bit of a watershed for the future of Continental philosophy. The old stereotype runs that Anglo-American philosophy is focused on problems, while Continental thought tends to be focused on the history of philosophy and commentary. As a result, within Anglo-American philosophy we tend to get original work (though often very boring), while in Continental thought, at least within the English speaking world, we get commentary after commentary. This is not, of course, to diminish the value of commentary or its potential to function as a platform for the development of new philosophical trajectories. However, this focus on the history of philosophy places real institutional constraints on philosophers in the English speaking world working in the Continental tradition. Insofar as one must be concerned with either getting a position or gaining tenure, and insofar as Continental journals and presses are geared towards the history of philosophy, doing original work becomes a losing proposition as you’re unlikely to find a publishing venue for that work and thereby lose valuable time in doing this work. This new series goes part of that way towards ameliorating that problem, though it also opens the door to anxiety as to whether or not we really have anything to say in our own voice. At any rate, here’s the announcement:

New Metaphysics

Series editors: Graham Harman and Bruno Latour

The world is due for a resurgence of original speculative metaphysics. The New Metaphysics series aims to provide a safe house for such thinking amidst the demoralizing caution and prudence of professional academic philosophy. We do not aim to bridge the analytic-continental divide, since we are equally impatient with nail-filing analytic critique and the continental reverence for dusty textual monuments. We favor instead the spirit of the intellectual gambler, and wish to discover and promote authors who meet this description. Like an emergent recording company, what we seek are traces of a new metaphysical “sound” from any nation of the world. The editors are open to translations of neglected metaphysical classics, and will consider secondary works of especial force and daring. But our main interest is to stimulate the birth of disturbing masterpieces of twenty-first century philosophy. Please send project descriptions (not full manuscripts) to Graham Harman, graham@rinzai.com. Open Humanities Press is an international Open Access publishing collective. OHP was formed by scholars to overcome the current crisis in publishing that threatens intellectual freedom and academic rigor worldwide. All OHP publications are peer-reviewed, published under open access licenses, and freely and immediately available online through www.openhumanitiespress.org.

nietzscheIn Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche famously argued that metaphysics is a product of grammar.

With regard to the superstitions of logicians, I shall never tire of emphasizing a small terse fact, which these superstitious minds hate to concede—namely, that a thought comes when “it” wishes, and not when “I” wish, so that it is a falsification of the facts of the case to say that the subject “I” is the condition of the predicate “think.” It thinks: but that this “it” is precisely the famous old “ego” is, to put it mildly, only a supposition, an assertion, and assuredly not an “immediate certainty.” After all, one has even gone too far with this “it thinks”—even the “it” contains an interpretation of the process, and does not belong to the process itself. One infers here according to the grammatical habit “thinking is an activity; every activity requires an agent; consequently—.” It was pretty much according to the same schema that the older atomism sought, besides the operating “power,” that lump of matter in which it resides and out of which it operates, the atom; more rigorous minds, however, learned at last to get along without this “earth-residuum,” and perhaps some day we shall accustom ourselves, including the logicians, to get along without the little “it” (which is all that is left of the honest little old ego). (Part 1, §17)

graph13jThe world is parsed into nouns in the form of subjects and objects, adjectives or predicates, and verbs. Subjects and objects are then treated as substances or that which endures in times and lies beneath. Verbs or events are treated as that which happens to objects and subjects, such as the movement from one position to another in space as if on a sheet of graph paper. And finally predicates are what are said of substances. The ball, a substance, is red and spherical (predicates). The ball moves this side of the table to that side of the table.

As a consequence of this parsing of the world, all sorts of metaphysical and epistemological problems emerge. Insofar as subjects and objects are conceived as substances, the epistemological question arises of how it is possible for a subject to relate to an object. The object, as a substance, forever transcends the subject, necessarily being beyond the subject in all ways. We know the object through its predicates or properties, yet we encounter the entire problem of primary and secondary qualities or the indiscernibility of properties. That is, how do we determine whether the predicates we find in the object are a product of us or whether they belong to the object itself? Is color, for example, in the object or is it in me? On the metaphysical level, is the object simply a bundle of properties or is the substance something more, in addition to its properties, beyond these predicates? If the object is nothing but a bundle of properties, doesn’t it cease to be that objects when it gains or loses properties? If the object is a substance beyond its properties, what does it mean to speak of it as this object at all insofar as the substance which the object is is always in excess of any properties that it might have (the bare substratum problem).

Yet certainly “to be”, to exist, is something more than simply being a substance characterized by identity? Generally we restrict the verb “to act” to living beings. Animals act in bringing themselves to motion. Some claim that only humans are capable of acts. Action here is conceived as necessarily containing a component of will or self-willing. A rock, it is said, does not act insofar as it cannot will itself to act but can only be made to move through external forces. Etymologically the term act comes from the Latin actus, “a doing”, and actum, “a thing done”. These are derivatives of agere, “to do, set in motion, drive, urge, chase, stir up”. These Latin terms, in turn, derive from the Greek agein, “to lead, guide, drive, carry off,” and, interestingly, agon, referring to “assembly, contest in games,” as well as agogos or “leader”.

Read on
(more…)

Obama has chosen Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, to give the prayer at his inauguration. Apparently gay rights are second to other civil rights issues and it’s okay to have a speaker who compares homosexuals to rapists, child molesters, and child abusers. Express your displeasure here. There is zero reason to give this sort of hate a publicly legitimate platform. Certainly there are plenty of Christian leaders that would be more appropriate. There is no room for these voices in the public space.

It is customary to see contemporary philosophy in terms of a set of responses to Kant. On the one hand, Anglo-American thought is seen in the lineage of Kant’s first Critique; while, on the other hand, Continental thought might be seen as a set of responses to Kant’s third Critique. But what if the relevant split were not between two different readings and reactions to Kant, nor a response to a geographical division across an ocean? What if, instead, the real split were to be located in those orientations that find their heritage in Descartes, and those orientations that find their orientations in Spinoza? On the one hand, we have those philosophies of the subject that obsess over the relationship of the subject to the object, asserting the transcendence of the object to the subject and endlessly raising questions as to how it might be possible for a subject to relate to the object. Here we would find the prodigious domain of all those monotonous inquiries into knowledge, all those various forms of skepticism such as linguistic idealism on both sides of the ocean, as well as those political philosophies that argue for the necessity of a subject free of all overdetermination from a social field as in the case of Badiou or Zizek, but even Ranciere and Laclau. On the other hand, there would be the Spinozist orientation, emphasizing not the subject, but assemblages, holism, fields, relations, and tendencies unfolding within these fields. Here there would be questions about freedom, about how everything is not already overdetermined by the organization of the field, and how the project of critique might be possible within a universe where individuation always implies a pre-personal field. Today we even have our Leibniz in Graham Harman who has resurrected occasional causality without God under the title of “vicarious causation”, defending the rights of the object against any subjectifying gaze, thereby trying to strike a middle way. Would situating critical thought in these terms function to shift debate at all, taking it out of the endless rut of variations of Kantian correlationism and attempts to move beyond this form of correlationism? Yet were we to take this route, how would we have to transform the questions of epistemology? Already in the case of Spinoza, it is clear that epistemological questions bleed on to ontological questions, such that we must think of the formation of bodies as they “grock” with the world.

040830-grammarA while back someone tagged me– I can’t remember who, but seem to recall it was Mikhail over at Perverse Egalitarianism –with the question of what new practices I plan to implement in the classroom this year. At the time I didn’t respond because I was in the midst of my depression and could barely bring myself to read, much less write. Reflecting on this semester, however, a few things, while not entirely interesting, come to mind.

corrosion02Since I have begun teaching, one of my absolute passions has been eradicating the words “opinion”, “feeling”, and “belief” from the vocabulary of my students. Few thinks irk me more than reading these words in a student essay or hearing them enunciated in class. In and of themselves, of course, these words are perfectly serviceable. However, in a Wittgensteinian sense, there is a grammar behind these words that is on the one hand a defense against entertaining claims, and on the other hand corrosive to critical thought. The student will remark, “It is Plato’s opinion that…”, “Nietzsche felt…”, “Saint Thomas believed that…”, etc. Why are these locutions forms of defense against thought and corrosive to critical thinking? The common thread behind these forms of enunciation is that they detach claims from grounds by which these claims are arrived at. In other words, when a claim is treated in terms of the signifiers “belief”, “opinion”, or “feeling”, it becomes like the famous smile of Carroll’s Cheshire Cat detached from the body of the cat, floating about of its own accord.cheshire65 As a consequence, the person can then conveniently ignore any of the reasoning or grounds that lead to the claim, rendering themselves immune to any argument supporting the conclusion or claim.

In short, since “everyone is entitled to their own opinion”, and since “everyone has their own beliefs”, the student can then set their own opinions in opposition to the philosopher claiming “while Leibniz believes x, I believe y, so I don’t agree with Leibniz.” Here their own views are protected behind an impenetrable fortress and need never be challenged or subjected to any sort of critical scrutiny. Given that one opinion is as good as another, the student can continue to cleave comfortably to their prior beliefs without entering into any sort of becoming. Everything remains the same. Not coincidentally, I find that those students who most vigorously use the language of “opinion”, “belief”, “feeling”, “perspective”, or “perception”, are also the ones who tend to do the worst in my class. The reason for this is that they inevitably end up summarizing the “opinions” of the philosopher– “Spinoza believed that God and the world are one and the same” –without analyzing the arguments by which the philosopher arrives at his position. Everything thus remains at the superficial level of an inventory of the philosopher’s “opinions”, without any examination of just what line of reasoning leads the philosopher to such a conclusion.

Read on
(more…)

spinozaFor the last week I have been in the midst of a terrible cold and grading, both of which have conspired to make me exceedingly grumpy and do little more than sleep. In these conditions there is, as Spinoza recognized, a tendency of the mind to lash out against things unrelated to the efficient cause of the illness. As Spinoza puts it in proposition 13 of part III of the Ethics, “When the mind thinks of those things that diminish or check the body’s power of activity, it endeavors, as far as it can, to call to mind those things that exclude the existence of the former.” In and of itself, this wouldn’t be a problem if it led to things such as resting, taking vitamins, and taking medicine.

However, as Spinoza points out in the first two postulates of part III of the Ethics, 1) “The human body can be affected in many ways by which its power of activity is increased or diminished; and also in many other ways, which neither increase nor diminish its power of activity” and 2) “The human body can undergo many changes and nevertheless retain impressions or traces of objects and consequently the same images of things.” It is the phenomena described by the second postulate that gives rise to problems where our relation to the world is concerned. Spinoza contends that,

…our approach to the understanding of the nature of things of every kind should likewise be one and the same; namely, through the universal laws and rules of Nature. Therefore the emotions of hatred, anger, envy, etc., considered in themselves, follow the same necessity and force of Nature as all other particular things. So these emotions are assignable to definite causes through which they can be understood, and have definite properties, equally deserving of our investigation as the properties of any other thing, whose mere contemplation affords us pleasure. (Preface, Part III)

While it is indeed the case that, as Spinoza argues, the mind and emotions are not something outside of nature and independent of nature, following no laws of nature, the traces or impressions left on the body through its various encounters with objects introduces an additional level of causal complication to the functioning of mind (as Freud noted so well in his early Project essay and “Notes on a Mystic Writing Pad”), preventing us from positing a one to one cause and effect relation between objects and how a body reacts to objects. Rather, the interaction between the body and object passes through the network of traces left in the body, complicating the response to the encounter with the object. This, in part, would account for why we so often are ignorant of the efficient cause of our passions. No doubt this explains, in part, why Deleuze was so profoundly interested in Bergson’s theory of memory and the psychoanalytic conception of the unconscious, where the latter is composed of “writing” or traces.

hitchcock_vertigo_2Roughly speaking, the problem then arises from the fact that objects can resemble one another while having very different causal properties in relation to the body. Thus, on the one hand, Spinoza remarks that “the mind, as far as it can, endeavors to think of those things that increase or assist the body’s power of activity” (Prop 12, Part III). In a state of sickness we can hypothesize that the mind strives to conceive of those things that would increase or enhance the body’s power of acting. However, because the sickness resides in the body, the mind casts about for some way to externalize this sickness. Thus, as Spinoza puts it a bit later, “from the mere fact that we imagine a thing to have something similar to an object that is wont to affect the mind with pleasure or pain, we shall love it or hate it, although the point if similarity is not the efficient cause of these emotions” (Prop. 16, Part III). Here, then, we would have an account of why the ill are often led to lash out at those about them. What takes place is that those about them are treated as the efficient cause of their sad passions, such that the mind endeavors to destroy this mistaken cause so as to return to health. If this externalization of the cause takes place, then this is in a vain attempt to gain some mastery or control over that which causes the pain in the sickness. Such is an elaborate rationalization for grumpiness when in a state of sickness. It is odd how everything in the world begins to look menacing and like an assault when the mind is in a fog and the body aches (here, perhaps, it would be appropriate to look at Heidegger’s account of affects and how they color the world).

All of this aside, I was pleasantly surprised as I read over the final quizzes of my students this morning. The theme of my intro courses this semester was God, the infinite, and religion. Over the course of the semester we read Lucretius, Leibniz, and Spinoza. Now, living outside of Dallas, Texas I am in the heart of the apocalyptic Christian fundamentalist movement, so I had some worries about teaching Lucretius and Spinoza. At the end of the semester I always give my students a few questions that pertain to their experience of the readings. On the one hand, I ask them which philosopher they found most interesting and why. On the other hand, I ask them to name at least one idea, argument, or concept that challenged their beliefs in some way without necessarily leading them to endorse the particular position in question. Much to my surprise the students were nearly unanimous in claiming that they found Spinoza to be the most interesting of the philosophers we studied. Again and again they remarked that they had never entertained the thought of God and nature being one and the same thing, that God creates all that God can create by virtue of his infinity and nature as absolute affirmation (unlike Leibniz’s God that chooses among worlds), and that God does not act according to purposes or goals.

While most of the students did not come to endorse Spinoza’s position (which is not the aim of the course, anyway), most of the students remarked that the course readings had led them to significantly revise their religious beliefs, and a number of the students remarked that they would never again be able to think of natural disasters as punishments from God or think of prayer as a way of gaining favor from God. One very devout student put it nicely, remarking that where before he thought of the aim of prayer as gaining benefit from prayer, he now saw the value of prayer as pertaining to the person himself, engaged in prayer (e.g., prayer leads one to meditate on the ways in which they are fortunate, to resolve internal conflicts, to meditate on solutions to their various problems, etc). In addition to this, a number of the students remarked that they no longer saw the study of nature and their religion as being in conflict to one another. However, what pleased me most as how many students expressed admiration for the rigor and clarity of Spinoza’s argumentation. Having struggled over questions of the way in which reason gets imbricated with the passions for years, this, above all, shocked me given the cultural context in which I teach.

Back to grading.

640px-rorschach_like_inkblotsvgSarah Ball and Anne Underwood have a nice take down of religious right arguments against gay marriage in this weeks Newsweek.

In the Old Testament, the concept of family is fundamental, but examples of what social conservatives would call “the traditional family” are scarcely to be found. Marriage was critical to the passing along of tradition and history, as well as to maintaining the Jews’ precious and fragile monotheism. But as the Barnard University Bible scholar Alan Segal puts it, the arrangement was between “one man and as many women as he could pay for.”

I’m often led to wonder just what Bible these people are reading. They seem to treat the text as a sort of Rorschach to justify whatever hateful prejudice they wish to support. Thus, during the Civil War the Bible was used to support slavery. Now it is used to support the persecution of homosexuals. I’ve even seen it used to support war, torture, and capitalist free market economies. It’s difficult not to conclude that much of Christianity is the greatest of conspiracies against Christ. How, after all, are we to get from the words of the man who gave the Sermon on the Mount to present day doctrines among Christian fundamentalists? Of course, as an atheist I tend to think of Jesus as more a political figure fighting on behalf of the marginalized and promoting peace or strategies for minimizing conflict, than as a divine figure, but all the same.

At any rate, read the rest here. If you’re truly masochistic peruse the reader comments attached to the article.

Yesterday, NPR’s Fresh Air also had an interesting interview with Frank Shaeffer who was instrumental in politicizing evangelicals and has since denounced the movement. The interview is well worth a listen.

scotland-ezine-may2005-francis-bacon-imageIn a very nice response to my post on Schizoanalysis and Psychoanalysis, Ian writes,

Point taken, I hope my response was not taken too strongly, perhaps my wording of it was poor. I agree with you that portraying lack as simply a production of the analyst is inadequate and the remarks on fascism in Anti-Oedipus would seem to suggest that Deleuze and Guattari would agree. But I can’t help but wonder, and this is a personal thought, that the absence of any real mechanical discussion concerning the production of castrated subjects is not a low-point on the part of Deleuze and Guattari, but is rather their resistance towards any kind of metapsychology. No doubt they play some favor towards a kind of transcendental field, but, at least in Anti-Oedipus, I’m not as convinced that this transcendental field exists apart from the social field in any defined sense; the transcendental field (say, the body-without-organs) does not transcend the social field created from it. I would be very skeptical towards the idea that Deleuze and Guattari are after some kind of reinvigorated Plato or Kant.

That said, and possibly this is in part due to personal bias, I don’t see it as any fault of Deleuze and Guattari that this metapsychology is not accounted for; I think it rather a strength. Much of Guattari’s “clinical” work is based around stripping from analysis any kind of metapsychology that would give instruction as to the manner within which affirmative desires are coded into repressive desires, instead being concerned with how to provided an arena for the expressions of desire as political action. I would guess (and this is always dangerous) that Deleuze and Guattari would hastily resist any kind of metapsychology of this process or interaction between analysand and analyst, as if to finally diagnose the real problem. Thus my question, do you think the metapsychology or ‘transcendental analysis’ you are looking for can contain the intersection between Deleuze and Guattari and Lacan that you wrote about, or might it, rather, “cross out” the ‘avec’ between schizoanalysis and psychoanalysis? Could this transcendental analysis of the creation of castrated subjects in fact be a recoding attempting to produce a universal trajectory for a process that has formally the same outcome, but might always takes place in highly “individualized,” contextualized means?

Despite this all, I think you’re on to something and my personal biases towards the aims of the book shouldn’t detract from admitting its shortcomings. Even suggesting that castration could be intimately contextual still sidesteps the question of the mechanics of that production. Very interested in your thoughts.

I suppose, for the sake of clarity, I should explain just what I mean by the transcendental, just so it’s clear that we’re talk about the same thing. The great enemy of Deleuze’s thought, of course, was the transcendent. In his earliest work, this can be seen in his critique of anything resembling Platonic form or unchanging essences, but also of his critique of the self-identical subject as in the case of Descartes’ cogito. Deleuze’s thought begins from the position that, on the one hand, all being is becoming and therefore is the result of a production or a process of individuation. In Difference and Repetition he will perpetually emphasize that individuation is not the individual insofar as individuation is the differential process by which the individual is produced. Likewise, he will staunchly oppose any position that begins from an unchanging identity whether in the form of the subject or God, as well as any position that posits invariant and ahistorical forms. Deleuze is, above all, a process philosopher.

However, the transcendental is not the transcendent. Rather, the transcendental, following Kant, refers to a set of conditions thoroughly immanent to being. While it is certainly the case that Kant is one of Deleuze’s philosophical enemies, there is nonetheless a deep Kantian inspiration or influence in Deleuze’s thought. However, Deleuze radicalizes or transforms the Kantian position in three ways: First, where Kant’s transcendental merely conditions the field of sensibility, imposing a priori (and invariant) forms on the matter of sensation, Deleuze’s transcendental conditions are genetic conditions. As Deleuze will emphasizes endlessly, the virtual or transcendental, unlike Kant’s transcendental, does not resemble the actual, but instead as a set of genetic potentials that produces something entirely new in the course of being actualized. Deleuze will take Kant and many other transcendental philosophers to task for “tracing the transcendental from the empirical”, which amounts to both a circular argument (the conditions are supposed to account for the conditioned, yet we arrive at the condition by tracing them from the conditioned), and to arriving at the transcendental based on its resemblance to the actual or the condition. fractal_4-blueThus we get a strange sort of operation where we begin with the actualized object of experience, trace its abstract form from this object, and then treat this abstract form as an a priori, invariant, ahistorical necessity, effectively covering over any process of production, becoming, or genesis and treating philosophy as an apologetics for the status quo. Only a genetic account of the relation between the transcendental and the field of material being can, according to Deleuze, break out of this vicious circle. In this connection, the transcendental will share no resemblance to individuated entities.

Second, where Kant locks the transcendental or condition in a transcendental subject (the ultimate form of identity), Deleuze instead theorizes the existence of a transcendental field where, as you rightly point out, subjects are actualized, individuated, or produced, rather than presiding over actualization emerging from subject’s as in the case of Kant. The transcendental field is something anterior to the subject and far more extensive than the domain of the subject. If, as Meillassoux argues in After Finitude, correlationism is intrinsically tied to a subject of some sort such that the world would not exist were there not a subject, Deleuze’s transcendental fields would exist regardless of whether there were any humans or living entities. Finally third, and in a closely related vein, Deleuze’s transcendental genetic conditions (the virtual) are not a product of mind, but rather belong to being or existence itself (I develop this thesis in greater detail in my forthcoming article “Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism: Notes Towards a Transcendental Materialism” in Thinking Between Deleuze and Kant: A Strange Encounter with Continuum, edited by Edward Willat and Matt Lee). You can find a more thorough development of Deleuze’s transcendental field and the difference between the transcendent and the transcendental in my book Difference and Givenness: Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence, Northwestern University Press.

venus-in-furs01An excellent example of the necessity of the transcendental and the transcendental field can be found in Deleuze’s essay on Masoch and Sade, Coldness and Cruelty. There, Deleuze, like Lacan (Lacan actually praises this book as the finest study of sadism and masochism yet to be written in seminar 13 or 14), rigorously argues against the thesis that the sadist and the masochist are complementary, such that the perfect partner for any masochist is the sadist and the perfect partner for any sadist is a masochist. Deleuze skillfully demonstrates that sadism and masochism are completely different assemblages and have entirely different geneses through which they are actualized. However, here’s the key point: So long as we remain at the level of actualized entities– at the level of what Deleuze had referred to as “species, parts, and qualities” in Difference and Repetition –this is impossible to see or understand. When we look at the sadist and masochist we will note that the one likes giving pain and the other likes receiving it (empiricist positivism), and will therefore conclude that the structure of the two is complementary. Based on their spatialized resemblances to one another– that they both appear to belong to the common species “human” –we will assume they belong to the same relational network, embody the same singularities, and embody the same differential relations. It is only when we reach the dimension of the virtual or transcendental field, the dimension of singularities (potentials) and their differential relations, that we can begin to discern that these two forms of life and desire are entirely different assemblages with very different organizations that are in no way complementary.

fig181If beginning with the actualized entities leads to this impasse, then this is because, as Deleuze had carefully argued in chapter 4 of Difference and Repetition (and elsewhere), difference erases or veils itself in the process of being actualized, such that we’re left with species, parts, and qualities (the end results of the process of indi-different/ciation), rather than the process of individuation or differentiation through which these elements are formed. Another way of putting this would be to say that we fall into spatialized difference or multiplicities, where everything resembles everything else. Deleuze consistently charges Kant (as well as a number of the phenomenologists), with tracing the transcendental from the empirical and then finding resemblances where there are none. Only the virtual, he argues, can save us from this fate. What is revealed in his study of Sacher-Masoch and Sade is that the two occupy entirely different topological spaces. This is part, I think, of what interests Deleuze in Francis Bacon in texts like The Logic of Sensation. It could be said that Bacon attempts to directly paint the virtual field of forces and singularities rather than the empirical objects among which we dwell.

blue-velvet-earWith this caveats in mind, I would argue that Deleuze and Guattari’s Deleuze’s three synthesis– the syntheses of connection, disjunction, and conjunction –constitute the beginnings of a transcendental analysis. Indeed, these syntheses Kant’s three syntheses of apprehension, reproduction, and recognition in the “A” edition of the Deduction in the Critique of Pure Reason, however, beginning from difference rather than identity. Moreover, where Kant’s syntheses pertain to operations of the mind, Deleuze and Guattari’s three syntheses belong to being as such. It is on the ground of these distinctions that Deleuze and Guattari are able to unfold their critique in the five paralogisms, for each of these paralogisms pertains to an illicit tracing of the transcendental from the empirical, where fully actualized objects are projected back into the machinic unconscious as forms. Deleuze and Guattari, by contrast, will show how desiring-machines only operate on partial objects, not fully formed persons, thereby undercutting a number of claims from orthodox psychoanalysis. In this regard, Deleuze and Guattari enact their own “return to Freud”, though one which certainly transforms Freud. As Freud had argued, the unconscious knows no negation, contradiction, opposition, or objects, but instead only knows connections and productions. This was the surprising result he had already attained in his early unpublished Project essay, where the functioning of the primary process becomes unmoored from any sort of representational realism or instinctual and natural relation to sexuality. Yet somehow all of this falls apart with the introduction of the Oedipus where, instead of relating to partial objects and flows, the primary attachment becomes an attachment to fully formed objects (the father, mother, brother, sister, etc.). Nonetheless, Deleuze and Guattari do not give much in the way of an analysis of just how these paralogisms are possible from the standpoint of active and affirmative desire. Here we would need to look to Nietzsche and Philosophy, as well as, I believe, the work of Lacan. We can thus think of the relationship between schizoanalysis and Lacanian psychoanalysis as being like two sides of a severed egg. The latter explores the domain of the actual and all of its illusions, coupled with their genesis and strategies for escaping these sad passions premised on an installed lack and castration (for Lacan it was always a question of moving beyond these things as I argue in my post on the Borromean knots), whereas Deleuze and Guattari explore the productive realm of the unconscious and its desiring-machines perpetually manufacturing the real.

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,036 other followers