December 2006

Well, I’m back and exhausted. The interviews went exceptionally well and I think I performed better than I ever have. Hopefully I’ll land some on campus interviews, but if this doesn’t come to pass I’m giving myself the narrative that the schools were simply looking for something very specific or that I have some tick that they couldn’t bear. I go away knowing that regardless of what happens I did my best.

This was one of those conferences where everything just seemed to fall into place. I hadn’t gotten assigned seating for the plane when buying the tickets and asked if there were any aisle seats towards the front of the plane, only to be given seat 1D. Front row joe. When I got to the hotel they apologized for having to change my room and told that they had to upgrade my room to a concierge suite free of charge. I was definitely infuriated by this… Not.

The conference was a truly enjoyable experience. The first night there I got to meet with my old dissertation director, Andrew Cutrofello, to prep for the interviews. It was great to see him and mostly we just chatted about the different things we’re working on. I was talking a mile a minute and fear that I might have broken his ear. It seems that everywhere I went I struck up random conversations with people. I went to lunch the first day with one of my colleagues at my current position and a group of his old graduate school friends. There I had the pleasure of meeting Farhang Erfani who created the fantastic blog Continental Philosophy. When I heard him mention his blog I said “I know you!” and told him that he had archived some of my own writing here. He exclaimed “you’re Larval Subjects!?!” And I said “Yes, I’m Sinthome in the flesh!” I felt as if I should have a special t-shirt with an “S” or “L” inscribed on it and a mask. We had a terrific conversation about Sartre and Lacan’s connections to Sartrean thought that I hope to continue in the future.

The next day I met a nice woman in the elevator who seemed to take a shine to me as I live in Texas where much of her family lives. As it turns out, her husband organized the entire conference and she asked me for my card so he could help me out with my job search in any way possible. I’m not quite sure why she made this gesture as I didn’t talk about any of my research, but it was nice nonetheless. Last night I had a terrific time talking to a Palestinian brother and sister from Texas in the bar (he was a political scientist presenting on Levinas and she’s an environmental attorney now living in D.C.). Around four this morning the fire alarm went off and we all had to evacuate the hotel (which turned out to be nice as I got to see Patricia Huntington who was on my dissertation committee and met a number of interesting philosophers). Somehow a couch had caught on fire and water was dripping through the ceiling of the lobby and down the elevator shafts. We didn’t get to return to our rooms until 6am (those on the 6th and 7th floor couldn’t return until 7 or 8), but it was one of those magical moments where all social inhibitions and heirarchies are lifted and everyone talks to everyone. Nonetheless, I feel sorry for those who had to interview today.

While there I finally got to meet Miguel de Beistegui, author of the brilliant Truth and Genesis: Philosophy as Differential Ontology. For those who are not yet familiar with this work, this is a brilliant piece of philosophy, spanning the deadlocks of what he calls “ousiology” or substance based metaphysics of presence from Parmenides to Husserl, and showing how Heidegger and Deleuze formulate a differential ontology that escapes these deadlocks (Deleuze here being the hero). In my view, this work sets a new benchmark for Deleuze scholarship and is one of a handful of genuinely philosophical studies of his work (which is thankfully free of that “tone” that characterizes so much work on Deleuze). I was pleased to see Dan Smith and Constantin Boundas, and both of them gave excellent critical talks over de Beistegui’s work that also expressed admiration and envy. Unfortunately I had to leave a bit early to meet a friend, so I didn’t get to hear all of de Beistegui’s replies, though it’s clear that we can expect great and original work from him in the future. Sadly I was unable to attend Richard Boothby’s talk, whose work I deeply admire as it’s one of the few engagements with Freud and Lacan that situates psychoanalysis in terms of its ontological and epistemic significance rather than simply its ethical and political significance as in the case of the critics of ideology. I was also pleased to pick up a copy of DeLanda’s new book on social ontology for half the price at the book exhibit, that looks very good (I’m about halfway through it and it’s all about the social in terms of networks and assemblages, resonating nicely with my obsession with slime molds a few months ago).

The trip cost an arm and a leg (apparently there’s no food in D.C. that is less than $23), but I come away feeling refreshed and invigorated… Though I missed all of you a good deal. Thank you so much for your support and kind words preceding the trip.

In recent days I’ve been rereading Zizek’s Sublime Object of Ideology in preparation for an article I’m gearing up to write, and have been struck by certain features of his analysis of anti-semitism and various structural aspects of my recent kerkuffle with Anthony Paul Smith and Adam Kotsko over at Weblog (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). That’s a lot of “heres”, and the discussion spread to other blogs such as Long Sunday and the Cynic Librarian as well. As frustrating as this discussion was, I feel that it was ultimately productive and I do feel that Anthony, Adam, and I finally did reach a place where something like a discussion might be possible sans all the transferential issues that were previously clouding the conversation. Indeed, I think Adam Kotsko’s most recent post on the issue, along with Jodi Dean’s post, came finally to ask the right sorts of questions, adopting a far more analytic stance with regard to the issue. If I can say that I found this discussion productive despite all the frustration, vitriol, and acrimony that accompanied much of it, then this is because it functioned as something of an encounter for me. And as Deleuze puts it in Difference and Repetition,

Something in the world forces us to think. This something is an object not of recognition but of a fundamental encounter. What is encountered may be Socrates, a temple or a demon. It may be grsped in a range of affective tones: wonder, love, hatred, suffering. In whichever tone, its primary characteristic is that it can only be sensed. In this sense it is opposed to recognition. In recognition, the sensible is not at all that which can only be sensed, but that which bears directly upon the senses in an object which can be recalled, imagined or conceived. (139)

That is, an encounter is that which disrupts the logic of recognition, of the familiar, thereby performing a sort of naturalized “transcendental epoche“, and offering the possibility of a break from assumptions. For me one of the most valuable things about the rhizosphere or blogosphere is that it provides such fertile grounds for these types of encounters. I cannot speak for anyone else, but in my own case I find that there’s a sort of occupational hazard in the isolation that accompanies traditional scholarly research. There’s a way in which one becomes a sort of solipsist, believing that the entire world thinks as you do, such that any deviation from this way of thinking is seen as an idiosyncratic error, not as an opening onto an entirely different way of encountering the world. That is, I come to assume that others share my same frame. In the rhizosphere, by contrast, you discover how little this is true.

In reviewing the non-discussion that took place, one of the most striking things I find is the manner in which we directly engaged the claims of one another. Rather than taking a step back as an analyst might and wondering what desire might animate this or that claim and how it might function as a symptom responding to a particular deadlock, we instead directly tried to refute and contest one another. An alternative would have been to analyze the manner in which “Christian Fundamentalist” and “Secular Atheist” function as symptoms of two different discourses, referring to a fundamental antagonism at the heart of the social movements that employ these rhetorics. In his analysis of anti-semitism, Zizek writes,

…there are two complementary procedures [for] the ‘criticism of ideology’:

  • one is discursive, the ‘symptomal reading’ of the ideological text bringing about the ‘deconstruction’ of the spontaneous experience of its meaning– that is, demonstrating how a given ideological field is a result of a montage of heterogeneous ‘floating signifiers’, of their totalization through the intervention of certain ‘nodal points’ [I employed this form of analysis over at I Cite in response to Adam or Anthony’s claim that Hitler only used Christianity cynically, when I tried to argue that we can not refer evocations of a master-signifier to some hidden essence that would allow us to determine which form of social practice is the true or false one];
  • The other aims at extracting the kernel of enjoyment, at articulting the way in which– beyond the field of meaning but at the same time internal to it –an ideology implies, manipulates, produces a pre-ideological enjoyment structured in fantasy.

To exemplify this necessity of supplementing the analysis of discourse with the logic of enjoyment we have only to look again at the special case of ideology, which is perhaps the purest incarnation of ideology as such: anti-semitism. To put it bluntly: ‘Society doesn’t exist‘, and the Jew is its symptom.

On the level of discoruse analysis, it is not difficult to articulate the network of symbolic overdetermination invested in the figure of the Jew. First, there is displacement: the basic trick of anti-semitism is to displace social antagonism into antagonism between the sound social texture, social body, and the Jew as the force corroding it, the force of corruption. Thus it is not society itself which is ‘impossible’, based on antagonism– the source of corruption is located in a particular entity, the Jew. This displacement is made possible by the association of Jews with financial dealings: the source of exploitation and of class antagonism is located not in the basic relation between the working and ruling classes but in the relation between the ‘productive’ forces (workers, organizers of production…) and the merchants who exploit the ‘productive’ classes, replacing organic co-operation with class struggle.

This displacement is, of course, supported by condensation: the figure of the Jew condenses opposing features, features associated with lower and upper classes: Jews are supposed to be dirty and intellectual, voluptuous and impotent, and so on. What gives energy, so to speak, to the displacement is therefore the way the figure of the Jew condenses a series of heterogeoues antagonisms: economic (Jew as profiteer), political (Jew as schemer, retainer of a secret power), moral-religious (Jew as corrupt anti-Christian), sexual (Jew as seduer of our innocent girls)… In short, it can easily be shown how the figure of the Jew is a symptom in the sense of a coded message, a cypher, a disfigured representation of social antagonisms; by undoing this work of displacement/condensation, we can determine its meaning.

But this metaphoric-metonymic displacement is not sufficient to explain how the figure of the Jew captures our desire; to penetrate its fascinating force, we must take into account the way ‘Jew’ enters the framework of fantasy structuring our enjoyment. Fantasy is basically a scenerio filling out the empty space of a fundamental impossibility, a screen masking a void…

It is now clear how we can use this notion of fantasy in the domain of ideology proper: here also ‘there is no class relationship’, society is always traversed by an antagonistic split which cannot be integrated into the symbolic order. And the stake of social-ideological fantasy is to construct a vision of society which does exist, a society which is not split by an antagonistic division, a society in which the relation between its parts is organic, complementary. The clearest case is, of course, the corporatist vision of Society as an organic Whole, a social Body in which the different classes are like extremities, members each contributing to the Whole according to its function– we may say that ‘Society as a corporate Body’ is the fundamental ideological fantasy. How then do we take account of the distance between this corporatist vision and the factual society split by antagonistic struggles? The answer is, of course, the Jew: an external element, a foreign body introducing corrption into the social fabric…

The notion of social fantasy is therefore a necessary counterpart to the concept of antagonism: fantasy is precisely the way the antagonistic fissure is masked. In other words, fantasy is a means for an ideology to take its own failure into account in advance. (124-6)

I quote this passage at length because it so nicely encapsulates a number of important concepts for social analysis and displays exactly how they might be put to work. Of crucial importance here is the thesis that society does not exist and that a symptom is required in order to render the unbearable antagonism that cleaves the social field bearable. The symptom embodies a number of the elements of the situation-specific conflict (it will differ from social organization to social organization), but in a clothed and encrypted fashion, producing the illusion that these problems could be eradicated if only we could get rid of this particular group. However, as Zizek says elsewhere in the same text, anti-semitism has nothing to do with Jews themselves, but only with taking into account these failures of the ideological fantasy in advance while still rendering the ideological fantasy attractive and persuasive. Zizek is careful to point out that even if there are Jews that actually fit the descriptions of the anti-Semite, it is nonetheless these fundamental antagonisms that are at stake in the anti-semites discourse, not Jews themselves. Hence, perhaps, a reason that racism is sometimes most intense in regions where the hated group are almost entirely absent. It’s as if the racist group intentionally choose a group that doesn’t truly impact their socio-economic existence as a way of insuring that they can continue to hate this group without ever directly facing the possibility of taking action against this group, eradicating them, thereby confronting the trauma that the antagonisms nonetheless persist.

It is in this connection that I would like to suggest that the figure of the Christian Fundamentalist functions as an ideological symptom in many leftwing discourses (as, often, too does the figure of the Jew), while the figure of the Secular Atheist functions as a symptom of a number of rightwing and religious discourses. The point here is not one of being fair and judicious by saying “the left has its symptoms and the right has its symptoms so let’s try to get along”, nor am I suggesting that Adam and Anthony are engaged in a rightwing discourse (though their troubling repetition of themes similar to those expressed by the likes of Horowitz is bothersome), but rather of piercing through a certain set of symptoms so that a more substantial discussion might occur that has little or nothing to do with secularism or religiousity. That is, the aim here is to avoid the fate of Don Quixote. Incidentally, this “Quixotism” functionally works (whatever the intentions of the actors involved) to keep the system in place as it is (as both Adam and Anthony tried to point out in a number of contexts). I believe that this sort of analysis also shows the limitations of identity politics and the discourse of the victim so common in contemporary politics. All of this, of course, raises the additional question: If it is true that society doesn’t exist, that it is irrevocably riddled with antagonisms, what sort of politics should we aim for? Does this not place us in the tragic and pessimistic position of discerning defeat and illusion in any possible political engagement? For Zizek, the answer is one of identifying with the symptom: “To ‘identify with a symptom’ means to recognize in the ‘excesses’, in the disruptions of the ‘normal’ way of things, the key offering us access to its true functioning” (128). The religious believer would here be enjoined to identify with the “secular atheist” qua symptom of a deadlock at the heart of their socio-political aspirations, just as the atheist would be enjoined to identify with the Christian fundamentalist qua symptom. But what, exactly, does this mean at the level of practice? The aim isn’t simply to understand the true functioning of the social system, but rather to change it.

Tomorrow I head to Washington D.C. for job interviews.

  • Courses I’m able to teach, along with course designs… Check
  • Teaching methodology and philosophy… Check
  • Specific questions about their universities… Check
  • Research program… Check
  • Nice suit and tie… Check

Am I forgetting anything? Let’s just hope I can get some sleep the night before so I don’t go into the interviews like a zombie. Although I would be delighted to land any of these positions as the programs are terrific, it would be great to have more time for research and writing, and I would be thrilled to teach more advanced courses in my areas of expertise, it’s nonetheless good to go into interviews knowing that I’m not going to starve to death if I don’t get one of the positions. Apart from administrative irritations (that exist anywhere), I’m already in a very good place and will be sad to leave my great colleagues, friends, and students should I get one of the positions. The bottom line is that I love teaching above all other things (well not the grading part), and so long as I’m doing that I will be happy. At the very worst, I’ll suffer some humiliation at having discussed things here. For whatever reason, my anxiety finally broke yesterday and I feel full of a fighting spirit today. With any luck that will last. At any rate, those of you who detest me, get out your voodoo dolls and needles. Those of you who have some passing fondness, wish me luck.

For a long time I’ve thrown the term “universe of reference” about without clarifying just what I have in mind. I first came across this concept in Guattari’s Chaosmosis, though I have no idea whether I’m using the term correctly as Guattari’s language is very dense and he seldom takes the time to slow down and develop his concepts thoroughly. According to Husserl’s phenomenological method, the transcendental epoche consists in carrying out a reduction where one suspends all questions of whether or not the datums given to consciousness actually exist or what they are as they exist independently of consciousness (in themselves), and instead resolves to describe what is given simply in terms of how it appears or gives itself.

In certain respects, the concept of a universe of reference is a correlary of such a phenomenological reduction, but for a community of subjects. That is, a universe of reference is composed of the entities and relations posited by a certain community of persons, without raising questions as to whether this universe is an accurate representation of reality or not. Thus, for instance, one universe of reference might include God, demons, ghosts, signs from God, Satan, and so on; whereas another universe of reference includes none of these things. In one universe of reference there might be a category known as “terrorists”, such as in the film V for Vendetta where the government classifies any enemy of the State as a terrorist, where one and the same person classified as “terrorist” by the State might be classified by another group of people as a revolutionary or an activist. In the universe of reference inhabited by the neuropsychologist, repetitive handwashing is a sign of some neurological disorder and presents itself to the eyes of the observing clinician in these terms. Here a causal claim is made that implies a particular mode of treatment– Medication. In the case of a psychoanalyst, repetitive hand washing is a symptom of a betrayed desire, implying the concepts of the unconscious, desire, intersubjectivity, objet a, and so on. Jacques-Alain Miller has a very nice article on just how symptoms differ from signs. The point here, of course, is that although at the level of sense-experience the neurologist and the psychoanalyst are viewing one and the same phenomenon, they are nonetheless talking of ontologically distinct entities. For the neurologist (barring the neuropsychoanalyst) there is no category of the symptom as the psychoanalyst understands it, while the psychoanalyst can have both a category of the neurological (indeed, Freud’s original Project essay was articulated in neurological terms) and a category of the symptom.

The concept of a “universe of reference” is thus an ontologico-sociological category designed to capture the “folk ontologies” shared by different groups of people and that diverge from one another. The aim here, of course, is not to promote some sort of facile relativism. There might be one true and genuine ontology such that these folk ontologies are just various illusions or falsehoods. However, in developing rhetorical and discursive strategies with regard to various groups it is necessary to be familiar with the universe of reference they inhabit so as to formulate those speech acts capable of making a difference with regard to them. A speech act formulated on the horizon of post-Newtonian physics isn’t very effective when speaking to a community that inhabits an Aristotlean universe.

Dr. X’s Free Associations has an interesting post about debates over the war in Iraq and the common experience of being unable to persuade war supporters that resonates nicely with some of the issues I raised in my poorly written post Grounds and Sophists.

Trying to explain the exasperating phenomenon of people who continue to disagree with him on Iraq, despite his eloquent arguments and unassailable mastery of objective facts, Shrinkwrapped writes:

‘Those of us who have not been infected with the thought disorder known as post-modernism and believe that there exists an actual reality that we can reasonably and objectively approach; if that is the case, what is it that prevents people from recognizing facts that are right in front of their eyes?’

It sounds to me like the erudite Shrinkwrapped experienced a little thought glitch during the writing of those sentences, but never mind that.

I’ve been thinking about writing about this issue for a while now, but my thoughts are still a bit scattered. Many of us have experienced this frustrating phenomenon since 2001. We have found ourselves embroiled in discussions where facts were on our side, yet strangely we have not been able to persuade the other person. I think Shrinkwrapped misidentifies the problem when he blames postmodernism, as I do not believe that my interlocutors are willfully refusing to recognize arguments.

Increasingly I’ve come to believe that what is at issue here is transference as described by Lacan. Lacan has an unusual concept of transference which he relates to the “subject supposed to know”. When the analysand enters analysis, he supposes that the analyst has a certain knowledge of his symptom and suffering, when in fact that analyst does not have this knowledge. This projection functions as a motor for analysis as the analysand interprets each pronouncement of the analyst as coming from a place of knowledge and therefore interprets what the analyst says producing knowledge for the analyst. That is, it’s the analysand doing most of the work. A standard, vulgar, and overly simplified Enlightenment conception of discourse begins from the premise that it’s the syntactical and semantical structure of an argument that counts in persuading another person. So long as the argument is logically valid (synatx) and so long as the propositions that compose the argument are true (semantics), the interlocutor will assent to the argument on the premise that the interlocutor is not insane or mentally deficient. What this leaves out is the rhetorical and dialogical dimension of discourse, wherein who speaks is also a crucial factor in determining whether the other person will listen.

I confess that I have an extremely difficult time listening to anything George Bush says at this point in time, and therefore find it difficult to attend to his arguments. There are books I’ve tried to read in the past that I’ve found myself unable to follow simply because they don’t come from the right theoretical orientation. Thus, for example, years ago when I was first extremely hip to Deleuze and Guattari, it was almost impossible for me to read Hegel’s Science of Logic, as I had already branded Hegel an enemy on the basis of what Deleuze had argued in Nietzsche and Philosophy and Difference and Repetition. I would read Hegel’s texts and my eyes would glaze over or I would be overly dismissive of his claims, not following the development of his thought on its own term. This culminated in me taking an incomplete in a graduate course I was taking on Hegel’s system that I was unable to finish for two years. It wasn’t that I was intellectually incapable of reading Hegel, but that my transference towards Deleuze and the negative transference it wrought with regard to Hegel made it impossible for me to “hear” his work. Similarly, I suspect that part of the recent blog war with Anthony Paul Smith and Adam Kotsko had to do with these sorts of transferential issues. On the basis of offhand remarks I’d made in the past, Kotsko and Smith had branded me as a “knee-jerk secularist” and “doctrinaire atheist”, and perhaps I had similar prejudices towards them. Anthony Paul Smith, for instance, subsequently mentioned that his initial comments had been intended in a lighthearted way that presumed more friendliness between us than was there. Something other was intervening in our dialogue and preventing us from talking… Something that wasn’t strictly in the propositions making up the dialogue themselves.

What we thus get are universes of reference that are a function of our identification. Because I suppose that Lacan has a certain knowledge I come to dwell in a particular universe of reference populated by entities such as objet a, transference, the symptom, the sinthome, the Other, the unconscious structured as a language, etc. When I speak of psychic phenomena, I am speaking of something different than say my neuropsychological colleague. Indeed, I do not take psychoanalysis to be a psychology or neurology at all, as I begin from the stance that the subject is constituted in the field of the Other or that subjectivity is intersubjectivity and cannot be thought independent of the Other. Part of understanding a universe of reference will thus involve taking into account the field of identifications structuring a person’s subjectivity. The Iraq war supporter has different identifications than myself and thus relates to “actual reality” in a different way as he will only listen to certain people as authorities. Given the globalization of our culture, it is not surprising that identification would increasingly come to play such a key role in structuring our relation to the world as we must now all deal with absence, with what we cannot directly verify, as a part of our day to day life due to the omnipresence of media communications. Given that we all recognize that any media image or story is “framed” by the person writing and filming and that we cannot directly verify these things for ourselves we must have recourse to different standards of truth and these standards become the credibility of the speaker. This, I believe, is what Deleuze had in mind with his discussions of the role the “structure-Other” plays in grounding recognition and representation in Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense (reference could also be made to Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations and the role the Other plays in developing dimension and permanence for the cogito). I am not at all suggesting that this is a happy state of affairs or that the idea of multiple universes of reference is a marvellous thing, only that this seems to characterize our current “metaphysical” situation where talk of reality is concerned.

What does this have to do with Iraq? I’ve increasingly come to notice that intercommunicative settings seem to be organized around this phenomenon of the “subject supposed to know”. It seems that today a person begins from the premise that there are some who speak from the standpoint of knowledge and others that do not. For instance, when I watch FOX news I do not attribute knowledge to the newscasters, and am therefore largely deaf to the claims and arguments they make even if they are true. I begin from the standpoint that they are trying to dupe me ideologically. It seems to me that this phenomenon is even more potent among many rightwing supporters of Bush and the war, such that they simply filter out any negative news or information about Iraq as a “liberal conspiracy”. As the opening paragraphs of Plato’s Republic indicate, you cannot persuade someone who refuses to listen. The issue here is not one of postmodernism, but rather one of who we trust as a credible speaker. The moment shrinkwrapped opens his/her mouth, shutters have already fallen over the ears of his/her interlocutor. As we know from our practices, it’s impossible to do work with patients that attribute us no credibility or authority. For instance, it’s always more difficult to work with patients that have been forced into analysis by family or courts. The question then is one of how to overcome this credibility gap or crisis of legitimacy.

In a way I think Shrinkwrapped is right when s/he evokes a postmodernization of discourse, but for the wrong reasons. Expressed as Shrinkwrapped has expressed it, the premise seems to be that those who disagree do so because they adopt postmodernism as a philosophical position. However, I think the issue goes far deeper than this– It is not that someone has deviously adopted a philosophical position of postmodernism wherein there is no ultimate reality, but rather that we are living in a postmodern situation. When I argue with my friend that is a staunch supporter of the war, we literally live in different realities or “universes of reference” by virtue of how our subjectivities are structured transferentially. For this reason, we are unable to use “actual reality” to decide the truth or falsity of contested propositions. Rather, our universes of reference (hence the plural) have become self-referential by virtue of what we recognize as a credible authority. As Hegel puts it,

We may also remark at this point that to go no further than mere grounds, especially in the domain of law and ethics, is the general standpoint and principle of the Sophists. When people speak of ‘sophistry’ they frequently understand by it just a mode of consideration which aims to distort what is correct and true, and quite generally to present things in a false light. But this tendency is not what is immediately involved in sophistry, the standpoint of which is primarily nothing but that of abstract argumentation. The Sophists came on the scene among the Greeks at a time when they were no longer satisfied with mere authority and tradition in the domain of religion and ethics. They felt the need at that time to become conscious of what was to be valid for them as a content mediated by thought. This demand was met by the Sophists because they taught people how to seek out the various points of view from which things can be considered; and these points of view are, in the virst instance, simply nothing but grounds. As we remarked earlier, however, since a ground does not yet have a content that is determined in and for itself, and grounds can be found for what is unethical and contrary to law no less than for what is ethical and lawful, the decision as to what grounds are to count as valid falls to the subject. The ground of the subject’s decision becomes a matter of his individual disposition and aims. (Geraets, Suchting, Harris, pgs. 188-191)

Grounds become matters of individual preferences and the savvy consumer shops around for those grounds that most suit his taste. I get my news from NPR and dismiss FOX, while you get your news from FOX and dismiss NPR. This is one of the meanings of Lacan’s aphorism that the big Other does not exist. What seems different today is that where before this truth was largely unconscious and repressed such that we at least pretended that there was a consistent and shared Other, today we seem conscious of this. I am not at all sure what is to be done. I hardly find it to be something that should be celebrated or that is a happy thesis.

For any interested, J.A. Miller’s fundamental article “Suture” is now available online. J.A. Miller presented this during the 12th seminar and it arguably changed a good deal of Lacan’s own trajectory by formalizing his thought. As Lacan later said about the young 18 year old, “The Miller isn’t half bad.” Anyone interested in the Lacanian subject can find it here… Of course you’ll be disappointed to discover that you now have to read Frege and a number of other philosophers of mathematics.

There’s a nice article on transference and the recently published Seminar 16 over at the World Association of Psychoanalysis by the analyst Lieve Billiet that’s well worth the read. The final paragraphs on objet a, capitalism and shifts in the structure of subjectivity are brilliant.

In the Seminar XVI Lacan puts a step in the conceptualisation of the object, and thus in the approach of the libidinal dimension. In his course Illuminations profanes Jacques-Alain Miller elucidates Lacans step in Seminar XVI. The object appears no longer as the object taken from the body but as a logical function. That explains why Lacan speaks now about the other (with determined article – cfr. The title of the seminar). Considered as a part of the body (the breast, the faeces, the voice, the gaze), the object was multiple. Considered as a logical function, the object is one. It is the object conceptualised without reference to the phantasm, out of the realm of the phantasm. What does this mean? The phantasm is the way the subject makes the Other exist via the object. It installs via the object the semblant of a relation as a veil over the non existence of the sexual relation. So it questions jouissance, satisfaction, in relation to the Other. As the phantasm makes the Other exist, the phantasm is linked to the demand of love. In Seminar XVI the object is no longer conceptualised as the object, part of the body but as the object plus-de-jouir. This implies an approach of the question of jouissance beyond the relation to the Other, beyond the phantasm, beyond the question of love.

Enjoy! (and no, that’s not a command)

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