February 2007

In a seldom mentioned passage from his seventh seminar, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Lacan remarks that,

We must see right away how crude it is to accept the idea that, in the ethical order itself, everything can be reduced to social constraint, as is so often the case in the theoretical writings of certain analysts– as if the fashion in which that constraint develops doesn’t in itself raise a question for people who live within the realms of our experience. In the name of what is social constraint exercised? Of a collective tendency? Why in all this time hasn’t such social constrained managed to focus on the most appropriate paths to the satisfaction of individuals’ desires? Do I need to say anymore to an audience of analysts to make clear the distance that exists between the organization of desires and the organization of needs? (225)

It is impossible to read this passage and not think of the first volume of Foucault’s History of Sexuality. That is, Lacan here alludes to a critique of the so-called repressive hypothesis on two axes: On the one hand, we have the question of what would ever lead the individual to tolerate such repression, constraint, or law in the first place. Certainly the individual would unilaterally rebuke such a repression in a mythological state of nature. What is it that leads the individual to tolerate, accept, and even will these repudiations of basic biological needs? On the other hand, we have the question of why the social order has not yet delivered satisfaction and what function this dissatisfaction might serve. This disconcerting experience of finding in Lacan what one takes to be a critique of psychoanalysis is common throughout the seminar. For instance, in Seminar 9, L’identification, we will find Lacan developing an elaborate account of the trace and writing. This is in 1961-62. Derrida’s magnificent Speech and Phenomena and Grammatology will be released in 1967.

Passages such as this underline just why there has been so much tension between Marxist orientations of thought and psychoanalysis. Indeed, it is in the context of a discussion of Marx that Lacan makes this remark. If this tension emerges, then this is because Lacan here suggests that there’s something constitutive at the heart of human experience that produces dissatisfaction. Where a vulgar reading of Marx sees our discontent as the result of alienated social relations, Lacan here sees something ineradicable at the heart of our experience.

Apparently it’s not enough for the rightwing to champion intelligent design and creationism over evolution in biology. Warren Chisum of the Texas state legislature and head of the appropriations committee recently sent out a memo claiming that the earth stands still, does not spin about its axis, and does not revolve about the sun. Read about it here and here, and see the memo for yourself here. Is this for real? It’s getting more and more difficult for me to be patient with organized religion and the religious. How can people such as this possibly get elected? This has to be a joke.

In the HBO documentary “Friends of God”, the now discredited Haggard, when questioned about the push to legislate Christian morality and the exclusions it is based on, points out that this is simply a matter of making decisions and that when you choose Crest toothpaste you necessarily upset those who like Pepsident. Of course, the fans of Crest don’t actively try to prevent the fans of Pepsident from using their toothpaste of choice, so we might wonder at the legitimacy of this comparison. This sort of faith– and perhaps there are other kinds –is anti-social in that it undermines the possibility of dialog among those who differ so as to maintain its convictions hell or highwater, and leads to destructive irrationalism and bitterly divided factional differences. It’s difficult for me not to desire its disappearance altogether and exceedingly difficult for me to be tolerant when this tolerance generates this sort of lunacy and conflict. The documentary is well worth watching, as is the documentary film Jesus Camp where children are taught to be soldiers, are made to hug a cardboard cut out of George Bush, and where faith is wedded in their training to muscular nationalism. Also worth reading is Jesus Land, where a daughter of extremist evangelicals chronicals her experiences at a Dominican Republic Christian reform school that eventually led to the death of her brother. Of course, a number of Christians aren’t like this… But a number of them are.

Here’s some additional interesting reading in related matters. Follow the links.

I’m home and thoroughly exhausted. I had a terrific time talking with the students and had some fantastic conversations with the faculty about their own research and teaching philosophies. We had some really terrific philosophical discussions and our research projects resonated in provocative and exciting ways (it turns out that the analytic phil. science guy works with Riemannian manifolds and is asking a number of very similar questions). All in all I think I did as well as I could do, and feel that I would be a great fit for this position… And that this position would be a great fit for me. I was loose, confident, and friendly, all of which, I think, is good. Honestly this trip was far too enjoyable to be an interview. I think I’ll go enjoy a glass of wine and collapse now.

catboxinggif2.gif Well Thursday morning I head off to Ohio for my whirlwind on-campus interview, returning late Friday afternoon. Hopefully I will perform well. I’ll be presenting on Deleuze’s concept of individuation to the students. I’m feeling pretty confident, which makes me suspicious and a little leery. I suppose I just feel that I’m a good fit for this position. Moreover, if this position doesn’t work out, I feel pretty strongly that there will be other opportunities. Right now what I need is more time for writing and research, upper level students, and an environment supportive and respectful of scholarship. A 5/5 load coupled with analytic work isn’t exactly conducive to writing. At any rate, wish me luck or get out your voodoo dolls. Ouch! Anthony, was that your needle I just felt!?!

In a charming development, Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is introducing legislation that would monitor all email and instant messenger transmissions indefinitely. Of course, if you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about… Right?

[It] would require ISPs to record all users’ surfing activity, IM conversations and email traffic indefinitely.

The bill, dubbed the Safety Act by sponsor Lamar Smith, a republican congressman from Texas, would impose fines and a prison term of one year on ISPs which failed to keep full records.

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to follow the links and contact the Congresscritters who endorse this legislation.

Marc Goodman has been kind enough to track down some of Kerslake’s articles (here and here).I have not yet read any of his work, but it sounds very interesting. He also has a book forthcoming with Continuum, entitled Deleuze and the Unconscious, focusing on Deleuze’s relationship to psychoanalysis. I confess that I’m a little leery of his focus on Jung, but I do think that the relationship of Deleuze to psychoanalysis is far more nuanced than has often been suggested in American scholarship. There’s a vast research project waiting to be done on Deleuze’s positive engagement with Freud, Lacan, and Klein.

I came across this diary on the “assessement movement” in highschool and college education this morning. For those who teach in the United States, the diary is worth reading for the links alone. For me the last year has been a living hell due to precisely these issues, and this is one of the central reasons that I’m currently searching for positions elsewhere. At any rate, this too could be coming to a college near you.

A chapter on Deleuze from Badiou’s Logiques des mondes is now available online. Thanks for the heads up Austin!

Every semester I begin my introductory courses with Plato’s Euthyphro. There are a number of reasons for this. On the one hand, the Euthyphro is exemplary as a model of philosophical analysis, argumentation, and critique. On the other hand, this dialogue stages the manner in which action and belief interpenetrate, such that actions are based on beliefs and false belief leads to false action. Additionally, there are geographical reasons as well. Teaching in the Dallas Texas area– home of the megachurch and the central hub of apocalyptic variants of Evangelical Christianity –teaching the Euthyphro exposes students to questions of religion and faith that perhaps they have never before encountered. Finally, the Euthyphro inaugurates some basic and fundamental distinctions as to how all subsequent ethical and political philosophy will be conducted. However, it is also possible to see the Euthyphro as a criticism of ideology and as a sort of therapy strategically designed to both reveal Euthyphro’s attachments and precipitate a separation from those attachments. Socrates aims at nothing less than producing a sort of void in Euthyphro… A void, perhaps, that would have the effect of producing the possibility of freedom.

Alas, the finance people at Middlesex vetoed the money for the trip and have frozen their budget for the year, so it looks like I won’t be presenting at the Deleuze and Rationalism conference. Nonetheless, it was nice to receive the offer and Hallward informs me that he would like to get me out there in the next year or so and also set up additional talks at Cardiff, Warwick, and Dundee. They’ve decided to retreat to Toscano in my stead. Toscano’s always getting all the good dates! [Shakes fist angrily] Damn you Toscano! Perhaps I should see if my college can muster some funds.

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