December 2008

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.

contagion1In Definition 3 of Part III of the Ethics Spinoza writes, “By emotion (affectus) I mean the modifications of the body, whereby the active power of the said body is increased or diminished, aided or constrained, and also the ideas of such modifications. N.B. If we can be the adequate cause of any of these modifications, I then call the emotion an activity, otherwise I call it a passion, or state wherein the mind is passive.” This is an extraordinary and remarkable definition of emotion, that goes well beyond associations we might have between emotions and feelings.

From the outset it can be discerned that the definition has two parts. On the one hand, affectus refers to modifications of the body. Insofar as Spinoza references the active power of the body, we should not understand feelings, but rather the capacity of the body to act and be acted upon. bats1 Thus, for example, the affects of a bat consist, on the one hand, in its capacity to encounter the world in terms of sonar, but also in its ability to fly, grasp, tear with its teeth, etc. Likewise, my fingers pounding away on this keyboard constitute an affect or capacity of my body. Or rather, my body here enters into an assemblage of affects produced through the conjunction– the “and” –of my hands and the key board, the two acting upon one another and being acted upon by one another. Through this conjugation of affects the power of bodies, according to Spinoza, is either enhanced or diminished, checked or assisted.

For this reason, Spinoza will write, in a beautiful passage, that “…nobody as yet has determined the limits of the body’s capabilities: that is, nobody as yet has learned from experience what the body can and cannot do…” (Prop 2, Scholium, Part III). It is notable that Spinoza here uses the indefinite article, indicating that bodies aren’t to be restricted to human or living bodies, but to all bodies. If, then, no one knows what a body can do, this is because the assemblages into which bodies can enter are limitless. alice_krige-borg_002 And in entering into an assemblage or a network, the body’s about of acting is increased or diminished, assisted or checked. We can thus think of a body as being akin to a field of potentials, such that in entering into an assemblage with another body, potentials of the body are drawn forth or pulled forth from the body, manifesting themselves for the very first time. Already we can sense that Spinoza’s entire theory of the emotions is contained in this conception of the body as a power of acting and being acted upon. As Spinoza will say, emotions are also composed of the ideas that accompany these affects (thoughts, feelings). Those assemblages that enhance a body’s power of acting will be accompanied by joyous ideas of these affections, while those that diminish the body’s power of acting will be accompanied by sad ideas of these affections.

In a recent National Public Radio story it was reported that ideas of affects are themselves contagious between bodies:

A new study by researchers at Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego documents how happiness spreads through social networks.

They found that when a person becomes happy, a friend living close by has a 25 percent higher chance of becoming happy themselves. A spouse experiences an 8 percent increased chance and for next-door neighbors, it’s 34 percent.

“Everyday interactions we have with other people are definitely contagious, in terms of happiness,” says Nicholas Christakis, a professor at Harvard Medical School and an author of the study.

Perhaps more surprising, Christakis says, is that the effect extends beyond the people we come into contact with. When one person becomes happy, the social network effect can spread up to 3 degrees — reaching friends of friends.

It would thus appear that emotions, far from being internal, private affairs, but are the result of collective assemblages where my own happiness is dependent on the happiness of those about me. But what, we might ask, is going on at the level of affects, what is going on at the level of bodily assemblages, to produce these ideas of affections accompany these affections?

Jodi Dean weighs in on The New Republic discussion:

Larval Subjects has some interesting posts on the New Republic attack piece on Zizek (he also has some links to other pieces in a similar vein that I haven’t looked at yet). My two cents: the NR piece relies on tactics standard in any attack on Zizek–emphasize singular points taken out of context. The primary orientation of the piece is liberal outrage such that anything critical of liberalism is by definition totalitarian and wrong (as clear an indication of the liberal-democratic denkverbot as I’ve ever seen, all the way to the endorsement of Arendt’s notion of totalitarianism). Is there anything, then, worth taking seriously? Perhaps.

First, I don’t think the best way to read Zizek is as an ironist (contra Sinthome).I think it’s important to read him as literally as possible, recognizing the breadth of his examples and illustrations. Another way to put it: when Zizek uses an obscene illustration, he means the obscenity as an obscenity. Part of the challenge of current conditions is the difficulty in finding something really obscene and having it be recognized.

Read the rest here.

Ecosophy over at Soft Subversions has written a very interesting riff on my post about the relationship between Guattari and Lacan:

In his personal diary (published in The Anti-Œdipus Papers) the self-styled schizoanalyst Felix Guattari details a meeting with Jacques Lacan (whose method of psychoanalysis Guattari trained in) prior to the publication of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Œdipus. In the meeting, Guattari articulated his concerns about psychoanalysis: “The point is to know if analysts will be agents of the established order or if they will stand up to their political responsibilities.” According to Guattari, Lacan replied: “I don’t care if there are any analysts. I’ve spent my whole life denouncing them.” Lacan’s point was that, by making this demand, Guattari was revealing his desire for a political form of psychoanalysis. What we find in Guattari’s work is not a desire to cure (a desire met with disapproval in Lacan’s essay ’Variations on the Standard Treatment’), but a desire to militate.

In schizoanalysis we are not, of course, negating the dominance of the effects of the castration complex. For Freud, this complex is desire that blocks itself, scares itself… But blocks itself on what? The body… Neurotics hang onto remainders, recompose rites, on their own bodies, and the Oedipus. (The Anti-Œdipus Papers, p.123-4)

The political responsibility which Guattari places on the analyst is to not allow the neurotic patient to recompose Oedipal rites on their bodies. This view can be easily translated back into Freud’s own vocabulary of binding and primary and secondary processes. If primary processes are bound on the body of Oedipus in a secondary process, then the analyst’s political responsibility is to avoid reifying Oedipus into a transcendent structure within which the individual finds a position. This is a political responsibility because it is the reification of Oedipus which then allows capitalism to suppress desire for its own purposes. For this reason, Guattari places the concept of “assemblage” (which implies a temporary, nomadic formation) in opposition to Freud’s use of the term “complex”. Perhaps a productive dialogue may begin between Guattari’s work and recent, psychoanalytically-informed political theory (Laclau, Zizek, Butler et cetera) if we found a way to talk of an Oedipal assemblage, but not a reified Oedipal complex.

Read the rest here.

Ecosophy puts the issue brilliantly– truly brilliantly –when he remarks that perhaps it would be possible to open a more fruitful dialogue between psychoanalytically inflected political theories and schizoanalysis were the question to be posed in terms of Oedipal assemblages (or in my language, networks) rather than Oedipal structures (cf. my post on this distinction here). One of the major accomplishments of Anti-Oedipus was both the linkage of Oedipal networks to the broader social and historical context, showing how the formation of subjectivity is not a private family affair, and their demonstration in chapter 3 that kinship and socio-political organization take on very different structures, are organized by very different machines, in different periods.

Here Deleuze and Guattari are targeting a central psychoanalytic dogma surrounding the transcendence and eternality of Oedipal structure. If this issue is of crucial importance, then this is because where the Oedipus is treated as a transcendent structure, were faced with what Lacan called a “forced vel of alienation”. That is, we’re faced with an either/or alternative where either choice is bad and the only choice is the lesser of two evils. In the case of treating Oedipus as a structure, were faced with a choice where, just as we must choose our life when the mugger says “your money or your life”, therefore sacrificing our jouissance, Oedipal structure gives us the stark alternative of neurotic resignation to castration or incoherent psychosis. In other words, we can choose meaning (the order of the signifier and the social) or being (jouissance), but cannot have both. As a consequence, the Oedipus becomes an apologetics for both capitalist structure and a support for the reigning status quo: “Either you accept neurosis and the reigning social order or you fall into anarchic and mute psychosis!”

I have encountered this myself in discussions with Lacanians. Thus, a year ago I got into it with two prominent Lacanians over whether or not other discourses beyond Lacan’s four were possible, and whether or not there were other forms of social organization not premised on the masculine and feminine graphs of sexuation with respect to the real and jouissance. Much to my surprise I was informed that these structures are eternal– like Platonic forms –and then that “other structures are not needed even if they are possible”, despite clear textual evidence to the contrary that Lacan himself envisioned the possibility of other discourse relations and saw neurosis as something unique to contemporary kinship structures. In other words, there was an extreme hostility to the treatment of these things as assemblages that, by virtue of being assemblages, could be changed and reorganized in a variety of ways.

In my view, the advantage of treating the Oedipus as an assemblage rather than as a structure is two-fold. On the one hand, it opens the possibility of other social formations, significantly increasing the number of political possibilities on the table. On the other hand, it responds to certain shortcomings I believe to be at work in Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. Based on my understanding, Anti-Oedipus poses the right question– “why do people will their own oppression” –and even gives the right answer– because of Oedipal or paranoid social structure –but it fails to give an adequate genetic or morphological account of just how subjects come to be Oedipalized or to accept the Oedipal order. If, as Deleuze and Guattari rightly argue, desire is productive, affirmative, and perpetually mobile, how does it come to occur that desiring-machines come to experience themselves as subjects, experience themselves as lacking, experience themselves as castrated, and yearn for a master? I’ve read Anti-Oedipus up and down and I simply can’t, for the life of me, find an answer to this question. The closest we get is something that sounds as if it is blaming theorists that discuss lack, castration, and the self-identical subject for these things. However, if 1) we can theorize Oedipal assemblages, and 2) we can give an account of how lack is manufactured or produced within affirmative and connective desire, then we can begin to build such an account and develop strategies for undermining this structure. The mistake, which is all too common among Deleuzians, lies in thinking that the illusions of lack and negation do not nonetheless have real effects and consequences. No doubt this mistake arises from a failure to read Kant on the topic of transcendental illusions.

In response to my post “Deleuze and Guattari avec Lacan“, Reid asks “What is the Borromean Clinic?” I confess that I am working through this myself, so I do not have a completely adequate answer. In many respects, this is the most and dense and difficult period of Lacan’s teaching, but it is also a period where he completely exceeds what he had developed in prior years, developing both an entirely new diagnostic system and new possibilities for the end of analysis.

In his Borromean period, Lacan shifts to a topology of the subject based on the borromean knot:


The first thing to notice with this curious knot is that no two of the rings are directly tied together as in the case of a Hopf chain:


Consequently, in the borromean knot, if any one of the rings are severed the other two rings fall away as well. In short, the consistence of the borromean knot arises only from the knotting of the three and the manner in which the strings pass over and under one another in the proper way. Lacan equated each of the three rings with one of his three orders– the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary (RSI) –corresponding to the order of ex-sistence (the real) or that which exists outside the symbolic, the order of the hole or lack introduced into being (the symbolic), and the order of consistency (the imaginary). However, it will be noted that each of the rings overlaps with the others forming points of intersection with the other rings like a Venn diagram:


Consequently, we can think the different orders together getting various combinations between the elements. Thus, for example, there can be a hole in the real, just as there is an ex-sistence in the symbolic (the letter as opposed to the signifier). Likewise, there can be a consistence in the symbolic (meaning), just as there can be a hole in the imaginary. And so on. As I said, I am still working through this myself, so I have not yet worked out the implications of all this.

Read on

« Previous PageNext Page »