aesthetics, beauty, escape, God, kant, psychoanalysis


World War I, Wasily Kandinsky

World War I, Wasily Kandinsky

A man like Kant can explain the beautiful in terms of a pure disinterested pleasure — such a knotted definition is not in itself surprising, nor is the kind of cynicism about the potential and limitations of life which is quite effectively communicated thereby. What is curious is that he in fact means to enhance the importance of artistic creation by converting the unsettling power of the artist into a kind of channel to a familiar universality. Is the beautiful not, then, grasped – but grasped in precisely at its most narrow and isolated state, through a transcendental enframing, even as an annihilation of life itself: as a kind of dazzling infinition which nonetheless does not interact with our conscious interest but with our immaterial, intangible “soul”?

There is even almost a kind of foundational axiom of psychoanalysis embedded in Kant’s definition (of course a paradox): there is no pleasure except in losing the possibility for pleasure — the glare of infinite Being when one has finally completely lost one’s identity, and dissolved oneself into the universal (father-mother)… The deep pessimism expressed in this kind of escape, this resentment of life which is by no means peculiar to Kant, is nevertheless quite clearly the pulsing thread underlying his patchwork labor in his “critiques” of the mournful becoming of things. We find in psychoanalysis as well such a stoic willingness to defend the infinite ‘metaphysical’ essence which refuses to escapes its container: and always he leaves open the possibility that human beings are indeed the receptacles of divine messages, channels of pure truth. Frames…

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coding, Deleuze and Guattari, dream, freud, joyce, production, psychoanalysis, unconscious, writing





“When I’m dreaming back like that I begins to see we’re only all telescopes.”

Joyce, Finnegans Wake



Dream-analysis does not necessitate an affirmation of the existence of universal structures of expression; it need not amount to the tiresome interpretation of the same hidden message over and over again, wherein the forms of thinking and speaking and finally reality itself are rendered identical, cruelly reduced to a single and all-encompassing formula. It suffices to mention that the good doctor Freud would have us believe the dream-work is essentially uncreative, that it amounts in the end to an organic process of coding, one of unsteady translation between the sleeping consciousness and the passive unconscious, producing a kind of dense hieroglyphic writing which must then be interpreted through an analytic exchange. 

The dream understood as writing (even schizowriting) becomes poisoned; the dream taken as representation leaves us only with a kind of mindless condensation and confusion of many distinct memories. Even so, the messages are too free; Freud always seems to lose sight here, missing the material process of decoding unfolding before his eyes. We miss the dream-work entirely, we find only translation instead of production. Freud is neither the last nor first scientist to seek relentlessly to crush singularity in favor the universal — a strange moment where it seems reason itself has gone mad, engaging itself in an infinite and searching analysis “beneath” for some powerful and profoundly-hidden writing. It is this desire for some universal “meaning” disseminating itself through the dream in a distorted form which necessitates the uncreativity, the non-productive character Freud ascribes of the dreamwork. And thus the dream has already frozen, and becomes a little analysis in itself.

The interminability of the analysis corresponds precisely with this frozen process, this hideous arresting of the infinite circulation of the dream. It is only possible to open psychoanalysis to the outside by arresting its own process of continuous interpretation: “No longer are there acts to explain, dreams or phantasies to interpret, childhood memories to recall, words to make signify; there are colors and sounds, becomings and intensities… There is no longer a Self that feels, acts and recalls; there is a ‘glowing fog, a dark yellow mist’ that has affects and experiences movements, speeds.” (ATP 180) It is clear enough a non-productive unconscious could not produce a cure; such an unconscious could only accept one imposed from without, a cure intended to code and crush desire — to normalize our unconscious, not to assist its process of production. 

actualization, Adorno, Aristotle, contradiction, freedom, freud, identity, image of thought, Minima Moralia, minor ethics, Negative Dialectics, Negativity, Normativity, psychoanalysis

From a Melancholy Science to a Negative Diale(c)t(h)ics

Everyone will agree that it is of the highest importance to know whether we are not duped by morality. Emmanuel Levinas—Totality and Infinity


It is a question of attaining this will that the event creates in us…It is a question of becoming a citizen of the world—Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense [1]

From a Melancholy Science towards a Negative Diale(c)t(h)ics

Adorno’s ethics is a “melancholy science” because it has grown weary of the subject. In other words, Adorno’s ethics is both pessimistic and antagonistic because it aims to critique the processes of subjectification which the dominant society (re)produces. On the one hand, Adorno analyzes the principium individuationis of modern society, but on the other he does not subsume it to a dialectic which would lay claim to totality through a unifying principle of identity. Yet Adorno’s critique of modes of subjectification and individuation are always brought back to the society through which they are socially and economically determined. This is what allows his ethics the means to sharpen its critical edge. The main thrust of this ethics is to assert a radical critique of the substantiality of the subject and to fully do away with the absolute, constitutive nature of the self [2] founded upon a transcendent God [3]. In following this critique through its development in a negative dialectic, we will say that Adorno’s analyses constitute a minor ethics because they submit the major mode to a critique that attempts to dislodge the dominant image of thought [4] from its normative pretensions.
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anti-philosophy, badiou, deconstruction, Deleuze, difference, heidegger, lacan, levinas, mathematics, metaphysics, negation, poetry, psychoanalysis, unity, writing

Metaphysics beyond Psychoanalysis: The Unconscious, Language and Reality after Heidegger and Deleuze


Metaphysics beyond Psychoanalysis

0: Entryways

“What does it matter how many lovers you have if none of them gives you the universe?”

“Lacan never pursues purely philosophical objectives.”

Questions, not meanings, are forgotten. May we therefore at last refrain from inquiring what psychoanalysis means, or asking what it is supposed to signify? And, since this alone is clearly insufficient, could it also be possible to take a cautious step “backwards,” simply in order to ask: which psychoanalysis, and how does it work? Where, when, and how much is it thinking? Where and why does it forget (merging imperceptibly here with a mythical alien outside, or fading transparently there into an empirical illusion)? From what eerily formal abyss “must” the “truth” must be continuously salvaged? Why these specific fixations, abstract algorithms and “critical” meta-languages — and in what ways are these translated (and transformed) into applications as clinical practice?

The history of psychoanalysis is a torus, and offers few instances of non-paradoxical theoretical encounters. It is in this sense that Lacan’s project of critically deconstructing the “origins” of (post-Freudian) psychoanalysis could be said to follow analogically — or even metaphorically — from Heidegger’s project of ungrounding (Platonic) metaphysics via a “detour” through the Pre-Socratics. In a different but curiously parallel way, Deleuze’s distaste for — and now subtle, now overt subversion of — Lacan, especially his analysis of desire (bordering at times on a strange kind of “power struggle” within psychoanalysis not unlike Lacan’s own break with the analysts of his early career) can indeed be said to mirror Levinas’ tense and passionate struggle with Heidegger over the question of desire — which, not coincidentally, Heidegger also characterizes as structured around a central lack.

In terms of contemporary theory, Laruelle and Badiou’s anti- or non-philosophy could be said to present a similarly-effective overturning of literary-deconstructive methods — we find a deceptive model of this technique in the work of Derrida, and in a different sense, the work of Deleuze and Guattari. Badiou’s position could be baldly summarized as a critique of what is really a humanistic or “centralizing,” isolationist move within theory, which claims to be the opposite, or “de-centralizing” — while ancient philosophy suffered badly from a similar “axiomatic” illusion as well, it is especially modern thinkers whose theory is built starting from a promise (instead of a premise,) and so filled with convincing but misleading interpretations of facts (rather than taking a de-subjectivized scientific position capable of producing a rigorous analysis of the “facts” of the matter.) Laruelle expresses this “inhumanism,” or post-metaphysical materialism, particularly rigorously: only science is really capable of moving thought beyond the philosophical as such.

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formula, lacan, Poe, psychoanalysis, Purloined Letter, repetition, signifier, structuralism, subject

Lacan and the Formula of the “Purloined Letter”


Now, it seems more and more clear to us that this subject who speaks is beyond the ego…It’s also the question…to what extent does the symbolic relation, the relation of language, retain its value beyond the subject, in as much as it may be characterized as centred in an ego –by an ego, for an alter-ego? –Jacques Lacan, “Odd or even? Beyond intersubjectivity,”The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book II p. 175, 177.

In his second seminar, before introducing his thoughts on Poe’s “Purloined Letter,” Jacques Lacan raises the question of the “relation of signification to the living man” (186). In general, Lacan sees this story as revolving around problems of signification, meaning, received opinion and truth. What seems to animate Lacan in this early seminar is the fact that Poe’s story places intersubjectivity at its core, highlighting the dynamics at work in the different subjective positions that are oriented in the symmetrical series of the story. When Lacan tells us that “The subject adopts a mirror position, enabling him to guess the behavior of his adversary,” he is both simultaneously referring to the game of odds and even and to a later interpretation that sees the Minister taking the position of the Queen and becoming-femininized. How does this displacement of series take place? By hiding the letter in plain sight as the Queen does at the beginning of the story, the Minister foils the police (linked to the position of the State and the King) while at the same time repeating the Queen’s very actions: so one of the key questions is to reconstruct how the signifier performs this work in the series and what this means for Lacan’s conceptualization of signifying chains as a whole.

As Lacan reminds us, the letter itself is a character. At the same time, it is the presence-absence that allows the series to be composed as such (around which the King, Queen, Minister and Dupin revolve). The letter is the mighty signifier that constitutes the chain; as Lacan writes in his seminar in the Ecrits: “If what Freud discovered, and rediscovers ever more abruptly, has a meaning, it is that the signifier’s displacement determines subjects’ acts, destiny, refusals, blindnesses, success, and fate…” (21). The letter constitutes the signifying chains that come to dominate the signified symbolic universes that structure and tie the story’s characters together. If the signifier has priority over the signified (20) this is due to the fact that Lacan believes that the signifier is what represents the subject for another signifier. The subject oscillates between two signifying chains, S1 and S2 (which relate to the two series in Poe’s story). These chains come to symbolically structure the intersubjective relations among subjects (by definition) because the same master signifier (the letter) dominates both chains. In other words, the force of Lacan’s quote above resides in what he identifies as the formula behind Poe’s story.

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aristocracy, Christianity, evaluation, evil, good, human, judgment, life, morality, nobility, origin of language, power, psychoanalysis, question, reality, subject, the future, utility, value

Evaluating Value

Under what conditions did men invent for themselves these value judgments good and evil? And what inherent value do they have? Have they hindered or fostered human well-being up to now? Are they a sign of some emergency, of impoverishment, of an atrophying life?

Or is it the other way around—do they indicate fullness, power, a will for living, courage, confidence, the future?

Friedrich Nietzsche, Preface to the Genealogy of Morals

Why is this work a genealogy of morals? Nietzsche does not ask for the origins of good and evil as essences. Nor even does he ask for the conditions of possibility for good and evil as judgments. In fact, he proposes a third and entirely more subtle question, concerning the “conditions” under which these value judgments (“good” and “evil”) were first invented — he presumes that they were invented by human beings — and perhaps owing to this assumption, he immediately turns to question the inherent value of these value judgments themselves. To be precise, he asks what inherent value they possess — whether, for instance, they have so far hindered or fostered human beings.

We already grasp here in rough outline a critique of the metaphysics of morality — what we may perhaps call an extrusion of the irrational “core” or “substrate” of moral valuations — which seeks to question the value of morality itself. To put it briefly, this “question mark so black” asks about the worth of the “unegoistic,” the value of the pity-instinct — in short, it questions the value of ascetic values. The problem of pity is not an isolated question mark, but in fact demands a critique of moral values whose first object is to question the very value of these values. In other words, we need “a knowledge of the conditions and circumstance out of which these values grew, under which they have developed and changed” — the kind of knowledge which not only has not been available until now, but has not even been wished for.

The value of moral values has been taken as given, self-evident, beyond dispute — i.e., that “good” men are more valuable than “evil” men — but Nietzsche asks us to pause before common sense, and consider the possibility that the opposite were true: “What if in the ‘good’ there lay a symptom of regression, something like a danger, a seduction, a poison, a narcotic, something which makes the present live at the cost of the future?”

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Deleuze, delirium, God, molecular multiplicity, psychoanalysis, Rimbaud, schizophrenia, Schreber, translation, video

Deleuze and Schizophrenia

[My translation follows. A particular difficulty of Deleuze's unique expressions here is that a verbal form of ‘delirium’ is often used in the original French and in its Italian rendition. I have used the word ‘hallucinate’ to translate ‘delire’ and related words, but have tried to keep the word ‘delirium’ and ‘delirious’ whenever possible.’]

Perhaps schizophrenia reveals something that comes to us in pieces, always transforming, constantly enough and everywhere. Don’t stop to be taken, kidnapped, dragged away. But from what?

It is always and only the father, like Schreber’s father. Schreber’s father, the sun and his father, the god and father, etc., etc.

This is what has always impressed me about schizophrenia; that, even in their misery and their pain, there is no shortage of humor.

It feels very dry to have to say this, to hear this spoken. They agree. They have, first of all, a strong desire to be popular, to make you happy [to be ‘cured’ to you.] Or they get angry, and they only want to be left in peace.

There was once a television program on schizophrenia in which a perfect schizophrenic asks for a cigarette. The psychiatrist, I don’t know why, she denied it to him. Understand, when you say things like “you hallucinate a sun, I find the sun and your father,” how you expect a schizophrenic to answer?

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