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. 

animal, art, becoming, flesh, freud, guattari, human, lacan, machine, ontology, space, territory

It Means Becoming Human

But he [Lacan] did not realize the consequences of his rupture with Freudian determinism, and didn’t appropriately situate “desiring machines” — whose theory he had iniated — within incorporeal fields of virtuality. This object-subject of desire, like strange attractors in chaos theory, serves as an anchorage point with a phase space (here, a universe of reference) without ever being identical to itself, in permanent flight on a fractal line. In this respect it is not only fractal geometry that must be invoked, but fractal ontology. It is the being itself which transforms, buds, and transfigures itself. The objects of art and desire are apprehended within the existential Territories which are at the same time the body proper, the self, the maternal body, lived space, refrains of the mother tongue, familiar faces, family lore, ethnicity… No existential approach has priority over another. Thus it’s not a question of a causal infrastructure and of a superstructure representative of the psyche, or of a world separated from sublimation. The flesh of sensation and the material of the sublime are inextricably interwoven. Relationship to the other does not proceed through identification with a preexisting icon, inherent to each individual. The image is carried by a becoming other, ramified in becoming animal, becoming plant, becoming machine and, on occasion, becoming human.

Felix Guattari, Chaosmosis

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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affect, becoming, body, celerity, cosmos, double, event, freud, God, gravity, Interpretation, liberation, machine, model, outside, resonance

Affectivity, or What is an Event?

Events are volcanic. The event opens upon an outside, a beyond, a resonant and enigmatic depth. Events move the world, releasing free and untamed vibrations within and without us. They place being into relation with exteriority. But how does evental resonance work?

When the new breaks free it is almost like it suddenly becomes “permitted” to us to learn to see all over again. Perhaps it would be better to say: we are allowed to learn to feel all over again. Events never fail to connect up with an outside; they are erupting continually from underneath those powerful, serious and “grounding” forces which served to maintain the distance, to suppress the joyous escape of the event.
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alienation, death drive, Eros, eros and civilzation, freud, herbert marcuse, metaphysics, pleasure, psychology, reality, superego, unconscious

Notes on Eros and Civilization


Notes on Eros and Civilization

In Eros and Civilization, Herbert Marcuse presents Freud at the level of metaphysical psychology. That is: we find Freud engaged in overturning “conventional” metaphysics through psychoanalysis — methodically substituting pleasure and imagination for reason and logic — but paradoxically in so doing he produces a “theoretical” practice which, through its “diagnostic” methodologies and even in its “axiomatic” structure, still reflect profoundly traditional conceptions of humanity. For example, Freud analyzes the principle or essence of being (of organic life) as Eros — in contrast to the traditional understanding of being as Logos. This ontological dimension revealed in psychoanalysis is what allows Freud to interpret Eros as corresponding in a ubiquitous way to the death drive. The erotic instinct and the death drive are fused together in Freud’s interpretation in precisely the same way as the metaphysical principles of being and of non-being.

Freud interprets being in terms of Eros, repeating a formative moment in Plato’s philosophy — a conception of culture not as a repressive sublimation, but as the “free self-development of Eros.” (Marcuse notes that even in Plato this concept presents itself as an archaic-mythical remnant or “residue.”) So being strives for pleasure, which becomes an aim for organic life — human culture in particular: “The erotic impulse to combine living substance into ever larger and more durable units is the instinctual source of civilization.” (125) In short, the sex instincts are life instincts, principles of organic being: “the impulse to preserve and enrich life by mastering nature in accordance with the developing vital needs is originally an erotic impulse.” (125) The struggle for existence is not the unending struggle against death, but originally a struggle for pleasure: “culture begins with the collective implementation of this aim.” The erotic desire is organizational, super-ordinary; but it is only much later that the striving for existence itself becomes organized in order to dominate life.

In this repressive organization the erotic basis of culture is “transformed.” On this point especially, most revisions of Freudianism have meant regression: “The assumption of any special instinct begs the question, but the assumption of a special ‘mastery instinct’ does even more: it destroys the entire structure and dynamic of the ‘mental apparatus’ which Freud has built. Moreover, it obliterates the most repressive features of the performance principle by interpreting them as gratification of an instinctual need.” (219) Perhaps Lacan is guilt of this in particular: labor in general, and especially the “work” of psychoanalysis (transference,) is presented purely and simply as the chief social manifestation of the reality principle.

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chaos, culture, freud, materiality, metaphysics, Nietzsche, resistance, society, subject-group, time, unconscious, value

Time and the Cultural Unconscious: Nietzsche and the Future

Woman at the Window Salvador Dalí, oil on board (1925)

What do we understand to be the boundaries of our neighbor: I mean that which he as it were engraves and impresses himself into and upon us? We understand nothing of him except the change in us of which he is cause — our knowledge of him is like the hollow space which has been shaped. (Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak 118)

Stripped of its social connotations, tolerance and democracy mean only a desire to say that the external is gone, what belongs (inside) is all; and there are plenty who say it, whether or not it is true! Our existence as social subjects is socially constructed; thus what once seemed outrageous now seems trivial and preliminary. Perhaps our age, though more complex in some ways, is ultimately not so different from Nietzsche’s: for what always matters more than metaphysics is how we actually measure and compare human beings; and now, being without Gods or absolutes to function as a universal scale, where are we to turn? “Actions are never what they appear to us to be!” (Daybreak 116) Still it is always the same story: we turn away, we cannot bear the intensity of the material, we desperately grasp outside, we look beyond for a vision capable of grasping all of being at once.

Metaphysics is done not from luxury but out of dire necessity: above all, we look away from the world, we repress space (culture-space, nature-space, psychic-space): this need for specificity-within-multiplicity is the name as such, the shape of all social oppression, the very cost of ‘civilization.’ Metaphysics traces lines beyond social forms into the formless, the chaotic and subversive turbulence beneath the turgid surface of politics, the violence beneath the ideal image, the flux between the forms. All language is a struggle between times; a struggle within time to overcome time. Language is temporality posed as a challenge; it is a creative space, positive in its empty smoothness, but eerily mute, insufficient in and of itself to initiate the vibrations of a new becoming.
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daybreak, desire, difference, ethics, freud, joy, Nietzsche, Politics, style, text, unconscious, Zen

Nietzsche and the Unconscious: Ethics, Desire, Politics

Cy Twombly, Untitled
Cy Twombly, Untitled [1970. Oil-based house paint and crayon on canvas. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Photo: © 2004 Matthew Septimus]

Granted that nothing is ‘given’ as real except our world of desires and passions, that we can rise or sink to no other ‘reality’ than the reality of our drives – for thinking is only the relationship of these drives to one another: is it not permitted to make the experiment and ask the question whether this which is given does not suffice for an understanding even of the so-called mechanical (or ‘material’) world? … Granted finally that one succeeded in explaining our entire instinctual life as the development and ramification of one basic form of will as will to power, as is my theory; granted that one could trace all organic functions back to this will to power … one would have acquired the right to define all efficient force unequivocally as: will to power. The world seen from within, the world described and defined according to its ‘intelligible character’- it would be ‘will to power’ and nothing else. (Beyond Good and Evil)

My goal in this paper to develop a theory about the role of the concept of the unconscious in Nietzsche’s later writings. Many commentators have decided there is not one, but many functions of the unconscious in Nietzsche’s work. As it often is, the question about Nietzsche is his polyvocality: he speaks from so many voices, which one is “his”? We have needed for a long time to show definitively his continuity of intensity throughout the multiplicity of adopted perspectives. It is not his position on this or that problem which “makes” him Nietzsche; it is his subtle ability to jump in and out of problems, his refinement of spirit which accepts no resentment, no guilt, no shame — nothing but affirmation. We do not have space for such a broad rediscovery of the body of Nietzsche. In this paper I want to focus narrowly on what would be a necessary part of such a rediscovery. I shall try to demonstrate the complex relationship which Nietzsche describes between the unconscious and the political. Exploring this relationship will allow us to show the inter-relations in Nietzsche’s text between the functions of desire, ethics and sexuality. In particular, we will read Daybreak and The Gay Science for a theory of the unconscious as it relates to these themes.
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