Negation. Thought of the Day 99.0

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Negation reveals more a neurotic attitude towards jouissance, denounced as a perverse desire, that dominates both political and social life. Negation presupposes the acquisition of the meaning of “No” and it suggests a vigorous and compromising attitude between an idea remaining unconscious (repressed) and conscious at the same time. Thus, to negate means to go against the law and succumb to jouissance in a concealed way. Negating castration releases a destructive force against the paternal function, a force fuelled with jouissance. It is not the symbolic reality, but the non-symbolic real as a threatening source that is being negated. This means that the real is actually expressed through symbolic means, but in a negative form. Disavowal, involves a sexualization of the object precluding the threat of castration as punishment. But the threat is still there in the unconscious, whereas negation means that castration is negated even in the unconscious. Negation does not suggest a compromise (in the form of a splitting of the ego) between the denial of something and its acceptance, as disavowal does. Rather, it maintains the repressed status of castration by allowing the latter to be unconsciously expressed in its negated status. So, negation has a more hostile and aggressive attitude (originating in the death drive) towards castration, whereas disavowal originates in Eros. Disavowal does not go against castration, but keeps it at bay by not acknowledging it, which is different from negating it. In this way, the sexualization of the object (the mother’s phallus) remains intact. Therefore, the responsibility for extracting jouissance is also negated.

Freudian Masochism, a Metaphysical Reasoning. Thought of the Day 74.0

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As he was outlining his theory of libido motivation, Freud developed his earliest views on masochism. In this theory, sexual drives were invoked as basic motivators of all kinds of behaviors. He proposed that masochism, as a sexual perversion, results from a fixation on or regression to a form of infantile sexuality. One pays the price for pleasure, accepting pain as an appeasement for castration, stressing one’s helplessness, or denying sadistic impulses.

However, as he later propounded his theory of the interaction of the ego and the superego, the concept of masochism came to be broadened to include nonsexual forms of masochism. Freud analyzes three forms of masochism in this later elaboration. They are erotogenic, feminine, and moral. Primary (erotogenic) masochism is the root of the other two, which are properly variants upon it. In defining primary masochism he returns to the notion from the 1905 work, (Three essays on the theory of sexuality) to suggest that the polymorphous perverse character of infantile sexuality, within which any intense stimulus may be erotically stimulating, is the foundation of erotogenic masochism. This is insufficient, however, and he later adds the concept of instinctual fusing, which is the merging of the erotic and death-oriented interests into a single instinctual expression. “Masochism subjugates the death drive: it is thus, however idiosyncratically, life affirming.” The critical step here, for later developments in literature and culture at large, is the formulation of the category of “moral masochism.” Moral masochism is a more generalized realm of behavior and is missing the explicitly sexual character of erotogenic masochism. In moral masochism humiliation and failure replace physical pain and punishment. The individual providing the punishment is no longer immediately present in the environment of the individual. Rather, it comes to be felt as “Fate, destiny, or God” who wields the cudgels of failure and frustration. However, while the awareness is withdrawn from consciousness by these displacements, Freud still thought that infantile sexual motivations remained at their core. This stylization of masochism, absent of its sexual and erotic components, has passed readily into the popular imagination and lexicon.

However, not content with these theories, and still troubled by masochism, Freud finally proposed a radical explanation for masochism that was one of  his most controversial ideas. He awarded self-destructive impulses the status of instinct, ultimately more powerful than the life instincts. He proposed that “beyond the pleasure principle” there was an even more basic “death instinct”. This very speculative theory is not generally held within psychoanalysis today, and is based on some of Freud’s most metaphysical reasoning.

Paradox of Phallocentrism. Thought of the Day 34.0

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The paradox of phallocentrism in aIl its manifestations is that it depends on the image of the castrated woman to give order and meaning to its world. An idea of woman stands as lynch pin to the system: it is her lack that produces the phallus as a symbolic presence, it is her desire to make good the lack that the phallus signifies. The function of woman in forming the patriarchal unconscious is two-fold. She first symbolises the castration threat by her real absence of a penis, and second thereby raises her child into the symbolic. Once this has been achieved, her meaning in the process is at an end, it does not last into the world of law and language except as a memory which oscillates between memory of maternal plenitude and memory of lack. Both are posited on nature (or on anatomy in Freud’s famous phrase). Woman’s desire is subjected to her image as bearer of the bleeding wound, she can exist only in relation to castration and cannot transcend it. She turns her child into the signifier of her own desire to possess a penis (the condition, she imagines, of entry into the symbolic). Either she must gracefully give way to the word, the Name of the Father and the Law, or else struggle to keep her child down with her in the half-light of the imaginary. Woman then stands in patriarchal culture as signifier for the male other, bound by a symbolic order in which man can live out his phantasies and obsessions through linguistic command by imposing them on the silent image of woman still tied to her place as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning.