Utopia Banished. Thought of the Day 103.0

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In its essence, utopia has nothing to do with imagining an impossible ideal society; what characterizes utopia is literally the construction of a u-topic space, a space outside the existing parameters, the parameters of what appears to be “possible” in the existing social universe. The “utopian” gesture is the gesture that changes the coordinates of the possible. — (Slavoj Žižek- Iraq The Borrowed Kettle)

Here, Žižek discusses Leninist utopia, juxtaposing it with the current utopia of the end of utopia, the end of history. How propitious is the current anti-utopian aura for future political action? If society lies in impossibility, as Laclau and Mouffe (Hegemony and Socialist Strategy Towards a Radical Democratic Politics) argued, the field of politics is also marked by the impossible. Failing to fabricate an ideological discourse and incapable of historicizing, psychoanalysis appears as “politically impotent” and unable to encumber the way for other ideological narratives to breed the expectation of making the impossible possible, by promising to cover the fissure of the real in socio-political relations. This means that psychoanalysis can interminably unveil the impossible, only for a recycling of ideologies (outside the psychoanalytic discourse) to attempt to veil it.

Juxtaposing the possibility of a “post-fantasmatic” or “less fantasmatic” politics accepts the irreducible ambiguity of democracy and thus fosters the prospect of a radical democratic project. Yet, such a conception is not uncomplicated, given that one cannot totally go beyond fantasy and still maintain one’s subjectivity (even when one traverses it, another fantasy eventually grows), precisely because fantasy is required for the coherence of the subject and the upholding of her desire. Furthermore, fantasy is either there or not; we cannot have “more” or “less” fantasy. Fantasy, in itself, is absolute and totalizing par excellence. It is the real and the symbolic that always make it “less fantasmatic”, as they impose a limit in its operation.

So, where does “perversion” fit within this frame? The encounter with the extra-ordinary is an encounter with the real that reveals the contradiction that lies at the heart of the political. Extra-ordinariness suggests the embodiment of the real within the socio-political milieu; this is where the extra-ordinary subject incarnates the impossible object. Nonetheless, it suggests a fantasmatic strategy of incorporating the real in the symbolic, as an alternative to the encircling of the real through sublimation. In sublimation we still have an (artistic) object standing for the object a, so the lack in the subject is still there, whereas in extra-ordinariness the subject occupies the locus of the object a, in an ephemeral eradication of his/her lack. Extra-ordinariness may not be a condition that subverts or transforms socio-political relations, yet it can have a certain political significance. Rather than a direct confrontation with the impossible, it suggests a fantasmatic embracing of the impossible in its inexpressible totality, which can be perceived as a utopian aspiration.

Following Žižek or Badiou’s contemporary views, the extra-ordinary gesture is not qualified as an authentic utopian act, because it does not traverse fantasy, it does not rewrite social conditions. It is well known that Žižek prioritizes the negativeness of the real in his rhetoric, something that outstrips any positive imaginary or symbolic reflection in his work. But this entails the risk of neglecting the equal importance of all three registers for subjectivity. The imaginary constitutes an essential motive force for any drastic action to take place, as long as the symbolic limit is not thwarted. It is also what keeps us humane and sustains our relation to the other.

It is possible to touch the real, through imaginary means, without becoming a post-human figure (such as Antigone, who remains the figurative conception of Žižek’s traversing of the fantasy). Fantasy (and, therefore, ideology) can be a source of optimism and motivation and it should not be bound exclusively to the static character of compensatory utopia, according to Bloch’s distinction. In as much as fantasy infuses the subject’s effort to grasp the impossible, recognizing it as such and not breeding the futile expectation of turning the impossible into possible (regaining the object, meeting happiness), the imaginary can form the pedestal for an anticipatory utopia.

The imaginary does not operate only as a force that disavows difference for the sake of an impossible unity and completeness. It also suggests an apparatus that soothes the realization of the symbolic fissure, breeding hope and fascination, that is to say, it stirs up emotional states that encircle the lack of the subject. Moreover, it must be noted that the object a, apart from real properties, also has an imaginary hypostasis, as it is screened in fantasies that cover lack. If our image’s coherence is an illusion, it is this illusion that motivates us as individual and social subjects and help us relate to each other.

The anti-imaginary undercurrent in psychoanalysis is also what accounts for renunciation of idealism in the democratic discourse. The point de capiton is not just a common point of reference; it is a master signifier, which means it constitutes an ideal par excellence. The master signifier relies on fantasy and imaginary certainty about its supreme status. The ideal embodied by the master is what motivates action, not only in politics, but also in sciences, and arts. Is there a democratic prospect for the prevalence of an ideal that does not promise impossible jouissance, but possible jouissance, without confining it to the phallus? Since it is possible to touch jouissance, but not to represent it, the encounter with jouissance could endorse an ideal of incompleteness, an ideal of confronting the limits of human experience vis-à-vis unutterable enjoyment.

We need an extra-ordinary utopianism to the extent that it provokes pre-fixed phallic and normative access to enjoyment. The extra-ordinary himself does not go so far as to demand another master signifier, but his act is sufficiently provocative in divulging the futility of the master’s imaginary superiority. However, the limits of the extra-ordinary utopian logic is that its fantasy of embodying the impossible never stops in its embodiment (precisely because it is still a fantasy), and instead it continues to make attempts to grasp it, without accepting that the impossible remains impossible.

An alternative utopia could probably maintain the fantasy of embodying the impossible, acknowledging it as such. So, any time fantasy collapses, violence does not emerge as a response, but we continue the effort to symbolically speculate and represent the impossible, precisely because in this effort resides hope that sustains our reason to live and desire. As some historians say, myths distort “truth”, yet we cannot live without them; myths can form the only tolerable approximation of “truth”. One should see them as “colourful” disguises of the achromous core of his/her existence, and the truth is we need more “colour”.

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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.

Exophysics versus Endophysics. Thought of the Day 36.0

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In exophysics, reality simply obeys naive existentialism, that is, the existence of molecules and mechanics forms the reality of the surrounding world. In endophysics, reality is attributable to an interface between an observer and the rest of the world. This unique reality is comparable with the Kantian ‘fake reality’, and/or psychoanalysis, but was able to be characterized in more scientific manner by Otto Rössler: namely, as an objective reality of a subjective type, by, for example, introducing a new concept of second causality as assignment conditions that are the third ingredient that makes it possible for any motion to appear endophysically in addition to the initial conditions and laws in the Newtonian dynamics. Countable macroobjects may not be countable in a microscopic level. Thus indistinguishability becomes essential in endophysics, and this seemingly becomes possible that an origin of individuality can be derived using this line, because how to prescribe the situation of being distinguishable is an essence of endophysics.

Mania of the Revisionary Narratives. Note Quote.

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For if Lacan is either symptom or agent of a theoretical turn, it is far from the “care of the self” imagined by this proposition because the French return to Freud explodes any ready notion of self-care. It also removes the props for identity politics. Poststructural psychoanalysis has been the key provocation of a turn to the identity-destabilizing work of the unconscious that, along with an unlikely ally in historicism, has galvanized the transition from transparent to unstable, internally divided, and overdetermined identity categories. The tense debates of the 1980s and 1990s between feminism and poststructuralism have without much fanfare yielded to a tacit consensus that, rather than invalidating politically engaged analysis, psychologically and historically mobile conceptualizations of gender make intellectual and political alliances possible across previously hostile discursive terrains. As self-difference opens the door to other differences, theorizations that emanate from one racial or sexual or class turf are more likely to provoke new questions than old accusations from competing grounds. We are just at the beginning of a generative process that encompasses not only the particularization that results from historical refinement and nuancing but also the elaboration of revisionary narratives: what happens when the dark plantation son retells the story of the primal horde, or when the racial shadow falls across the mirror stage, or the queer encounters and reforms the melancholic? Fracturing the subject has also poked holes in the walls that have divided psychoanalysis and history, launching a potentially interminable analysis.

Schelling, Iain Hamilton Grant and Differential Nature(s) 1.0

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Schelling has often been at the receiving end for his idiosyncrasies or the frequent jumps that he undertook providing a lack of synthetic conflation and therefore missing on a philosophical system. He has most importantly been confined to near total oblivion in the English-speaking fraternity of philosophers and has had to face rebarbative charges against him. Although, there are some sympathetic voices emanating from the continental tradition in trying to revive his importance, like Slavoj Zizek, who has extensively fused the German with Lacanian psychoanalysis, citing Marx’s critique of speculative idealism as derived from Schellingian formulations of post-Hegelian universe of finitude-contingency-temporality. Zizek even goes a step ahead by crediting Schelling over Heidegger as the progenitor of ‘Artificial Earth’. But, it is Grant’s ‘Philosophies of Nature After Schelling’, which takes up the issue of graduating Schelling to escape the accoutrements of Kantian and Fichtean narrow transcendentalism.

Schelling gave a new twist to understanding nature by going past the Kantian nature as subject to necessary laws, as for Kant, nature enjoyed a formal sense. Kant overlooks the phenomenological deficit by arguing for subject’s access to forms of intuition and categories to bear upon what it perceives. Schelling discovers the problematic by raising the issue of subject’s spontaneity to judge in terms of categories. This dynamism of ‘becoming’ is what incites Grant to look into the materialist vitalism in Schelling’s understanding of nature. Grant frees Schelling from the grips of narrow minded inertness and mechanicality in nature that Kant and Fichte had presented nature with. This idea is the Deleuzean influence on Grant. Kant himself pondered over this dilemma, but somehow couldn’t come to terms with subject taking a leap from its determinism in crafting episteme. For, if nature was formal in its adherence to necessary laws, then splitting this boundedness to nature from subject’s autonomous or self-determining cognitivity would arrest the leap from determinism. In a way, Kant falls into the pit that he tries to negotiate, but comes out in conceding to nature the generation of self-determining organisms that possibilizes disinterested aesthetic pleasure in his third critique.  It didn’t take Schelling any Herculean effort to underline the central problems with this position of Kant, but it has taken a path of deliberate neglect of Schelling’s discovery of nature as more subject than object in modern readings of the philosopher.

Grant affirms the cardinality of Schelling’s naturephilosophie as the core, rather than just a phase as against Heidegger’s proclamation of Schelling’s discovery of nature as a fleeting episode, despite Heidegger paying fullest respects to Schelling for his profoundest grasp of spirit because of his commencing from the philosophy of nature. In a remarkable tour de force, Grant takes the accusation of Eschenmayer’s against Schelling head on and helps resurface the identity between nature and history. This identity is derived from Schelling’s insistence on freedom arising from nature, as the latter’s final and most potentiating act, the idea that constantly irritated Eschenmayer. Nature is history also helped Schelling cut the umbilical cord between evolution and teleology, in that he could fix his impressions on Carl Friedrich Kielmeyer’s signaling of a new epoch in natural history, thus getting over with transcendental philosophy’s obsession with fixed forms. That the inertness of nature was already on the way of getting dislodged, was proved by Kielmeyer’s influence on the earliest programme of the German comparative Biology, by which Schelling had himself been mightily influenced. As Kielmeyer had noted in his writings,

“I myself would like to derive all variation in the material of inert nature from a striving for heterogenesis, analogous to that in the organism, in the soul of nature.”

Schelling and Kielmeyer were fellow travelers in the sense that both recognized the fundamental delusion of the Kantian possibility of using a piori principles in deducing external nature. Grant makes a very affirmative intervention in here, when he elevates Deleuzean admonition to the fact that only contemporary French philosophy offers a scathing attack on the modern philosophy since its inception by Descartes holding the verdict of ‘nature not existing for itself’. This whole notion of becoming over being is wrought about by seemingly imperceptibly small and infinitely many changes. Or as Schelling maintains:

“Nature admittedly makes no leap; but it seems to me that this principle is much misunderstood if we try to bring into a single class of things which nature has not only separated, but has itself opposed to one another. That principle says no more than this, that nothing which comes to be in nature comes to be by a leap; all becoming occurs in a continuous sequence.”

This continuous sequential becoming is what has made Schelling to look at forces more potently rather than at phenomena as the measure of the differentials between the things that are separated by nature, but only as factors pertaining to becoming. This is a direct supplement to Kielmeyerian account of natural history, converting the principles underlying transcendental philosophy from the phenomenal and the somatic nature to making the somatic into the phenomenal products of a priori dynamics,  without making the phenomenal somatic coextensive with nature as such.  Products as such, for Schelling were discontinuities in nature and therefore not in the real sense speculative, as this was based on the principle of an Idea of nature as against nature and as ‘materiality is not yet corporeality’.

 

other, another…..symbolically real or really symbolic: A Wounded Dialogue

This is an experimental post with a dialogue with the other and the other is simply nowhere or now-here, or whatever form it takes. A response to what is to be imagined, a collation of comments in argumentativeness with a piece that gets created with the answers coming prior to the questions. In short, a tryst with experiment.
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Thanks for a brilliant piece (call it an x, a y or a z….). here is my observation and maybe a criticism in disguise (not to be taken harshly, but in full sincerity of seriousness, I guess). I’ll have many more occasions to polish my viewpoint(s) through this symbolically real or really symbolic space!

The analysis that is so a-Freudian is a turn-on, as for Freud, the symbols worked not in the clear and distinctive propositional language of law, judgment or the ego. They worked through the process of displacement and condensation in the unconscious. This is where Lacan differs with Freud, as for the former, (x, y, or z) the ‘symbolic’ embodies the normalized and the law, and the ‘real’ in turn embodies the powers of resistance.

But, when you say, the critique and escape from the ‘symbolic’ realm is not only difficult, as one might think, it is literally impossible, then I have a nuance here. If we take a closer look at the Žižek’s position, the ‘real’, unlike the ‘symbolic’ and the ‘imaginary’ escapes the order of representation altogether. Going by the above, I think, a non-conscious attempt at luring the ‘real’ (as critique and escape) with the ‘symbolic’ is made. This would send Žižek into a labyrinth.

As a reference to ‘Derrida’ (surprisingly, he comes to rescue Žižek), the mention of rewriting the laws is made and I take it to be the real ‘real’, the resistance to the existing norms, a way to circumvent the aporia. This then, is the space of the ‘real’, the space of frenzy, the space envisioned by not only Žižek, but also Bataille, the space of the death drive and not the sex drive (reproduction). This is the space of ‘meontology’, the pure nothingness of the void in the Other, the pure materialization of the void and the snapping with the symbolic order.

Therefore, what gets favoured is the prerogative-ness of the real over the symbolic, albeit un-[consciously]. QED….

wait…
If the triad of the Lacanian/[s] are not separate entities allowing for the escapades into the other, but instead are the overlapping ones, then, where is the need to escape into the other? One is already dwelling in multiplicities and herein, I would correlate one’s acceptance of, say, capitalism, or the Marxian notion of commodity fetishism. Here, one would resist the symbolic, by, allow me to say this, fetishizing the real, a concept that you mention by the name of paranoia. Now, the problem here is the aggrandising of the political, the praxis or the paranoia of the praxis, wherein the resistance to break away simply fails because one is basing oneself on the symbolic. A catch 22 or a catch between Scylla and Charybdis.

The creation of minor big others is a good way you have put it, but, then I feel this would relegate us to ever resisting, but ever elusive ‘real’. That is why I said the concept as aggrandizement of the political.

Do we have a choice?
What about Durkheimian idea of the symbolic as the conscience collective, to be dealt with deviance or the pathological through its exclusion.

wait once again…..
If only the assumption of their being trapped inside the blackhole could be true, they would not have reached the houeholds of cultural studies pundits so much so as they have. Your writing style is so post-colonial critique type and this is a challenging (read only challenging) read (whether you intend it or not).

Lastly, iam reminded of a saying by Malone:

Now, it is time for me to wait to figure out, what is this all about?
As I said in the beginning, only an experiment, where the piece that is being targeted or commented upon is not to be discovered anywhere within the text, but remains silently within the apparatus of comments. Why so Althusserian a term? Only so frustrating.
In all likelihood, I would want to polish this further and in all likelihood this would not materialize. Wanting to do it, but won’t be doing it: crazy dialetheism.