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


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 However, while the awareness is withdrawn from consciousness by these displacements, Freud still thought that infantile sexual motivations remained at their core.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.


Reza Negarestani’s Ontology as Science of Cruelty and Deleuzean Excavation of the Architectonic. Thought of the Day 40.0


The problem of the principle of reason/ground is architectonic. As such it is the great theme of modern philosophy: how and where to begin? The two classical answers are provided by romanticism and enlightenment thinking. If there is a romantic side to Heidegger, as Deleuze says, then Meillassoux inherits and continues a long-standing tradition of enlightenment. Whereas the first always looks for a foundation or ground, even if it turns out be an abyss, the critical reason of the latter rabidly dismantles all grounds. Alternatively, Deleuze calls for a third answer which he calls modernism or constructivism and which always begins by the milieu (par le milieu). Instead of rising out of first principles like a tree from its roots, his metaphysics proliferates like a rhizome, never straying far from the events at the surface in a groping experimentation with the conditions of real experience. For Deleuze, the milieu is not the solid ground on which we stand, but neither is it an abyss or a void. Rather it is the fluctuating ground in which we must learn to swim. It is the element of the problematic as such, an element that matters and calls for an ethics of life. To think by the milieu means to think both without reference to a fixed ground yet also without separating thought from the forces it requires to exist. Whereas Meillassoux reinstalls the Kantian tribunal of reason and the generality of its judgments, Deleuze always emphasizes his own conditions of enunciation, i.e. the matters of concern that enable him to learn. While the anti-correlationist position is one of right, Deleuze’s own position is always one of fact.