Monday, March 30, 2015

From "Desire" to "Drive", Embracing the "Event"

The Lacanian Subject not only provides an excellent introduction into the fundamental coordinates of Jacques Lacan's conceptual network; it also proposes original solutions to (or at least clarifications of) some of the crucial dilemmas left open by Lacan's work. The principal two among them are the notion of "love beyond Law" mentioned by Lacan in the very last page of his Seminar XI, 1 and the no less enigmatic thesis of the late Lacan according to which, at the end of psychoanalytic treatment, the subject becomes its own cause. Since these two points run against the predominant doxa on Lacan (love as a narcissistic misrecognition which obscures the truth of desire; the irreducibly decentred status of the subject), it is well worth the while to elaborate them.

"Love beyond Law" involves a "feminine" sublimation of drives into love. As Bruce Fink emphasizes again and again, love is here no longer merely a narcissistic (mis)recognition to be opposed to desire as the subject's 'truth' but a unique case of direct asexual sublimation (integration into the order of the signifier) of drives, of their jouissance, in the guise of the asexual Thing (music, religion, etc.) experienced in the ecstatic surrender. 2 What one should bear in mind apropos of this love beyond Law, this direct asexual sublimation of drive, is that it is inherently nonsensical, beyond meaning: meaning can only take place within the (symbolic) Law; the moment we trespass the domain of Law, meaning changes into enjoy-meant, jouis-sense.3

Insofar as, according to Lacan, at the conclusion of psychoanalytic treatment, the subject assumes the drive beyond fantasy and beyond (the Law of) desire, this problematic also compels us to confront the question of the conclusion of treatment in all its urgency. If we discard the discredited standard formulas ("reintegration into the symbolic space", etc.), only two options remain open: desire or drive. That is to say, either we conceive the conclusion of treatment as the assertion of the subject's radical openness to the enigma of the Other's desire no longer veiled by fantasmatic formations, or we risk the step beyond desire itself and adopt the position of the saint who is no longer bothered by the Other's desire as its decentred cause. In the case of the saint, the subject, in an unheard-of way, "causes itself", becomes its own cause. Its cause is no longer decentred, i.e., the enigma of the Other's desire no longer has any hold over it. How are we to understand this strange reversal on which Fink is quite justified to insist? In principle, things are clear enough: by way of positing itself as its own cause, the subject fully assumes the fact that the object-cause of its desire is not a cause that precedes its effects but is retroactively posited by the network of its effects: an event is never simply in itself traumatic, it only becomes a trauma retroactively, by being 'secreted' from the subject's symbolic space as its inassimilable point of reference. In this precise sense, the subject "causes itself" by way of retroactively positing that X which acts as the object-cause of its desire. This loop is constitutive of the subject. That is, an entity that does not 'cause itself' is precisely not a subject but an object. 4 However, one should avoid conceiving this assumption as a kind of symbolic integration of the decentred Real, whereby the subject 'symbolizes', assumes as an act of its free choice, the imposed trauma of the contingent encounter with the Real. One should always bear in mind that the status of the subject as such is hysterical: the subject 'is' only insofar as it confronts the enigma of Che vuoi? - "What do you want?" - insofar as the Other's desire remains impenetrable, insofar as the subject doesn't know what kind of object it is for the Other. Suspending this decentring of the cause is thus strictly equivalent to what Lacan called "subjective destitution", the de- hystericization by means of which the subject loses its status as subject.

The most elementary matrix of fantasy, of its temporal loop, is that of the "impossible" gaze by means of which the subject is present at the act of his/her own conception. What is at stake in it is the enigma of the Other's desire: by means of the fantasy-formation, the subject provides an answer to the question, 'What am I for my parents, for their desire?' and thus endeavours to arrive at the 'deeper meaning' of his or her existence, to discern the Fate involved in it. The reassuring lesson of fantasy is that "I was brought about with a special purpose".5 Consequently, when, at the end of psychoanalytic treatment, I "traverse my fundamental fantasy", the point of it is not that, instead of being bothered by the enigma of the Other's desire, of what I am for the others, I "subjectivize" my fate in the sense of its symbolization, of recognizing myself in a symbolic network or narrative for which I am fully responsible, but rather that I fully assume the uttermost contingency of my being. The subject becomes 'cause of itself' in the sense of no longer looking for a guarantee of his or her existence in another's desire.

Another way to put it is to say that the "subjective destitution" changes the register from desire to drive. Desire is historical and subjectivized, always and by definition unsatisfied, metonymical, shifting from one object to another, since I do not actually desire what I want. What I actually desire is to sustain desire itself, to postpone the dreaded moment of its satisfaction. Drive, on the other hand, involves a kind of inert satisfaction which always finds its way. Drive is non-subjectivized ("acephalic"); perhaps its paradigmatic expressions are the repulsive private rituals (sniffing one's own sweat, sticking one's finger into one's nose, etc.) that bring us intense satisfaction without our being aware of it-or, insofar as we are aware of it, without our being able to do anything to prevent it.

In Andersen's fairy tale The Red Shoes, an impoverished young woman puts on a pair of magical shoes and almost dies when her feet won't stop dancing. She is only saved when an executioner cuts off her feet with his axe. Her still-shod feet dance on, whereas she is given wooden feet and finds peace in religion. These shoes stand for drive at its purest: an 'undead' partial object that functions as a kind of impersonal willing: 'it wants', it persists in its repetitive movement (of dancing), it follows its path and exacts its satisfaction at any price, irrespective of the subject's well-being. This drive is that which is 'in the subject more than herself': although the subject cannot ever 'subjectivize' it, assume it as 'her own' by way of saying 'It is I who want to do this!' it nonetheless operates in her very kernel. 6 As Fink's book reminds us, Lacan's wager is that it is possible to sublimate this dull satisfaction. This is what, ultimately, art and religion are about.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Love Beyond Law"

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Pampered and Privileged Man's Lament

This poor, poor man! Like Kafka's "Josephine", he has to work and not just pipe all day!
I've recently perused the work of Maslow,
who's well-known for his quite perceptive claims:
he says the needs that every person has go
from basic ones like food to higher aims.
The Physiological needs come first - survival
requires us to eat, to drink, to sleep.
When those are met, then Safety starts to rival
them for attention, since we have a deep
desire to be protected. Then comes Love
and Belonging: we need family and friends
to stave off loneliness. And then above
this stage, there's self-Esteem. Our health depends
on these four all being met, so motivation
impels us to Self-actualisation.
- Discoveria, "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs"

Monday, March 23, 2015

Subjective Physics

Problems arise from not understanding the limits of objectivity in scientific research, especially when results are generalized. Given that the object selection and measurement process are typically subjective, when results of that subjective process are generalized to the larger system from which the object was selected, the stated conclusions are necessarily biased.
from Wikipedia

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Song to Drive FreeThinke Nuts

Ying and it's yang
felt inside a surge
to sing their song;
being witness to this
immortal moment,
we stood up and said
'The accompaniments
please let's contribute'
space, sea waves, clouds
earth, fire and sky---
all at once felt the need
as much as us. Aum
The orchestra
sounded so divine
the voices did merge
like milk and honey
a symphony
like a river seeking ocean
emerged, everyone
was aghast, "Where
are the audience
for such a jazz?"
And when the moment
of delight unfolded
it voicelessly chanted:
"The singer and the song
are one, bliss eternal"
K Balachandran, "At the Kernel" (Aug 2, 2014)

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Post for the Angels...

The Symbolic (or Symbolic Order) is a part of the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan, part of his attempt "to distinguish between those elementary registers whose grounding I later put forward in these terms: the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real — a distinction never previously made in psychoanalysis"


The unconscious is the discourse of the Other and thus belongs to the symbolic order. It is also the realm of the Law that regulates desire in the Oedipus complex, and is determinant of subjectivity. "The unconscious is the sum of the effects of speech on a subject, at the level at which the subject constitutes himself out of the effects of the signifier ... we depend on the field of the Other, which was there long before we came into the world, and whose circulating structures determine us as subjects"[14] on the symbolic order.
from Wikipedia

The Current Cult of Government

The Argument

I lovèd Theotormon,
And I was not ashamèd;
I trembled in my virgin fears,
And I hid in Leutha’s vale!

I pluckèd Leutha’s flower,
And I rose up from the vale;
But the terrible thunders tore
My virgin mantle in twain.
- Robert Blake, "Visions of the Daughters of Albion" (1793)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

2/0 = (i*i)?

In mathematics, division by zero is division where the divisor (denominator) is zero. Such a division can be formally expressed as a/0 where a is the dividend (numerator). In ordinary arithmetic, the expression has no meaning, as there is no number which, multiplied by 0, gives a (assuming a≠0), and so division by zero is undefined. Since any number multiplied by zero is zero, the expression 0/0 has no defined value and is called an indeterminate form. Historically, one of the earliest recorded references to the mathematical impossibility of assigning a value to a/0 is contained in George Berkeley's criticism of infinitesimal calculus in The Analyst ("ghosts of departed quantities").

There are mathematical structures in which a/0 is defined for some a (see Riemann sphere, real projective line, and section 4 for examples); however, such structures cannot (see below) satisfy every ordinary rule of arithmetic (the field axioms).

In computing, a program error may result from an attempt to divide by zero. Depending on the programming environment and the type of number (e.g. floating point, integer) being divided by zero, it may generate positive or negative infinity by the IEEE 754 floating point standard, generate an exception, generate an error message, cause the program to terminate, or result in a special not-a-number value.