Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Language, the True Father of Aphrodite?

...or, "Why You Can't EVER Get What You Want"

Hesiod, "Theogony"
(ll. 147-163) And again, three other sons were born of Earth and Heaven, great and doughty beyond telling, Cottus and Briareos and Gyes, presumptuous children. From their shoulders sprang an hundred arms, not to be approached, and each had fifty heads upon his shoulders on their strong limbs, and irresistible was the stubborn strength that was in their great forms. For of all the children that were born of Earth and Heaven, these were the most terrible, and they were hated by their own father from the first.

And he used to hide them all away in a secret place of Earth so soon as each was born, and would not suffer them to come up into the light: and Heaven rejoiced in his evil doing. But vast Earth groaned within, being straitened, and she made the element of grey flint and shaped a great sickle, and told her plan to her dear sons. And she spoke, cheering them, while she was vexed in her dear heart:

(ll. 164-166) `My children, gotten of a sinful father, if you will obey me, we should punish the vile outrage of your father; for he first thought of doing shameful things.'

(ll. 167-169) So she said; but fear seized them all, and none of them uttered a word. But great Cronos the wily took courage and answered his dear mother:

(ll. 170-172) `Mother, I will undertake to do this deed, for I reverence not our father of evil name, for he first thought of doing shameful things.'

(ll. 173-175) So he said: and vast Earth rejoiced greatly in spirit, and set and hid him in an ambush, and put in his hands a jagged sickle, and revealed to him the whole plot.

(ll. 176-206) And Heaven came, bringing on night and longing for love, and he lay about Earth spreading himself full upon her (7).

Then the son from his ambush stretched forth his left hand and in his right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth, and swiftly lopped off his own father's members and cast them away to fall behind him. And not vainly did they fall from his hand; for all the bloody drops that gushed forth Earth received, and as the seasons moved round she bare the strong Erinyes and the great Giants with gleaming armour, holding long spears in their hands and the Nymphs whom they call Meliae (8) all over the boundless earth. And so soon as he had cut off the members with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea, they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew a maiden. First she drew near holy Cythera, and from there, afterwards, she came to sea-girt Cyprus, and came forth an awful and lovely goddess, and grass grew up about her beneath her shapely feet. Her gods and men call Aphrodite, and the foam-born goddess and rich-crowned Cytherea, because she grew amid the foam, and Cytherea because she reached Cythera, and Cyprogenes because she was born in billowy Cyprus, and Philommedes (9) because sprang from the members. And with her went Eros, and comely Desire followed her at her birth at the first and as she went into the assembly of the gods. This honour she has from the beginning, and this is the portion allotted to her amongst men and undying gods, -- the whisperings of maidens and smiles and deceits with sweet delight and love and graciousness.

(ll. 207-210) But these sons whom be begot himself great Heaven used to call Titans (Strainers) in reproach, for he said that they strained and did presumptuously a fearful deed, and that vengeance for it would come afterwards.

The Symbolic Order (or the "big Other"). Whereas the imaginary is all about equations and identifications, the symbolic is about language and narrative. Once a child enters into language and accepts the rules and dictates of society, it is able to deal with others. The acceptance of language's rules is aligned with the Oedipus complex, according to Lacan. The symbolic is made possible because of your acceptance of the Name-of-the-Father, those laws and restrictions that control both your desire and the rules of communication: "It is in the name of the father that we must recognize the support of the symbolic function which, from the dawn of history, has identified his person with the figure of the law" (Écrits 67). Through recognition of the Name-of-the-Father, you are able to enter into a community of others. The symbolic, through language, is "the pact which links... subjects together in one action. The human action par excellence is originally founded on the existence of the world of the symbol, namely on laws and contracts" (Freud's Papers 230).

Whereas the Real concerns need and the Imaginary concerns demand, the symbolic is all about desire, according to Lacan. Once we enter into language, our desire is forever afterwards bound up with the play of language. We should keep in mind, however, that the Real and the Imaginary continue to play a part in the evolution of human desire within the symbolic order. The fact that our fantasies always fail before the Real, for example, ensures that we continue to desire; desire in the symbolic order could, in fact, be said to be our way to avoid coming into full contact with the Real, so that desire is ultimately most interested not in obtaining the object of desire but, rather, in reproducing itself. The narcissism of the Imaginary is also crucial for the establishment of desire, according to Lacan: "The primary imaginary relation provides the fundamental framework for all possible erotism. It is a condition to which the object of Eros as such must be submitted. The object relation must always submit to the narcissistic framework and be inscribed in it" (Freud's Papers 174). For Lacan, love begins here; however, to make that love "functionally realisable" (to make it move beyond scopophilic narcissism), the subject must reinscribe that narcissistic imaginary relation into the laws and contracts of the symbolic order: "A creature needs some reference to the beyond of language, to a pact, to a commitment which constitutes him, strictly speaking, as an other, a reference included in the general or, to be more exact, universal system of interhuman symbols. No love can be functionally realisable in the human community, save by means of a specific pact, which, whatever the form it takes, always tends to become isolated off into a specific function, at one and the same time within language and outside of it" (Freud's Papers 174). The Real, the Imaginary, and the Symbolic thus work together to create the tensions of our psychodynamic selves.

GIVEN MAN'S RELIANCE ON LANGUAGE for entrance into the symbolic order, it is not surprising that, according to Lacan, we are not even in control of our own desires since those desires are themselves as separated from our actual bodily needs as the phallus is separated from any biological penis. For this reason, Lacan suggests that, whereas the zero form of sexuality for animals is copulation, the zero form of sexuality for humans is masturbation. The act of sex for humans is so much caught up in our fantasies (our idealized images of both ourselves and our sexual partners) that it is ultimately narcissistic. As Lacan puts it, "That's what love is. It's one's own ego that one loves in love, one's own ego made real on the imaginary level". Because we are working on the level of fantasy construction, it is quite easy for love to turn into disgust, for example when a lover is confronted with his love-object's body in all its materiality (moles, pimples, excretions, etc.), the sorts of things that would have no effect on animal copulation. By entering into the symbolic order (with its laws, conventions, and images for perfection), the human subject effectively divorces him/herself from the materiality of his/her bodily drives, which Lacan tends to distinguish with the term "jouissance."Note Through the Law (which we come to acknowledge by way of the Oedipus complex), the human subject effectively chooses culture over nature: "The primordial Law is therefore that which in regulating marriage ties superimposes the kingdom of culture on that of nature abandoned to the law of copulation". That Law, for Lacan, is "identical to an order of Language", specifically what he terms the symbolic order and it is supported by the symbolic fiction of the "Name-of-the-Father."

Desire, in other words, has little to do with material sexuality for Lacan; it is caught up, rather, in social structures and strictures, in the fantasy version of reality that forever dominated our lives after our entrance into language. For this reason, Lacan writes that "the unconscious is the discourse of the Other." Even our unconscious desires are, in other words, organized by the linguistic system that Lacan terms the symbolic order or "the big Other." In a sense, then, our desire is never properly our own, but is created through fantasies that are caught up in cultural ideologies rather than material sexuality. For this reason, according to Lacan, the command that the superego directs to the subject is, of all things, "Enjoy!" That which we may believe to be most private and rebellious (our desire) is, in fact, regulated, even commanded, by the superego.

In constructing our fantasy-version of reality, we establish coordinates for our desire; we situate both ourselves and our object of desire, as well as the relation between. As Slavoj Zizek puts it, "through fantasy, we learn how to desire" (Looking Awry 6). Our desires therefore necessarily rely on lack, since fantasy, by definition, does not correspond to anything in the real. Our object of desire (what Lacan terms the "objet petit a") is a way for us to establish coordinates for our own desire. At the heart of desire is a misregognition of fullness where there is really nothing but a screen for our own narcissistic projections. It is that lack at the heart of desire that ensures we continue to desire. To come too close to our object of desire threatens to uncover the lack that is, in fact, necessary for our desire to persist, so that, ultimately, desire is most interested not in fully attaining the object of desire but in keeping our distance, thus allowing desire to persist. Because desire is articulated through fantasy, it is driven to some extent by its own impossibility.


nicrap said...

...I have always had problems with this word - "fantasy". What does it mean, really? I mean it can only make sense if we had something to compare it with - something "real". But that's not the case. Instead, all we have is - in Lacan's own words - the fantasy version of reality that forever dominated our lives after our entrance into language.

...Why still speak of it as fantasy, then, when it is all we have? (True, Lacan merely speaks of it as "dominating" our lives - Lacan is being cagey, like so many others, who do not want to lose all control of their subject-matter ... nevertheless, it is the logical conclusion of their own arguments.) Why still speak of a gap - a lack? There is no gap: no lack: truth/fantasy is one (which, considering the self-referential nature of truth, isn't very surprising.) for more

...it is like a bad habit, then. And, like any other bad habit, has spawned another: Philosophy. ;)

nicrap said...

Enduring habits I hate.... Yes, at the bottom of my soul i feel grateful to all my misery and bouts of sickness and everything about me that is imperfect because this sort of thing leaves me with a hundred backdoors through which i can escape from enduring habits.


nicrap said...

...The "problem" is not that there is a gap, but that we have ourselves inserted one where there was none before - and, ever since, we have been trying to somehow "overcome" it. A dog trying to catch its own tail - there you have your Philosopher. ;)

nicrap said...

...and, of course, since fantasy/reality is one, one will have to reformulate one's theory of "reward" - the striving is its own reward now, the only reward. :)

Thersites said...

I mean it can only make sense if we had something to compare it with - something "real". But that's not the case.

Can't we compare it with previous and subsequent "fantasy" constructions? And then take a "median/mean" of these various constructions and then call that "our reality" (for every witness will construct their own version, even of the same events)?

As Plato proved in Parmenides, 1 cannot equal 1, else it would be 2. No two "snowflakes" are alike (nor are two orbits of the sun... yet we still call them "years")

Thersites said...

...and I don't think we're attempting to "overcome" the gap, merely understand that it is there, although I'm sure that there are many who lament the development of "language" and wonder if perhaps some new/better invention might replace it.

the striving is its own reward now, the only reward.

Hear, hear!

Thersites said...

Nietzsche, "Gay Science"

112 Cause and Effect. We say it is "explanation "; but it is only in "description" that we are in advance of the older stages of knowledge and science. We describe better, we explain just as little as our predecessors. We have discovered a manifold succession where the naive man and investigator of older cultures saw only two things, "cause" and "effect,"as it was said; we have perfected the conception of becoming, but have not got a knowledge of what is above and behind the conception. The series of "causes" stands before us much more complete in every case; we conclude that this and that must first precede in order that that other may follow - but we have not grasped anything thereby. The peculiarity, for example, in every chemical process seems a "miracle," the same as before, just like all locomotion; nobody has "explained" impulse. How could we ever explain? We operate only with things which do not exist, with lines, surfaces, bodies, atoms, divisible times, divisible spaces - how can explanation ever be possible when we first make everything a conception, our conception? It is sufficient to regard science as the exactest humanizing of things that is possible; we always learn to describe ourselves more accurately by describing things and their successions. Cause and effect: there is probably never any such duality; in fact there is a continuum before us, from which we isolate a few portions - just as we always observe a motion as isolated points, and therefore do not properly see it, but infer it. The abruptness with which many effects take place leads us into error; it is however only an abruptness for us. There is an infinite multitude of processes in that abrupt moment which escape us. An intellect which could see cause and effect as a continuum, which could see the flux of events not according to our mode of perception, as things arbitrarily separated and broken - would throw aside the conception of cause and effect, and would deny all conditionality.

Thersites said...

...and it is in the fallibility of our conclusion that I take great comfort... as a denial of absolute "determinism"... and a "hope" that with sufficient application of human will, we can temporarily suspend what previously might have once been thought/deemed "inevitable".

Thersites said...

and visa versa... ;)

...for any "temporary" harm we humans may do one day might eventually be "undone".

Now let us rejoice over our cups, saying good things; what shall come after is for the Gods to look to.

- Theognis of Megara

nicrap said...

Can't we compare it with previous and subsequent "fantasy" constructions?

...that's what we do, all the time - compare one "text" with another - even when we think that we are actually comparing it to reality. So that, when any two descriptions do not match - which is the case more often than not, since no two descriptions are exactly same - we term one as "false" and one as "true". So, to take the example from my own post, Kant becomes "false" while Nietzsche becomes "true"; when the truth is that they are neither of them false or true. They are like stories in this respect - you do not ask about a story whether it is true or false - with one significant difference, however: unlike stories, they have to be self-consistent.

The point I am trying to make is that any description of the world, given that it is self-consistent, is also very hard to refute. What is more, it can never be done from the inside. But then, what can we mean when we say one description is more real than the other? Does it mean that we have a vantage point on the ‘outside’? No – not one that is accessible, anyway. Instead, all we have are so many descriptions, with nothing to compare them with. And so we are constantly comparing them among themselves ... It's a lover's response. :)

nicrap said...

...and I don't think we're attempting to "overcome" the gap, merely understand that it is there

...see, effectively, what Lacan is saying is that, once we enter into the symbolic order of language, any possibility that we may have had of accessing reality is closed to us forever. As if it has gone beyond a veil that we can never penetrate. Why need we speak of it anymore, then? Along with the veil... as they as good as do not exist for us. I mean if fantasy is all we have, is it still fantasy then? Is it not rather truth? And, if we still persist in keeping this division, is it not out of a bad habit. Or worse - a lie willfully maintained by philosophers, who can't but know how essential it is for all philosophy. Why we would have no philosophy - and by same token, no philosophers - if we didn't also have this gap.

nicrap said...

...of course, as always, it's not the end of the story. It may have been an error, but the question is to what extent it has been life-promoting, life preserving, perhaps even species cultivating.

...The falseness of a judgment is for us not necessarily an objection to a judgment; in this respect our new language may sound strangest. The question is to what extent it is life-promoting, life preserving, perhaps even species cultivating.

...for instance, could we have known it is an error had we not first committed it. :)

Thersites said...

Perhaps not merely "species" cultivating as "life" (as in "organic" - generally) cultivating

Nietzsche WtP 490 (1885)

The assumption of one single subject is perhaps unnecessary; perhaps it is just as permissible to assume a multiplicity of subjects, whose interaction and struggle is the basis of our thought and our consciousness in general? A kind of aristocracy of "cells" in which dominion resides? To be sure, an aristocracy of equals, used to ruling jointly and understanding how to command?

My hypotheses: The subject as multiplicity

Pain intellectual and dependent upon the judgment "harmful": projected.

The effect always "unconscious": the inferred and imagined cause is projected, follows in time.

Pleasure is a kind of pain.

The only force that exists is of the same kind as that of the will: a commanding of other subjects, which thereupon change.

The continual transitoriness and fleetingness of the subject. "Mortal soul."

Number as perspective form.

Hmmmm.... The subconscious as "effect" re-postulating "cause" through concepts of "equality" and "unity".

Is "Will to Power" merely a similar delusion?

Thersites said...

I guess I don't disagree with what your saying so much as wish to continue to further explore the psychopathology driving what we understand to be as "normality".

Thersites said...

How radical is it to assume a multiplicity of subjects attempting to comprehend a multiverse? A Many to Many paradigm instead of a traditional One to Many paradigm?

Is it even "comprehensible" and if "yes", how might it work? (More than merely pairing/equating graphemes w/phonemes and food v sex v alarm pheromones - taste/smell)?

nicrap said...

...if it is conceivable then i am sure it must also be comprehensible. ;)

Joe Conservative said...

Perhaps just not in a manner that our singular "consciousness" is capable of interpretting.

Joe Conservative said...

Something's trimming back those lesser used neuronal connections in our heads and forging new pathways... and I know that they don't always work for me... ;)

nicrap said...

For the close of our study there is left one last fiction, a fundamental delusion to make clear. All interpretation, all psychology, all attempts tomake things comprehensible, require the medium of theories, mythologiesand lies; and a self-respecting author should not omit, at the close of an exposition, to dissipate these lies so far as may be in his power ... So too, to come to the point, is the Steppenwolf a fiction. When Harry feels himself to be a were-wolf, and chooses to consist of two hostile and opposed beings, he is merely availing himself of a mythological simplification ... Suppose that Harry tried to ascertain in any single moment of his life, any single act, what part the man had in it and what part the wolf, hewould find himself at once in a dilemma, and his whole beautiful wolf-theory would go to pieces. For there is not a single human being, not eventhe primitive Negro, not even the idiot, who is so conveniently simple thathis being can be explained as the sum of two or three principal elements;and to explain so complex a man as Harry by the artless division into wolf and man is a hopelessly childish attempt. Harry consists of a hundred or athousand selves, not of two. His life oscillates, as everyone's does, notmerely between two poles, such as the body and the spirit, the saint and thesinner, but between thousand and thousands.

nicrap said...

...Whoever wishes to recognize this must resolve once and for all not to regard the characters of a poem as separate beings, but as the various facets and aspects of a higher unity, in my opinion, of the poet's soul. If "Faust" is treated in this way, Faust, Mephistopheles, Wagner and the rest form a unity and a supreme individuality; and it is in this higher unity alone, not in the several characters, that something of the true nature of the soul is revealed. When Faust, in a line immortalized among school masters and greeted with ashudder of astonishment by the Philistine, says: "Two souls, alas, do dwell within my breast!" he has forgotten Mephisto and a whole crowd of other souls that he has in his breast likewise.


nicrap said...

...I will risk a last quote - in continuation of the former - but i think it rather sums it up well:

If we consider the Steppenwolf from this standpoint it will be clear to us why he suffered so much under his ludicrous dual personality. He believes, like Faust, that two souls are far too many for a single breast and must tear the breast asunder. They are on the contrary far too few, and Harry does shocking violence to his poor soul when he endeavors to apprehend it by means of so primitive an image. Although he is a most cultivated person, he proceeds like a savage that cannot count further than two. He calls himself part wolf, part man, and with that he thinks he has come to an end and exhausted the matter ... Like all men Harry believes that he knows very well what man is and yet does not know at all, although in dreams and other states not subject to control he often has his suspicions. If only he might not forget them, but keep them, as far as possible at least, for his own. Man is not by any means of fixed and enduring form (this, in spite of suspicions to the contrary on the part of their wise men, was the ideal of the ancients). He is much more an experiment and a transition. He is nothing else than the narrow and perilous bridge between nature and spirit. His innermost destiny drives him on to the spirit and to God. His innermost longing draws him back to nature, the mother.

nicrap said...

...btw, personally - but that some other time. :)

Speedy G said...

I think I need to change my middle name to "Inconstancy". ;)

nicrap said...

...as long as you don't change it to incontinenc(y). ;)

Joe Conservative said...

lol! I hope I never come to that!

nicrap said...

...afraid of losing control? ;)

Thersites said...

Only of the lost time that would be spent upon "environmental remediation". ;)

nicrap said...