Wednesday, June 26, 2013

THAT is Disgusting!

from Mental Health
When your toddler gets angry at being pulled away from the television to have his diaper changed--and when your teenaged daughter is disgusted by having to change that toddler's diaper--you read those emotions instantaneously in their faces. How does the human brain do that?

An article published February 14 in the on-line edition of the Annals of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Neurological Association, provides clues about how the brain recognizes disgust in the faces of other people. The results or this and similar studies may ultimately have important implications for understanding devastating brain diseases like schizophrenia or dementia.

Neuropsychologists--specialists in the no-man's-land between the study of the brain (neurobiology) and the mind (psychology)--have recently begun to find evidence supporting the theory that the brain is "hard-wired" for the perception of emotion. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of subjects looking at pictures of faces showing fear, happiness, disgust and other emotions indicate that different cell groupings in the brain become active in response to different expressions.

The MRI research supports older evidence from patients with damage to isolated areas of the brain, whether from stroke or trauma. In the most well-studied example, people with damage to an area called the amygdala have trouble understanding the facial expression of fear in other people, though they are able to identify happiness, sadness, and other emotions. Interestingly, the amygdala is also implicated in the sensation of fear, suggesting that it coordinates both the experience of fear and the recognition of fear in others.

Recently, researchers have identified an area deep in the brain called the insula as being important for the recognition of disgust in other people's faces. This is partly a result of studying patients with Huntington's disease, which damages nerve cells in the insula and related areas. Huntington's patients have particular trouble recognizing facial expressions of disgust.

Researchers at the INSERM Institute in Lyon, France and at the University of Lyon recently had an unprecedented opportunity to apply more precise mapping tools than MRI to the question of how the brain processes disgust. They studied epilepsy patients who had been implanted with electrodes in preparation for possible surgery to remove sections of the brain that generate recurrent and debilitating seizures.

When the subjects viewed pictures of faces showing disgust, nerve cells in very specific subregions of the insula became active. Nerve cells in other parts of the insula or surrounding brain areas did not respond in this way. On the other hand, the areas that responded to disgust did not respond to happiness, fear, or neutral expressions.

The researchers also noted that the insula did not respond as quickly to the pictures as do other areas that respond to facial expressions. This supports the idea that the insula plays a more complicated role in integrating disgust recognition.

"This is the first time that data specify where and when the insula participates in the recognition of disgust. And we know that this part of the insula is connected to areas of the brain involved in taste, smell, and control of the visceral organs," said lead author Pierre Krolak-Salmon, M.D. of the INSERM Institute.

The authors stress, however, that the insula is probably not the single center for disgust processing, but is likely an integral part of a large network that processes disgust and perhaps other emotions, and may be involved in both the experience of disgust and the recognition of disgust in others.

"Facial expression recognition is impaired in schizophrenia, some types of dementia, Huntington's disease and others. This deficit may interfere with social contact and communication in these patients, which is why it's very important to define which neural networks are implicated in the processing of facial expressions," said Krolak-Salmon.
---American Neurological Association

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Life as "Hommelette"

Apropos of Lacan, this ‘space between’ is the space of the lost object, objet petit a, here figured as the libido and its contingency as void.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Capital's Biga - The Division of Labour

In myth, the biga often functions structurally to create a complementary pair or to link opposites. The chariot of Achilles in the Iliad (16.152) was drawn by two immortal horses and a third who was mortal; at 23.295, a mare is yoked with a stallion. The team of Adrastos included the immortal "superhorse" Areion and the mortal Kairos.[10] A yoke of two horses is associated with the Indo-European concept of the Heavenly Twins, one of whom is mortal, represented among the Greeks by Castor and Pollux, the Dioscuri, who were known for horsemanship.
Divide et Impera

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sub Silencio

Some, Plato said, go to the Olympics to compete. Some go to watch, and some to buy and sell. In his view, the noblest of the three are the onlookers, for they have chosen the purity of contemplation.
“You, most blessed and happiest among humans, may well consider those blessed and happiest who have departed this life before you, and thus you may consider it unlawful, indeed blasphemous, to speak anything ill or false of them, since they now have been transformed into a better and more refined nature."
This thought is indeed so old that the one who first uttered it is no longer known; it has been passed down to us from eternity, and hence doubtless it is true. Moreover, you know what is so often said and passes for a trite expression. What is that, he asked? He answered: It is best not to be born at all; and next to that, it is better to die than to live; and this is confirmed even by divine testimony. Pertinently to this they say that Midas, after hunting, asked his captive Silenus somewhat urgently, what was the most desirable thing among humankind. At first he could offer no response, and was obstinately silent. At length, when Midas would not stop plaguing him, he erupted with these words, though very unwillingly:
‘you, seed of an evil genius and precarious offspring of hard fortune, whose life is but for a day, why do you compel me to tell you those things of which it is better you should remain ignorant? For he lives with the least worry who knows not his misfortune; but for humans, the best for them is not to be born at all, not to partake of nature’s excellence; not to be is best, for both sexes. This should our choice, if choice we have; and the next to this is, when we are born, to die as soon as we can.’
It is plain therefore, that he declared the condition of the dead to be better than that of the living.
–Aristotle, Eudemus (354 BCE),

Sublimating the "i'

The Freudian superego, for Zizek, names the psychical agency of the Law, as it is misrepresented and sustained by subjects’ fantasmatic imaginings of a persecutory Other supposed to enjoy (like the archetypal villain in noir films). This darker underside of the Law, Zizek agrees with Lacan, is at its base a constant imperative to subjects to jouis!, by engaging in the “inherent transgressions” of their sociopolitical community.
from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Hysteric, DIscoursing....

To live means to finesse the processes to which one is subjugated.
- Bertolt Brecht, "On Politics and Society"

University Master Baiting

The university discourse is enunciated from the position of "neutral" Knowledge; it addresses the remainder of the real (say, in the case of pedagogical knowledge, the "raw, uncultivated child"), turning it into the subject ($). The "truth" of the university discourse, hidden beneath the bar, of course, is power, i.e. the Master-Signifier: the constitutive lie of the university discourse is that it disavows its performative dimension, presenting what effectively amounts to a political decision based on power as a simple insight into the factual state of things. What one should avoid here is the Foucauldian misreading: the produced subject is not simply the subjectivity which arises as the result of the disciplinary application of knowledge-power, but its remainder, that which eludes the grasp of knowledge-power. "Production" (the fourth term in the matrix of discourses) does not stand simply for the result of the discursive operation, but rather for its "indivisible remainder," for the excess which resists being included in the discursive network, i.e. for what the discourse itself produces as the foreign body in its very heart. Perhaps the exemplary case of the Master's position which underlies the university discourse is the way in which medical discourse functions in our everyday lives: at the surface level, we are dealing with pure objective knowledge which desubjectivizes the subject-patient, reducing him to an object of research, of diagnosis and treatment; however, beneath it, one can easily discern a worried hystericized subject, obsessed with anxiety, addressing the doctor as his Master and asking for reassurance from him. At a more common level, suffice it to recall the market expert who advocates strong budgetary measures (cutting welfare expenses, etc.) as a necessity imposed by his neutral expertise devoid of any ideological biases: what he conceals is the series of power-relations (from the active role of state apparatuses to ideological beliefs) which sustain the "neutral" functioning of the market mechanism.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Homo Sacer as the Object of the Discourse of the University"

Friday, June 14, 2013

On the Origin of the Laws

‘At the beginning’ of the law, there is a certain ‘outlaw,’ a certain Real of violence which coincides with the act itself of the establishment of the reign of law: the ultimate truth about the reign of law is that of a usurpation, and all classical politico-philosophical thought rests on the disavowal of this violent act of foundation . . . this illegitimate violence by which law sustains itself must be concealed at any price because this concealment is the positive condition of the functioning of law: it functions insofar as its subjects are deceived, insofar as they experience the authority of law as authentic and eternal.
-Slavoj Zizek, "For They Know Not What They Do"

Law begins in trauma. From the standpoint of the old law, the violent establishing of something new is crime. The old law is disobeyed, overthrown, transgressed, usurped. From the standpoint of the new law, this crime is self-negating. It vanishes (or is concealed) as a crime once the new order is constituted. Put somewhat differently, the establishment of law overthrows law, for example, the law of custom, the law of nature, or even law as an ideal that only existed at the very moment of its loss. And, because establishing is overthrowing, there is a risk--the negation of law such. Establishing manifests a disregard for law as it perversely (or criminally) turns crime into law. This paradox, this traumatic identity of law and crime, is the repressed origin of law.


For law to function as law, the Real of violence must be concealed. As Zizek explains (with reference to Kant), law's validity requires that we remain within law, that we don't go outside law and emphasize its contingent, historical founding. If we do go outside the law, we can't even see the order as law; its claim to authority becomes just another contingency or act of violence. Zizek is not making a facile point regarding stupid subjects duped by a malevolent legal order. Rather, he is emphasizing the fact that law involves more than the violent, arbitrary, control of people. People need a kind of faith in law; they have to believe it (to believe that others believe it) for it to function at all. The fantasy of an original contract, for example, provides something in which people can believe; this fantasy attaches them to law as it conceals the Real of violence. Belief in law is that something extra that distinguishes law from violence, that separates the founding moment of violence from what comes after it.
- Jodi Dean, "Zizek on Law"

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Still More Desire from the Edge of Empire

I had been seen in the shade, recumbent on cushioned Helicon,
The water dripping from Bellerophon's horse,
Alba, your kings, and the realm your folk
have constructed with such industry
Shall be yawned out on my lyre with such industry.
My little mouth shall gobble in such great fountains,
'Wherefrom father Ennius, sitting before I came, hath drunk.'
I had rehearsed the Curian brothers, and made remarks
on the Horatian javelin
(Near Q. H. Flaccus' book-stall).
'Of’ royal Aemilia, drawn on the memorial raft,
'Of’ the victorious delay of Fabius, and the left-handed
battle at Cannae,
Of lares fleeing the 'Roman seat' . . .
I had sung of all these
And of Hannibal,
and of Jove protected by geese.
And Phoebus looking upon me from the Castalian tree,
Said then 'You idiot! What are you doing with that water:
‘Who has ordered a book about heroes?
'You need, Propertius, not think
'About acquiring that sort of a reputation.
'Soft fields must be worn by small wheels,
'Your pamphlets will be thrown, thrown often into a chair
'Where a girl waits alone for her lover;
'Why wrench your page out of its course?
'No keel will sink with your genius
'Let another oar churn the water,
'Another wheel, the arena; mid-crowd is as bad as mid-sea.'
He had spoken, and pointed me a place with his plectrum:

Orgies of vintages, an earthern image of Silenus
Strengthened with rushes, Tegaean Pan,
The small birds of the Cytharean mother,
their Punic faces dyed in the Gorgon's lake;
Nine girls, from as many countrysides

bearing her offerings in their unhardened hands,
Such my cohort and setting. And she bound ivy to his thyrsos;
Fitted song to the strings;
Roses twined in her hands.
And one among them looked at me with face offended,
'Content ever to move with white swans!
'Nor will the noise of high horses lead you ever to battle;
Nor will the public criers ever have your name;
in their classic horns,
'Nor Mars shout you in the wood at Aeonium,
Nor where Rome ruins German riches,
'Nor where the Rhine flows with barbarous blood,
and flood carries wounded Suevi.
'Obviously crowned lovers at unknown doors,
'Night dogs, the marks of a drunken scurry,
'These are your images, and from you the sorcerizing of
shut-in young ladies,
'The wounding of austere men by chicane.'
Thus Mistress Calliope,
Dabbling her hands in the fount, thus she
Stiffened our face with the backwash of Philetas the Coan.
-Ezra Pound, "Homage To Sextus Propertius - II"

The World of Politics

...and the band played on...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Chartered Misery

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
William Blake

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Post-Modern Fantasy....

Can you spell, "D-E-T-A-C-H-M-E-N-T"?
AGES and ages, returning at intervals,
Undestroy'd, wandering immortal,
Lusty, phallic, with the potent original loins, perfectly sweet,
I, chanter of Adamic songs,
Through the new garden, the West, the great cities calling,
Deliriate, thus prelude what is generated, offering these, offering
Bathing myself, bathing my songs in Sex,
Offspring of my loins.
- Walt Whitman