Monday, November 18, 2013

Subjectively Speaking

Returning thus to desire as a constitutive feature of human existence, we find a ready expression of how the desire for the other’s desire functions in the mirror stage. As I have shown above, the infant enters the imaginary through a process of identification with a specular image, an “other” with which it longs to be identified. The essential component to such identification, however (and the aspect that renders it impossible), is the necessity for the other similarly to desire identification with the infant. This desire for the other’s desire is not a simple matter of mutual desire such as that experienced in erotic love, but a more all-encompassing demand for total recognition; the infant wants not some part (however large) of the other’s desire, but all of it – he or she wants to be the be-all and end-all of the other’s desire. The impossibility of such a total identification is what keeps subjectivity moving from object to object in its quest for an object that will represent and capture the other’s desire and by possession of which the individual can absorb and utterly subjugate the other’s desire. Most simply put, desire is always a desire for the other’s desire; only the other’s desire for a given object transforms it from an object of demand or need into one of desire.

The Birth of Aphrodite, from the front panel of the Ludovisi Throne, c. 460 BC: Newly born Aphrodite, rising from the foam of the sea, is greeted by the Horae ("Hours"), goddesses of the Seasons. Despite its name, the Ludovisi Throne is probably part of an altar.

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