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Larval Subjects, Redux

It seems that Larval Subjects has taken my criticism of Lacan to be too harsh, not to mention that unfairly I take him to be a Lacanian (that is an interesting combination). I post here my response to his lengthy address to me which involves direct questions because given his recent propensity to delete my comments, they should at least last here. I suppose this is how the blog-o-sphere goes:

LS: “I’m not sure why you insist on categorizing me as a Lacanian… Well I suppose I know, you happened to discover my blog during a period where I’ve been writing heavily about Lacan. I am deeply influenced by Lacan, have been through analysis, and have practiced as an analyst. I have also been very critical of Lacan in a variety of ways. However, I teach philosophy for a living.”

Kvond: (I’m going to answer this question because you have formed it as a question)…This is odd. Cannot a “Lacanian” teach philosophy for a living, or be critical of Lacan (you nearly claim Guattari to be a radical Lacanian, despite him holding a rather substantial semiotic-ontic departure from anything that Lacan put forth). My primary reason for calling you a Lacanian, insofar as I have done so, (and I am not sure if you are going to delete this response, as you have deleted three of my comments that were in some sense critical of your attachment to Lacan), is that you have appealed to your personal experience as a Lacanian clinician (if I have read you correctly), as somehow an authority on not only how one should read Lacan, but also on how Lacan pertains to social criticism (the relavance of his theories). This appeal to the authority having acted as a Lacanian, in favor of Lacanian truths, in my mind qualifies you as a Lacanian, insofar as I can tell. If this offends you, please, do not be offended.

LS: “At present I am working on a book about the intersection of Lacan and Deleuze and Guattari aimed at targeting a certain opposition set up by Zizek and Badiou and therefore hopefully intervening in debates surrounding the divide between schizoanalysis and psychoanalysis. The schizoanalytic critique of psychoanalysis will be present in that book, though certain elements of Lacanian psychoanalysis will critique aspects of how Deleuze and Guattari have been appropriated as well. Hence all the intense focus on Lacan at the moment.”

Kvond: I look forward to this work, but if you end up arguing that Guattari is nothing more than a “radicalized Lacanian” I will be disappointed in it.

LS: “Your remarks here, as evinced by the two or three comments I deleted, have gotten increasingly abusive and mocking for no apparent reason that I can see. I will be deleting subsequent comments such as this that are written in that spirit.”

Kvond: It seems you have considered my remarks “rude” “absusive” and perhaps “vulgar”. I really wonder where you find these things. You have deleted, as is your want, this post: A Response to Larval Subjects , which responds to your conflation of one-on-one experiences as a clinician, and the supposed relavance of Lacanian theories of Being in criticism of culture. Perhaps if you point out the abuse therein, we all would be better off. You have also deleted a comment of mine to parodycenter which mentions a thought by Judith Butler, and you have deleted comments on the authority of Lacan.

LS: “Having already gone through a period around August where I considered either shutting down this blog altogether or closing comments because of irritation and disgust resulting from rude and abusive people, I really have no patience for this sort of thing, nor do I really understand what motivates a person to attack someone else anonymously on a blog because they share a different theoretical orientation as if somehow it were a personal insult for others to find value in something they do not value.”

Kvond: Clearly you are responding to past events, and not to me. I have no idea how I have insulted you (and I have privately emailed you to apologize if I have done so accidentally). I am sorry that you have gone through such hard times, but quite honestly the theoretical positions that we hold are seldom very far apart. Other than what I perceive to be an over-sensitive threshold to critiques of Lacanian theory, we almost always agree.

I should say though, a blog is a public expression. Do you really want people posting who only tell you how right you are? I have found your analyses often quite insightful, but at times questions arise. At times you seem to contradict yourself. I ask questions. Perhaps others of your readers have questions too.

LS: “All the creatures populated by sad and passive forces, by ressentment; and often, ironically, among those who speak the most about affirmation, indicating perhaps a particular relationship to castration not unlike the professional body builder trying to hide that he doesn’t have it.”

Kvond: I appreciate the free diagnosis from afar. Might I take this as “abusive”? I don’t know. But powers of ressentment are fundamentally reactive powers, and you have been reacting to events that occurred long before my posts, thinking them to be part of my presence. I do not say this as a diagnosis, but simply as a point of fact.

As to my bodybuilder status, I don’t know what it is that I am supposed to “have” or “not have”. I enjoy thoughts, theory, analysis, and social commitments to justice. That is why I read, and that is why I post. I am not even the master my own discourse, let alone another’s.

LS: “On an unrelated note, I’m not sure where you get the idea that Lacan created a way of playing God.”

Kvond: You deleted this comment of mine, so really none of your readers will know what you are talking about. But if you read my comment carefully, it said more or less, “Lacan theorized on how to play God”. If you take Spinoza’s adage that one cannot in loving God expect God to love you in return you fundamentally have Lacan’s analyst role…i.e., playing God.

LS: “Additionally, Lacan’s entire practice was premised on the respect of the analysand and the analysand’s speech and absolute difference…”

Kvond: And I assume this to be the case in Lacan. But, I must say that your treatment of the difference of my speech has been most curious, if you assume such Lacanian principles.

 

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2 responses to “Larval Subjects, Redux

  1. Sinthome December 4, 2008 at 1:32 am

    The issues were not your criticisms of Lacan. This, I think, should be evident from the care I take in responding to criticisms of any particular philosopher or issue I might happen to have written about. The issue was certain responses you made to CulturalParodyCenter, that, in at least the form they were expressed, were rather insulting and not about any particular issue relevant to the discussion. I cut off the previous discussion about Spinoza and Lacan as I believed it had been exhausted and have no particular interest in a discussion of Lacan versus Spinoza, insofar as I do not myself see them particularly at odds with one another. I had made my case for lack as an emergent property, not a basic ontological feature of the world, which I saw you as conceding based on the quotes you had posted from Spinoza’s correspondence. Lacan, as well, does not treat lack as a constitutive feature of being, but as something that emerges as a result of how we’re imbricated in language or the symbolic that produces lack as a result in the psychic experience of, to use Spinoza’s language, the sorts of modes that we are. In my view there thus has to be a constant shift between perspectives: between the ontological perspective where there is nothing but affirmation and plenitude and the perspective of a particular type of mode, namely speaking beings. Just as in Spinoza, humans labor under the illusion that nature has purposes and that there are degrees of perfection (cf. the appendix to part 1 of the Ethics), Lacan can be understood to be a cartographer of a series of illusions specific to how we’re organized as speaking-beings.

    Your remark about “playing God” is interesting and had you spelled it out in that way it wouldn’t have been deleted. As you expressed it, I took it to be attacking me as narcissistic, self-absorbed, or thinking myself Godlike and saw no reason to post such a thing on my blog. The Ethics, of course, is a sort of ladder, where Spinoza begins with very simple and clear ideas and gradually shows their consequences through deductive reasoning. As a result of this ladder or process, there is simultaneously a critique and therapy that takes place that frees us from a series of illusions that are the result of our ignorance of causes. One of these illusions is that God loves us or that we can earn God’s favor. Yet as Spinoza demonstrates in part1prop17, “God acts only according to the necessity of his nature and is constrained by none.” Should the reader of the Ethics labor under this illusion, and should they be capable of being persuaded by the light of reason, then by the end of the Ethics they will have come to the conclusion that the desire for God to love them is futile and that the true love of God is found in adequate knowledge of causes. But, and this point is crucial, this is a process the reader has to undergo.

    Something similar takes place in the course of an analysis. The person entering analysis, like the person prior to reading the Ethics who believes nature has purposes and they can earn favor with God, believes that they lack, that the Other exists, that there is a final answer, and that the Other has made a particular demand of them (at least if they’re neurotic). The process of analysis is a gradual falling away of these illusions, where the subject reaches a point where it’s discovered that the symptom was already an answer. There’s more to it than that, but this is a stab in the right direction.

    I found nothing objectional in your remark about Antigone, except this: Lacan was critical of the Oedipus over the course of his entire career. It was never a major touchstone for his particular form of psychoanalysis and, based on his ethnographic background, he even talks about very different subject-structures emerging from symbolic organizations in different cultures. In Seminar 17 he refers to the Oedipus as Freud’s myth, which is significant as a myth is, for Lacan, a breakdown of knowledge akin to a symptom. He also makes a lot of Antigone in Seminar 7.

    In our discussion of Guattari and Lacan you were very quick to jump all over me without allowing me to develop my claim or the sense of my claim. I’ll have to develop the thesis that Guattari is a radicalization of Lacan at a future point. In my experience those who are influenced by Lacan have an almost reflexive reaction to mention of anything psychoanalytic, which presents them from developing more subtle and sophisticated positions. Here, I think, they labor from a sort of sickness borne of the signifier, where, as Nietzsche explained, language creates the metaphysics that words denote substances or “things”. Thus, because the rather inadequate word “psychoanalysis” is the object of critique in Anti-Oedipus, somehow all elements of psychoanalysis and all forms of psychoanalysis are treated as being guilty of one and the same thing. Yet psychoanalysis is a label for a very heterogeneous set of movements, some of which are exceedingly guilty of what Deleuze and Guattari accuse them of, others, not so much. Lacan himself would be among these others that are not entirely guilty of these things (though not entirely innocent either). Lacan’s students were very guilty of the sorts of things Deleuze and Guattari were targeting. The various branches of ego-psychology descending from Anna Freud were the worst offenders of all. However, Lacan had already made a target of ego-psychology over the course of his entire career. At any rate, if you wish to know what I’m up to with Lacan you need only think of Deleuze’s famous reference to buggery as a method of reading the history of philosophy.

  2. kvond December 4, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    LS: “The issues were not your criticisms of Lacan. This, I think, should be evident from the care I take in responding to criticisms of any particular philosopher or issue I might happen to have written about.”

    Kvond: Perhaps clear to you, but by your actions not so much to me.

    LS: “The issue was certain responses you made to CulturalParodyCenter, that, in at least the form they were expressed, were rather insulting and not about any particular issue relevant to the discussion.”

    Kvond: Because you have refused to identify any such “insults” which were likely your own over-sensitive misreading of my intent, I certainly could not change anything that offended you. After your first round of deletions, I emailed you privately to assure you of my beneficent intent, and you responded with nil. Your univocal, non-communicative actions that might have worked well if you were in a clinic, and I was a neurotic, worked very poorly in the give and take in an online discussion.

    LS: “I had made my case for lack as an emergent property, not a basic ontological feature of the world, which I saw you as conceding based on the quotes you had posted from Spinoza’s correspondence.”
    Kvond: The quote I supplied made the distinction between a negation and a privation. I did not concede any positive emergence of “lack”, such as Hegel asserted, and Lacan stipulated as necessary for entry into Language.

    LS: “Your remark about “playing God” is interesting and had you spelled it out in that way it wouldn’t have been deleted.”

    Kvond: And if you had not deleted it, you may have found what was meant, and an interesting discussion would have been possible. Instead though, in an extremely oversensitive manner you assumed that I was accusing you of “playing God” in a pejorative way. I actually found very little of the “playing God’ (in the sense that you took it) in you UNTIL you decided to go about deleting comment after comment that irked you. If anything I was commenting in response to your perverse little verbal game you like to play (in public) with parodycenter, and the relationship between the two of you. You play a kind of doleful Yahweh, and PC plays a playful Lucifer. This is my impression of your roles, but it was NOT a character judgment. That is, UNTIL you reacted in an interestingly uncommunicative and unilateral way. Clearly you are sensitive to this kind of association. If I had known this, I would have refrained.

    LS: “As you expressed it, I took it to be attacking me as narcissistic, self-absorbed, or thinking myself Godlike and saw no reason to post such a thing on my blog.”

    Kvond: And IF you had paid attention to WHAT I said, you would have realized that I was saying nothing of the sort.

    LS: “Something similar takes place in the course of an analysis. The person entering analysis, like the person prior to reading the Ethics who believes nature has purposes and they can earn favor with God, believes that they lack, that the Other exists, that there is a final answer, and that the Other has made a particular demand of them (at least if they’re neurotic). The process of analysis is a gradual falling away of these illusions, where the subject reaches a point where it’s discovered that the symptom was already an answer. There’s more to it than that, but this is a stab in the right direction.”

    Kvond: Which is WHY I said that Lacan wrote a theory on how to play God, AND provided strict limitations on HOW one should play God. As I said in my comment, which was also deleted, one plays God (occupies the position of the Master) without partaking of the enjoyment. I was making a complex point about what playing God in a Lacanian way entails, but also commenting on your “ludic” back and forth with Parodycenter, in which you however humorously act in a slightly Yahweh/Devil dichotomy. That this was perhaps too gnomically expressed for your comfort was perhaps my mistake.

    LS: “I found nothing objectional in your remark about Antigone, except this: Lacan was critical of the Oedipus over the course of his entire career. It was never a major touchstone for his particular form of psychoanalysis and, based on his ethnographic background, he even talks about very different subject-structures emerging from symbolic organizations in different cultures. In Seminar 17 he refers to the Oedipus as Freud’s myth, which is significant as a myth is, for Lacan, a breakdown of knowledge akin to a symptom. He also makes a lot of Antigone in Seminar 7.”

    Kvond: If you had said such a thing, instead of deleting the comment, all would have been much better off, don’t you think? My reference to Antigone and Butler was in response to Parodycenter’s characterization of a possible position within feminine jouissance as somehow superior to the “masculine side” which may be a “maladaption” of some sort:

    PC: “On the feminine side, there’s a jouissance of language as such, that doesn’t so much aim at meaning as at the jouissance of speaking and relating.”

    Such an Antigone readjustment could be made within Lacan as well as outside of Lacan, I imagine. If I were to walk down that road, “lack” or “loss” would be filial, lateral, and not so much paternal, top-down, vertical. The subject’s place would be within a proliferation of familial “sexes” so to speak, and the issue would not be castration as it is often fundamentally thought of. I passed this thought off to PC because the comment by Butler I had always found interesting, and provocative. Something worth exploring. It seemed to correspond to the point that PC was making in someway, but perhaps I was wrong. Deleting it of course, though your prerogative, was bizarre.

    LS: “In our discussion of Guattari and Lacan you were very quick to jump all over me without allowing me to develop my claim or the sense of my claim…In my experience those who are influenced by Lacan have an almost reflexive reaction to mention of anything psychoanalytic, which presents them from developing more subtle and sophisticated positions.”

    Kvond: Once again it seemed that your “experience” got the best of you. I have no problem at all with Guatttari and psychoanalysis. His theories are about the Unconscious and he worked within a clinic founded by the Lacanian Oury. What I did have a problem with was your apparent reduction of Guattari’s rather complex notion of “groups”, his rather strong differentiation between mechanisms of transference and those of “transversality”, to the Lacanian notion of the “Symbolic”. You said something incomprehensible like, “Lacan is all about groups, what do you think the Symbolic is”. That you turn to the Symbolic to help explain what Guattari means by transversality, or fluxes, flows, territories and universes is at least at face value a FUNDAMENTAL misunderstanding. I will read your post that you have put up on the issue, but this explains my resistance to your reduction of Guattari to “radical” Lacanianism. As I pointed out before, “radical” means “to the root”, and the primacy of the signifier, and the subject’s relationship to it, (what I take to be the root of Lacan), is missing from Guattari, most particularly in his later work.
    Obviously you have a history of very bad “comment events” long before I stepped into your abode, and for some reason I have triggered your associations with them.

    I am very sorry that you have considered shutting down your blog due to the nature of comments over time, and glad that you have renewed serious posting. I say this with all sincerity: Perhaps a blog format such as that which k-punk or Infinite Thought uses, which does not allow comments at all would be the most enjoyable way forward. Then people who you favor could simply email you their comments, and if you found something worthy you could then incorporate it in a post. All others, even those quite like myself who find some of your positions contentious if not outright incorrect, could simply be ignored.

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