Explication of the shift in épistémè around 1800 (2002 Essay, UvA)

Essay on the suggested topic of;

Explication of the shift in épistémè around 1800

On page 201 of The Order of Things, Foucault summarizes the shift in épistémè that occurred around 1800 with a table. Give a clear and comprehensive explication of this table.

By Alphan VARDARLI

In this essay I will try to explicate the ‘General Table’ Michael Foucault presents us in his controversial book ‘The Order of Things’ page 201. The peculiarity of the book is due to Foucault’s structure of archaeological analysis which operates on “different historical levels” (G. Gutting p. 175). In the following I will firstly try to set the stage for how OT operates then give an account of the discontinuities that give rise to the general table in the first place and finally with such dynamics in place, explicate the shift in episteme around 1800.

 In Kant to know is an individual act and a given where as in Foucault it is a practice. The focus of OT is discursive practices which are not derived from but related to non-discursive practices(institutions). Discourse here refers to a set of statements which are not free from contradiction. The discursive formations are the foundations which makes contradictions possible in the first place. Thus the ideas and the subject are secondary to the discursive formations and the text.  The episteme of a period is distinguished from world view or a general outlook. It defines and constitutes what counts as knowledge in that period. Proceeding from the tradition of Kant who with epistemology considered the Transcendental a-priori’s for a subject that can know and an object that can be known, Foucault investigates the temporal and spatial conditions for the possibility of different kinds of knowledge. Unlike the transcendentalism of Kant which aims to a universal a-priori, the concept historical a-priori refers to the ‘reality’ of statements configurations of which may be discontinuous through time hence ‘historical. Historical a-priori’s pre-configure and condition what is accepted as valid statements at a certain point in time. Thus the text in its temporal and spatial particularity, the text as a monument, contains the conditions for its own possibility and calls for further investigation. Gutting refers to this as the level of specific history where t! he particular texts are read in their own terms(p..175). He further defines the other levels of history OT operates at as constructive history with different levels of generality, critical history and speculative history. Through these levels of inquiry OT reveals how conceptions of what knowledge is change , how such conceptions are grounded in different experiences of order , how the nature of knowledge in a period depends on the nature of signs and conception of language in that period (Gutting p. 139-140). Therefore to explicate a shift in an episteme of a period demands the background of former epistemes, the frontiers of which provide for future projects of knowledge.

 The upper part of the General Table refers to the configuration of the Classical episteme in Seventeenth and Eighteen Centuries. Classical episteme itself appeared as a discontinuous configuration after the collapse of the Renaissance episteme. Unlike the classical foundation of representation through which the relations of strict identity and difference was observed, the ordering of orders, connection of all relations within the Renaissance episteme was founded upon resemblance. On the frontiers of the kingdom of similitude Foucault recognizes two figures Bacon and Descartes as the inhabitants of those frontiers projecting its finitude. Bacon presents the uneasiness of Renaissance with itself when in OT(p. 52) he is quoted to pursue similitude to the point where perfect circles of motion no longer corresponds to nature but to fiction and idols of the human intellect. Similarly in Descartes the analysis of resemblance’s is modified as to not connect but to discriminate as an instrument of knowledge. Also the exhaustive demands of an infinite analysis is altered to make room for character changes where the elements can be thoroughly understood.

 With Don Quixote by Cervantes the Classical conception of sings and language emerge into being and from them a new order. From a time when writing itself had no boundaries, no distancing from the world Don Quixote “is the hero of the Same”(OT p. 46). He takes a journey as writing itself to confirm the world through similitudes. Alas he is to suffer for the dissolved alliance of resemblances and sings causing visionary madness. In the second part of the book Don Quixote is to achieve his reality as a literary character in literature that is now distinguished from the world. Sings in Renaissance were objects given to knowledge whereas now they are a part of knowledge. Degrees of certainty is internalized as a characteristic of the sing through the umbrella of language. Signs have also become a part of analysis as results and instruments. Hence they no longer draw things together in an arbitrary way. The natural signs that allowed to identify and combine elements of a system ! can no longer be clearly accounted for by representation. In this new space, conventional signs emerge through the powers of representation and present us the same/ exact structure of the world. The relation of the sign to what it signifies is no longer a relation of resemblance but is direct representation. So the sign not only has no intrinsic content like in renaissance it appears to have gained a certain quality of transparency in relation to what it represents. This duplicated representation as Foucault calls it, is representation referring to its own representative function, thus precluding a theory of signification and excluding any theory of representation. In the Classical episteme consciousness/thought is necessarily representative and transparent to itself. The closest the Classical age gets to a theory of representation for itself is with the painting “Las Meninas”, by Velasquez. As the Classical age was unable to represent(theorize) the act of representing without theamatizing and because there is no intermediary element between the sign and its content, maybe by the immediacy of his medium (the painting) for our senses, Velasquez attends a position to communicate the act of representing in Classical age.

 The commentary of Renaissance perished when language became a tool which expressed truths independent of itself. The relative values of linguistic devices of representation are now analyzed by criticism. Using linguistic representations scholars are now able to place things in series according to the identities and differences of their properties. Such a representation is expressed in a table by mathesis which qualitatively orders simple natures with algebra and by taxonomia which qualitatively orders complex representations with methods employed by empirical sciences(G.G. p. 155). Knowledge has become an overall project of a general science of order which presupposes a preliminary ordering of the impressions. This presupposition is in a way related to the displacement of similitude to outside of knowledge as mere unrefined empiricism. Yet it is an indispensable border of knowledge (OT, p. 67) for comparison, observation, naming abstract notions all of which depend on the power of the mind to recall or imagination. Hence “the double requisite is patent”, “there must be, in the thing represented the insistent murmur of resemblance; There must be in representation, the perpetual possibility of imaginative recall” (OT, p. 69), connecting at the root of knowledge resemblance to imagination and clarifying the two directions of analysis in the Classical age; analytic of imagination (mechanics of imagination that “transforms the linear time of representations into a simultaneous space containing virtual elements”(OT p. 70)) and the analysis of nature (resemblances between things before being reduced order) . The process by which imagination patterns the flux impressions into an ordered series is investigated from Locke to The ideologues of the modern episteme, by means of a genetic analysis which unites the analytic of imagination with the analysis of nature in the idea of a genesis(G.G. p. 156). A general science of calculable order, forming by itself a totality of mathesis, and genetic analysis, forming its own genesis, are the two extremities of the Classical episteme between which the region of signs extend. Thus the area of the table is hedged in by calculation of equalities and genesis of representations(OT p. 73). It is on this table we encounter general grammar, natural history and analysis of wealth which are the subdomains of taxonomy.

 Nomenclature Taxonomia defines the law of being as well as the conditions for it to be known. A Nomenclature that would be a Taxonomy is also a system of signs transparent to the continuity of being (OT, p.208). This is purely due to the representational power of language. Thus the four functions that define the verbal sign in GG and distinguish it from all other signs representation can provide for itself , prescribe the essential grid which accounts for theoretical signalization of NH and practical utilization of monetary signs in AW. (OT p. 203) Attribution connects representation to its sing as a totality(as one and the same thing) through the affirmation of the verb. Theory of the verb is the threshold of language where Articulation can provide this connection with specific content by names, hence differentiating it. Appreciative value can now become estimate value gaining individuality, importance and recognition. Noun and verb posses value in their articulatory role. Attribution and Articulation define/qualify language as a system of Classical representation, Designation and Derivation relate it to objects. Origin of language is a language of action where the primitive cries, direct human responses to the world, are detached by an association of the cries with the same objects by different members of the community , becoming primitive names. Therefore roots tie language to a reality outside itself in an arbitrary and a very close way. But this tight, one to one representational character of the root is subject to tropes and shifts of meaning in time. As Derivation accounts for development of languages and primitive roots, the Articulative capacities of language depend on how far on the line of derivation it extends. Capacity for properly naming things is necessary for formulating true propositions and arriving at true judgements. Thus the possibility of an Universal language is always present. For GG Between Attribution and Articulation the errors of reflection proliferate and between Designation and Derivation shifts of imagination multiply . Ars Combinatoria is the ever postponed project of Classical language where the representative value of words are fixed and errors of reflection is controlled, creating a distinct language that can make clear/transparent discourse. The practice of the currently imperfect real language is reinforced and compensated on the opposite side of the table “by an Encyclopedia which defines the progress of words, prescribes the most natural routes for them to take, traces the legitimate shifts of knowledge, and codifies the relationships of adjacency and resemblance” (OT p. 204). Thus the derivation of words is projected to be controlled on the basis of primary designation by means of a dictionary.

 Although AW and NH have the same conditions of possibility as language there are two differences that prevent classification from becoming a spontaneous language of nature and prices from becoming a natural discourse of wealth. Firstly, although order in wealth and natural beings have same mode of being as language they are not the same being, hence the domain of verbal signs are distinguished from wealth and natural beings. Secondly, the theory of natural history is distinguished from the theory of value or prices.

 Classical conception of history emerges from the Attribution of a new field of visibility to beings; as what is visible no longer contains signs like in the Renaissance period, NH is the nomination of the visible in an attempt to bring language as close to the observing gaze as possible. Visibility of beings (Attribution) provide the general form of representation and descriptions (Articulation) specify the particular content of representation. Therefore unlike real languages in GG, there is no room for error between what is seen and its description. Structure unites the two moments of Attribution and Articulation in one operation . Structure focuses on the aspects of form, magnitude, number and arrangement for the elements of a natural object, providing a grid for the transcription of the data gathered with the examination of the eye into language as well as connecting these elements. With structure natural beings appear as visible patterns of surfaces and lines laid out! on a table and as the internal relationships of subordination or organization lay beyond the visible, NH focuses on botany rather than anatomy. But structure by itself only defines the individual plant or animal. The essential nature of objects and their identifying features which place them in a table are revealed with their generic characters. Designation of the particular species the individual structure belongs to, unlike the ‘pointing’ of a primitive root in GG, “also functions like derivation, placing the species in a developed system, which complexly relates it to other species.”(Gutting p. 173) The adjacency of being is in a sense founded upon the general representability of natural beings through the primary grid of structure. Foucault presents method and system as the two ways generic characters are determined. Although they are different, method and system are not in opposition to one another, as they both define identities by a means of a general grid of differences. The task of NH is to reconstitute the ideal order by connecting the two sides of the General table together. Attribution and Articulation pair is connected through the immediate visibility of structure to Designation, Derivation pair which, by the coherence of the system or the exactness of the method, establish Generic Characters. This is a connection of judgement to meaning and the theoretical closing of what remains open in real languages, giving rise to projects of uncompleted arts- human sciences.

 In Renaissance money functioned as a sign (mark) for other things (wealth), when with the dawn of the Classical age money only attains its value as a function of pure representation. Value emerges as the attributive function of AW defined by the objects of need. Theory of value proceeds to articulate how through the primitive process of barter, relations of equality and analogy are established allowing the introduction of objects of need to a system of exchanges. Money designates value as a monetary pledge to operate as a medium of exchange. Theory of money and trade explain respectively how objects can take on such a signifying function and how this relation of representation can be modified through circulation and trade. Theory of monetary prices which correspond to an analysis of roots and of the language of action in GG, accounts for how the Price of Merchandise is established between the Designation of commodities to values and the Derivation of value through exchange! s. Value connects and combines wealth with wealth and money permits their exchange. Like the theory of the verb in GG and structure in NH, value of value resides/ is established in its articulatory role where the appreciative value becomes estimate value. Money on the other hand functions in relation to wealth the same way character functions in relation to natural beings, they both impose a mark and indicate a place for that which they mark. As an evident manifestation of the order of things, if well regulated AW can account for the fluctuations of prices and value. Hence AW becomes the virtual closing of what remains open in real languages.

 Language, natural history and uninterrupted flow of wealth presuppose that representations resemble one another suggest one another in imagination, that natural beings are in relations of adjacency and resemblance and that mans needs, which can be satisfied, correspond to one another. This underlying ontology in which an absence of nothingness, a general representability of being, and a being expressed in representation is persistent, constitutes the metaphysical space upon which the Modern episteme establishes its scientific movement. Between Attribution and Derivation being is offered representation without interruption; representation in turn releases the continuity of being between Articulation and Designation. “… whereas the relations between articulation and attribution, designation and derivation(that which provides a foundation for judgement on the one hand and for meaning on the other, structure and character, value and prices) define the scientifically strong moment of that thought…”(OT p. 206). Thus the Modern episteme is to establish a philosophical space where Classical age had a strong epistemological grip. GG deals with defective real languages in a prescriptive manner, whereas the value of NH wholly resides in the fact that between structure and character it is an infallible superimposition; a science. AW however is inevitably linked to human activity and hence further analysis of the relation of value and prices gives rise to new projects starting from the late 18th century onwards. The Modern episteme arises from the shift in the object of knowledge. Thus AW, NH, GG are not simply replaced with political economy, biology and philology. Just as Don Quixote freed himself from the kind representation whichs’ law is similitude and received his affirmation from a kind of representation that is transparent to itself where being and the Same reside, Sade is pounding desire to the limits of representation where the object of desire, Juliette, is also the origin of desire where I am inclined to say that mathesis and genesis in their full representative capacity manage very ‘thinly’ to hedge in ‘individuals’ whose desires may abruptly rise to the surface, putting a claim to the individual/table. Sade thus attains the end of Classical discourse and thought where violence of a people who talk, violent effort of life and hidden energy of needs are escaping representation.

 

 The Modern Episteme

 

 What constitutes the true reality of things is no longer relations of identity and difference but structural and functional similarities which lay beyond the capacities of a visual representation. As the coherence of representation with itself in its ability to investigate and connect in one and the same operation dissolves so does the unity of analytic and synthetic knowledge. Hence the synthetic knowledge of empirical sciences become separated from the analytic knowledge of the mathematical and logical sciences(Gutting p. 184). Here Foucault takes our attention to three positions of philosophical reflections on representation in the Modern episteme. Kant in his transcendental philosophy of the subject takes representation to begin on the side of the experiencing subject and goes on to seek the conditions for the possibility of objects of representation (Gutting p. 184). Philosophies which particularly focus on life, labor and language on the other hand aim to find the conditions of the possibility of the subjects representational experience in the object, aiming thus at a “transcendental objectivity”. Here Gutting takes our attention a third approach, positivism which he asks whether it may be regarded as “a mere revival of the empiricist philosophies of the Classical age “(Gutting, p. 185) For positivism simply restricts itself with experience without referring to a transcendental ground which grants its possibility. Although positivism is richer in alternatives and is supported by the Modern and not the Classical episteme , it risks falling into incoherence if thought is not to be identified with representation. Where the transcendental of the subject / criticism and transcendental of the object / metaphysics aim to find the essences of subject and object respectively, positivism emerges on the distance between rationality of the knowable and unknowable depths forming the criticism-positivism-metaphysics triangle of the object.

 The lower part of the general table explicates the shift in episteme in the 1800’s when between Attribution , Derivation and Articulation, Designation pairs the continuum of representation and being solidifies in the beings of labor, life and language constituting new objects of knowledge which provide non representational sources for representational systems. The metaphysical space of the Classical era thus provides the means to the construction of the epistemological field of the Modern age. One could say that all that can be positively grasped, all claims that are considered intelligible in the Modern age still have to cross/ to bridge/ to construct on, the distance hedged in the table by the plus signs of the so called Epistemological Field. It is with the appearance of these plus sings( emergence of positive beings of labor, life, language) that the minus (?) sings, only between Articulation-Designation and Attribution-Derivation pairs, become straight and immediately! (?) apparent lines like the Attribution-Articulation and Derivation-Designation pairs had been in Classical age. Further proof of this possible factor might be that the straight lines dissolves once it is outside the Epistemological field in the Modern episteme.

 Modern economics initially emerges from the reconception of economic value due to the productive power of labor rather than any change in the dynamics of representation. The initial step was taken by Adam Smith when he made a decisive break from measuring the value of a commodity in a system of exchanges by the money or equivalent amount of goods that would ‘represent’ the commodity in exchange and delivered labor as the irreducible measure of a commodity’s value. Although this is a move beyond a purely representational view of wealth, Smith nevertheless “still held that the commodity had value only because of its connection with the representational system of exchange”(Gutting p.187). Only with Ricardo labor is not only the measure of value but it is also the sole source of value. Therefore since “ value ceased to be a sign it has become a product “(OT p.254), theory of production precedes that of circulation. There are three consequences that follows from the introduction of a concept of labor with a causality peculiar to itself into economics. As the first consequence, a new conception of history or rather economic history emerges which considers the available forms of production that labor is to use for producing value as a linear accumulation extending indefinitely back in time. As the historical forces of production configure the effectiveness of labor in creating value at any point in time, the second consequence arises from the conceptualization of man as an economic agent in these forces. This man no longer actively seeks and depends on value and manages to represents his needs as well as his objects of satisfaction to himself, but he is a ! finite being “who spends, wears out, and wastes his life evading the imminence of death.”(OT p. 257)One could say that the role that AW played for the virtual closing of real languages, becomes due to the aspect of a finite history a practical closing with political economy and registers on to the two ends of the Epistemological field of the Modern episteme table as Analysis of Production (Articulation -Designation) in relation to the historicity of economics and Analysis of Distribution (Attribution-Derivation) in relation to the finitude of human existence( OT, p.262). The relation of this newly conceived History and Man constitutes the third consequence that this relation is directed towards some conclusion. Ricardo with a negative perception, declares this finality to be the “stabilization of mankind in a permanent state of scarcity”(Gutting p.189) Foucault argues that although Marx confronts this point in a positive manner by deeming the History itself to be pessimistic, alienating, and something to be overcome and reversed, he nevertheless operates within the same premises, presuppositions as Ricardo; History and the finitude of man. Thus Marxism introduces no real discontinuity at the deeper level of Modern episteme where “ the great dream of an end to History is the utopia of casual systems of thought, just as the dream of the world’s beginnings was the utopia of the classifying systems of thought.” (OT, p.263)

 In the Classical age life only appears as one possible character of the objects that can be known by NH. Foucault argues that even within the debate of fixism versus evolutionism time is considered as an external element for beings which are not by necessity living. That is to say life did not exist for the Classical episteme. Like the AW the domain of NH received a primary modification period between 1775 and 1795 when it still retained its Classical grid of representation. During this period Lamarck (also Jussieu and Vicq d’ Azyr) articulated how structures could pass for character based on a principle of organic structure. Although this principle subordinated characters to one another, linked characters to functions, emphasized the importance of life to the ordering of natural beings , dissolved the parallelism between Nomenclature and taxonomy\classification, and was in general alien to the domain of visible representations, it was with Cuvier that organic structure gained its own independent conditions of possibility rather than modifying the methods and the techniques of a taxonomia (OT, p.231). From the analysis of organisms and organic structures, comparative anatomy, resembling the times of the renaissance regained importance between the Articulation and Designation pair. A consequence that arises when life is understood as a functional system is that it has discontinuous forms which makes it impossible to place it in a continuous series. Continuum of Classical order is dissolved for a discontinuous proliferation of species of life (Gutting p.191). As external factors are not mere occurrences of disruption on a prepackaged table, the nature of a species is now understood to be casually dependent on the world. Cuvier however was a ‘fixist’ who rejected the idea of evolution and saw a permanent state of biological stability. And in a way just as Ricardo foretold of a future permanent state of economic stability and founded the ever distant origin of his field, Cuiver, by pursuing the historicity of life in its immediacy, cultivates the conception of life and thus biology in the Modern era. Marx and Darwin appear on the other side of the spectrum with a different evaluation, but not outside or discontinuous from the Modern episteme which forms the spectrum.

 The constitution of modern philology was completed at a later time than both economics and biology due to the central role of language in the Classical episteme. The confrontation of languages with each other at the end of eighteenth century brought ‘inflection’ forward as an intermediary between the articulation of contents and the value of roots in GG. Although inflection is tightly bound to the search for representative powers of language in a Classical grid, the dimension of the purely grammatical is appearing, which is not organized around direct representation or reducible to the language analysis itself(OT, p.134-5). Nevertheless the break from general grammar decisively came with Bopp who no longer defined words as representative totalities but as elements of grammatical systems. Of course words still held representative powers for Bopp but these powers are derived from their roles in grammatical systems defined by the rules governing their use (Gutting, p.193). No! w with a different conception of words the four main features of modern philology appear. Firstly languages are no longer distinguished on the basis of differences in analyzing the representation of thoughts like in the Classical age, but by the differences in the formal features of their grammars. Secondly, these formal features of autonomous grammatical elements provide the primary object of study for philology. Hence language comprehended as a totality of phonetic elements has “acquired a vibratory nature which has separated it from the visible sign and made it more proximate to the note in music”(OT, p.286). Phonetics is now indispensable to grasping the nature of languages. Thirdly, the theory of the root is no longer employed with working back to a primitive language to find the initial connection with objects, but instead roots can be determined solely with the study of the formal properties of a given language system. As there are purely linguistic means of establishing the derivation of the elements of a language, Etymology (syntax -?- on the general table) “becomes a definite, limited method of analysis, the aim of which is to discover within any given word the radical from which it has been formed” (OT, p.288). The theory of the verb which defined the threshold of language in the Classical age, is no longer adequate as verbs are now considered to have their own roots independent of the copula and representative functions of adjectives. What is more as nouns are derived from verbs the fundamental connection of language to reality as a whole is altered to provide a coherent basis for verbal roots that do not represent objects but express the active and willing subject. Hence the development of languages is no longer tied to what the elites have learned about them (to knowledge) but to the desire of people as a whole (to freedom). Fourthly, the method for defining kinship between languages is now in purely formal terms without a reference to their representative characters. The mutations of languages over time is understood in terms of philology’s account of their intrinsic functions. Like the discontinuous forms of organic structure established the historicity of living beings, once languages broke free from chronological continuity that tried to tie them back to an origin, they became historical realities.

 It is an important aim of OT to understand the cognitive status of the human sciences (Gutting, p.139). Foucault starts by explicating the conception of mans representations in human sciences where the conditions of the possibility of the subjects representational experience is sought in the object. Thus aiming at a ‘transcendental objectivity’ derived from of life, labor and language, the empirico-transcendental doublet is the reduction of the originally Kantian man as transcendental to man as empirical. As the beings of labor, life and language are the non representational sources of representational systems, they appear as independently functioning, unconscious structures which claim to enclose the whole of mans representations. Constituting himself as historical, man inevitably constitutes the world as historical. Thus his finitude which is not of his making is in constant retreat. It is as if his final face is his ultimate justification for ever having existed and hence his origin. Foucault argues that here man is incoherently conceived to be both a constituted object and constituting subject. Through such a conflicting conception of retreating origin it is made possible that in the epistemological field linked with economy there is a sociological region, linked with biology there is a psychological region, linked with philology there is a region for the study of literature and myths. The human sciences are dominated with the role of norms as organizing principles, such as the rational irrational division in sociology, normal pathological division in psychology, meaningful meaningless division in philology.

 Far from normativity claims of human sciences, the philosophical field of the modern episteme treats mans representations as they appear in his interior consciousness. The new status of language as a historical reality and object of our knowledge accounts for the two opposite approaches in the philosophical field of the Modern episteme; those of formalization which aims at developing a symbolic logic capable of expressing thought independent of any language and interpretation which seeks to understand the meanings implicit in historical language by revealing the paralyzing myths. On the side of formalization which is the mathesis, the moments of judgement (Attribution) and patterning (Articulation) are separated giving rise to formal apophantics (logic) and formal ontology. Likewise the Classical consideration of primitive designation and derivation through time also separated in the Modern episteme to provide the space for original meaning and history. Interpretation undertakes an unveiling of the relations of signification and time, on a never ending journey. Foucault attributes the highest importance to the relation between formalization and interpretation. He argues that just as Classical thought sought to discover a nomenclature that would be a taxonomy, the Modern episteme seeks its unity in a place where the formal would meet the signicative as illuminated representation (OT, p.207-8). It is beyond the threshold of Nietzsche and with the counter-sciences of psychoanalysis, ethnology and (a possible) linguistics that such a connection is deemed possible in the OT. If it is the project of modern philosophy to support a coherent account of human finitudes self foundation, Nietzsche at the end of nineteenth century confronted each finitude the modern episteme presented him with an infinity, with hope. “He took the end of time and transformed it into the death of God and the odyssey of the last man; he took up anthropological finitude once again, but in order to use it as a basis for the prodigious leap of the superman; he took up once again the great continuous chain of History, but in order to bend it round into the infinity of the eternal return. … It was Nietzsche … who burned for us…” (OT, p.263)

Final paper for

Philosophy of the Social and Cultural Science – Foucault

Module WB3314

Prof. Gerard de VRIES and Dr. Michiel LEEZENBERG

Bibliography

 

  • Foucault, M. (1970). The Order of Things. New York: Vintage Books

 

  • Gutting, G. (1989) . Michael Foucault’s Archeology of Scientific Reason. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

–     Lecture notes

Civilization and the scope of subjectivity from Freud to Lacan (2002 essay UvA)

 

Civilization and the scope of subjectivity from Freud to Lacan

 Introduction

What is progress? After all and for all we know Copernicus, Darwin and Freud have respectively nailed our position (and thus our pride) in this immense universe to a speck of dust, a chance of a chance; by placing the location of the earth as rotation around the sun rather than the center of the universe, by evolution of the species and by the unconsciousness in the human subject. Does the fact that we are symbolic beings and that we can structurally and culturally organize for and of certain signs and their signifiers call for a possibility of progress in the face of eternal death or is there a divine will? What is the importance of where any kind of progress  registers? What progressive possibilities do different registers themselves hold? With Freud and Lacan we are called to investigate the uncanny aspects of the post industrial subject.

 Freud’s dynamic, topographical and economic distinctions of the properties of the mind could possibly be the result of the influences of the mechanists of his era, Darwinism and also Schopenhauer who could be thought to have become a system with the unconscious of Freud. Freud was disillusioned with progress as civilization. He writes on p.327 in Civilization and Its Discontents. “…the price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness through a heightened sense of guilt” Civilization and the libidinal development of the individual  appear to follow similar patterns of Character formation, sublimation and renunciation. Freud is particularly interested in the guilt involved in renunciation and it’s origins. The renunciation of instinct owing to  fear of aggression by the external authority is followed by the erection of an internal authority – renunciation of instinct owing to a fear of conscience. In Freud’s On Narcissism : An introduction the renunciation of instincts is a prerequisite for the establishment of ego and consciousness. In this text the erection of an internal authority is only hinted at. It is to take take full form as superego in Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle.  The structure of the human mind which produces these agencies of ego and superego is also at their mercy. The origins of a sense of guilt are hidden away in a long forgotten past which drives the compulsion to repeat in the present. The subject most vulnerable from within is also the most distant from the origins of his conscience and its structure.

Lacan presents us with the workings of three orders that make the subject possible namely, the real, the imaginary, the symbolic. His development of Freudian concepts and his unwillingness to compromise on the pessimist edge of Freud brought him outside conventional psychoanalysis and into conflict with for example the school of Anna Freud, which asserts that a healthy ego is possible. Not following Freud but accompanying him through “On Narcissism: an introduction”, Lacan in his paper “On Narcissism” seeks to establish the mirror stage and the two registers of the imaginary and the symbolic. From procreation of species in Freud, Lacan in this paper arrives at procreation of types, that is to say images. Unlike Freud, Lacan does not find any possibility for the existence of an optimal sexual development such as heterosexual love, but ways of confronting the trauma of the Real. Hence the importance of the protection of the species through procreation becomes secondary to the  reproduction of the cultural context which allows for procreation. Lacan introduces a structure of language acquisition whereby children are admitted to the world of adults through  symbolic castration and intelligible communication is made possible. In symbolic castration an infant’s sense of dominating importance for the world of the mother is destroyed through the realization that the mother adheres to an external system and not only to the demands of the child. In the establishment of the symbolic order sexuality is a structural variable, so sexuality for the Lacanian subject is not in biology but in symbolic insertion, in the inscription of language into the flesh, whereas the Freudian subject follows or by perversion deviates from an optimal development.

 

  • External and Internal authority
 1.1     Theory of Instincts: Narcissism and the establishment of ego

 

Freud quotes Schiller as his starting point for his development of a theory of instincts and writes “hunger and love are what moves the world”(Civilization and it’s Discontents, p.308) Ego-love aims to preserve(i.e. satisfy hunger…) the individual subject and object-love aims to preserve the species(love). There is an antithesis between the ego instincts and the libidinal instincts of love directed toward objects. Libido is the life energy of the subject which is mostly sexual.

Advancing his inquiry Freud moves from repressed to repressing forces thus from object instincts to the ego. Through the introduction of the concept of narcissism it became clear that ego is the libido’s original home. Instead of making libido coincide with instinctual energy in general, like Jung, Freud stayed convinced that not all instincts were of the same kind.

 

1.2     Establishment of Super-ego
 1.2.1   Eros and Death

 In his Civilization and It’s Discontents, the pleasure principle, that is the aiming for pleasure and avoidance of unpleasure, aims at satisfaction which can never be fully possible. Referring to his work, Beyond the Pleasure Principle he writes further on “a portion of the instinct is diverted towards the external world …as an instinct of aggressiveness and destructiveness… pressed into the service of Eros…destroying some other thing instead of destroying its own self.”(p.310) Hence “… the evolution of civilization [is] the struggle between Eros and Death, between the instinct of life and the instinct of destruction as it works itself out in the human species.”(p.314) In this respect Freud is dismissive of the religious portrayal of the Devil as a separate agent (from the principles of economic discharge), as the best way out as an excuse for God. Freud quotes Goethe’s Mephistopheles where the Devil himself names his adversary as Eros (nature, power to regenerate) not God (holy, and good)(p.312). 

  • Dynamic, topographical and economic distinctions

  Freud was different from his mechanist contemporaries in his dynamic conception of  mind rather then an all rational and static one. Two years after his graduation from the university of Vienna in 1881 Freud worked under Theodor Meynert, the leading brain anatomist and neuropathologist of his time. There in the Psychiatric Clinic, he got introduced to the new correlations between ideas and neurological processes . His topographical distinction came with his Interpretation of Dreams and his discovery of the preconscious and the unconscious. And in his Beyond the Pleasure Principle, the economic distinction uncovers the death instinct through the principle of constancy. Although pleasure principle appears to drive the purpose of life for human beings Freud further identifies the death instinct as inseparable from Eros.    

Freud in Beyond the Pleasure Principle chp1 is arguing on the principle of constancy asserting a fundamental inclination of the mental apparatus for keeping the level of excitation low. Hence Freud came to realize the vulnerability of the human subject from within Every organism in a sense dies of internal reasons of structural decomposition.

  • The evolution of the human brain

  In Freud’s tongue this is the internalization and condensation of the perceptive and receptive cells. Since “the protection against the stimuli is more important than the reception of the stimuli”{BPPchp4}the outer layer of living organisms would be baked through from the overburdening impact of the external world; specializing and condensing for extending functions as the receptive(to discover the direction and nature of external stimuli) and commander(i.e. regulatory functions). Freud talks about the principle of constancy asserting a fundamental inclination of the mental apparatus for keeping the level of excitation low. Freud’s argument considered along its Darwinian lines, human evolution  is not understood as a bettering but as an adaptation of organic life due to modification of external stimuli. So there is no instinct for perfection, although Freud finds dynamic conditions for its existence he thinks the economic condition ( for the sluggish non-perverted, non-neurotic normal man) does not exist bpp5.  One is inevitably inclined to consider the impossibility of progress in this path since desire cannot be satisfied .Although Freud steers clear from a dogmatic approach, his version of adaptation of organic life involves an oversimplified desire for the procreation of species.

2        The origins of the sense of guilt

Civilization and the libidinal development of the individual  appear to follow similar patterns of Character formation, sublimation and renunciation. For example, although order and cleanliness are important requirements (characters) for civilization their vital necessity is not immediately apparent, they are the result of a series of displacements through time. Likewise in the development of the individual through a process in anal eroticism a group of traits are intensified and the anal character is formed. Sublimation of the individuals instincts by displacing the conditions for their satisfaction, also appears as a feature of cultural developments. Finally cultural frustration in social relationships resonates squarely with the apriori demand of civilization for the renunciation of the powerful instincts of the individual. Hence Freud is clear with his “intention to represent the sense of guilt as the most important problem in the development of civilization and to show that the price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness through a heightened sense of guilt”p.327

2.1 Totem and Taboo at the origins of Superego

 Freud is particularly interested in the guilt involved in renunciation and it’s origins. Remorse which presupposes conscience implies the readiness to feel guilt before the deed took place. This proves difficult to uncover the origin of conscience and the origin of the sense of guilt. Excluding a sense of guilt due to remorse, the origins of sense of guilt and hence remorse appears in another work by Freud, Totem and Taboo where he identifies a primal myth; death of the primal father at the hands of his sons who strongly love(he is the provider and rule of law) and hate him(he possesses all the woman). Once satisfied the aggression due to hatred leaves its place to remorse due to love.  By identification with the father the super-ego is set up with the powers of the dead father, like a punishment for the sons aggression, and with restrictions (ie. a taboo such as exogamy) to prevent a repetition of the deed. As time and generation passes no sons ever get free from guilt on the contrary since the aggressiveness against the father was inevitably repeated so was the sense of guilt; repeated, reinforced and carried over to the superego. Therefore civilization appears to  push people to unite through an ever increasing reinforcement of a sense of guilt.

Renunciation of instinctual satisfactions due to the fear of authority and as well as renunciation pressing for punishment due to the fear of superego form the origins of the sense of guilt. Super-ego thus appears as “…a continuation of the severity of the external authority, to which it has succeeded and which it has partly replaced.”(p.320) Through the Reality principle, the immediate aims are sublimated to reach a compromise between the ego-instincts(for the preservation of the individual) and object-instincts(for the preservation of the species-Eros).

3        Freud’s Papers on Technique and the Lacan’s interpretation
 3.1     On narcissism

Lacan in On narcissism in Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953 – 1954, states that one of the most important questions in analytic theory is to know what is the connection between the bonds of transference and the characteristics of the love relation. He intends “to leave intact the empirical totality of the notion of transference, all the while remarking that it is plurivalent and that it acts in several registers at a time in the symbolic, the imaginary and the real. These are not three fields.”( Lacan, Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953 – 1954, p.112-113) The source of therapeutic efficacy is a debated issue and Lacan is at odds with the Anglo Saxon, ego psychology which works with parasitical super-ego.

For Lacan, Freud recognizes the difference in structure of withdrawal from reality in neurosis and in psychosis. In the neurotics refusal to recognize there is a function and hence no problem in naming as imaginary. In the first instance imaginary refers to the subjects relation to its former identifications and in the second place it refers to the relation of the subject with the real. In psychosis however nothing of the sort is to be found, for “if he loses the realization of the real, he doesn’t find any imaginary substitute.”( Lacan, Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953 – 1954, p.116) But what is the psychotic invested to start off with as he reconstructs his world? “…the answer is words…the category of the symbolic.”( Lacan, Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953 – 1954, p.117)

3.2     The two narcissism’s   

To map out the structure of psychoses within the framework of the general theory of libido Freud postulates a condition of narcissism at a primitive stage, not accessible to psychoanalysis, in which the ego drives and libidinal drives are indistinguishable. Freud backed up his theory of the libido with Weissmann’s theory of germ-plasm. Lacan however finds the trigger for this gigantic sexual mechanism not in any sexual partner but in an image. The sexual instincts are crystallized and unleashed in an imaginary relation. Furthermore the libidinal drive is centered on the function of the imaginary. In the imaginary he two narcissism’s take the positions of the relation between constitution of reality and relation with the form of the body. First, there is a narcissism connected with the corporal image making up the unity of the subject including the imaginary source of symbolism.

In animals whatever is good for the perpetuation of a type of species is good for its individual members, for man however the other has a captivating value. “…the second narcissism, is identification with the other, which under normal circumstances, enables man to locate precisely his imaginary and libidinal relation to the world in general. That is what enables him to see in its place and to structure, as a function of this place and of his world, his being”( Lacan, Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953 – 1954, p.125)

3.3     Ego-ideal and ideal ego

 The animal makes a real object coincide with the image within him and the coincidence of the image with a real object strengthens it, gives it substance, embodiment. At this moment behavior is released, such that the subject will be guided towards its object, with the image as go-between.( Lacan, Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953 – 1954, p.138) In man the manifestations of the sexual function, the image, is of lack of adaptation, where we come upon a game of hide and seek between the image and its normal object. But what is the ‘normal’ object of the image isn’t it simply a series of cultural approximations or a natural process? “What is the point?” writes Lacan, “-if not to see what the function of the other, of the human other, is, in the adequation of the imaginary and the real”( Lacan, Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953 – 1954, p.139)

The virtual subject is there where we first saw our ego, outside us in the human form. “The  human being only sees his form materialized, whole, the mirage of himself, outside himself.” (Lacan, Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953 – 1954, p.140) Thus formation of our ideal-ego allows for our entry into the mirror phase.  Lacan postulating that the voice of the other governs the inclination of the plane mirror goes on to argue the regulation of the imaginary depends on something which is located in a transcendent fashion.; on the symbolic connection between human beings. The symbolic relation defines the position of the subject as seeing and also determines the degree of perfection, of completeness, of approximation of the imaginary. It is this very representation which allows for Lacan to draw a distinction between the ideal-ego and the ego-ideal. To find my position within the imaginary structuration, one finds a guide on the level of the symbolic plane beyond the imaginary.

Conclusion

From Freud to Lacan only the structure in which subjectivity is attained appears to change and not the scope of subjectivity. Although with a new (improved?) structure new kinds of registers (such as the imaginary and the symbolic) which form the subject are identified. These new registers in turn can provide for different methods of treatment as well as a better understanding of the symbolic mind. Lacan appears to have achieved a universal theory of subjectivity for all symbolic beings by reasoning the structure of registers, which are independent of the corporality of the individual, without resorting to an optimal development of sexuality or the myth of the primordial father like Freud.

 The Philosophy of Psychoanalysis: Desire of the Other

Lecturer: Drs. Angela Grooten

Bibliography

 Freud. Civilisation and its Discontents (1930)

Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) 

Totem and Taboo (1913)

Lacan. Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953 – 1954, On narcissism IX, The two narcissisms X, 

Ego-ideal and ideal ego XI, Zeitlich-Entwicklungsgeschichte XII

Lacan. Ecrits: A Selection. ONE – The mirror stage as formative of the function of the

I.(1977) THREE – The function and field of speech and language in psychoanalysis.(1991). SIX – On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis.(1977).

Representing the time of the postmodern subject in David Lynch`s Lost Highway and The Straight Story ; The psychoanalytic approach (2002 Essay, UvA)

 “…at a certain level, to perceive the subject as the psychological unity of a person is wrong.” (p.23, The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime, On David Lynch’s Lost Highway, Slavoj Zizek) 

Representing the time of the postmodern subject in David Lynch`s Lost Highway and The Straight Story ; The psychoanalytic approach

 Introduction

The cinema of David Lynch has been hailed by Slavoj Zizek as the art of the ridiculus sublime where the uncanny narrative structures of his films present the passive spectator with problems of comprehension and the active spectator with unheard of “side” effects. In this universe of the ridiculous sublime the most ridiculous and pathetic scenes are to be taken seriously alongside the ridiculosly excessive, violent “evil” figures. In “The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime, On David Lynch’s Lost Highway” Zizek “attempt(s) to unravel the enigma of this coincidence of opposites, which is, in a way, the enigma of postmodernity itsef”(p.3)

 The psychoanalytic approach of Zizek clarifyes the presence and the power of symbolic institutions we take for granted. Zizek focuses on how we hug our chains not how we resist them, and so it is in this vein that his interpretation points to the redemptive value of naive cliches. As the properly impersonal bureucratic voice of the symbolic institutions disintegrate on the appereance (to the point of demanding a tone of emotional sincerity from the speakers of institutions which is much more cynical in the eyes of Zizek), their separation from human beings also wayne in many ways. This schitzophrenic disintegration of the boundries has consequences over how the power structures are concieved by different individuals as well as how those power structures manifest themselves in the world. Hence I would like to look at how Zizek through the psychoanalytic method locates the elements of the psychological unity of a character which are external to the subject in Lost Highway, and continue with the analysis in The Straight Story to look at the main characters relation to the external parts (extentions) of himself. 

 Since the representations of time enter a reciprocal relationship with the full scale reality of the main characters in Lost Highway and The Straight Story, the self reflexive logic of the narrative is tied to the very essence of the characters dillemas which gives them (and the films) a unique life and time of their own, or rather a life and time the characters have struggled and worked to make their own. Fred is a musician who starts having delusions after killing his wife and Alvin is a WWII veteran desperately trying to reach his dying brother 600 miles away.

 

The psychoanalytic approach and Lost Highway

 

 As oppose to the post-theory, which rejects Lacanian cinema studies, Zizek establishes the transgression of meaning in the surface and deep keys (clues) of narration in film as inherent (transgression). This is to say that instead of conflicting clues appealing to different interpretations of different spectators, the clues actually appeal to the two types of interpretation within the same spectator. This idea of the split spectator links to the psychoanalytic terms of the opposition between the symbolic Law (Ego-ideal) and obscene superego (Ideal-ego). The symbolic Law is only interested in keeping/saving appearances in the public domain, leaving the superego to go on with its dirty imagination. Alas, psychoanalysis is not interested in some repressed content but the essential character of appearance, which in this case means that “…these unintended, perverse by-products, far from effectively threatening the system of symbolic domination, are its inherent transgression, i.e., its unacknowledged, obscene support.”(p.7)

 Zizek reads Lynch, through the Lacan of the Real/ the Real of Lacan. The Real forms the traumatic underbelly of our fantasized reality. The violence of the Real appears to exist as a prerequisite for the invention of collective fantasy. This is an on going process of protection from stimuli through delay and diffusion in the everyday and also in the historical existence. In Lacan`s definition of the mind The Real is the first of the triad of concepts. The real, the imaginary and the symbolic form the subject by firstly binding/bounding the surges of energy from the Real (could be literally read as the entire sense data bombardment of the brain by the nervous system) in an imaginary identification process, which either through mimicry or reflection binds the body from parts to a whole in an image, separating the area of control, the image of the body from the image of things. And secondly by montaging this bounded surge within the algorithm of an external symbolic order (separating the I that has formed, from others in an externally imposed mode of differentiation). The manifestations of externality are firstly the imaginary identification with an image fundamentally alien, unknowable to the self, secondly  at the symbolic level where the existence of others surface (images which are like me although I can never be sure) and the place of the “I” amongst them “other(s)”. Again this position of the I  is a given, although for the fantasy of communication to work the participants should accept the givens of communication unquestioningly otherwise they will be labelled uncommunicable or insane. This is to say that in the experience of reality, fantasy appears as both the ultimate support of our sense of reality and as defence against the Real.

 The impersonality and externality of the sociosymbolic law forms the basis of fantasmatic projections which are trying to represent the Real which is beyond representation. Hence this inconsistency is embedded in the order of fantasmatic projections which formulate bridges to the Real (full experience of life) through impossible sublime objects of desire, (i.e. the ultimate man or the ultimate woman which Zizek portrays through the haunting image of an ape copulating with a cyborg). Sublime objects, though not sublime in themselves, occupy the structural place of the humanly preferred full experience of life; jouissance.

 The two components of the unity of our experience sustained by fantasy, of de-sublimated drab everyday reality and the fantasmatic support in all its obscene cruelty, disintegrates in Lynch`s Lost Highway, endorsing a metacommentary function on the opposition between the classic and the modern noir femme fatale, occupying the two structural ends of an impossible sublime object of desire. Since the structure of the inherent transgression can be broken by means of the ACT, the feminine act in this film allows for the externiation of inherent impossibilities through the progressing narration. Fred and Renee whose marriage is doomed for internal reasons (impotence) transforms to the relation of Pete and Alice who are doomed by external reasons; the wrath of the Mr. Eddy occupying the structural place of the name of the father; the enforcer and gatekeeper to the external sociosymbolic law. Children are admitted to the world of adults through castration. Their sense of dominating importance for the world of the mother is destroyed through the realisation that the mother adheres to an external system and not only to the demands of the child. The film therefore traverses fantasy of the sublime object totally and not just as a male fantasy.

 Marek Wieczorek highlights in his introduction Zizek`s articulation of Lynch`s ontology as the discordance between reality observed from a safe distance and the absolute proximity of the Real. Lynch`s universe is one where the Real eerily invades daily existence presented through his technique of juxtaposing the two incompatible realms of symbolic representations and the Real side by side where they are allowed to invade one another. Lynch thus allows for the mutual existence of reality and fantasy on the same horizontal plain rather than one vertically supporting the other. “…a crucial ingredient of Lynch`s universe is a phrase, a signifying chain, which resonates as a Real that insists and always returns – a kind of basic formula that suspends and cuts across time: in Dune, it is “the sleeper must awake”; in “twin peaks” the owls are not what they seem”; in Blue Velvet, “Daddy wants to fuck”; and, of course, in Lost Highway, the phrase which is the first and last spoken word in the film, “Dick Laurant is dead,” announcing the death of the obscene paternal figure (Mr. Eddy).”(p17) In Straight Story  the returning signifying chain is the talk of (and actual act of)  looking at the  sky, also a musical tune we first hear when Rose watches outside a window at a boy playing ball, plays again and again during the film at sentimental moments. 

 Through the circular narrative in psychoanalytic practice appearances of an external threat (the symptom) are traversed, whereby the limits and inconsistencies which appear at first as paranoid and external to the subject, come to be understood within the individual reality of the subject from a different perspective. Alvin Straight has as one of his early memories looking at the sky with his brother whom he has not seen  

 

 Trauma and scope of subjectivity

 

 In this universe of the ridiculous sublime the most ridiculous and pathetic scenes are to be taken seriously alongside the ridiculously excessive, violent “evil” figures, since the cliques of action and conversation (banal/common basis of intelligible communication) is in a sense only able to exist through the acts of symbolic institutions. Mr. Eddy represents the law of the father, trying “to enforce some elementary “fucking rules” in this otherwise crazy universe.”(p.18)By mediating and reflexivising evil, Lynch, generates an immediacy and naiveté, laying bare the substantial force which resists our grasp, in all its life energy and violence (and banal stupidity).

The New age reading of the film misperceives the level in which to take the film seriously precisely by taking the subject as the sole limit of the psychological unity of a person, encouraging us to indulge in the audio-visual texture and the full ambiguity of the film. The dimension of the symbolic institutions which gets excluded in such an interpretation, form the core of Zizek`s political agenda/reading, particularly with regards to the increasing psychologization of social life blurring the line of separation between private and public discourse, concealing the ideological dimensions of proposed political policies, i.e. through “sincere” and psychologically believable appearances of politicians feeling sorry for declaring war. Although the dimension of the symbolic institutions only exists when subjects believe or act as if they believe in it, symbolic institutions can hate and kill in the name of the unquestioning subject, like canned laughter which laugh for the spectator in sitcoms. In a sense to focus on the way in which we hug our chains rather than how we resist them is also how we can forget about our chains as external and treat them as a part of our own being and identity.

 

Synopsis of Straight Story

 

The film opens with the shots of harvest in the fields, an idyllic small town, Laurens, and a house. As the next door neighbour who is sunbathing outside goes into her house for snacks we hear someone falling. Alvin is discovered only later when a friend expecting him at the bar decides to go looking for him. His daughter Rose gets him to go to the doctor. He is nervous and does not accept the doctor’s proposals for a hip operation, to give up smoking, tests, x-rays or a walker. Although he agrees to use another walking stick.  Back at home when Rose asks how it went he replies by saying that the doctor told him he would live to be a hundred. After which he goes out to mown the lawn and when the engine doesn’t start he hits his lawnmower with his walking stick. Alvin fixes the machine and they get back inside as a storm is coming. As they are watching the rain the phone rings and Rosie passes the message that Alvin’s brother had a stroke. Next day he and Rosie start getting supplies and building a trailer to hook at the back of his machine, to hit the 600 mile road to his brother whom he had not seen in 10 years in Mount Zion in Wisconsin. As Alvin is at the gas station in town getting peculiar supplies, his friends, possibly recognizing he is about to embark on a risky journey, ask him what they are for, to which he replies dismissively. First time Alvin tries to leave he goes through town with his construct and the gas station manager not able to follow him at his pace says “he will never make it past Grotto” (the next town), funnily enough Alvin makes it past him and other worrying elderly friends. Nevertheless as Alvin is approaching a signpost that reads Grotto five miles, a truck passes dangerously close by, hooting its horn and his hat flies off. After he stops, fetches his hat and gets back, the engine does not start. Getting a lift from a bus to Grotto he gets back home with him on his lawnmower on top of another truck. Once home he gets his double barrel rifle and shoots the lawnmower which is a Rehds as we learn later on when Alvin goes to a John Deere dealer to buy a better machine. He buys a small machine made in 1966 with a Kohler engine for 325 dollars. All set, Alvin leaves for the second time. By the end of town limits Alvin ducks when he notices a truck overtaking him, but unlike the first time the truck passes by with consideration. Alone for the first night on the road, Alvin gathers wood for fire using his grabber, all at his own pace. The second night by the fire, a hitchhiker approaches who couldn’t get a ride and didn’t hail to Alvin shunning his machine. She later call it a hunk of junk. She is a runaway, five months pregnant without the knowledge of the father or her family and friends. Alvin starts to talk about his family, ending with a story about how the family resembles sticks which are harder to break when tied together. We learn that his wife Frances who died in `81 had 14 babies, 7 of which lived and that Rose had 4 kids but there was a fire when someone else was watching them and the second boy got burned. The state stopped her seeing them as she was considered slow and possibly unable to cope with her son’s fate. Alvin wakes up to find the girl gone and a bundle of sticks tied together on the ground. The next time on the road the sound of a tractor passing by is succeeded by the sound of a large group of cyclists riding in the wind, whom Alvin later meets at their campsite in the evening. The third encounter is with a woman who overtakes him only to hit and kill a deer. She asks “Where do they (the deer) come from?” and says “He is dead and I love deer!” and drives off. Apparently Alvin is more interested in the deer than her as instead of leaving the carcass on the road, he cooks and eats it by his campfire. Next Alvin has trouble stopping the machine down a hill and he is saved by his brakes just before a serious accident. Danny Riordan, the man who saves him allows Alvin to stay until his broken machine is fixed by the mechanics. We learn that he has been on the road 5 weeks. He phones Rose to post him his social security check, rejects an offer by Danny to drive him to Mount Zion. Then he goes to have a drink with an elderly man who was there when Alvin almost crashed. They talk about WW2, which they both participated in, and exchange stories. At the Twins, the mechanics, Alvin is overcharged and he haggles the price down to a reasonable sum. He leaves Danny’s house in the morning. Next, at night he camps by the side of a church graveyard. The priest brings him dinner and they talk about Alvin’s brother Lyle, whom the priest had seen in the hospital but does not know about his present condition. We learn that his brother never mentioned Alvin to the priest. Next Alvin stops at a bar in Mount Zion, and has a beer, finds out how to get to Lyle’s. Once there they talk little and when Alvin confirms that he had ridden a lawnmower across state lines, they both go silent and look up at the sky. The End.

 

The degeneration of institutional archetypes and schizophrenia in Straight Story

 

The present-day margins of the symbolic institution’s historically accumulated dimensions of duty and law also have negative and positive representations in the film. For the representations of the negative aspects; Alvin fighting in the trenches at WW2, Rose being forbidden to see her children and the driver who hit the deer are unhappy about their forced experiences. The driver is hysterical telling Alvin that this is the thirteenth deer in 7 weeks and after recounting all the precautions she had taken and failed, she says she has to drive 40 miles back and forth to work every day to make a living. On the side of the representations of positive aspects, the social code appears tolerant towards Alvin’s quest and his mobility, despite his errors. He doesn’t have the doctors approval as he is ill, or the approval of the two John Deere dealers he meets for the use of the machine (the first actually calls Alvin not smart referring to mad), or the approval of his daughter and friends. As Alvin is at the gas station in town getting peculiar supplies, his friends, possibly recognizing he is about to embark on a risky journey, ask him what they are for, to which he replies dismissively or rather he can reply dismissively as this is the USA the absolute unit of the individual, the consumer, has absolute privacy.

 How we can forget about our chains as external and treat them as a part of our own being and identity can distort our relationship to objects. The manifestations of the symbolic institutions in the Real is not limited to office buildings of the government or the schools and hospitals. The everyday machines and objects we use are generally the product of a bigger whole and carry the hallmark of symbolic institutions. Our receivership of these items like their production is a specific set of political relations such as capitalist consumption. So when Alvin goes out to mown the lawn, the engine doesn’t start and he hits his lawnmower with his walking stick, the inanimate object  becomes more than a punch bag for relieving stress (also for that purpose one can hit a real punch bag), it becomes communicatable for Alvin (for violence can be considered as a form of communication).

 This I will assume as the negative edge of the loss of power of the institution; schizophrenia in negative appearance. Another scene that can clear doubts, is after his first failed attempt to leave, once home, Alvin gets his double barrel rifle and shoots the lawnmower. This is self destructive for Alvin as he could have traded the Rehds for his John Deere machine, and is thus pointless, mad. Attachments to objects can reflect the imaginary shifts in the postmodern psyche. The shop owner does not want to sell his own grabber to Alvin says it is his and a darn good grabber, hard to come by, and would take time to get another order in. He flags up the price to 10 $ and is genuinely sorry (he strokes it putting it on the counter) when Alvin accepts his offer. Also another clue is how the objects are referred to in speech. When Alvin is invited to stay by Danny he replies by saying “awfully generous of you, and I am sure my machine here is agreeable with that too.” His machine there is broken and apparently needs a rest.

 Schizophrenia in positive appearance could be considered as the unresisted complete integration. From the big truck to the small truck, what is the difference? Where do I stop and where does it begin? In the entire landscape of Iowa cornfields at harvest time Alvin appears on his lawnmower with the trailer like the needle head of an LP, playing the tune of the land. He rides and lives on the road for more than 2 months, so much so that he is identical to the road. He even feeds off of road kill, hanging the horns of the deer at the front of the trailer. The night before his first attempt to leave, at their backyard, Alvin says- Listen to that grain elevator and Rosie replies “its harvest time”. They can hear a particular but essential (grain) production of the system in action at their back yard.  When Alvin almost has an accident, 5 weeks away from home, the first thing Danny Riordan says, even before his name is that he had worked for John Deere for 30 years and that he needs brakes for his trailer. The land that Alvin is playing like a record is in tune with his machine so to speak.

 

Conclusion

 

 “In a first approach (to Lost Highway), one should absolutely insist that we are dealing with a real story(of the impotent husband, etc.) that, at some point (that of the slaughter of Renee), shifts into psychotic hallucination in which the hero constructs the parameters of the Oedipal triangle that again make him potent – significantly, Pete turns back into Fred, i.e., we return to reality, precisely when, within the space of psychotic hallucination, the impossibility of the relationship reasserts itself, when the blond Patricia Arquette (Alice) tells her young lover, “You’ll never have me!””(p.15)   “The logic here is precisely that of Lacan`s reading of Freud’s dream, “Father, cant you see I’m burning?” in which the dreamer is awakened when the Real of the horror encountered in the dream (the dead son’s reproach) is more horrible than the awakened reality itself, so that the dreamer escapes into reality in order to escape the Real encountered in the dream.”(p. 17) So is it the reassertation of the impossibility of the relationship or the impasse of the Oedipal triangle itself which scares Pete back to Fred (to reality)? If so what would be the representation of this impasse in the film?

It is actually the Mystery Man who points the gun at Mr.Eddy, though once the shot is fired it is Fred who is holding the gun. So unlike Mr. Eddy the Mysterious man lives on with Fred. As such one is also inclined to think of the Mystery Man as the finitude (of Fred). Zizek writes “…, the fantasmatic figure of a pure and wholly neutral medium-observer, a blank screen which “objectively” registers Fred`s unacknowledged fantasmatic urges. His timelessness and spacelessness (he can be at two places at the same time, as he proves to Fred in the nightmarish phone conversation scene) signals the timelessness and spacelessness of the synchronous universal symbolic network of registration.”(p.20). But is not the role of the Mystery Man a unique perspective (to Frank) within the universal symbolic network of registration? And as this network is synchronous, does this not mean that he has already had “objectively” registered Frank? Since “…the images of utter catastrophe, far from giving access to the Real, can function as a protective shield AGAINST the Real.”P34 I would like to suggest that the Mystery Man is a necessary projection for the parameters of the Oedipus complex.

  “The split between Eddy and the Mystery Man is thus rather the split inherent to superego itself: the split between the exuberant jouissance of life-substance and the asexual symbolic machine of Knowledge” (no26, p. 46) Fear from a thing that could know my subjective kernel asks the question why would I be afraid from the knowledge of my own reality unless my own death that I am facing is alien/external rather than just unknowable. Of course there is the very element of his presence, why should the asexual machine of knowledge be represented at all, why than is he not portrayed as a machine? (Like the two dimensional puppet at twin peaks p.22)  This in turn begs the question whether the mystery man is just anonymous evil or does he have the hallmark of the finitude of the symbolic order at his very being.

The finitude of the symbolic order would be the disintegration of the boundaries between me and the thing (between me and others, between supermarkets and libraries, prisons and factories…!) It is in this light that Alvin Straight resembles the Mystery Man. The biggest difference is that Alvin is not a unique perspective within the universal symbolic network of registration, rather Alvin is playing the universal symbolic network of registration (finitude), locally, with all its contradictions, while simultaneously witnessing it mile by mile. Alvin’s individual mission is in a sense caused by the taxing demands of the symbolic institutions (a drunk trying to forget the horrors of the trenches quarrels with his brother), and at the same time facilitated by the symbolic institutions (as an individual consumer minding his own business, no one can stop him). His individual memory encompasses both poles of the American dream; a strong nation protected from the world mostly as a military superpower  and a liberal structure where you can have a relative say on the shape of your individual finitude (where you can drive, or as in Leaving Las Vegas drink, yourself to death). This is also to say the two poles of forced movement at the tie of the draft and absolute freedom of mobility in peacetime. Like the needle head of the long player, Alvin is cyristal clear to the history of the land he is playing, as his individual memory is in line with the foundational horrors and contradictions of History.

 The psychoanalytic approach, provides a possibility of a standpoint, unlike the deconstructionist ironist’s pessimism of its own practice of constant interpretation for alternatives (political or otherwise), by stating that “the fantasmatic support of reality is itself necessarily multiple and inconsistent” (p.41) rather than an assertation that people have relative/multiple realities. This stand point is almost ethical in its Levinisian assertation of fundamentals of human communication and political in the alternatives it presents; to mark repeatedly the memory of a lost cause in all its appearances (in film and particularly in cyberspace) to signal the impossibility of all totalising ethics and morals, leaving the individual free to act out his presuppositions of his individual memory and history. If the coincidence of opposites form the enigma of postmodernity, then through marking repeatedly the memory of a lost cause in all its appearances, the portraying of naive clichés, unravels the enigma through this redemptive quality. The redeeming quality of Lost Highway lies in its achievement to encompass both poles of reality and fantasy to explicate desire Alvin unlike Fred is successful in carrying through the signifying chain and settling his individual history within the symbolic history without recoursing to psychosis. In Straight Story therefore, there is redemption in mobility itself, in the face of ever encompassing archetypes.

Course “Representations of Time”, Lecturer Dr. Bernadette C.M. Kester, essay by Alphan Vardarlı

Bibliography

 

The films Lost Highway and The Straight Story directed by David Lynch

 

THE ART OF THE RIDICULOUS SUBLIME, On David Lynch’s Lost Highway. Slavoj Zizek. Walter Chapin Simpson Centre for the Humanities, Seattle: University of Washington Press 

 

Review of “THE ART OF THE RIDICULOUS SUBLIME, On David Lynch’s Lost Highway” by Slavoj Zizek. (Walter Chapin Simpson Centre for the Humanities, Seattle: University of Washington Press xiii+41pp., references,current information on the writer) For the “Anthropology of the Wild in the West” Course, Lecturer Prof. J.Verrips, by Alphan Vardarli

 

Different Conceptions of Progress and Temporality by Early and Reformist Christians, Carl Schmitt and Bataille (2002 essay, UvA)

 

Different Conceptions of Progress and Temporality by Early and Reformist Christians, Carl Schmitt and Bataille

 

Introduction

  Where could one start? The finitude…

 There are as many explications of the structure of historicity and temporality as there are philosophers willing to give an opinion. Nevertheless one could identify within the philosophies of temporality different positions for the subject against his certain mortality such as theologies which see a divine intervention/salvation in human essence, philosophers who articulate ideologies or structures based on conseptions of divinity(religious or secular) and further on philosophers who accept a primal tragedy in existence. In this perspective the tragedical position of the subject to his existence, that is his mortality is eternal. 

 Progress is an important factor in the orginization of the temporal relations of the subject in the world and for how the subject realizes time itself. Very few philosophers are  without hope for some accumulative  progress or  historical salvation. To accommodate diverse projections of progress and thus temporality I would like to propose a division between the nature and the register of progress in relation to the subject. Progress here should be understood as a positivity or sole possibility for the subject. By nature of progress I mean  the subjects relation and position with regards to a proposed conception of progress which in turn can show how the subject is supposed to know/realise it . I also take nature. And by register of progress I mean where a proposed conception of progress accummulates /resonates. The register of progress clarifies for the subject the structure of temporality by pointing at the nature of origin or meaning. Although the register is always the “world” when the structures of the registers wary so do their world and what can be registered. In short where is the subject in progress and where is the progress in the subject. With this suggestive distinction different propositions of progress could be investigated for the subjects mode of resposibility to himself and others as a private or political subject. I shall seek in the following to enlist different propositions by early and reformist Christians, Carl Shmitt, Bataille regarding their consideration of the nature and register of progress. I will also try to schematize their conceptions of temporality to probe deeper into their structures of progress.

 What is this, progress? After all and for all we know, by placing the location of the earth as rotation around the sun rather than the center of the universe, by evolution of the species and by the unconciousness in the human subject Freud , Darwin and Copernicus have respectively nailed our position (and thus our pride) in this immence universe to a speck of dust; a chance of a chance… Does the fact that we are symbolic beings and that we can structurally and culturally orginize for and of certain signs and their signifiers call for a possibility of progress in the face of eternal death or is there a divine will? What is the importance of where any kind of progress  registers? What progressive possibilities do different registers themselves hold?

 

St. Paul and Augustine; reasoning out of history

 

 The Early Christian conceptions of time and universe present a strict distinction between the God and the world forbidding any possible direct and non mystical relation between the two realms, apart from the only exception  of course; Jesus. At the source of christian thought, even before the gospels lies St. Paul, a man with complex thoughts and ideology.The ambiguity St. Paul brings is that the living man obeys to the rules around him although he is free from even the simplest restriction of going to the church if he truly believes in christ; “Do not be conformed to this world”(Paul, Romans 12:2, A history of Political Thought, J. Coleman, p 305) Thus to live and accept living with the law outside and being saved inside. This view of the subject ,although does not negate a concept of external material progress /accummulation, it does not recognise the external as its register. The spirit of the subject is the true register for progress or in other words, for salvation from christ. St. Pauls distinction of the sprit and flesh should not however be confused with the nosticists who see an eternal polarization between spirit (good) and matter (evil). Flesh which is not the body and spirit which is not the soul, together bound mankind until the resurrection of Christ.(T. lecture notes, September 13, 2000 ) 

 Augustine presented the Paulinian dynamic relationship between man and church/state, with the assumption of definitives through the future finality of history. Thus life as we live it now is uncertain and no political body in its concreteness is definite.(T. lecture notes,1 November 2000)  It could be argued that St. Paul and Augustine respectvely tried to formulate a structure which reasoned religious orginization out of time. (Tough one could argue that this in the end became possible by contaminating everything else with the religious ). On the one hand the sole possibility of progress/salvation for humankind has come already in the form of christ and to believe in him is to be saved. On the other hand, the only way the subject can know of Christ is the church. Thus the nature of progress is revealed in the church or rather in the mystery of the ritual of baptism. But what is revealed veals itself in the subject. For the truth of the subject , his faith in christ, his register, his mark is known only to himself and God. This ambigious position of the christian subject as a civilian in the Roman empire was increasingly stabilised with the progressive hold of the Church in the realm of religious and political.

 

A shift in the temporal claims of the Catholic Church

 

 The split of the church to the two cities of Rome and Constantinapolis (Istanbul) and consequently to Catholic and Orthodox paths could be thought to present different paths of orginisation in the relations of the Church with the State as well as differences of religious doctrine. The orthodox church, maybe with a primary acceptance of the inevitable interrelation of the church (which should be protected) to the state (which is infinately fallible), presented a more tolerant (hence more separate and distant)  relation with the pagan  structures and families of the old Roman Empire and later on with the Ottoman empire, whereas in Rome the Papacy presented a strong claim to the state.

 The transcendental claims of the Catholic Church which were limited to a memory of Jesus and Baptism with St. Paul and Augustine  by the X century  extended to include the mass. This is a shift in the temporal claims of the Catholic Church. The temporal state of the Body of Christ is represented in the idea of a Mystical Body in the Catholic doctrine. Christianity rests with the the basis of the loss of a body, the Christ. Body of Christ in heaven is to ascend to Earth at the end of time. So as Christ is expected back, the arising question of how to make him present was answered with the ritual of Eucharist, practiced as a remembrance of Christ and his suffering. Although the Church could not claim a meaning (or a body for that matter) as of itself and its essential claim to temporality  could only be sustained with Christ as the head of the mystical body in heaven and on Earth, debates arose within the Catholic Church from the IX to X century about the reality of the signs of remembrance of Christ in  Eucharist. What was the relation of the body of Christ in heaven to the body of Christ on Earth? Maybe they not only shared similar qualities but were identical.This problematic portrayal of the relation between the sing and what it refers to resulted in the conception of transsubstitution; a merger between  the mystery practiced in the church with the reality of the sing(res-the residue?- bread and wine became conceived as the real flesh and blood of Christ) This change in the concept of mystical, in the final stage resulted with the Church becoming the body of Christ opening the way for future institutional and individual projections for the meaning of history. The nature of progress was revealed to the subject with increasing mysteries and miracles; the mass ceremony where the church touched the heavens with its flock, was added to the already practiced baptism. Thus the nature of progress was intertwined with the register which now not only endorsed faith but also gave the church a mission in history to realize the heaven on earth with the guidance of Pope, the vicar of Christ. This earthly mission was quick to take the appearance of a state with an expanding law. Thus constantly re-articulating, and redefining its final form in time, whirling onto its own history until the end of time. The space for individual faiths appears in an negative coloration to the expanding law and puts the collective register of church above individual faiths.

Time scale 1+2

 It could be suggested that the dual nature of what expected from the christian subject in relation to faith and obedience is coherent with a Christian history which is fragmented on a Church level and strongly interrelated on the level of intellectual, bureaucratic and commercial infrastructure. Thus if, in the pagan non-Christian Roman world religion had touched everything, the distinction between the sacred and the secular was to become an essentially Christian one.( A history of Political Thought, J. Coleman, p 309, the italics on the my addition) The Christian origins of the infrastructure (by this I mean state as such) could be thought to be forgotten or disguised with the Calvinist and Lutheran movements reacting to the taxing political demands and theologically unsustainable claims of the Catholic Church. The disguise  (if I may say so), is one of blasting open the dynamic of faith and individual responsibility within Christianity at the same time disassociating any (negative) responsibility and relations of the church as a political and social institution from its surroundings (at least on the formal presentation of its identity to the public.)  Although the reformation presented the idea of the church as a spiritual body not a political one, the Lutheran church for example could not escape becoming a political tool during the reign of Nazis .

 Reading Carl Schmitt`s Political Theologies, one could argue that we are presented with a theological bridge between the sense of historical mission in Catholicism and the dynamic of individual faith in Protestanism. As Schmitt replaces the omnipotant God with an omnipotent law giver, his claim to temporality breaks with the claim to a relation with God in Catholicism whilst embracing its sence of a historical mission. Schimitt argues that the self declaration of philosophical autonomy in Kant is limited with the theological origins of that claim. Instead of claiming an empty (neutral) ground on which to posit an autonomy, Schmitt embraces the contaminating relation of the law to the lawgiver and further sthreghtens this relation by tieing up all responsibility, and thus the additional role of the executioner, to one man who holds the exception. As oppose to a positive theory of the state this approach opens the decision making process to the dynamic of self determination. The actual presence of an all responsible ruler as oppose to courts where faceless judges sit where decision emmanates from nothingness, does not however mean that the ruler is full of (or the whole of) meaning like a mesiah. He is more a judicial form; “In the independent meaning of the decision, the subject of the decision has an independent, meaning, apart from the question of content. What matters for the reality of legal life is who decides” (Carl Schmitt, Political Theologies p.34) Thus the nature of progress for the subject is primarily realised in C. Schmitt by becoming/being a citizen (of a dictatorship) . The state itself appears as the shape of the political, this grand response to singular limits of human finitude(one here could recall the image on the cover of Leviathan by Hobbes, which depicts a giant ruler formed by the totality of his subjects) . This register of progress, the state, in turn registers itself onto an (otherwise empty) history giving it meaning.

 Time scale 3

 Bataille; an optimist

 With his elaborate discussions C.Shmitt almost defers us from his conception of power and thus the fascist subjection’s that underlies his system. One of the strong dynamics of fascism for both the ruler and the ruled is the singularity of authority, which is authority defined as and in terms of authority over others. Bataille on the other hand, who is more optimistic about human finitude and the subjects position in terms of his/her singular and tragic position against his finitude,  defines mans authority as the challenging of himself. He does this by giving value and authority solely to inner experience. Yet one could notice an interesting similarity of the dynamic of challenging both for C.Shmitt and Bataille. The singularity of power in C.Shmitt also becomes the constant challenge the ruler has to face, i.e. to stay victorious and not perish as a dictator. Thus the conception of a constant re-establishing and self finding/defining of the ruler drives the shape of the state. A man who knows where he is going cannot go very far (Mosley); This declaration against the critics of the policy impoverished fascism finds its echo in Bataille who is positioning himself against dogmatic presuppositions on experience saying …he who already knows cannot go beyond a known horizon. (Batatille, Inner Experience,p.3)

 Inner experice is surely not everybodies cup of tea but this is a far cry from making subjects of the people under an authoritarian regime. If anything Batailles suggestion for the formation of communities orginised around their own rituals is a call for disreputing authority as subjection to impersonal rule (or personal if one can still dare to call a dictator that). The ritual practices around (an) inner experience ( which may contain relations of subjection and domination) are not bridges to it .The contract of binding  suggested by Bataille is agreed on the basis of free association (or rather) through each individual subjects revelation of an ocean (Bataille, Inner Experience pg 27) defining him/her at once as one/individual and all/nothing.

The authority of the inner experience is derived from the infinity of the present not of the past and future. Hence  History (like God) is not present in Bataille. But neither is it empty awaiting marvellous victories by heroes to give it meaning. The dead tools of history and god can give us means to inner experience by the very fact that they provide for a certain shape of the present, but they cannot give us inner experience. This shape of the present apears self reproducing, changing (as Descart would say progressing) within the framework of its own project. On the one hand Bataille does not comform to what the shape of the present means with its self referring signs on the other he advocates resonating with the present. In a sence conforming with  the shape of the present to the point where the everyday project is not able to contain the subject in inner experience; the everyday project is only pointing to what the inner project is not, as such it has a role as negation. “It is no longer a question of salvation: this is the most odious of evasions. The difficulty -that contestation must be done in the name of an authority-is resolved thus I contest in the name of contestation.”(p.12) “Experience is, in fever and anguish, the putting into question(to the test) of that which a man knows of being …If I said decisively: “I have seen God” that which I see would change. Instead of the inconceivable unknown- wildly free before me, leaving me wildly free before it- there would be a dead object and the thing of the theologian- to which the unknown would be subjugated,…”( p.4)

 Here we have arrived from the grace of God in Augustine (which forms the essence of being) to the presence of absance in Bataille (which during inner experience encircles the subject who dreams being). “Augustine not only extended the domain of belief at the expence of knowledge, but he came to insist that belief itself was not something that men could autonomously and self sufficieantly achive…The autoritative teaching of the church, one described by Augustine as providing ‘Plato for the multitude’ was to be replaced by the hoped for action of God’s will. The ordinary Christian was now no further away from grace than the erudite or the ascetic. For both, imperfection is the inescapable condition on earth and in historical time. Humankind, after Adam is a mass of sin. The gulf between God and man could not be bridged through self knowledge. It could be mediated only by grace.”(p.326, A History of Political Thought; From Ancient Greece to Early Christianity, Coleman, J.)  

Conclusion; Your very own heaven and hell

  Bataille liberates the two (defined, stagnant, dead…) cities of Augustine, which became the possibility of hell on Earth at the hands of Schmitt, as two versatile projects. Hence the relationship of inner experience to history secularized by Schimitt, attains a further horizon with Bataille when he subjectifies (individualise`s) it. “…it (philosophy) finds itself to be no longer anything but the heir to a fabulous mystical theology, but missing a God and wiping the slate clean.”(p.9) In this tragedical position of the subject Bataille sees hope, he is no longer the sinful worshipper or the responsible civilian but the wild child of the wild universe.“It is the separation of terror from the realms of knowledge, of feeling, of moral life, which obliges one to construct values uniting on the outside the elements of these realms in the form of authoritative entities [church, state,…] when it was necessary not to look afar; on the contrary to reenter oneself in order to find there what was missing from the day when one contested the constructions.[Time Scale 4b-Augustine- constant presence of the non-negotiable boundaries of the realms of  heaven and hell] “Oneself”is not the subject isolating itself from the world, but a place of communication, of fusion of the subject and the object.”(p.9)

Here lies the difficulty in asserting what is progress for Bataille. Although the immediate scope of the register is clear enough, the individual subject, what is registered as progress and how the nature of such progress is revealed remains ellusive. The secular and individualistic arguements of Bataille outlined above puts him apart from all thinkers who try to put a niche on the world by allowing for an institutional exception. He also dissolves his writing as a reference point by a solid claim to non-knowledge, which Hegel jumped over so willingly, and in turn constitutes his corporeal being as a possible source of much mischief and responsibility(as a constantly political agency). So there could be nothing which could point to the nature and origin of progress for Bataille; maybe only ‘nothing’ that the project is and the individual is not could. As to what is registered as progress, in the realm of his/her inner experience, the present(Time scale 4a), the subject is dissolved and soon becomes past (Time scale 4) . However, this past is not history as nothing can be brought back from inner experience. It is hence a fading and in the case of the moment of inner experience, a little bit of dying where the microcosm that the subject constitudes meets the other /macrocosm through dissolving in its magnitude .

  

Time scale  4+4a+4b

One could also point to the negation of the register of the everyday project as a possible path which need not be destructive but would certainly appear fragmentary if one is to allow for the secret societies of Bataille and other collective of freely associated people to leave their mark on history through their inner experience (Time scale 4c). Though Bataille would not agree that anything could be brought back from inner experience, the fact that it further disengages  the subject, who has lived (died?) an inner experience from the project of eveyday, would also mean the other subjects who are paticipating in the circle of the inner experience would form a collective and due to their immediacy a collective mark; their own heaven and hell, their own two projects.

Time scale  4c

 

The Politics of Temporality: Philosophical, Theological, And Literary aspects
Lecturer: Prof. Hent DeVries

 Bibliography

Augustine, The City of God

Janet Coleman, A History of Political Thought: From Ancient Greece to Early Christianity

Carl Schmitt, Political Theology

Bataille, Inner Experience