Ktismatics

26 March 2007

Logic of Desire

Filed under: Ktismata, Psychology — ktismatics @ 2:21 pm

Lately I’ve been working around the edges of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. There are a couple of thing in this strange book, first published in 1973, that are related to recent posts. Today the topic is desire.

Hegel proposed that everyone desires the desire of the other. That can mean two things. I desire whatever the other person desires, assuming that that’s what will make me a complete and autonomous self — just like the other. Or, my desire is to be desired by the other, to be whatever it is that makes the other a complete and autonomous self. Either way my desire is based on incompleteness or lack, both in myself and in the other. What I lack is some immaterial thing that turns me into my ideal image of myself as a self-sufficient being.

Deleuze and Guattari critique the Platonic logic of desire implicit in the Hegelian model. The feeling of lack creates its own impossible fulfillment in the object of desire. But there is no object that can make me complete; it does not exist in the real world; it is missing. Desire-as-lack thus produces an imaginary object that provides fulfillment, but because it exists only in an ideal world it can never be attained in this world.

Deleuze and Guattari argue that desire isn’t a lack that can be fulfilled only in an imaginary ideal world, but rather an innate mechanism of creative energy for producing. Desire doesn’t remain unfulfilled in reality; desire generates the reality that fulfills itself. Desire and its object are one and the same thing. Desire isn’t something that always fails to complete the individual self; rather, desire precedes and creates the self. In today’s parlance, and in Marx’s, desire is passion: sensual, spontaneous, natural. The end of desire isn’t lack or indefinite self-perpetuation but fulfillment.

In this post- (or pre-) Hegelian psychology lack is desire gone wrong; it is the loss of desire rather than its defining characteristic. When the flow of desire is shut off, desire then becomes this abject fear of lacking something. What is lacking is the flow of desire itself, not the (imaginary) object it seeks.

What is missing is not things a subject feels the lack of somewhere deep down inside himself, but rather the objectivity of man, the objective being of man, for whom to desire is to produce, to produce within the realm of the real… Revolutionaries, artists, and seers are content to be objective, merely objective; they know that desire clasps life in its powerfully productive embrace, and reproduces it in a way that is all the more intense because it has few needs.

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25 Comments »

  1. “In this post- (or pre-) Hegelian psychology lack is desire gone wrong; it is the loss of desire rather than its defining characteristic. When the flow of desire is shut off, desire then becomes this abject fear of lacking something. What is lacking is the flow of desire itself, not the (imaginary) object it seeks.”

    This is a great clarification of Deleuze and Guittari.

    And what is it that you don’t agree with them on? A total opening of the self, a total glorification of deterritorilization as the telos, as if madness were the precondition for creativity? Whereas for you there are certain things with finite limits that have teleological value for man…Elohim himself is a mortal man, shoot! For you a certain level of territorilization is part of the process of attaining freedom? Because it involves learning of the mortality of God and the delineating of differance and distinction as the production and creation of meaning…

    So there is a certain object of desire, and it is mortality (sly smile emerges into visibility)!

    :)

    Anyway…what is the difference between “desire” here and the traditional scholastic notion of “will”?

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 27 March 2007 @ 2:41 am

  2. I do like their idea of desire as a positive thing, and that desire tends to bubble up from a level beneath or before individual selves get in the way. The part I can’t quite get with is the creativity of desire. Desire seeks fulfillment, and for D&G desire seems to be pretty much a kind of animalistic drive toward food, sex, pleasure. Pursuing these desires to their fulfillment calls on a kind of creativity to be sure, but it seems like the creativity of an adaptive biological organism confronting obstacles in the environment. Is there a desire to create for its own sake and not just instrumentally for the fulfillment of other, more animalistic desires? I don’t see it in D&G, at least not yet.

    For D&G the self and its to “territorialize” through thought and language is kind of an artifact of unfilfilled desires. Eventually it gets to be an obstacle to fulfillment in its own right. This is a Nietzschean idea: a powerful being who is able to fulfill his desires doesnt’ need to bother with building a self that plans, rationalizes, plots revenge, etc. It’s also Freudian: the ego mediates between the desires of the id and the constraints placed on fulfilling desire by parents, society, God, etc. D&G want to get the self out of the way so desires can flow freely.

    If I was going to become a more unreserved D&G fan I’d have to believe that creation is itself a desire bubbling up from subpersonal realms that is fulfilled by creating. And it might be the case that humans have this sort of abstract desire genetically programmed into them. But does it exist for its own sake or for the sake of more clearly animalistic desires?

    I’d say humans have a genetic desire to learn from one another. Does this desire to learn exist in the service of survival, hunger, sex drive, etc.? Or does it exist in its own right: the desire to learn for its own sake? Or is this less pragmatic desire to learn for learning’s sake something that the conscious self adds to the basic biological package that humans share with other animals? Same with the urge to create: is it just useful in figuring out ways to get food, sex, shelter, ect., or is it a primal drive that exists for its own sake, or is it a something extra that the self invents separate from the primal urges?

    I guess I think that learning and creating for their own sakes are abstractions contributed by consciousness rather than impersonal biological desires. Does consciousness automatically generate desires to learn and to create for their own sakes? Or is some conscious act of contemplation or curiosity or interest or will also required? But maybe all these conscious acts are themselves rooted in unconscious desires unique to the human species. That man as a species is in essence pre-programmed to seek truth and beauty for their own sakes, independent of their value in survival. If I persuade myself that’s true then I’d become a more committed D&G fan.

    I suppose it’s the same with faith if you’re going to be a Christian Deleuzian. Is faith a kind of instinctual desire built into the human biological organism that serves other survival needs? Or is it a desire in its own right, the desire to have faith for its own sake? Or is it something that requires a conscious self to develop?

    “Desire” versus “will” — I’m not sure about the scholastics, but it is related to Nietzsche’s idea of will. He proposes that humans have an instinctive “will to power,” a desire to achieve control over their environment that doesn’t require conscious thought and planning and deciding to express itself.

    Comment by ktismatics — 27 March 2007 @ 3:45 am

  3. I think all I have to say about this is: thanks for the explanation. It pushes the envelope of what I comfortably know and can throw around easily in my little head, so I don’t have a whole heck of a lot to say about it at this point. I really don’t even have any questions about it, though. I think I just need to marinate in it for a minute. I may come back to it later.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 27 March 2007 @ 7:11 am

  4. Yeah, actually…reading this again…it makes me think of D and G as more like backwards Gnostics than as Gnostics. Maybe “anti-Gnostic”. But “anti-Gnostic” insofar as there’s no anti-Gnostic without Gnostic, insofar as it is defined and delineated by that which is Gnostic.

    But before I was thinking of Deleuze more purely as a Gnostic because of his “detached” mode of philosophical speculation, combined with his monism.

    Anwyay…I don’t think I can really help you answer your questions about consciousness here. I mean, other than to point out the obvious that Deleuze seems to take consciousness to be an “attribute” of a monist spirit that is manifested or expressed in men…apparently basically for the sake of the biologicaly continuance that is best done in communal form with complex language…which is different from Aristotle’s take on speech as a definitive or essential characteristic.

    So…wait…are you a pragmatist who thinks in terms of essences? How on earth does that make any sense? I mean…you seem to make sense when you write (so I’m kinda questioning my question)…but…huh!?

    And speaking of essences…on a very fundamental level that seems to violate the Deleuzian outlook…before we ever reach a question of identity.

    So then this takes my mind to a primal place of the pre-Socratics, which seems to be the place of your question of consciousness. It seems as though your question of creation and of consciousness for their own sake fit into a question not only of what myth means. Do myths have some significance beyond their context (I think so), or are they more expressions of a particular struggle. I think that their ancestral ties to surrealism give them away as to being about more than simply creative biological desire.

    But I do, then, have a question for you. Why is it that you would be more committed to D/G if “man as a species is in essence pre-programmed to seek truth and beauty for their own sakes, independent of their value in survival.” I mean, to a degree that sounds to me like it would actually reconcile the characters in tense play in your previous comment. In a sense, then, it wouldn’t really matter whether “learning and creating for their own sakes are abstractions contributed by consciousness rather than impersonal biological desires” or not, because they would belong to the very core of the biological man who was trying to survive in the first place. Its like you could say that man is conscious and curious, and so whoever is most conscious and curious has the most chance of making man more conscious and curious. It can be easily reconciled with evolutionary whatever.

    My question, though…is…IS that the reason you aren’t so much of a committed fan of D/G? Is it acutally because D/G don’t recognize some important things that you see as needing reconciliation? I mean, what is prior and of a more primal order to you: simply that you think “that learning and creating for their own sakes are abstractions contributed by consciousness rather than impersonal biological desires”, or that leanring and creating for their own sake as essential characteristics of man reconciles for you some things that you see in tension in the world around you?

    And then my next question, if you say that that is in fact why you can’t fully accept D/G, then where does that desire for reconciliation of those forces come from? I suppose the next obvious answer or thought is, “Well, dude, there has to be something beyond the merely biological persuit for survival. I mean, can’t you sense it in yourself anyway?” Which is a sentiment you have recently expressed and which we are in the midst of discussing now anyway on your “Creation of God” post. Which leads me to essentially the same question I was asking there about “weak God” and “strong God”, bottom up and top down.

    Anyway, though…even from there I am lead to the following thought. Well, being a monist, Deleuze does seem to place some value of divinity upon this physical stuff that seems to constitute the teleological end of desire. So I guess for you it’s not really about divinity in and of itself, but some notion of divinity or essence beyond that of Deleuze specifically. Which leads me to my previous paragraph. I guess this is precisely why one who reads Deleuze, and acutally hears what he’s saying, ought to be crying.

    Anwyay, I suppose that then leads to your a-gnosticism. It is formed in the “gaps” between things. Whereas Deleuze’s thought is actually formed in the presence of the flow of desire.

    Well, then, Deleuze’s thought post-dates Thought, despite its creativity. Whereas your Thought pre-dates “full” knowledge of creation or Creation (?).

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 27 March 2007 @ 8:06 am

  5. Sounds like you’re getting in better position to answering your own Gnostic questions. I wouldn’t read anything into my use of the word “essence” — I didn’t mean anything technical or philosophical by it.

    Myth and surrealism: do the sub-personal flows of the unconscious reflect some kind of mythic “racial memory” that Jung might point to? Are there certain kinds of stories and characters that constitute a sort of stereotypical “territorialization” of the subconscious flows? So: the mythic traveler who overcomes supernatural forces to arrive at some sort of paradise — does this constitute a conscious expression of the unconscious desire to explore and to discover, perhaps to find more bountiful lands that assure not just survival but enjoyment? Do desert people always put fountains and rivers in paradise? Is the idea of an orphan savior something that represents our own desire to be reckoned with on our own merits rather than those of our parents? And so on.

    It’s not that I seek to become a bigger D&G fan. They propose a sub-personal instinctive desire to create, a free flow that gets trapped in actual works of creation. I think of creation as a personal, conscious act. Instinctual desire I think would stop at instinctual fulfillment — sex, food, shelter, safety, etc. Creation as I see it is a surplus over survival and pleasure, a for-its-own-sake luxury, something that goes beyond usefulness. And I think to create the useless artifact — art, literature, scientific knowledge about the universe, etc. — is a mark of consciousness channeling the flows if desires in directions they wouldn’t otherwise go. So I don’t really buy this part of D&G’s story. And you’re right: this gap between utility and excess, this useless surplus of beauty, truth and justice, is where God might or might not be an agent of inspiration.

    Comment by ktismatics — 27 March 2007 @ 3:12 pm

  6. I have some thoughts about the very structure of “unconscious” and “conscious”, but I have to work through them a lot more before I am comfortable sharing all of them. Its not so much that I don’t want to say something stupid, as much as that I don’t want to stupidly say something offensive.

    Anyway, though…it is related to our conversation about order. I think I think simply in terms of what appears, from where and whom it appears (and to where and whom it goes), and what disappears. In a construct of a relation between conscious and unconscious, then, what I would call “revelation” would I suppose be called “individuation”, or “consciousness”, or psychoanalysis, or something of the sort.

    What I really need to sort out, though, is this stuff about “flow”, and its relation to “materiality”, evolutionary biology and/or evolutionary psychology. You’ve gone through a number of times recently the progression from Freud to Lacan to Deleuze/Guittari (with Girand as a character in there as well). And the progression seems to go from a more modern and autonomous individual self who acts in accordance with certain scientific and natural laws (keeping in mind, however, that Freud was influenced by the structuralists), to a completely open and “deconstructed” self who is totally formed by his envrionment and, even literally, does not exist, has no “being”.

    Back to “flow” then…it seems like this notion of “flow” is present as soon as you start talking about “suppression” in any way, in Freud. It seems to in fact be rooted in Neitche, according to your series of posts. But yet “flow” was obviously something very different for Freud as compared to what it is for Deleuze. Well…OK then…I suppose the difference is that “flow” for Freud wasn’t so much an end in itself, the way it is for Deleuze. For Freud “flow” (of desire) can be repressed or suppressed or whatever, but the goal is to get it flowing again in the proper channels.

    You’ve mentioned a number of times Deleuze’s complaints about traditinoal psychology’s normalization of patients. Was he reacting to Freud directly, or to what Freud became once subsumed into the superego?

    Anyway…it is interesting to me that Freud is much more easily accpeted in our society than is Deleuze…and that Girand was fired once he made his break from Freud (from what I hear).

    My next question, then…as we make our way to Lacan and Deluze, we seem to be making our way back to more of a pre-modern man, in a sense sort of/almost. As far as I know, though, Deleuze doesn’t have much to say or care about mimesis. His process of self-formation or becoming strikes me as pretty abstracted and/or rationalized. So…Girand seems to take the “pre-modern” cake, so to speak, with his emphasis on imitation (and religion…two corresponding concerns). Eh? What sayest thou?

    At which point “imitation” leads me back to a question or thought about what “apepars” rather than what “becomes conscious”! Wow…it almost sounds like I did that on purpose! Lol. Trust me, I did not! Anyway, though…when I said way back up there at the top what I said about “appearance” as opposed to “consciousness”, I had it in the back of my mind, in a very uncertain way, that it struck me as much more pre-modern (my “appearance” way).

    Additionally, I should note that maybe this “appearance” thing is exactly my draw to Heidegger…and exactly Heidegger’s draw to poetry (that’s ME!). AND…that the positions of Heidegger and Girand seem to leave more room for the possible re-emergence of metaphysics as a central concern or hinging point, as someone recently noted on the churchandpomo blog.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 28 March 2007 @ 6:26 am

  7. Oh yeah…and I had a whole other thread of thought I wanted to share about. This gap between utility and beauty (the same gap as the one between other things as well) is something I’ve thought a lot about, being an architect. My fingers hurt now, though, so I may not be able to do this justice…

    Basically, though, my professor bashed me over the head with the notion that architecture is the embodiment of a way of life rather than a decoration on a way of life (wow, he never said it like that…that sounds pretty cool, I must say…as I smile and blow on my smoking gun). Historically there simply was not always a gap between utility and beauty. The gap came about with modern scientific notions of the self as a bioligically functioning animal, espeically coupled with modern scientific techniques for supporting that biological remnant of modern science.

    Of course, as well the question of religion and faith enters the picture. Its open knowledge that it was the modern scientists who separated faith and reason for their own reasons and to their own ends.

    With this break, then, eventually came Kant’s (to me absurd) notion of the “Sublime”. BTW, however, when I first learned of this “sublime” thing, when I was in the mode of reactionism against modern science, I was enthralled by Kant’s what-I-now-take-to-be goofiness. As the story progresses…its not a long hike from Kant to my Mom’s meaningless see-through curtains and personal doo-baabs that litter the house and then besides that also contribute to modernity’s over-stimulation of our senses.

    And to go backwards a bit…imagine for example the extraordinarily beautiful colors that make the appearance of an ancient tribal African house or village. All of those colors and patterns have “cosmological” meaning which is actually…well, especially if we were imagining our colorful patterns elsewhere, like in Greece…the root or ancestry of the “rational universal (materialist) truths” of modern science!

    To sum up then…I must say…it sounds to me like you’ve dug your own hole on that one.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 28 March 2007 @ 6:46 am

  8. Is it just a functional hole, or a decorative grave, or the spontaneous completion of my passion for digging?

    This idea of the sublime I haven’t thought much about, but it is a variant on my problem, isn’t it? If you reduce beauty to a pleasure stimulus-response, or elevate it to the peeking-through of the Ideal — either way you’re going too far for me. You’re right, though: when I talk about the “surplus” I am turning truth/beauty/justice into some kind of substance or essence. In reading D&G the question ought to be framed in terms of process. Are humans equipped with an innate desire to create/discover beauty, over and above an appetite for pleasure that’s just a genetic mechanism driving us toward good food, livable places, and fit bearers of our offspring? Do we desire knowledge for its own sake and not for what it can do for us survival-wise? D&G say yes, but I don’t see where they explain their reasoning — pretty much they just assert it. I’m not persuaded.

    I think D&G accept the inevitability of order as a spontaneous result of various flows of desires crossing over each other. A theory, a building, a self, a society — spontaneous products of the creative desires. But the order is itself fluid: when the flows get bottled up by the order they created, then the order is dismantled and replaced. Order as a permanent reified structure to which desire must adapt: this is the enemy in D&G’s formulation. So when my “identity” means something that has to remain “identical” to itself forever, then I’ve got myself too locked down and my creative urges start looking for perverse and neurotic outlets.

    Maybe consciousness is what generates the “surplus,” not as an essence but as a process of channeling the desires into coolly creative structures. Territorializing as a creative and experimental process, not as a neurotic need for order as a rigid structure. So here self becomes a kind of facilitator for the desires that come bubbling up from underneath. This kind of self isn’t concerned about its magnificence or its lack, because it’s too involved in adding its own unique individuating processes to the flows that are passing through all the time. It’s part of the real organism, not some kind of dualized homunculus of the sublime sitting on the throne inside our heads.

    Pre-modern man, you ask. Yes, I think that’s true. Or maybe it’s Greco-Roman man. Consciousness and unconsciousness without that big self-consciousness sitting there on the throne — because there’s nothing to block desire flowing out of the self. D&G, following Nietzsche, think this whole “unified self” business is an artifact of social suppression, cutting off the flows of desire, turning them inward, making the self some kind of idol of neurotic repression that must be preserved from the destructive forces rumbling up from the subconscious. In this way the consciousness gets coopted, turning itself into a tool of the social territory it lives in and an enemy of the very forces that created it. Freud is complicit in this distortion. He inserts the self (ego) as a mediator between the desires (id) and the territory (superego). For Freud analysis is a normalizing process; he called the analyst a “priest.” He didn’t think happiness was achievable; only adjustment.

    But what if self is the mediator between desires and the world? And self isn’t a structure but a process, or rather an array of processes? Then the self’s job is to discover/create ways for the desires to flow through and out of the self into the world — which is itself a whole array of processes running with flows that precede and underlie the structures that strap it down and carve it into territories? That sort of operation I could get excited about. It would reconcile me with D&G but preserve a surplus value of consciousness-as-process. It would get into the flow as a mechanism for refining the primal desires into seemingly useless pursuits like truth, beauty and justice.

    I suspect this model is much closer to what you’re talking about: structure “appears” almost spontaneously from the interactions of desire and world choreographed by the various unconscious and conscious flows that pass through the self. This kind of “appearing” is what the idea of “emerging” is supposed to capture. I haven’t read Heidegger on poetry, but I suspect you’re right that it’s got something to do with this as well. But abstract ideas and categories can likewise “appear” from the workings of the mind on the world, yes? Just as long as you don’t treat them with too much respect and try to lock them in place as some kind of Holy Writ. Ideas don’t work any more? Step out of the way and let some different ones emerge.

    The embodiment of a way of life rather than a decoration on a way of life. That is very good indeed, and I think is right on. Given free rein to create, discover, and experiment, we can come up with beautiful functions, truthful devices, maybe even just laws. The gap as modern artifact? Not just modern but societal. D&G point out that there have always been social territorializations that bottle up desires one way or another. Medieval Europe was big on hierarchical territorializing that limited flows to pretty well-defined channels: rigid social classes that permitted no movement across the boundaries; creeds and liturgies; prescriptions for what acceptable art should look like; etc. Tribal cultures too restrict the flows with taboos, totems, inviolable traditions, myths unassailable by new discoveries, patterns and colors that can look like this but not like that, etc. D&G focus mostly on capitalism as the main territorializing agent in late modernity, but it’s just the latest in a sequence that goes back as far as you can look.

    An excellent flow of interactional ideation, dude!

    Comment by ktismatics — 28 March 2007 @ 4:02 pm

  9. “Is it just a functional hole, or a decorative grave, or the spontaneous completion of my passion for digging?” For one, that’s funny. A hole, however, is a hole, no matter. I think of McLuhan’s talk of Aquinas and “formal causes”. If I hand a shovel to a grave digger in order to pull him out, will he take it and dig a deeper hole?

    You said that D&G should be framed in terms of process, but you spoke of the possibility of an “innate desire”, maybe a genetic mechanism, for beauty that is over and above the pleasure involved in the evolutionary process of the continuation of life. But you speak of consciousness as the distinguishing characteristic of humans that corresponds to and makes possible in the first place an awareness of beauty in and of itself.

    This sounds to me like an essence or form with regard to humanity, or beauty, especially in your talk of “innate” desires. What would THAT be? And how else other than through the existence of an “essence” of beauty, in that linguistic framework, would any conscious being have the ability or potential to be consciousness of “beauty in and of itself for its own sake” in the first place anyway?

    You were quite explicit and purposeful, however, in your stating: “Maybe consciousness is what generates the ‘surplus,’ not as an essence but as a process of channeling the desires into coolly creative structures. Territorializing as a creative and experimental process, not as a neurotic need for order as a rigid structure. So here self becomes a kind of facilitator for the desires that come bubbling up from underneath. This kind of self isn’t concerned about its magnificence or its lack, because it’s too involved in adding its own unique individuating processes to the flows that are passing through all the time.”

    Even that self as a “facilitator for the desires that come bubbling from underneath”, whether for a kind of beauty or pleasure, however, implies some sort of essence or form to man, or a man. How else could or would there be any sort of precondition or determining “factor” (probably wrong word) for “its own unique individuating processes to the flows that are passing through”? I don’t think it necessarily implies an “Ideal”, but an “essence”, however fully knowable or circumscribed, or unknowable and incomplete it might appear to the “self” in question. I mean, what in the first place would lead you to even speak of the need for refinement of the “primal desires” that lead to procreation?

    I mean, maybe “self-consciousness” – which apparently has, for all intents and purposes here, always been the case for man – rather than being some sort of systematic unification of conscious and subconscious or unhindered flow of desires of which we become conscious as they bubble up, simply exists because there is such thing as an essence. There is the thing and its spectacle, and its that simple. Maybe the raw stuff of human living doesn’t even need to be “refined”, because its already imbued anyway with what it is we would be seeking in trying to “refine” it! Hence my enjoyment of McLuhan’s commenting on Aquinas’s “formal causes”.

    You said that Freud was consigned to “adjustment” of man’s conscious life to the demands of the superego. But maybe – if we change Freud’s picture a bit – this is “attunement” to the deeply-seeded river of life, flowing full of lots of “essences”…and desires. If I think of pre-Socratic man living prior to any awareness or significance of “essences”, I still don’t come to a picture that involves only “process” and “flow.” Much of pre-Socratic myth and story telling would actully cease to make sense at that point!

    And for me its not true that contemporary capitalism is no different from medieval “territorilization”, or “structure”. Precisely because what characterizes contemporary capitalism is its ignorance and disregard for anything “essential” or “primal” at all. Not only is contemporary capitalism a “zero sum game” which therefore hinges and is built on nothing, but it also has no rudder, no guide, no direction…at least not on the face of it.

    As an architect I can’t possibly make a single move until there is something “prime” off of which my play can begin. This, rather than the unfulfilled self-fulfilling prophetic voice of the flow of desire, is the constitution of the game of artifice making.

    Additionally…there is another angle to take on this relationship between beauty and utility. Florensky and the Eastern tradition. I look foward to getting further into him…his background was actually engineering. But anyway…that leads me to the thought that maybe “legalism” in the Christian church is actually “functionalism” misnamed. Its all about what you do or don’t do in order to meet a certain predetermined and known goal.

    Anwyay, all this is very interesting to me right now. At my last counselling session my counsellor talked about how neither the desire for pleasure or procreation just “tempt” me into acting out sexually. Actually, he wasn’t anywhere near that explicit or clear. He was very vague about the whole thing. He was actually referring or pointing to the whole “self-image” issue. In other words, he was just trying to ask me if I felt like shit…or like a pice of shit, causing me to “act out”.

    I guess in this context you could even ask why THAT (feeling good about yourself in that way) even matters!? And the previous day I had just read a blog elsewhere about Aquinas’s take on the properly ordered relationship between pleasure and procreation. Interestingly, Aquinas in his discourse on the matter just takes it for granted that the act leading to procreation simply IS pleasurable! For him that’s just a given. I hope it is for you!

    And yes, I’d agree…”an excellent flow of ideation, dude!”

    :)

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 29 March 2007 @ 2:56 am

  10. A desire for beauty isn’t beauty wouldn’t be a thing or essence: it’s a force that seeks and discovers/creates beauty. There are desiring-forces within organisms that propel them toward survival and self-replication, but these desiring-forces aren’t identical to the things and events that fulfill them. In evolutionary terms pleasure-seeking is an artifact of the instinctual drive toward survival and self-replication. Pleasure gets attached to eating good foods and having sex as a mechanism the genes put into the organism as an incentive to eat and to procreate. But pleasure-seeking operates without having to think about it — that’s why it’s so effective. We can abstract pleasure-seeking from its genetic underpinnings, pursuing pleasure for its own sake: tasty non-nutritious snacks, hot babes or their 2-D images, etc. Similarly, a hypothetical desiring-force that seeks beauty wouldn’t itself be beauty; it would be an unguided beauty-seeking instinct, like pleasure-seeking. The desire for beauty is another genetic trick: we are pre-oriented to regard as beautiful those environments that are likely to have good food and those women that are likely to be impregnable and productive of fit offspring. Perhaps the beauty-seeking instinct begins in the self-replication urge but is indiscriminate: it’ll pursue beauty for its own sake, even if the originating urges for food and progeny aren’t activated. And this abstracted, generalized desire for beauty would be happening at an unconscious level. Consciousness kicks in to explain what beauty is, or to “deterritorialize” the pre-programmed criteria of beauty set by genetic predisposition or cultural tastes. Maybe.

    In a D&G world “acting-out” is an unconscious rebellion of the desires against the territorialization that restricts their flows. The blocked desire then has to flow outside the “acceptable” channels that the society define as perverse. Because the self buys into the societal label you begin thinking of yourself as perverse, shameful. Pieces of shit outside of toilets are also unacceptably perverse and shameful. Mozart (see quote on the next post) seems to think unterritorialized flows of shit are okay. Maybe what for others would become anxieties Mozart turned into the Jupiter Symphony.

    There is a unique and fixed DNA structure — a biological essence — from which each individual organism emerges. There is a relatively stable material and social environment with which the individual interacts. There is an undifferentiated cluster of desires generated by the DNA-essence and flowing through the organism that mobilize the organism in the environment. The self tends to stabilize because of the two structural “grounds” in which it’s embedded, giving it the appearance of an essence. But the desires flow indiscriminately, without predetermined structure or aim. They destabilize things as a consequence of their passing through the self and into the world. But they also create new structures as they pass through the world.

    I suppose there comes the question of how stable and structured are the essences. For D&G the desires are essential life forces — they even use the word numen to describe the wellspring of the desires, an indwelling spirit or elan vital that probably puts them in the gnostic camp. I can see the genotype as an individual essence, a unique expression of the generic human genome that unites us as a species. But the self becomes an emergent, continually emerging, pliable projection of the various essences that pass over and through it. Each self is what D&G call a groupuscule or a “little group.”

    I find it hard to take seriously some of the supposed essences that have passed into disuse. The aforementioned Aristotelian assignment to non-Greeks of an essence of slavery. The essential distinction between aristocracy and serfs. Between the bear clan and the wolf clan, or whatever the tribalists might have come up with. Between gravitas and levitas. Between an acceptable icon of baby Jesus in Mary’s arms and an unacceptable icon of a child Jesus walking around on his own two feet. These seem like arbitrary territorializations imposed by culture and not eternally immutable essences. Let them go. However unknowable and circumscribed — I agree with that interpretation of essence.

    Comment by ktismatics — 29 March 2007 @ 1:58 pm

  11. I see a number of issues at work here; so rather than just continue to go back and forth on essences, I’ll start elsewhere, trying to call out and address each issue, and see where I am lead. But I do feel that this last back and forth was fruitful and necessary for our conversation.

    So lets just get some obvious stuff out of the way. For one, as a Christian, my “telos” (eerrr…eskaton) isn’t my happiness; you were discussing the happy patient who emerges from psychoanalysis in your “Schizoanalysis” blog in comment number 2. For two, obviously, D/G are telling a different story from the Gospel one. Like everyone else, D/G agree there is a problem; but they see the problem, and obviously the (almost, sort of) solution differently. So I say lets acknowledge those differences immediately, and then go from there.

    “In a D&G world ‘acting-out’ is an unconscious rebellion of the desires against the territorialization that restricts their flows. The blocked desire then has to flow outside the ‘acceptable’ channels that the society define as perverse. Because the self buys into the societal label you begin thinking of yourself as perverse, shameful. Pieces of shit outside of toilets are also unacceptably perverse and shameful. Mozart (see quote on the next post) seems to think unterritorialized flows of shit are okay. Maybe what for others would become anxieties Mozart turned into the Jupiter Symphony.”

    Now, I don’t know if you’ve seen all of my blog profile, but I do have something to say about this shit thing. The blog asks me: “You’ve successfully slain the dragon! How will you toast your marshmallows?” I answer: “I wouldn’t roast any marshmallows because once the dragon is slain there’s no more fire. After all, the dragon had been breathing it. Thanks Disney.” The implications are vast and complex as hell…but in a way I agree with you here on a very deep level…but apparently in a way I don’t. And I’m not even sure I have sorted the line between where we might agree or disagree there. I think it might have something to do with the stuff I will mention below.

    “I find it hard to take seriously some of the supposed essences that have passed into disuse. The aforementioned Aristotelian assignment to non-Greeks of an essence of slavery. The essential distinction between aristocracy and serfs. Between the bear clan and the wolf clan, or whatever the tribalists might have come up with. Between gravitas and levitas. Between an acceptable icon of baby Jesus in Mary’s arms and an unacceptable icon of a child Jesus walking around on his own two feet. These seem like arbitrary territorializations imposed by culture and not eternally immutable essences. Let them go.”

    Here I’m not asking about essences. I’m asking what you are really asking me to do. Like, practically, how would this work…as a counseling patient…morally? “Let them [arbitrary territorilizations] go.” From the schizoanalysis blog again: “Anti-Oedipus is highly theoretical. It’s a difficult book to understand, but I’m pretty sure they don’t offer many suggestions about how to do what they claim can and should be done.” I mean, I guess in D/G land/world (he he he) this morality question involves the intersecting vectors of desires or flows.

    Additionally, part of what you are really asking me to do involves that above mentioned notion of “acting out”. If the pain and shame out of which one might “act out” arent’ necessarily centered in the guilt-inducing act itself, but someplace prior or deeper, whether in terms of one’s personal history or in terms of one’s being or identity, then how is it even relevant whether or not “acting out” is a rebellion against unconscious desires that have been repressed or suppressed by what is accepted through territorialized norms?

    I’m assuming that we can agree that people long for true communion and intimacy, no? In D/G land is this longing – since it’s apparently not connected to any essence or ground in man – defined simply by where one’s desire is NOT met, or where one’s desire hits a road block? Is one’s (agreed upon) desire for community in actually a masked (or even deceptive) expression of one’s impossible desire to fully fulfill all of his or her own desires? Here I guess you would speak again to the “self” as a facilitator for the desires that bubble up. Of course, though, this is a picture whose screen not only goes black in the end, but is filled with blackness all throughout.

    From the churchandpomo blog on Caputo’s Ch. 5 of On Religion. “The religious sense of life takes shape against this backdrop of the tragic. The tragic sense of life keeps the religious sense honest and blocks the triumphalism and self-enclosure of fundamentalism. Though Caputo cannot make the specter go away, he does not allow it to have the last word. This is because, first, the tragic view suffers from a ‘phallic romanticism,’ a kind of macho heroic hopelessness that enjoys cursing the darkness. But, second, and more tellingly, the tragic sense of life comes up short in the sense of Augustine’s facere veritatem, doing or making the truth. The tragic view would call innocent both the impersonal destructive forces of nature and the malice of the human heart—each are seen just a part of the way cosmic forces play themselves out. This leaves no basis for valuing altruism above genocide other than some kind of aesthetic sensibility. So, in Caputo’s view, the tragic sense of life is inauthentic.”

    D/G land, with its notion of “the intersection of desires” would seem to “call innocent both the impersonal destructive forces of nature and the malice of the human heart—each are seen just a part of the way cosmic forces play themselves out.” I’m not down with that.

    Additionally…much more specifically and much less theoretically…”let them go”? So just fulfill my fantasies? What’s the difference between that and “real” relational intimacy, I suppose, in D/G land, eh? If the self is just a facilitator for desires whose “reality” resides behind the curtain but in the flattennedly expansive realm of the simulacra anyway…then what’s the difference? Really, is there any? If my particular facilitation or channeling is determined by “attributes” that also emerge from that realm of the simulacra…yeah I can’t even finish that thought without seeing nothing but the tragic black screen.

    From here I can also address the essences thing a bit. Obviously everything that man has taken to be fully grounded or essential has not been so…or at least non in the way we might think. But at the same time, if you look deep enough into that glass, maybe there’s something essential at work or whispering through it. For example we could go to my above question about community and the intersection of desires. In reality even that question leads “inevitably” and “necessarily” straight back to Hegel’s master/bondsman discourse. Maybe there actually is something essential there, at least insofar it is inescapable in actual lived reality…insofar as actual lived reality remains a concern!

    Hence my repeated mentioning of McLuhan’s comments about Aquinas’ “formal causes” and how intimately interwoven and inseparable they are with sensible phenomenon. Maybe we might have to adjust our very thought of what an “essence” is. Maybe its not some static, fully and wholly transcendent, separate in itself thing in reference to which the expression is a mere illusion. I suppose this points to a question of your very idealism (eerrr…cynicism). Maybe the essence of something is “the cognitive process itself”, and not the object of cognition. Maybe the essence of something is the “structural logic” underlying the creation story in Genesis rather than a holy declaration of events viewed through only one frame as determined by that (misinterpretedly) static “essential” meaning.

    Well, I could probably go on and on…particularly about simulacra and the Disney thing….and the relation between that and evolutionary biology (or evolutionary whatever, for that matter) for example…but that’s freakin’ enough for now.

    Crazyness and insanity :)

    Jason

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 29 March 2007 @ 8:58 pm

  12. Maybe we should take the shit and ass (eerr…dragon)-breathing fire portion of the conversation up to its appropriate post with the Mozart quote? I dunno…I’m good either way.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 29 March 2007 @ 9:01 pm

  13. Also, you said: “I suppose there comes the question of how stable and structured are the essences…I can see the genotype as an individual essence, a unique expression of the generic human genome that unites us as a species. But the self becomes an emergent, continually emerging, pliable projection of the various essences that pass over and through it. Each self is what D&G call a groupuscule or a ‘little group.'”

    This is actually somewhat how I think of it, to a degree. but with a bit more of an essential self-hood that is just that…that’s not moving axially in an undefined lineal direction, but simply stands and exists as what it is. Of course also I connect this in my mind partially with the the scholastic relationship between Revelation and reason and the revelation of eternal life that contradicts, in a way (although in a different way from how most contemporary Christians might think or consider)Greek tragedy.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 29 March 2007 @ 10:35 pm

  14. This continues to be good stuff. Partly I’m trying to understand what D&G are saying, partly I’m trying to clarify my own thoughts, partly I’m trying to respond to your questions on their own terms. I’ve felt certain possibilities arising that I hadn’t considered before, so that’s good. On the other hand, I too remain unpersuaded by a lot of what D&G have to say. So let’s carry on.

    D&G’s prescription of radical and continual deterritorialization of desires has some of that Woodstock Generation feel to it. I think this new commandment to “let it flow” has become institutionalized in American culture as a kind of new paganism. We’re made to feel guilty about feeling guilty, ashamed of feeling ashamed. This message has been coopted by the marketplace, just further revving up the consumer seduction apparatus. Eat, shit, fuck, enjoy — just charge it to my credit card. The marketplace is the radical de-/reterritorializing machinery that D&G try to break up, but it’s a very powerful and adaptive machine. Every newly-deterritorialized flow of desire gets a new product with a price tag attached to it.

    I don’t think happiness becomes the goal in life for D&G. They want the happiness-seeking desires to be able to flow without pursuing any goals — along with whatever other desires are spilling out from the wellspring. Desires continually fulfill themselves without any final goal toward which they’re aimed. Fulfillments and frustrations both territorialize the desires, but the territorializations are temporary landing sites rather than goals or ends. So the territories scramble again and reform themselves elsewhere. Another desire might be faith, which continually fulfills itself without aiming at any final goal. Faith territorializes temporarily as well, landing on successive representations of God. I think Caputo’s faith is like a D&G desire, but I think other theologians and mystics down through history would agree: there’s an innate movement of faith, a desire that is continually fulfilled in God.

    What’s interesting is that for D&G the fulfillments and territorializations aren’t just fantasies; they’re manifestations in reality. So the desire for happiness can actually be fulfilled in reality rather than being perpetually deferred or fantasized. Same with faith, presumably: it too can find fulfillment in a real life rather than being perpetually mystified. If you were to do a Christian turn on D&G, they would be advocating an incarnational view, such that the desire for faith is fulfilled by a God who is present in this world and not just in an ideal or future world.

    The territorializations disassemble themselves not because of an insatiable urge for more more more, a lack that is never satisfied, but rather because the desires and their fulfillments keep moving, freeing themselves from the artificial boundaries imposed by self and society. Desires aren’t perpetually teased and deferred; they’re repeatedly fulfilled.

    I think D&G would encourage fulfilling desires without concern for guilt or shame, because these braking mechanisms are artificial impositions put on desires from a tyrannizing society. At the same time they propose that the society also generates targets for the desires that are false promises, dead ends, images rather than realities. I think it’s hard to tell the difference between image and reality. Maybe desire moves on when it realizes it’s being tricked. Maybe consciousness needs to insert itself here, through acts of discernment. Does buying this car really fulfill my desire for beauty, or is it a mimetic desire, a simulacrum of fulfillment, an image, a seduction, a call to consume beauty that destroys its object but that always leads me on to the next image? Maybe sometimes it’s necessary to learn from experience. The frustrated desires get channeled toward the illicit boundaries, where part of fulfillment is the urge to humiliate oneself repeatedly. These fulfillments too have price tags attached to them; they too have been territorialized by the marketplace; the heterotopias have cover charges and cash registers at the exits.

    I also think, and D&G also assert in an abstract way, that some desires intersect and interrupt other desires in ways that are freeing and creative rather than neurotic and destructive. So desires for love and trust, true communion and intimacy, might intersect a desire for pleasure, leading to some territorialization that might look like a compromise but that is a freely creative, spontaneously generated satisfaction of multiple desires. Territorialization isn’t just imposed from outside as a repressive mechanism; it’s also the creative work of the desires interacting with each other in the world. I think D&G reject the possibility of an innate desire for guilt or shame or anxiety or depression or stagnation — manifestations of Freud’s “death instinct” that automatically throws a monkey wrench into the desiring machinery. This seems like an act of faith on D&G’s part. How is it possible to distinguish authentic desires from their perversions and frustrations? Again, maybe experience is necessary. Maybe some authentic desires don’t lead to happiness.

    I agree that D&G’s position differs radically from a Christian one — or at least from its Biblical territorialization. The Law is an extreme territorializing apparatus. The NT breaks up this territory but replaces it with a different one. Jesus says to cut your hand off if it offends you — offends you, not God, you’ll notice. Paul says to die to the old man, to the flesh and its desires. Paul wants to substitute an entirely different set of desires for the fleshly ones, which he roundly condemns as corrupt. A D&G-influenced Christianity would contend that the NT, like the OT, is a temporary reterritorialization that’s not intrinsic either to the self or to the world. There comes a time for breaking down the walls and building new ones. It’s a question of whether one regards the NT as ground or artificial partitioning of the ground. In short, I think a D&G version of Christianity is possible, but it’s not compatible with the NT as ground or as absolutely good territorialization. It’s post-evangelical for sure; maybe it’ also post-Christian. But it’s not definitively post-God or post-Christ.

    All that being said, I personally find certain of my desires repeatedly frustrated in ways that I think suboptimize me and the world. The territories aren’t just in my self; they’re also in the world. They might be arbitrary, but they’re also real in the sense that the boundaries are reinforced. The hardest boundaries are those imposed by other people, who have their own selves territorialized in conformity to the world. This is Foucault’s insight: people aren’t just disciplined and punished by the lords of the world; they interiorize the rules and write them on their hearts, tyrannizing themselves and one another. So find my desires squashed not just by the arbitrary norms imposed on society but by the inner norms carried around inside other people, creating barriers. It’s like D&G can work only if there are enough other people in the world who have read the manual.

    This reminds me of a recent situation where I got pissed off at lunch and threatened to leave. My wife Anne was describing to some friends an idea we’d been kicking around – some combination of a counseling practice geared toward difference rather than normalization, along with something like a salon for fellow travelers to gather, talk, collaborate, make friendships, etc. Anne offers a brief description, and immediately the guy starts in with the questions: how much will you charge, are there enough potential customers, how will you market, what are our credentials, what success stories can we point to, etc. Anne tried to divert him three or four times but he was relentless. He couldn’t hear the idea or the dream or whatever; all he could hear was the market machinery grinding it down. I couldn’t stand it; I blew. The capitalist machine is in people’s heads, and they’re not interested in being liberated by the likes of a loser outcast like me.

    Then there’s the question you ask, about situations where the pain and shame precede the specific acting-out behaviors on which they land. D&G assert that pain and shame aren’t desires but frustrations of desire, along with residues they leave behind as repressive territorializations of the self. I suspect you’d agree with that: it’s not unique to D&G’s praxis. And I think it’s plausible that this territorialization would deflect the desires, aiming them toward fulfillments that also reinforce one’s guilty and ashamed self-image; i.e., by pursuing fulfillments that one regards as wrong or shameful. So the residues of prior hurt and shame distort the desires, turning them into machines that create new hurt and shame, perpetuating the distorted territorialization of self that the self, in a perverse effort at self-protection, insists on perpetuating. Deterritorializing the self would mean separating the flows of desire from the perverse territorializations that channel them toward fulfillments that also induce repeated hurt and shame. Eventually the purified desires wouldn’t spontaneously get channeled toward immoral fulfillments, because the corrupted desire to see oneself as immoral would have been exposed and purged. Not that quick, not that easy, perhaps never fully achievable — more a direction to pursue. I think that’s a good pursuit. I don’t think the desires are intrinsically corrupt. Maybe even in Christianity this would work, if a theology of the Fall would assert that the natural desires are naturally good but corrupted. The slow work of redemption would entail separating the desires from their corruption. Maybe even Paul could endorse such a project — though he does send some mixed messages.

    I notice that after awhile I stop answering your question directly and start answering my own, and asking myself some new ones. That seems like a good process. I suspect your questions are similar: questions you’re asking yourself mixed with ones you’re asking me. I do detect movement that might even be forward progress. And now it’s 3am, Rockin’ the Casbah just came on the internet radio station, and I’m ready to move on.

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 March 2007 @ 2:11 am

  15. And Jason –

    I hit the Gnostic gnut in D&G — see Sam’s question about Hinduism and my citing of D&G’s Spinoza influence in the comments on the Schizoanalysis post.

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 March 2007 @ 4:02 pm

  16. I’ll see those comments at schitzo. And Rockin the Cashba (trying to italicise; see if it works?) brings back horrible nightmares of 80’s music and fashion, which are coming back to haunt me! As for D&G and Paul, ect…I’ll email you. I want to be REAL specific. You made some good points. Additionally…I would just like to note that I definitely get the Woodstock feel from D/G…very present at that open mic “Expression Mondays” that I helped run for a while.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 30 March 2007 @ 4:42 pm

  17. Uuuhhhh…OK…now that I got italicizing good and down…how do you UN-italicize? But not in France. I like Italy.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 30 March 2007 @ 4:44 pm

  18. Also…

    So I just read your comment. I’m down with all that. Except I do think that there’s sort of this innate, but not “arche”, sinful will in us. At the same time…as you noted, though, the creation was created good, and that’s in us too. Anther reason why gnosticism can look oh-so-Christian. So this would apply to the moral picture as presented by D/G, where presumably varying vectors that intersect would be compatible. BTW that sounds like it involves some divinity of sorts…something beyond us. Anyway…

    Anyway…to Paul…as I noted to Johnathan recently about flesh…there’s the whole Paul and flesh thing in the NT, but there is also “Dear Lord, turn my heart of stone to a heart fo flesh.” I think when Paul refers to the “flesh”, he’s referring to specifically to the weakness of the bodies sensibilities, in a way…the body’s just reads and responds, man. And that’s if he was even referring to the weakness of the flesh as having anything to do with the body in the first place. I just don’t think he meant that the body, earthly, fleshly things, ect. are bad. In such a way as to support a modern “spirit over body” metaphysic.

    :)

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 30 March 2007 @ 4:57 pm

  19. Watch carefully. I go and everything italicizes. Ready: GO! Now, to stop it, I go . Okay, here goes… et voila!

    Paul on the flesh does sound like a dualist, but I think he’s using “flesh” to refer to a whole self under satanic control, “spirit” a whole self under godly control. Flesh is to the world (cosmos) as spirit is to the kingdom. So his dualism is elsewhere. The world territorializes the whole self, body, subconscious and consciousness; the spirit reterritorializes it all. In Pauline theology there is a deep-rooted sinful streak. Interestingly, you just don’t see it in the OT or in Jesus’s teachings.

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 March 2007 @ 8:10 pm

  20. Ooh, my ital on/off demo worked, but the instructions got deleted. I guess the blog wants to keep it a secret known only to the few. Anyhow, to turn off italics, you do the angled bracket, then the / key, then the i, then the backward angled bracket. Does this make sense?

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 March 2007 @ 8:13 pm

  21. I don’t know if it makes sense at all or not. Maybe I can see it in a moment. Maybe Italy is a sacred place on this blog, I don’t know. Hhmmm…lets see?

    France…Italy

    Paul’s teachings as different from those of Jesus – big topic into which I haven’t delved. N.T. Wright wrote on this. I would trust him, I think. But I have neither bought nor read his book. Paul on “whole self” as fleshly or “spiritual” or after the kingdom of God…yeah.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 30 March 2007 @ 9:13 pm

  22. I’m funny. It worked. I just italicized France. Finally!

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 30 March 2007 @ 9:14 pm

  23. Nice work! I just looked out the window and France really is italicized now. I kind of like it like this. Take that, Italy!

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 March 2007 @ 9:36 pm

  24. Well you live in the Italian part of France, anyway. Go check Paris. Let me know, please; I’d like an update.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 30 March 2007 @ 11:14 pm

  25. *Laughs silently to himself*

    Comment by ktismatics — 31 March 2007 @ 5:44 am


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