Ktismatics

28 April 2007

The Specular Image and the Social Self

Filed under: Ktismata, Psychology — ktismatics @ 2:19 pm

In 1949 Jacques Lacan wrote an essay called “The Mirror Stage,” in which he outlined a theory of how children develop a sense of self. The idea derives from the young child’s ability to recognize his own image in a mirror.

This event can take place, as we have known since Baldwin, from the age of six months, and its repetition has made me reflect upon the startling spectacle of the infant in front of the mirror. Unable as yet to walk, or even to stand up, held tightly as he is by some support, human or artificial, he nevertheless overcomes, in a flutter of jubilant activity, the obstructions of his support and, fixing his attitude in a slightly leaning-forward position, in order to hold it in its gaze, brings back an instantaneous aspect of the image.

Lacan offers a nicely nuanced empirical observation. Problem is, it’s not true. Researchers have consistently found that a child doesn’t recognize his reflected image until 18 to 24 months (see yesterday’s post) — after standing, after walking, after the beginning of language acquisition. But we continue. Lacan says that the child identifies with his own reflection.

This jubilant assumption of his specular image by the child at the infancy stage, still sunk in his motor incapacity and nurseling dependence, would seem to exhibit in an exemplary situation the symbolic matrix in which the I is precipitated in a primordial form, before it is objectified in the dialectic of identification with the other, and before language restores to it, in the universal, its function as subject.

Again Lacan’s developmental sequence is off. A few posts ago we saw how as early as 9 months the child enters into the referential triangle of self and adult jointly orienting themselves toward the world. Learning within the triangle, the child already participates in the “dialectic of identification with the other,” seeing himself as being similar to the other in intentionality and orientation toward the world. Thus the child can follow the adult’s pointing finger to an object, and even the verbal instruction to look at the named object, long before the child can recognize his own reflection.

The important point, says Lacan, is that this specular self-image situates the agency of the ego, before its social determination, in a fictional direction. It is the “ideal-I,” a sense of the self as a whole and integrated being rather than a chaotic assembly of body parts and the seeminly random motion that animates them. But it’s an exterior, two-dimensional view, an “image,” an imaginary unity. Whatever the child subsequently learns about himself through social interaction and language will never replace the specular image. He ends up internally doubled, the socially-constructed I forever alienated from the specular I, the I of reality always lacking in comparison with the ideal-I that precedes it. Subsequently the child attempts to construct a unified and autonomous self to match the ideal-I. But it’s futile, resulting in an ego that is a rigid, dead, hollow superstructure, like a fortress or a mannequin, accompanied by the paranoiac fear of total self-dissolution.

But emirical findings summarized by Tomasello strongly suggest that the self-image first emerges in social interaction. In early infancy the child learns to take the other’s perspective in jointly attending to the world. If the other points to the child, then the child begins to see himself as something in the world that the other can recognize. It’s likely that this prior social self-pointing gives the child the self-objectification necessary to recognize himself in the mirror.

So, Lacan locates the origin of neurosis in the sense of loss: a primal self-integration and plenitude that’s been lost, perhaps stolen, in social and linguistic interaction with others. The self then becomes motivated both to recover the lost sense of self and to compensate for the hole in the self where the integrated self used to be. But if the sense of self emerges first from social-linguistic interaction, then this specular, imaginary, fictional, ideal sense of self, if it exists at all, would have developed after and as an artifact of the socially constructed sense of self. The cascade of effects for Lacanian psychopathology would seem profound.

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85 Comments »

  1. Just one remark off the top of my head: Lacan was not only talking about the actual physical mirror, rather the child’s recognition of himself in the eye of the Other (his mother for example). And since the interaction with the mother already takes place 6 months and upwards, I”m not sure this criticism stands.

    How have the researchers defined their variable (mirroring) and more importantly, from what theoretical framework do they perform the research?

    The problem with psychoanalytic variables is that they are not always accessible to empirical research.

    Lacan:

    This development is experienced as a temporal dialectic that decisively projects the formation of the individual into history. The mirror stage is a drama whose internal thrust is precipitated from insufficiency to anticipation–and which manufactures for the subject, caught up in the lure of spatial identification, the succession of phantasies that extends from a fragmented body-image to a form of its totality that I shall call orthopaedic–and, lastly, to the assumption of the armour of an alienating identity, which will mark with its rigid structure the subject’s entire mental development. Thus, to break out of the circle of the Innenwelt into the Umwelt generates the inexhaustible quadrature of the ego’s verifications.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 2:49 pm

  2. The self then becomes motivated both to recover the lost sense of self and to compensate for the hole in the self where the integrated self used to be.

    I thought just now, this is already obvious from the banal everyday observation that people, when asked to assess their own appearance, and if they are not especially narcissistic, usually depict themselves as faulty, lacking. What you find in extreme form in anorexia nervosa is present in your average person’s self perception.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 2:54 pm

  3. I’m still trying to figure out how this ideal self gets started so that there is the recognition of a gap or hole. I get the idea of ideal in the rest of the world, but for yourself? Would there be an ideal double, then, of each and every one of us? Or is there One Other to stand for or to encompass all of us?

    I prefer this idea that uncertainty develops when you realize that others don’t see the world in the same way that you do. The possibility for difference, for slippage of some sort, feels like a good cause for anxiety…more than loss…but that’s just me.

    Do you see it that way???

    Meilleurs voeux!!

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    Comment by bluevicar — 28 April 2007 @ 2:54 pm

  4. Is the ”referrential triangle” a trope of Gestalt psychology?

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 2:55 pm

  5. I’m still trying to figure out how this ideal self gets started so that there is the recognition of a gap or hole.

    Blue Vicar, I think this is the essential issue – HOW and WHY. I have less problems with the idea that it does happen, than in trying to theorize the motivation.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 3:01 pm

  6. http://www.pep-web.org/document.php?id=pi.005.0233a

    Mirror phenomena are increasingly receiving more consideration, but with the increased attention has come a diffusion of meaning. Dervin (1980) sees mirroring as perhaps “a quite natural phenomenon that contributes to both self and object representations” (p. 138). On the other hand, Goldberg (1984) treats the double as a mirror phenomenon and views the double as a second self but, at the same time, also a counter-self and a “mirror” of unacknowledged, even unattainable aspects of oneself. Thus, what is mirrored can include what is visible at the surface as well as what is not visible, disavowed, and even impossible. (In this usage, the mirror becomes not a reflector but a kind of magical window). While Goldberg rightly stresses how mirror phenomena cast doubt on the notion (and experience) of the self’s unity and identity, Pines (1984) wants to show the mirror conveying identity, whereas, in contrast, the mirroring responses of others reflect

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 3:24 pm

  7. Dejan –

    Firstly: …the child’s recognition of himself in the eye of the Other (his mother for example)… This is metaphorical reflection, as opposed to the literal reflection of the mirror. What the child sees is some combination of the mother’s reaction to the self and a model for the child to imitate. This imitation of the mother’s facial expression begins nearly from birth and is surely a strange phenomenon, but doesn’t likely have much to do with self-awareness, or even conscious mimesis. Reaction to the self — approval, affection, rejection, etc. — can satisfy or thwart the child’s desires directly, without the child having to reflect on what she is like as a person from the mother’s perspective. Regardless, the mother’s reflection is social rather than specular.

    More later.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 28 April 2007 @ 4:32 pm

  8. This is metaphorical reflection, as opposed to the literal reflection of the mirror

    Yes and that metaphorical reflection is difficult to pin down as an operational variable in empirical research, unless you posit beforehand that you believe in the psychoanalytic paradigm, or more precisely, that you are willing to adopt metaphoric language as the subjet of research.

    but doesn’t likely have much to do with self-awareness, or even conscious mimesis

    well in his essay on the Mirror Stage Lacan seems to have said that it does, and he calls it a primordial I form preceding the social one

    This jubilant assumption of his specular image by the child at the infant stage, still sunk in his motor incapacity and nursling dependence, would seem to exhibit in an exemplary situation the symbolic matrix in which the I is precipitated in a primordial form, before it is objectified in the dialectic of identification with the other, and before language restores to it, in the universal, its function as subject.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 4:50 pm

  9. sorry ignore the previous citation, it’s already in your own text, i erroneously hit paste

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 5:20 pm

  10. but doesn’t likely have much to do with self-awareness, or even conscious mimesis

    what I meant to say is that this ”likely” needs to be tested, which in psych. research you could only do by introspection (unavailable in that age) or by operationalizing the variable so that mirroring becomes a set of observable practices (think child in front of a mirror).

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 5:24 pm

  11. When Lacan introduced the concept of the “Other,” however, the mirror stage came to indicate how the founding role of the Other’s gaze works to form the subject’s mental apparatus. Thenceforward the very possibility of the mirror stage presupposed a symbolic operation. Were such operations lacking, the mirror stage would not occur, as happens with the autistic child, in whom there is no relationship in the Imaginary either to a body image or to any kind of counterpart. Beginning with his seminar on the transference (1991 [1960-61]), Lacan took the mirror as a metaphor for the Other’s gaze.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 5:35 pm

  12. When the child sees itself in the mirror, often propped up by another person or mechanical device and is able to associate the image with itself, it retroactively posits that before this autonomy that it now perceives, its body was in “bits and pieces.” The dependency upon another is crucial, for just as a mirror reflects an object according to its incidence, Lacan argues that this consciousness is formed in a “trigonometric” manner, dependent, but not contingent, upon the nature of this “first encounter”. At the moment of perceiving bodily autonomy, Jane Gallop says there is jubilation, but it is short lived, before “post-infantile angst” sets in. As soon as the infant can posit that prior to this moment it was in “bits and pieces,” it recognizes the very real danger of regressing to this earlier stage.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 5:39 pm

  13. Recognizing self in the mirror has been a task for a lot of child development studies, looking not just at age but also its relationship to mastering other kinds of tasks. The theoretical context is broadly cognitive development, which has been a dominant paradigm in research psychology for several decades. Now there’s an integration with evolutionary psychology, trying to identify species-specific capabilities that would have had adaptive value. I doubt whether cog psych researchers have spent much time thinking about clinical implications. Nonetheless, Lacan did justify his mirror phase idea on his understanding of the empirical results. He cites Baldwin, who did work in the early 20th century. Piaget, a contemporary of Lacan, extended Baldwin’s work; Piaget placed the mirror self-awareness at around 2 years of age. I’d say the modern cognitivists are not in the Gestalt paradigm. Gestalt guys look at whole complexes rather than trying to break them down molecularly. Baldwin, Piaget, and their successors focus on specific task sequences that build on one another incrementally, at the micro level.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 28 April 2007 @ 5:57 pm

  14. I think people do perceive themselves as inadequate. Lacan proposes that, prior to this self-denigration, the self had a sense of wholeness and ideality derived from the specular image. So Lacan combines inadequacy with loss. You don’t need a sense of self-ideal to feel inadequate; you just need not to have your desires met and attribute it to some lack in the self. This is in keeping with bluevicar’s observation. Even if you do compare yourself with an idealized self-image, that ideal would appear concurrently with or after the socially defined self. Which means there’s no prior time when the self had the phallus, or when the father stole it, or when the search for retrieving it began.

    I would expect that an image of the ideal person would be sort of Aristotelian — observing relatively good features of a lot of different people, then consolidating and extrapolating to what the limit of the good person might be like. I think this idealized image would just as likely be projected outward, onto gods or saints, rather than internalized as a self-image. The self doesn’t stack up to some idealized image that specifically is not oneself, nor an alternative specular version of oneself, but rather a social or personal ideal. The mirror reflection then confirms this lack of conformance with an external standard that becomes more evident when you can self-objectify by looking at your image as if you were someone else — not as if it were your ideal specular image.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 28 April 2007 @ 6:04 pm

  15. The theoretical context is broadly cognitive development, which has been a dominant paradigm in research psychology for several decades

    Is this also your general theoretical framework?

    In the mirror article Lacan also delineated the crucial difference between psychoanalysis, ego (and by way of consciousness, cognitive) psychology, and existential psychology:

    These propositions are opposed by all our experience, in so far as it teaches us not to regard the ego as centred on the perception-consciousness system, or as organized by the ‘reality principle’–a principle that is the expression of a scientific prejudice most hostile to the dialectic of knowledge. Our experience shows that we should start instead from the function of méconaissance that characterizes the ego in all its structures, so markedly articulated by Miss Anna Freud. For, if the Verneinung (p. 7) represents the patent form of that function, its effects will, for the most part, remain latent, so long as they are not illuminated by some light reflected on to the level of fatality, which is where the id manifests itself.

    I have studied developmental psychology thoroughly at
    the academy and I know most of the names you mention.
    Later I will translate an interesting article involving Baldwin and Paget.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 6:22 pm

  16. You don’t need a sense of self-ideal to feel inadequate; you just need not to have your desires met and attribute it to some lack in the self.

    In other words you have a problem with this primordial I that forms itself in the mirror stage before the social relation comes into the equation?

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 6:25 pm

  17. I’m off to pick up a couple pizzas, but one thought. This idea of the referential triangle is a convergence of various trajectories: empirical psychology, the philosophy of Donald Davidson, the hermeneutics of Gadamer. The most interesting thing to me is how early in childhood this ability to coordinate self, other and world starts to emerge. I don’t doubt that selves develop self-awareness, and that self-awareness generates certain negative aftereffects like shame and self-aggrandizement and regarding yourself as an object. Here I’m only questioning this idea of Lacan’s that the specular ideal precedes a social self-image, especially since all the major early cognitive advances seem to occur in a social context.

    This core sociality, by the way, is something that’s a more recent addition to the cognitive psych models. The information processing metaphor led researchers to emphasize brain maturation and the kid’s direct manipulation of objects in the world. Social cognitive development and self-awareness development tended to be seen as extensions of this model of the individual IP machine observing and mentally manipulating stuff in the environment. That nearly all of this early cognitive development occurs in joint attention contexts with adults is something pretty new — last 15 years maybe. Likewise with language acquisition — social interaction, not just the maturation of a language module in the brain.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 28 April 2007 @ 6:35 pm

  18. Here I’m only questioning this idea of Lacan’s that the specular ideal precedes a social self-image, especially since all the major early cognitive advances seem to occur in a social context.

    Well like I said, the problem is that in order to test this empirically, you would need to be able to measure it somehow, and that’s very difficult with a child 6 months of age.

    But the idea is plausible retrospectively, if you believe, as I do, in Lacan’s general designation of the self as ”spoken by language” that is to say determined by its relation to otherness. It sounds logical that the embrionic form of such a self was built on a reflection.

    I also know that because people don’t read practical psychoanalytic texts often, they forget that many analytic observations are based on clinical experience, not speculation. Freud’s scriptures on the analytic technique are especially instructive in this regard.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 6:53 pm

  19. The mirroring phenomenon for 6-month-olds — here’s an article on Daniel Stern’s work. He too frames the phenomenon in terms of “attunement” between mother and child, so that they’re both orienting toward one another in similar ways. This sort of attunement makes it possible for the child to regard the mother as someone like himself, which in turn establishes the foundational relationship for joint attention in the referential triangle. What’s particularly notable is the continuity in the developmental pathway from birth, where self in relation to other forms the basis for a whole array of learning. Self-knowledge fits so coherently along this trajectory there seems no reason to invoke an entirely different and isolated process — the specular image — to serve as the foundation of both self-image and neurosis.

    Not a lot of cognitive research relies on introspection, even among linguistically capable children and adults. Usually the idea is to post tasks to the study participants, and infer cognitive processes from the way they perform the task. The recognize-self-in-mirror task exemplifies this. They don’t ask the kid who’s in the mirror; they daub some rouge on his cheek, and if when looking at the image in the mirror he rubs his own cheek, it’s inferred that the kid realized he was looking at his own image. Experiments have been rigged up to test for responses that seem to indicate embarrassment, which in turn implies self-awareness. It kicks in at aound 12 months — again, prior to self-recognition in the mirror. The overriding conclusion is that self-awareness begins developing prior to mirror recognition, and that it develops within the interpersonal context.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 28 April 2007 @ 8:28 pm

  20. Beginning with his seminar on the transference (1991 [1960-61]), Lacan took the mirror as a metaphor for the Other’s gaze. That’s interesting. Apparently Lacan changed his position on the mirror stage, placing it within the symbolic order and the relationship with the mother. I’m not sure, then, where the persistent sense of loss of the formerly plenitudinous self comes from once Lacan makes this change. Unless it’s more of a Freudian primary narcissism thing, a sense of wholeness that’s characterized not by specular image but by symbiosis with the mother. I don’t think that was Lacan’s move, though I don’t know enough to say for sure. It seems that the mirror phase remained critical to the sense of a hole in the self and a loss of the petit objet a.

    As a note in historical continuity, Lacan’s sense of the hole in the self follows from Hegel’s master-bondsman discourse, as I discussed in this post. Hegel thought that the hole in the self was the sense of mortality, of servitude to the Absolute Master, Death. “Desire for the desire of the other” is Hegel before Lacan appropriates it. What’s unique about Lacan is the sense of loss, but if the mirror stage becomes continuous with the social-symbolic relational sense of self, I don’t understand how the child would ever get the sense that he’d lost something perfect and entire in himself. It’s all a continual process of learning and development, not a loss and a mourning and a pilgrimage.

    Maybe we start looking for the sense of loss outside the self, in the culture or the historical era. All those Southern writers experienced a tangible sense of loss; so did Thomas Mann and Robert Musil and Graham Greene; so did the modernist Italian and French filmmakers. Some sense of the end of the age.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 28 April 2007 @ 8:43 pm

  21. I don’t doubt that clinical insight is important, and usually not reducible to scientific evidence. Lacan’s general designation of the self as ‘’spoken by language” that is to say determined by its relation to otherness. It sounds logical that the embrionic form of such a self was built on a reflection. I’m not prepared to discuss this idea yet, partly because I don’t understand it, partly because I’ve been looking specifically at empirical evidence about early child cognition. The inferences about Lacan came from my reading of Tomasello, not from an attempt to debunk Lacan. And my inferences are certainly tentative, since I don’t know Lacan nearly well enough. Put it this way as my tentative conclusion:

    The empirical evidence with which I’m familiar supports the development of a sense of self from within the social-symbolic relationships. This trajectory is well underway before the child recognizes himself in the mirror. And the mirror in the mother’s eye phenomenon seems compatible with the social attunement idea underlying the referential triange. So, if there is a specular idealized self-image, it would probably appear during the social-linguistic phase of development rather than before it. Which would support the sense of lack. And if the awareness of lack-in-self comes through social interaction, it’s conceivable that the kid would get a sense that completeness could be attained only from others. But fulfillment of desires also comes from others. And learning language and culture also comes from interacting with others. Sad to admit, but people are just attuned to social relations from day one. Fulfillment and frustration are therefore likely to be found in the self’s relationships with others. Autonomy of self in isolation from others would necessarily be a difficult thing to master, not because of loss but because it requires some sort of ascetic renunciation of relationship.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 28 April 2007 @ 9:00 pm

  22. All of these are acts of will, each given a different flavor by the natural development of the central nervous system. As this evolution goes on, there is a drumbeat of self-affirmation that creates the sense in a child’s mind that he or she is an individual with a will.

    Ktismatics, this frankly sounds like riffing on a myriad similar cognitive approaches I’ve heard about, and as is often the case with such ”novel” and ”hip” psychological theories, it turns out they owe a lot to psychoanalysis (though they stubbornly try to decrease the importance of the Unconscious, because it doesn’t fit into their empirical model of thinking). In their reductionism, these theories are good friends with behaviorism, even as it might seem that the two disagree. Lacan’s critique of this approach is contained in his Mirror Image article, which I guess you have in its original form because I only possess a Dutch copy. But I quoted one part already in the above thread. Because I am quite orthodoxly psychoanalytic in this context and only allow for Deleuze to provide a possible chellenge, or reformulation, I can’t say I have much to contribute to dr. Stern’s line of thought.

    For example the importance of the symbolic exchange between the child and the mother was studied a long time ago, to name just one instance, in relation to the (psychoanalytic) observation that many schizphrenics come from mothers who do not understand their child’s language; then you have Bateson’s double bind communication…and so on…I would have to dig in to my study books of nearly 10 years ago, but I feel disinclined because I just heard so many unsuccessful attempts to challenge the basic premise of psychoanalysis – ranging from psychodrama to Gestalt therapy – that another one would be really futile.

    So from my side I would prefer to keep this discussion confined to Lacan and Deleuze, because these two people I think are still a rarity in the crowd in that they had something original to contribute.

    This sounded very strange:

    ”My research questions more clinical assumptions than it confirms,” Dr. Stern said. One of the main psychoanalytic views challenged by his research is that psychological growth, as Dr. Stern puts it, ”is a parade of specific epochs, in which each of the most basic clinical issues of life passes by in its own separate turn. They do not.”

    This so-called psychoanalytic view can be ascribed to Freud, but already the object theory analysts and subsequently self-analysts like Heinz Kohut, before Lacan even became important, revised it significantly, so I am wondering to whom exactly is this outdated criticism aimed?

    Furthermore, the article speaks of psychoanalysis as if it were a treatment of symptoms, while as Lacan shows us analysis sees the symptom as the cure. The point is not to interpret it, but to allow the client to speak his own language.

    But there are so many holes in the text that I can’t begin to list them, and perhaps it;s perfunctory as well.

    I also find it rather disturbing that the article seems oblivious to the social context in which this method exists, despite being eager to discuss the social side of things. And the social context (capitalism) is such that cognitive and behavioral therapies cost the insurance companies less money than psychoanalysis, so any ”deep” considerations are rendered less or even unimportant when confronted with the task of adapting the individual to capitalism.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 11:31 pm

  23. So, if there is a specular idealized self-image, it would probably appear during the social-linguistic phase of development rather than before it.

    Hm, but of course we are talking about an idealized self-IMAGE, which exists pre-verbally. This is an early stage of the development of the symbolic function, a sort of iconic thinking.

    It’s all a continual process of learning and development, not a loss and a mourning and a pilgrimage.

    The idea of loss is premised on Ferdinand de Saussire’s structural linguistics, which is a must read and a prerequisite for reading any Lacan. The crucial discovery of this linguistics, which also moved psycholinguistics beyond nomenclature, was the unstable link between a signifier and a signified. (further destabilized by post-structuralists like Derrida or Deleuze) Since this link is guaranteed by social contract, by agreement, and contracts can be broken, language is perpetually on the verge of becoming nothing that is to say of falling into a gap.

    Now I don’t know what exactly Deleuze does with language, you will be better able to tell me, because you have read more, but I get the impression from the fragments and second-hand accounts I’ve had that Deleuze considers language a machine, just like any other. As all other things, language comes from the Spinozian substance, or the Body Without Organs.

    This is where the problem of Plato’s cave resurfaces, for if I am inside the language machine, and there is something in its very functioning that anamorphotically distorts or blocks my view of the source, of the light at the other side of the hole, how can I see that light other than by disavowing my eyes, for which Deleuze offers absolutely no coherent recipe.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 11:47 pm

  24. We can’t kill the Father to get the phallus back because He is always already dead. Our pursuit of completion, our desire, our desire to be desired, are all the pursuit of the ultimate Master, Death.

    Ktismatics you actually don’t need Hegel to draw a parallel with Christianity, where the purpose of life is to ultimately disown it (I don’t know the Biblical Verse by heart, but it’s something like ”those who live for life will meet death, and those who live for me eternal life”). So it is not Death we desire, according to Lacan, but Life-through-Death, or resurrection if you will. His Death Drive is a life-affirming process, something like Deleuze’s Affect.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 28 April 2007 @ 11:54 pm

  25. This so-called psychoanalytic view can be ascribed to Freud, but already the object theory analysts and subsequently self-analysts like Heinz Kohut, before Lacan even became important, revised it significantly, so I am wondering to whom exactly is this outdated criticism aimed?

    It’s specifically aimed at Margaret Mahler and her understanding of “symbiosis” and the manner in which each of her developmental positions was linked to a clinical diagnosis. Stern is an analyst coming out of the relational psychoanalytic tradition and his book “The Interpersonal World of the Infant” is an attempt to defend his hypothesis that infants have the capability to differentiate between self and other from the beginning, as well as to understand the role of intersubjectivity in the developmental process.

    But I don’t know either Lacan or Deleuze…

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    Comment by Ron — 29 April 2007 @ 7:18 am

  26. Dejan –

    All of these are acts of will, each given a different flavor by the natural development of the central nervous system. As this evolution goes on, there is a drumbeat of self-affirmation that creates the sense in a child’s mind that he or she is an individual with a will. This is the riff of the journalist on Stern’s work. It’s not incompatible with Stern, but it does overemphasize the autonomous individual so central to modernity. I think Stern’s observation is that the sense of self emerges in the contexts of interaction with others. The implication is that, from earliest development, self-among-others forms the basis of identity, rather than self in isolation from others. This idea is compatible with Heidegger’s “being-with.”

    The continuity with behaviorism is the reliance on observable behaviors rather than introspection. As you pointed out before, pre-linguistic young children are incapable of reporting their introspections to others. Even adults are quite capable of deceiving and misunderstanding themselves, which is certainly compatible with a psychoanalytic (or Judeo-Christian) theory of self. So you construct tasks that hopefully allow you to infer cognitive processes that motivate behaviors. The main difference from behaviorism is that cognitivism does acknowledge active mental processes rather than direct stimulus-response machinery. More later, of course.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 29 April 2007 @ 8:28 am

  27. Because I am quite orthodoxly psychoanalytic in this context and only allow for Deleuze to provide a possible chellenge, or reformulation, I can’t say I have much to contribute to dr. Stern’s line of thought. We do tend to read within our existing frameworks, holding onto them until something disrupts them. If you already believe implicitly that God is behind the creation, then empirical science is unlikely to dissuade you: God set up the laws of the universe, set the Big Bang in motion, etc. Empiricism can neither support nor refute such a belief; it’s a different truth-test procedure. On the other hand, if you’re inclined to believe that God had nothing to do with the creation of the material universe, then empirical findings are unlikely to overturn that belief.

    So, if you believe that psychoanalytic psychology is right, you’re unlikely to be persuaded by an Occam’s Razor sort of argument suggesting that the psychodynamic structures and processes are unnecessary in accounting for the development of self. Just because they can’t show empirical evidence doesn’t mean they’ve disproven anything. I guess I sit on the other side of the divide: I don’t have an a priori belief the psychoanalytic model, so unless something comes along that demonstrates its veracity, I tend to stick with my original skepticism.

    You’re presumably more predisposed to listen to Deleuze & Guattari because they’re operating within the Freudian-Lacanian tradition and disrupting it from within. That makes a lot of sense to me. I’m going to do a little more with the empirical developmental psych literature looking at the formation of self, because I’m trying to clarify what it is that I think. Then I’ll come back to D&G: their interaction with psychodynamic models, the nature of desires, etc.

    I wasn’t quite sure of your take on Bateson’s double bind. A mother who conveys mixed messages to her child certainly does add to the child’s hermeneutical burden: does she mean one or the other or both messages? And it makes mother-child attunement particularly difficult, which could disrupt the developing sense of self and of others. But the double-bind is no longer regarded as a cause of schizophrenia: genetic inheritance is the primary known cause, along with brain abnormalities and perhaps birth trauma. Again, this is based on empirical evidence looking at incidence of schizophrenia in twins and close relatives vis-a-vis differences in parenting styles. I’m persuadable by empirical evidence on this sort of thing. At some point perhaps you have to wonder why you’re predisposed to believe that bad parenting is the cause of psychological disorder.

    I’ll return later with thoughts on larger social context. Thanks also to Ron, who told me about Stern’s book, for clarifying the context. As you say, Stern is an analyst, so his empirical critique comes from in-house.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 29 April 2007 @ 9:54 am

  28. I’m persuadable by empirical evidence on this sort of thing. At some point perhaps you have to wonder why you’re predisposed to believe that bad parenting is the cause of psychological disorder.

    The source of my enormous reservations towards empirical evidence as well as interpretations of schizophrenia that attribute it to genes, is that facts and figures work perfectly in the service of neoliberal capitalism, as I have tried to suggest by stressing the concerns of insurance companies that deep psychology is much more expensive than a quick fix in the form a post-modern collage of different cognitive-behavioral tools, which removes the symptom without addressing the cause, etc.

    I mention Bateson’s double-bind to point out that discord between messages (which I think is the essence of Stern’s argument). Stern seems to be all about that social interaction between the mother and the child, where it is vital that they understand each other’s messages. But of course the problem is that in endorsing the cognitive realm, they seem to ”forget” the existence of the Unconscious, at which point I simply can’t follow anymore, because the Unconscious does exist.

    In the Mirror article, Lacan explained his disagreement with Heidegger

    In fact, they were encountering that existential negativity whose reality is so vigorously proclaimed by the contemporary philosophy of being and nothingness.

    But unfortunately that philosophy grasps negativity only within the limits of a self-sufficiency of consciousness, which, as one of its premises, links to the méconnaissances that constitute the ego, the illusion of autonomy to which it entrusts itself. This flight of fancy, for all that it draws, to an unusual extent, on borrowings from psychoanalytic experience, culminates in the pretention of providing an existential psychoanalysis.

    Where Lacan was basically saying that existential psychology draws on the idea of the autonomous Ego as well.

    Because behaviorism and cognitivism share a form of reductionism this way, they tend to combine easily in these new kinds of cut-and-paste Photoshop job therapies aimed at adjusting the client to the market.

    But you know what happened to Nikki Grace when she took that sideroad through the market…

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 29 April 2007 @ 10:14 am

  29. Stern seems to be all about that social interaction between the mother and the child, where it is vital that they understand each other’s messages. But of course the problem is that in endorsing the cognitive realm, they seem to ”forget” the existence of the Unconscious, at which point I simply can’t follow anymore, because the Unconscious does exist.

    If Stern is endorsing the cognitive realm, it is a strange cognitive realm in that it is pre-linguistic and dealing with the felt experience of affect attunement or discord. He is not throwing out the unconscious at all, and while he might have a different unconscious than Freud (or Lacan), many of the American relational psychoanalysts do, he still maintains the unconscious. So I guess the next questions is, what is the unconscious?

    There has been a lot of discourse in current relational psychoanalysis about the type of self “constructed” in a consumeristic capitalistic economy and the need to draw patient’s perspectives to the social/political processes they are embedded in which play a role in their felt experiences and their “self”…they are not just attempting to adjust new cogs in the machine.

    Stern’s position has been critiqued by Philip Cushman along these lines (that he is propagating the political status quo…he is mostly pissed because Stern has a position that views the self as not totally a linguistic construction) in an article that begins with “Political ideology…(obfuscated in Stern’s infant)?” (I’m not sure of the exact title)

    Like

    Comment by Ron — 29 April 2007 @ 11:05 am

  30. To continue with the social context…

    Though heritability is by far the strongest empirically identified cause of schizophrenia, it’s also true that our modern western capitalistic culture does produce schizophrenics at a higher rate than so-called developing cultures. Also, there’s a higher incidence of male schizophrenics in the West, but of females in the developing cultures. So something’s happening at the macrolevel that tends not to be studied by psych researchers.

    You point out that pscyh theories compatible with quick-fix therapies are going to be more appealing in a capitalistic culture that wants to get its producing machines back on-line as cost-effectively as possible. I agree with that assessment. On the other hand, the whole diagnosis-and-treatment medical model is what got treatment of “mental illness” covered under medical insurance in the first place. And when Freud and Lacan make neurosis part of everyone’s psychological makeup, then potentially everyone becomes treatable by the doctors of the mind. It’s difficult to find a financially unbiased stance. One could argue that the scientists who do not also provide therapy are in a less financially biased position to do the research. But if government grants and pharmaceutical companies pay for the research, then biases get introduced anyway. It’s difficult.

    Another sociocultural question is why we’re predisposed to regard neurosis and psychosis as resulting from bad parenting. Heritability is a far stronger predictor than parenting on every personality variable that’s been studied, yet people continue to assume that nurture is to blame. Why do we as a culture overemphasize parental influence for better or for worse? Maybe Deleuze & Guattari can address this issue.

    As for Lacan’s disagreement with Heidegger, I read it more as a disagreement with Sartre and company, who believe that through sheer willpower we can define our own essence. Heidegger was much more fatalistic in his outlook, that while we as a species may not be assigned an essence, we still cannot transcend our embeddedness in the society and history in order to define our own essence.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 29 April 2007 @ 11:09 am

  31. It looks like our little discussion is part of a larger one within psychoanalysis: http://www.karnacbooks.com/product.php?PID=1403

    Like

    Comment by Ron — 29 April 2007 @ 11:13 am

  32. has a position that views the self as not totally a linguistic construction

    yes and sadly I think this sort of humanism or anthropocentrism is what perfectly suits the ideological agenda of neoliberal capitalism, premised on self-interest as the ultimate (and only) value

    I don;t know about a terminable linguistic definition of the self, we can discuss that a lot esp. from Deleuze’s perspective, but I’m quite sure that a cognitive self without the Unconscious isn;t going to get us anywhere.

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 29 April 2007 @ 11:18 am

  33. So I guess the next questions is, what is the unconscious?

    I agree, and the account of the Unconscious offered in this theory is classically Freudian, which is curiously revisionist given that Lacan already provided for an account of the Unconscious as a language, which was then further developed in post-structural thought.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 29 April 2007 @ 11:21 am

  34. Though heritability is by far the strongest empirically identified cause of schizophrenia, it’s also true that our modern western capitalistic culture does produce schizophrenics at a higher rate than so-called developing cultures. Also, there’s a higher incidence of male schizophrenics in the West, but of females in the developing cultures. So something’s happening at the macrolevel that tends not to be studied by psych researchers.

    This was actually the subject of David Lynch;’s film LOST HIGHWAY, which examined the American bipolar disorder in a very psychoanalytic fashion, even as Lynch would probably deny that saying that things come to him from the blue tomorrows; however when he described the film as a psychogenic fugue, he was putting in frame schizophrenia, with its double-bind, Moebius-strip like discourse.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 29 April 2007 @ 11:24 am

  35. On the unconscious, I acknowledge that I don’t have a firm grasp. We’ve been exploring traces and repression and unformulated experiences as sources of unconscious material. Also, there’s a sense that everything that’s not currently being used by the conscious mind in living in the present is unconscious — potentially available on demand perhaps, but still not in consciousness. Consciousness is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Here’s my Lacan-for-dummies understanding: Lacan says that the unconscious is structured like a language. I believe he also says that symptoms — gestures, mistakes, childhood memories, character, traditions, distortions, silence, even word choice — are expressions of the self that remain outside of verbal language. The symptomatic expression is either unrecognized or free from the constraints that langauge and society imposes. So the symptom is a means of self-expression. For the client to be able to present the symptom, and for the analyst to recognize and “speak” the symptom in language, enables the client to assimilate this previously marginalized aspect of the self. Isn’t that the general idea? I like it: the symptom isn’t a sign of illness but a kind of communication that needs to be heard and understood and accepted. Not that I believe that all the unconscious is symptomatic in this way, but to try to hear the person speak through syptoms seems like the right thing to do.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 29 April 2007 @ 12:08 pm

  36. Lost Highway I should see again. You’ve had an extensive discussion of Inland Empire on your blog, which also seems schizophrenic along with a lot of other things that may or may not add up to briliance.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 29 April 2007 @ 12:14 pm

  37. Lost Highway I should see again. You’ve had an extensive discussion of Inland Empire on your blog, which also seems schizophrenic along with a lot of other things that may or may not add up to briliance

    Oh in which sense does it feel schizophrenic? I felt that it was quite overextended and odious, because me and Le Colonel Chabert have diametrically oppossed views on crucial ontological issues, and neither of us is willing to give up on those views.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 29 April 2007 @ 12:43 pm

  38. the symptom isn’t a sign of illness but a kind of communication that needs to be heard and understood and accepted. Not that I believe that all the unconscious is symptomatic in this way, but to try to hear the person speak through syptoms seems like the right thing to do.

    exactly, and Lacanian psychoanalysis is not a cure, like all the other therapies derived from it, including this new one you are showing me, which speaks of a maladjusted individual who needs to adapt his communication to the demands of society. A secondary goal of analysis might be to help the client function in society, but the primary one is to liberate him from the Master’s discourse, by letting the client’s Unconscious speak for itself. When a Lacanian ”analyzes” dreams, he is not interested in their remembered content, as the classic Freudian might be sometimes, although I think already Freud dispensed with Jung’s idea of collective symbols. He wants to hear the client’s account of the dream.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 29 April 2007 @ 12:58 pm

  39. The meaning of the dream is thus in the precarious relationship between the signifier and the signified, which shifts with the moment, which is in the client’s discourse, not in the repressed content.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 29 April 2007 @ 12:59 pm

  40. In other words the Unconscious is not the old Freudian hydraulic model, hence your use of the word ”subconscious”, rather a topographical model akin to the Moebius strip (of the Lost Highway), which collapses Innenwelt and Umwelt into one, as you sould have it in Freud’s expression Unheimlich, Uncanny.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 29 April 2007 @ 1:16 pm

  41. As for Heidegger, I don’t see psychoanalysis as pessimistic in the manner of existential psychology. The end of analysis would ideally entail the liberation of the client’s desire by a form of disillusionment that allows him to see its constructed nature, allowing him also to develop a more realistic sense of being. What he later does with this knowledge, is not really the business of analysis, and this is where it differs from therapies that promise to offer you the alleviation of suffering, the paliative function, alone, or ”adjustment”. In getting to realize that you are fatefully divided and constructed, you’re brought back to a kind of awareness, but no promise is made that you will be delivered to some ”healthy” or ”right” modus.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 29 April 2007 @ 1:20 pm

  42. In a way, the client realizes that there’s no hidden truth or purpose to uncover in himself, and that he needs to BUILD everything, which reminds me of the Biblical credo that a man is judged by his deeds, not his words.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 29 April 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  43. Dejan –

    This is very informative about Lacan. I acknowledge the limits of a strictly hermeneutical praxis along the lines you suggest: that it ends up as a device for the exceptional individual to merge back into the herd. There are reasons why I might not want to understand or to be understood by the collective. And mutual understanding isn’t identical to mutual agreement or fulfillment of desire. But I also believe that understanding what the unconscious has to say is part of the hermeneutic. (I use unconscious and subconscious interchangeably, but I guess there are distinctions.) The collective doesn’t want to understand me, doesn’t want to hear me, but that’s no reason why I shouldn’t come to understand myself. The other might be where desires are satisfied, but the other is also where desires are denied. So it’s always an ambivalent relationship. Perhaps the client becomes equipped with knowledge not just of understanding the other, but also of deterritorializing the other’s imposed structures.

    The nature of desire needs further exploration, which gets us back to Deleuze & Guattari. There may be no way back to raw or “Real” desire, and some desires may actually be directed toward the other. This whole desiring what the other desires, or becoming what the other desires — that does seem like something to recognize and to deal with. I’m also in agreement that arriving at some greater level of understanding is desirable in its own right, rather than happiness or alleviation from suffering or the ability to function more successfully in the world. And also this awareness of the need to build, which ties in particular to my interest in the Biblical creation narrative. The collapsing of Innenwent and Umwelt into one another I’m sure I don’t understand. Also, how can you discern when the analyst’s interpretation of the unconscious language is accurate — a kind of personal emotional resonance with it, a feeling of being understood?

    I appreciate your enlightening us further on Lacan, and for not abandoning us to our empiricist rigidities. And Ron, thanks for providing excellent resources and clarifications about Stern and company. I believe that you too are skeptical about the social systems in which we’re embedded, and perhaps resonate with certain critiques of analysis and therapy that work in complicity with “The Man.”

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    Comment by ktismatics — 29 April 2007 @ 3:36 pm

  44. By the way, I get the sense both in Lacan and in Lacanians that discourse itself tends more toward the idiosyncratic, the voicing of the unconscious, the permeation of the controlled linguistic membrane with a less preprocessed sort of verbiage. At times it verges on the incomprehensible, though perhaps those who speak the language of the unconscious attune themselves with it. At times I envy this sort of speech, at times I find it somewhat pretentious. I sense that the French do it on purpose because their language is so rigidly territorialized and so rational, and at times I wonder whether this unconscious-compatible rhythm is a desire to be a specifically French postmodernist. Maybe David Lynch is how Americans talk when they’re following the Mobius strip through its convolutions. When I saw Inland Empire here in Antibes on English-language night at the cinema, nearly the entire audience was French.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 29 April 2007 @ 3:54 pm

  45. The collapsing of Innenwent and Umwelt into one another I’m sure I don’t understand

    The Moebius strip appears to have two sides, but only has one. So the inner world is superimposed on the outer world, and vice versa. Just like Lacan’s famous S/s formula, where the ”membrane”, the link between the signifier and the signified, is unstable and porous. The membrane can also be seen as the double-folding of the Moebius strip.

    In neurosis, this link is mistranslated at the crucial quilting point, which appears in the form of the symptom. In psychosis, the signifiers are running loose altogether, the links are completely arbitrary. This is why the psychotic can’t use metaphor properly.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 29 April 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  46. I sense that the French do it on purpose because their language is so rigidly territorialized and so rational, and at times I wonder whether this unconscious-compatible rhythm is a desire to be a specifically French postmodernist

    Well Lynch is certainly a French baby. They pay for his films and he has to deliver their Lacanian brand. However, I think the issue runs deeper, having to do with a difference in French semiotics as opposed to the Anglo-Saxon one. But this is huge issue which we will have to discuss in a separate space, I think.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 29 April 2007 @ 3:59 pm

  47. That quilting point Lacan called the ”suturing point”, from suture.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 29 April 2007 @ 4:00 pm

  48. I appreciate your enlightening us further on Lacan, and for not abandoning us to our empiricist rigidities.

    I don’t really see them as rigidities. I think every form of human expression has value. I just find the psychoanalytic one superior for its unique theme of the Unconscious.

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 29 April 2007 @ 5:18 pm

  49. Membrane — on your blog we were looking for an altiernative to “interface.” I thought about membrane but it seemed specifically applicable to bodies and organs and cells. But what the heck: membrane is a great word. The semi-permeable membrane is just what we’re looking for, assuming that the membrane itself has properties irreducible to the bodies on either side of itself. On the other hand, membrane might suggest too much continuity between inside and outside, such that both share the same membrane. Again, if the membrane has different properties on either side of itself, as if two membranes have been glued together into one, then it works. Then gaps can be either an excessive permeability between inside and outside, or a place where the glue doesn’t stick and there’s an unbridgeable gap between inside and outside. Maybe that’s the “suture” that Lacan talks about?

    The name of the Father in France is formal and bureaucratic; in America it’s instrumental and efficient.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 29 April 2007 @ 7:06 pm

  50. John, the cell membrane actually is two layers of lipid that are ‘glued together’. In fact the cell’s internal and external environment are dealt with quite differently by the two sides of the membrane and the membrane is also both intelligent and very complex in how it regulates what goes in and what goes out.

    An excellent metaphor indeed!

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    Comment by samlcarr — 29 April 2007 @ 10:32 pm

  51. Thanks for the bioknowledge, Sam — membrane it is.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 29 April 2007 @ 10:36 pm

  52. John, the cell membrane actually is two layers of lipid that are ‘glued together’. In fact the cell’s internal and external environment are dealt with quite differently by the two sides of the membrane and the membrane is also both intelligent and very complex in how it regulates what goes in and what goes out.

    On a related subject, isn’t the double helix of DNA a Moebius strip?

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 30 April 2007 @ 9:58 am

  53. I don’t believe so, because I don’t think it ever folds back on itself. In a moebius membrane the inner-facing surface interacts with the outside world and vice versa, resulting not just in semi-permeability but a kind of mismatch. Unless the outer body becomes inner at the same time as the outer surface goes inward. The moebius strip in 3-D is a Klein bottle, I believe.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 30 April 2007 @ 11:03 am

  54. i have saved the comment that i just tried to post, just in case. but this is my one-line comment to try and “trick” the system…???
    I haven’t read all of the comemnts yet…I think I’m going to come back and do that later, because I think this is important.

    But John – FYI – back a time a go – I think in our “anti-creeds” conversation – I had mentioned Christ as the “axe at the root of the tree.” You frustratedly/angrily noted that my choice of analogies was “interesting.” All that tension dissipated, but…I think…that what I meant by that is very related to this post (I hadn’t meant to be offensive).

    I think of that analogy of the axe as rooted not just to the idea of Christ as the destoryer of something old and the recereator of something new. I think of the axe as a mirroring double with a union at the center – with ancient mystical roots, too. The mystical roots were more pagan, though. But all this contemporary discussion still seems like a growth from those ancient roots. Anyway, my point is thatChrist becomes both the double in the mirror and the union at the center of the disjointed mirrors.

    At the beginning of the comments, in discussing Lacan, folks were discussing where on earth the “ideal” unified self-image comes from. I think my analogy applies. I’d say that question of the ideal “I’ could be reformulated to ask aobut one’s very awareness of having a self at all, I guess, but anyway. The “ideal self” is from the One by and in whom we are made. That we live “in” Him is why our formation occurs in the mirror of an Other. That there is ever an ideal “I” in the first place is, because its given by the One in whom we live. “I” emmanate from and mirror Him.

    He is immanent in that I live in Him – Heidegger’s contextuality that we were just discussing at your “Derrida and the Metaphysics of Presence” post. As you said: “I think Heidegger asserted a closed system too, though I think he believed it was possible within this closed system to uncover immanent truths within the world that weren’t just components of language. He couldn’t discover the true essence of a thing or its transcendent meaning, but he could discover its truth in the human sociohistoric context.”

    In relation, then, to the thought of destruction and recreation…the truth of Christ in both the center and the mirroring double of the axe, becomes both the need for something that rings untrue (in relation to Christ’s “tune”) to be destroyed, and the “basis” for recreation. Upon the image of our gaze that “rings true to us,” we will rebuild. It will ring true, because He made us, who we cannot see. Somehting besides what rings true will be destroyed, because He made us, who we cannot see.

    The “person” of Jesus becomes the “basis.” Rather than an “objective truth.” Aquinas talks about the agreement between science and theology due to the fact of God’s being the “author” of both, not do to a universal “objective” truth as stated by either systematic theology or by scientific assertions.

    :)

    Jason

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    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 16 May 2007 @ 7:54 pm

  55. Jason –

    I remember the axe metaphor, but forgot the context. Anyhow, here in this post the context begins with Lacan, who builds a lot of psychology on the primal experience of castration. For Jesus to be the axe would be something that Lacan might say. The Father is the one who (at least in your own subconscious mythology) took away that which gave you plenitude and that made you desired by the mother; i.e., he chops off your phallus and keeps it for himself. The biological father speaks and acts on behalf of the Name of the Father, the Big Other, who would be identified with Jesus. So Jesus is the axe who castrates and leaves you forever missing the most important part of yourself. Only Jesus has/is the phallus.

    The mirror image for Lacan is that primal wholeness prior to the castration. Comparing yourself with your mirror ideal, you realize you’ve lost something — the phallus! So, if Jesus is the axe and the mirror image, then what you see in the mirror is the ideal self merged with, or replaced by, or doubled with, Jesus. Jesus So Jesus comes in infancy and replaces an idealized self-image with an image of himself, so that the person always subsequently desires to be transformed into or accepted by Jesus as the source of fulfillment? It’s interesting to watch you assemble a position from all these diverse sources…

    “I’d say that question of the ideal ‘I’ could be reformulated to ask aobut one’s very awareness of having a self at all, I guess, but anyway.” Lacan explores this idea as well. The eventual endpoint for Lacan is a dismantling of the ego, along with the idealized self-image and the lost phallus and the Big Other. That sort of decentering of the self and distancing of the other, more than his structuralism and totalizing theory, is what in my view makes Lacan a postmodernist.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 17 May 2007 @ 11:21 am

  56. I think you and I are mirroring each other, speaking backwards. You said: “Jesus comes in infancy and replaces an idealized self-image with an image of himself, so that the person always subsequently desires to be transformed into or accepted by Jesus as the source of fulfillment?” Yes. This to me is reminiscent of Meister Eckhart’s paraphrasing scritpture, “God comes like a thief in the night.” But Eckhart was speaking as a mystic about a hidden God of goodness and grace. Lacan, you say, would speak of Jesus as the great castraror. Lacan’s dismantling of the ego…so far as I can gather…is Tragic (but just in its own way, I guess); Eckhart’s is redemptive (and just).

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    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 12:29 am

  57. Yes, I think you’re right about Lacan and Eckhart. The debate about Lacan is whether the castration is intrinsic to human nature or whether it’s an artifact of sociohistorical conditions, most notably capitalism in the Marxist critique of Lacan. There are different ways to explore this issue from a Christocentric perspective. So: has each of us always already lost as infants that which would make us whole (a metaphorical reading of the Garden)? Or did we never have it (perhaps since the Fall)? Or do we still have it as a desire that finds its natural fulfillment in Christ?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2007 @ 8:16 am

  58. ——-oneline—-decentered—
    “The debate about Lacan is whether the castration is intrinsic to human nature or whether it’s an artifact of sociohistorical conditions, most notably capitalism in the Marxist critique of Lacan.” This was pretty darn close the contours of my Girand argument with Thomisticguy!
    You also wrote: “There are different ways to explore this issue from a Christocentric perspective. So: has each of us always already lost as infants that which would make us whole (a metaphorical reading of the Garden)? Or did we never have it (perhaps since the Fall)? Or do we still have it as a desire that finds its natural fulfillment in Christ?” I think I would go with door number three, with one virtual foot hanging out in the hallway that comes after door number two.

    ————————

    (my writing) from:
    http://simplegodstuff.blogstream.com/v1/pid/216416.html?CP=&HP=1#TC

    To clearly summarize, then, how this relates to Girand. If man’s Garden condition involved a “natural” and inevitable physical death, then God’s original design – particuarly in regards to Girand’s notion of mimetic rivalry and the scapegoating mechanism as “necessary” – could not have been evil. In other words, if man’s orignal condition was one of “natural” death in the first place, then it becomes much easier to read Girand’s concept of “mimetic rivalry” and scapegoating specifically as an unjust and false means for the survival of a community – a comunity that would, excluding Original Sin, simply work together to survive. Here I am reminded of Girand’s own words: “Satan is a liar and a murderer from the first.” To be very explicit, if God originally designed a physical and “natural” being who inevitably died anyway, then the “necessity” for survival is not inherently evil, but only its unjust twist involving mimetic rivalry and scapegoating.

    If, however, “Original Justice” is true – and the correct way of reading Genesis 1-3 – then God originally designed a man who, originally, did not “naturally” and “inevitably” die. In that case, then, a properly theolgoical reading of Girand becomes much more difficult, if not impossible. If man’s original “nature” did not in any way include death, then, quite simply, Girand’s notion of a neurological makeup that “necessarily” and “naturally” leads to scapegoating simply does not jive with proper theology, in which life rather than death actually becomes what is “natural.”

    In this case, I don’t think you can really say that mimetic rivalry and scapegoating – which Girand posited as a “necessary” part of his neurological makeup – are a specifically sinful lie about man’s means of survival which would otherwise involve peace and cooperation, because man “necessarily” and “naturally” survives anyway. Also in this case, scapegoating – rather than also being a means of survival founded upon a lie from Satan that that’s how a community “must” survive – is only a form of moral deception…e.g. Adam’s “She made me do it!”

    In the case of Original Justice, cooperation or rivalry simply become the two differing means of living (which is properly restored by Christ). In the case of an original design for man that involves a natural and inevitable death, cooperation and rivalry become differing means of trying to overcome death (which is only truly possible through God).

    At the same time, though, I suppose you could posit Original Justice and still find coherence with Girand’s text. In this case, the way man was originally made was for life. Then sin brought death. With death comes either cooperation or rivalry as the differing means – of a being originally meant for life – of trying to overcome it.

    ————————–

    :)

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    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 8:28 pm

  59. Jason –

    I think I would go with door number three, with one virtual foot hanging out in the hallway that comes after door number two. *Prediction*As we’ve discussed briefly before, this is where the promised Deleuze discussion will go on Church and PoMo: an inborn desire for the desire of God.

    On your interpretation of Girard’s scapegoat, you hinge the interpretation on mortality. So if man is naturally mortal, then survival rivalries are inevitable; otherwise they’re a consequence of the Fall. But if man is naturally immortal, then the more natural rivalry is between men and gods as well as among men. In Genesis 6 you see rivalry between sons of gods and sons of men as they compete for the good and beautiful daughters of men, at which point Yahweh destroys everyone but Noah. This god/man rivalry seems critical throughout the Biblical narrative.

    As I read Girard, survival of cultures is threatened by internal violence that threatens to remove all the structural differences within the society, causing everyone to compete for the same things until the whole thing falls apart. Scapegoat resolves the dispute, restores differences, preserves structure.

    So I’d read Genesis 1-3 this way: The Fall is an act of mimetic desire by Adam and Eve: they’re trying to eliminate the differences between themselves and Yahweh. Mimetic desire and rivalry establish the preconditions for sacrifice, which starts in Genesis 4 with Cain and Abel. If men and gods are already the same (image and likeness), then mimetic desire is unnecessary to eliminate the differences and therefore sacrificial scapegoating is unnecessary to restore the differences. If, on the other hand, men and gods are different but through mimesis they become more similar (man and woman eat of the tree to be like God, God expels them in retaliation that seems all-too-human), then mimetic rivalry between man and gods becomes inevitable.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 19 May 2007 @ 3:42 pm

  60. Girand…so…was “the death of God” sacraficial?

    And as for Deleuze…his desire vectors and his modalism…its interesting that my two answers (we have the desire fulfilled only in Christ, or we never had it, at least not since the fall) follow those very Deleuzian contours, eh?

    Maybe our choice for modalism is the castration of our personhood. Or the sacrafice of God is the castration of possibly-fulfilled desire.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 21 May 2007 @ 7:39 pm

  61. The death of Christ was sacrificial by the Jews and the Romans, who needed a scapegoat to resolve their differences. It pointedly was not, says Girard, a sacrifice by God of his son or by Jesus of himself. No substitutionary atonement for Girard — it’s a primitive and wrong instinct that man projected onto God.

    Or are you talking about Nietzsche? In that case I don’t think so. Or how about Dostoevsky? There I’d say maybe so. In Girard the sacrificial victim typically becomes a divine figure after his death, so you could say that sacrificing God turns him into God.

    Yes, I think you and Deleuze would be on the same page here, especially the idea of a desire that we’ve always had that finds its fulfillment in Christ.

    I don’t know why subpersonal desires should deny personhood. I believe that man evolved from single-cell organisms and so did I develop personally from a single cell, and I believe that my genes have equipped me with desires, but I still tend to think of myself as a person.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 21 May 2007 @ 9:01 pm

  62. “I don’t know why subpersonal desires should deny personhood. I believe that man evolved from single-cell organisms and so did I develop personally from a single cell, and I believe that my genes have equipped me with desires, but I still tend to think of myself as a person.” There’s some wierd miscommunication going on here about modalism, and I’m not sure what it is. I think it has to do with whether with “subpersonal desires” we are pointing to the notion of a “Universal Spirit,” or to evolutionary urges for survival. Deleuze uses the term “Universal Spirit,” but I really don’t know what he means. I don’t get it.

    “The death of Christ was sacrificial by the Jews and the Romans, who needed a scapegoat to resolve their differences. It pointedly was not, says Girard, a sacrifice by God of his son or by Jesus of himself. No substitutionary atonement for Girard — it’s a primitive and wrong instinct that man projected onto God.”

    I like this. It should be noted, however, that Girand does regard Jesus as the Son of God…who chose the path of the Cross, rather than some other path…and who referred to the Cross as “your [Father] will.” But I don’t think that – necessarily or literally or directly – or wahtever means that God is really really pissy and Jesus took the brunt God’s pissyness for us. Its not like that.

    The pissyness is with the Romans and with the Jewish mob. “God’s will” is the redemption and reconciliation, the revelation of the ultimately innocent victim as innocent and washed clean. If that particular innocent victim is the “Son of God,” and “the one through whom all things were made,” then “God’s will” in that situation is for my innocense.

    As for my “death of God” reference, I’d say I was referencing Girand through Neitche. In question form, though. I’ll go with your “I don’t think so” answer. I don’t know about Dostoevsky, really.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 21 May 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  63. What I know about modalism is this wikipedia source. Not what you’re referring to, clearly. Deleuze’s universal spirit isn’t anything close to Christianity — more a vital impersonal energy that permeates the universe, that diversifies itself into matter, desires, persons…

    I’m with you on the Girard interpretation of the crucifixion.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 21 May 2007 @ 9:31 pm

  64. will read that wikipedia thing during lunch…

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 21 May 2007 @ 9:46 pm

  65. Read the link. I’d agree that most Christians are probably closer to there than they would realize. But its interesting to me that Tertullian pointed out that modalism implies the suffering of the Father on the cross. That would seem to relate to our conversation on God’s “punishment.” It would seem that if God suffers on the cross, then it changes our interpretation of God’s anger in relation to the consequences of sin…makes it more likely to view divine punishment as more closely associated with being of God’s supernatural agency. I see a connection there…??

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 21 May 2007 @ 11:19 pm

  66. Excellent point. It would seem weird for the persons of the Trinity to be so separate from one another that they wouldn’t feel each other’s pain. A lot of those early Christian philosophers were heavily influenced by Greek ideas of perfection, such that an eternal God couldn’t be touched by temporal things like emotions, which change depending on circumstances.

    I’ve seen some people contend that the atonement went both ways, that God was atoning for His unduly harsh and impossible Law that made all His people into sinners.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 22 May 2007 @ 6:45 am

  67. “I’ve seen some people contend that the atonement went both ways, that God was atoning for His unduly harsh and impossible Law that made all His people into sinners.” Who framed it like THAT?

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 22 May 2007 @ 5:01 pm

  68. I don’t remember. That dude from Church and Pomo who runs a church in Belfast, who wrote “How Not to Speak of God” — he’s one who’s explored this idea from within the emerging world. I take it you don’t approve?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 22 May 2007 @ 8:22 pm

  69. Funnily, I’d say he’s too stuck on his Protestant roots. Whether he’s even basing that on true theological Protestantism is another question, though (in other words, I can see where he gets that). I’d also echo your best friend, who says that lots of emergent folks “aren’t postmodern enough,” whatever exactly that means. But Smith meant that in a particular context of talking about the body, limits, hierarchy, and such things as that.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 22 May 2007 @ 9:21 pm

  70. Definitely not orthodox Protestantism. Would you characterize your own beliefs as Protestant or Catholic, evangelical or postmodern? In what ways? (Sounds like an essay question on a test.)

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 22 May 2007 @ 10:03 pm

  71. As a good launching point (which you’re already read):

    ————————

    I recognize there are other emerging churches that describe themselves as a return to the ancient Christian tradition (lets called these the ‘ancient-future’ emergents). While many of these churches are engaged in a desperately necessary retrieval project, there is potential for these churches to be co-opted by the dark side of postmodern life.

    Let me explain it this way. If some ancient-future emergents do not see some sort of continuity with an authentic Christian tradition nor configure their ecclesiology in accountable relationships to a broader body but they selectively appropriate parts of the tradition that they find preferable, they may be assuming another kind of autonomy–one that picks and chooses ‘from above’ as it were. This may operate as much in a consumer framework as otherwise, and as many have said, one common way to be post-modern is to be a consumer self (eg. David Lyon’s introduction entitled Postmodernity).

    This is why Smith charges the emerging church with not being postmodern enough. He keeps positing a more persistent or proper postmodernism that takes us beyond the desire for autonomy and into a community of thought and practice that stretches through time and space, in other words, a particular embodied tradition and its institutions. This is, in fact, the ‘catholic’ Christian faith of creeds and confessional Trinitarian dogma, the sacraments, and even hierarchy. This is a call beyond both a spiritual nomadic life and the spiritual fortress of fundamentalism, and towards a sojourning with the Spirit in catholic association, en route to the City of God. We might call this third kind of emergent ‘catholic emergent churches.’ (small ‘c’!) Its not just ‘the same old church’ but ‘the same old church in a new context,’ which is genuinely ancient-future.

    The more particular you are, it has been said, the more universal you become—in so far as to be human is to be particular. There are no generic, universal human beings, any more than there is generic universal reason. I would say to students on university campus: the more you respectfully and unapolegetically express your particularity rather than sliding into a generic cultural codes, the more you free others to be their deep particular self. It is permission giving. For we are all much more deep than we reveal in North American cultural life. The mass cultural amnesia that Jane Jacobs talked about in her last book Dark Age Ahead is what threatens us the most, not the scandal of our particularities (although, of course, particularities are not sacrosanct or salvific in themselves). The fear of particularity, as Smith says, is a negation of our finiteness, and therefore a negation of our humanity, and becomes a continuation of the disenchanted dehumanizing aspects of modernity.

    We would do better to embrace as well a freedom to and with. There is also a freedom that comes when one is empowered by deep commitments and covenants, by submission to authority and accountability. This freedom is not historically a part of the American Way, but it may be the secret to its healing.

    from:
    http://churchandpomo.typepad.com/conversation/2007/04/why_deconstruct.html

    ————————-

    I’d say I really resonate with that. It covers much of the ground about which you inquired.

    It sounds pretty “Catholic.” I think where I would depart from the Catholic would be here (which I quoted at your “Derrida and The Metaphysics of Presence” post):

    “Now what is abstracted from individual matter is the universal. Hence our intellect knows directly the universal only. But indirectly, and as it were by a kind of reflection, it can know the singular, because, as we have said above (85, 7), even after abstracting the intelligible species, the intellect, in order to understand, needs to turn to the phantasms (sense data) in which it understands the species…”

    Well, actually, I basically agree with all that. But I think maybe there is a slightly whacky theological implication here. “Now what is abstracted from individual matter is the universal.” First of all, the “univeral truth” of a theological doctrine seems to arise from this statement. And yet it seems obvious to me that the proper attitude toward the theology of justification and sanctification is some balance between Catholic and Protestant.

    Secondly, how is it that: A) “the intellect, in order to understand, needs to turn to the phantasms (sense data)”, and yet B) such a “turning to” the phantasms IS the process of abstraction, presumably INTO universals, FROM the changing and shifting “phantasms? I don’t get it, really. I think maybe Aquinas is pointing to God’s “providence.” As in, “the statistics don’t lie, Ma’am.” But still, I would then refer to my first point, in which the Protestant theology on justification and sanctification arose from a particular cultural context.

    My other issue with Catholocism is with some thinks like the Immaculate Conception, which make me turn one eyebrows into a funnily contorted position, and say “Huh?”

    As for evangelical/emerging church…its just in my blood. I don’t even like it, I don’t think. Although I do like going to a church without pews and wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Its a good reminder that God loves me JUST the way I AM. I don’t have to do a song and dance for God. But then the dressing up and the priesly garb of like high protestantism or Catholicism is a good reminder that such things are actually for US HUMANS, as a reminder that we are on holy ground.

    Do I need to explain any of that? Do I need to explain more my relation to Smith and the postmodern church?

    :)

    Jason

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 23 May 2007 @ 7:01 pm

  72. That was good. I can see your attraction to embeddedness in the ancient traditions, which for you also affect the way you think about architecture, art, being-in, etc. At the same time you have expressed elsewhere a resentment of institutions and universal systematics, which are always part of the ancient traditions as well as the modern world. So some way of separating the absolute foundations from the institutional pseudo-foundation seems like part of the ancient-future project.

    The “not postmodern enough” idea means that the church is picking and choosing, like at a shopping mall. There’s a sense in which this characterizes postmodernity as a sociolohistorical manifestation of late/mature capitalism, where the marketplace is the real metanarrative. So “not postmodern enough” refers to postmodernism the philosophy not postmodernity the societal state of affairs — an explicit critique of and reaction against the insidious dominance of capitalist themes like shopping-mall theology. At the same time, postmodernism is a kind of hodgepodge rather than a systematic response or call or imperative: that’s partly what distinguishes it from Marxism or Freudianism or any of the other distinctly modernist critiques. So it’s hard to say quite what it would look like to be “postmodern enough.” For most of the postmodern secular theorists I don’t think it means getting more medieval or traditional — that seems like a distinctly Christian variant.

    I like Smith’s fear of particularity, denial of finiteness proposition. Something about individuality that doesn’t valorize egocentrism is a way out of the dehumanizing influences of our culture. Maybe something about community too, so I can see the desire to merge in with the catholic — though in my experience evangelical churches are more particularly interpersonal than Roman Catholic churches.

    The Aquinas universal/particular issue is a deep one, and as I said somewhere else I think it’s almost directly Aristotelian. But on these matters I profess no expertise.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 23 May 2007 @ 11:26 pm

  73. “At the same time you have expressed elsewhere a resentment of institutions and universal systematics, which are always part of the ancient traditions as well as the modern world. So some way of separating the absolute foundations from the institutional pseudo-foundation seems like part of the ancient-future project.”

    Yeah, although the ancient church was Catholic…I still think that my words from “Irony and Aletheia” would apply: “Americans have no real sensible relationship to their ‘America’ in the way that Athenians had a sensible relationship to Athens – other than through the images available to them by their technologies, of course. Technologies which are, however, not a direct sensory experience of America, but extensions of the self. Much less is NATO a being-in-the-world.”

    I mean, an ancient man was “Roman” or “Parisian” before he was “universally” anything. I think the “Catholicity” of the Catholic church refers specifically to that which is universal about the human experience…or maybe to those “universal” truths expressed doctrinally, or something of the sort. Regardless, ancient man’s image of himself was intimately tied with his body and its limits, whereas modern man’s are not. Additionally, I think, ancient institutions, in that very sense, had a certain “localness” to them. I’m not entirely sure how all that works out if you consider the difference between Catholic and catholic.

    “So it’s hard to say quite what it would look like to be ‘postmodern enough.’ For most of the postmodern secular theorists I don’t think it means getting more medieval or traditional — that seems like a distinctly Christian variant.” I think I would agree. I think my above paragraph(s) pertain, maybe even. I think you have to consider the context of Smith’s point about creeds and hierarchy and such things as that, which do not emerge from some particularly modern “universal” or “objective” truth of reason. Whereas postmodernity’s reliance on “reason” is partially why it would consider the “fiedism” of religion in genral to be “fascist,” no?

    “Maybe something about community too, so I can see the desire to merge in with the catholic — though in my experience evangelical churches are more particularly interpersonal than Roman Catholic churches.” I have that same thought about the lack of interpersonal relationships in “Catholic” churches. I’m not sure exactly how Smith’s point fits in there. That’s not reconciled in my head. I think it might be as simple, though, as asserting the need for interpersonal relationships and living life together, like BEING a “body politic.”

    I’m not really an expert either on the whole Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, modernity-and-so-on thing either.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 24 May 2007 @ 7:53 am

  74. Jason –

    I was just rereading the post at the top of these comments to remind myself what the original point was. It has to do with where we get our idealized image of self: is it from seeing ourselves in a mirror as a whole person instead of a bunch of jumbled parts, or is it an assembly compiled from social interactions with people we admire and who tell us what we are like or ought to be like? Now, I’m ready to reply…

    Our engagement of America is built up through images — I agree. Some of these images are consciously designed to manipulate us; some of the images come from hanging around in America and letting them permeate us. I find myself responding to French people’s images of America that they see on the news, in movies, in music, in stores, and so on. America may have the most prominent image of any country in the world right now, but it’s all based on a specular image — 2-D representations showing what America looks like.

    Maybe our understanding of Greeks’ relationship to Greece is so heavily mediated by images in books, films, etc. that there’s no way to know what it was really like. We get a sense of a glorious past that’s forever lost, but is that an image projected in part to compensate for the hole at the center of our own society, to place it somewhere out of reach. We had the societal phallus but we lost it a long time ago, and where it went is available to us only in Platonic and Aristotelian ideals that cannot be made material. There are many mythologies that place the golden age way in the past, as well as the corruption that put the golden age out of reach. And as a matter of history Plato and Aristotle also pointed away from Greece the real place to an ideal that shone through the particulars but that could not be grasped directly. So maybe their position wasn’t that much better than ours — they just thought about it in cooler ways.

    A truly incarnational reality does get lost in the mirrors of the ideal or the universal or the 2-D projection. Real flesh-and-blood selves, real relationships with others, real explorations of the natural and cultural world — sign me on. I acknowledge that I personally am not particularly engaged on all these dimensions right now, so I wonder if it too is some kind of ideal that makes me resent my life as I live it, regard it as something less than what it should be. It’s confusing.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 24 May 2007 @ 10:09 am

  75. ” We had the societal phallus but we lost it a long time ago, and where it went is available to us only in Platonic and Aristotelian ideals that cannot be made material.” Although the “that cannot be made material [fully or ultimately, by men]” portion of that statement is a different issue, I read this and thought of what you said later: “And as a matter of history Plato and Aristotle also pointed away from Greece the real place to an ideal that shone through the particulars but that could not be grasped directly. So maybe their position wasn’t that much better than ours — they just thought about it in cooler ways.”

    So, when I read – “Maybe our understanding of Greeks’ relationship to Greece is so heavily mediated by images in books, films, etc. that there’s no way to know what it was really like.” – I noted to myself that I was pretty much just talking about the fact that Athens had city walls. No modern city would have city walls. Not only is it pointless in light of current military technology, but it doesn’t fit with a modern’s epistemological relationship to infinity, which is the inverse of that epistemological relationship to infinity of an ancient. AND, the technology and the epistemology co-incide. :) Would you agree, there?

    “A truly incarnational reality does get lost in the mirrors of the ideal or the universal or the 2-D projection. Real flesh-and-blood selves, real relationships with others, real explorations of the natural and cultural world — sign me on. I acknowledge that I personally am not particularly engaged on all these dimensions right now, so I wonder if it too is some kind of ideal that makes me resent my life as I live it, regard it as something less than what it should be. It’s confusing.” That’s really really interesting. Hhmm…”transcendental empiricism!” :) Which is all about the distinction between virtual and potential in relation to the actual…maybe the unrealized potential is the confusing frustration?

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 24 May 2007 @ 6:34 pm

  76. City walls? Man, I was getting all transcendent on your ass and for what? City walls — today I ran along the top of the city walls of Antibes, which were “modernized” about 300 years ago as fortification against attacks from the sea. Now you look out to sea and there are sailboats and yachts — not very threatening.

    Transcendental empiricism and the unrealized virtual/potential as the basis for ideal image and dissatisfaction — maybe so.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 24 May 2007 @ 8:29 pm

  77. Alas, I am a practical minded egghead.

    Interestingly, my prof. in school was in the midst of studying modern military technology. He noted that the fall of some fort near Savannah, GA in the Civil War (I’ve been there, forgot the name)…due to devlopments in rifle technology…lead to the fall of the city wall in general. The Civil War was slightly less than 300 years ago, but the reason for the “modernization” at that 300 year point was an at-the-time new capacity for “projection.”

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 24 May 2007 @ 8:35 pm

  78. Interesting. I don’t know how much taller the walls are now, but apparently they’re a lot stronger than they were before. Artist Nicolas de Stael plunged to his death by jumping from his apartment window over the Antibes city wall into the sea — there’s a commemorative plaque below the window.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 24 May 2007 @ 9:04 pm

  79. My guess is that the extra height wouldn’t help much. It was probably about the strength, mostly. I mean, older cannon balls (or whathaveyou) probably went about just as high as newer ones, basically. It was probabably the cannon balls (or whathaveyou) themselves, or the strenght of the “projection” that changed. But I don’t know for sure…that’s sort of an educated guess.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 24 May 2007 @ 9:13 pm

  80. In future conversations regarding the ramparts I intend to cite you as the authority.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 24 May 2007 @ 9:22 pm

  81. I’ll rejoice then that there probably won’t bee many of those future conversations. Well…sort of. I’ll suffer that we live in a condition in which our relationship to infinity is all whacked out…leaving us in a position to have forgotten completely about the whole city wall phenomenon.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 25 May 2007 @ 5:29 am

  82. Besides the perpetual escalation of weaponry, suburbia ha been another unfortunate killer of the city walls. Although I really like some of these cities with free tram systems into the old town, preserving its vitality and distinctiveness — and sometimes even its walls. Montpelier has a vast suburban sprawl, but the old town is very vibrant in the midst of the medievalism. I love places like that.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 25 May 2007 @ 11:40 am

  83. Cited in a comment by Parodycenter from a long time ago:

    When Lacan introduced the concept of the “Other,” however, the mirror stage came to indicate how the founding role of the Other’s gaze works to form the subject’s mental apparatus. Thenceforward the very possibility of the mirror stage presupposed a symbolic operation. Were such operations lacking, the mirror stage would not occur, as happens with the autistic child, in whom there is no relationship in the Imaginary either to a body image or to any kind of counterpart. Beginning with his seminar on the transference (1991 [1960-61]), Lacan took the mirror as a metaphor for the Other’s gaze.

    Here’s D.W. Winnicott, from a 1967 paper reprinted in his book Playing and Reality:

    In individual emotional development the precursor of the mirror is the mother’s face. I wish to refer to the normal aspect of this and also to its psychopathology. Jacques Lacan’s paper ‘Le State du Miroir’ (1949) has certainly influenced me. He refers to the use of the mirror in each individual’s ego development. However, Lacan does not think of the mirror in terms of the mother’s face in the way that I wish to do here…

    What does the baby see when he or she looks at the mother’s face? I am suggesting that, ordinarily, what the baby sees is himself or herself. In other words the mother is looking at the baby and what she looks like is related to what she sees there…

    I see that I am linking apperception to perception by postulating a historical process (in the individual) which depends on being seen:
    When I look I am seen, so I exist.
    I can now afford to look and see.
    I now look creatively and what I apperceive I also perceive.
    In fact I take care not to see what is not there to be seen (unless I am tired.)

    I wonder whether Lacan originally got the idea from Winnicott, or whether Winnicott just hadn’t kept up with Lacan’s subsequent elaborations on the mirror theme. But Winnicott is trying to stake out something else with his formulation; namely, an intermediate zone between self and mother, between subjective and objective realities, where the developing child can engage playfully and creatively. For Winnicott this developmental sequence depends on a “good enough mother” who is responsive to her child, whose face does reflect back on the child and offer glimpses of the mother’s inner mental-emotional state, rather than presenting an unintepretable opaque surface to the child. In the latter case the child may remain mired in fantasy, stuck in a schizoid position vis-a-vis the other.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 21 September 2008 @ 8:32 am

  84. I am surprised not to see here references to modern psychoanalytic theories about self-development and social construction of the mind. These theories have way more chances to be addressed empirically (to content those who need a laboratory and an effect size), and they have been tried with success on those context, and in the clinical context. http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Affect_Regulation_Mentalization_and_the.html?id=EDHi3N-ebykC&redir_esc=y

    I am a Lacanian psychoanalyst, working now very closely to empirical psychoanalysis and social cognition. A bit of a weird mix. I believe that our work as therapist is to help people, and as scientists, to find a way to do it better.
    It is not my job to mistify the figures of Freud or Lacan, regardless of their amazing contributions and the tons of inspiration they provide. I do not think Lacan used a metaphor when he cited an empirical work. He cited, he believed that was true, maybe he even made it up. He got that wrong. What he didn’t get wrong was the splitting between a socially constructed ego and another ego, provided by a fragmented internal experience, a bodily experience… that maybe it is not on the mirror, but it exists as a multiplicity of physical signals which need to be organised under a fragile image of a body, hence the fear of disintegration. What the baby sees, according to Lacan, is a body, he does not see an ego. He sees a foreign matrix under which to organise what is coming from introceptive sources. This of course is fragile, and gets slowly moderated by social experience, which never hits the nail right on the head. There is always a bit of a distance between a tear and the word sadness.

    Like

    Comment by N. Lorenzini — 28 November 2013 @ 8:10 am

  85. Thanks for your comment, N. It sounds like you’re doing interesting and worthwhile work.

    It’s been 6+ years since I wrote this post, so I no longer remember what motivated me to write it. I’m more persuaded by Lacan’s analytic praxis than by his metapsychology, which seems more metaphysical than empirical. I was interested in exploring the evidence supporting (or not) Lacan’s specific contentions about the mirror stage, and in tying his account of developmental sequence with other non-clinical findings.

    “What he didn’t get wrong was the splitting between a socially constructed ego and another ego, provided by a fragmented internal experience, a bodily experience”

    Again, on what basis can this assertion be affirmed: clinical intuition, self-report by adult analysands, empirical evidence compiled during various phases of individual psychological development? You elaborate briefly on ego provided by bodily experience:

    “it exists as a multiplicity of physical signals which need to be organised under a fragile image of a body, hence the fear of disintegration.”

    Surely that’s true also of the socially constructed ego. A multiplicity of signals, many of them conflicting, are generated by a variety of others with whom one interacts, which the individual must compile into something approximating a unified self. It’s well established that people present themselves differently, and see themselves differently, in varying social contexts. Most people seem capable of juggling their own social multiplicity without disintegrating into multiple personality disorder or extreme social isolation. Of course many people do experience varying degrees of difficulty across the lifespan in deciding which, if any, of their socially constructed personae is their “true” self. And people probably do tend to reify a stable self-image as a protective device which limits their freedom to explore their own multifacetedness.

    Another thing about the “multiplicity of physical signals which must be organised”: this is also what humans confront when trying to assemble a consistent image of the world around them. Generally people, like other kinds of animals, are able to coordinate their percepts into a coherent understanding of what external reality is like, even though that understanding is assembled piecemeal and held together dynamically. Still, while we are all confused at times by anomalies and novelty, few of us face disintegration in our overall grasp of reality.

    Presumably in all these assemblages of social, bodily, external realities, people have to navigate between the Scilla of fragile fragmentation and the Charybdis of rigid reification. This middle ground seems supported by evidence from developmental psych and from neuroscience, wouldn’t you say? A dynamic tension between sameness and change, between identity and difference.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 28 November 2013 @ 12:30 pm


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