- (Free) Essays on Extinction by Claire Colebrook
- God is Dead (even if Redbox movies say otherwise) and So is the ‘Human’ or Why We Need Posthumanism
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- Interview with Giorgio Agamben At VersoBooks
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The trending topics on Facebook and other social media such as the suicide of one our beloved characters (Robin Williams) and the militarization of our police force in Missouri we are reminded of the Human All Too Human-ness of our existence. I am also quite aware through memory that this news is almost to an extent banal, and again I use this word in the Arendt sense–where we begin to accept these things as a natural occurrence of our modern age. The Missouri anger is the backlash that yes we are starting to believe in the fact that we are alone (as the government is part of the problem, even if they are better than the ridiculous state governments of these small areas), and that yes maybe Nietzsche is correct that ‘god is dead’, but as Slavoj Zizek reminds us this is simply a fetishistic disavowal because in the United States the belief in some kind of fate or “everything happens for a reason” is still highly prevalent. With this said, we can see the existential scene where a women looks up to the faithful sky after watching Fox News and does her best Zarathustra: the earth is in desperate need of a new meaning, we need a new direction because the old one is no longer working.
Nietzsche is helpful in that we have come to a place in our time where he writes that we need to stop idealizing and moralizing reality. He writes, “perhaps this very renunciation will lend us the strength to beat renunciation; perhaps man will rise ever higher when he no longer flows off into a god”. To become overhuman, to improve the human not at the expense of the planet but in order to think a new, not an idealized state of Christianity in a world to come, or a Platonism in which to remove error as much as possible will reveal a world over this one, but instead an immanent technologically mediated egalitarian one. We must be clear and not falter back into a humanism in which we assume the idea that man is a rational animal, and will always make the morally correct choice, but instead As Nietzsche states here, “If the motion of the world aimed at a final state, that state would have been reached. The sole fundamental fact, however, is that it does not aim at a final state”. With no finality of the earth, we must make one, very much in line with the idea of Existentialism that humans must create their essence.
As Nietzsche claims, “I teach you the Overman. Man is something that should be overcome.” Man’s time has come, the time is right for an overcoming of man or a post-anthropocentrism that is bio-mediated or even as Deleuze and Guattari write, ‘becoming-machine’. Deleuze wrote in a hermetic tradition that releases the existential burden of the body, but only now can we begin to consider this possibility. The body is something that shows extreme plasticity. Here I follow Rosi Braidotti, “The ‘becoming machine’ understood in this specific sense indicates and actualizes the relational powers of a subject that is no longer cast in a dualistic frame, but bears a privileged bond with multiple others and merges with one’s technologically mediated planetary environment. The merger of the human with the technological results in a new transversal compound, a new eco-sophical unity, not unlike the symbiotic relationship between the animal and the planetary habitat.” We must begin to think in the terms of what Guattari called autopoietic subjectivation, which is a link between organic matter and machinic matter.
As you have read so far let me be clear that I agree with Katherine Hayles that this does not mean the end of the human but:
the posthuman does not really mean the end of humanity. It signals instead the end of a certain conception of the human…What is lethal is not the posthuman as such but the grafting of the posthuman onto a liberal humanist view of the self…Located within the dialectic of pattern/randomness and grounded in embodied actuality rather than disembodied information, the posthuman offers resources for rethinking the articulation of humans with intelligent machines.
The anthropocene needs to be reconceptualized and steps need to be taken in order to right the wrong. The ‘murderer of god’ needs to stand account and then to be overcome with biotechnological remediation where the standard humanist rhetoric needs to be replaced with a posthuman, post anthropocentrism.
Originally posted on Flavorwire:
It appears our old buddy Jonathan Franzen’s reign of terror continues. He totally bungled an interview with Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez. Franzen said, “To me it feels as if there’s been a kind of awakening in Latin American fiction, a clearing of the magical mists,” and asked Vásquez if his wonderful new book, The Sound of Things Falling, is a reaction to Gabriel García Márquez and his peers.
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In Milan Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kundera asks the reader the question whether to prefer a particular lightness of living / love or living a life of burden and heaviness. He evokes the ideas of Nietzsche and the eternal reoccurrence of the same to consider the existential question that most of us have asked ourselves: Would it have been better for Dasein to have never reflected on itself or i.e. to have never known existence? This is not the same question that Camus asks in the question of ending existence but instead to never have known existence. However, what about the question of corporality which in contemporary discourse we have begin to take seriously with the advent of virtual avatars and mind uploading? What about the idea of desire and online sexuality (if there is such a thing)? Pornography and fantasy?
Take for example the 2013 movie Don Jon which depicts a modern day ‘Don Juan’. A narcissist who finds sexual satisfaction not from the actual sex act but instead through the images and depictions of pornography. Through the “cloud” of cyber space in which any sexual act can be viewed with just the click of the mouse. In one poignant scene as he is clicking through many images and masturbating he tells us in an almost mystical sense that the mind stops and the hand takes over. No doubt the reaction of dopamine, prolactin, and perhaps oxytocin (not necessarily in this case). I mention these neurotransmitters because as Slavoj Zizek writes:
Even advocates of cyberspace warn us that we should not totally forget our body, that we should maintain our anchoring in the “real life” by returning, regularly, from our immersion in cyberspace to the intense experience of our body, from sex to jogging. We will never turn ourselves into virtual entities freely floating from one to another virtual universe: our “real life” body and its mortality is the ultimate horizon of our existence, the ultimate, innermost impossibility that underpins the immersion in all possible multiple virtual universes. Yet, at the same time, in cyberspace the body returns with a vengeance
If space is moved to a virtuality we would still need the reward centers in order for the chemistry to transmit and to have an experience. Again one of the main problems with this idea of unlimited pornography is simply desire has no object. This is depicted in the excellent film Shame in which we see the impossibility of the cessation or fulfillment of sexual desire. There is always a remainder that is never satisfied. This is the way that no other species relates to the world, we relate to the world in an excess, or fetishistic parasitic way. Slavoj Zizek explains it in the Parallax View perfectly
The Freudian death drive has nothing whatsoever to do with the craving for self-annihilation, for the return to the inorganic absence of any life-tension; it is, on the contrary, the very opposite of dying – a name for the ‘undead’ eternal life itself, for the horrible fate of being caught in the endless repetitive cycle of wandering around in guilt and pain. The paradox of the Freudian ‘death drive’ is therefore that it is Freud’s name for its very opposite, for the way immortality appears within psychoanalysis, for an uncanny excess of life, for an ‘undead’ urge which persists beyond the (biological) cycle of life and death, of generation and corruption. The ultimate lesson of psychoanalysis is that human life is never ‘just life’: humans are not simply alive, they are possessed by the strange drive to enjoy life in excess, passionately attached to a surplus which sticks out and derails the ordinary run of things” (Slavoj Zizek, The Parallax View, 2006, London: MIT Press, p.61)
It is here where we should understand Don Jon. Pornography is not his desire but only the thing that situates the desire (object a). One of the things we clearly see is that Don Jon is actually fearful that he will be ‘found out’, that he is not able to fulfill the desire of the other. He will prove he is castrated in the Lacanian sense. To prove our point in another interesting movie, we see the effect of this in the movie Sleeping Beauty. The men pay a pretty female to sleep while they molest her and play out their fantasies without being found out. Of course their fantasies change throughout as they play along, because desire is never satisfied.
One of the most interesting observances in the history of psychoanalysis is described in Freud’s paper The Disposition of Obsessional Neurosis which was written in 1913. Freud wrote about a session where his patient (Rat-Man) described a torture where rats were placed in a ceramic bowl, and then attached to the anus of the victim. The pot was then heated on one end which left the rats no choice but to “bore” through the anus of the victim. The observance is when Freud detected in the Rat Man’s expression, “the horror of a pleasure of his own of which himself was unaware”. It is exactly at this place where we come to the idea of jouissance; this excitement, which is often not conscious, and can even be considered disgusting to the one who thinks it, it is here where we encounter a symbolic castration and otherness.
Fantasy for Lacan seems to be positional in the sense that fantasy is a confrontation of how the other positions us in their desire. Fantasy is very rarely solipsism, it points outwards to another object. Think of some of the top fantasies women report (note I write report):
Submitting sexually, being watched, being “dirty” or “naughty”, dominating the sexual scene.
These sexual wishes are a way of actually mirroring the wishes of the other, whether you are master/or slave. The dialectic always relies on a slave or a master. Lacan felt that this relationship is related to the idea that we are helpless creatures who rely on the other to sustain our existence. He calls this the mother-child-dyad or unity. Before symbolic castration there perhaps was an unmediated jouissance between the mother and child. This was before the child notices the mother is not whole, and has other desires, perhaps desire for the father or the other who represents the third point which disrupts the unity or in other words the one who performs the paternal function. The one thing that seems quite interesting is language moves beyond the signified. Chimpanzees development mirrors our own development in many ways, and how they develop relies very much on how the mother situate her desire towards the infant. The difference between demand and desire.
It is here that Lacan talked about a second-order jouissance which substitutes for the perception of “wholeness”. It is the use of fantasy which allows us to situation desire, fantasy sustains the subject, and allows desire. As Bruce Fink writes, “While existence is granted only through the symbolic order (the alienated subject being assigned a place therin), being is supplied only by cleaving to the real”. The subject is placed even before birth into a signifying position which is also related to the parental symbolization. I would even call this a genealogical symbolization.
It is through this separation of the child and mother that the subject is born. The subject of course is this rift, this rift is something Lacan called object a. Bruce Fink writes that the object a is “the subject’s complement, a phantasmatic partner that ever arouses the subject’s desire”. The subject is then split between ego and the unconscious. The subject is a layer of meaning to the other and to itself, which often retrospectively positions itself to the wider context of a world situated in symbolic meaning.
Now to get back to the beginning and wrap up my thoughts on this. The idea of symbolic castration is the idea that we give up on some jouissance. If we take pleasure in tying up a bowl to someone’s anus and watching rats climb through the body we renunciate this action unless of course we are Pinochet in Chile. How exactly does the “speaking ape” give up this jouissance, perhaps through sublimating it in art, or through our words. We create movies and stories that seem infinite which allows us the other to experience our jouissance.
Originally posted on dingpolitik:
Note : It is important to point out at the beginning that these notes should not be read as independent blogs. They are to be read in order, beginning at the first set of notes for the first class of this seminar on anxiety.
Who’s afraid of object a? Lacan seems to intimate that there is a relationship between the void and object a. The English word “void” has a close relationship to the word “vacuum” (vacuus in Latin, for “void”). It makes sense, then, that Lacan finishes the seminar by mentioning Blaise Pascal’s courage when faced with the void. Indeed, it seems that Pascal carried out his experiments on the vacuum precisely because he was interested at some level in his own desire. I called his pursuit “courageous” for two reasons. First, because it lends itself to a Badiouian analysis of the subject’s relationship to the void:
We must also have…
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Originally posted on Posthegemony:
I have spent almost the entirety of my academic career reading, and responding to, Ernesto Laclau, who has died at the age of 78. Ernesto was one of the great systematic thinkers of the past fifty years, possibly the most influential Latin American theorist of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and one of the most significant influences on Anglo-American cultural and political theory as a whole. We all write to some extent in his shadow and in his debt, myself perhaps more than anyone.
“Hegemony” was Laclau’s signature concept. He was not the first theorist of hegemony, but he made the term his own and spent decades elaborating a theoretical structure around the basic recognition of the contingency of political allegiances. This insight first came to him as an activist in 1960s and 1970s Argentina, faced with Peronism’s extraordinary capacity to mobilize people of all classes and every political inclination…
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