Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The reigns are in our hands and we must take hold of our collective destinies

7 Responses to “God and the big Other” Difference and Givenness Levi Bryant
Perhaps you are right about God being one instance of the big Other. Your diagnosis of why I failed to get this right is pretty crazy, however. Adam Kotsko said this on May 1st, 2007 at 10:59 pm
It’s possible that, for Calvin, God inhabits the Real as much or more than he does the role of the big Other. Since God is something of an empty signifier (perhaps the very model of the empty signifier), the psychological deployment of God, the church, and other phenomena can vary between religions and even within a single religion.
What appears to be Lacan’s inconsistent treatment of the subject is really differences between symptoms and their systems, their theologies.
Where does Zizek describe the Christian God as impotent, and how does he seek to justify his reading? Joseph Kugelmass said this on May 1st, 2007 at 11:40 pm
Zizek also throws pot-shots at what he never clearly identifies as (Western) Buddhism. In “On Belief,” he identifies a fetishistic relationship to something (he says “Western Buddhism,” though he never really says what it is), which allows the Western (Capitalist) Buddhist to be at ease with the dizzying pace of and contradictions within Capitalism. He comes back to this again in “The Puppet and the Dwarf,” “The Parallax View,” and an essay (available online) “Revenge of Global Finance.” He mentions Buddhism in the first part of an essay found in “Interrogating the Real,” the “Author’s Afterword: Why Hegel is a Lacanian.”
The funny thing is that Lacan was quite fond of the Zen tradition of Buddhism, particularly for the uniquely analytic situation of the Master and his student(s). A quick read of D.T. Suzuki’s “An Introduction to Zen Buddhism,” which is full of many traditional stories and koans, reveals why Zen would appeal to Lacan: it refuses to acknowledge the Symbolic order as perfectly whole and consistent, much less by virtue of a Big Other. Specifically, the Zen master would ask of his students seemingly impossible questions and demand an answer, though usually making the stipulation that to get the point they must neither affirm nor deny in their response. I have speculated that Buddhism in its most traditional forms threatens Zizek’s masculine jouissance, because in its focus on the impermanent (annica) and insubstantial (anatta) and unsatisfactory (dukkha) Buddhism forces us to confront precisely the fact of our castration and how that isn’t the end of the world. pdxstudent said this on May 2nd, 2007 at 12:29 am
Thinking about Lacan’s formulas of sexuation in relation to some of the things that you say in your post, it strikes me that there might be some highly circumstantial sociological support for them to be found amongst the ‘population’ of analytic philosophers. For, amongst analytic moral philosophy, the turn away from a law-based conception of morality — one that privileges the deontic proprieties of obligation and permission — has been disproportionately spearheaded by female academics, especially once we consider the relatively few numbers of women within analytic philosophy in senior academic positions.
Elizabeth’s Anscombe’s paper ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’ in 1958 was largely responsible for revitalising Aristotelianism again outside of theology (at least for analytic philosophy anyway), and can be seen as inaugurating a whole new neo-Aristotelian movement. And there are a substantial number of respected female philosophers who have contributed to this tradition (Foot, Murdoch, Hursthouse, Wolf, Nussbaum). Perhaps it is no accident that a central feature of such an approach has been a rejection of law-like ‘generalism’ for a ‘particular ism’ that would very much endorse the sentiment you express in connection with the feminine side of the graphs: “encounters with others are [to be] evaluated on a subject by subject basis.” Of course, such a hypothesis hinges upon being able to map female sexuation onto women to some degree, amongst other things. Nonetheless, it strikes me as a possible explanation for the phenomena. bombthepast said this on May 2nd, 2007 at 2:10 am
What appears to be Lacan’s inconsistent treatment of the subject is really differences between symptoms and their systems, their theologies.
Joseph, I feel this is an exceptionally important point. It’s worth emphasizing that there’s an “empirical” (I need a better word) to psychoanalytic work such that we have to look at the specificity or singularity of various formations and their organizations. This might tie in nicely with Calvin as well. I wanted to shy away from this because God appearing in the real resonates in my mind with psychosis. That is, what is foreclosed in the symbolic returns in the real. This can be very clearly seen in Schreber’s relationship to God. Here a whole can of worms is opened vis a vis traditional accounts of God appearing as well. How do we distinguish between Abraham and someone like the woman here in the States who cut the arms off her children because God commanded her to or the other woman who drowned her children for the same reason?
Where does Zizek describe the Christian God as impotent, and how does he seek to justify his reading?
Zizek’s various writings on Christianity bleed together in my mind. If memory serves me correctly, he develops this reading in The Puppet and the Dwarf. He pursues this thesis through a reading of Job and Jesus’ death. In both cases the lament to God goes unanswered. Zizek concludes that this should be taken to indicate not simply that God refuses to respond but that God cannot respond. The real lesson, then, of Jesus’s death, according to Zizek, is that the reigns are in our hands and that we must take hold of our collective destinies. Or something like that. larvalsubjects said this on May 2nd, 2007 at 3:09 am
PDX, this is a provocative thesis that I’d enjoy seeing you develop more thoroughly. Zizek makes a number of gestures towards adopting the stance of feminine sexuation, but it’s not clear that he really accomplishes this transition. As I recall he does cite Suzuki in a couple of places to ground his critique, claiming that for Suzuki the Zen subject is the perfect capitalist subject (not that this is Suzuki’s claim, but that it follows as an implication of what he has to say about Zen and military drills). The practice of simplifying and ignoring texts is nothing new for Zizek. In his readings of Christianity he suggests that we can ignore what Jesus says altogether and treat Paul as the real event. A theologian/philosopher friend of mine is developing a very interesting reading of Jesus as Lacanian analyst, based on Christ’s use of enigmatic parables and his perpetual refusal to identify himself. This, perhaps, would be in contrast to Paul where you get dogmatic determination of identity of a sort that is in some respects the opposite of the clinical position of the analyst and what is aimed at with regard to the liberation of desire in analysis (a perpetually mobile desire or drive that never fixates on one object or identification). larvalsubjects said this on May 2nd, 2007 at 3:16 am
Bomb, it might not be accidental that this emerges in analytic philosophy either. Beginning with seminar 12, Lacan begins to focus heavily on analytic philosophy in his seminar, commonly referencing figures such as Russell, Carnap, Cantor, Quine, Davidson, Goedel, Wittgenstein and others (I can’t recall if there are references to Kripke or not). In these discussions he gravitates towards formal paradoxes and deadlocks of formalization (these later become Lacan’s definition of the real). Around seminar 18 this culminates in the discussions of sexuation where Lacan begins to argue that these formalizations allow us to encircle a specifically feminine form of jouissance that isn’t the phallic jouissance of masculine economies (jouissance attached to various symbolic functions surrounding having the phallus, i.e., symbolic prestige, enjoyment drawn from doing ones duty, little thefts of enjoyment stolen behind the master’s back, etc), but is rather a form of jouissance that falls outside the symbolic but is immanent to the symbolic. This jouissance, for instance, might be an enjoyment in the sheer materiality of language– not its signification –or the act of speaking about nothing in particular at all (think of modernist literature and poetry where meaning/signification becomes secondary to the text as a matter). This wouldn’t be the only form of feminine jouissance, just one readily recognizable example. What seems crucial here is the event of the encounter rather than whatever the encounter might be about (think of two friends or lovers speaking late into the night about nothing in particular at all). All of this, of course, strays from your point. larvalsubjects said this on May 2nd, 2007 at 3:25 am

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