November 13, 2004


Perhaps affect could be seen as higher level impulse or lower order consciousness. This is borne out in recent neuroscience demonstrating that affective emotions are assemblages of linking the state of the body and its organs with primitive external perception. Single cell organisms move by simple attraction/repulsion. Fucking and eating/being eaten are part of the same event. More highly complex animals (including humans) differentiate into a community of organs each with its own style/tone/process/form. The limbic system links these organs through the autonomic nervous system to cortical maps of perception of external events. For example we associate "unconsciously" feeling good bodily with being held and fed and all the other details that are neurally recorded with that event. This resonates with Darwin to the extent that the embodied ego wants to maintain its plateau of existence - its particular set - as long as possible before dissolving again into the anonymous mass of the irrevocable. But self-reflective consciousness introduces another level of development which renders Darwin limited.

"The true problem is not (only) how to pass from preorganic matter to life but how life itself can break its autopoietic closure and ex-statically start to relate to its external Other (where this ex-static openness can also turn into the mortifying objectivization of Understanding). The problem is not Life but Death-in-LIfe ("tarrying with the negative") of the speaking organism." (Slavoj Zizek)

Freud discovered a self destructive tendency in his patients over and over which he eventually named the death drive. But what if this so called death drive was only the inevitable process of the return to the flow of a greater "life" beyond the limited ego-body. Ecstasy means to leave the stasis of the body - as the mystics of all times have consciously sought. For Lacan the jouissance or ecstasy of the drive remains in each of us as our symptomatic way of relating to the world beyond animal survival. From the beginning we develop in a body in relation to the Other (parents, culture, language) which leaves its particular imprint on us. The ecstatic beyond of the drive remains in us despite being conditioned in particular ways to survive in relative stasis. If the excess of death, spirit, mind, and the beyond is not honored with some cultural ritual (as Bataille showed in his social analysis) then it will manifest unconsciously in the form of physical, psychic, or social symptoms. In the symptom path to enlightenment we don't suppress them but follow them to the truth - the truth being the unique way in which each one enacts this desiring production - this affective subjectivization which ultimately leads beyond the body and the ego.

Physiological - Incorporation/Expulsion
Affective - Attraction/Repulsion
Mental - Unconscious/Conscious

How do the above continuums take part in a process of the real?

Let us examine the idea (presented by Libet, Penrose and others) that actions begin to take place for the human being - and can be registered neurally - before conscious awareness. What is this conscious awareness? Perhaps some observer watching the automaton. If the observer does not originate the action what does - will, drive, unconscious, God. What kind of veto power does this awareness have to alter the action. When people ask if the mind is in the body or if the body is in the mind I offer that for the human the mind(2) is in the body is in the mind(1). But what is mind(1) and how does it relate to mind(2).

Zizek discusses this in his new book on Deleuze and autopoesis:

"So, with regard to Libet's experiment, from the Freudian standpoint, the basic underlying problem is that of the status of the Unconscious: are there only conscious thoughts (my belated conscious decision to move a finger) and "blind" neuronal processes (the neuronal activity to move the finger), or is there also an unconscious "mental" process? And, what is the ontological status of this unconscious, if there indeed is one? Is it not that of a purely virtual symbolic order, of a pure logical presupposition (the decision had to be made, although it was never effectively made in real time)?" (Slavoj Zizek)

To take another position...

1. The materialist-nihilist approach sees all things - including consciousness - as an accidental epiphenomena - and challenges the real to exist. (Hysterical discourse of modern science)

2. The constructivist-monist approach presents a great chain of being or evolutionary ladder of becoming in an ordered universe. (University discourse of pagan holism)

3. The theological-dualist approach would posit the Tao, God, or Noumena as the substance and initiator of all things - humans being partial objects only capable of registering part of the phenomena. (Master discourse of cartesian monotheism)

4. Another position: autopoetic (Maturana, Varela), sovereign (Bataille), nondualist (Zen, Advaita), generic (Badiou).

(This position is related to Lacan's discouse of the analyst and Badiou's discourse of the mystic.)

Zizek goes to great lengths to push the Hegelian-Lacanian approach over into this position. In fleeting moments he - like Hegel and Lacan - counts to 4 - at which point counting ceases and becomes the zero-void of infinity. You can see it in the above quote. Zizek presents Hegel's concept of positing the presupositions as a conscious (retroactive) assumption of the creation of the present after the fact. He recognizes that this is what Lacan made of Freud's practice of analysis. Not the conscious of passive awareness (now I know about my symptom) but the conscious as the decision, the embrace, the autopoetic bootstrapping - the event that dissolves the unconscious set of presuppositions and founds a new set of logics - topologics - or shiftings of the symbolic relations of relations of ... (void) - which is the real. This is Badiou's event and its categorical morphisms. This is Deleuze and Guattari's fold and its schizoanalytic diagrams. This is the ultimate artistic and political act - a way of recarving the real - the way a set of molecules form a membrane out of differences of speed and solidity and create a cell (Reich, Varela), the way a body holds these cells in symphony apart from the cycle of exchange (Freud, Ho), the way self-reflective consciousness undermines the presuppositions of the body to become more than human (Nietzsche, Steiner). Bataille sought to pick up where Hegel left off - at the point of his becoming mad with the completion of the phenomenology of mind. From seminar 11 on, Lacan stalked the position of the subject at the end of analysis to the point where colleagues proclaimed his symptomatic topological practice "a dialogue of confusion." Though he looked to Joyce for an example of the new man, he might have looked to Nietzsche had he been of a different inclination.

"Such is the world as it appeared to Nietzsche under the monumental aspect of Turin: a discontinuity of intensities that are given names only through the interpretation of those who receive his messages; the latter still represent the fixity of signs whereas in Nietzsche this fixity no longer exists. That the fluctuations of intensities were able to assume the opposite name to designate themselves - such is the miraculous irony. We must believe that this coincidence of the phantasm and the sign has existed for all time, and that the strength required to follow the detour through the intellect was "superhuman". Now that the agent "Nietzsche" is destroyed, there is a festival for a few days, a few hours, or a few instants - but it is a sacrificial festival. (Pierre Klossowski)

Alain Badiou "Short Treatise on Philosophy"
Georges Bataille "The Accursed Share"
Gilles Deleuze "The Fold"
Sigmund Freud "Project for a Scientific Psychology"
Felix Guattari "Schizoanalytic Cartographies"
Mae-Wan Ho "The Rainbow and the Worm"
Pierre Klossowski "Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle"
Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela "Autopoesis and Cognition"
Friedrich Nietzsche "The Genealogy of Morals"
Wilhelm Reich "The Cancer Biopathy"
Rudolf Steiner "Fundamental of Therapy"
Francisco Varela "The Emergent Self"
Slavoj Zizek "Organs without Bodies"

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