Friday, November 14, 2008

Humans Are Strange

I'd like to thank Ashley Shelden for helping our class out in understanding Lacan, theories of self, and sexuality's role in understanding of self.

OK, so this all makes sense. A whole lot of it in fact. I really like how Lacan's ideas of language become ideas of people, creating a constant search for meaning manifested by desire. It explains a lot: Why the grass is always greener, why people seem to strive for that which they can't have, why we're such consumers, why capitalism came to dominance perhaps even. It also helps explain a line I recently heard in a rap song, "Why write a song if you can't f[I don't know how censored this blog needs to be]ck to it." If we're constantly searching for a meaning that doesn't exist, the meaning we seek will necessarily manifest itself into something that does not have any meaning at all. It's only logical.

I do have one small problem with these ideas, though. That is the thought that jouissance, or ejaculation, is where we lose our sense of identity. This seems like a big claim and is presented without much evidence. I can see how it would make a decent amount of sense in that you lose focus on all else but the orgasm. In fact, even in the statement's boldness, it makes a whole lot of sense. I think that my problem, then, is that at least sexual desire runs with this "death drive." Given that we tend to love love so much, I assume that desire in the psychoanalytical approach tends to mean sexual desire, and this same desire (that which is supposed to make us find ourselves) is that which leads us to losing our sense of self. I am not enough of an optimist to deny that we probably are very self-destructive creatures (examine college students on Friday nights) and, further, that we are self-deceptively self-destructive. So yeah, I think this all checks out and makes a lot of sense as a theory. We are a strange, strange race of organisms.

*As an aside, I find it interesting that this theory tries to apply something to everybody, which almost seems to go against its basic idea, that there is no meaning to be found. Its meaninglessness almost makes the meaning it creates valid, ironically (paradoxically?).


A.T. said...

I agree. Humans are strange, whether Lacan is theorizing them or not.

I want to respond, however, to your reading of the relation between the death drive and desire. In your post, you understand the death drive and desire to be synonymous, and if one has this understanding it makes sense that it wouldn't make sense that the same force that makes us search for meaning (desire) is also that which makes us pursue the eradication of meaning (the death drive). But the important point is that for Lacan the death drive and desire *are not the same thing*. Desire works through and as language, moving ever forward by way of metonymy. The death drive, on the other hand, disrupts and disarticulates the forward movement of desire. Like Derrida's differance, the death drive makes nonsense of the pursuit of sense, or meaning. -Ashley

Mr. Ree said...

But then how come both manifest themselves in the same thing? I understand where theoretically they come about differently, but if they both come out to the pursuit of sex, then aren't they essentially the same thing?

AlmostFamous said...

I agree with the whole concept of desire. What I thought of when I was reading was how exciting it is when you are first attracted to them and how much you desire them. And then something when you are finally with that person all you can think about is how you desire someone or something else.

A.T. said...

Mr. Ree, what I would say in response to your response to my response to your response is this: if we entertain for a moment your proposal that because two activities (here, desire and the death drive) have the same end, then these two seemingly distinct things are the same. If we apply this logic to something else, say, travel, then the logic begins to seem less logical. For instance, we are going to the mall. You walk and I drive, but we both end up in the same place. Walking and driving aren't the same thing, but we can agree, I think, that they're related insofar as they are both types of locomotion. That having been said, in Lacan's theory, desire and the death drive are not the same thing, and moreover, they do not even aim for the same end. In desire, one is looking for objects--people and things--that will confirm one's sense of identity. Desire operates in order to possess a concrete thing, however impossible this desire turns out to be. The death drive, on the other hand, does not aim for objects, but for the void within every object: the point at which the object fails to be a concrete, fixed entity. The death drive, then, troubles desire's logic of possession. Taken together, we can see not just that they are different but also how they relate. If desire aims for objects, and desire is impossible to fulfill, then the death drive is precisely the reason *for* the impossibility of desire. No matter how much we want something, that something will fail to live up to its promise. This failure comes as a result of the void at the center of every subject, the void at the center of the symbolic, the void that we try to obscure with the notion of identity, the void that we can try but will never be able to escape. And that void is the (no)thing for which the death drive aims as its end. Moreover, when one experiences jouissance, it is not identity or our personhood that is at work. Jouissance erupts from and as the void. I hope this helps to clarify things a bit. -Ashley

Mr. Ree said...

Thanks for the clarification. I suppose simply their relation is what I was trying to get at.