Monday, July 09, 2007

Putting my Philodendron on the Couch

My philodendron doesn't rest comfortably on the couch, but Barbaras has induced me to put it there momentarily while I pretend to psychoanalysize it. I don't quite believe that the psyche is a modality of being that the philodendron is capable of, naturally, so what I'm really doing is interrogating its mode of being using Barbaras as a guide, and if it resembles psychoanalysis, this is because Barbaras' phenomenological ontology claims some territory traditionally inhabited by psychoanalysis.

Barbaras begins his chapter on "Desire as the Essence of Subjectivity" with the idea that subjectivity equates to movement. By movement here Barbaras does not apparently mean motility as it is commonly understood, but a movement that coincides with life itself (pp. 108-109). The thinking here seems very similar to what Jonas discusses under the rubric of metabolism, but Barbaras doesn't quite say as much, and he has other sources. One source is Erwin Straus, from whom he borrows the idea of the approach: "It is not the physiological functions of sensory organs that make a being a sensing being, but rather this possibility of approaching, and the latter belongs neither to perception by itself, nor to movement by itself" (Straus, IN Desire and Distance, p. 162, note 20). As I am reading Barbaras, he is not just talking about sensing beings, but living beings, and he means to point to a more originary movement than either motility or perception, an intraworldly movement of surpasssing, that is common to all living beings (pp. 121 ff.). "The living subject," Barbaras writes, "does not have sensations with whose aid it would relate to the world; it is originarily a relation to the world, and sensing is a modality of this relationship" (p. 118, emphasis Barbaras'). Thus it becomes germaine to ask whether my philodendron has this possibility of approach, and whether it, as a living being, has desire as its mode of existence.

Desire for Barbaras is not a psychological concept, but rather an ontological one. He claims that "desire has no other reality than that of the movements to which it gives rise" but at the same time he argues that desire is not a property of the body (p. 126). The mind and the body are in Barbaras' view not entities but moments of an organic totality, "generic ways of conserving a coherence with the environment" (p.117). Here he draws on Kurt Goldstein's Der Aufbau des Organismus, a line of thinking that leads to the treatment of the human sciences as an offshoot of the life sciences, with a strong rejection of common ways of approaching the problem of human intelligence:

Human behaviors cannot be qualified as such by the fact that they issure from a consciousness, that is, from lived experiences; but on the contrary, their conscious being refers to their humanity as the mode of the specific behavior of a living totality.

(p. 117)

If conscious being cannot refer to the philodendronality of my philodendron's vital activites, presumably then my philodendron should have nothing to do with the unconscious. (That is to say, the enigma of consciousness has been displaced, but remains enigmatic.) Yet this isn't quite clear from Barbaras' analysis of the unconscious, which he regards as being of ontological rather than psychological significance. He means to put forward an understanding of the unconscious that is totally free from the order of representation, an unconscious rooted in desire that has as its content the world itself. This understanding forces a reconception of repression as not a psychological mechanism, but rather something that is intrinsic to desire as a way of relating to the world. "Since the desired, the world, is its own withdrawal behind the manifestations of experience, repression is inherent in desire and no longer due to a process that would be exterior to it" (p. 127).

So what does my philodendron desire? The world? A whole of being that it can never completely attain so long as it remains existentially autonomous? Is repression a problem for my philodendron? I.e., does Barbaras' analysis explain why repression is a problem for the organic totality that is human? I'm not sure.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:49 AM.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting that Strauss would crop up.
D&G refer to him in an effectively negative way in the concl. to What is Phil.
"It is the brain that thinks not man." (I don't have the bk here).

Strauss had said 'it is man that thinks not the brain.'

I would follow Strauss rather than DG on this!

I don't know anyone who is aware of this connection....(smile).

did you read the 'decade of the person note' on your Strauss link?

July 09, 2007 11:41 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I have now read "Decade of the Person." The only Straus I remember reading is the essay on the upright posture. So I wouldn't have been able to recognize that D&G reverse Straus. Time to go the library.

Have you seen this: De-Ontologizing the Brain?

My gut feeling would be to follow Straus, but I can imagine thinking against or inspite of my gut.

July 10, 2007 7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, the plot thickens.

You may remember that I refer to Multitudes in the conclusion to 'primacy of semiosis''(POS).
In fact Eric Alliez (an editor/founder of multitudes) was one of my thesis readers six years ago....Really nice guy...
How did you get to multitudes - with a google on the dg brain?
I will read the article today.

July 10, 2007 1:47 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Googled "Deleuze Erwin Straus brain."

July 10, 2007 2:44 PM  

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