Tag Archives: psychoanalysis

The Walking Dead (trailer)

I’ve mentioned before how fascinated I am with the pop-culture zombie; I think this show is the next logical step as the undead become more and more mainstream. This is a polished re-presentation of what has now become essentially the standard zombie-mythos, steeped in the emergence of disease, humans becoming nothing but the vessels of some virus or bacteria which thinks of nothing more than it’s own propagation. What’s amazing in all of this is the way that life is portrayed as evil, that it is unable to curb itself to the point of it’s own collapse at the hand of it’s own parasitic drives. Life is evil because it is excessive, because Nature cannot be domesticated, because it is ultimately unpredictable. How far we’ve come from the undead as a figure of demonic possession, beings that were simply Evil. Now, evil needs a reason and that reason is unsustainability.

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Announcement: Hollywood’s Undead and the Philosophy of Fear

Hollywood's Undead

I wanted to announce that I’m giving a public lecture a week from today. I was asked to give a talk on psychoanalysis and I’ve decided to talk about psychoanalysis and film, specifically vampire and zombie movies. The paper I’m presenting can be understood in three ways: First, I want to discuss the trajectory that these creatures have undergone throughout the history of cinema. Second, I will discuss what this trajectory means in terms of what we fear, assuming of course that Zizek is right and that films express our own beliefs and fears better than we can ourselves. Third, I want to present my own critique of apocalyptic films of this nature.

This is a topic that’s been on my mind for some time now and I look forward to being able to talk about it as part of this great series. Here’s a blurb about the lecture series from the MUN Philosophy site:

St. John’s Public Lectures in Philosophy
Presented By Memorial University’s Philosophy Department

The reasons for this series of lectures are to support the intrinsic value of public, philosophical discussion, to provide a free public forum for such discussion, and to stimulate a culture and love of learning in St. John’s. The lectures last approximately 30 to 40 minutes and are followed by an hour of discussion. The lectures deal with a wide variety of philosophical topics and all citizens are invited to participate. The lectures occur on the last Tuesday of each month.

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Lacan and some philosophers

I’ve been sitting in on the seminar on hermeneutics that Sean is doing this semester. Besides Gadamer’s Truth and Method, we’re reading several essays by Ricoeur, and some pieces by Derrida. Our last class was on the topic of ideological critique, reading a piece on Habermas’ critique of hermeneutics as being unable to adequately critique ideology or politics at all because of its inherent relativism.

The next day I was exchanging emails with Sean and this ended up with a discussion of Freudo-Marxism and Lacanian-Marxism, and Sean leading me to look at a few pages of a book by Charles E. Reagan called Paul Ricoeur: his life and his work. Pages 25-31 (available as a free preview on Google Books) detail Ricoeur’s relationship with Lacan, which was unusual to say the least. I find the relationships that Lacan had (or tried to have) with philosophers very interesting. I of course knew about his attempt to seek approval from Heidegger and the encounters with Deleuze, but I was unaware that he had sought out both Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur as potential allies. The whole thing has this very bizarre feel to it. Of course now there are many philosophers who pledge allegiance of some sort to Lacan. Does anyone know of any other relationships between Lacan and philosophers, and if so, were they as strange as these?

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Dreams of the Paranoic: Late Night Thoughts on Jung

When I started reading C.G. Jung in my undergrad as part of a reading course on late medieval and early Renaissance alchemy, I started keeping a dream journal. This turned into a blog on my dreams that I updated constantly. I was immediately taken by Jung, beginning with his Memories, Dreams, Reflections, up through reading through a large number of his Collected Works. It seemed to me then that psychoanalysis was the contemporary iteration of Augustine’s Confessions, that I was continuing this long tradition of studying the self that began in Ancient Greece and was continued by the mapping of my dreamscapes. I’m perhaps not as fond of Jung as I was years ago when I eagerly devoured his writings; there’s a certain naive quality that permeates his writing, which in a less cynical mood I could easily call an innocence and count as a positive attribute.

The reason I bring this up is that I haven’t been sleeping well lately. This started of course when my grandmother passed away and has continued since then. I’ve had issues with sleep since childhood, beginning with long periods of insomnia. The latest problem began as one of feeling rested. I would sleep a healthy amount and still feel exhausted upon waking. I’ve tried simply sleeping more, same result. Then the problem turned into one of waking up in the night, first once, then several times. Last night this escalated to frequent paranoid nightmares: feelings of being watched, being followed, waking up and feeling like someone is in the hallway. Anyway, when I began my dream journal years ago, it helped with nightmares, so I’m thinking of starting one again. I still haven’t decided if it will be a paper or online journal, and if online, if it will be private or public, and if public if it will be anonymous or not.

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Being Without Thought: The Unconscious and the Critique of Correlationism

I have decided to make available a short draft version of a larger work, what could probably be called my greater “project” that I am actively working on. As has been pointed out by both Nick and Ben in their recent interviews with Paul Ennis, I am part of a small group of speculative realists (a name I gladly wear) that not only defends, but attempts to expand on the tradition of psychoanalysis, or more specifically, the metaphysics of psychoanalysis.

Descartes

The piece in question is “Being Without Thought: The Unconscious and the Critique of Correlationism” and could best be described as my immediate reaction to Meillassoux’ After Finitude, written a few months ago. The work is still very much early on, and I hope to expand on it a fair amount, with all of the sections growing. The purpose of the paper was to cap off a reading course I did this past winter on Schelling, Lacan, and Zizek. I had just read Meillassoux’ book and asked my advisor if I could write a short piece attempting to sort out my ideas on how Meillassoux relates to the metaphysics of psychoanalysis. The sections on Badiou, Schelling and Schopenhauer are admittedly rough, but I think there’s a seed of something larger there. I will be expanding on all of these ideas this fall when I will be sitting in on a seminar on Schopenhauer, since it’s been a couple of years since I read The World as Will and Representation. I also hope to add a section on Eduard von Hartmann, but I’m not sure when or if I’ll have time to really deal with his massive The Philosophy of the Unconscious. I would also like to figure out how Zizek fits in with all of this, though I suspect his Hegelianism would not fare well.

Anyway, please read the piece (again, it is only very brief, draft, etc, etc.), and let me know what you think.

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Camazotz, the Bat-God

Camazotz

From Wikipedia:

The cult of Camazotz began around 100 B.C. among the Zapotec Indians in what is the modern-day Mexican state of Oaxaca. The cult of Camazotz worshiped an anthropomorphic monster with the body of a human, head of a bat (though the exact proportioning varies with account). The bat was associated with night, death, and sacrifice. This god soon found its way into the pantheon of the Quiché, a tribe of Maya who made their home in the jungles of what is now Guatemala. The Quiché identified the bat-deity with their god Zotzilaha Chamalcan, the god of fire.

There is some evidence to support that the Camazotz myth may have sprung from actual large, blood-drinking bats of the Mexico, Guatemala, and Brazil areas. Evidence is in the form of fossils of Desmodus draculae, the giant vampire bat. There have also been skeletons of D. draculae found which were sub-fossil, of very recent age. These sub-fossils suggest that the species were still common when the Mayans civilization existed, and may still be in existence today, though it is doubtful. Alternately, Camazotz may have originated from the Spectral Bat, a large carnivorous bat native to Central and South America.

The thought that has been circling in my mind for the past several days is the relation between an evolutionary or process form of metaphysics and the general concept of the parasite. Typically when one is presented with a vitalist system, it is a system of fitness. This is simple enough in someone like Nietzsche, where dominance, will to power, is the rule. Emergent forms are par for the course in a vitalist metaphysic, and it seems entirely possible that they rise to dominate. Is this the case though?

One of the basic structures of any vitalism is a metaphysics of flow. This seems to work much better with a general parasitological view of life, of things in general. Beasts don’t rise up to smite lesser creatures for the sake of dominance, but through feeding off of them.

All forms of nature are variations of the verb “to eat.”

Human sacrifice, agriculture, eating, reproduction, aging, death, fertilizing, growth and decay. The flows are endless. There is no top, no bottom. We are all someones food. We flow into each other, use, abuse, each other. We sacrifice to our gods, we are worshiped, we all eat and sleep. The gods need us. We all sleep sometime. The will to power is the ideal, the lie we live. We are all weak. We are all powerful. We are all-week… we are all-powerful. We are all Bat-Gods to someone.

[ADDENDUM: One could also raise the question of the relation between the Bat-God, as a god who feeds, with the Christ, another god who feeds (I love the play of the word ‘feeds’ here). It is perhaps this relation that I am most interested in, the one who takes and gives only in death versus the ones who gives, and somehow continues to give in even death. The interplay of giving and taking, giving and taking and persistence. What is the relation between the parasite, the Eucharist, and vitalism as a metaphysics of perpetuity?]

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White Zombie (the first zombie movie)

I will be watching this film this evening. Please join me and we can discuss it (maybe!). The copyright has expired on it, so I am posting it below. Here’s the Wikipedia page for the movie. Note: It stars Bela Lugosi as a voodoo master named Murder(!) and so can’t possibly be bad! Enjoy!

PS: Click through to watch it on YouTube with a dimmer.

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Wow talk about “undead labour,” huh? Creating the undead to work in a sugar mill? You’d think a voodoo master named Murder would aim higher than that. Maybe it was all part of a plan? As we all learned from The Simpsons, “First you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women.”

I did love that scene when Madeleine sees Murder’s gaze in the glass of wine and says “I see death.” Nice.

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Announcing Death Drive

This is rather premature, but I wanted you guys to know that I’ve been asked to expand my essay on Lacano-Zizekian Death Drive and Vitalism into a book, tentatively titled simply Death Drive. I’ve been outlining and outlining, and it looks like it’s going to be six chapters plus an introduction, though one of the chapters may be broken in two depending on how it goes (it looks to be the longest chapter by far, and so may benefit from being broken up). So it looks like I’ll be writing even more on the death drive here than I thought, since that is now two essays, and a book on the subject (though there will be much crossover, I’m sure).

Again, this is pretty far off since so little is even written yet, but with posting being so light here lately I thought I would fill you guys in. Here’s a brief blurb on the thrust of the book:

In Death Drive, Michael Austin boldly claims that psychoanalysis provides the ultimate philosophy of life, connecting it with Hollywood’s undead.

This means I can also look forward to more frequent zombie nightmares as I write this (two nights in a row and counting)!

PS: I’m also still working on a piece on Derrida that is somewhat related to all of this since it’s on Archive Fever, I’ll keep you all posted on that as well.

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Zizek on Death Drive

As I have said numerous times before, I disagree with what Zizek calls the “naive” reading of Freud’s death drive. I am not proposing some radical re-reading of Freud, rather, I agree with the Lacano-Zizekian reading which has existed for some time and is quite nicely summed up in the following quote:

“On the philosophico-ontological level, this is what Lacan is aiming at when he emphasizes the difference between the Freudian death drive and the so-called “nirvana principle” according to which every life system tends toward the lowest level of tension, ultimately toward death: “nothingness” (the void, being deprived of all substance) and the lowest level of energy paradoxically no longer coincide, that is, it is “cheaper” (it costs the system less energy) to persist in “something” than to dwell in “nothing,” at the lowest level of tension, or in the void, the dissolution of all order. It is this distance that sustains the death drive: far from being the same as the nirvana principle (the striving toward the dissolution of all life tension, the longing for the return to original nothingness), the death drive is the tension which persists and insists beyond and against the nirvana principle. In other words, far from being opposed to the pleasure principle, the nirvana principle is its highest and most radical expression. In this precise sense, the death drive stands for its exact opposite, for the dimension of the “undead,” of a spectral life which insists beyond (biological) death.” (The Puppet and the Dwarf, 93)

As I have two projects this summer that are essentially examinations of the Lacano-Zizekian death drive (one on popular culture, and one in terms of vitalism), this is probably not the last I will be speaking of this over the next couple of moths.

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Death Drive, Wanting to Die, Inorganic Nature, and Ghostly Relations

I want to again stress that my use of the term “death drive” is not that of Freud’s. Nor is it a claim that things “Want to die” or something so foolish. Even Freud’s talk of the death instinct is not a “wanting to die” per se, but the unconscious desire to return to the inorganic processes of nature. Tracing this back to it’s metaphysical root in the early Schelling’s Naturphilosophie, we can see it is rather the tendency for the products of Nature to prove temporary, forming for a short while only to return to the processes which birthed them. It can be seen then not as a wanting or wishing for death, but a return to the Infinite, which for the early Schelling is the infinity of Nature. The problem is that for Freud, Nature is nothing more than inorganic mechanism, and his claims that organic life wishes to return to the inorganic, in the light of his metaphysical forerunners, only grasps half of the truth since for these thinkers, there is no such thing as the inorganic. Rather, the death drive should be seen as an indication not of some unconscious fantasy, but a valid metaphysical claim of finitude.

For me, and for spectral realism, the death drive is not a wish, but a tendency in things to fade out. All things are in the process of fading, of either exerting their presence by expanding their relations and influence, or contracting their power, cutting themselves off, and “dying.” Again, recall that the whole point in doing a hauntology rather than an ontology is the understanding that nothing is ever alive or dead in the usual sense, but everything is always a combination of presence and absence, with no absolute presence or absence being possible. By undergoing such a reduction, the death drive is really just the tendency of things to keep to themselves, to cut themselves off and fade away. It is not a strictly human tendency either, but is visible in the fact that things alter their relations, that non-human entities are defined by their shifting relations. The rocks and trees outside are not simply disembodied entities existing outside of space and time, but are what they are in large part due to their relations with other ghostly entities. When these change, that relation, although it no longer exists, has still exerted itself on the identity of the entity, affecting it in some way. All entities have a history, a history that is at least in some way defined by by its relations, past, present, and future. This means that while an entity is not “nothing more than its relations” (Whitehead, Latour), but a thing is defined in some way by its drive to existence, which is exerted on all of its relations some of which are cut off completely, while others leave a relational residue, a memory, a remainder.

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