File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0112, message 138

Date: Sat, 29 Dec 2001 20:57:16 +0000
Subject: Re: libidinal ethics - psychoanalysis


The contemporary understanding of 'desire' derives from the hegelian 
line - not the kantian precursor.

As laplanche and pontalis put it in the entry 'desire' in the 
dictionary... "Desire is born from the split between need and demand. It 
is irreducible to need, because it is not in principle a relation to a 
real object which is independent of the subject but a relation to the 
phantasy. It is irreducible to demand insofar as it seeks to impose 
itself without taking language or the unconscious of the other into 
account, and requires to be recognised by him...."  Demand is actually 
for something, whether that something is desired or not, whereas desire 
as an absolute is fundamentally the Hegelian desire for recognition, 
(see Hegel's Phenomenology) because the subject wants recognition as a 
subject (human)  by needing the other to recognise and accept the human 
desire. Consequently a subject desires what another subject desires. 
Here since it needs to be understood that desire is unconscious, the 
subject desires what the Other (unconscious subject) desires. Lacan 
shows how desire ultimately seeks the destruction of the other as a 
subject and consequently shows how desire can never be satisfied. See 
also the supplemental notion derived from Klien of the 'lack of the 
object' which instantiates desire itself. In the infant (baby) the 
aboslute character of  the infants desire is matched by the subjects 
status as an 'absolute subject'.  The absolute subject is a 
contradiction in terms, and as such is unachievable, for no matter 
whether it is in psychoanlytical terms or in Hegel's Phenomenology the 
infant may feel all-powerful at a given stage of its development but it 
discovers that the Other is uncontrollable. Lacan regarded the Hegelian 
master-slave dialectic and its relationship to the world as a specific 
term of modern societies, from the 16th/17th century 
onwards....interestingly the implication is that the struggle to become 
ONE, to control the other - through understanding for example, is 
totally unachievable. This Lacan points out is that this is really the 
desire for annihaliation which constitutes what it is to be 
human.....This is broadly speaking the Lacanian psychoanlytical reading 
of desire - the same precis would also work, more or less, for Kleinian 

I put this in these terms because I think we need to establish the 
differend between us regarding 'desire' the psychoanalytical desire 
derives from Hegelian philosophy as far as I can see from all the 
psychoanalytical orientated work I have available. What is the source 
for the suggestion that 'desire' is derived from Kant? (Though I suppose 
Freud is a Kantian idealist, but given that with psychoanalysis you end 
up with a total discontinuity as a result of suggesting that there is a 
discontinuity between the subject and perception I'm not sure it makes 
that much difference). (However see Deleuze on the  Higher Faculty of 
Desire in Kant for a non-psychoanalytical definition of desire not 
founded on 'lack' but immanent and autonomous).

Non-Lacanian Psychoanalysis does not know one kind of ethics but many, 
as if to say that every event, 'pathology' implicates its own ethics, 
one for hysteria, narcissism and so on - but these would be ordinary 
everyday ethics - founded on the necessity for pragmatic ethics dealing 
with everyday events.

Can this understanding of desire, which is always related to 'negation' 
- that is desire for the unattainable other - determinate negation - 
which is a 'nothing' that nonetheless has properties but which can never 
be achieved because it is and must remain unattainable... hence of 
course the always present lack of satisafaction with the object of 
consumption after the satisfying act of acquisition....because the 
desire has shifted on to the next unattainable object....

The Lacanian 'ethics of desire'  - 'not to compromise ones desire' 
actually emerges when read against the understanding of 'desire'  - to 
clarify - lacan (referring to Kant) insists that the 'most dangerous 
form of betrayal is not a direct yielding to our pathological impulses 
but, rather a reference to some kind of good, as when I shirk my duty 
(to the..) with the excuse that I might thereby impair the Good...' 
(Zizek P68). This seems extremely dubious because of the contradiction 
between the definitition of lacanian desire and the raising of (lack) 
desire to some kind of equivilant to moral law...


>What I want to open up for discussion here is a psychoanalytical reading
>of ethics. You have alluded to this yourself, but so far you haven't
>gone into this in any great detail.
>Kant introduces the dimension of desire into ethics and brings it to its
>pure state. As Zupancic puts it, "In relation to the smooth course of
>events, life as governed by the reality principle, ethics always
>apprears as something excessive, as a disturbing interruption."
>What I would like to discuss is this very possibility of linking
>psychoanalysis with ethics in order to create a libidinal ethics in
>which the categorical imperative is reconfigured as a drive, based upon
>desire.  (I will, therefore I can.... I can't go on, I will go on). 


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