Sunday, November 1, 2009

"I think therefore I am" is talking about two different people

From: Noah Berlatsky < >

The thing is, I think you can use God to get around at least in part the innate sexism in these formulations. That is, it's not man but masculinity; not women but femininity. On the one hand, we're all feminine compared to God, as Lewis says — but we're all also masculine compared to Christ (we get to inflict pain and be comforted by his suffering/nurturing.)

Or so I say anyway.

On Fri, Oct 30, 2009 at 4:27 PM, Albert Stabler < > wrote:

Yeah, I've quoted that quote a lot. I got it from Danny. I really miss him. He might be my number one person I most regret losing touch with.

I'm a fan of your theory. Lacan says men desire the desire of the Other (which is kind of what is usually attriburted to women), while I think women basically escape desire by being the Other. Men's sexual experience is blocked by their own phallus Our desire subists in the gap between the Real and the Symbolic, which makes our libido wind up in the Imaginary, entirely isolated and narcissistic. To us our mother is the primary big Other. Women are nothing, except their entire body is their jouissance, their petiit objet a. They occupy the Symbolic, they ARE the unconscious language-- thus their interest in written erotica.

And if the Crucifixion isn't the abject image of the womb, I don't know what is. It's a religion based on the endless generosity of the ultimately despised.

Speaking of jouissance, did you know the Cocteau Twins did a version of "Frosty the Snowman?"

--- On Fri, 10/30/09, Noah Berlatsky < > wrote:

From: Noah Berlatsky < >

Subject: Re: "I think therefore I am" is talking about two different people

To: "Albert Stabler" < >

Date: Friday, October 30, 2009, 12:45 PM

Here's something to chew on.

The non-identity of the self seems to mirror/reproduce/be about the bifurcation of male identity that Sedgwick (and Freud) discuss; that is, the separation of self from god existentially can be mapped onto the split of son/father in male identity that Freud sees psychologically and Sedgwick sees socially. The question, then, is, what about femininity? I think you can maybe argue (as I did in that article about super Beyonce) that femininity is less problematically identified with itself. Among other things, this would make the soul female (which C.S. Lewis kindof does in "Till We Have Faces.") It also might make God feminine (that is, God is the ultimate masculine in relation to us, because in our relations to him we are always split (Zizek's idea that the 0th floor of the building becomes 1 as soon as we start counting it.)) However, in himself, without reference to us, i.e., when he is nothing, he's the absolute feminine. Thus, masculinity exists only in its own agonized absence from itself (desire), while femininity exists simply as nothing (which is love.)

I'm sort of trying to think about this in relationship to Wonder Woman a little bit; her secret identity for Marston is just so not about being bifurcated, so much as it is about slumming (becoming Diana Prince to take care of Steve.) It's an assumed role on behalf of another rather than an agonized falling away from a self that isn't there...and I think in that there's a parallel to Christ's incarnation (also about essentially slumming on behalf of one's children.) I think maybe one thing Zizek and all these studly male philosophers tend to miss is the way that terms of the incarnation get rather switched around when you think about Christ as feminine (not at all a heterodox move, necessarily). Is the empty void open, or is it the womb? (There's also a parallel here with the idea of Boddhisattva's, to the extent I understand what that's about.)

Zizek doesn't really seem to see the Incarnation as constant sacrifice on behalf of the world, right? It's more a dialectical necessity — I think that's what Millibank kind of makes fun of him for....

Brilliant? Burbling nonsense? Both?

On Fri, Oct 30, 2009 at 12:17 PM, Noah Berlatsky < > wrote:

I've heard that Derrida quote/paraphrase. And that was more or less what I thought you meant (no transcendence = no soul = evolutionary robots at play in the fields of democracy.)

Thank you for expounding!

On Fri, Oct 30, 2009 at 12:03 PM, Albert Stabler < > wrote:

That's the best paraphrase I have ever heard apocryphally attributed to Derrida.

And I magically ran into this mirror-definitional quote from Lacan: “I am not simply the punctiform located at the point from which perspective is grasped. No doubt, in the depths of my eye, the picture is painted. The picture, certainly, is in my eye. But I, I am in the picture.”

And it isn't really magival, it's a coincidence based on statistically obvious factors. But I constantly am hounded that with the sense that my successes are not of my own doing but my failures are. And almost all time and space exist outside of my experience.

And nothing, big or small, living or not, sentient or not, is entirely stable even in one moment-- it constantly comes out of and returns to itself, as Eckhart says of God. Which is why I cling to Zizek's non-atheist abject core-- he believes in the empty space.

Self-identity is just the idea that things (the universe, stuff in the universe) can only really be themselves, which is the core of atheist dogma, as I understand it. Absolute immanence.

--- On Fri, 10/30/09, Noah Berlatsky < > wrote:

From: Noah Berlatsky < >

Self-identity seems like an important issue for you. I'm not sure I get it quite. Care to expound?

On Fri, Oct 30, 2009 at 8:23 AM, Albert Stabler < > wrote:

Aw thanks!! And also, as Andrea would say, I know right? Say what you want about fundamentalists and psychoanalysts, you can;t beat a Marxist academic for smug assurance in their totally unjustifiable faux-rational opinions.

Speaking to your "he couldn't find the keys on his keynoard" point, I really think the whole rhetorical concept of "begging the question" was invented for Zizek-style (a)theology. If you don't have the slightest suspicion that there might be some kind of God character, and you're not doing anthropology, or some hideous Joseph Campbell breathless syncretism self-help, WHY in Gaia's name are you talking about religion?

I do like Milbank, and I think I might actually be a little more behind him on the eros issue, actually, than I am with Zizek, Lacan, or Barth. I think I really am dismissing the gay utopia out of hand if I don't acknowledge the spiritual centrality of libido (which I really don't unequivocally say in my Glory and Hole essay I realize). You can't have the mirderous energy of apocalypse without some white-hot repression. I'm less with Milbank on atavism and the evils of Protestantism, obviously, and some of his stuff on paradox and mist kind of reminds me of myself at age 20, but his out-materialisting materialsts thing about that one guy who sort of said to Kant that there are no a prioris before the existence of your body, was brilliant and really helped me think that out. And I was reading my Eckhart book at the same time as that book-- I should lend you that. What Barth is to ecstatic modern orthodoxy, Eckhart is to mystical medieval postmodernism.

You'e right, it's definitely all about love-- love cannot be easily dissociated from sin. It's almost the only reason to keep a transcendent God-- so that there's some magic wall that keeps His fecundity and violence from being similar to our own. That magic wall became the death of Christ-- it's almost as if what died on the cross was not only the certainty of a transcendent dimension, but also the banal self-identiity of the tangible world. Take that, equivocal/univocal/paradoxical academic philosophers!

Are you still in Richmond? You know Jesse Senechal lives there, right? I didn't know that's where you would be. Let me know if you don't have his email and want to track him down.

I'm the shadow of death for Halloween here at school.

Congratulations on your punditry!

--- On Thu, 10/29/09, Noah Berlatsky < > wrote:

I went back and looked at your conversation with the zizek scholar now

that I'm reading Zizek. I don't know that I understand Zizek as well

as I might, but I do know that when that guy says this:

"He's not just trying to keep up his materialist cred: he actually is

a materialist. He's also actually an atheist and his reading of

Christianity is meant to demonstrate that the radical core of

Christianity shows us a way to the most radical atheism possible."

he is so utterly full of shit that even the absent God is going to

have trouble finding room to not inhabit him.

Saying that Zizek is "actually" anything simple seems pretty fucking

brash. I mean, if your atheism involves embracing the radical core of

Christianity, in what sense are you an atheist? If your materialism

involves sneering at naive materialists for denying transcendence, how

exactly are you a materialist? Zizek has complicated answers to those

questions, but he's so steeped in dialectic and eating his own tail

that I don't see how you figure out which end is up without qualifying

your answers in a way that doesn't just depend on "i've read

everything he's written, nyah nyah."

For example:

""all that happens in the passage from Objective Spirit to Absolute

Spirit is that one takes into account that 'there is no big Other',"

in this case meaning there is no God."

But Zizek's whole point is that the big Other is *not* God, or doesn't

have to be God, or isn't God after the incarnation. One of the

takeaways from a Christian perspective, it seems like, is that for

Christianity God is not separate from Creation/man, or both separate

and not separate, so that the killing of God is both really,

especially, truly the death of God (Christ dies, God dies) and not the

death of God, in that God is not transcendent and distant in the first

place. God is not the big Other is different than saying "there is no

God." It's more like saying "there is nothing that is God," with all

the ambiguity that Zizek squeezes into (or out of) nothing.

And then he does it again:

"saying there is no big Other is the same as saying there's no God."

Then why didn't he just say it, smarty pants? Did he lose the letters

on his keyboard?

And good lord, could he possibly be more condescending? What a putz.

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