Saturday, May 05, 2007

Lacan, Joyce, Chuangtzu

Zhuangzi (Chuangtzu)
Contemplating a Lacanian analysis of Joyce
(Image from Wikipedia)

Today, I will be participating, as a "Discussant," in an "International Conference on Psychoanalysis and Socio-Humanities" devoted to the works of Jacques Lacan.

I must be crazy.

But my craziness should help, I suppose, in understanding Lacanian psychology. Think of my insanity as a hermeneutical key opening the way toward understanding the twists and turns that Continental Philosophy takes when it undergoes psychoanalysis.

I'll be responding to a talk by one of my colleagues, Kwon Teckyoung, who has written a paper titled "From Aesthetics to the Green Aesthetics: Lacan, Joyce, Chuangtzu." I'm not sure that I agree with everything Teckyoung has written, but more crucially, I'm not sure that I understand everything that she has written.

Partly, this stems from my own ignorance. While I do know something of James Joyce, I know only superficially of Lacan and merely one thing about Chuangtzu. I've decided to make a virtue of my ignorance and ask openly ignorant questions.

Because I have little time this morning, I'll spare you the usual boilerplate stuff and instead post my response to Teckyoung's paper, which will not only demonstrate my laudable ignorance but leave all of you pleasantly baffled since you haven't read the paper to which I'm responding. But baffled was my own experience as well, so you will understand as I have understood...
Prefatory Remarks, Questions, and a Digression for Kwon Teckyoung

Thank you for a very interesting paper. I fear that my questions will be not quite so interesting. Rather than insightful questions, I can offer only ignorant ones, for I know too little about the thought of Jacques Lacan. Of James Joyce, I am somewhat more familiar, but more as a literary artist than as a thinker. Chuangtzu, I have heard of, for his dream of the butterfly -- or the butterfly's dream of Chuangtzu -- is very famous, even in the West, but I know nothing of Chuangtzu's larger system of thought.

So, allow me to ask my three ignorant questions, then end with an equally ignorant digression.

1. Could you make more clear, perhaps by summarizing the point, how this aesthetics that you find in the thought of Joyce, Lacan, and Chuangtzu constitutes a green aesthetics, for the inner connection to ecological thinking is not entirely clear to me?

2. Could you explain more about the Median-Void and its function in Lacan’s thought? I ask partly because Guo Jian, in the article "In Search of an Unconscious: Jacques Lacan and China" (published in Ex/Change, Issue Number 6, February 2003), remarks that:
The "median-void," or the French "vide-médian," is a rather odd translation of the Chinese 沖氣 or 中氣, from section 42 of the Laozi, meaning literally "blending the breath [of yin and yang]".
[Much more can be found in Footnote 22 of Guo Jian's article, "In Search of an Unconscious: Jacques Lacan and China":
François Cheng, "Entretien avec Judith Miller," p. 54. Quoted in Roudinesco, ibid., 352. The "median-void," or the French "vide-médian," translates the Chinese 沖氣 (or 中氣, according to the 馬王堆甲本 of the Lao-zi) in the line 萬物負陰而抱陽, 沖氣以為和 from section 42 of the Laozi. The phrase means literally "neutralize (or moderate, or blend) the qi (breath or air, of yin and yang)." The line may be translated as "ten thousand things [that is, everything in the universe] carry yin on their backs and embrace yang in their arms and are harmonized by the blending of the breath (of yin and yang)."
Perhaps this is useful material to have as a reference.]

3. Could you explain something about the following passage:
Towards a mystery as well as an importance of the number three, Lacan is not exceptional at all. When he formalized the third ring as the Real in the interconnected Borromean Knot, the Real becomes the link, the Median-Void, between two opposite sides, the imaginary and the symbolic. If we examine the three rings in terms of Tao, we posit the Real in the realm of the Void, which would turn out to be the imaginary in the symbolic -- a fantasy object (a). This may be the key to solving the mystery of the number three. The three is the emblem of the ethics of Lacanian psychoanalysis as well as the emblem of Chuangtzu's wuwei because it is to follow two courses at once, to satisfy both Kant and Sade at the same time. Thus, Kant with Sade, or number three is as mysterious as the harmony of Yin and Yang.
Here is my question: How would one satisfy both Kant and Sade? Is this wei wu wei (action without action)? Is this Kant's universal moral law of categorical imperative and Sade's amorality of willfully polyvalent individual desire, the pursuit of pleasure, namely, of licentiousness?

4. Finally, my ignorant digression.

Lacan's terminology invites possible Christian connections, e.g., his expression "the name of the father" recalls Johannine expressions (John 12:28; 17:5-6, 11-12, 25-26), but the terminology recalls even more strongly the Valentinian Gnostic formulation that "the name of the Father is the Son" (Gospel of Truth 45-46; cf. John 17:12).
45. Now the Name of the Father is the Son. He first named him who came forth from himself, and who is himself. And he begot him as a Son. He bestowed his own Name upon him. It is the Father who from his heart possesses all things. He has the Name, he has the Son who can be seen. Yet his Name is transcendental -- for it alone is the mystery of the invisible, which thru him comes to ears completely filled with it. (Mt 1:21, Lk 1:31, Jn 17:6-26!, Ph 11!)

46. For indeed the Name of the Father is not spoken, yet rather it is manifested as a Son. (Jn 17:6) Accordingly, great is the Name! Who therefore could proclaim a Name for him, the supreme Name, except him alone whose Name this is, together with the Sons of the Name? -- those in whose heart the Name of the Father reposes and who themselves likewise repose in his Name. Because the Father is immutable, it is he alone who begot him as his own Name before he fashioned the eternal-ones, so that the Name of the Father would be Lord over their heads -- this-one who is truly the Name, secure in his command of perfect power. (Ex 3:14, Th 13)
Probably, there is no significant connection between Lacan's use of the expression "the name of the father" and the Valentinian formulation "the Name of the Father," but Gnostic systems generally might provide further illumination into Lacan's thinking (recall that Jung pursued an interest in Gnosis).

Anyway, these are my three questions and one digression -- which, incidentally, happen to add up to four. Perhaps I should undergo Lacanian analysis....
So . . . there it is, what I'll say today. If you see this early enough, wish me luck.

Labels: , ,


At 7:54 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

You described Sade as amoral.

Being perplexed by reading No. 4 is why I was never successful at understanding some philosophers.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Personally, I regard Sade as immoral, but for the sake of intellectual discourse, I was adopting a neutral position, one that Sade might have argued (though he actually needs morality as something to violate and thereby obtain his thrills).

Number 4 is more theosophy than philosophy, which makes it even more opaque.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home