*towards a reading of Lacan’s ‘The Mirror Stage’. … —PART II. on ‘space fear’, & the ‘ideal’: language, ‘intuition’ & flux in Nietzsche & Bergson, & the fiction of the ‘I’ in Lacan. …

– LACAN & (THE QUESTION OF) THE “REAL” –
*(—a reading group).

Why Lacan & why the real… —? —Introduction to the reading group.

Introduction to Lacan: notes from a lecture.

Outline of a reading of ‘The Mirror Stage’.

Mirror Stage I.—the infant, the mirror, & the nature of the image.

Mirror Stage II.—‘space fear’, & the ‘ideal’. (part (i).)

Mirror Stage II.—‘space fear’, & the ‘ideal’. (part (ii).): Nietzsche on the intellect, language, the ‘I’ as fiction, and ‘intuition’.

Mirror Stage II.—‘space fear’, & the ‘ideal’. (part (iii).): the Undivided Continuity of States. —‘analysis’, ‘duration’ & ‘intuition’ in Bergson.

 

language, ‘intuition’ & flux in Nietzsche & Bergson,
& the fiction of the ‘I’ in Lacan. …

 

So, …

 

For both Nietzsche and for Bergson, then…

 

… —things’… —fragments (fragmented) in (—within-of) space, and the moments-atoms in-of ‘clock-time’ are impositions of language. …

 

on-to a—pre-linguistic,—pre-egoistic, inchoate flux

 

*—(what I’ve dubbed here, for my own purposes) *—the flux of the undivided continuity of states.… —subsisting, then, beneath the individuated concepts of the intellect in Bergson’s conception of ‘duration’, and, I’d argue, in Nietzsche’s… analogous critique of the intellect and championing of ‘intuition’ in the early ‘On Truth’ essay.

 

… ‘Things’ and ‘moments’ (—‘clock-time’) forged, then, from flux. …

 

First as words (a word), an utterance in response to a sense-stimulus. …

 

—The word becomes a concept when it no longer refers exclusive-solely to the sense-stimulus which gave birth-rise to it, but is used to… yoke together disparate phenomena. … *—the (attempted) elision of the differences between diverse experiences (stimuli) and the attempt to equate unequal phenomena (under a single head, so to).

 

—In order to be able to establish a communal linguistic consensus (—the legislation of language). …

 

… —Words, then,… —only ever (in truth) provisional,—inadequate, translations of, and attempts to incorporate experience-sense-stimuli, become (via a process) reified *(—the abstract… —made more concrete,… —real),—taken as-for truth. …

 

—Taken as *corresponding,—absolutely and unproblematically, to things-as-they-are-in-themselves, and there vital, artistic origins (—origins in-as artistic projections) is forgotten-repressed. …

 

…—They become, in effect, stultified metaphysical prejudices——divorced… —alienated from experience.

 

… *—For Bergson, as for Nietzsche, the aim of what both dub ‘intuition’ is to overcome the institutionalised and complacent metaphysical prejudice of the concepts (—formed by the intellect/’analysis),… —a descent (back) into the pre-individuated, undifferentiated flux, and a return with new metaphors and previously ‘unheard-of combinations of concepts’.—To create new metaphors, in order then to capture the *‘vividly felt actual sensation’. …

 

*on flux, then, … & the imposition of the fiction of the ‘I’. …

 

*—It’s possible to read Lacan on the relationship between the subject & the image in-of ‘the mirror stage’, then, alongside, or perhaps rather in terms analogous (—a parallel to) Nietzsche and Bergson on language and flux. …

 

 

*For both Nietzcshe and Bergson… there’s a (however, perhaps, regrettable) necessity in-to the spatial-temporal fragmentation (—into atoms,… quanta) in, or rather through, the impositions of language.

 

*—There is a necessity in-to the formation of a discrete ‘I’. … —In order to overcome, and to repress, the chaotic flux in-of the organism,… *—organs-drives-forces. …

 

—The imposed fiction of the discretion of the ‘I’, and of ‘things’ in space and moments in-of time, are what renders communication and community (the social-political and legal) possible. …

 

*… —Require, then,—the imposition of a fiction. …

 

 

And this is what’s at stake *(I’d argue, at least) in Lacan’s account of the ‘mirror stage’: …

the *|total form| of his body, by which the subject anticipates the maturation of his power in a *|mirage|, is given to him only as a *gestalt, that is, in an *exteriority in which, to be sure, this form is more *constitutive than constituted, but in which, above all, it *|appears to| him as |the *contour of his stature| […] (76).

 

*—The ‘total form’ of the image of the body in the mirror is a fiction,… —necessarily ‘gestalt’ *(that is,—apparently-seeming more than the simple sum of its parts): … complete (whole),—unified (… —no gaps,… no disjuncture(-discord),… —no remainder)… *—bound within the clam, satisfying smoothness of a-the ‘contour’. …

 

It is constituted in the moment of the ‘mirror stage’, and has no existence, either prior to, or beyond it. …

 

—it is a mirage. … —an illusion (or,—a trick of the light (so to) ), the desire for identity with which is spurred (I’d argue) by a desire,… —a need,… —an unrealistic and (ultimately-finally) unrealisable hope,—for fixity *(—stasis). …

 

In order to overcome and—importantly—to repress,… the chaos in-of an underlying flux *(in-within the organism (organs-drives-forces…)… —of an undivided continuity of ‘states’… —?).

 

 

*—The ‘mirror stage’ then, represents an attempt to wrest (the fiction of a) fixity-stasis (—peace and security) from the chaos of an underlying flux of movements: of and within the subject (—psychological and bodily), and in(-within) its environment (surrounds-environs).

 

*An important question I want to address in what follows: …

Is this flux pre-linguistic and (therefore) pre-egoistic for Lacan, as it is for Nietzsche and Bergson… —?

 

 

It’s the necessity-need for fixity (stasis), and the notion of a relationship between the ‘I’ and an underlying flux (whatever its particular nature or status might be), that opens up the possibility, I think, of interrogating-reading the origins of the ‘mirror stage’, and which represents a really interesting basis of comparison for reading Lacan on the ‘real’ (in ‘The Mirror Stage’ essay) in relation to Nietzsche on language and the ‘I’ ( = ego), and Bergson on ‘duration’ and ‘analysis’. …

 


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*towards a reading of Lacan’s ‘The Mirror Stage’. … —PART II. on ‘space fear’, & the ‘ideal’: the Undivided Continuity of States. —‘analysis’, ‘duration’ & ‘intuition’ in Bergson. …

– LACAN & (THE QUESTION OF) THE “REAL” –
*(—a reading group).

Why Lacan & why the real… —? —Introduction to the reading group.

Introduction to Lacan: notes from a lecture.

Outline of a reading of ‘The Mirror Stage’.

Mirror Stage I.—the infant, the mirror, & the nature of the image.

Mirror Stage II.—‘space fear’, & the ‘ideal’. (part (i).)

Mirror Stage II..—‘space fear’, & the ‘ideal’. (part (ii).): Nietzsche on the intellect, language, the ‘I’ as fiction, and ‘intuition’.

 

*(—the following is taken from: ‘On the Undivided Continuity of States. … —on the “primal unity” &(/as)—“duration”.’ … ).

 

 

 

*the Undivided Continuity of States.
—‘analysis’, ‘duration’, & ‘intuition’ in Bergson. … 

*In An Introduction to Metaphysics (of 1903), Henri Bergson offers a clear, concise, and apt summary of the distinction between ‘analysis’ (—the conceptual) and ‘intuition’, which he had established in his earlier works (Time and Free Will,—Matter and Memory, (etc.)…)…—

By intuition is meant the kind of intellectual sympathy by which one places oneself within an object in order to coincide with what is unique in it and consequently inexpressible. Analysis, on the contrary, is the operation which reduces the object to elements already known, that is, to elements common both to it and other objects.

*(—Henri Bergson, An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. T.E. Hulme (Cambridge: Hackett, 1999),—23-24).

 

So,…

 

—‘analysis,’ Bergson argues, breaks its object down into parts (—‘elements’) corresponding to pre-existing concepts in which it participates (is made to participate) with other objects. …

 

*—it strikes me that these terms very closely echo—perhaps in a way not dwelt upon (certainly at any length in extant work on the similarities or parallels between Nietzsche and Bergson—Nietzsche’s critique of language, the intellect, and the conceptual in ‘On Truth’, and, in particular here, Nietzsche’s critique of the formation of the ‘Platonic’ concept of the ‘leaf’, which was formed, he argued, by discarding the differences between individual leaves: the awakening of the ‘idea’ that, ‘in addition to the leaves’, there exists in ‘nature’—‘the leaf’.’ (‘OTL’, 117.—see pervious. … ).

 

—(the process of) ‘analysis’, then, reduces the thing (—its object) to these constituent elements and to their conceptual correspondences.

 

 

—by contrast, Bergson wishes to promote the method of ‘intuition,’ which—*as it did for Nietzsche in ‘On Truth’—aims to shatter the reduction of its object to pre-existing conceptual prejudices, and to place the observer back into (in closer proximity to) an original state of disinterested, non-conceptual receptivity *(—‘intellectual sympathy’). …

 

… *—beneath the hardened veneer of the fragmented and atomised spatio-temporal realm of the concepts—the ‘crust solidified on the surface’ of experience (—cf. Bergson, IM, 25)—Bergson identifies ‘one reality […] which we all seize from within, by intuition and not simply by analysis. It is our own personality in its flowing through time—our self which endures.’ (24) …

 

*—Beneath the artificially differentiated, atomistic experience of things in conceptual space, and of moments in conceptual time, Bergson argues, subsists a foundation of undifferentiated states which he calls *‘duration’ (—durée)…

beneath these sharply cut crystals and this frozen surface, a continuous flux which is not comparable to any flux I have ever seen. There is a succession of states, each of which announces that which follows and contains that which precedes it. (25)

 

*—Duration, then, constitutes ‘one reality’,—seemingly paradoxically comprised of a continual flux of successive ‘states’.

 

 

*—We are originally made aware of this flux, according to Bergson, through our consciousness of our own personality (—internal intuition) and (then, subsequently) extend the principle to the outer phenomena of perception (—external intuition).

 

—apparently autonomous, these… states nonetheless interpenetrate, containing all those states which precede them and unfolding ineluctably into all those which are to follow.

 

The ‘states’ of duration constitute neither a simple multiplicity, nor a simple unity, but, ‘instead of being distinct, as they are in any other [comparable form of] multiplicity, encroach upon one another.’ (30)—They constitute ‘a continuity of elements which prolong themselves into one another’, a continuity which ‘participates in unity as much as in multiplicity; but this moving, changing, colored, living unity has hardly anything in common with the abstract, motionless, and empty unity which the concept of pure unity circumscribes.’(30-31.—Cf. Bergson, Creative Evolution, trans. Arthur Mitchell [New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1998],—1-7. … )

 

*—the flux of duration represents an undivided continuity of states’. …

 

 

*—It’s the undivided continuity of this flux which the concepts rend asunder through the what Bergson (again,—with echoes of Nietzsche) characterises as the *imposition of—artistically projected—individuated forms … —

Pure intuition, external or internal, is that of an undivided continuity. We break up this continuity in the one case to distinct words, in the other to independent objects. But, just because we have thus broken the unity of our original intuition, we feel ourselves obliged to establish between the served terms a bond which can only be external and superadded.

*(—Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer [London: Swan Sonnenchein & Co., Ltd, 1911],—239)

 

—The concepts are generated through the formation and (importantly) the false hypostatisation of words *(… —an echo of Nietzsche’s account of the formation of language in ‘On Truth’), and of independent (that is —apparently discrete) objects. …

 

*—Once fragmented, for any form of discourse to be possible, it becomes necessary, Bergson argues, to artificially form bonds between these—severed entities. …

 

—and this, ultimately, is the role (—the purpose-goal) of ‘analysis’. … (—cf. CE, 4)

 

*(and, again,… —I think that this is significant for my current reading of Lacan’s ‘mirror stage’. …)

*—For Bergson, these bonds, whatever their use value (for language and for action), can in no way afford access to the underlying flux, but are, and must remain, external epiphenomena. …

*(and, again,… —this echoes Nietzsche’s critique of the conceptual quasi-Platonic prostheses to experience in-of the ‘On Truth’ essay. … ).

 

[…]

 

*(—for my attempt to elaborate my reading of Bergson on time & flux, through a reading of ‘The Slow Mo Guys’ slow motion videos, see the original blog post. … ).

 

*… —the shattering of these prejudices-conceptual (—of habit-inertia)… —is what, for Bergson, as it had been for Nietzsche, is at stake in ‘intuition’ (—vs. the concepts of the intellect)—as method. …

 

 

*on ‘intuition’, then,—as method. …

 

*Bertrand Russell very beautifully summarises what he (rightly.—why not?) calls Bergson’s ‘ingenious’ conception of the intellect and his conceptions of ‘matter’ and of ‘time’. …

Intelligence or intellect, “as it leaves the hands of nature, has for its chief object the inorganic solid”; it can only form a clear idea of the discontinuous and immobile; its concepts are outside each other like objects in space, and have the same stability. The intellect separates in space and fixes in time; it is not made to think evolution, but to represent becoming as a series of states [. …] Solid bodies, it would seem, are something which mind has created on purpose to apply the intellect to them.

[…]

The genesis of intellect and the genesis of material bodies, we are told, are correlative; both have been developed by reciprocal adaptation. “An identical process must have cut out matter and the intellect, at the same time, from a stuff that contained both.”

*(—Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy [London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1961],—758).

 

*—‘matter’, then (—so-called)—as a product-creation of the intellect—as that which falls away from duration—from-through its own inertia.

*(… —frozen-carved (away.—‘Solid bodies’) from duration, in order that the intellect—that the subject (as subject) be able to function at all…).

 

*(and this is the same for good ol’ Fritz, I think. …

 

*—‘matter’,—the subject (—the ‘I’-the ‘self’),—the body (as whole-discrete)… (again)—creations of the intellect—as all that which falls away (so to) from flux. …).

 

indeed.

 

 

*though, to my mind, he offers what is still by far one of the most sharp and clear readings of Bergson, Russell, I think, is mistaken in the charges of ‘irrationalism’ and the anti-intellectualism, which he lays against him. …

*(—see Russell, 756 and 762, respectively… ).

 

 

Russell is too dismissive and too reductive. …

 

—I think Russell’s charge of ‘irrationalism’ represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the terms of Bergson’s critique of the intellect, but in a way which is actually genuinely useful to me here and illuminating for my reading of Nietzsche…

 

 

*for Bergson, as for Nietzsche… —we are (all of us) trapped in language. …

 

—locked. in (within) the inadequacies—the limits—of language…

 

*—of the fragments (of things) in space,… —in the atoms (in-)of ‘time. …

 

—for both, there can be no —complacency in (with regard to) language. …

 

—there must, for both, by contrast, be always a (fundamental) wariness-mistrust

*(—of the ability-capacity to ever truly say (have said) anything).

 

 

—no,… sitting still in the arbitrary, illusory, inadequate and ineluctably failing quanta (in-) of language. …

 

language.—as something entered into,… —not (never) as something possessed. …

(—something (sic) thrust into (into which, then, we are thrust). unavoidably.—in-volun-tarily but—necessarily. …). …

 

‘analysis’ (—the intellect) rends asunder the flux of the continuity of ‘states’.

 

*—just as for Nietzsche, in his account of the origins of language in ‘On Truth’, for Bergson language emerges as a process of metaphorical transposition:

*—from the original (sense) stimulus, through the word (—the sound), in-to the abstract concept. …

 

 

*—Modernist poet and critic T.E. Hulme, in his essays-articles on Bergson’s philosophy, argues that these metaphors ‘soon run their course and die. But it is necessary to remember that when they were first used by the poets who created them they were used for the purpose of conveying over a vividly felt actual sensation.’

*(—T.E. Hulme, ‘Bergson’s Theory of Art,’ in Speculations: Essays on Humanism and the Philosophy of Art, ed. Herbert Read, with a Frontispiece and Foreword by Jacob Epstein [London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1924],—141-169 [151] ).

 

 

Just as for Nietzsche, for Hulme (—following Bergson… )—language originally emerges from a need to articulate a vividly felt sensible stimulus—an internal or external ‘intuition’.

 

 

*—When this initial stimulus and artistic projection have passed, the metaphor (the word) can then, itself pass into popular usage (—becomes, then, a concept). …

 

—It becomes hypostatised and its artistic origins are forgotten. …

 

—The metaphor reaches the end of its capacity to articulate the ‘vividly felt actual sensation’ and becomes a mere ‘counter’,—akin to the pieces in a game of chequers, to be manipulated (‘moved about’) according to the demands of practical utility.

*(—Cf. Hulme, ‘Bergson’s Theory of Art,’ 151-152, 159-162, 165-166 and ‘The Philosophy of Intensive Manifolds,’ 176. … —The metaphor is also crucial to the notes gathered together under the title of ‘Cinders’,—215-245).

 

*For Bergson, the aim of intuition as method is to ‘recover [the] contact with the real,’ severed in the formation of concepts and of ‘analysis,’ and to ‘restore intuition to its original purity’.

*(—Matter and Memory, 241. Cf. Gille Deleuze, Bergsonism, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam [New York: Zone Books, 1988], 13-35 (—esp. 14), and Suzanne Guerlac, Thinking in Time: An Introduction to Henri Bergson [Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006], 63-64:

‘This is what Bergson is trying to do: to bring to philosophical awareness what has been absolutely repressed by thought and is structurally inaccessible to it’. (—63) ).

 

 

*—Echoing Nietzsche’s claim for the necessity of the redemption of the intellect through ‘forbidden metaphors and in unheard-of combinations of concepts’ in ‘On Truth,’… Bergson argues that intuition is ‘only truly itself when it goes beyond the concept, or at least when it frees itself from rigid and ready-made concepts in order to create a kind very different from those which we habitually use.’ (—Bergson, Introduction to Metaphysics,—30)

 

The aim of intuition, then, is, by an ‘effort,’ to break through the artificial surface of the conceptual and regain the undivided continuity of flux (—duration), and what Bergson dubs ‘the intention of life’: … —‘the simple movement that runs through the lines, that binds them together and gives them significance.’

*(— Creative Evolution,—176-177. Cf. Introduction to Metaphysics,—21-22 and Hulme, ‘Bergson’s Theory of Art,’—144, where the passage is reproduced verbatim… ).

 

*Bergson, and Hulme following him, dub this the *‘aesthetic intuition’, and both view art as the paragon of the attempt to lacerate the conceptual and to bring back new forms (new language, new metaphors, new images and new concepts) from the flux of duration—an (ironic) re-birth and appropriation of the intellect

 

*importantly, then… —rather than a form of straightforward ‘irrationalism’ or anti-intellectualism, as Russell’s reading would suggest—intuition, then, *(as method) represents an attempt (perhaps invariably ill-fated.—inevitably fails-failing), to appropriate the process of the formation of language and the concepts—the intellect (—‘analysis’).—from in-within. *—in the laceration and return. —and to revivify. …

*(—to revivify language—the concepts of the intellect—and to turn to account. …): …

 

*—‘This intention is just what the artist tries to regain in placing himself back within the object by a kind of sympathy and breaking down by an effort of intuition the barrier that space puts between him and his model.’

*(—Creative Evolution,—177.—Cf. Hulme, 144. Hulme goes on to refer to the artist’s shattering of the conceptual and experience of flux as the ‘essentially aesthetic emotion’ [145]. Cf. also 149-150 and 161-162).

 

 

*—towards a reading of Lacan’s ‘The Mirror Stage’. … —PART II. on ‘space fear’, & the ‘ideal’: Nietzsche on the intellect, language, the ‘I’ as fiction, and ‘intuition’.

– LACAN & (THE QUESTION OF) THE “REAL” –
*(—a reading group).

Why Lacan & why the real… —? —Introduction to the reading group.

Introduction to Lacan: notes from a lecture.

Outline of a reading of ‘The Mirror Stage’.

Mirror Stage I.—the infant, the mirror, & the nature of the image.

Mirror Stage II.—‘space fear’, & the ‘ideal’. (part (i).) …

 

*PART II. —on ‘space fear’ & the ‘ideal’. …
*—Nietzsche on the intellect, language, the ‘I’ as fiction, & ‘intuition’. …

*(the following is taken from: … *I. – Intuition, Flux and Anti-metaphysics between ‘On Truth and Lies [in a Nonmoral Sense]’ and The Birth of Tragedy.—Nietzsche’s early Schopenhauerian—anti-Schopenhauerianism… ).

 

 *Nietzsche, ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’, trans. Daniel Breazeale, in The Blackwell’s Nietzsche Reader ed. Keith Ansell Pearson and Duncan Large (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2006),—114-123.

 

Blackwell Nietzsche Reader

 

[…]

 

*In ‘On Truth and Lies in Nonmoral Sense’, Nietzsche criticises what he sees as the arrogance of the human claim to knowledge, through the intellect, of the value of existence. …

 

*—He contests what he argues is the conceit of the intellect and the attempt to extend its remit beyond the… realm (so to) of human experience.

 

 

—For Nietzsche, the concepts of the intellect are anthropomorphisms.

 

—In an ironic inversion of perhaps the most obvious and straightforward valuation of the intellect—as some form of vehicle for ascertaining the truth or the value of existence—Nietzsche characterises it as the very paragon of ‘dissimulation’,—‘allotted to these most unfortunate, delicate, and ephemeral beings merely as a device for detaining them a minute within existence.’ (114-115)

 

The intellect lies as a sort of a veil over existence as a means for the creation and the preservation of the individual (—the subject).

 

—Without the intellect, Nietzsche argues, existence itself would be unbearable.

 

Whilst the intellect appears ostensibly as the means to knowledge and to truth, Nietzsche argues that its primary function is to conceal the plethora of phenomena which threaten to overwhelm the individual. …

 

—It’s not, that is, as it might appear, a means to self-knowledge but, instead, to self-deception

What does man actually know about himself? Is he, indeed, ever able to perceive himself completely, as if laid out in a lighted display case? Does nature not conceal most things from him – even concerning his own body – in order to confine and lock him within a proud, deceptive consciousness, aloof from the coils of the bowels, the rapid flow of the blood stream, and the intricate quivering of the fibers! (115)

 

For Nietzsche,… —natural existence constitutes a chaotic flux… —comprised of natural drives and processes *(—‘coils of the bowels’, ‘rapid flow of the blood stream’,… —‘the intricate quivering of the fibers!’ … ).

 

(and this, I think, is especially important in the context of the current discussion of the ‘image’ and the ‘I’ in Lacan. … )

*—The intellect, then, is an epiphenomenal, (a—prosthetic… —?) *artistic creation,… —appended to (sub-intellectual,… —sub-egoistic,… —sub-conscious) flux—in order to repress or to suppress it, and thus to render the individual subject (—subjectivity) possible, in order, in turn, to preserve the organism against the suffering that a conscious awareness of, and inability to escape from, the confusion and contradiction this flux would inevitably give rise to.

 

 

—By intimation, for Nietzsche, a thoroughgoing knowledge of the effect of physiological drives on consciousness, which the intellect is engendered precisely in order to prohibit, is necessary for any accurate self-perception and self-comprehension to be possible.

*(—‘n’ I think ol’ Fritz is essentially reiterating and expanding upon this point in the ‘Preface’ to On the Genealogy of Morality… —

We are unknown to ourselves, we knowers, we ourselves, to ourselves, and there is good reason for this […] like somebody divinely absent-minded and sunk in his own thoughts, who, the twelve strokes of midday having just boomed into his ears, wakes with a start and wonders ‘What hour struck?’, sometimes we too, afterwards rub our ears and ask, astonished, taken aback, ‘What did we actually experience then?’ or even, ‘Who are we, in fact?’ […] We remain strange to ourselves out of necessity, we do not understand ourselves, we must confusedly mistake who we are, the motto ‘everyone is furthest from himself’ applies to us forever,—we are not ‘knowers’ when it comes to ourselves…

*(On the Genealogy of Morality, trans. Carol Diethe, ed. Keith Ansell-Pearson [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003] ‘Preface,’ §I, 3-4: emphases Nietzsche’s own here. … )

Nietzsche argues that by virtue of the nature of our conception of ‘knowing’; that is, the nature of the intellect and its repression of the flux of natural drives, we must remain unknown to, and alienated from, ourselves.

In this passage Nietzsche implicitly reiterates the notion of the necessity of this alienation.

… —True self-knowledge and self-identity must remain impossible if the individual (the subject), and thus morality, are to be maintained.

It’s possible, at least to a certain degree, to read Nietzsche’s claim that no genealogist prior to himself has yet enquired as to the true origins and evolution of morality, as a claim that each has had an ineluctable stake in the maintenance of the illusion of subjectivity. … ).

 

*—in a note from one of his later notebooks (—of April – June, 1885), Nietzsche provides an apposite summary of his overarching critique of the concept of notion of the unified subject…

If I have anything of a unity within me, it certainly doesn’t lie in the conscious “I” and in feeling, willing, thinking, but somewhere else: in the sustaining, appropriating, expelling, watchful prudence of my whole organism, of which my conscious self is only a tool.

*(—Nietzsche, Writings  from the Late Notebooks, trans. Kate Sturge, ed. Rudiger Bittner [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 2003,—34[46], 2-3 [2].

… —on the ‘self’—*the ‘I’—as a fiction, especially in relation to Nietzsche’s doctrine of ‘the will to power’, see the following entries: 34[54]-34[55], 4; 34[131], 9-10; 35[35], 20-21; 37[4], 29-30; 38[8], 36-37; 40[42], 46; 1[58], 59-60; 1[87], 61; 2[91], 77; 2[152], 91; 2[158], 92; 2[193], 96-97; 5[3], 106; 7[1], 127-129; 7[63], 140; 9[91], 154-157; 10[19], 178-179; 11[73], 212-213; 11[113], 221-222; 11[120], 223-224; 14[79], 245-247. ).

 

*—the ‘I’ of the (conscious) ‘self’ here appears, then, as a ‘tool’ for the processes of the sustenance of the ‘organism’: … —of the incorporation of necessary experiences and energies and the purgation of superfluous experience and energies.

 

*(… —I want to come back to this notion—of the ‘I’ as (merely) a kind of epiphenomenal ‘tool’ for the manifold drives, forces, and processes in-of the organism… *—the ‘I’, then, as more or less useful-practical fiction. … —in my reading of Lacan. … ).

 

 

Nietzsche argues that language represents the means employed by the intellect toward this end.

 

*—His critique of the intellect represents a theory of the formation of language… —concerned with the origins and evolution of words and concepts.

 

 

*In The Beginnings of Nietzsche’s Theory of Language, Claudia Crawford argues that Nietzsche’s account of the formation of words and concepts represents their division into two separate languages. …

 

—The first constitutes an ‘unconscious formal language arising as the product of the instincts,’ whilst the latter constitutes ‘the translation of this unconscious language into the conscious language of fixity according to convention’.

*(see—Claudia Crawford, The Beginnings of Nietzsche’s Theory of Language [Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1988],—202).

 

*—The formation of this first, unconscious and instinctual language is a two-stage metaphorical process. First, ‘a nerve stimulus is transferred into an image [Bild].’—In an unconscious and instinctual reaction to a sensible stimulus the mind forms an image—a mental picture—of that stimulus. This is the ‘first metaphor’…

 

In the second, ‘the image, in turn, is imitated in a sound.’ (116)—The process evolves from the translation and transposition of a sensible stimulus into a mental image, to the further translation of this image (and not of the original stimulus itself) into a sound.

 

*—This is Nietzsche’s—naturalistic (so to speak)—account of the emergence of language.

 

 

—The word is formed as ‘a purely natural reaction to a stimulus, whether a cry, a scream, or any other sound, it is primarily an action which reduces the tension created by the perception of the stimulus.’ (Crawford, 203)—The formation of words is an attempt to articulate and discharge the natural reaction to a sensible stimulus.

 

For Nietzsche, a word becomes a concept at the point at which it transcends its function as referring solely to the unique, original experience ‘to which it owes its origin’:

‘a word becomes a concept insofar as it simultaneously has to fit countless more or less similar cases,’—‘cases which are never equal and thus altogether unequal.’—The word emerges as a response to a particular stimulus (as a vocalisation of the image). It becomes a concept at the point at which a vast field of such experiences are reduced to a small number of similarities and yoked under the aegis of a single word. (117)

 

For Nietzsche, the concept represents the elision of the differences between diverse experiences (stimuli) and the attempt to equate unequal phenomena. (ibid.

—Nietzsche gives the example of the concept of the ‘leaf’. …

In a parody, and a rejection, of the Platonic Idea, or Form, he argues that the concept of the leaf is formed by arbitrarily discarding—by forgetting—the differences between individual leaves:

This awakens the idea that, in addition to the leaves, there exists in nature the “leaf”: the original model according to which all the leaves were perhaps woven, sketched, measured, colored, curled, and painted – but by incompetent hands, so that no specimen has turned out to be a correct, trustworthy, and faithful likeness of the original model.

—For Nietzsche, the claim to know that such a self-identical Idea or ‘original model’ (the concept) inheres in things is a projection and false hypostatisation. … ).

 

 

—Utility gives birth to both the word and the concept in response to (—deeply felt) needs. …

 

—The individual word emerges from the need to discharge and articulate a particular sensible experience and stands at two removes from this original stimulus.

 

The concept emerges from a need for this original articulation to be transmitted to and to be understood by others, and thus stands at three removes from the original stimulus.

 

Nietzsche defines this process as *the invention of designation: the ‘legislation of language’.

 

It’s in this establishment of communal (linguistic) convention, Nietzsche argues, that ‘the contrast between truth and lies arises for the first time.’… —In other words, the concept arises from need to reduce the plurality of experience to a finite set of linguistic conventions in order to be able to establish a social-cultural-political consensus. (cf. 115)

 

 

Nietzsche argues that by virtue of their artificiality and elision of difference, all— ‘truths’, or concepts of the intellect, are, in reality, lies. …

 

—After the advent of the legislation of language, the concept of the ‘liar’ comes to designate the person who misuses the terms sanctioned by consensus for selfish or harmful ends by making ‘something which is unreal appear to be real’. What linguistically enabled human beings avoid, Nietzsche argues, is not deception itself—for this is of the quintessence of language—but being harmed by deception…

 

*—‘Truth,’ for Nietzsche, represents ‘the duty which society imposes in order to exist: to be truthful means to employ the usual metaphors’. (117) …

 

*Importantly for this comparison with Lacan and my reading of ‘The Mirror Stage… For Nietzsche (in ‘On Truth’)—language is first engendered in order to suppress the chaotic flux and multiplicity of natural drives in order to render the individual possible as a *fictitious unity. …

 

—The intellect, its concepts, and the notions of truth and lies are engendered as a necessary consequence of this individuation, in order to render communal linguistic consensus and thus society itself, possible.

 

Like the individual, ‘truth,’ for Nietzsche, is an artifice.—‘Truth’ is *art (—an artwork)…

What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions; they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins. (117)

 

—For Nietzsche, ‘truth’ appears as a projection of epiphenomenal, and purely human, utilitarian physiological, psychological and social fabrications. What is crucial for Nietzsche is that this act of artistic projection, and the subsequent artificial legislation of language to which it gives rise, are not recognised by their human progenitors as the works of art which they in fact are.—The original linguistic act of creation is inevitably followed, then, by an act of forgetting: ‘Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions’. The forgetting of the artistic origin and nature of language allows for the hypostatisation (the poetic or rhetorical intensification) of concepts and the false belief that they correspond absolutely to things as they are in themselves.

 

—Through an ironic inversion, Nietzsche argues that truths are revealed as lies.

 

*a seeming paradox, then. … *—the condition of the possibility of ‘truth’, is seen to rest on a foundation of falsehood, upon which it is utterly dependent.

 

 

*[…]

 

*—Nietzsche opposes his thesis of the three stages of: …

(i)—the artistic projection,

(ii)—the repression of the memory of act of projection

and (iii)—the subsequent hypostatisation of the concepts of the intellect, …

to what he argues is the false consciousness that they correspond absolutely to a metaphysical reality:

Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions; they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins. (Nietzsche, ‘On Truth’, 117)

 

—Through the gradual process of their hypostatisation, the concepts of the intellect become stale and dead metaphors, which, Nietzsche argues, no longer retain any connection to, or use value for, experience.

 

—They’re no longer able to capture ‘vivid first impressions’. (118)

 

—They become little more than the mode of expression of a (Platonic) philosophical and of a moral prejudice.

 

 

*For Nietzsche, existing concepts, as ‘abstractions’ and petrified prejudices, serve to distort human life. …

 

*—In order to overcome the stultification of the exhausted metaphors of the concepts, and in order to revivify the fundamentally artistic drive of the intellect and grasp ‘vivid first impressions,’ Nietzsche opposes ‘intuition’ *(—Anschauung) to the conceptual:

[The intellect] will now be guided by intuitions rather than by concepts. There is no regular path which leads from these intuitions into the land of ghostly schemata, the land of abstractions. There exists no word for these intuitions: when man sees them he grows dumb, or else he speaks only in forbidden metaphors and in unheard-of combinations of concepts. He does this so that by shattering and mocking the old conceptual barriers he may at least correspond creatively to the impression of the powerful and present intuition. (118)

 

For Nietzsche, the intensely undergone aesthetic experience—the ‘impression’—of the ‘powerful’ and ‘present’ ‘intuition’, lies outwith the field of possible experience outlined, sanctioned and policed by the concepts of extant linguistic convention.

 

The intellect, he argues, is driven by the need to articulate—to ‘correspond creatively’ to—this experience. In order for this to be possible, it is necessary to lacerate the petrified or stultified surface of the ‘ghostly’ Platonic abstractions of the concepts,—bereft of life, and lacking in both substance and any direct, visceral connection to the reality (so to) of lived experience.

 

 

*—… In the articulation of the intuition, the intellect becomes enmeshed in a process of the bathetic (—‘mocking’) reanimation of the concepts, smashing the ‘framework’ of the concepts ‘to pieces’, throwing it into a state of confusion, and ‘pairing the most alien things and separating the closest.’ (122)

 

In stark contrast to the ‘distortion’ of life, which he argues is implicitly at stake in the forgetting of the act of creation, and false—‘Platonic’—reification, of the concepts of conventional linguistic experience, ‘intuition’, as a projected philosophical method of the future, is defined, for Nietzsche, by its capacity for self-conscious ‘dissimulation’, enacted with a good (—a clear) conscience.

 

*—Intuition sets the intellect free, and the liberated intellect in turn ‘copies human life’ in its new bathetic, monstrous, hybridised metaphors. …

 

In contrast to the hardened veneer of the extant concepts, inaugurated and preserved as a crutch for the ‘needy man’ (—the ‘servant’, who requires the legislation of an uncritically accepted linguistic order in order to be able to function and to—persevere… )—‘the means by which weaker, less robust individuals preserve themselves’… —the intellect, freed through intuition, is enabled to become the ‘master’ of life and of ‘deception’. (122) Freed from its former ‘slavery’, the intellect ‘copies human life, but it considers this life to be something good’ and no longer needing to be redeemed or justified through falsely hypostatised, artistically projected (Platonic) concepts.

 

*—towards a reading of Lacan’s ‘The Mirror Stage’. … —PART II. on ‘space fear’, & the ‘ideal’. …

 

*PART II. —on ‘space fear’ & the ‘ideal’. …

Why Lacan & why the real… —? —Introduction to the reading group.

Introduction to Lacan: brief notes from a lecture on Lacan. …

Outline of a reading of ‘The Mirror Stage’.

*Mirror Stage I.—the infant, the mirror, & the nature of the image.

*the ‘mirror stage’.
(—a brief summary of a reading so far, then). …

 

 

At a certain age, or stage of physical and psychological development (rather),… not yet having developed instrumental intelligence, or indeed physical independence,—the-an infant encounters a specular image of their own body in a mirror *(—mirrored surface. … thus—reflected.). …

 

… —the image presents the infant’s (—the subject’s) body to it in-through-as the form a total ‘outline’ (so to speak. … —a contour)… —it’s presented, then, as a gestalt: —a unity,… —more than the sum of its (manifold) parts (or—quanta). …

 

The infant becomes transfixed by-with the ‘total form’ in-of this specular image of the body, then, which mimics their own movements.

 

—The infant(/subject) recognises—(that is) validates and identifies itself with—the image.  

 

 

—It seeks to struggle free of the constraints presented by the adult (—the parent/guardian/carer), or its walker/carrier.

 

—to get closer to *(—to be alone with… —?) the image, and to try to *fix the ‘total form’ in-of image indelibly (—finally) in its mind. …

 

(That is,… )—The subject attempts to appropriate the image to itself (—to its physical and psychical life). …

 

 

*—The ‘total form’ of the image of the body in the mirror, however is a fiction.

 

 

—It’s constituted in the moment of the ‘mirror stage’, and has no existence, either prior to, or beyond (without-outwith) it. …

 

—it is a *mirage. … —(thus) an illusion (or,… —a trick of the light (so to) ),—the desire for identity with which is spurred (I’d argue at least) by a desire,… —a *need,… —an unrealistic and (ultimately-finally) unrealisable hope,—for fixity *(—for stasis). …

 

*… —The mirror stage represents an attempt to wrest (the fiction of a) fixity-stasis (—peace and security) from the chaos of an underlying (—pre-linguistic and (therefore) pre-egoistic—?) flux of movements: of and within the subject (—psychological and bodily), and in(-within) its environment (surrounds-environs).

 

 

*an—awkward gesture (perhaps). …

 

I want to move on, by way of a sort of an aside (I s’pose) here, to consider what is meant by, and what is at stake in (-within) Lacan’s referring to the ‘mirror stage’ as revealing (or,… —referring the ‘mirror stage’ to the revelation of) an *‘ontological structure’. …

 

*… —I want to look at, and to try to define, the nature of what initially at least, appears to be a pre-linguistic and pre-egoistic flux; the nature of, and relationship between the ‘illusion’-mirage and the ‘ideal’; and what, finally (if anything) might be said to precede the mirror stage and to prompt it.

 

 

… —Over on(-in) the main thread of this blog: *—The fold of the Artist, which I’m adapting from material from my doctoral thesis on artistic inspiration and the figure of the artist in the works of James Joyce and Friedrich Nietzsche *(—in an extremely pretentious and foolhardy attempt to develop my own theory of art), I’ve already posted some work-material looking at some of these questions.

 

 

*—I’ve done some (—preliminary, and really, honestly, quite crude, partial, and… dilettantish) work on subjectivity, the emergence of the ego (= “I”) from language and an underlying pre-linguistic flux, in relation to Nietzsche’s early writing, and especially The Birth of Tragedy and the ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’ essay.

 

—I’ve compared Nietzsche’s treatment of these questions in particular to the philosophy of Henri Bergson: … Bergson’s conception of language and/as the fiction of fixity in space and in-of time, the flux of ‘duration’, and ‘intuition’ (as philosophical method).

 

 

*—As I mentioned back in the more general introductory post to this reading group,… —I’ve only taught on Lacan,… —I’ve never actually engaged, directly and in-depth, with his work in my own studies – thesis. …

 

Nevertheless,—… for a long time-while now, I’ve had a… sense (sic) that Lacan *(and, in this instance, his account of ‘the mirror stage’) actually frames the problems, philosophical questions, ideas and concepts I found myself drawn to, and working on, in Nietzsche and Bergson (—as a way of framing my reading of the aesthetic theory in Joyce’s early fiction, and Modernist aesthetics and poetics more widely … ),—more clearly and in-with more depth. …

 

*… —the work I’ve already done, then, might help frame the way I want to read ‘The Mirror Stage’ (—the mirror stage) here, and, in a way,… —reading Lacan might help me (finally) to finish (or, at the very least, to address some of the issues and problems I had with) my doctoral thesis.

 

 

So,…

I want to crave you indulgence here, if you’ll allow me, fellow reading group readers, while I draw on some of the ideas I’ve already worked on (elsewhere) and some of the material I’ve already produced. …

 

 

*—in a series of shorter posts here, then,… I want to try to summarise, and to… fuse-bring together material from my doctoral thesis, and latterly the main thread (so to) on-of this blog—on Nietzsche and Bergson. …

 

*—Nietzsche on the intellect, language, the ‘I’ as fiction, and ‘intuition’:

… —examining the intellect, language, ‘intuition’, and account of the fiction of the ‘I’ in (—from early to later) Nietzsche.

 

 

* the Undivided Continuity of States.—‘analysis’, ‘duration’ & ‘intuition’ in Bergson:

… —examining ‘analysis’, language, ‘intuition’, and flux in Bergson’s philosophy.

 

 

What I’m interested in here are the… parallels (for want) in the accounts of language,… —thinghood (so to), and subjectivity (—the “I”. … ) as fictitious (—artistic, after a fashion) projections… —impositions of order on the underlying flux of an undivided continuity of ‘states’, between Nietzsche, Bergson, and Lacan.

 

 

*—More importantly (for the current reading of ‘The Mirror Stage’),…

 

—I’m interested in the question of what it is that *prompts these… impositions.

 

 

*… —I’ve been (ridiculously slowly and gingerly) working my way back through, amending and (hopefully) developing my work on and reading of Modernist poetics and aesthetics in my doctoral thesis, over on the main thread of this blog. …

 

—in what follows here,… I want to jump slightly ahead of myself (so to), and—in laying out my reading of the origins and the structure of the mirror stage (…)—to draw on a key idea from the work of the Modernist critic, poet, and aesthete T.E. Hulme,… —an idea which he himself adopts(-appropriates) from the work of Wilhelm Worringer: …

*(—and so,… —I’ll adapt-be adapting here, some material from my doctoral thesis, as well as some material which I wrote (from the point-of-view (so to) of my protagonist) for my first novel: Notes of a Vanishing Quantity *(—which I’m still trying, and failing, to publish, and which my thesis and its adaptation in this blog, are intended as a kind of a… companion piece), and which I earlier adapted for the blog for an ‘ early C20th political writing’ reading group of which I was a part under the title of: towards an Ethics of Friendship. … ).

 

*… —I want to examine the origins of the ‘mirror stage’—in-as a response to, following Hulme and Worringer, I’ll characterise here as

 

*—‘space fear’. …

 

 

—This, I hope, (in ways that I want to come back to and to clarify and develop later) will lay the groundwork for a reading of Lacan on ‘primary narcissism’ in (-of) ‘the mirror stage’.

 

*—towards a reading of Lacan’s ‘The Mirror Stage’. … PART I (then).—on the infant, the mirror, and the nature of the image in ‘the mirror stage’. (pp. 75-76)

– LACAN & (THE QUESTION OF) THE “REAL” –
*(—a reading group).

I—Introduction to a new reading group on the work of Jacques Lacan & the question of the ‘real’

II—By way of a sort of an introduction to Lacan himself. … *brief notes, … —from a lecture on Lacan

III—Introduction to a reading of ‘The Mirror Stage’

 

*—towards a reading of Lacan’s ‘The Mirror Stage’. …

PART I (then).—on the infant, the mirror, and the nature of the image in ‘the mirror stage’.
(pp. 75-76)

specular Jacques (ii)

 

*Straight to the ol’ nub, then, ‘ey—? (—why ever not?). …

 

*the ‘mirror stage’: …

 

*(75). … —

the human child at an age when he is for a short while, but for a while nonetheless, outdone by the chimpanzee in instrumental intelligence, can already *recognise his own *image *|as such| in a mirror.

*[N.B. … —I’m going to indicate my own emphases in the quotations here in bold,… —first in order to highlight what I believe to be the key terms which need to be unpacked and understood, and, second, to help distinguish them from the author’s own emphases. … ].

 

*—the ‘mirror stage’, then, is pitched here, at the outset of the essay, as an act of, or perhaps, rather a—capacity for, recognition in the subject,—in both the senses of that word (at least as it translates into English here): …

(i) —as an identification (—understood particularly as: recollectionrecall, or remembrance): … —the action, or the process, then, of recognising or being recognised. In particular,… —identification of a thing or person from previous encounters or knowledge.

(ii) —in the sense of acknowledgement or acceptance (—admission, and (/or) concession). … (that is)—acknowledging (—the acknowledgement of) a thing’s existence,… —validity, and (/or) legality.

 

*… The subject’s capacity *(and I’m intentionally dropping the gender bias in-of the source text here), that is, then, to recognise: *—to identify with, and to admit the validity of, the image in-of the mirror’s-mirrored surface… —the image of themselves,—as exactly that.

 

 

… *—It’s interesting that Lacan takes the time at the outset to distinguish what is happening in ‘the mirror stage’ from (what I’ll call here) animal intelligence,… ranking it alongside, or perhaps even here above ‘instrumental intelligence’ (in which, nonetheless, the human is outstripped—at least by the chimpanzee—anyway… ). …

 

—Whatever ‘the mirror stage’ represents, then, it’s not concerned with a… tactile (so to)… —a practical (or utilitarian) engagement with the external world of things,…

 

—the ‘intelligence’ that it points to is concerned with something quite other, and—apparently—more significant (… —of more moment… —?).

 

(ibid.).

This recognition is indicated by the illuminative mimicry of the Aha-Erlebnis, which Köhler considers to express situational apperception, an essential moment in the act of intelligence.

*(i).— Aha-Erlebnis: … —an “Aha” experience *(… —the ol’ “Eureeka” in the bath tub, so to speak. … (hmm) ). … —a suddeninsight. *—the… elements [sic] of a task or problem suddenly, then,—“come together”. …

… *—a moment (—an ‘essential moment’) of sudden insight, which leads to a significant change in (the subject’s) mental organisation. …

(ii).— ‘situational apperception’: —(the) awareness of one’s position in the physical world, and ability to imagine that position relative to (other) physical objects. …

 

*… —the recognition: identification with, and acceptance of, the image, in-of ‘the mirror stage’ represents a moment of sudden insight (—of a revelation, or an epiphany (so to) )—“Aha!” … —fundamentally altering the subject’s (previous) mental organisation, allowing the subject (—for the first time …—?) to *become aware of their position in(-within) the physical world, in direct contrast and relation to the multitude of (other) discrete physical objects around them…

*—the realisation, then, (so to) of—discretion. …

(—the first moment of the… fixing (-in-place) of discrete things… *—and of (the sense-awareness of) a discrete “I”, —in relation to one another. …).

(—?).

 

… —which underpins the ‘act’ (—singular… —? … —an event which triggers-acts as a foundation of all that is to follow… —?) of intelligence itself. …

 

*(—in what sense though (an)—‘illuminative mimicry’… —?

 

(hmm)

… not sure…

 

—an illumination which mimics (—which mimics the ‘Aha Erlebnis’) (hmm…), or,… —a mimicry which illuminates,  …—?

 

—the ‘mimicry’ in-of the image-reflection.

 

*—a new/burgeoning awareness (—illumination) that the image(-reflection) will mimic, and that that which it mimics will have been the body

*(—the body, then, as having—through its being mimicked in the mirror (—image)—become discrete… or (rather)—realised as having (always already—to ‘alf-inch an over-used phrase from Derrida) been discrete. …

 

—? … ).

 

*The act of intelligence. …

 

*—(ibid.).

this act, far from exhausting itself, as in the case of a monkey, in eventually acquired control over the uselessness of the image, immediately gives rise in a child to a series of gestures in which he playfully experiences the relationship between the movements made in the image and the reflected environment, and between this *virtual complex and the *reality it duplicates—namely, the child’s own body, and the persons and even things around him.

 

whereas, for ol’ Jacques,—for or in (—at the level of) animal intelligence, the moment of recognition (—of identification of the image with the body)/‘the act of intelligence’ is exhausted in-through the uselessness of the image (—its lack of practical utility) and a resultant indifference to the image which allows for ‘control’—a mastery—over it (in its futility-superfluity), in ‘the child’ it (instead) gives rise to *play… —activity severed from (or, rather, never truly connected to) practical utility, survival, or labour…

 

*—a… joy in-at (—enjoyment of) the relationship between the movements of the body and/or surrounding environment (—‘things’ and ‘persons’) *—of reality,… and its/their… replication (—instantaneous echoing-replaying) in-within the ‘virtual complex’ of-in the image *(—‘virtual’ in the sense of: near— not completely corresponding to, yet in proximity(-approximate)… —an approximate recreation-facsimile of ‘reality’-the real. …). …

 

Lacan goes on to describe this (importantly, I think) as an *‘event’.

 

 

*(76.).—

[the child] overcomes, in a flutter of jubilant activity, the constraints of his prop in order to adopt a slightly leaning-forward position and take in an *instantaneous view of the image in order to fix it in his mind.

 

*—‘prop’: an adult (parent/guardian/carer), or walker/carrier.

 

 

*—the infant’s… play and joy (—‘jubilant activity’) in response to its recognition (identification with and acceptance) of the image as its image—the image of it—and of the reality that surrounds it, represents an overcoming—a sort of struggling free of-from the constraints of (—imposed by) the ‘prop’—the adult/carrier—in order to *take in and to *fix the image, in its mind. …

 

*the ‘mirror stage’ is a—‘moment’,… —an instant, an ‘event’,… a ‘complex’, … and the movements, play, and struggle for freedom (or perhaps, rather,—independence) of the infant, stem from a desire to *hold and to *incorporate that ‘moment’, and the image itself.

 

 

—developing the earlier notion of ‘recognition’, Lacan calls the ‘mirror stage’ an ‘identification’:

the transformation that takes place in the subject when he *assumes [assume] an image—an image that is seemingly predestined to have an effect at this phase, as witnessed by the use in analytic theory of antiquity’s term “imago”. (ibid.).

 

—not only, then, does a recognition take place in (within) the ‘mirror stage’ of the image as the image of the subject (—the subject’s body),…

 

—this recognition is followed by (or, perhaps, coupled to) an assumption of the image by the subject, and this assumption itself represents a transformation of-within the subject.

 

 

*(that is)… —the subject appropriates the image (or, at least, attempts to) to itself. …

 

—not only does the subject recognise the image as the image of its (their) body, but they (attempt to) identify totally with the image *(—a transformation in-of self-regard, then). …

 

Hence, I think, Lacan’s appeal to the theoretical term ‘imago’ (which he takes-borrows most obviously from Freud): *—an unconscious, idealised mental image,… and to the ‘effect’ that it’s (apparently) ‘predestined’ to have at the ‘phase’ of the mirror stage…

 

*—the effect of the attempted assumption of the image …

 

*—‘The jubilant assumption [assumption] of his specular image.’ … (—ibid.).

 

*‘specular’: … —relating to, or having the properties of, a mirror. …

(shameful as it well may be (and it most probably is… ), —I’m drawing in the main here on the definition offered in the Wikipedia article: ‘Specular Reflection’ [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specular_reflection]: … )

*… —Specular reflection: first discovered by Hero of Alexandria (A.D. c.10–70). …

*—the mirror-like reflection of light from a surface, in which light from a *single incoming direction (—a ray) is reflected into a *single outgoing direction.  …

(—apparently this also applies to other kinds of wave, but we’re concerned with light here, so: onward … ).

—Such behaviour is described by the law of reflection, which states that the direction of incoming light *(—the ‘incident ray’), and the direction of outgoing light reflected *(—the ‘reflected ray’) make the same angle with respect to the surface ‘normal’:

specular image

… —thus the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection (—θi = θr in the diagram… ), and the incident, normal, and reflected directions lie in the same plane (—a flat surface which extends without end in all directions): are coplanar.

*—Specular reflection is distinct, then, from ‘diffuse reflection’, in which incoming light is reflected in a broad range of directions. …

 

 

*… —So then,…

 

—The subject’s *specular image (—the image in-of the mirror-surface) is marked by its simplicity and singularity (so to). …

 

*—the angle of reflection is clean, simple, and ‘normal’ and the image itself is simple and, focussed, and unified… —reflected cleanly and simply,—straight back to the subject. …

 

And it is this simple, unified (—apparently self-identical) image that the subject thus attempts to assume.

 

 

(ibid.).

The mirror stage

manifest[s] in an exemplary situation the *symbolic matrix in which the I is precipitated in a primordial form prior to being objectified in the dialectic of identification with the other, and before language restores to it, in the universal, its function as subject.

 

I want to come back to a reading of Lacan’s use (—ironic abuse?) of the ‘dialectic’, but… let me borrow a crude reading of the terms-stages  of the ol’ Hegelian dialectic, to suggest a reading of what I think is happening (or is being described-alluded to) here. …

 

*—THESIS – ANTITHESIS – SYNTHESIS.

… —the in-itself, the for-itself, and the in-and-for-itself.

 

 

*—The mirror stage represents the birth of the “I” (in its most ‘primordial’ form) in and from language (—the ‘symbolic matrix’): the inscription, so to (and, subsequently, the saying) of the letter-word (—the name-self-naming): “I” … —recognition (identification with, and acceptance) of the image—the image of the body as discrete,—amongst other discrete things and persons. …

 

Let’s call the “I” here,—the ‘in-itself’ (or THESIS—first moment-mode of the dialectic), then. …

 

—The subject becomes (a) ‘for-itself’ (—ANTITHESIS) in-through becoming—recognising its status as—an object for another subject (—for the ‘other’ … ), as the other becomes (at the same time), through identification with it, itself a (another) subject (—another I that says “I”) for the thus objectified subject. …

 

*—the subject sees itself as an I that says “I” in relation to another I-other Is, and thus sees itself as an object (—become an object for itself). …

 

The subject then has its subjectivity restored to it (having thus become object for-itself), in the universal (—as subject for another subject-other subjects), and becomes (an) ‘in-and-for-itself’ by synthesising (SYNTHESIS) this objectivity-for-another(-the other) and other-as-subject, with the original-primordial in-itself of the “I”. …

 

—becomes both subject and object.

 

—?

(—I hope that that all makes sense. … —is that right… —?).

 

 

*—To recapitulate… —the mirror stage, then, represents the birth of (the) “I” in-from the inscription (so to) (and, subsequently, the saying) of the letter-word (—the name-self-naming): “I” …

 

*—the recognition (—the, attempted, identification with, and acceptance) of the image—the image of the body as discrete,—amongst other discrete things and persons. …

 

—this is the “I” in its most ‘primordial’ form: as—unconscious, idealised mental image. …

 

*—(—ibid.). ‘This form would, moreover, have to be called *the ideal I’. …

 

*(—I want to come back to this notion-idea of the ‘ideal’ shortly here, and what I think it means. … ).

 

 

Lacan goes on to expand upon his claim to the priority of the “I” to social determination, and, for the first time in the essay, brings in the term with the most readily identifiably Freudian origins-roots: … —the ‘ego’. …

 

(ibid.).—

this form situates *|the *agency known as the ego|, prior to its social determination, in a *|fictional| direction that will forever remain irreducible for any single individual or, rather, that will only asymptomatically approach the subject’s becoming, no matter how successful the dialectical syntheses by which he |*must *resolve|, as I, his *discordance with his own *reality.

 

*the “I” exists (—is formed), for Lacan,—prior, then, to any social or intersubjective relations: … *—is a product of language (—the ‘symbolic matrix’), but is not originally determined by particular social situations-interactions. …

 

As I understand it (at least), the ‘primordial form’ of the “I” is not uncomplicatedly identified with the agency that will become known as the ‘ego’ here. …

 

—It acts to place or to ‘situate’ the ego in the sense that the “I” is what Lacan calls the ‘root-stock’ of all the identifications which will come after—be ‘secondary’ to—it. *(—see 76).

 

*—The ‘direction’ in which the ‘ego’ is thus placed, however, is *—‘fictional’.

 

 

—the revelation and recognition of (—validation of (so to), and identification with) the image in-of ‘the mirror stage’, then, are not… concerned with, or (even) oriented toward (the) truth. …

 

*the image—as unconscious, idealised mental image—is not a true image (—is not an image that reveals truth), and the (name-naming of the) “I” (—as ‘ideal’) contains nothing of truth of or for the subject (so to speak). …

 

—The image directs the subject toward a fiction (… —?),… —orients in a ‘direction’ (—a trajectory, of sorts) that is itself, then, fictional-a fiction.

 

*—neither the image nor the “I” are oriented toward, nor can they be reduced to the truth in the course of the development of the subject, no matter how successful the subject’s movement through the ‘secondary’ associations and social-intersubjective dialectical relationships are

*(—see the attempted description of the dialectic pointed to here,—above. … ), …
*—I want to come back to the notion of a *(—fundamental) discord between the subject and their ‘reality’, floated here, later, but note that such a resolution of discord is mooted here, by ol’ Jacques as a sort of ethical imperative (—‘must’). … ).

 

* … —rather than the image or the “I” being (attaining, or pertaining to truth), then, it is the structure (—the shape) of ‘the mirror stage’ itself which is ‘true’(-the truth). …

 

 

*—the ‘fiction’ here takes the form both the image—the image of the body—itself, and that of the subject’s comprehension (—recognition) of it and relationship to it. …

(ibid.). …

the *|total form| of his body, by which the subject anticipates the maturation of his power in a *|mirage|, is given to him only as a *gestalt, that is, in an *exteriority in which, to be sure, this form is more *constitutive than constituted, but in which, above all, it *|appears to| him as |the *contour of his stature| that *freezes it and in a symmetry that reverses it, in opposition to the *|turbulent movements| with which the subject feels he *animates it.

 

*The specular image in the mirror—the unconscious, idealised ‘imago’—presents the subject’s body to them as a ‘gestalt’: an organized whole that is perceived to be more than the mere sum of its parts…

 

—what it presents, then, is the ‘total form’ of the body—as unified, and as self-identical.

 

 

—The subject identifies with this ‘gestalt’ ‘total form’ (‘imago’)—as the ‘contour’ of their ‘stature’. …

 

*—That is (as I understand Lacan here),—the subject attempts to appropriate the ‘total’ unity of the image of their body (—to extend the reach of the unity and stasis of the shape of the image) to their psychic life,… and it is this attempted appropriation (—identification) that constitutes the “I”.

 

 

*—The image, however—precisely as gestalt, idealised and ideal… —is a fiction: a ‘mirage’.

 

 

—The fiction of the ‘total form’ (of the body) with which the subject identifies is constituted in and by ‘mirror stage’, rather than itself constituting (or engendering) the ‘mirror stage’.

 

—The ‘total form’ in-of the image does not exist prior to its constitution in (within) the mirror stage. …

 

What is constituted-created here, then, is an anticipation in-within the subject of its eventual coincidence (—co-incidence, so to) with the ‘total form’ in-of the image of the body—as an image of its potential(-possible) ‘power’.

 

* … —the ‘power’, that is (—I’d argue) to be able to ‘freeze’—to fix or to hold itself (so to), as the apparent ‘total’ or ‘gestalt’ ‘form’ in-of the image of the body is held-fixed—against the ‘turbulent movements’—what I’ll refer to-call here the *flux—of its actual psychic, physical, and temporal experience.

 

 

*—In ‘the mirror stage’, then, the body is falsely recognised (validated as, and identified with) as a fixed, static, unified ‘totality’…

 

—this image is a fiction, or ‘mirage’. …

 

—Importantly, I’d argue, Lacan plays again here on both the possible meanings of that term.

*[—I probably should acknowledge and emphasise that, as was the case with the term ‘recognition’ (above),  I’m relying on the use of the term in the English translation here, but, certainly in the case of ‘mirage’, I think this reading holds for the original French term. … ].

 

*‘mirage’:

(i).— an optical illusion,… —a… vision,… hallucination,… phantasmagoria, apparition, fantasy, chimera, or trick. These are often caused by atmospheric conditions… for example especially the popular (clichéd?) example of the appearance of a sheet of water in a desert or on a hot road caused by the refraction of light from the sky by heated air.

And/Or, … (ii).— an unrealistic hope or wish that cannot be achieved.

 

*—The ‘total form’ of the image of the body in the mirror, then, is a fiction and a mirage: an illusion (or,—trick of the light (so to) ), the desire for identity with which is spurred, then, (I’d argue) by a desire,… —a need,… —an unrealistic and (ultimately-finally) unrealisable hope,—for fixity. …

 

*… —The mirror stage represents an attempt to wrest (the fiction of a) fixity-stasis (—peace and security) from the chaos of an underlying (—pre-linguistic and (therefore) pre-egoistic) flux.

 

 

*—And this, I think, is why Lacan is able to talk about the ‘mirror stage’ *(—see 76.) as revealing both ‘libidinal dynamism’ *(that is,—*a movement of desire (so to) toward something: —in this instance toward a static, unified image of the self,… —toward an image of the self as discrete and independent… —a recognition of the discretion of things, and persons in-of the world. …),

 

… —and—and at the same time—as revealing an ‘ontological structure’ in-of the human world’.

 

 

*This ‘structure’, it seems to me, is essential to ‘The Mirror Stage’ essay, and seems, in fact, to be essential (in a grounding and/or a recurring way) in-to Lacan’s wider work-thought, so I want to move on now, by way of a sort of an aside (I s’pose), to consider the nature of the ‘ontological structure’ at stake in (or—revealed by) the mirror stage in more detail:

 

*… —to look at, and to try to define, the nature of the pre-linguistic and pre-egoistic flux; the nature of, and relationship between the ‘illusion’-mirage and the ‘ideal’, and what, finally (if anything) may be said to precede the mirror stage and to prompt it. …

 

… —Over on(-in) the main thread of this blog: *—The fold of the Artist, which I’m adapting from material from my doctoral thesis on artistic inspiration and the figure of the artist in the works of James Joyce and Friedrich Nietzsche *(—in a pretentious and foolhardy attempt to develop my own theory of art), I’ve already posted some work-material looking at some of these questions. …

 

—I’ve done some (—preliminary, and really, honestly, quite crude, partial, and… dilettantish) work on subjectivity, the emergence of the ego (= “I”) from language and an underlying pre-linguistic flux, in relation to Nietzsche’s early writing, and especially The Birth of Tragedy and the ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’ essay. …

 

—I’ve compared Nietzsche’s treatment of these questions in particular to the philosophy of Henri Bergson. …

 

 

*—As I mentioned in my introduction to the reading group, I’ve only taught on Lacan,… —I’ve never actually engaged, in-depth, with his work in my own studies – thesis.

 

Nevertheless,—… for a while, I’ve had a… sense (sic) that Lacan *(and, in this instance, his account of the mirror stage) actually frames the problems, philosophical questions, ideas and concepts I found myself drawn to and working on in Nietzsche and Bergson (as a way of framing my reading of the aesthetic theory in Joyce’s early fiction, and Modernist aesthetics and poetics more widely … ) more clearly and in-with more depth, and that (therefore) the work I’ve already done might help frame the way I want to read ‘The Mirror Stage’ (—the mirror stage) here.

 

 

So,…

I want to crave you indulgence fellow reading group readers, while I draw on some of the ideas I’ve already worked on (elsewhere) and some of the material I’ve already produced—in the next post…

 

*… —I’ve been (ridiculously slowly and gingerly) working my way back through, amending and (hopefully) developing my work on and reading of Modernist poetics and aesthetics over on the main thread, but I also, in what follows next here, want to jump slightly ahead of myself, and—in laying out my reading of the origins and structure of the mirror stage—to draw on a key idea from the work of the Modernist critic, poet, and aesthete T.E. Hulme,… —an idea which he himself adopts(-appropriates) from the work of Wilhelm Worringer: …

 

*—‘space fear’.