The substance of the self (was Outlawing Fascistic Racist Speech)

kenneth.mackendrick at kenneth.mackendrick at
Sat Mar 25 16:58:32 PST 2000

On Sat, 25 Mar 2000 19:27:47 -0500 Dace <edace at> wrote:

> "We all need food." This isn't some sort of mysterious collective
unconscious, it's material.

> And matter is not mysterious? It has properties which act invisibly at a
distance. It can only be understood according to fields and energy. At its core, no human concepts have any application whatsoever. We have no idea how it relates to mentality or even if we're talking about two different things.

I'm not sure if you're familiar with Lacan or not, but I dont' really disagree with you here at all. Matter is Real (Lacanian sense) but we apprehend it through the symbolic supported by the imaginary.

> >If so, evolutionists are either behind the times or just cryptically

> It's a fact that the human mind evolved from the animal mind. The animal
mind is wholly unconscious, i.e. it lacks perception of itself.

Bataille? qua Darwin?

> Thus consciousness arises from unconscious mentality. Consciousness gives us
much greater possibilities than animals have for developing ourselves as individuals.

And as collectives...

> But even humans are all basically the same. If we didn't share the same
core mental orientation, we could not communicate.

I disagree that human beings are all basically the same. In a completely abstract way, this is true - but we don't share meaning of what being human means. For instance, the "reality" of a Buddhist monk is quite different from that of an evangelical or a dialectical materialist. Sure, we all need food, but some people don't actually think so (Christian Science?). To say that we're all the same inside is to agree with Disney, and this invalidates a huge chuck of anthroplogical and cultural research which points out that even if we're all made of carbon and junk, we don't live in the same world.

> So they can never find life, because they're looking for some kind of
> mechanism. They can never find memory, because they're looking for stored
> information. They can never find information, because they're looking for
> ordered molecules. They can never find novelty, because they're looking for
> a rearrangement of pre-existent elements, and so on and so on and so on.
> Is that what you're saying?

Um...maybe. Reducing things to 'yes' or 'no' is inadequate when it comes to looking at a good many things "social."

> Are you saying that the substance of our existence is our relation with each
other and with objects? As though there's nothing internal to us?

Yes, as SUBJECT. I'll stress this because subjectivity isn't identical with materiality. As far as material goes, there is a great deal of shared matter, but in terms of subject, the subject is not substance.

> Perhaps I should have written, "Freedom is intrinsic to nature." In other
words, there is genuine novelty to nature and not merely pre-determined possibilities which become actualized.

Contingency is intrinsic to nature.... I'm not sure this equates to freedom.

> Human beings, as subjects, lack freedom? What does this mean?

We live in a world of "forced choices" - thinks which determine us (although never completely) - eg. language, embeddedness...


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list