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

kenneth.mackendrick at kenneth.mackendrick at
Mon Mar 27 06:28:45 PST 2000

On Sun, 26 Mar 2000 20:33:03 -0500 Dace <edace at> wrote:

> Bataille. Let's see. He liked to deface things, right?

Close enough.

> You and I clearly come from radically different intellectual starting points.
But we can still connect. All of us speak according to the same grammar, and this shapes the way we think. Of course, we're each unique, but our differences exist only in the context of our profound similarities. We tend to get fixated on the differences and lose sight of the common ground. The differences between an evangelical Christian and a Buddhist monk and a dialectical materialist are superficial compared to the overlappings that we take for granted. If we didn't share a fundamental orientation, we couldn't even comprehend how we're different.

So... what is the fundamental orientation we share? The fact that we share the same grammar, hypothetically anyway, means we share form, and this says nothing of the content - form being abstract and without content.

> The subject is a thing-in-itself. It cannot be reduced either to mind or
matter, but it infuses and works through both. Is it my fingers tapping the keyboard, or am *I* tapping the keyboard? Is it my mind that thinks, or am *I* thinking? I'm not referring to the ego, which is merely our self-image and our set of identifications and desires. I'm talking about the subject which perceives and identifies and desires.

For Lacan, the ego is the point of imaginary identification, which seems to be similar to what you've mentioned above. The ego, then, is the Other of the subject, the subject is what is eclipsed by the ego (the "I"). It is the cogito that is the subject of the unconscious. I'm a bit confused by your distinction between the "I" as our self-image and our set [cite?, KM] of identifications and desires and the subject which perceives and identifies and desires. So the "I" is where we identify with our desire and the subject is what identifies our desire? I'm not clear on this. For Lacan, desire springs from the symbolic (the cogito) whereas the ego informs us of what we desire (through fantasy). So desire itself springs from the unconscious, whereas the "taming" or translation of desire emerges in the ego (desire wants what it is lacking, the ego translates this into something concrete - "cake!").

> There can be no perception without perceiver, no thought without thinker.

Yes, this is the difference between Lacan and structuralism, Lacan "rescues" the subject with an inverted Cartesian framework - against the structuralists. So Descartes "I think therefore I am" reads "I am not where I think." Being is eclipsed by thinking (the "forced choice" between the cogito and the mirror image).


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