Non-Psychoanalysis pt. 1 – Drive and the Unconscious

The notion of Drive is one of the more heavily abused concepts of psychoanalysis while simultaneously one of it’s most extracted (save mirror stage induced alienation). Laruelle adopts Drive in relation to his vaunted force-of-thought and states that it is the “Other name for the force (of) thought as organon of the One and for its action of a pragmatic nature on the World or philosophy-material.” This needs to be dissected. For Laruelle, the force-of-thought is the instance of thought prior to the mediation of philosophy – it is the instance of thought prior to its fetishization via various noetic paradigms. The One, or vision-in-one, or the Real, is the given without givenness as such, which is experienced as a pure immanence. This Real cannot be thought of but along with or according to and hence Drive is taken by Laruelle as the force of this One in the World.

Laruelle diverges from Lacan when he states: “This drive is deprived of negativity or representativity and ignores the play of forces as well as the functions which engage in transcendence or in the logico-real order.” Here we see the implicit articulation of drive in Brassier’s Nihil Unbound, that is, the Drive functioning according to the axis of iteration and not the axis of alteration.

Laruelle goes on to say:

“The One is effectuated as pulsional. Drive [pulsion] is the Other or the Unconscious whereas in its psychoanalytic sense, drive is the mark of the Other.”

According to Laruelle then, Drive becomes the unknown force which has a cause but no meaning – embodying the given-without-givenness in the World of Thought. What is curious is Laruelle’s insistence that the drive is the mark of the Other. Yet, what evidence exists for this in Freud or Lacan? In every example of the Drive (which I know of) it is an act (much in line with Laruelle’s force of thought) indifferent to the Other. This is nowhere more clear than in the so called ethics of the Real where, against Antingone who in fact held too close to her desire (the object of her brother’s corpse in relation against Creon’s decree) one does not merely pursue their desire to a suicidal degree, but one gives up that very desire itself. Or, as Alenka Zupancic puts it near the end of her Ethics of the Real, one must sacrifice the very frame of desire itself. One of Zizek’s best examples is the following:

“imagine a wife phoning her husband in the last seconds of her life, telling him: “Just to let you know that our marriage was a fake, that I cannot stand the sight of you…”

The non-philosophical strand here should be fairly apparent – the point of such an act is not that it simply keeps desire going, that is, by going on to other objects – so called new desires, but that the conservative frame of desire itself is disrupted – it is the movement from thought (as object) to the force of thought, or from thinking the Real to thinking with the Real. Here we can understand Laruelle’s removal of the axis of alteration which he replaces with an (implicit) axis of duplication. By reading the axis of alteration as an ontological pollution of drive, Laruelle can claim that the Drive is the mark of the Other when in fact it is marked by the Other. This is untenable for Laruelle since the Drive, as the force-of-thought in the World, must utilize the transcendental material without being affected by it.

For Laruelle, the unconscious can only function if it is pure output, pure pulse, without ever being tempered by experience or thought. To assume that the unconscious can be formed, according to Laruelle, would be to fetishize it, to give it a form of being and therefore always already given to philosophy. Laruelle seems to take Lacan almost too literally in that looking at the “unconscious is structured like a language,” he assumes that language must therefore pre-exist it. When Lacan argues that the signifier preceeds the signified this does not mean that language itself exists prior to the unconscious but simply that the economy of presence and absence (verified by things such as the gaze test in infants) exists in the unconscious as such.

However, any scientific or empirical proof of the unconscious would most likely be dismissed as already caught in the pincers of philosophical decision. Yet, despite the aforementioned example of Zizek’s act, the (Lacanian) Real appears in various modalities, most radicality as an Schellingesque unground or Parallax Real.

Taking the unconscious as an unground that stretches from the Real to the transcendentally material (thereby asserting a phenomenology that is at a non-empirical speed or register) – the unconscious would be a point where the immanence of the Real as non-sufficient is, instead of enveloped via philosophical decision, is obfuscated alongside the transcendentally material birth of the subject as a foreclosed experience or unintentional-intentionality or what we could call formative accidents.

In other words, cloning is stained by the tools of its own operation – that is, some material must be unintentionally cloned via the operation of non-philosophy. The psychoanalytic rejoinder to non-analysis would not be that the transcendentally material directly affects the pulse, the output of the drive, but that the cloned articulation of the One put to work in the World of Thought, gets its feet dirty, that it grasps not only the immanence of the Real but the simultaneously precarious and generative seed of the Real. This mutagen would serve to both deform the clone (disrupting the scission of the clone from its transcendentally material base) and save the clone from (eventually) being lost in decisionalism (once it has been immersed in the practice of philosophy). It is the unconscious as such which allows for the indirect separation of the stranger, the non-subject – it is what ultimately guarantees our critical loneliness.

Such a conceptualization calls for the following:

1 – A non-phenomenological theory of Paul Virilio’s dromology (or speed of experience as both conscious and unconscious) with the help of the concept of non-locality.

2 – A thoroughly psychoanalytic or non-analytic claim to metaxy or inbetweenness that is an always already failed non-relation of the immaterial and the material.

3 – A transcendentally material appropriation of energeia or being-at-work (between movement and change but not becoming) as a simultaneous disruption, and motor of, the force-of-thought in the world.

3 thoughts on “Non-Psychoanalysis pt. 1 – Drive and the Unconscious

  1. As I’m sure you know, I think this is the big point of difficulty in your proposed project:

    “Taking the unconscious as an unground that stretches from the Real to the transcendentally material (thereby asserting a phenomenology that is at a non-empirical speed or register) – the unconscious would be a point where the immanence of the Real as non-sufficient is, instead of enveloped via philosophical decision, is obfuscated alongside the transcendentally material birth of the subject as a foreclosed experience or unintentional-intentionality or what we could call formative accidents.”

    Namely, showing how this can occur while upholding all the essential dictates of non-philosophy or non-correlationism. Not that it’s an impossibility, but it’s difficult. In Brassier’s account of Henry and Deleuze he attacks them precisely for their hybrids – those points where the fundamental dualities of their systems meet and are synthesized. So the problem is how to combine the aspects you want, without making it a hybrid in Laruelle/Brassier’s sense. (At least, as I’m understanding your project here.)

    I wonder if you could say a bit about the distinction between the axis of alteration and the axis of iteration too? They might be psychoanalytic terms that I’m just not familiar with… but they seem to play a significant role in your distinguishing of Zizek and Lacan from Brassier’s arguments.

  2. The issue I think is one of temporality and, I think that my issue here might have quite a bit in common with your post on Brassier’s reading of Deleuze’s sense of time. I think that my biggest issue with Laruelle is that he seems to think that psychoanalysis thinks of the Real as an object when, in fact, the Real as object only appears in another form, that is, when already immersed in the transcendentally material.

    That is, as fink discusses in Time Driven against phenomenology, the unconscious and the conscious do not create a synthesis which would explain reality because the inexplicable real would still exist. The unconscious is what must be presupposed in order for consciousness itself to make sense in a similar fashion in which the Real which cannot be thought of but can only be thought with presupposes the matter/material of immanence.

    My biggest issue with Brassier (especially in his dissertation) and Laruelle is how flawlessly it seems the stranger can take a step back and immaculately clone – in psychoanalysis, one always pollutes every action with jouissance, psychosis et cetera.

    Here’s Johnston’s definitions of the axes from Time Driven:

    Axis of Iteration: consists of the drive source (the regularly repeated demand for satisfaction issued by the drive) and the drive-pressure (the displeasure or anxiety of accompanying an unmet demand of the drive-source, namely the negative affective avatar of the drive-source).

    Axis of Alteration: consists of the drive-aim (the achievement of the satisfaction demanded by the drive-source or the reduction of the tensions experienced as a result of the drive-pressure) and the drive-object (the ideational representative of the drive, the mnemic traces of privileged object-choices influencing the various vicissitudes of the drive). (p. 14-15).

    This split of the drive between these two axes, for Johnston, has to do with the deeply temporal nature of psychoanalysis, in particular, the tension between determinism and freedom. Essentially, Johnston argues that human existence is pulled between various temporal registers which affect one another where Brassier seems to downplay this fact and seems to suggest that since humans’ experiences are recorded on multiple temporal registers, that time, understood via being, must be totalizing and correlationist. I don’t see how he can argue this convincingly.

  3. OK, I think I have a better idea of where you are coming from now. Thanks for the definitions from Johnston too. A couple additional comments…

    “My biggest issue with Brassier (especially in his dissertation) and Laruelle is how flawlessly it seems the stranger can take a step back and immaculately clone – in psychoanalysis, one always pollutes every action with jouissance, psychosis et cetera.”

    I can understand wanting to infect the clone with some of the philosophical material, but isn’t this flawlessness in some sense the point of the clone? It’s sort of like Husserl’s transcendental reduction in that Laruelle is attempting to evacuate real immanence of all philosophical determinations. In doing so, though, anything familiar has to go, including psychoanalytic concepts like jouissance or drive. Moreover, after this evacuation of everything philosophical (and psychoanalytic) real immanence is taken not as something ineffable and mysterious, but simply as mundane and uninteresting. As a result, there’s no desire (and Laruelle uses that word to describe philosophy) to determine the Real anymore.

    But I’m not entirely sure. I have a couple general questions about Laruelle’s project, which may be naive ones, but they also might highlight something relevant to both of us if I articulate them.

    The first one being – who/what carries out the non-philosophical cloning? Is it the clone itself, as always already there? Or is it a subject internal to the philosophical world? Is it some specific non-philosophic philosopher?

    And the second – what relation does the force (of) thought have with thought as we normally understand it? Asking about the relation is a pretty philosophical question, so that may already invalidate it. But why does Laruelle retain terms like ‘man’, ‘in-person’ and ‘force (of) thought’ if there’s no relation to thought in a philosophical sense? Brassier critiques him for this stuff, but it still seems like a valid question to raise with respect to Laruelle. I think this question also touches upon any relation non-philosophy might have with psychoanalysis – even with Schelling and the move away from any individual unconscious.

    Anyways, I think the time thing is a really interesting angle (clearly, since I wrote about it too!), and I’d like to see where you take that. Psychoanalysis has a lot of resources for that project, so you could definitely make some well-founded criticisms in my mind.

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