Independent Colleges Dublin presents
Professor Levi R. Bryant (Collin College, Texas, USA)
‘Two Ontologies: Posthumanism and Lacan’s Graph of Sexuation’
With responses from Paul J. Ennis and Michael O’Rourke
2pm-4pm, Tuesday July 3 2012, Independent Colleges Dublin, 60-63 Dawson Street, Dublin 2
Initially it would seem that Lacan and posthumanism make uncomfortable bedfellows. Posthumanism rejects the centrality of the human within being, treating humans as beings among other beings, and seeks to recognize the autonomy and contributions of nonhumans to social formations rather than focusing on beliefs, norms, signs, signifiers, and ideologies alone. In his focus on language and the symbolic, Lacan seem starkly opposed to such an orientation, instead treating the world as an effect of the signifier (which is a “human” formation). Indeed, in Seminar XX, Lacan says that “the universe is the flower of rhetoric”, implying that beings are products or effects of signifying systems. However, while Lacan himself does not seem to advocate a posthumanism, closer scrutiny of his thought offers powerful resources for thinking the posthuman and queer. Unlike postmoderns and some post-structuralists– for example Baudrillard in his System of Objects –Lacan is not so much a thinker of how the signifier and symbolic structure reality as he is a thinker of the limits and constitutive incompleteness of the symbolic and the illusory attempts to cover over this incompleteness. This becomes apparent above all in Lacan’s graph of sexuation, where the two “sexuated” positions outline formal deadlocks that emerge when the symbolic order tries to totalize itself without remainder. Far from advocating the sovereignty of the signifier in constructing the universe, Lacan’s Goedelian structuralism endlessly shows the impotence and incompleteness of the signifier. Under this reading, the masculine side of the graph of sexuation turns out to be the side of semblance that strives to cover over the gaps and inconsistencies of the symbolic through a transcendent supplement. By contrast, the feminine side of the graph of sexuation becomes the side of truth, marking the limits of language and signification and opening on to entities which are beyond the realm of language and culture. An ontology cognizant of the way suggested by the formal deadlocks discovered by Lacan points the way to a posthumanism capable of opening on to nonhumans and that no longer places humans at the center of being but rather treats them as beings among other beings.
Biographies of participants:
Levi R. Bryant is a professor of philosophy at Collin College and a former psychoanalyst. He is the author of The Democracy of Objects, Difference and Givenness, and co-editor, with Graham Harman and Nick Srnicek of The Speculative Turn. He has written numerous articles on Lacan, Žižek, Badiou, Deleuze, and object-oriented ontology. He currently lives outside of Dallas, Texas.
Paul J. Ennis completed his PhD in Philosophy at University College, Dublin. His recent publications include Continental Realism (Zero Books, 2011), and ‘The Transcendental Core of Correlationism,’ Cosmos and History (2011). He is an associate editor at the journal Speculations: Journal of Speculative Realism.
Michael O’Rourke lectures in the School of Psychotherapy at Independent Colleges, Dublin, Ireland and works mostly at the intersections between Queer Theory and continental philosophy. Some of his many publications can be found here: http://independentcolleges.academia.edu/MichaelORourke
2.00-2.05 Opening Remarks
2.05-2.50 Levi R. Bryant, “Two Ontologies: Posthumanism and Lacan’s Graph of Sexuation”
2.50-3.00 Response from Paul J. Ennis
3.00-3.10 Response from Michael O’Rourke
3.10-4.00 Discussion with Levi R. Bryant
Reading: In advance of the seminar delegates should read Part 6, “The Four Theses of Flat Ontology”
The html version of the book can be accessed here: