From: John Ransom <ransom@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 29 Apr 1997 12:22:08 -0400 (EDT)
On Sun, 27 Apr 1997, malgosia askanas wrote:
> I am re-posting this here because it may be of interest in the context of
> the transgression thread.
> Date: Sun, 27 Apr 1997 20:44:18 +0800
> To: bataille@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> From: dorothyn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Gwendolyn Nettlefold)
> Subject: hegel, bataille, lacan...???
> Hmm, hegel,bataille,lacan....???
> Like Lacan, Bataille studied Hegel via Kojeve.
> Kojeve states that for Hegel man is self-conscious; a 'knowing subject'
> who, in the utterance of "I", knows he is superior to nature. Hence, the
> Hegelian subject can separate himself from objects, contemplate them and
> speak of them: 'The object, and not the subject, is what shows itself to
> him in and by - or better, as - the act of knowing'(1969: 3). This
> 'Desire' to know is an 'emptiness' to be filled in order to become a
> rational 'subject', overcoming the 'biological reality' of animal life.
> The knowing subject is transcendent, 'he' transcends the immanence of
> immediate experience and biological reality.
Yes, so as the existentialists in their own way made clear to us, the
human being is always already a projection of its possibilities into an
indefinite future. The human being is "present to consciousness" in a way
that is not possible for animals.
> Kojeve argues that one's self consciousness emerges in the utterance of
> 'I', and that desire is the vital factor in the Hegelian dialectic. It is
> the acknowledgement of his own desire, as something separate from the
> desired object, that is the key to consciousness.
I don't think that's right. Desire can't be the "vital factor" in the
Hegelian dialectic. True, Hegel does say that nothing of value in the
world is achieved without passion, but surely the truly vital factor in
the Hegelian dialectic is the (promised) reconciliation between desire and
> This is depicted as a
> forward movement, towards distinction between subject and object and
> subsequent recognition of the desired object as separate from himself.
Is the object in question desired, made, or both? The answer is
consequential for the alleged separateness of the object from the
> Desire represents an emptiness,
No, not an emptiness. Yearning is different from emptiness. Yearning is
consciousness of the thing desired in its absence, and is quite different
from emptiness, which signals the end of desire.
> a wanting for something other, "not-I".
No, not a wanting for something "not-I". Instead, desire seeks to
incorporate into itself the others and the not-I's.
> The desire then, represents an inadequacy in this schema;
Inadequate only if it is unable to satisfy itself.
> the desire
> represents an emptiness with regard to the object of desire so long as the
> subject and object are not differentiated, in which case there is no "I".
How does the desire represent an emptiness with regard to the object of
desire? Does that even make sense? Desire doesn't represent an emptiness
with regard to the object of desire. With desire, one is full of a
cognitive representation of the desired object(s). Desire isn't empty at
all; it's full (of cognitive representations of the desired object(s)).
And why is there no "I" if subject and object are not differentiated?
> It is this 'emptiness' which needs to be 'negated' through recognition of
> the "non-I" by the "I": the subject ("I") is then conceived as separate
> from the object ("non-I").
I think the opposition between 'I' and 'non-I' is much less absolute than
as presented here. "The Hegelian subject moves from plenitude to
It's not that emptiness is negated through the recognition of the non-I;
it's that being is confirmed and made more concrete through recognition of
the non-I. Not a "negation of emptiness" but a "confirmation of being."
> The dialectical movements depicted above
But the moments described are too far away from each other; not enough
like twins. Hegel would say (as if I know!) that the above reading of
dialectics is "too abstract."
> represent an initial "affirmation"
> in immediate experience, followed by a sense of inadequacy,
A sense of inadequacy? Relative to what? One possibility is that the
affirmation is inadequate to its source. Thus I may affirm my own
essential freedom by choosing to write poetry, but what if, let's say, the
poetry I write isn't very good? I affirm myself in the process of writing
poetry, but this affirmation is followed by a sense of inadequacy, if the
poems I write are no good. But what if the poems *are* good? Would I still
feel a sense of inadequacy?
> so that the
> second step requires a "negation" of the experience of subject/object
I'd like to suggest that "negation" is too abstract and too definitive a
word for what Hegel has in mind. It's too exclusive.
> The third and final step in Hegel's dialectic is an awareness of
> the subject's 'knowing itself to be knowing', thus realising its own role
> in constituting the object for itself. This is the process of "synthesis",
> enabling a deeper view of the process and hence a 'higher' movement, a
The above is an interesting point indeed. One of the things we've been
talking about is the divide between transgression and trasncendence. But
with Hegel and the existentialists, there is a strong sense in which
transcendence is written into our ontological code. If that's true, then
on some level the transgression/transcendence dyad can't really be given
up. One possibility I've been thinking about lately -- and I wrote a paper
for the New York State Political Science Association meeting on this if
anyone is interested -- is a conception of transgression that did not
require the move to transcendence. (And I've learned a lot from the
various comments made on this list concerning this topic.) But perhaps if
we take seriously this Hegelian/existentialist read, "transcendence" is
worked into the most basic features of what it means to be a human.
> Each cycle of affirmation-negation-synthesis of the subject
> is called 'mediation', the mediation of immediate experience, or
> subject/object fusion, into knowledge (Muller & Richardson 1982: 362).
Surely "fusion" is too strong of a word. Also, the
affirmation-negation-synthesis thing is too abstract. I don't think it
captures what H is up to.
> Bataille reinstates value to the immediacy of experience; that which needs
> to be 'negated' in the Hegelian dialectic. Hegel's dialectic of knowledge
> assumes that once we have the ability to separate subject and object in
> knowledge, all experience can be known in objective knowledge.
I don't think the above is right. Hegel does not think that immediate
experience should be negated. What is immediate experience but a form of
freedom? "Immediately" I am this potentially infinitely free individual.
It's like the old family story about the mother telling the child that he
or she "can be anything they want to be" when they grow up. In order to
become effective, my "immediate" but undeveloped form of freedom, which
perhaps has more to do with potential than with freedom, must concretize
itself in the world. I can be anything I want, but when I act I must
become something in particular. The question is, in becoming something
particular, do I "negate" (as the writer here indicates) the immediacy of
experience, or negate the universal kind of freedom present in unfulfilled
potentiality? Not at all -- I make it richer.
> theory of inner experience contests Hegel's position that immediate
> experience must always be transcended in order to have meaning for someone.
> Rather, for Bataille, inner experience retains meaning in and of itself,
> but it is not the valued status of meaning that is given to objective
Initially I feel like siding with Hegel and the need for transcendence
against Bataille's focus on "inner experience retaining meaning in and of
itself." I'm just not sure what B's comment means here.
> Bataille contests the notion of Absolute knowledge, arguing that Hegel's
> system had omitted an essential aspect of life: 'The open wound that is my
> life, the erotic desire for the other, the tears or laughter that distance
> us'(Besnier 1995: 20). These immanent experiences are the 'excess' which
> Bataille writes about.
I don't think Hegel can fairly be charged with omitting an essential
aspect of life that has to do with "the open wound that is my life, the
erotic desire for the other, the tears or laughter that distance us. Hegel
himself is a big fan of the passions.
> Lacan applies psychoanalytic theory to Hegel's transcendent speaking
> subject. Like Bataille, Lacan was influenced by Kojeve's lectures on Hegel
Kojeve's lectures on Hegel put too much distance between the reader and
what Hegel says. The reader thinks they are having Hegel explained to
them, but it's really Kojeve that they're learning.
> so that Lacan too conceived the 'true' self to be an unnameable 'other'.
> =46or Lacan, all subjects are "castrated" representing the 'lack' or 'manqu=
> a etre' of desire which can never be articulated. For Lacan all subjects
> are decentred so that the 'I'/'je' who speaks is never the same as the
> 'me'/'moi' of experience.
> Nevertheless, in his account of the 'speaking subject', I think Lacan's
> schema adheres more closely to Hegel's dialectic of transcendence.
Remind me again (or not, if you don't want to) of "Hegel's dialectic of
transcendence." See above.
> In this
> process both Hegel and Lacan depict an initial 'affirmation' in immediate
> experience, followed by inadequacy, which is negation, and then a
> reconciliation of two previous movements into a deeper view of the process
> and hence a 'higher' movement.
With accounts like the above, the mechanics of the process are valued over
an explanation of the process.
> Each cycle of
> affirmation-negation-synthesis of the subject is a 'mediation', the
> mediation of immediate experience into knowledge, (Muller & Richardson
> 1982: 362), or the transcendence of immanence. Lacanian psychoanalysis
> investigates the transition from the immanence of merged existence ('not
> I') through a process of negation and affirmation, transcending immanence
> to formulate the speaking subject ('I').
> But isn't the difference between Lacan and Bataille that Lacan speaks of
> the inarticulable 'moi' (which is more aligned to the mirror stage) and
> Bataille is concerned with merged existence (prior to the mirror) where
> there are *no* objects or subjects???
> Bataille is more concerned with the immediacy of experience; the 'loss' of
> subject/object relations. Central to Bataille's notion of inner experience
> is the coalescence of the subject and object of experience. For Hegel this
> state of immanence needs to be transcended in order that there could emerge
> a knowing subject. For Lacan this subject/object merge is "castrated" or
> permanently removed to constitute the lack. So I think Lacan adheres more
> to any Hegelian notion of transcendence than Bataille.???
> "At a
> particticular point in the text, Lacan says something like we need the 10
> commandments so that we can spend our time breaking them. This has puzzled m=
> for several days, and I wonder if there are those on the list who are more
> familiar with this link to Bataille than I.
> I will look at the text a bit closer to examine this problem if anyone is
> interested in discussing this topic".
No limit, no transgression. But the will-to-transgress is basic to human
nature. Thus things like the Ten Commandments are needed. But I would have
to read Bataille more carefully to have a chance at saying something
useful in this section of the post.
> Is this referring to Bataille's notion of transgression. I guess that's
> the important point that pulls Bataille's critique of a Hegelian dialectic
> together. The immediate experience (which occurs in the recognition of
> one's animality and a subsequent horror, leading to non-knowlege)
> transgresses the limits of culture (the Oedipal limits of the
> socio-symbolic contract?) to make up the 'totality'.
> In other words the immanence (immediate experience/animality) is not a
> 'base' of "nature" that we transcend as we learn to speak and enter
> culture. Rather, as John Lechte puts it, immmanence and transcendence
> always form an axis to make up the totality. Transcendence can never fully
> expel immanence. "Nature" is implicit in "culture" but it is heterogenous
> or non-homogenous.
> Gwen Nettlefold
> Masters Candidate
> The Department of Philosophy
> The University of Tasmania
> ph: (03) 6226 7848