Friday, August 23, 2013

Models & The Unconscious

 

(continued from Love Austerity)

- We have just begun to think, that is the most remarkable fact of history. Our technology, our science, is nothing compared to the job ahead.
- What job?
- To think our way out of where we've got ourselves.
- Where are we?
- Where what we have done without knowing what we are doing threatens our lives.
- Environmental destruction, nuclear war, terrorism, fundamentalism...
- We have philosophers, but...
- What's wrong with philosophers?
- Love of wisdom is beautiful, but are they wise in their philosophy? They make technical mistakes.
- What are they doing wrong?
- They talk about the unconscious, being, appearance, negation, void. They construct models that relate the terms to each other. Because each term has an "unconscious" aspect...
- How "unconscious"?
- They call upon multiple possible associations to give them meaning, and when they are used, the particular meaning is not settled upon. The multiple possibilities are there "unconsciously". Models constructed out of these elements can say or do anything. They do successfully explain our world. They would be equally successful in explaining every other world.
- Can models be constructed with words that don't depend on unconscious meanings?
- Yes.
- Give me an example.
- Use again Zizek?
- Ok.
- He says he can't account for the violence of Stalin against not only the Russian people, but also against his own party organization. Apparently he killed most of his subordinates.
- And your explanation?
- Let's bring in a testable model: ritual. A ritual is:
- a regularly repeated action
- that strips individuality
- performed in a group
- concluding with a sense of power
- How is individuality "stripped"?
- By acting passionately: with hatred, anger, fear. Running away from, and running towards.
- Running towards what?
- The conclusion of the ritual, and the safety found in the repetition of an action among your group. Do you see any unconscious element to any of these words?
- Actually, yes. Power. Safety.
- Power is our expectation to go on repeating the same actions safely, that is, without obstacle. Ok?
- Yes. But how is the model testable?
- Stalin's killing of his own people can't be explained by a theory of social classes in strife. It is explainable as ritual.
- Why practice that particular ritual?
- If you are already murdering millions of people not your immediate subordinates, and you don't murder your immediate subordinates, what is your relation to them?
- They work for you.
- But you are a ritualist. When you stop practicing your ritual, you are uneasy with the world. You're not prepared for what's outside. You work with your subordinates, but regular relation in a group is only a part of ritual, the passionate action and resulting sense of power are absent.
- Why not just say he killed because he was a killer?
- He killed his own group because he was a killer who found his place in his group. Take a look at  Zizek's favorite examples. In our times we are told to please ourselves in any way we want, just don't pay attention to economic relations. We are told to tolerate everyone, just don't do anything to remedy any economic injustice they may be subject to. Tolerance is "love" without individual content, hedonism is pleasure without selection by individual judgment of better and worse. These are passions that establish the ritual of the everyday buying and selling economic life.
- Then you agree with Zizek.
- I see the same things as important: specific economic relations of buying and selling, emotions that are without individuality. You can't test "ideology" of "unconscious" connection between "tolerance" and "capitalism".
- How can we test your model?
- Look for the falsification: regular repetitive action in a group without supporting "passion", emotion without individuality.
- In history? In present societies?
- Can you think of falsifying examples?
- Of an organization that was without ritual?
- Obviously there are many organizations that are instrumental: they are tools that individuals use to accomplish purposes outside them. Organizations which serve themselves are, or the model says they are, those that create security for their participants by means of ritual. The question is, is this true?