Category Archives: Ethics
The number of self-help books being churned out by presses both small and big is skyrocketing. Some have speculated—reasonably enough—this can be seen as a manifestation of popular [res]sentiment coming to grips with socio-economic and geo-political realities that make it difficult to nurture, and preserve a coherent self-concept. The surge in the genre’s prolixity and chutzpah can seem impressive if one doesn’t know that several of the glossiest Bestsellers are often books that experts have on their “Not Recommended” lists. The wicked spawn of self-improvement books that adorn our bookstores and discount retail chain stores is as much a haphazard monument to our restless ambitions as it is a symptom of our merely nominal existence. If we were having the best sex of our lives we would perhaps have no need for How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale (2012) by Neil Strauss [and Jenna Jameson], and the legion that is other such titles.
On the one hand we have a fixation with the idea of youthful longevity through lifestyle change and the over-eager technological utopianism offered us make us giddy, and on the other hand we face the imminent danger of ecological catastrophe, an earth too fragile to bear our continued exploitations of its resources. Indeed, as Philip Auerswald puts it “As the fact of global climate change alone indicates, Malthusian spectres of demographic doom are regrettably still very much with us”. It is not that we do not wish to change the world but that the world changes without our help; slowly ever more globalised market mechanisms leave more and more of us behind on sinking ships earmarked for the unemployed, the unemployable, and the underemployed. Without the slightest irony, thrown between pleasure and near certain extinction we are obsessed with lists like Five self-help books that want to change [y]our life. This is no exaggeration…one could be more observant, more pessimistic…
The urban chic set that keeps abreast with the latest fashionable causes to vent its self-projections and insular anxieties seems to be staking a rather hazy claim to civic consciousness in India. A jejunating gerontocrat with an Oedipal grouse against corrupt politicos, and who wants to discipline drunkards by the lynch ‘em dry method, here gains prominence and lingers like a tepid stench long after his garrulity is spent achieving sweet fuck-all—with relative ease in our media saturated epoch. Adding vacuity and loquacious fanaticism to the masses’ burgeoning discontent are tabloids, blogs and television chatterati screaming shrilly their manifestos geared at [in]voluntary political quietism. When one’s attention is driven to his own pecuniary lack he is quickly driven to chagrin about black-money he hasn’t any means to extradite from subterranean governmental hands. This personal-frustration-driven politics is dangerous inasmuch as personal agendas are apt to end in rash manipulative gestures of political will. In a diverse country like India individualism would be the straw that broke the bullock’s back.
That the desire to improve one’s lot to the point where spending several hours a day on a treadmill is not only acceptable but profoundly desirable bespeaks a very peculiar attitude towards life, and what might be wrested from it. For one, it is a morbid obsession with a self-image, it is also a vain commitment to a self isolated from any substantiality beyond its commitment to its own image, reflected through a prism of phantasms and Aunt Dianaesque discourses. From the hives of our identitarian commitments we all clamour for audience and control, [we the Liberals/ Conservatives/ Nationalists!] , and in our unwieldy synchrony with the zeitgeist of these communities, we are stabbed cold by the rabid devotions of our mobs. The idea of improving the self sounds deceptively salutary, even ethical these days; no, but can’t we see this slick, new self contrasted prejudicially against gits who weren’t addressed by our self-style-guides’ target demographic cohort?
Opportunism, hedonism, and activism seamlessly blend into the mediated space of national and international discourses among informed consumers; there is conversation, but there is also lies, chaos and oligopolies of branded guff. Each nation becomes an individualist cohort driven towards an ever-becoming-Galt, striking the globally ghettoised masses—figuratively—unionised in their dire straits as plunderers.
The more we try to reclaim individuality the more we find ourselves fractured between odds and ends of the selves we had long taken for granted, shorn for convenience, or from shame. NRIs settled in cosy Silicon Valley apartments send their patriotism packed avowals in jingoistic emails tweeting their approval of desi tyrants; personal activisms quickly precipitate national travesties. Influence also enslaves us; as we wait on the beck and call of the new fad we might as well read about how we can outsmart that thickly accented son of the soil @ the call center job, with grooming tips and One-Month-Guarantee Speak English classes.
Originally posted Here : < https://sites.google.com/site/scene46/home/self-help-is-the-worst-help >.
Auerswald, Philip. (2012). The Coming Prosperity: How Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Economy. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
Fresco, Jacques & Meadows, Roxanne. (2008). The Best That Money Can’t Buy: Beyond Politics, Poverty and War. Québec, Canada: Osmora Publishing.
Kennedy, Dan, S. (2008). No B.S. Marketing to the Affluent: No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Guide to Getting Really Rich. USA: Entrepreneur Press
Lomborg, Bjørn. (2001). The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. New York, USA: Cambridge University Press.
McGee, Micki. (2005). Self-Help, Inc: Makeover Culture in American Life. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
Norcross, John, C.; Campbell, Linda, F.; Grohol, John, M.; Santrock, John, W.; Selagea, Florin; Sommer, Robert. Eds. (2012). Self-Help That Works: Resources to Improve Emotional Health and Strengthen Relationships. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
 See McGee, Micki. (2005). Self-Help, Inc: Makeover Culture in American Life. New York, USA: OxfordUniversity Press.
 See Norcross, John, C.; Campbell, Linda, F.; Grohol, John, M.; Santrock, John, W.; Selagea, Florin; Sommer, Robert. (2012). Self-Help That Works: Resources to Improve Emotional Health and Strengthen Relationships. New York, USA: OxfordUniversity Press.
 See < http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Love-Health-Self-Guide/dp/1591200261 >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://www.flipkart.com/sex-your-questions-answered-01/p/itmdyuzr88ayheya >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See Kennedy, Dan, S. (2008). No B.S. Marketing To the Affluent: No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Guide to Getting Really Rich. USA: Entrepreneur Press. p. 23.
 See Fresco, Jacques & Meadows, Roxanne. (2008). The Best That Money Can’t Buy: Beyond Politics, Poverty and War. Québec, Canada: Osmora Publishing.
 Auerswald, Philip. (2012). The Coming Prosperity: How Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Economy. New York, USA: OxfordUniversity Press. p. 36.
 See < http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-03-05/ahmedabad/37469380_1_unemployed-youth-unemployment-figures-claims >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2012/11/23/young-jobless-and-indian/ >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_india-has-the-most-unemployable-population-report_1587604 >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://www.tradingeconomics.com/india/unemployment-rate >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jan/07/five-self-help-books-change-life >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 “Armed with diplomas and aspirations for upward mobility, a rapidly expanding consumer class is said to be driving political activism and, thanks to its media savviness, forcing the government to listen”. Fontanella-Khan, Amana. 24, January 2013. “India’s Next Revolution”. The New York Times. Accessed 22, March 2013. Available from < http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/25/opinion/indias-next-revolution.html?_r=0 >.
 “…[t]hey often pay hired help just Rs 4,000-5’000 per month, and complain if servants demand more. Middle class folk don’t want to calculate the per capita daily spending of their servant’s family. They resent servants constantly wanting more pay, even if this falls short of the very level they find outrageous when specified by the Planning Commission. This double standard is not restricted to paying servants. When middle class folk go to Dilli Haat to buy a sari, they will beat down the weavers to the lowest price possible. If told that the weaver earns only Rs 4,000 per month, will they change their attitude or agree that they have helped keep the weaver poor? No chance”. Aiyar, Swaminathan, A. “Middle class hypocrisy on the poverty line”. The Times of India. 02 October 2011. Accessed 22, March 2013. Available from < http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes .com/Swaminomics/entry/middle-class-hypocrisy-on-the-poverty-line >.
 See < http://www.ndtv.com/photos/news/top-20-surfer-comments-supporting-anna-hazare-10166 >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://www.indiatvnews.com/politics/national/anna-hazare-too-demands-death-penalty-for-rapists-7398.html >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-11-22/india/30428675_1_anna-hazare-ralegan-siddhi-alcoholics >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://lokpaldissent.wordpress.com/tag/anna-hazare/ >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
Negativity in Psycho-analysis
What is a person according to psycho-analytic theory? The answer, unfortunately, cannot be a neutral one. Just as any technical field of human knowledge requires technical definitions of its objects, tools and techniques psycho-analysis too proceeds through a stage of definitions. But, there is one marked difference in psycho-analytic theory: psycho-analysis is both a tool and a technique, and its object is to achieve or restore an individual’s capacity for affirming life as it really is.
What is life, really? Psycho-analysis cannot answer definitively—and does not purport to—for a variety of reasons. The idea that reality can be apprehended all at once, as naturally given to sense certainty, is anathema to psycho-analysis; yet, psycho-analytic realism is also innately conservative: it describes reality as the situations of life the way they are grasped by the common man, the reasonableness of everyday life and its institutions. This description of life, as that which is not fantasy, depends on a majoritarian index of the reasonable, the normal, the typical and the permissible. Freud allied his conservatism with a hope in the definitive progress of empiricism: the god Logos, he called his brand of reality.
It must be admitted that this description of reality is rather enigmatic; it offers no more clarification than does a myth for its queerness; the reality psycho-analysis appeals to is so wide as to preclude any positive description. To describe a real person from this view of reality would be to approximate a discourse proper to poetry, fiction or prophecy, not science, not philosophy. Accordingly, as a corrective to this tendency towards fantastic descriptions, psycho-analysis begins with scepticism as its first axiom or, as Freud pithily aphorised: “Where the id was the ego shall be”. All reality is a fabrication of instinct, but some ego-cathexes or fabricated realities are more tenable, scientific, and truer than other speculative truths.
The naturalism of Freudianism is eliminative. It describes reality after it has been shorn of delusion, intentional content and affective influence. Then, the vagueness of a consensual definition of reality as seen by society is overcome by psycho-analysis if only by a negative definition of reality committed to scientific verification. What is not scientifically demonstrable is suspect as fantasy, illusion, and pathology. Now, psycho-analysis can define a person: a person is a collection of symptoms that interact with the scientifically verifiable world. Accordingly, a religious person despite his education, occupational status, social capability and intelligence is neurotic because he is religious; a scientist is paranoid-obsessive if his overarching concern is to create a theory-of-everything because he presumes beforehand that such a theory is possible. Rather than be threatened with its rather tenuous descriptive power over a field of normative reality, psycho-analysis reduces the scope of positive description of reality to the range of demonstrable facts. This is both its epistemological merit and limitation.
Psycho-analysis is capable of calling the bluff on unfounded beliefs but cannot posit a positive description of reality. Each successive revision in scientific progress becomes one more ego-cathexis that approximates a total field of what can be called real legitimately. From this perspective psycho-analysis is an archaeology of the existing range of reality. It can explain how some symptoms are oriented towards the past and some symptoms are not compatible with the present situation and thus are gravitated towards a psychical crisis, or real life tragedy. The descriptions of psycho-analysis are essentially negative.
Then, how does psycho-analysis handle the idea of negativity qua negativity?
To conceive of the negative, in view of psycho-analysis, we must return to the idea of the negative in dialectics vis-à-vis psycho-analysis. Dialectics simply begins with the naïve sense certainty of reason that becomes capable of propositions by latching onto binaries of identity and difference, conformity and contradiction; then, by eliminating the non-contiguous or incompatible elements between these objects of consciousness; and, finally, by affirming the sum of what has been negatively described. Thus, the three stages of the Hegelian dialectic are uncanny analogues of the Freudian topographic triad of unconscious, preconscious and conscious. But the nature of this analogy is not determined in a compossible way. This is because psycho-analysis must question the very first instance of sense certainty with which the dialectic takes the liberty to begin a phenomenological account.
In the primary state of sense certainty we are in the domain of preconscious thought, by performing a reduction on sensory data by empirical verification we come to appreciate the gap between our expectations and reality. But, for psycho-analysis this movement has begun too prematurely; sense certainty is always suspect because we find it as a given. This is what Freud drives home using the idea of primary repression. The given sense certainty and our attitude towards it is not indicative of its veridical quality, after all satisfaction with what is perceived as reality is actually only a compromise-formation between the id, the superego and reality. But the suspicion of the psycho-analyst is also suspect for the same reason: it conforms to a knowledge it cannot have by definition. We must recall that there is no escape from the circular grip of Freud’s formulation: where the id was the ego shall be. Thus, we are led to reassess the claim of psycho-analysis against philosophy in light of its own inability to posit a positive description of what is reality without question begging.
If reality is a peculiar cathexis of the libido and the only way to be sure is to verify one’s beliefs scientifically it follows that there is no explicit teleological view in psycho-analysis. It can look behind and not forward because consciousness is redefined along the contours of empirical knowledge. Yet, because psycho-analysis must insist on looking behind it implicitly assumes that there is a reality which tends to escape consciousness; it believes this axiomatically, without empirical evidence. Thus, we have a paradox: the cogito which psycho-analysis calls into question is also constitutive of the psycho-analytical perspective; it cannot question its posited rationality-beyond-fantasy. Because psycho-analysis functions on the basis of suspicion it must believe in its a priori access to an inchoate gestalt of the whole truth.
The negativity of dialectical philosophy works by eliminating the contradictory contents of cognition and thereby effects a newer, more complete, synthesis. This movement of knowledge is akin to the development of science: hypotheses work as sense certainties extended into the realm of what is considered to be possible, or probable by the scientific community; then, conflicting evidence is understood to re-define the earlier assumptions; and, finally, new knowledge emerges as a new perspective on an earlier problem within the scientific community. This understanding of negativity cannot be taken as identical to the one espoused by psycho-analysis. For psycho-analysis the movement of scientific knowledge into the future by way of hypothesis is still a neurotic approximation of consciousness to an imagined reality, or ego-cathexis. Accordingly, the negative moment which separates facts from hypotheses in scientific practice become positive moments of ego-cathexis to the psycho-analytic theorist. Rather than look at the predictive value of hypotheses in the present moment the analyst must rely on his a priori suspicion to measure present hypotheses within older contexts of knowledge, and find them lacking in integrity until proven otherwise in the future. But this is absurd, for didn’t Freud profess the process of scientific illumination [Logos] to be the object of mature desire?
It is helpful, now, to remind ourselves of the peculiar nature of the Freudian reality principle. It is not just the influx and interpretation of stimuli available to consciousness, rather it is “…the truth of a personal history in a concrete situation” in relation to its fantastical elements. In this sense, it is not really the objective externality as it seems to the subject which is put to test against the id, the superego and the reality principle but it is the adaptation of the constitutive fantasy in accordance with the subject’s lived history. What this means is that we cannot look at the contingent developments of knowledge from a perspective that doesn’t take earlier historical developments in the state of this knowledge into account. Reality becomes, psycho-analytically speaking, the sum total of past facts of experience and the radical gap between what is now known, and what one subsequently hopes to do with this knowledge.
Reality is no less than a feedback-loop propelled by instincts and examined in hindsight, continually changing itself by self-reference and self-positing. Accordingly, what is conventionally thought of as the negative in the phenomenological perspective is no longer self-identical as the negative in the psycho-analytic scheme. Since the analytical gaze of the psycho-analytic session is situated in the present but derives its impetus and coherence from raking up the analysand’s past, the dialectical view of negativity is recast as a positive determination when seen from the analyst’s perspective. Therefore, the psycho-analytic notion of negativity involves a redefining of the present symptom, or facts of observation, into a meaningfully cohesive unity with the symptomatic past of the analysand. Simply speaking, the negative in psycho-analysis consists of positive descriptions of the present moment as they relate to the intentions of the subject in light of his previous adaptations to reality; the traumatic remainder between past experience and present action is psycho-analytic negativity. Rather than the speculative moment’s projective impetus which is available to the idea of the negative in phenomenology, in psycho-analysis the idea of the negative is determined in the subject’s relation to the aleatory contingency of his previous actions which have conditioned the present horizons of his reality.
To be continued.
Akhtar, Salman. (2009). Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. London, UK: Karnac Books.
Beiser, Frederick, C. Ed. (1993). The Cambridge Companion to Hegel. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Ricoeur, Paul. Trans. Ihde, Done. (2004). The Conflict of Interpretations. London, UK: Continuum.
Ricoeur, Paul. Trans. Savage, Denis. (2008). Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. New Delhi, India; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Ltd.
 “…[R]eality is first of all the opposite of fantasy—it is facts, such as the normal man sees them; it is the opposite of dreams, of hallucination”. Freud’s crypto-philosophy offers to call reality a god; the god Logos. This move is nothing but Freud inserting “…a bit of irony…in an ad hominem argument”. Available from <http://skepoet.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/psychoanalysis-psycho-dialectics-or-psycho-synthesis-or-why-hegel-is-not-freud-is-not-lacan/>.
 Beiser, Frederick, C. Ed. The Cambridge Companion to Hegel. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
 “Phenomenology begins by with an epochȇ of objects given to consciousness as sense certainty, in the first stage of the dialectic. Psychoanalysis begins by putting this givenness of consciousness and its objects and the epochȇ of the conscious thinker into doubt. “…[T]he true situation of consciousness is discovered” to be the motivating principle Eros and its instincts which clamour for satisfaction through feelings and intuitions in the analytical movement of Psychoanalysis. But, the synthetic movement of the dialectic takes the absence of visibly motivating instincts in feeling and intuition to be a proof for reason’s right to “…self-determination”. The suspicion of psychoanalysis and phenomenology is directed towards entirely different aspects of conscious thought”. Available from < http://skepoet. WordPress.com/2013/03/01/psychoanalysis-psycho-dialectics-or-psycho-synthesis-or-why-hegel-is-not-freud-is-not-lacan/>.
 Ricoeur, Paul. Trans. Savage, Denis. (2008). Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. New Delhi, India; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Ltd.
 Akhtar, Salman. (2009). Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. London, UK: Karnac Books. p. 52.
 Ricoeur, Paul. Trans. Ihde, Done. (2004). The Conflict of Interpretations. London, UK: Continuum.
 Ibid. p. 184.
Charley Earp is the blogger behind Radical Progress and Leftist Quaker and lives in the Chicago area. A Pentecostal preacher’s kid who lived with a commune for 9 years, which led to his political radicalization. A 3-time college drop-out with a day job in the travel industry, he is currently completing a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and planning to pursue a seminary degree focusing on congregational ministry and activism. No longer a Christian, yet actively involved with the progressive wing of Quakerism both locally, with the national Conference, and ecumenical and interfaith work. Born in 1963, married for 30 years, with two adult children. His current long-form writing project is a theo-political autobiography titled, “Jesus Made Me a Communist.” He is currently the acting Chair of the Socialist Party USA’s Commission on Religion and Ethics.
C. Derick Varn: We chatted via e-mail recently about the characterization of the right and left as religious forces, and you were provoked by many of Keith418’s points in a recent interview I did with him. . Would you like to go into that in more detail?
Charley Earp: What provoked me in that interview was the statement that American conservatism is fundamentally different than its European predecessor, and therefore somehow an illegitimate rightism. Keith418 seems utterly taken up with a tradition of the Right that has very little traction in the US, though Ayn Rand’s followers are often as anti-Christian as are the kind of Nietszcheans Keith admires. The majority of the American Right does come out of a Christian milieu, but that milieu has some strange incoherence within it.
I watched as the Christian Right began to take over the churches in the Pentecostal tradition where I grew up, and it was definitely a external intervention, not something organic to Pentecostalism. This seems also true of other Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches, that is, those that defend the inerrancy of the Bible. I would almost say that what distinguishes American rightism is the presence of a large group of radical protestants that by pedigree belong in either centrist or leftist politics, not the right.
The Baptists, who comprise the largest group of Christians in the US outside the Catholics, were founded as an opposition to the very idea of a European State Church. The Methodists/Wesleyans, the next largest group of US protestants originated and subsist in perpetual tension with state churches. The modern Christian Right in the US was largely inspired by Calvinist ideas of a “Christian Nation,” a proposition quite foreign to the conversionist ethos of Baptists and Wesleyans. By definition, these traditions deny that an entity like a nation can be Christian because that title is only conferred by a conscious conversion experience to salvation in Christ. Calvinism in its original Swiss incarnation had no such conversion emphasis. Salvation was a predestined election by God that was not conferred by faith, but by irresistible grace. Therefore, no separation of secular and religious realms were recognized, law itself derived from biblical revelation.
This crypto-Calvinist incursion into Evangelical and Pentecostal churches occurred as a deliberate campaign by the architects of the New Right. What has always fascinated me is how Christian conservatives hold in tension two opposed ideas, that of a minority converted remnant church with incongruous idea that the US needs to be restored to its Christian heritage. A favorite saying of conversionist theology is “God has no grandchildren” and that means heritage is nothing, one must be saved by an immediate conversion. Most Pentecostals, even today, believe that someday very soon Jesus will secretly rapture all “true believers” from the earth, leaving behind false churches and the heathen masses to become the followers of the Anti-Christ. It is a wholly pessimistic worldview that had zero room for political activism, only for evangelism to save the souls of those who would miss the rapture. It is that tension that I believe is now unraveling as the younger generation of Evangelicals abandon political conservatism, though most don’t thereby become leftists. Why they don’t is often predicated on systemic race, gender, and class predispositions.
C.D.V.: Who precisely do you see as responsible for sneaking a Calvinist streak into all forms of American evangelicalism, particularly given the semi-socialist orientation of a lot of Protestant churches in the 1920s and 1930s in the US?
C.E.: It’s all somewhat murky to me, though I am familiar enough with various trends in the 70s and 80s that shaped the New Christian Right. Certainly the neo-Calvinist idea of theonomism and the “Christian Nation” as refracted through Francis Schaeffer’s dispensational Presbyterianism played a role. Jerry Falwell’s emergence from the segregationist right in the 60s to head the anti-abortion and evangelical Zionist Moral Majority was also significant. Underlying all of this was the politicization of the capitalist class and their bid to mold a populist right front, with things like opposition to high taxes, and Milton Friedman’s 10-part laissez-faire documentary, “Free to Choose” that aired on PBS in early 1980 just as Ronald Reagan was consolidating his presidential campaign.
Christians of the more literalist sort tended to be apolitical right up until the mid-80s, when the successes of Reagan’s first term convinced even more of them to support his policies in 1984, including my father, a Pentecostal preacher who had always voted Democrat before 1984. I personally was headed towards the pacifist and anti-capitalist left following the lead of Sojourners Magazine. If there was a semi-Socialist bent to many churches prior to the 80s, it was probably strongest among liberals in the Wesleyan and Catholic traditions. My mother still complains about the Social Gospel she heard growing up Methodist and how much it didn’t preach the true gospel of individual salvation.
These days I think the nucleus for a Christian Left lies mostly with African-American and Latino churches. White Evangelicals are coming to question their parents’ conservatism, but there is still a strong core of the (White) Christian Right out there and the Tea Party is still trying to reinvigorate that 80s right populism. If the younger generation who supported Obama in 2008 – but ignored the mid-term election of 2010, thereby hamstringing many reform efforts that might have been possible – could learn their lesson and pull off another Democratic congressional majority win like 2006 in 2014, I think the political basis for a national shift to the left will solidify. Even though I believe that a socialist movement will have to form to the left of the Democrats and the Green Party, that is, through a Socialist Party, one strategic prerequisite for that development is to shatter the social and religious basis of the 80s New Right, by advocating some form of Christian Socialism or Social Democracy. This is my motivation for the “Jesus Made Me a Communist” presentations and publications I’ve been working on since late 2012.
That turn for me personally has meant a rapprochement to my Christian upbringing, which I discarded in 1996 for a Universalist Quakerism. In fact, by 2005, I’d become flatly nontheistic and doubted the existence of a historical Jesus. I haven’t become a Christian all over again, but I have decided that it is more important to convince Christians to become Socialists and Communists than it is to convince Atheists on the Left to embrace Christians. It seems to me that a New New Left will be a largely Christian phenomenon and atheists and Marxists will become a minority among socialists by mid-century. Of course, along the way Christians will become more “liberal” and less orthodox theologically. This phenomena is already visible in projects like the “Jesus Radicals” anarchist webzine or the left flank of Emergent Christianity.
C.E.: The decline of Protestantism is probably overrated, just like the long predicted demise of religion itself. While there has been a small uptick in the numbers of Atheists in the world, religion continues claiming new coverts and baptizing more babies every day. Statistically, religion has a lead on atheism that would take decades to outpace.
If you mean US “mainstream” protestantism’s decline, I actually think that what will happen in the next period will be that more Evangelical young adults will drift towards either secularism, alternative spiritualities, emergent Church models, or back to the benighted mainstream Protestants. The megachurches will fade into history, I believe, just like the mass urban cathedrals of an earlier period of American life.
Mainstream protestants are generally committed to ecumenical mutual recognition. Denominational mergers which consolidate bloated church bureaucracies will likely make it possible for a comeback for many currently declining denominations.
My liberal Quaker conference is impacted by several trends. We’ve just restructured our denominational practices, reducing paid staff significantly among other cost cuts in the aftermath of a donor crisis. Our sister body, Friends United Meeting, may actually be fatally crippled by its own internal inability to reach agreement on a way out of that same crisis. Some FUM meetings have decided that our conference is more congenial to their values, especially on same-sex marriage for example.
We’re one of the few mainstream Protestant bodies to post growth figures in the past two decades, but one key element in that was that some independent Quaker Yearly Meetings joined our conference. I think we are slowing losing numbers, especially in comparison to population growth rates. However, an uptick in membership such as we experienced in the Vietnam era might change this quite suddenly. We were at the forefront of the same-sex marriage movement and are also quite active in environmental and anti-war concerns. We may very well have mass appeal in some quarters as the Obama era rolls onward.
C.D.V.: I can offers up some specific statistics: Pews data is as follows: even white evangelicals have seen a decline in the last years data down from 21% to 19%, which was the first reversal in a long a time. Religiously unaffiliated has grown from 5% to almost 10% in since 2005. Specifically “White” mainline protestants have move from 19% to 15%. Catholicism has maintained its percentage, but this seems to be from immigration. Pew didn’t study minority groups, which is interesting because that is where growth would actually be. Is this in line with what you are talking about? Why do you think progressive positions have left to declining populations within religious circles since the 1950s? This is a trend that can be seen all over the developed world, not just the US.
C.E.: I’d imagine that Black churches have declined as well. The stasis of Catholic numbers is very likely based on immigration from Latino countries. However, the rise of the “nones” isn’t tied to a rise in Atheism, but of people avoiding church on Sunday. That might lead to more atheism, but the polls don’t show as sharp a decline in theism, as they do in religious affiliation. For years after I left my former church, I’d have said I still believed in God. From 1997 to 2004 probably. That suggests that just because people have disassociated from churches doesn’t mean they’ve become atheists.
To clarify my earlier point, the decline in mainline and evangelical churches is indicative of the contradiction of American culture. Conservative religion does very well during a general economic stasis or slow decline, like the 70s through the 90s. However, as the economic crisis grinds on, people will leave those churches. They won’t immediately go to mainline protestants, though I did when I joined Quakers in 1998. However, if something changes dramatically, either a capitalist recovery that reduces unemployment or a new sharp drop in jobs, then the picture will shift again. In the former case, conservative churches might rebound. In the latter case, atheists, mainline protestants, and progressive Catholics might enjoy a new growth.
Those Catholics are unusually good at keeping their church alive. Over a millenia. It ain’t going away anytime soon. So, why doesn’t the left get over its view that it has to wage a secular revolution? The American and French Revolutions were secular liberal revolutions, why imitate them? Even blowing up churches like the Soviets did had little staying power, as Ross Wolfe documented recently.
Liberal secularism is based on the privatization of fundamental human passions. We keep the churches out of politics, just like we keep the masses out of politics. It wasn’t that long ago that all of Europe was nominally Catholic. When the Reformation tried to replace an international church with national establishments, it only succeeded in a few places, though they were key, England, Germany, Sweden, Holland, etc. Italy, France, Spain, and Eastern Europe remain solidly Catholic (or Orthodox) and also among those places where Communism has met with significant success. Liberation Theology didn’t come to Latin America because of liberal secularism, but because Catholic priests studying in Europe were exposed to Marxism and the synthetic and dialectic methods of theology dominant in Catholicism made an appropriation of Marxism almost too obvious.
My admiration for Catholic Leftists is only matched by my distaste for the hierarchy, especially at its higher levels. And yet, Catholicism continually makes corrections like adopting evolution and social democracy that many Protestants can’t make. The Church of England is in a funny way more aristocratic than the Catholic church, which doesn’t have many monarchs, dukes, and lords in its membership these days.
C.D.V.: I know you are not a Marxist, but do you see something dialectical about this? Also what do you make of both Badiou and Zizek calling for a serious consideration of the Christian identity while also sharply condemning theism itself?
C.E.: I confess that I don’t always know what Marxists mean by “dialectic.” I’ve been told that the interpretation of Hegelian thought as thesis>antithesis>synthesis is a vulgar misreading. However, I also don’t think I am just a linear thinker.
So, can you can say more how you see a dialectic at work in the religious situation today?
C.D.V.: The beginning of a dialectic is a contradiction within manifestation of a idea or material condition which enables an opposition or a countervailing tendency to emerge, and the resolution of this contradiction through various forms of negation sublates the problem and leads to something new. Do you see something like this at work?
C.E.: You assert that Badiou and Zizek “condemn theism.” I’d like to see how that is actually expressed. I’ve read a good bit of Zizek and while he asserts his atheism, he identifies theism with the Lacanian “Big Other” that is, an imaginary person outside one’s self who one believes incorrectly will come to one’s rescue. What is interesting for me is that my Pentecostal experience was that God did rescue me many times from bad choices. God, as I think about it now, functions as a kind of super-super-ego. God is the being with both a perfect moral will for each of us and perfect knowledge of the consequences of any specific action. Being sinful, we are prone to disobedience, which God knows in advance, and God created a world with beings who will disobey him constantly. His reason for doing so (according to classic Christian doctrine) is that this requires God to become an incarnate sacrificial lamb and redeem us from our sins. I used to love to quote Norman Geisler (though I’m not sure it’s his original phrase), “this is not the best of all possible worlds, but the best of all possible ways to become the best of all possible worlds.”
I don’t think theism is irrational, unless one wants to say that all of human history is irrational. I think gods have a certain deep logic, that of trusting our parents when we are children. As a kid, I knew very little about how much danger there was in the world, so I often chafed when my parents interfered with my choices. Now, I believe they were very wrong about some of their interference. Having raised two children, I am convinced that some interference with my ignorant volition was necessary for my survival. Theism is a projection of that benevolent protector onto the cosmos itself. Hey, we exist, the natural world must care that we exist. We know now that this is a hasty conclusion, but only after centuries of accumulating scientific knowledge. I think theism is hard-wired, nearly every kid believes in invisible beings of some kind.
C.D.V.: Why do you think the impact of Liberation Theology has been so varied?
C.E.: The impact of Liberation Theology is still growing, though not as fast as I would like. Liberation Theology has two basic roots, the Black Civil Rights struggle of the 60s and the radical Catholics of neo-colonial Latin America. The successes of the Sandinistas and the election of Lula would have been impossible without it. Even Chavez owes his success to it. Does that mean it is going to ever become the dominant understanding of Christianity? Maybe outside the US. Inside the US seems less likely, but that is partly for the same reason that socialism in general has had very little success.
C.D.V.: In the past two questions there is so much to respond to here that I am going to just focus on two things. You think theism is hard-wired, but you posited that notion with a notion of divinity is just a supernatural non-physical being, there have been cultures without any sense of the moral impulse or creation given to it’s divinity claims, so that is so thin a definition of God that it amounts to “most children believe in something like mind-body dualism innately.” Which I suppose stances to reason, but this would be illogical to draw any metaphysicals claims from it. It would be an informal logical fallacy, the naturalistic fallacy, to use the hardwiredness of dualist beliefs to argue that they are true, which is not what you are necessarily doing. But let’s clarify here. I find that much less compelling than the idea of divinity’s working as a kind of super-super-ego, but this really seems like a modernization of a pre-modern understanding.
But let’s get away from critiques of theism for its own sake: I noticed your drawing out of a God myth that resembles the scapegoating myths of Rene Girard. Do you share Girard’s view that Christian myth is an answer to necessity for violence as a basis of group bonding?
C.E.: Let me try to clarify. “Supernaturalism” seems to me to have arisen in late antiquity as a result of early Greek natural philosophy, perhaps due to the experience of building an international empire. Before this logic emerged, there was only one world, a wholly supernatural world created by god(s), peopled by spirits, and humanity themselves were special creations of god(s). The separation into two realms of incommensurable substances – spirit vs matter – arose when it began to dawn on the early philosophers that the gods couldn’t actually be part of the world they were beginning to examine with geometry and early physics. Our hard-wired theism then got mapped onto that duality as it became ingrained in Western culture. It’s interesting that this dualistic worldview arose just in time to be merged with the Christian movement in the second century.
I was certainly taught the Christian fall/redemption myth. Adam ate the forbidden fruit and passed on his disobedient genes to us. God is perfect so every sin must be atoned, and only a perfect sacrifice can do that, ergo the incarnate Christ gets crucified and resurrected. Girard’s view, with which I have a passing familiarity, implies that this myth has its basis in the tribe’s need for blood vengeance against lawbreakers within itself. I can’t say that whether I believe that is the true source of sacrifice myths. I’d want to do a cross-cultural analysis of sacrifice/redemption myths, which I have not.
The influence of Liberation Theology on me was to break down the sacrificial mythology and replace it with a “Christus Victor” mythology of Jesus as the miraculous revolutionary initiator of a millennia-long subversion of the bondage of the world and its people to a Satanic overlord who ruled via capitalism, tyranny, patriarchy, racism, and ecocide, which would culminate in a global overthrow of those systems by the oppressed. I’ve seen this sort of view working in various places, even in the US among Christian Anarchists, Black Churches, and the Evangelical/Pentecostal Left. This is why I believe that Communism can be embraced by Christians in the future without them abandoning theism.
I pose to the left that they can either work to change people’s theology or their politics, but changing both doesn’t work very well. I’ve seen many Christian abandon the faith and become libertarian atheists. Therefore, I try to change their politics by using the immanent critique of Liberation Theology to steer them towards the left.
C.D.V.: Do you see Christianity in specific as being key to liberation theology?
C.E.: Christianity is strategic in that it is the largest living religious tradition in human history. Liberation theology holds an important place as the “new left” period’s – 1955-75 – expression within Christianity. As I read the history of Communism it began as a religious idea first named “communism” by Etienne Cabet, who explicitly identifies the early Jerusalem church that “held all things common” as his inspiration. Then, it spread into secular left movements within the Enlightenment. Marx himself is tied to Christianity, both through his religious upbringing, but also by his Hegelianism. Liberation Theology reconnects the Christian origins of Communism – not only Cabet, but the Munsterites, Diggers, Hutterites, etc. – with its contemporary expressions, especially Nicaragua, Brazil, and Venezuela.
Judaism has its own connections to Communism and therefore a Liberation Theology also implicit. A literature has developed in the 2000s. I think Islam also has this potential, and there were some important expressions of “Islamic Socialism” that have been largely suppressed by Islamist movements and governments.
Other religions, such as Buddhism and Neo-Paganism can also develop liberation theologies that don’t rely on monotheism, but build from within their traditions and sources to connect their visions of ultimate value to a revolutionary politics. Atheism can also benefit from considering the emergence of Liberation Theology as a “worldly turn” that increases the possibilities for creative cooperation in left politics for religious-secular alliances.
Just as Badiou sees communism as implicit in the origins of Western philosophy, especially Plato, I see Christianity and Judaism as also containing important source material for elaborating a new Communist politics and culture.
C.D.V.: What do you predict will happen to North American Christianity over the next 50 years?
C.E.: I believe that a variety of post-conventional theologies will come to dominate at the lay level and eventually even most of the leadership levels. If the US turns to the left in the next half-century – as I sincerely hope and work towards – then religion will follow. As Caucasians become a de facto minority, both the overall percentage of Christians will decline, as will the strength of orthodox doctrines and the white supremacist versions of Christianity, which includes all the Continental traditions such as Lutheran and Catholic, as well as varieties such as fundamentalism.
C.D.V.: Anything you’d like to say in closing?
C.E.: My view remains that the Left needs to develop its capacity to collegially embrace religious diversity. For too long it’s been hostile or indifferent to religion. That needs to be replaced by a principled diversity. A quote is attributed to Augustine of Hippo “in essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Since for a political movement the essentials are practical matters of principled action, this means that in the expression of religion, we should encourage liberty and diversity. I’d imagine that Black churches have declined as well. The stasis of Catholic numbers is very likely based on immigration from Latino countries. However, the rise of the “nones” isn’t tied to a rise in Atheism, but of people avoiding church on Sunday. That might lead to more atheism, but the polls don’t show as sharp a decline in theism, as they do in religious affiliation. For years after I left my former church, I’d have said I still believed in God. From 1997 to 2004 probably. That suggests that just because people have disassociated from churches doesn’t mean they’ve become atheists.
The biocentrist and the Bright Green Environmentalist are siblings. They compete to save their mother, but also mankind’s, from themselves. The oneiric image of ecstatic union with the mother—at her breast as a child—is a memory constantly threatened by the forgetfulness of appetites; made more and more spectral, hallucinatory by everyday spent in her possession. If we do not act today it will have been too late tomorrow: “we cannot harm any part of her without also harming ourselves“. Mother Nature relies on us! For something we, perhaps, cannot give her; our very selves. The day to day existence of everyone depends on a usurpation of Mother Earth’s bounty, how much more must the environmentalists’, whose delicate sensibility abhorring the incestuous depredations of smokestacks and bullpricks yet must thrive on the power of her resources; food, electricity, a tree mulching environmentalist discourse? Some poet, driven by the same psychism of the incestuous gardener, made the ethereal pronouncement that only men cut down trees to make paper on which they express their desire for saving them. Between the competing brothers the very mortality inscribed in the consumption of Mother Earth through human use of her resources, attested by the indigenous and the apathetic rival to the fount of her nourishment alike in the complaints about her limited nature and the need for responsible consumption, there comes to be a solipsism; an absenting from distress to grasp, if only, at the memory of her heaving clefts, mounded hillocks and delicate foliage laid out for all her sons in a prelapsarian hunter-gatherer totem meal. In the raging rectitude of their desire to protect her they half realise that their contestation is not all there is to the matter; Mother Earth is also a mother-whore to a whole indifferent world of despoilers, legions of deflowerers who rival for her incestuous predilection of necessity in their arch and environmentally hostile ways—perverts, sinners, rapists, tribals taking firewood from forests for a living after being dispossessed of their livelihood by industries. They are loathe to name the apparent, but devastating, truth available to their own, and humanity’s instinctually desirous, oral-phallic vacillation: Mother Earth is a slut. Then, our own “conscience does make cowards of us all” but, how much more does the conscience of the Others’.
Flight from these dire exigencies and drives, for and against human satisfaction—through technology, but also through ecological rape—has created an atmosphere where the underlying genital circuit of Mother-Whore Earth and a spontaneous revulsion from incestuous desire are paralleled in the sexual mores of humanity as such, and a radicalisation of these mores established on the shifting grounds of man’s relation to the environment too. In India the idea of Bharat Mata, or India Mother is held up as an ideal of feminity, fecundity, fideism to the Hindu faith. A very popular Bollywood film Mother India (1957) has been described, rather too obviously psychoanalytically, by Sumita Chakravarti—is not the stock in trade of films the peddling of oneiric imagines; as a pathway to sublimation, or regression?—:
“[The] Radha of Mother India … has already become the mother of the whole community at the beginning of the film. Heavily garlanded, with the aura of distance conferred by ‘greatness’, she is persuaded by her ‘good’ son, Ramu, to inaugurate a dam built for the mechanised irrigation of their fields. The era of technology that independence is ushering in (symbolised by shots of tractors, machines, and dams…) promises relief and a new era in village life as well. What better figure to mark the transition from the old to the new than the culture’s feminine principle incarnate?” (Srinivasan, Bina 2007).
The images of a son compelling the damming and irrigation of his mother needs scant illustration in the primeval privates of the mind. The domination of women is also the domination of Mother Earth, the archetypal woman; whether her son coercers her or seduces her he still remains culpable for desiring; is not he also her choice suitor, ordained for her express satisfaction, doesn’t Freud say so? The mutuality between symbol and signified, thought and deed, ecological conservation and the thriving of life as such is tenuous, soft, compelling and irrevocable. Mother must stop desiring all these children, these phallic consumers of goods possessed of moral depravity. If we cannot stop these cruel suitors perhaps we can defy them, become better than they and abandon this lust for the mother. But how must this be done? Castration! The Western idea of symbolic castration as impinging upon individuality wrested from the parental stead does not hold universally; Alan Roland (2011) and Sudhir Kakar (2011; 2012) propose that symbolic castration not only defuses a morbidly charged situation in the familial hierarchy of Asian subjects but also becomes an act of self-improvement with social and personal benefits, where the subject sublimates his distressing and disapproved desire with a supplement that satisfies the innate motivating principle of his desire.
The Peoples’ Park incident in San Francisco Bay area further punctuates the parapraxis involved in the articulation of ecological peace through libidinal frustration. The area divided between conservative Hippy-hating Republicans of East Bay and the pot-smoking revolutionaries of Haight-Ashbury; a plot of land used to hang out and carouse by the revolutionaries came to be espied for purpose of infrastructural development. This usurpation moved the hippies to raise picks and shovels and tractors in protestation and outrage on April 20, 1969; eventually, after many denouements of the conflict reached their climax, the establishment had decided to let the revolutionaries settle in there, which they did; growing vegetables that were picked prematurely and flowers that, DeGroot insists, were never quite pretty. Picks and shovels are obvious symbolisations of genitals and fertility come specifically to rescue the modesty of Mother Earth from hungry bullpricks of her rivalling suitors, and their promises of bacon and biscuits sold on discount. Incest consummated, or thwarted, thrives under the vigilance and goading of the mind’s primeval censors, a mysterious guilt plagues the would-be-usurpers of the parental bed. While the histrionics that were usual on Peoples’ Park came to a screeching halt the land was taken over by a playground for children, amidst moribund flowers and jaded revolutionaries who once cocked a snook at society’s disapproval of mother-love, intoxication and unalloyed sexual liberty toking to the chagrin of conservative Republicans. While the orgy-revolution had been rebuffed more discreet and socially legitimised consummations of the Peoples’ Park continued unabated. Here, a protestation wins a symbolic victory, a reinstatement and verbal nod to their phallus and yet they are castrated as they sleep; not being allowed to live their ideological dreams the hippies are effectively neutralised whether or not they can engage in casual sex at the People’s Park, or any public place for that matter.
For the anthropocentric ecological crusaders the Earth is an oyster but the biocentrist holds that oysters are as important as anthropos. Insofar as both these groups must collide in their championing of the Mother’s mound their intentions stem from the same filial desire: protect her from spoilage. But, the anthropocentrist is cognisant of the position he is in when he rescues the mother; he proceeds to claim an ordained right to possess her felicity and gratitude. They, in psychoanalytic parlance, identify with mother Earth as servitors of her secret and symbolically inexhaustible fecundity: they identify in the Earth an aspect of man that begs preservation. Identification, though a detour of the narcissistic ego, allows a greater lightness and transparency to overcome the probable consummation of the slavery which desire demands from the ego-object. The biocentrist seems to efface the self from this master-slave movement inherent to all love relationships: the lover surrendering himself to the beloved comes to fear from his own loss of self, but this loss of self allows him to be projected into the beloved such that his inexistence takes on the density of his idealisation of the beloved. This de-centring of the self is castration; the ironic consummation of idealisation begins with the castration of the lover, and by this possession without ejaculatory inevitability, “…in Masters and Johnson’s terms…”, the coitus will never be foreshadowed by an interruptus. Castration has potential to become a priapic gesture of the libido, persisting beyond its effacement. Can this priapic gesture not be read in the absurd cosmology of the biocentrist which is not propounded by any of the other indispensable and irreplaceable species but him and his rivals? The deed of castration becomes more properly priapic, or hallucinatory, when it purports to elaborate that castration alone is the guarantor of love for Mother Earth.
Indeed, the identifying anthropocentrist environmentalist dissembles when enunciating his deposition of his desire for Mother Love, but the biocentrist turns his desire inward, like a corrosive acid in mortification reminiscent of the Catholic Church. The anthropocentrist is Protestant, believing in the sufficiency of the work of his hands and divine grace, Earth’s never exhaustible bounty. At this juncture, it must be admitted that were Earth doomed then man too would be, and there would be no anthropos to centre or even any conservation discourse. The biocentrist is Catholic, requiring a beating of breasts and the small of the back in mortificatory moral paroxysms. If the environment were rescued by human extinction, as some extreme biocentrist movements like the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement hold to be the case with utmost moral urgency, who pray would the ecology be possessed by? Is it not only the human discourse of ecological conservation that envisages the restoration of ecological diversity? These styles of devotion are merely ruses of Mother Love gone incognito; “by their works shall ye know them”. Do the anthropocentrists who profess the need to conserve ecological integrity affirm their culpability in desiring to possess the produce of their love of the Earth? Yes. Are the biocentrists ready to eschew their lifestyles dependent on the products of civilisation that are rooted in the marital bed of Mother Earth and father superego? Perhaps, but it remains to be seen! And, they have not acceded that man is privileged, a superegotic despotism persists in their posturing. The former sheaths his desire in the honesty of the profligate, given to his irremediable dependance on Mother Earth’s bounty while the latter cuts off the throbbing organ of his morally repugnant desire; these styles of consummation, these appropriations of the desire and its elusive object are both awkward attempts at safe sex, as if there were such a thing.
To be Continued…
See previous part here: http://skepoet.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/psychoanalysis-and-environmentalism-part-ii/
Bachelard, Gaston. Trans. Jolas, Maria. The Poetics of Space. New York, USA: Orion Press, 1964.
Chew, Matthew, K. & Laubichler, Manfred, D. 2003. “Perceptions of Science: Natural Enemies–Metaphor or Misconception?”. Science: Essays on Science and Society. 4 July 2003: Vol. 301 no. 5629 pp. 52-53. DOI: 10.1126/science.1085274. Web. <http://www.sciencemag.org/content/301/5629/52.full>.
DeGroot, Gerard. “The Sixties Unplugged. London, UK: Pan Books, 2008.
Freud, Sigmund. Trans. Hall, Stanley, G. A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. New York, USA: Horace Liveright, Inc., 1920.
Kakar, Sudhir & Ross, John, M. Tales of Love Sex and Danger: Second Edition. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Kakar, Sudhir. Book of Memories. New Delhi, India: Penguin, 2012.
Nordgren, Anders. Responsible Genetics: The Moral Responsibility of Geneticists for the Consequences of Genetic Research. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001.
Ricoeur, Paul. Trans. Savage, Denis. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. New Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, 2008.
Roland, Alan. Journeys to Foreign Selves: Asians and Asian Americans in a Global Era. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Scholarly Editions. Issues in Mechanical Engineering: 2011 Edition. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholarly Editions, 2012.
Sheldrake, Rupert. The Greening of Science and God: The Rebirth of Nature. Cochin, India: Editions India, 2007.
Srinivasan, Bina. Negotiating Complexities: A Collection of Feminist Essays. New Delhi, India: Promila & Co. Publishers, 2007.
 “‘There’s a schism emerging between two camps within the environmental movement. On the one extreme, the dark green non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—such as Greenpeace USA and Friends of the Earth—seek radical social change to solve environmental problems, most often by confronting the corporate sector. As Alex Steffen explains it, they tend to “pull back from consumerism (sometimes even from industrialization itself)’. On the other extreme, the bright green NGOs—such as Conservation International and the Environmental Defense Fund—work within the market system, often in close collaboration with corporations, to solve environmental problems. Again, as Steffen explains: This “is a call to use innovation, design, urban revitalization and entrepreneurial zeal to transform the systems that support our lives’.” Hoffman, Andy. See, <http://erbsustainability.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/the-dark-greenbright-green-divide/>
 “The view that hunter-gatherers are not responsible for environmental degradation is mistaken. It is widely believed that they were responsible for the extinction of the woolly mammoth, large land tortoises, and possibly even neanderthals (see “Overkill Hypothesis”). It is not necessarily a peaceful way of life, it encourages tribalism and competition over resources with other humans and predatory animals”. Case. See http://howlingwaste.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/hunting-gathering/
 Golubiewski, Nancy & Cleveland, Cutler, Eds. “Perverse subsidies”. The Encyclopaedia of Earth. Web. < http://www.eoearth.org/article/Perverse_subsidies>
 Soetomo, Greg. “Ecological focus in the Archdiocese of Jakarta, Indonesia”. ECO. Web. < http://ecojesuit.com/ecological-focus-in-the-archdiocese-of-jakarta-indonesia/2360/>
 Freidman, Sharon. “Face it: All Forests are Sluts”. High Country News. Web. < http://www.hcn.org/hcn/wotr/face-it-all-forests-are-sluts>
 Shakespeare, William. “Act 3, Scene 1, p. 4; 84”. Hamlet.
 Srinivasan, Bina. “A Disciplined River: The Case of Narmada Valley and its People”. Negotiating Complexities: A Collection of Feminist Essays. New Delhi, India: Promila & Co. Publishers, 2007. p. 141- 79.
 “The nature of the symbol relationship is a comparison, but not any desired comparison. One suspects a special prerequisite for this comparison, but is unable to say what it is. Not everything to which we are able to compare an object or an occurrence occurs in the dream as its symbol; on the other hand, the dream does not symbolize anything we may choose, but only specific elements of the dream thought. There are limitations on both sides. It must be admitted that the idea of the symbol cannot be sharply delimited at all times — it mingles with the substitution, dramatization, etc., even approaches the allusion. In one series of symbols the basic comparison is apparent to the senses. On the other hand, there are other symbols which raise the question of where the similarity, the “something intermediate” of this suspected comparison is to be sought. We may discover it by more careful consideration, or it may remain hidden to us. Furthermore, it is extraordinary, if the symbol is a comparison, that this comparison is not revealed by the association, that the dreamer is not acquainted with the comparison, that he makes use of it without knowing of its existence. Indeed, the dreamer does not even care to admit the validity of this comparison when it is pointed out to him. So you see, a symbolic relationship is a comparison of a very special kind, the origin of which is not yet clearly understood by us. Perhaps later we may find references to this unknown factor”. Freud, Sigmund. Trans. Hall, Stanley, G. “Tenth Lecture. The Dream: Symbolism in the Dream”. A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. New York, USA: Horace Liveright, Inc., 1920.
 See Kakar, Sudhir & Ross, John, Munder. Tales of Love Sex and Danger. Second Edition. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2011.
 DeGroot, Gerard. “The Sixties Unplugged. London, UK: Pan Books, 2008.
 Kakar, Sudhir & Ross, John, M. (2011). Also, see Ricoeur, Paul (2008).
 Kakar, Sudhir & Ross, John, M. (2011).
 Matthew 7-16. The Bible.
The Fruit of the Earth: Of Personal and Impersonal Ecological Conservationism as Forms of an Instinct
“Shall I take a knife and tear my mother’s bosom? Then when I die she will not take me into her bosom to rest. You ask me to dig for stone! Shall I dig under her skin for her bones? Then when I die I cannot enter her body to be born again. You ask me to cut grass and make hay and sell it, and be rich like white men! But how dare I cut off my mother’s hair?”
Chief of the Native American Wanapum Tribe, 19th Century (Sheldrake, R. 2007)
The adornment of nature with the lived experiences of man used as nominal and formal characteristics for its agentic description, or personification, is not peculiar to animists or primitivisms. Even the mechanist, the positivist and the determinist invoke figures of metaphor, metonymy and personification in the elaboration of their theories and findings. Bachelard’s pronouncement on metaphor as “…an invisible grain of hashish…”, though itself a metaphor, allows us equally well for its obliquity in relation with diurnal experience to enter the realm of oneiric, and then even sublime, imagination. The passage from the oneiric to the sublime, however, is one fraught with a perilous scope for [mis]translation of affects from the impersonal domain of unconscious object-libido cathexis [as in hallucinatory fantasy] to the possibility of sublimation by a conscious decision to take charge of the duty of “…being-for-the-outside”, and vice versa. The formation of images, both oneiric and sublime, is ultimately linguistic; in this capacity these images are representations of instincts in two important senses: the suerpegotic ordering of cultural meanings that prefigure images by the impersonal process of the emergence of languages in society and the egotic coming to grips, or being-for-the-outside, of colloquial and idiomatic language use and various coexisting individual styles of expression. By using the terms personal and impersonal we are still referring to the collective level where the various ecological conversation discourses operate: the use of impersonal, personal and suprapersonal, here, is the organisation of levels of ecological conservationist discourse as they correspond with the Freudian topography of id, ego and superego.
The push and pull between the personal and the impersonal is thus only the conflict of instinctual representatives, or ideas, defined by their fidelity to a suprapersonal, or theoretical and formal domain of discourse which makes ecological conservation a field of human knowledge and practice. Between the potentially oneiric or hallucinatory personal unconscious and its sublime realisation on one hand and the potentially hallucinatory cultural unconscious and its capacity for sublimation on the other there is a charged space of interaction: the transference of the analytic session can be invoked here by treating the interactions between personal and impersonal narratives of ecological activism that become coherent as artefacts of instincts in an archive of suprapersonal psychisms—geared towards a human desire that becomes more and more concrete through a dialectical movement between personal ecological activism and impersonal ecological activism.
The polarity between biocentric and anthropocentric ecology perfectly represents the impersonal being-for-the-outside of the psychism of ecological conservationism as such. This opposition is not simply one between irrevocably disjointed worldviews, rather it represents the gap between a superegotic demand for complete biocentricity, where man is made a limb on the body of the earth with no special privilege of place as in Deep Ecology, on the underlying occult anthropocentricism of all ecological conservation projects as such. Here, the seeming opposition between two ecological conservationist ideologies functionally comes to embody an oneiric imago of the conservationist psychism as such reaching outwards to the possibility of sublimation through its antecedent stages of identification with the Earth and idealisation of the Earth, through an arduous and partial process of reality-testing; from the traumatic situation of having to live through an industrialised and consumerist ego-consciousness, the psychism of conservationism arises to defend Mother Earth from phallic spoilage by contemplating a voluntary castration, a formal, or superegotic, limitation on the instinct of the suprapersonal signifier of ecological conservation, and from this a part of the activist shrinks back—no one likes being curtailed, unless by a ruse of desire turned inwards like in hallucination the curtailment itself becomes a possession of the object in the ego.
Now, the warring between Deep Ecologists and Bright Green Environmentalists, for instance, is not a fundamental mismatch between ideas that share a common goal, they are the adaptations of discourse to the upheavals imposed upon it by science, world affairs and individually conflicting ideologies, or representatives of instinct, that are influencing the manifest discourse of an instinctual drive towards ecological conservatism. Thus each position contains a baseline reactionary element: the biocentric position entails a capitulation to the status of humanity without a right to thrive on Earth, it is a surrender to the very idea which inspires the need to conserve ecological integrity, namely the risk that human and animal exploitation will irremediably tarnish it; the anthropocentric position claiming to conserve Earth for man’s benefit, though more apparently realistic, is still an adaptation of the superegotic biocentric absolutism which issues the first formalised statement of intent, or instinct to preserve ecological integrity […for gods’ sake!, even].
To Be Continued…
Bachelard, Gaston. Trans. Jolas, Maria. The Poetics of Space. New York, USA: Orion Press, 1964.
Chew, Matthew, K. & Laubichler, Manfred, D. 2003. “Perceptions of Science: Natural Enemies–Metaphor or Misconception?”. Science: Essays on Science and Society. 4 July 2003: Vol. 301 no. 5629 pp. 52-53. DOI: 10.1126/science.1085274. Web. <http://www.sciencemag.org/content/301/5629/52.full>.
Nordgren, Anders. Responsible Genetics: The Moral Responsibility of Geneticists for the Consequences of Genetic Research. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001.
Ricoeur, Paul. Trans. Savage, Denis. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. New Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, 2008.
Scholarly Editions. Issues in Mechanical Engineering: 2011 Edition. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholarly Editions, 2012.
Sheldrake, Rupert. The Greening of Science and God: The Rebirth of Nature. Cochin, India: Editions India, 2007.
 The use of operational metaphors during the process of designing new technology has a tangible effect on the possible outcomes of mechanical engineering projects. The case of the move from Pocket PC OS to PDAs was facilitated and given it unique trajectory by the use of organising metaphors that allowed the creation of a truly compelling interface for the device (Scholarly Editions, 2012).
 “Evolutionary biologists customarily employ the metaphor “survival of the fittest,” which has a precise meaning in the context of mathematical population genetics, as a shorthand expression when describing evolutionary processes. Yet, outside of the shared interpretative context of evolutionary biology, the same metaphor has been employed to argue that evolutionary theory is fundamentally flawed. Natural Selection, the argument goes, leads to a survival of the fittest. The fittest are those that survive. Ergo, natural selection describes the survival of the survivors. Thus one of the core concepts of evolutionary theory is a tautology. While it is easy to see how such an argument represents a deliberate misunderstanding of evolutionary theory, it also alerts us to some problems inherent to the use of metaphors in science. Metaphors introduce a fundamental trade off between the generation of novel insights in science and the possibility of dangerous or even deadly misappropriation. The extension of genetics to eugenics owed much of its popularity in the United States and in Germany to its use of culturally resonant metaphors. Labeling people as a burden, a cancerous disease, or a foreign body (Fremdkörper) conveyed the “threat” to society in terms that people could relate to in their respective historical and cultural settings (5–8). Given this power of metaphorical language, it is understandable why several scientists have been concerned with the prevalence of metaphors in certain disciplines (9)” (Chew, Matthew, K. & Laubichler, Manfred, D. 2003).
 The surety with which genetic determinism has been championed as a breakthrough has aroused concern in the scientific and academic community about the potential social fatalism that might emerge in defence of entrenched positions of power and exploitation in society. The idea that genetic determinism necessitates that some people are better than others in a determined way can have unsavoury social consequences (Nordgren, A. 2001).
 Bachelard, Gaston (1964). p. 219
 Ricoeur, Paul. (2008) “Book II. Analytic. Ch. 2. From the Oneiric to the Sublime: The Clinical Approaches to Interpretation”. p. 180- 86.
 The id, ego and superego cannot be conceived of as entities or locations in themselves; they are the movement of instinctual desires and their representations in ideas that come to take on the characteristics of the id, the ego and the superego. The possible outcomes of instincts namely sublimation, identification and idealisation as modifications of desire in relation to ideas of reality and their opposites regression, introjection and illusion in relation to a rejection of reality by the instincts are only labels that become coherent when the conflict between the instincts and reality reconfigure the position of the analysand in the products of his free associations. Id is the constant motivator of instincts, the superego is a facilitator of the id and the ego is that which is driven by the instincts to test reality or abjure it. All readings of a particular psychism function inside this energetics and topography in reference to pleasure, unpleasure and reality. See, Ricoeur, Paul (2008) p. 217- 29.
 The biocentrist ecologists oppose the bland and impotent anthropocentrism of deep ecologists to be a ruse of man’s narcissism; the biocentrists believe this narcissism is what has put man in the danger of becoming an ecocide in the first place (Sheldrake, R. 2007).
Ricoeur’s reading of Freud is a rare and sympathetic attempt to grapple philosophically with the anti-philosophy of psychoanalysis. In successive movements between Freud’s explicitly developed triads of id, ego and superego; unconscious, preconscious and conscious; cathexis, anticathexis and hypercathexis; Eros, Thanatos and Logos Ricoeur locates an occult dualism of human desire which defines the project of psychoanalysis as a working through of desire, against a social field of desires of the other. The project of psychoanalysis is purely diagnostic: to arrive at the truth beyond the pleasure principle is the working through of life in the analytic session. These various triads Ricoeur demonstrates, with peerless clarity and rigour, to be the interplay of an energetics, an economics and a series of topographies of psychisms that constantly stand in for reality in the mind of the analysand, and which are held together as a calculable interpretation only by the work of analysis which fuses each triad with its corresponding function in the service of the pleasure-ego. Only under the shifting gaze of the analyst who is aided by the process of transference can the work of interpretation begin because the analysand has only a very distorted access to his resistances. The truth, for Freud, is a thankless thing which comes with the collapse of all illusion. But illusion itself is a necessary prelude to any conception of a truth.
The Analytic Reading
The Energetics implicit in Freud’s word, often ignored by commentators, is much indebted to the naturalist ethos of his own time and draws heavily on a speculative quantity of neurons as contingent agents of repression and sublimation. This energetics is important to Freud inasmuch as he sought to differentiate his work from rival schools that held consciousness to be a parallelism of the neural system or a mere epiphenomenon by modifying the findings of biology to furnish an archaeology of instincts. Freud was interested in showing how quantitative tendencies of neurons effected qualitative changes in consciousness: “[d]esires and wishes enter [t]his mechanistic theory (pp. 383- 84) through the intermediary of the traces left behind by pleasure and unpleasure” (Ricoeur, P. 77) in the form of neuronal charges. But this quantity-to-quality conversion begs the question of how these quantities don’t get annulled by the minds relentless impetus towards pleasure and/ or unpleasure in an affective entropy. Freud’s answer radicalises this problem by positing the work of quantitative neuronal movements to be the regulation of affective states to preserve an inertia, a nirvana principle. Rather than running their course in surplus pleasure or unpleasure towards a total expenditure of affect/ neuronal charges they tended to a preservation of their initial state of libidinal investment. An affective homeostasis. But this answer eliminates the anatomical basis for the instinct’s quantitative transformation into indeterminate tendencies mainly because these neurons and their charges cannot be counted. They are of an uncertain number, and in the words of a commentator on Freud, possessed of a phlogistic character in psychoanalytic theory; in response to a constancy principle that is fundamentally at odds with the reality principle a homeostasis of affects demands a way to calculate neuronal charges if psychoanalysis is to be treated as the science Freud insisted it was. Reality is, Freud says, that which persists despite the Conscious system’s “peculiar cathexis”: it is classified in opposition to the Unconscious that is timeless and non-negative, and is “…classified with negation and contradiction, the tonic binding of energy, and reference to time” as an end of illusion and the maturity of man (Ricoeur, P. 268).
The periodicity and self-consistency of ideas in relation to a nirvana principle come to define the quantitative neuronal constitution of the triad unconsciousness, preconsciousness and consciousness; in this capacity they work as a spatial dimension where pleasure-seeking psychisms reacting with the conscious world of objects, and a strategy for working through of life in this world, can be understood by interpreting the representations of ego-instincts as they appear in comparison with a semiology of desire constructed from an archaeology of ego-instincts—arrived at by the detours of analytic session, the free association method and experience. The topography of psychoanalysis, then, is a spatial translation of the indeterminate and timeless qualities of the unconscious under a metaphorical mien; it allows for the analytic understanding of motor impulses pushed backwards into intentions, i.e. traces of unconscious neuronal impulsions in search of pleasure, as the cause for hallucination when the object of its desire is absent, or as conscious action when the object is present; “…motility and perception…” are its directional poles (Ricoeur, P. 107). Now, from the side of earlier ego-instincts an action can be read as a regression to hallucinatory union with a lost object, but from the side of the object to which the ego cathects by the detour of an ego-instinct an integration of impulses marked by a renunciation to necessity becomes discernible, and this process can now be read as sublimation—whatever repression and sublimation are defined as in qualitative terms. On the side of reality, in the Freudian topography, are Logos and Ananke the gods of the disillusioned and on the side of the neurotic ceremonials of desire are the archaisms of Eros and Thanatos marked by their tendency for a pleasure-seeking-unto-death; although it is Eros that impels men to action it is only the gaze of Thanatos that these actions come to bear their allegiance to Ananke, overcoming the ruses of infantile desire.
The triangulation between the lust for joyous survival, the stratagems of this lust for survival and the more, or less, realistic behaviour that emerges in response to this renewed understanding of reality become the definitional criteria which situate the disparate field of human desire under the purview of psychoanalysis. After enumerating the facts of discourse that constitute the sphere of personal desire under these three criteria we must analyse them by reading them against the bare facts of the analysand’s behaviour, the relation of this behaviour to a certain understanding of the world he occupies and the degree to which the analysand gives credence to his behaviour in light of the gap between bare facts and personal affects. This level of psychoanalytic discourse couched in the terminology of id, ego and superego comes to take on an economic aspect in that what the unconscious desires comes to be sought out by the conscious, i.e. in Freud’s words, “where the id was the ego shall be”. The gap between these occult movements of personal desires—impelled by the regulatory energetics of pleasure, and unpleasure—and the actual outcome of these desires pursued or repressed to their end becomes most coherent when it is read as an economic relation between the impersonal, personal and suprapersonal aspects of the psychism. The impersonal is the id because it desires without the knowledge of consciousness; the suprapersonal superego is a ruse of the id which convinces the conscious part of the mind by its rationalisations and order words, or the representatives of conscious thought in the ego, about a danger that must be averted by capitulating to its, or the id’s, dimly perceived demands; egoity or consciousness and rational behaviour is then in a triply precarious position right from its inception, buffeted by the impersonal and the suprapersonal, and insulted by the residual reality which resists the ego-instinct’s errands of pleasure.
The Dialectical Reading
It is evident that psychoanalysis only serves to guide the analytical reconstruction of the analysand’s psychisms or, an archaeology of human desire if you will, and a synthetic, or prescriptive, teleology is beyond the scope of psychoanalytic theory. This is simply because each successive reality can be read as an object-choice, or adequation of the ego formation to allow for pleasure, and is to be treated as a compromised choice of perceptual information and the way it relates to the demands of the id constellated in the interpreting authority of the superego with its ruses for maximising satisfaction. Here, Ricoeur offers a corrective to the solipsism of the psychoanalytic theory outside the session in proposing to pare down psychoanalysis with a phenomenology of reflective consciousness; this he achieves by a superimposed operation of the Hegelian dialectic over the Freudian epochȇ in reverse. “Where phenomenology begins with an act of ‘suspension’, with an epochȇ at the free disposition of the subject, psychoanalysis begins with the suspension of the control of consciousness, whereby the subject is made a slave equal to his bondage, to use Spinoza’s terms” (Ricoeur, P. 391). Thus the act of a conscious recapitulation of perception is not apt to survive the acid test of psychoanalysis; instincts that are discerned in affects of the conscious mind are reified as necessity and reason in the Hegelian grasping of man, he becomes the subject of his needs, which are only interpretable as representations [Freud's reprasentanz] of instincts: “…a realism of the knowable…a mythology…” (Ricoeur, P. 435). Thus, Ricoeur opposes the search for interpretation in the mythology of the instincts with the projection of a teleological destiny that Freud implicates while thematising the primal history of man and society.
In the first stage of the dialectic consciousness itself stands in place of a symptom that imposes representations of the instincts as a mythos, or hermeneutic approach, backward over the facts of perception. “Whereas Hegel links an explicit teleology of mind or spirit to an implicit archaeology of life and desire, Freud links a thematised archaeology of the unconscious to an unthematised teleology of the process of becoming conscious” (Ricoeur, P. 461). The reduplication of consciousness, the abortive or premature Cogito, in the movement of consciousness becoming conscious of itself in itself and in another is to be opposed to the exegetical movement of consciousness into representations of its own investment in the pleasure principle—this movement eludes the Freudian notion of narcissism involved in identification, or object-choice, since it is in itself a figure of necessity [Ananke] that deflates the abortive Cogito’s innate narcissism; brute necessity [Ananke] is inscribed in the external world of objects before its translation into psychisms which are merely ego-instincts that stand in for the world. This dialectic between archaeology and teleology is an “…opposition to the Freudian economics” of libidinal investment read into the metapsychology from without, as a procession of spirit that educates desire in transformation beyond regression towards the inertial vortex of an original “object-loss”, or primary repression, whose presence in absentia sets psychoanalytic re-interpretation in motion (Ricoeur 481). Since psychoanalysis does not make this synthetic move towards elucidating its normative field of desire beyond the pleasure principle, hinted at obliquely in the notion of sublimation which it fails to elucidate, it risks falling into the troubling inability to differentiate between progression and regression; movements of desire that psychoanalysis has so strongly opposed in the economic and topographic scheme of the analytic session as a measure of truth beyond illusions; the argument for the id’s prefiguration of the ego or the ego’s curtailment of the pleasure-ego’s, or abortive Cogito’s, formation respectively. Thus, the corrective of the dialectic of the phenomenology of spirit on the [psycho]analytic regression of the epochȇ in reverse comes to open up a field that is beyond the ruses of the pleasure principle and is simultaneously the condition of both regression and progression.
Ricoeur’s contribution to the elucidation of Freudianism as an epistemological enterprise opposed to the observational sciences and in opposition with the phenomenological school of philosophy opens the ground for a reflective philosophy which can proceed by the dialectics between an archaeology and a teleology of the psychisms of desire.
Ricoeur, Paul. Trans. Savage, Denis. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. New Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, 2008. Print.
The quest to protect nature from wanton abuse, degradation and irreversible ecological crises bears in its integral moment an affinity with the structure of religion. Freud has shown us that man is capable of religion only inasmuch as he is capable of neurosis, and, now, it only remains to be seen how far the environmental escathon distinguishes itself from the daedal ceremonies and archaisms of neurosis to pronounce it a faithful servant to human necessity. The difference between neuroses and religion, for Freud, lies in a specific quality of the response that the subject enunciates in his experience of reality. For Freud, this reality can be extricated from its oedipal constitution only under the aegis of the god Logos, or science, “…not an altogether mighty…” god, who the man without illusions must still listen to, resigning himself to the service of necessity, or the goddess Ananke. In the standoff between environmentalism as neurosis and environmentalism as religion a certain definition of reality shorn of its illusionary potential is the threshold of coherence for the analyst.
On the side of reality, in the Freudian topography, are Logos and Ananke the go[a]ds of the disillusioned and on the side of the neurosis are the archaisms of Eros and Thanatos marked by the tendency for a pleasure-seeking-unto-death; although it is Eros that impels men to action it is only under the gaze of Thanatos that these actions come to bear their allegiance to Ananke, overcoming the ruses of infantile desire. The triangulation between the desire for survival, the stratagems of this desire for survival and the more realistic optimism which emerges in response to the renewed understanding of reality become the definitional criteria which situate environmentalism in the field of human desire as understood by the psychoanalyst. After enumerating the facts of discourse that constitute the sphere of environmental activism under these three criteria we must analyse them by reading them against the state of scientific understanding, the relation of their strategies in response to this understanding and the degree of their optimism in light of their strategy. It is evident that this reading will only serve to guide the analytical reconstruction of the environmentalist’s psychisms or, an archaeology of the desire for conservation if you will, and a synthetic, or prescriptive, teleology is beyond the scope of a psychoanalytical reading.
Mauryan Environmentalism: Forest Conservation and Divine Edict
Man’s attitude towards nature has been through a long historical evolution, and different epochs can be seen to manifest peculiar psychisms in their artefacts and the historical records that they have left. The Mauryan Empire of ancient India, for instance, is marked for its geopolitical administrative policy of considering forest dwellers bestial opponents to be fought off their borders. This fact however gains more than a political temper when we consider that forests as such were necessary to the survival of the Mauryan economy: forest produce was vital to the livelihood of the Mauryans and they developed elaborate criteria of categorisation for types of forest in relation to what might be obtained from them. Accordingly, the need for a class of forest dwellers who would safeguard the interests of the Janapada, an administrative unit of the Mauryan Empire, becomes apparent: the difference between these dwellers and the natives was that the former were legitimised by the crown to dispossess the latter. The attitude of conserving the forests was equivalent with extrication of the bestial natives dwelling in it; economy and politics became entwined in a categorical response to the desire for exclusive rights over forest produce. In this way, in the 3rd Century pastoralists came to become a caste divorced from their beginning in a class that served the needs of empire. The installation of a legitimate caste however did not happen removed from a process of making outcastes of those who resisted the power of empire: violence remained political while also becoming eschatological, in the conflict between good and bad, caste and outcaste. The horror of the violence at Kalinga famously moved Emperor Aśoka to renounce warfare on the condition that his writ would hold even on those traditionally excluded from the caste of pastoralists.
“Even when he is wronged, the Beloved of the Gods believes one must exercise patience as far as it is possible to exercise. As far as the Forest (tribes) which are in his Empire are concerned, the Beloved of the God conciliates them too and preaches them. They are even told that they repent and do not kill anymore”.
-Emperor Aśoka’s Rock Edict XIII, (Kapur, Nandini, S. 2011).
Inasmuch as political power and economic necessity colluded in the creation of the Aśokan notion of those beloved of the Gods under his aegis his edict is both scientific in its objective scope for limiting the possibilities of life for his subjects and eschatological in alluding to a peace sustained by obedience to necessity. Aśoka, here, becomes the Oedipalising axis of the response to reality which the Mauryan Empire institutes backwards into the historical necessity written over their current predicament—the desire to maintain a peaceful mutuality with bestial natives. This compromise allows Aśokan sovereignty to become both a promise of mature genitality with respect to the power of those chosen by the Gods to be pastoralists, to enjoy their god given right over the forest, and a reassurance against the hostility of the forest dwellers who can also look for conciliation in surrender to his power and that of his higher caste subjects.
The father accepts the hostility of the children who rival their stronger, god-chosen, pastoralist brothers only so long as it is sublimated under the threat of his vengeance; the flow of power through the pastoralists’ militias is also the flow of benediction that attaches itself to restraint shown in consuming forest produce. The orality of the pastoralists’ caste derives from an introjection of Aśoka’s edict, a cannibalistic ingestion of power which runs down among the brotherhood of the sovereign’s subjects. Possessed of this power they in turn can subordinate the forest dwellers in a sweeping gesture of kindness, buttressed by the kindness of the sundering sword of Law. This situation of the sovereign’s subjects however necessitates the preservation of forests for two strategic purposes: maintaining peace with the tribals, but also maintaining a source of revenue for themselves and their Emperor. A double benediction of eschatologically inscribed peace and strategically sustained revenue become, here, the poles of Eros and Logos as they regulate the actions of subjects under the sign of death—in resistance to the sovereign, or Thanatos. The right to violence is maintained in the Emperor’s edict—this is the figure of Ananke.
Reality is the response of desire to necessity; environmentalism in the Aśokan Empire is a neurotic ceremonial sustained by the fear of violence, but for its neuroticism it is still a profitable identification with the legitimate figure of violence in that it allows the pastoralists and their militias to perpetrate violence top-down while upholding the conditions for peace which the edict has now enshrined as a guarantee against excess and arbitrary violence. They can plunder the forests so long as they are chosen of the gods to conciliate with the bestial tribes under the threat of divine retribution. Without this possibility for extending violence unto bestial populations destitute of the gods’ choice, the vestigial tribals, the preservation of forests becomes tied to a merely functional need for revenue. So, this was not necessarily an irreversible or self sufficient attitude towards conservation of forests and soon enough the expansion of agriculture had lessened the need for forests as a source of revenue. This would go on to show the libidinal compromise in conserving forests on part of the Mauryan Empire rested precariously on the need for regulated consumption against the risk of violent clashes with natives for which the Emperor had developed a distaste.
The squeamishness of the Emperor is the only thing that kept forests from being appropriated without the invocation of a higher sanction, an axis of alterity that legitimated the monopoly of violence retained in the Emperor, who now stood sobered by his own capacity for violence. Accordingly, he prohibited the burning of forests for a purpose other than strictly economic. The gap between the explicit policy of peace and the implicit need for violence to maintain the conditions of peace expose the restraint shown in the appropriation of forests to be a ritual of sublimation running in both directions. From the Emperor towards the pastoral caste under condition of not harassing the tribals without provocation and from the tribals towards the Emperor in not engendering the need for violence enshrined and adequately distanced from immediate reflection in the edict and its supernal invocation of the will of the gods. In this analysis the environmental attitude of the Mauryan Empire stands revealed as a neurotic ritual that allows necessity to be interpreted in accordance with desire [Eros]; this reinterpretation [Logos] however places demands on reality itself [Ananke], whereby the original intention of the Emperor is modified and tempered to suit the newly emergent reality of a sublimated, regressed demand for moderation in consumption.
To Be Continued…
 Ricoeur, Paul. Trans. Savage, Denis. “Book II. Analytic. What is Reality?” Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. New Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Ltd. 2008.
Print. P. 324- 38.
 Ibid. P. 326-7.
 Parasher-Sen, Aloka. Kapur, Nandini, S. Ed. “Of Tribes, Hunters and Barbarians”. Environmental History of Early India: A Reader. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print. P.
A columnist on the Electronic Intifada (a website dedicated to news, information, and blogs on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank), Benjamin Doherty, recently pointed out in an article how the Israeli Army has directly and indirectly used Instagram and other social media outlets to promote it’s image. Some of these pictures are provocatively sexualized, with Israeli soldiers posting photos of themselves posing half-naked while holding an M-16 rifle. Doherty has a name for this phenomenon among the Israeli Army, “War Sporno”. As he puts it to use “male and female bodies to eroticize the military, to displace violence against Palestinians, to encourage Western public’s to identify with Israeli soldiers.” While I agree partially with Mr. Doherty’s analysis of this, I think there is another, even more dangerous and devious side to this “War Sporno”. Because it doesn’t just work to present a positive image of the Israeli military (and State of Israel as a whole) by “de-uglyfing” the imagery of the occupation and Israeli soldiers. Even worse, it is trying to erase morality and ethics from the political situation entirely by portraying violence against the Palestinian people as a part of an almost romanticized justification. Surpassing even any necessity to present oneself as moral or “good”, because the moral question no longer applies. Though there is a difference between the official Israeli Army’s use of War Sporno, which is just trying to “de-uglify” the image of the occupation and Israeli soldiers by presenting them in a positive and “beautiful” light, and the unofficial, regular Israel soldiers use of War Sporno, which evermore represents something of a conflation between the oppressive violence against the Palestinian people and the sexualization of the Israeli army (and people).
War Sporno represents a dangerous product, some produced through decades of oppression and dehumanization of the Palestinian people. In the end, the goal of such dehumanization is not to try to present oneself as the moral good of a conflict, but to present evil as something positive in the face of such a conflict. And to make that evil seem all the more attractive through the use of a sexual image of violence. With talk of annexation of the West Bank increasing as well as the growing political hegemony of the right-wing in Israel, we shouldn’t throw out the possibility that in such a scenario, there will not be members of the Israeli far right who may consider that political Apartheid over the Palestinians is not something permanent. That eventually Israel will undergo the same faith as South Africa and will be ruled mainly by an Arab majority. And that with already most of the world condemning this near-future Israel, the only way to truly end the “Palestinian problem” is through total genocide of the Palestinian population. Whether through mass murder or sterilization of the populace. And in such an event, dehumanization of a people prove to be a great tool in the perpetration of absolute atrocities.
But if this is the case, then War Sporno is nothing new in the history of human conflict. The linking of sex and political violence have occurred in many conflict zones, from the Serb army in the Bosnian war to both sides of the Liberian civil war, where a stunning 75% of the women in Liberia during that war were reported to have been raped. We must realized that correlating violence in any such a matter as being romanticized is inherent dehumanizing and ethically immoral, especially if this violence functions on a mass political scale. When this happens, truly horrific things can occur, and we lose all sense of our basic humanity.
Reproduced from a Print Copy, and Posted by Cain Pinto
*This excerpt is taken in entirety from Paul Ricoeur’s magisterial Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation (1970).
…what advantages can the hermeneutician adduce when faced with formal logic? To the artificiality of logical symbols, which can be written and read but not spoken he will oppose an essentially oral symbolism, in each instance received and accepted as a heritage. The man who speaks in symbols is first of all a narrator; he transmits an abundance of meaning over which he has little command. This abundance, this density of manifold meaning, is what gives him food for thought and solicits his understanding; interpretation consists less is suppressing ambiguity than in understanding it and explicating its richness. It may also be said that logical symbolism is empty, whereas symbolism in hermeneutics is full; it renders manifest the double meaning of worldly or psychical reality…[S]ymbols are bound: the sensible sign is bound by the symbolic meaning that dwells in it and gives it transparency and lightness; the symbolic meaning is in turn bound to its sensible vehicle, which gives it weight and opacity. One might add that this is also the way symbols bind us, viz. by giving thought a content, a flesh, a density.
These distinctions and oppositions are not false; they are merely unfounded. A confrontation which restricts itself to the symbolic texture of symbols and does not face up to the question of their foundation in reflection will soon prove embarrassing to the advocate of hermeneutics. For the artificiality and emptiness of logical symbolism are simply the counterpart and condition of the true aim of this logic, viz. to guarantee the nonambiguity of arguments; what the hermeneutician calls double meaning is, in logical terms, ambiguity, i.e. equivocity of words and amphiboly of statements. A peaceful juxtaposition of hermeneutics and symbolic logic is therefore impossible; symbolic logic quickly makes any lazy compromise untenable. Its very “intolerance” forces hermeneutics to radically justify its own language.
We must therefore understand this intolerance in order to arrive a contrario at the foundation of hermeneutics.
If the rigour of symbolic logic seems more exclusive than that of traditional formal logic, the reason is that symbolic logic is not a simple prolongation of the earlier logic. It does not represent a higher degree of formalization; it proceeds from a global decision concerning ordinary language, the amphibolous character of its construction, the confusion inherent in metaphor and idiomatic expressions, the emotional resonance of highly descriptive language. Symbolic logic despairs of natural language precisely at the point where hermeneutics believes in its implicit “wisdom”.
This struggle begins with the exclusion from the properly cognitive sphere of all language that does not give factual information. The rest of discourse is classified under the heading of emotive and horatory functions of language; that which does not give factual information expresses emotions, feelings or attitudes, or urges others to behave in some particular way.
Reduced thus to the informative function, language still has to be divested of the equivocity of words and the amphiboly of grammatical constructions; verbal ambiguity must be unmasked so as to eliminate it from arguments and to employ coherently the same words in the same sense within the same argument. The function of definitions that succeed in doing this are scientific ones. These are not content with pointing out the meaning of words already have in usage, independently of their definition; instead they very strictly characterise an object in light of a scientific theory (for example, the definition of force as the product of mass and acceleration in the context of Newtonian theory).
But symbolic logic goes further. For it, the price of univocity is the creation of a symbolism with no ties to natural to language. This notion of a symbol excludes the other notion of symbol. The recourse to a completely artificial symbolism introduces in a logic a difference not only of degree but also of nature; the symbols of the logician intervene precisely at the point where arguments of classical logic, formulated in ordinary language, run into an invincible and, in a way, residual ambiguity. Thus the logical disjunction sign ∨ eliminates the ambiguity of words that express disjunction in ordinary language (Eng., or; Ger., oder; Fr., ou); ∨ expresses only the particular meaning common to the inclusive disjunction (the sense of the Latin vel) according to which at least one is false; ∨ resolves the ambiguity by formulating the inclusive disjunction as the part common to the two modes of disjunction. Likewise the symbol ⊃ resolves the ambiguity inherent in the notion of implication (which may denote formal implication, either logical, definitional, or causal); the symbol ⊃ formulates the common partial meaning, namely, that any hypothetical statement with a true antecedent and a false consequent must be false; the symbol is thus an abbreviation of a longer symbolism which expresses the negation of the conjunction of the truth value of the antecedent and the falsity of the consequent: ∼ (p. ∼ q).
Thus the artificial language of logical symbolism enables one to determine the validity of arguments in all cases where a residual ambiguity can be ascribed to the structure of ordinary language. The precise point where symbolic logic cuts across and contests hermeneutics, therefore, is this: verbal equivocity and syntactical amphiboly—in short, the ambiguity of ordinary language—can be overcome only at the level of a language whose symbols have a meaning completely determined by the truth table whose construction they allow. Thus the sense of the symbol ∨ is completely determined by its truth function, inasmuch as it serves to safeguard the validity of the disjunctive syllogism; likewise the sense of the symbol ⊃ completely exhausts its meaning in the construction of the truth table of the hypothetical syllogism. These constructions guarantee that the symbols are completely unambiguous, while the nonambiguity of the symbols assures the universal validity of arguments.
As long as the logic of multiple meaning is not guaranteed in this reflective function, it necessarily falls under the blows of formal and symbolic logic. In the eyes of the logician, hermeneutics will always be suspected of fostering a culpable complacency toward equivocal meanings, of surreptitiously giving an informative function to expressions that have merely an emotive or horatory function. Hermeneutics thus falls under the fallacies of relevance which a sound logic denounces.
The only thing that can come to the aid of equivocal expressions and truly ground a logic of double meaning is the problematic of reflection. The only thing that can justify equivocal expressions is their a priori role in the movement of self-appropriation by self which constitutes reflective activity. This a priori function pertains not to a formal but to a transcendental logic, if by transcendental logic is meant the establishing of the conditions of possibility of a domain of objectivity in general. The task of such a logic is to extricate by a regressive method the notions presupposed in the constitution of a type of experience and a corresponding type of reality. Transcendental logic is not exhausted in the Kantian a priori. The connection we have established between reflection upon the I think, I am qua act, and the signs scattered in the various cultures of that act of existing, opens up a new field of experience, objectivity, and reality. This is the field to which the logic of double meaning pertains—a logic we have qualified above as complex but not arbitrary, and rigorous in its articulations. The principle of limitation to the demands of symbolic logic lies in the structure of reflection itself. If there is no such thing as the transcendental, there is no reply to the intolerance of symbolic logic; but if the transcendental is an authentic dimension of discourse, then new force is found in the reasons that can be opposed to the requirement of logicism that all discourse be measured by its treatise of arguments. These reasons, which seemed to us to be left hanging in the air for want of a foundation, are as follows:
- The requirement of univocity holds only for discourse that presents itself as argument: but reflection does not argue, it draws no conclusion, it neither deduces or induces; it states the conditions of possibility whereby empirical consciousness can be made equal to thetic consciousness. Hence, “equivocal” applies only to those expressions that ought to be univocal in the course of a single “argument” but are not; in the reflective use of multiple-meaning symbols there is no fallacy of ambiguity: to reflect upon these symbols and to interpret them is one and the same act.
- The understanding developed by reflection upon symbols is not a weak substitute for definition, for reflection is not a type of thinking that defines and thinks according to “classes.” This brings us back to the Aristotelian problem of the “many meanings of being.” Aristotle was the first to see clearly that philosophical discourse is not subject to the logical alternative of univocal-equivocal, for being is not a “genus”
; and yet, being is said; but it “is said in many ways”.
- Let us go back to the very first alternative considered above: a statement that does not give factual information, we said, expresses only the emotions or attitudes of a subject. Reflection, however, falls outside this alternative; that which makes possible the appropriation of the I think, I am is neither the empirical statement not the emotive statement, but something other than either of these.
This case for interpretation rests entirely on the reflective function of interpretative thought. If the double movement of symbols towards reflection and of reflection towards symbols is valid, interpretative thought is well grounded. Hence it may be said, at least, negatively, that such thought is not measured by a logic of arguments; the validity of philosophical statements cannot be arbitrated by a theory of language conceived as syntax; the semantics of philosophy is not swallowed up by a symbolic logic.
These propositions concerning philosophic discourse do not enable us, however, to say positively what a philosophical statement is; such an affirmation could be fully justified only by its actually being said. At least we can affirm that the indirect, symbolic language of reflection can be valid, not because it is equivocal, but in spite of its being equivocal”.
Paul Ricoeur. Trans. Denis Savage. “Book I. Problematic: Reflection and Equivocal Language”. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. New Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, 1970. P. 47- 54