Good morning all, this is a catchup post to finish yesterday’s scheduled activities which were cut short due to my firm belief that no one should have to read more than 1300 of my words in a single sitting. What follows is my attempt to follow the exact contours of the scaffold that we were given by Jeff, the MAPH writing adviser, upon which to erect the glorious edifice of an analytic exposition. Thus, I have attempted to uncover and clarify the macro-level (the essay in its entirety) audience’s belief and author’s challenge to that stasis and the local-level (the assigned passage) audience’s assumed belief and the author’s correction to that belief.
However, you will notice that I have omitted the question of “the problem” to which the author is addressing themselves, because–in my limited experience–it seems that the “problem” is always that the presumed audience’s beliefs are wrong–according to the author. Also, for those following along or working on their own papers, you will notice that I have attempted to excise as much Freudian language of id, ego, and super-ego as I felt comfortable doing per my concerns voiced in yesterday’s post. Further, the macro-level reader’s belief or “stasis” position is nowhere explicitly stated in Lacan’s original essay–unless I can be proven wrong–so much of that paragraph relies on the background given in David Wray’s lectures. I covet being shown up here because I would much rather rely only on the essay rather than having to construct these presumed audience beliefs out of whole-cloth. So, here we go!
Macro-level Reader’s Belief (stasis):
In a Cartesian sense, the “I” is a unified whole whose “thinking” is transparent to the self that it knows. In a Freudian sense, the “I” arrises from the ego-libido as a bubbling forth of internal drives wholly separable from any external objects—the other. Even when the ideal-I appears, it is only the internalization of parental and societal rules rather than an eternally external experience of that rule reality.
Macro-level Author’s claim:
For Lacan, not only the id, but the “I” is a fragmented and contradictory jumble whose only self-knowledge is illusory. Unlike Fraud, Lacan argues that the “I” arises as a response to external stimuli—its representation in a mirror image, its representation through the mother’s (an other’s) caregiving or even through the cerebral cortex’s creation of a false exterior mental projection—an intra-organic mirror imago. Thus, the primordial ego and later the “I”—is situated by the ideal-I—and constituted by external phenomena and forces rather than merely internal drives.
Local-level Reader’s Belief:
The ego arises through a purely internal process of id’s drives welling up, the ego attempting to mediate between those drive’s pleasure-seeking and the rules of reality so as to maximize long- term pleasure within the constraints of the real world.
Local-level Author’s claim:
The primordial ego arises through an encounter with external stimuli—the mirror’s imago. The imago (ideal-I) constitutes the nature of the primordial ego as something that will spend its entire existence striving to resolve the unresolvable conflict between the libidinal drives of the id and the demands of reality in the form of the imago—even before that primordial ego can be socially or linguistically determined as the ego.
Author’s consequences (stakes):
Unlike Freud’s theory that seems to leave the internally constituted “I”–like its Cartesian forebearer—fundamentally separate from the world, Lacan’s conception of the external imago constitutes the primordial ego already within a certain relationship with reality. However, the nature of this relationship is characterized by a gap between the nature of the person its capabilities and resources and what is demanded of it by reality (paragraphs 14 and 15). This “dehiscence” or gaping is prefigured in the distance between the infant subject and his representation in the mirror and later arrives in full force as the knowledge that subject is always late or lacking with regard his or her own obligations to reality.
One of the problems that I ran into with the Hegel analytic exposition was how widely to cast my net–so to speak–when identifying the author’s claims and justification. In the case of Hegel I would argue that this is because Hegel’s arguments are actually far more interconnected than the simple argument outline put forward by my preceptor in which Hegel proves A clearing the way for Hegel to prove B leading naturally to C and so on. With this passage in Lacan the problem is that there is no justification within the passage itself. Lacan makes no attempt to justify his claim in the passage because the assigned passage is his claim. This makes finding justification–this afternoon’s task–an exercise in deciding how far I can reach by stretching from the safe confines of the assigned text to grasp little bits of justification with which to make my snug and happy analytic nest. I am not excited by this prospect.
I’d love to hear some feedback in the comments or in email if I’ve got something wrong–and I probably do. If you are merely lurking and taking my words for gospel–don’t–I’m an idiot, ask anyone.