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Friday, 30 September 2005


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Adam Stephanides

From the little I've read of and about Lacan, I'm inclined to share your opinion of him. However, it seems to me that your criticism of [Richard] is off the mark. In the quote you provide, he isn't arguing that resistance to psychoanalysis is symptomatic of psychoanalysis. Instead, he's putting forward that other old saw, discussed in the Valve Theory's Empire event, that rejection of Theory, with a capital T, equals a refusal to theorize, with a small t.

Some Canadian Guy

"I see you're enjoying a Diet Pepsi. Is there anything else youthful you'd like to try?" "Why yes, I'd like to indulge in pointless Lacanian wanking, just like in the 1980s." [cue to montage of younger self reading Ecrits, scratching head, boring friends and family with recent discoveries about the mirror stage, writing long essays on the difference between the "phallus" and the "Phallus," all to the tune of "I touch myself"]


Sometime during my junior year at UCI, I had the following exchange with (alas, the sadly late) Al Wlecke:

DR. W: Did Mike Clark make you read Lacan in CR100A?
ME: No.
DR. W: Lucky you.

Scott Eric Kaufman

In that same thread, [Richard] (to his credit, civilly) responded:

Your beef is with Lacanian psychoanalysis, and anyone who works from within this system. You're dogmatically opposed. Is it hate? Who knows. But the tone of voice to be assumed when reading your comments certainly leads in that direction. It really does read like a venomous conservative attacking a liberal site. There's nothing to engage with you. What, defend all of Lacanian psychoanalysis right now, to someone who already seems to have their mind made up? What would be the point of that?

What do you believe in, what do you work through? Maybe that would help in the engagement. So far I know nothing, except a negative characteristic: that you hate Lacan.

Someone named "kevin" then piped in:

aside: there is no problem whatever playing intellectual games w/ yourself and only that, w/ whatever boards & pieces. what's allergenic & 'killjoy' are phrases like 'intellectual growth and honesty'. the whole point end of thinking is resisting growth and hiding your strategies and aims even/esp if you have them. thought becomes in a sleight of hand, charlatanry, and is always haunted by nonthought. charlatanry then is what thought leans on, and 'true' charlatans are the academic-activists who want/need to *do* something, 'make a difference', 'get to the bottom of things' (i prefer abyss to bottom or simple void), 'see through' (rather than looking at) them, in metastases of politics epidermal to pro-found apoliticism, their actual profoundly vapid thoughts/in(terior)sights and indifferent lives. 'wo/men of action' -often- playing 'intellectual honesty or growth'. merely descriptive.

To which I replied:

First of all, I never said I hate Lacan--and again, I find it amusing that someone who calls everyone who doesn't work in the manner he does a charlatan, a careerist, and a waste of tax-payer dollars accuses other people of sounding irrationally hateful--only that I believe the psychoanalytic rhetoric implied by your statement about "resistence to (Lacanian) psychoanalysis" intellectually dishonest. Hence, my example of a similarly absurd and similarly dishonest statement about fourteenth century Sanskrit logic (which you no more resist than I resist psychoanalysis; but which you dismiss as irrelevent in the same manner I dismiss psychoanalysis).

I'm not dogmatically opposed to it; in fact, if I could find someone who worked with Lacan who would be willing to debate first principles with me, I'd be happy to...but I haven't, and the reason I haven't is, I believe, that most people who study academic psychoanalysis have replaced the need for first principles--for proof that the concepts with which they analyze the world are anything other than historical relics imposed upon the world they analyze--with dogmatic belief and statements like "anyone who doesn't work through Lacan's 'almost perfect system' is a charlatan, a careerist, and a waste of taxpayer money."

You can say that I've already decided on this issue, but then again, I've engaged Jodi's work on Zizek, and reread some of the Lacan necessary to do so...but she hasn't ever accused anyone who doesn't work with Zizek of being a charlatan, so I'm willing to try to understand her perspective. You, on the other hand, holler empty epithets about those whose thought differs from yours (and Kevin, my lord, Kevin accuses those who differ from his of "nonthought"); which is all very comforting, I understand, because it's a position of easily earned, never-to-be-defended position of superiority. This even extends to your comment about my sounding hateful. I asked for specific examples of where my prose sounded so. You replied:

But the tone of voice to be assumed when reading your comments certainly leads in that direction.

An assertion (or re-assertion of a previously unsubstantiated assertion) is different from a proof. You can say that my tone's been "hateful" from here to Judgment Day, but I believe you've mistaken argument for hate...and I believe that's in large part because you very rarely encounter serious argument. You elaborate, "work-through," but you never argue; thus, you mistake argument for hatred, venom, and general opprobrium. Of course, you have no problem unleashing hatred, venom and general opprobrium on anyone who isn't a psychoanalytic critic, but that's another topic for another time.

To which "kevin" replied:

(it's (merely) interesting dis-missive styles are conflated w/ rhetoric of responsibility (ie the censor performs the censored act: 'arguing'...nothing!). what's actually tedious is the real nonthought about the said - ie if scott of acephalous typepad had half a brain - no pun necessary - and actually read and *thought* about i wrote he wouldn't have thrown up the accusation of the accusation: i was actually arguing for nonthought; it's thinking (thinking it's thinking) that i'm against, any 'honesty' that's inherently reflexive and implicitly 'superior'. false modesty rears its ugly head or lack thereof. learn a lesson: those who say they argue never do.) end parenthesis.

[richard], i wouldn't bother. from his writings (here & on his weblog) i doubt he's capable of arguing any 'first principle'. amuse-toi.

I admit to my mistake:

Actually, you're right. I misread that. Oops. Stupid intellectual honesty. I mean, nevermind, I'm perfect, so why don't I try to score more points off some six month old self-deprecation? Wait, you already did that.

And anyhow, you contradict yourself: you don't want me to think about what you wrote, because that would be pure charlatanry; you want me to nonthink about what you wrote, so as to better approach your abyss. You slip from theoretical non-prose into colloquialisms sloppily. Also, I'd be keen to know what it is you've read of mine that leads you to the conclusion that I'm unable to discuss the fundaments of psychology.

P.S. Speaking of empty rhetorical gestures: "those who say they argue never do"? Please. I volley with "those who say 'those who say they argue never do' never do." Again, assertion is not argument, no matter how many times you insist otherwise.

And received this from "kevin" in return:

'oh it's personal, biatch' :) i want (do i want?) S to think about not thinking, and not think about thinking. (he/she/it is really trying to disenchant me & him/her/itself by making me re-re-explain myself, parboiling my writing to simplistic theses that he/she/it wants. but whatever.) the sloppy is on you: you're thinking yet still not thinking. sophistry? just think of the two in terms of the virtual (or real) and actual (or potential) - that's 1 way. if you need me to explain or lay it out more, pls feel free to write me (or talk about 'first principles') - but probably not on this board. 'You slip from theoretical non-prose into colloquialisms' - that's a very nice compliment (from some1 i just shitted on no less).

this is beginning to sound like a domestic argument. you're absolutely correct - i never argue; i just assert, and i don't hypocrisize that i don't.

(seriously, do S think there's a 'point' to this?)

Rich Puchalsky

Scott, do you think there's a point to it?

Here's some random advice for these kinds of online situations: if you think that a group of people are wrong, never argue with more than one of them at the same time. Always have a goal in mind, in terms of who you are communicating with (one person? the audience?) and what you think can realistically be communicated. Remember that if you crash into a place where people are congregated and disagree with a group of them, or with their pack leader, you are by definition a troll, even if they are united in writing what you think are really stupid things. Be aware that any heated argument that reaches a certain length will magically draw onlookers who will condemn everyone engaged in it equally, for a mixture of motives including appeasement of the inciter, reflexive desire for peace, and a wish to draw attention to themselves as holier-than-thou polite people. Never imagine that people can be convinced of anything major through rational argument. As the thread starts, so it will end. Your options are limited, and sometimes ignoring provocation is unhappily the best one.

Scott Eric Kaufman

Rich, you've no doubt some very fine points there, but I'm not sure I fit the mold of a troll anymore than you do. I realize no one ever believes themselves to be a troll, but I think you and I can agree that we don't jerk our knees with the bland consistency of your average troll. We have, you could say, "hobby horses," but they concern issues of discrete scope and intellectual substance, as opposed to the Bush-lover who frequents As for what I want to accomplish, on the one hand, I want to rescript the borders of what sort of theory I find acceptable and what sort I don't. Since I've been sympathizing of late with theoretical positions I dismissed out-of-hand six months ago, I want to be sure that I'm not slipping into the sort of solipsism which characterized my undergraduate years. Conversations like this reassure me that I'm still the rigorous scholar I imagine myself to be, even though I'm finding Luther Blisset's arguments more and more compelling.

Rich Puchalsky

Which of Luther Blissett's arguments do you mean? I generally like his arguments also. (Well, saying "his" may be somewhat complex, because "Luther Blissett" is one of those fancy multiple name pseudonyms, even though there's probably only one person using it that we actually encounter.)

Anyways, people almost always say something about rational, reasonably civil disagreement not being trolling, but they don't mean it. A sociological description of what people sanction as trolling would have to indicate that almost every "place" with a defineable point of view considers disagreement from core parts of that point of view to be trolling, whether its the Bush rightist spouting GOP talking points, or the most sophisticated philosopher. If people congratulate themselves on celebrating disagreement, it's only because the people disagreeing haven't disagreed with anything important to the group.

So I wasn't saying that you should never troll (however defined). If you know why you're doing it, go right ahead. In the current case, though, it sounds a bit like you're disagreeing with (supply your own epithet) in order to reassure yourself. That works, temporarily, but eventually you realize that (supply your own epithet) can't provide any lasting reassurance, even by contrast.

Patrick J. Mullins

No! No! No! Rich. Scott had his reasons for going through this, and probably was not conscious of the fact that he was also causing a most wonderful pregnancy of some of the most hilarious 'prose of nonthought' I've nearly ever read. However much you may not like [Richard]'s post (I don't like this one,with this unnecessary dichotomy--anybody can do a generalizing comparison half-hoping it will be seen more as a multi-hued juxtaposition--but once in a while he does come up with something really fine, very original, as with his report of Avital Ronell at the EGS this summer and one called 'the Male Hysteric'), you can surely see the difference in style in his responses than to those by Kevin, even though they are 'allied.' When Kevin writes 'that's a compliment from some1 I just shitted on' even after a beginning with 'oh, it's personal, biatch,' this is almost a new language he's speaking in, it could, in fact, be called a 'language of powder-puff shitting' itself. It reminds me of times I have tried to ask for a straight answer of clerks at gay porno stores: They are completely incapable of simply telling you, for example, when something will be open or when the owner will be there, although I haven't gotten 'he/she/it' yet in cases where the sex was known. You know, I just don't think I'd quite call the style hard-hitting--and neither would he want it to be (this is a subtler point, but the analogy is too crude for me to spell out here; although it's probably he who's doing the coy stuff with the Phallus/phallus; this could be related to Let's Praise Small Balls Syndrome, which took me years to decipher--but I can't swear to its usage here and make an accusation of a non-assertion; we're just on the Internet, which is always dangerous). So that, it's up to Scott whether he thinks he has achieved his goal and yours if you think there may have been no point, and for me to savour the uproarious elixir of a tight, pinched blue-and-pink fart (which, incidentally, had been worked up to and possibly even 'worked through' by Kevin before its final delivery.) It is something along the lines of what I imagine Louis XIV's royal bastards might have composed in their 'verse-writing hours.' I know it was not Scott's intention to provide me with entertainment by generating arcane proses, but, since that's the frivolous thing that happened to me via all this...then 'pah-don me f' livin..' I'm not sure why this all makes me prefer to think of Roland Barthes than it does Lacan.

Rich Puchalsky

Well, Patrick, it sounds like you're talking about ... positive externalities. I was presenting the decision of how Scott should use his time and energy as if it mattered only to Scott. But if the results of Scott disagreeing with core concepts of the [a website] set is the most hilarious prose of nonthought ever, then Scott is providing a benefit to others as a side effect that he didn't intend and gets no benefit from himself (assuming that he doesn't find the prose of nonthought amusing when it's directed at him).

So let's call in the economists. Ideally, I'd be most amused by a knock-down drag-out fight between Brad DeLong and Max Sawicky on one side and maybe Tabarrok and some other reasonably non-insane libertarian economist on the other about how positive externalities should be handled in this case. Unfortunately, I don't think that the pleasure of reading the prose of nonthought is really general enough to make this a public good, even though one of the categories of a public good -- that it is non-excludeable, i.e. anyone with Internet access can read it -- is present. So there may not really be that much to argue about.

But if it was a public good -- then clearly it would be to the benefit of society if someone was paid, or in some other way rewarded, to go to Lacanian idol-worship sites and provoke away, so that we'd get more of it up to a certain degree. I would imagine that the libertarian solution would be to deny that this public good should be the kind of thing provided by a minarchy, and that there should be Paypal accounts set up by private companies, who would take 10%, so that individuals who wanted more prose of nonthought could reward individual provokers. The liberals would probably say the supporting wider public education would naturally lead to a greater percentage of Lacan-idol-worship-provokers in the population, as well as perhaps more Lacan-idol-worhsipers to be provoked. Ah, good times.

Rich Puchalsky

I should have added (hit post too soon) that in order to avoid the sociopathy that so often attends purely economic discussion, we'd have to admit that this may be a disagreable experience for the Lacanians themselves. Then this becomes a moral problem as well -- let's say one of utilitarianism vs Rawlsian thought vs biblical morality (is there anything in Leviticus that applies?) The possibilities are if not endless, at least reasonably extensive.


'It reminds me of times I have tried to ask for a straight answer of clerks at gay porno stores'

what makes you presume the clerks are gay themselves? personal statistics?

& mr pulchalsky, i don't just give any1 a free ride.

& scott, for the record (well first 'some canadian guy' isn't me) i wholly applaud your wholesale rejection of psychoanalysis or lacanism, if you do/can - father knows i'm by no means a lacan-lover, and if you read some of my other witty nigglings on [richard]'s site you'd know, too - but maybe you can step up your conceptions of analytic 'first principles' more (that goes for, as a trained scientist myself, some your musings on evolution biology and cognitive 'science' as well)?? tks.

Patrick J. Mullins

'what makes you presume the clerks are gay themselves? personal statistics?'

Yes, honey, personal statistics.

Scott Eric Kaufman


As a trained scientist, I hope you'd have problems with the versions of evolutionary theory and evolutionary biology (as well as cognitive science) I discuss here, since they're all turn-of-the-last-century theories and sciences. I've very rarely discussed contemporary cognitive science, outside of the occasional expression of the hope that it will eventually supplant the other turn-of-the-last-century pseudoscience a.k.a. psychoanalysis. That said, there's work being done in cognitive science today (such as the article on the relation of idiomatic suggestion on the sectors of the brain activated by a smell) that point nowhere coherently, but certainly don't point to the existence of an unconscious.


just to be clearer, in more banal language, my quarrel is w/ your understanding/crediting of those turn-of-the-last-century theories (including p-analysis), and how they've informed current models (and, if/how the latter outgrew the former). very often (or should i say by definition) historians/'theorists' take the 'ideas' and run, without giving primacy to the data, source, protocols (nay, case histories) etc, which themselves - how do i say - already state, in the big ideas, what you're not giving them credit for (or the inverse) in the name of schematization. so much of science (i'm not talking about the scientific project) is thus 'maligned' by adherence to the principle of 'first principles'.

what is *certain* is the mistake that the topology of the unconscious can be razed by contemp cog sci (so what do you mean by 'supplant'?). in your facetious post res materiality & the signifier, certainly you're aware of analytic conceptions of the very geneses of the unconcious and/or preconscious in reception (and metabolism) - cf laplanche, torok & abraham etc - which is again different from the rooting of phantasy in biological instincts/drives (cf klein), and from regressive theories tinted with cosmogony and evolutionary biology (ferenczi). certainly - there are potentials for antagonism or even reparadigmization, but (i'm tired of being verbose) not by your naive, historicist, naively historicist attitude.

cprobes is all abjection, but tis a wonderful thing, you know.


hi Scott,
Sorry to be thick, but I didn't get this:

"he belongs there as much as Eugene Debs would have "belonged" on the current Cabinet (if you reversed the political valences such that Debs were neoconservative and the Bush Cabinet composed of Wobblies)."

Can you unpack the volatile political history a bit then unpack it as metaphor, please?

take care,

The Management

It's unnecessarily complicated: Debs was a famous, beloved radical socialist who'd be out of place on the current Cabinet. I have my valences all screwy there; I'm sure there's some small, contextual but now lost reason as to why I did so. All I'm saying is that [Richard] isn't of the caliber of the rest of the Long Sunday crew, in that he's not a "thinker" so much as a "mindless squid."

Scott Eric Kaufman

That was me. I mean, it's me either way, but just to be clear.


hi Scott,
Thanks. I actually figured it out shortly after asking, after a bit of sleep, and wished I could have taken it back. I've been thinking just now about other metaphors that give a sense of out of placeness. Here's what I've come up with.
As out of place as -
"John L Lewis or George W Bush would have been at the IWW founding convention"
"as Ted Nugent on a Rage Against The Machine record"
"as academic professionalism in a blog post, according to Adam K"
"as a Bantha in the Quidditch cup"

take care,

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