Wednesday, August 01, 2007


In this essay I look at Heinrich Rommen’s work on the concept of oughtness, principally his contention that ought to must be a metaphysical ought (in keeping with Aquinas) and Freud’s concept of the Super Ego, or moral/societal censor in human action and behaviour. Freud’s work on the tripartite division of the human psyche suggests some interesting arguments for and against the notion of a metaphysical ought. I will also be drawing on Vitoria’s political writings, principally the construction of societal authority.

The use of the term ought or ought to imply a call to action, or in some cases inaction. The concept of Natural Law as a binding principle upon human society requires an ought or oughtness as an underlying principle of social appeal among its members. To be ought is to be compelled by obligation or duty, or to be expected or likely to be so. Oughtness refers to the being of ought or being-ought. Natural Law is defined as a body of law or a specific principle held to be derived from nature and binding upon human society in the absence of or in addition to positive law. (Webster’s Dictionary).

When the terms ought and being is conjoined, ought or ought to become an act of being or being-ought. This necessarily occasions an act of being-ought, or oughtness. Ought can be used as ought-to or ought-not-to, as in you ought-to do this, but you ought-not do that. When conjoined with being, {the state or act of being} ought becomes an act-of-being or a being-ought. The implications of this being-ought, or oughtness are important for political philosophy, jurisprudence and theology.

Rommen’s approach to oughtness rests in his reading of Thomism against a rationalist empiricism. He sees the Thomist concept of form and being as essential to a non-reductionist application of Natural Law to moral/legal oughtness.

The idea of natural law obtains general acceptance only in the periods when metaphysics, queen of the sciences, is dominant. It receded or suffers an eclipse, on the other hand, when being (not taken here in Kelsen’s sense of mere existentiality or factuality) and oughtness, morality and law, are separated, when the essences of things and their ontological order are viewed as unknowable.

Rommen contends that natural law depends on Thomism, principally Aquinas’ metaphysics (ontology) of being. As suggested above, when being and ought is conjoined, the result is a being-ought, or an esse of being as action and moral agency. Rommen also contends that if moral philosophy and legal philosophy are to have a solid foundation they must be based in metaphysics.

In this connection “being” does not denote simple existence, the imperfect form of being. It means essential being, the esse essentiae.

What Rommen has in mind is essential being in an Aquinian sense, a reaching towards perfection. In this manner ought, or oughtness becomes an esse-ought with the supreme omnipotent will of God as the source of all norms. He uses Occam’s concept of a supreme will (God’s will) which necessarily conjoins existence and oughtness, thereby avoiding what he refers to as an extreme empiricism.

For being and oughtness must in the final analysis coincide. Or to express it differently, being and goodness, the ontological and deontological or moral orders must at bottom and ultimately be one.

Rommen is concerned with the implications of a hollow rationalism that has no basis in metaphysics, allowing for a radical relativism. By using Thomistic philosophy as a foundation for natural law this relativism can be avoided. Rommen outlines Aquinas’ concept of sensible knowledge and its application to oughtness. Man understands by means of the senses and the intellect, and in this manner the things themselves are the cause of knowledge, not an epistemic rationalism or a purely intellect knowledge. Following a Thomistic epistemology or metaphysics, Rommen suggests,

At first, then, the intellect is passive. Reality exists prior to the intellect. The mental image is a copy whose original is the real. This real, moreover, presupposes for its actuality only God the Creator, the first creative intellect, who as the All-actual and All-operative gives things their measure.

The intellect, or human mind, knows things in agreement with reality, or the things themselves. Natural Law theory allows for an adjustment of knowledge with reality, but with the omnipotence of God’s will as its essential referent. Rommen agrees with Aquinas that moral philosophy and the science of law require experience, both the sensible and the intellectual, a sort of reasonable empiricism or formal essence of being. Universality in this manner is a conjoining of form and substance.

But the nature becomes universal and hence representative of the essence, the quiddity of the thing, when it is abstracted, as St. Thomas says, ab utroque esse, when it is viewed apart from existence in things of the external world as well as from existence in the thought of some intellect.

Universals are not substances as Plato suggests, but existence and essence, a quiddity of form and substance. In this way the essence of things allow us knowledge of them, a universality of form and substance. As man’s greatest desire is to attain perfection, an imperfection in the face of God’s perfection, natural law lays the foundation for this attainment. As the divine will brings things into existence either immediately as first cause or indirectly through secondary causes, nature law is essential, a prospect of God’s divine will. According to Rommen this forms the basis of natural law, allowing for or suggesting the concept of oughtness as essence and being, or being-ought.

Now the goodness of moral actions is contingent on the immutability of the natural law, its un-changeableness. In this manner essences are unchanging, and the action drawn from these immutable natural laws form the basis for moral action or oughtness.

…the essence (form) which constitutes the real thing in its being is also the end, the final cause, of the thing. The Aristotelian-Thomistic theory of knowledge starts essentially from the actual fact of motion, of self-change or of being changed, in short, from the attempt to comprehend becoming. Thence came the distinction between an inner, enduring core, the form, and the changeable element, the matter, that which is formed or molded in every material thing.

This striving towards perfection implies a striving towards goodness, which is based in natural law; and the full realization of this end, or goal, is the realization of quiddity or existence, which is attainable only in a philosophy of morals and law that is founded in natural law. In this manner Rommen suggests a teleology of moral law, a striving towards goodness that implies an ought-to or an oughtness conjoined with being or essence.

The teleological conception, grounded in the metaphysics of being, is therefore the basis of the essential unity of being and oughtness, of being and goodness.

If moral philosophy and the philosophy of law are founded on an esse-oughtness, they are inseparable from natural law; they’re very nature depends on a greater will, the unchangeable divine will of God. Ought and being are adjoined, they are as substance and form is to being and in this way one single act, esse-oughtness. One acts as an essential-being, not as a particular body separated and divisible from essence, form and substance. This conjoining of being and ought or essence and moral action shuns relativism, hollow or otherwise.
Now I will look at Freud’s topographical outline of the psyche, Vitoria’s concept of authority and community and Rommen’s oughtness, a tripartite of metaphysical, political and psychological ought. These three conceptual edifices form an interesting conjoining of societal, onto-metaphysical and psychoanalytic oughtness. Rommen’s ought can be used to show how Freud’s topography of the psyche and Vitoria’s conception of authority and community share in a common notion of esse-being, a tripartite of the societal, metaphysical and psychological.

Freud’s topography of the psyche suggests an interesting, albeit competing notion of human behaviour and action. With its tripartite construction the psyche is a storehouse of memories, rebuses, a call-to action, motivation or intention. The Id or the libidinal aspect of the psyche, the ego, which perceives and engages with reality, and the super ego, which acts as a censor between the two, form the tripartite topography of the human psyche. In keeping with Rommen’s notion of a metaphysical ought, Freud’s super ego represents the authoritative or societal mediator between ought and ought not. Jones writes,

We have good grounds for supposing that to the activity of the super-ego we are mainly beholden for the imposing structure of morality, conscience, ethics, aesthetics, religion—in short, to the whole spiritual aspiration of man that sunders him most strikingly from the beasts.

The ought that Rommen refers to has commonalities with the Freudian super-ego in that ought, or ought to has both metaphysical and psychological referents. Rommen’s ought is both an ontological and metaphysical ought, in that it requires an act of being, or esse oughtness. In the Freudian sense of ought, or ought to, the act of being, or ought esse is one where an authority, or censor, determines the act of ought or oughtness. This authority is first derived from familial authority, then a social-anthropological one that changes with life experience and societal norms. Jones writes,
The conscience is plainly the guardian of morality in the fully developed sense of that term: what is socially right (according to the mores) and ethically laudable. Now the super-ego is certainly not moral in that sense—in extreme cases, for example, it may even dictate an act of murder as both desirable and commendable—and yet it possesses an important attribute that closely mimics it. That is the sense of urgent ‘oughtness’, a categorical imperative. Actually this ‘oughtness’ in the super-ego may get attached to attitudes that are either moral or immoral as judged by our reason and conscience, although in both cases it is at least as strong and compelling as any corresponding dictate of the conscience.[9]

Both the metaphysical ought and the psychological ought have censors or authorities’ as part of the act or oughtness. In this manner a normative quality is included in, or mitigates the act of ought to. In the psychological case that norm can be either familial or societal, in the metaphysical case theological or societal.

According to Vitoria power is of two kinds, public and private. An authoritative power arises from or out of a society, and does not exist outside of the formation of society. Authority appears as a moment within the appearance or establishment of a society or community. In this manner authority and power are contingent, meaning, there would be no authority without a society over which or for which it rules and exercises power. As with Freudian psychodynamics the topography of the psyche is comprised of id, ego and super-ego, each with its own specific function and purpose as part of the whole. Each of its own would not, nor could it function or exist outside of the whole or tripartite nature of the psyche. The super-ego as discussed earlier mediates between the outside and the inside, the ego and the id, or libidinal drives. In this manner the super-ego acts as an authority or censor that appears as a moment within the topography of the psyche. As with Vitoria, the power or authority of a society exists as part of that society, not as something extraneous to it. Rommen’s metaphysical ought functions within or as part of a whole.
Vitoria sees society as a living organism, a function of parts. In order for these parts to coexist they must share the possession of power; and this power is vested in an authority, but a power and authority that works for and as part of the whole. Vitoria writes,
So it is that, in order to make up for these natural deficiencies, mankind was obliged to give up the solitary nomadic life of animals, and to live life in partnerships (societates), each supporting the other.[10]

Vitoria stresses the Aristotelian notion that for mankind to progress in both soul and understanding it must not live in isolation from its fellow man; and in this manner Justice can only be exercised in a multitude. As each man and woman seeks out his or her perfection, a partnership formed as a community bests serves this aim. Vitoria says,
Since, therefore, human partnerships arose for the purpose of helping to bear each other’s burdens, amongst all these partnerships a civil partnership (civilis societas) is the one which most aptly fulfils men’s needs. It follows that the city (civitas) is, if I may so put it, the most natural community, the one which is most comfortable to nature. The family provides its members with the mutual services which they need, but does not make it whole and self-sufficient (una sibi sufficiens), especially in defence against violent attack.[11]

This partnership requires an authority or governance that will serve the whole and its parts. The problem of who is to hold and exercise this authority is as long and varied as history itself.

In Rommen, Freud and Vitoria the age-old problem of authority and power, restraint or delimit of freedom, be that private (individual) or public (community) continue to challenge, often resisting change or amelioration. Vitoria’s proposition for a partnership or fellowship of mankind invariable encourages the problem of authority and power, as in Freud’s tripartite psyche and Rommen’s metaphysical ought.
Rommen’s reliance on a metaphysical or non-relativistic ought requires an agreement or partnership between members in a societal whole; and this in turn requires the ceding of authority to one authority or power vested with authority to rule over the members of a society. Vitoria writes,
Just as the human body cannot remain healthy unless some ordering force (uis ordinatrix) directs the single limbs to act in concert with the others to the greatest good of the whole, so it is with a city in which each individual strives against the other citizens for his own advantage to the neglect of the common good.[12]

No one part is given exception over the other, and in this manner the whole strives for a common good. The same may be said of the psyche, as the topography of id, ego and super-ego work in concert towards a common goal, even though the libidinal drives appear to strive towards narcissistic ends. In Rommen the authority rests with a metaphysical ought, an authority that is founded in a normative though non-relativistic common goal. In Vitoria this authority is derived out of the conception of society, in the moment of its beginning, as a part of the fabric of the societal whole. Although it is true that the super-ego is formed out of the id and ego, it has vestiges long before its final formation; it changes with maturation and societal change, but in many ways is static or unchanging.

The problem of authority is a common theme shared by all three authors, metaphysical, political and psychological. All three can be woven together as a whole, or found within the fabric of one another; authority of the individual, authority of the community and a tripartite of authority formed from societal, metaphysical and psychological.

Vitoria foreshadowed many of the problems and challenges facing contemporary political thinkers, Marx, Rawls and the Frankfurt School to name but three, so perhaps a further look at Vitoria is in order. As we have seen with Freud, the psyche can be understood as a topographical model of human behaviour, and Vitoria’s political writings in many ways precursory to the human psyche as a political topography. With Aristotle we have the body as a template for society, the harmony of disparate parts all striving for a common good. As with many thinkers of his time Vitoria drew heavily from Aristotle and Aquinas, building upon those extrapolations a societal theory of power and authority. Vitoria writes of authority as having a divine source and a social or civil one,
Divine and natural law require there to be some power to govern the commonwealth, and since in the absence of any divine law or human elective franchise (suffragium) there is no convincing reason why one man should have power more than another, it is necessary that this power be vested in the community, which must be able to provide for itself. If no one was superior to any other before the formation of cities (ciuitates), there is no reason why in a particular civil gathering or assembly anyone should claim power for himself over others.[13]

The power to govern arises out of the formation of the commonwealth, and is responsible and accountable to the commonwealth and its members. The ought or ought to that Rommen speaks of arises out of the commonwealth and is enacted and acted upon by its members as part of the common whole or good of the civil society. In Freud the super-ego plays the role of authority, though in a much less civil and organized manner; as it is at constant odds with the id, whose libidinal desires often challenge the ought or ought to that is first learned from familial then societal sources.
As with all three topographies, the source of authority and governance poses a threat to individual desires and freedom; however in a civil society the need for a common authority is paramount, as without a common good of disparate parts (members of the society) the commonwealth collapses. A collective or contractual ought, which arises out of the formation of a civil society, assures against this occurring, and when it does provides for laws to adjust such behaviours. Vitoria writes,
Therefore the commonwealth, in which ‘we, being many, are one body, and every one members one of another’ as the Apostle says (Rom. 12:5) ought not to lack the power and right which individual men assume or have over their bodies, to command the single limbs for the convenience and use of the whole. Individuals may even risk the loss a limb if this is necessary to the safety of the rest of the body; and there is no reason why the commonwealth should not have the same power to compel and coerce its members as if they were its limbs for the utility and safety of the common good.[14]

In this manner the commonwealth is likened to the body, or in the Freudian topography, the psyche. When the id or libidinal desires overtake or compete with the common good of the psyche as a whole, it is the authority of the super-ego to mediate and intervene between the id and the ego, thereby re-establishing stasis or psychical harmony. The ought lies in the function of the super-ego, as it does in the common good of the civil society or commonwealth through the formation of a governing principle or authority.

Rommen, Freud and Vitoria, as a threefold model of authority and civil society, allow for a functional whole of parts. When one member takes precedent over another, or the id tries to take control of the psyche disharmony occurs, one that requires a mediator or authority to re-establish a striving for the common good or a harmony of parts of the whole. Freud’s topography of the psyche and Vitoria’s conception of the civil society and Rommen’s notion of oughtness, share in a striving towards a stasis or common good, that of the human being or of the commonwealth.

1Heinrich A. Rommen, The Natural Law, A Study in Legal and Social History and Philosophy, Indianapolis, Liberty Fund.
[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid
[6] Ibid
[7] Ibid
[8] Jones, Ernest, Papers on Psycho-analysis, London: Bailliere, Tindall and Cox, 1948, p.145
[9] Jones, Ernest, Papers on Psycho-analysis, London: Bailliere, Tindall and Cox, 1948, p.146
[10] Vitoria, Francisco de, Political Writings, New York: Cambridge University Press, p.7
[11] Ibid
[12] Ibid
[13] Vitoria, Francisco de, Political Writings, New York: Cambridge University Press, p.11
[14] Vitoria, Francisco de, Political Writings, New York: Cambridge University Press, p.11

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Husserl's Epoche and the Unconscious

By phenomenological epoche I reduce my natural human Ego and my psychic life—the realm of my psychological self-experience—to my transcendental-phenomenological Ego, the realm of transcendental-phenomenological self-experience.[1]

Is the unconscious compatible with Husserl’s phenomenological system? In asking this question we must first outline Freud’s notion of the unconscious, primary process, and Husserl’s epoche, cogitations, or middle-stream of self-reflective thought. At first glance it would seem that the two (Husserl’s epoche and the Freudian unconscious) are incompatible, the one not allowing for or recognizing the other. In this essay, or expose, I hope to reconcile these differences, drawing attention to the compatibility between the two. I will be working principally with Freud’s Metapsychology and Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations, though I will be employing some secondary texts to help elaborate the arguments set forth.

I think it prudent that we start our meditations with the Freudian unconscious, then move on to Husserl’s transcendental-phenomenological ego. In so doing I hope to show that the unconscious is closer to the notion of the phenomenological ego than at first thought, and as a basis on which the arguments will hold forth, principally the similarities and dissimilarities between the two. If as Husserl maintains the epoche is the horizon or stream from which self-reflection is carried out by the transcendental-ego, and the unconscious is that area attainable only through translation or interpretation, a symptomology, both phenomena seem to have ubiquitous geographies, existing on a plane outside of conscious thought or perception.
They seem to have a reaching-back or away-from as characteristics of there systematic, to a plane or horizon not immediate or attainable from conscious mediation. Self-reflection would appear to involve a looking back-over or away from the immediateness of perception or conscious cogitation. Only by pulling away, or in Schopenhauerian terms, disinterestedness, can we be said to be truly self-reflecting. Husserl’s self-reflective transcendental-ego does just this, a Cartesian self-reflection that does not do away with the world, but accepts it as given, in existence always. But first let us go to the Freudian unconscious, the source of much perplexity and conjecture.

In an address to the Society for Psychical Research of London in 1912 entitled A note On The Unconscious in Psychoanalysis Freud says,
Now let us call ‘conscious’ the conception which is present to our consciousness and of which we are aware, and this be the only meaning of the term ‘conscious’. As for latent conceptions, if we have any reason to suppose that they exist in the mind—as we had in the case of memory—let them be denoted by the term ‘unconscious’. Thus an unconscious conception is one of which we are not aware, but the existence of which we are nevertheless ready to admit on account of other
proofs or signs

The unconscious is there if we look for and acknowledge these proofs and signs, which are to be found in symptoms, forgetfulness, i.e. repression, slips of the tongue, repetitions and so forth. The unconscious, or primary process, is that part of the psyche that is hidden, or concealed, until drawn out, be that through interpretation, translation or free-association. Ricoeur
[3], for example, conceived of the unconscious as a hermeneutics, a language of symbols and representations.
Lacan[4] defined the unconscious as a language, a structural assemblage of meaning found in the interpretation of unconscious patios. Whether the unconscious is a language or a hermeneutics, it still lies unaccounted for in work being done on consciousness and modes of conscious thought, or intentionality as in Daniel Dennett’s[5] work. Unconscious acts may seem to be lacking intentionality, but as Freud showed this is not the case: they represent the ongoing stream of thought that goes on beneath consciousness, the Lacanian patios that drives conscious activity. In this mode, or manner, they exist below the surface as an ongoing stream of activity that affects how one thinks, acts, reacts and feels. Freud writes in his 1915 essay entitled The Unconscious that,
We can go further and argue, in support of there being unconscious psychical state, that at any given moment consciousness includes only a small content, so that the greater part of what we call conscious knowledge must in any case be for very considerable periods of time in a state of latency, that is to say, of being psychically unconscious. When all our latent memories are taken into consideration it becomes totally incomprehensible how the existence of the unconscious can be denied. But here we encounter the objection that these latent recollections can no longer be described as psychical, but that they correspond to residues of somatic processes from which what is psychical can once more arise. The obvious answer to this is that a latent memory is, on the contrary, an unquestionable residuum of a psychical process.[6]

Freud goes on to argue that we are mistaken to believe that all psychical activity is conscious, and that when we take a less bias approach we discover that the very opposite is the case. The interesting line here is the last, where Freud refers to latent memory as ‘unquestionable residuum’. If memories leave traces, or residuum, behind in psychical processes, then it seems reasonable to suggest that they are part of psychical modes of thought. Of course, as Freud says, we can only get at the unconscious consciously, through interpretation and the translation of imagery and symbols.
The unconscious can be likened to a stream of psychical activity that goes on behind the scenes, so to speak; a storehouse of images, rebuses, memories and past experiences. As the unconscious is timeless, meaning neither in the now or the past, but a non-temporal process, it cannot be said to be have intentionality until the meaning is interpreted or drawn out into consciousness. This reinforces Freud’s notion of the repressed, which is the cornerstone on which the unconscious is founded. A repressed memory was first a conscious memory, an experience or happening; and as with many repressed memories, of a traumatic or unthinkable nature. These repressed memories often manifest themselves as unwanted or troubling behaviours or thoughts, which can be traced back to the original experience. The cathartic process in psychoanalysis allows for the release of these repressed memories, in turn allowing for a lessening of unwanted or troubling behaviours and thoughts. It is for this very reason that Freud believed that the unconscious existed, and was a predominant factor in psychical life, affecting our behaviours, thoughts and conscious processes. In Freud’s 1915 work called Repression he says the following,
One of the vicissitudes an instinctual impulse may undergo is to meet with resistances which seek to make it imperative. Under certain conditions, which we shall presently investigate more closely, the impulse then passes into the state of ‘repression’ [‘Verdrangung’]. If what was in question was the operation of an external stimulus, the appropriate method to adopt would be flight; with an instinct, flight is of no avail, for the ego cannot escape from itself. At some later period, rejection based on judgement (condemnation) will be found to be a good method to adopt against an instinctual impulse. Repression is a preliminary stage of condemnation, something between flight and condemnation; it is a concept which could not have been formulated before the time of psychoanalytic studies.[7]

The notion that the ego cannot escaping itself is of interest, as it implies the ego is in constant tension with the repressed, guarding against unwanted memories or thoughts gaining access to consciousness. Symptoms are signposts to repressed memories, and the repressed lies deep in the vicissitudes of the unconscious.

Husserl envisioned a philosophy that would make the disputes and petitions between philosophical systems vanish, allowing for a unified phenomenological philosophy based in the transcendental ego, a self-reflective mode of philosophical analysis. His reflective or phenomenological transcendental ego, which works as a mode of consciousness within or on the plane of the epoche, allows for a non-psychological self-reflection, a disinterested apprehension of the existent or world. Following the Cartesian self-reflective ego, Husserl suggests,
But perhaps with the Cartesian discovery of the transcendental ego, a new idea of the grounding of knowledge also becomes disclosed: the idea of it as a transcendental grounding. And indeed, instead of attempting to use ego cogito as an apodictically evident premise for arguments supposedly implying a transcendental subjectivity, we shall direct our attention to the fact that phenomenological epoche lays open (to me, the meditating philosopher) an infinite realm of being of a new kind, as the sphere of a new kind of experience: transcendental experience.[8]

And thus begins Husserl’s meditation on the phenomenological transcendental ego. As the term implies, a transcendental subjectivity is a mode of consciousness that reflects on itself, as the transcendental ego is the source of all knowledge, and for Husserl, apodictic evidence of the world, evidence based in the transcendental ego. The epoche, much like the Freudian unconscious, is mode of cogitation that goes on at a level in between, or on a psychical plane removed from everyday consciousness; it is here that self-reflection is carried out. Though not a psychological process or mode of cognition, it does carry traces and vestiges of sensual or sensate phenomena gathered from perceptual and sensate apprehension, otherwise the transcendent ego would have nothing to reflect upon. Much like Schopenhauer’s will-less-ness, the transcendental ego reflects upon the world from a disinterested position, whereby it can experience the phenomena of experience from the horizon or plane of the epoche. As Husserl explains in the Cartesian Meditations,
If I keep purely what comes into view—for me, the one who is meditating—by virtue of my free epoche with respect to the being of the experienced world, the momentous fact is that I, with my life, remain untouched in my existential status, regardless of whether or not the world exists and regardless of what my eventual decision concerning its being or non-being might be. This Ego, with his Ego-life, who necessarily remains for me, by virtue of such epoche, is not a piece of the world; and if he says, “I exist, ego cogito”, that no longer signifies, “I, this man, exist”. No longer am I the man who, in natural self-experience, finds himself as a man and who, with the abstractive restriction to the pure contents of “internal” or purely psychological self-experience, finds his pure “mens sive animus sive intellectus”; nor am I the separately considered psyche itself.[9]

The transcendental ego, by virtue of the fact that it is not a purely psychological ego, attains a level or meditation or self-reflection that is non-relational, independent of the existing world, but accepting the world as given just the same. If it were a psychological ego in the sense that we understand the ego as such, it would be impinged upon and affected by sensual and emotive phenomena, and therefore not phenomenological self-reflection. Husserl goes on the say that,
Consequently for me, the meditating Ego who, standing / and remaining in the attitude of epoche, posits exclusively himself as the acceptance-basis of all Objective acceptances and bases [als Geltungsgrund aller objektiven Geltungen und Grunde], there is no psychological Ego and there are no psychic phenomena in the sense proper to psychology, i.e. as components of psychophysical men.[10]

According to Husserl the natural attitude of the mind is not concerned with the critique of knowledge per say, but with things that are given to us through perception, thought and intuition.
[11] It is by this means that we engage in the world, both as psychological-beings and sensate or perceptual-beings. Much of what we do in the day-to-day is intuitive, meaning we attend to behaviours, attitudes, judgments and so forth without giving them much critical thought. Husserl’s transcendental ego, however, pulls away from this world, and in doing so reflects on the ego reflecting on the world. It is in this reflective-mode that the phenomenological transcendental ego uncovers, or un-conceals apodictic evidence, evidence found solely in the ego-self. Husserl contends that what we take for granted in natural thinking is the possibility of knowledge, apodictic evidence of the world and ourselves as being in the world. Apodictic evidence is my evidence of the world; and as such a subjective experience, though one that is shared through inter-subjectivity with others. Husserl makes this point clear in the Fifth Meditation where he says,
In any case then, within myself, within the limits of my transcendentally reduced pure conscious life, I experience the world (including others)—and, according to its experiential sense, not as (so to speak) my private synthetic formation but as other than mine alone [mir fremde], as an intersubjective world, actually there for everyone, accessible in respect of its Objects to everyone. And yet each has his experiences, his appearances and appearance-unities, his world-phenomenon; whereas the experienced world exists in itself, over against all experiencing subjects and their world-phenomena.[12]

Without the argument for inter-subjectivity, Husserl’s phenomenological system could be accused of idealism, a purely mental or solipsistic consciousness. The Sanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines the phenomenological epoche as such,
Husserl developed the method of epoché or “bracketing” around 1906. It may be regarded as a radicalization of the methodological constraint, already to be found in Logical Investigations, that any phenomenological description proper is to be performed from a first person point of view, so as to ensure that the respective item is described exactly as is experienced, or intended, by the subject.[13]

The epoche does not preclude inter-subjectivity, but is a “bracketing” that allows for a so called first person point of view. Epoche, from the Greek (εποχη), is the term Husserl employs to describe that moment where all belief in the existence of the real world is suspended, whereby a more critical grounding of the world is founded. As suggested previously, this shares similarities with Schopenhauer’s suspension of the will, or a cessation of desire-driven activity.

Now I will look at the similarities and dissimilarities between Freud’s unconscious and Husserl’s transcendental ego, or epoche. The most unambiguous way of doing this, I suggest, is to approach the unconscious as something interpretable, as a language in the Lacanian sense. By taking this line of inquiry we will not get bogged down with terminology and queries as to whether the unconscious exist at all, and save ourselves the trouble of defending Freud. If we acknowledge the unconscious as a topographical rather than a descriptive mechanism, we will be able to move quicker and with fewer impasses. Laplanche and Pontalis in
The Language of Psychoanalysis say the following about the unconscious,
The Freudian unconscious is primarily—and indissolubly—a topographical and dynamic notion formed on the basis of the experience of treatment. This experience showed that the psyche cannot be reduced to the conscious domain and that certain ‘contents’ only become accessible to consciousness once resistances have been overcome; it revealed that mental life is ‘full of active yet unconscious ideas’ and that ‘symptoms proceed from such ideas’ (1); and it led to the postulation of the existence of ’separate psychical groups’, and more generally to the recognition of the unconscious as a peculiar ‘psychical locality’ that must be pictured not as a second consciousness but as a system with its own contents, mechanisms and—perhaps—a specific ‘energy’.[14]

Husserl’s phenomenological transcendental ego, that mode of consciousness which is self-reflective, a purely philosophical cogitation rather than a psychological one, works on a plane or horizon referred to as the epoche. In Lecture 1 of The Idea of Phenomenology Husserl writes,
Phenomenology: this term designates a science, a complex of scientific disciplines; but it also designates at the same time and above all a method and an attitude of thought: the specifically philosophical attitude of thought, the specifically philosophical method.[15]

So what we have before us as philosophers, or phenomenologist’s as Husserl would say, is a philosophical discipline that seeks to secure apodictic evidence for and of the world, but evidence that is found in me as the transcendental ego. Freud’s discipline was one that wanted to explore, and subsequently identify, unconscious psychical activity through the psychoanalytic method of treatment and epistemology. Both theorists, appearing as they do to be at divergent poles of the epistemological scale, share in a common goal: the science of psychical activity. In Husserl’s case the transcendental ego allows for a purely philosophical reflection on the world, in turn allowing for epistemic evidence based in the self, the transcendental ego. In Freud’s case symptoms and there cathartic release allow for a better understanding of the self in relation to the world, be that ideas or phenomena.

The source of these symptoms, which are manifested in overt behaviours and undesirable thoughts, are stored in the unconscious, where repressed memories, thoughts and images remain inaccessible to consciousness. Husserl’s method requires a pulling-away from the world to a self-reflective mode of consciousness; Freud’s a seeking beyond or behind conscious phenomena to the source of repressed thoughts, images and memories. In both methods the end result is similar: evidence of behaviours or the world as phenomena.

Husserl’s epoche, which is an ongoing process, or systematic, running behind or between psychological consciousness and the world, or what exists as the world as given, is a stream, or horizon if you like, where self-reflectivity is carried out allowing for apodictic evidence based in the transcendental ego or self. Freud’s unconscious, which is interpretable from symptomology, thinking and behaviours, is also an ongoing process or systematic, but one that is accessible only through interpretation or translation. Both Freud and Husserl’s methods are linguistically-restrained, meaning bound by language and the expression of language. This hermeneutics of evidentiary consciousness carries with it the problem of interpretation and a shared language of experience. Even though Husserl’s concept of intersubjectivity serves to make this point moot, the problem still remains. It seems inconceivable, insurmountable at best, that a purely philosophical critique of knowledge is possible without taking into consideration the psychological ego, or at least the acceptances of psychological traces or vestiges in the phenomenological transcendental ego. Schopenhauer, it is true, envisioned a will-less state of apprehension that is both pure and desire-less, allowing for an annexing of things as they are in themselves’. But this sort of apprehension, though appealing, is one lacking in affect and emotional attachment, and as such a cold dispassionate experience of the world. If we accept, at least acknowledge that the unconscious exists, is there, like Husserl’s epoche, running behind or in between consciousness, perhaps we can conjoin the epoche and the unconscious, making them into one systematic with differently directed objectives: both methods seek evidence for the world, each from within a reflective stance or posture. In this manner the transcendental ego reflects upon the unconscious, which is then interpreted by the transcendental reflection. Of course there would be no sure way of knowing this other than through a changed or enhanced engagement with the unreflective world through the psychological ego. To reflect seems to also imply to interpret or translate, and if this is the case, then reflection is an interpretable method of consciousness, not one removed from psychological/anthropological extrapolations.

Now we will turn our attention to Ricoeur whose work, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation, is an inestimable contribution to Freudian scholarship. In the chapter, The Phenomenological Approach to the Psychoanalytic Field, Ricoeur says the following,
We are going to confront Freud’s concepts with the resources of Husserl’s phenomenology. No reflective philosophy has come as close to the Freudian unconscious as the phenomenology of Husserl and certain of his followers, especially Merleau-Ponty and De Waelhens. It is well to mention at the very start that this attempt is also bound to fail. But this failure does not have the same pattern as the proceeding one. [*Psychoanalysis is Not an Observational Science] It is not a question of a mistake or a misunderstanding, but rather of a true approximation, one that comes very close to the Freudian unconscious but misses it in the end, affording only an approximate understanding of it.[16]

Ricouer sees the phenomenological turn towards psychoanalysis with Husserl’s transcendental reduction, what he calls the off-centering or displacement of meaning with respect to consciousness.
The reduction, indeed, has some relation to the dispossession of immediate consciousness as an origin and place of meaning; the phenomenological bracketing or suspension is not concerned simply with the “self-evidence” (Selbstverstandlichkeit) of the appearance of things, which suddenly cease to appear as a brute presence, to be there, to be at hand, with a fixed meaning that one has only to find. To the extent that consciousness thinks it knows the being-there of the world, it also thinks it knows itself. Furthermore, to the so-called knowledge on the part of immediate consciousness there belongs a pseudo-knowledge on the part of the unconscious, a knowledge that Freud points to at the beginning of the paper ‘The Unconscious” and which we ordinarily connect with the experience of sleep or the state of unconsciousness, with the disappearance and reappearance of memories, or with the sudden violence of the passions. This immediate consciousness is deposed along with the natural attitude. Thus phenomenology begins with a humiliation or wounding of the knowledge belonging to immediate consciousness. Further, the arduous self-knowledge that phenomenology goes on to articulate clearly shows that the first truth is also the last truth known; through the Cogito is the starting point, there is no end to it; the whole of phenomenology is a movement toward the starting point. By thus dissociating the true beginning from the real beginning or natural attitude, phenomenology reveals the self-misunderstanding inherent in immediate consciousness.[17]

This misunderstanding, Ricouer says, was alluded to by Husserl in the Cartesian Meditations when he says that “Adequacy and apodicticity of evidence need not go hand in hand.”
[18] Ricouer goes on to say that a so-called nucleus of primordial experience is presupposed by phenomenology, which makes it a reflective discipline. “The ego’s living self-presence” (die lebendige Selbstgegenwart) is what differentiates phenomenology from psychoanalysis.[19]

Ricouer suggests that beyond this nucleus extends a horizon which he refers to as the “properly nonexperienced” (eigentlich nicht erfahren), a horizon of the “necessarily co-intended” (notwendigmitgemeint).
This implicit factor is what allows one to apply to the Cogito itself the critique of evidence previously applied to things: The Cogito, too, is a presumed certitude; it too can be deceived about itself; and no one knows to what extent. The resolute certitude of the I am involves the unresolved question of the possible extent of self-deception. Into this fissure, into this noncoincidence between the certitude of the I am and the possibility of self-deception, a certain problematic of the unconscious can be introduced.[20]

Ricouer then suggests that the first unconscious (unawareness) that phenomenology reveals has to do with the implicit or co-implicit. By its very nature the phenomenological position must take into consideration the possibility of self-deception, whereby the cogito deceives itself. In the Freudian dynamic this deception comes by way of symptomology and unconscious desires, both of which are concealed by conscious thought.

It is important to note that for Husserl all acts of consciousness are intentional acts regardless of the object. Intentional acts or intentional experiences always represent something as something. However there are non-intentional acts, such as pain, but they lack intentionality in Husserl’s sense of the term. Even objectless intentional experiences have content, an “as if of” content. Even if a proposition has no corresponding object it is still considered an intentional act or experience. This will prove crucial for the phenomenological experience of the Freudian unconscious.

Both Husserl and Freud were students of Franz Brentano, which in and of itself raises some interesting questions about the similarities between the two. Brentano defined intentionality as follows,
Every mental phenomenon is characterized by what the Scholastics of the Middle Ages called the intentional (or mental) inexistence of an object, and what we might call, though not wholly unambiguously, reference to a content, direction toward an object (which is not to be understood here as meaning a thing), or immanent objectivity. Every mental phenomenon includes something as object within itself...[21]

If all mental activity is directed towards an object, or thing, then the phenomenological transcendental ego, though in a mode of self-reflection, has some object to which and for which it reflects. In the Freudian sense this object can be a missing object, as in the Fort-da game, where the child learns that a missing or unavailable object, such as the mother, will again appear allowing for a lessening of anxiety and detachment from the object. In both the phenomenological mode of consciousness and the Freudian unconscious there exists an element of desire, or as Ricouer puts it the conditions of possibility of a semantics of desire.
[22] In the unconscious this desire can be represented as a competing desire for an object or person, which is the very systematic of the Oedipal Complex: the child’s desire for the mother and the competition for that desire with the father, and the triangulation of desire, competition and loss of object which that entails. Even in the epoche a desire is present, be that towards an object that is not immediate or an objectless “as if of” content.

We are confronted with the impossibility of total reflection, or as Ricouer says: Hegelian absolute knowledge. E. Fink
[23] and De Waelhens[24] propose that the finitude of reflection are written into the primacy of the unreflected over the reflected, the operative over the uttered, the actual over the thematic. Ricouer says,
This unawareness [inscience] proper to the unreflected marks a new step toward the Freudian unconscious; it means that the co-implicit or co-intended cannot completely attain to the transparency of consciousness precisely because of the texture of the act of consciousness, i.e. because of the invincible unawareness of the self that characterizes intentionality in act.[25]

Ricouer says that it is possible to give a direct definition of so-called psychism (the mere intending of something) as meaning without appealing to self-consciousness. In Freud this meaning is defined as dynamic and historical. Ricouer goes on to say that it is possible to dissociate the actual lived relation from its refraction in representation.
In a philosophy of immediate consciousness the subject is first of all a knowing subject, that is to say, ultimately, a look directed to a spectacle; in such a philosophy, the spectacle is at the same time the mirage of self in the mirror of things; the primacy of self-consciousness and the primacy of representation are interconnected; by becoming representation the relation to the world becomes self-knowing.[26]

In this manner the possibility that man is primarily “concerned for things”, “appetition”, desire and the satisfaction of desire raises issues for Husserl’s phenomenological approach to conscious self-reflection. Or as Ricouer puts is, “as soon as the psychical is no longer defined as consciousness, or the actual lived relation as representation”.
[27] This brings us back to the notion of symptomology, or the “goal-form” (Zielform) that is an essential element of the Freudian dynamic.
Ricouer sees this as a return to its genesis or founding, everything points back to an original becoming acquainted, or as Husserl puts it,
With good reason it is said that in infancy we had to learn to see physical things, and that such modes of consciousness of them had to precede all others genetically. In “early infancy”, then, the field of perception that gives beforehand does not as yet contain anything that, in a mere look, might be explicated as a physical thing. Yet, without putting ourselves back into the realm of passivity, to say nothing of using the external psychophysical point of view of psychology, / we can, the meditating ego can, penetrate into the intentional constituents of experiential phenomena themselves—thing-experiencing phenomena and all others—and thus find intentional references leading back to a “history” and accordingly making these phenomena knowable as formations subsequent to other, essentially antecedent formations (even if the latter cannot be related to precisely the same constituted object).[28]

If in thinking, reflecting and remembering we are making referential checks back to an original source or genesis, then the Freudian dynamic seems plausible; and to leave out a psychological element to reflection seems suspect. Ricouer sees a clear affinity between Husserl and Freud on this very point, as both systems require a regressive orientation. In both Husserl and Freud this regressive orientation has a behavioural element to it, one that requires a philosophical or psychological stance. In this sense what Ricouer refers to as a semantics of desire comes into play, a reaching towards or seeking, be that an object in Freudian terms, or an “as if of” in Husserl’s terms. This lived experience, or relationship with the world, is carried out on a plane of language, or as Ricouer says,
It must be rediscovered with Hegel that language is the being-there of the mind; for phenomenology, as for psychoanalysis, this “reality of language” is nothing other than meaning achieved by a behaviour.[29]

The difference between active and passive genesis is important here, as it allows for an associative link in consciousness. Active genesis forms cultural products and ideal objects, and passive genesis works by association, which is the principle for the formation of unified perceptual objects. In this way we are pre-given objects by unconscious passive synthesis, each with a history to them. In many ways this represents a storehouse, if you may, of pre-given objects to which I, the reflecting ego, can refer to.

If we accept the Freudian dynamic of the unconscious, then this passivity of reflection seems to have a historical or pre-given nature to it; and if this is the case, then perhaps the phenomenological-ego accesses the unconscious, or referential points enclosed in the epoche. If we in turn acknowledge the timelessness of the unconscious and the plane or horizon of the epoche, the stream, as would have it, that flows beneath, behind or in between consciousness per say, the notion of experiencing something anew, or for the first time seems plausible. Husserl’s pure-experience and Freud’s unconscious (repression) allow for this very activity; in Husserl as a reflecting upon the ego as it reflects, and in Freud in the timelessness of the unconscious. And if we accept the linguistic character of the unconscious, the Lacanian patios, and Husserl’s transcendental ego as a language-based phenomena, one that is expressible and reflected up in and through language, then phenomenology and psychoanalysis are limited by language, or what is expressible.
[1] Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1967, p.26
[2] Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology, London: Penguin Books, 1991, pp.50-51
[3] Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay On Interpretation, London: Yale University Press, 1970
[4] Jacques lacan, Ecrits, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1977
[5] Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained, Boston: Little Brown, 1991
[6] Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology, London: Penguin Books, 1991, pp.168-69
[7] Ibid. p.145
[8] Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1967, p.27
[9] Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1967, p.25
[10] Ibid. pp.25-26
[11] Edmund Husserl, The Idea of Phenomenology, Husserliana II, London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999, p.15
[12] Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1967, p.91
[13] Christian Beyer, The Sanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, 2007
[14] J. Laplanche and J.-B. Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis, New York: W.W. Norton, 1973, p.475
[15] Edmund Husserl, The Idea of Phenomenology, Husserliana II, London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999, p.19
[16] Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay On Interpretation, London: Yale University , 1970, p.376
[17] Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay On Interpretation, London: Yale University , 1970, p.377
[18] Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1967, p.22
[19] Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay On Interpretation, London: Yale University, 1970,
[20] Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay On Interpretation, London: Yale University, 1970, pp.377-78
[21] Franz Brentano, Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, transl. by A.C. Rancurello, D.B. Terrell, and L. McAlister, London: Routledge, 1973. (2nd ed., intr. by Peter Simons, 1995). P.88
[22] Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay On Interpretation, London: Yale University , 1970, p.375
[23] E. Fink, Husserliana, 6, The Hague: Nijhoff, 1954 (473-75)
[24] A. de Waelhens, Edmund Husserl, 1859-1959, The Hague: Nijhoff, 1959 (221-38)
[25] Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay On Interpretation, London: Yale University , 1970, p.379
[26] Ibid. p.379
[27] Ibid. p.380
[28] Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1967, p.79
[29] Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay On Interpretation, London: Yale University , 1970, p.384

Monday, July 09, 2007

Blood and Scrimshaw

flail-points rasped to burr-edges on a match striker
and a pull of yellow-sulfur air black with chamfer and junk-worry
skin anointed with grain alcohol and puddle tarn, and the hex of her arm
roughshod with brittle, lost in that corner where thoughts are devils
and children’s scabbed over knees are revenants of dog’s tongues, milk
teeth and whalebone, and church spires tracing blood and scrimshaw
on the boughs of moth-nettled arms

Ray begged for coppers and unused change with his left hand, the right one having been sheared off by a cog pin. He disliked cows’ tripe, moth collections and anything soaked in formaldehyde. His father drove for the Mercury Fish company and liked molasses candies, which he pilfered from the walk-in freezer behind the punch-in meter. Ray’s mother volunteered with the deaf and wore red taffeta dresses with beige stockings. She had rickets which she salved with desiccated goat’s milk and castor oil. Ray’s brother had spayed feet and a cowlick that formed a cone on the top of his head. He wore shoes with struts and a hat that keeled to one side, making him look off-centred and fat. On his twenty-first birthday Ray lost his mind two hours after dropping acid and drinking a Coke laced with Bufferin, which he stole from the Cantor’s Bakery behind the Mercury Fish company. That Wednesday Ray’s brother moved into his room and took down all his posters.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bluestones Blue

eyes are
blue stones
a child’s
blue sky
the innocence of first love,
lips folded into
a passionate

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Rector's Toilet

Malone bought a Millry-bar, the kind with nuts and wafer and a drizzling of sesame oil, with the milk-money his mother had given him for school. He ate it behind the rector’s toilet, just out of sight of the rector’s assistant, a penitent with pale ashen skin and a nose like a rutabaga. He heard the rector grunting and moaning, then the sound of a match being struck, then no sound at all, then the voice of the rector’s assistant saying, ‘Sears or Roebuck?’ To which the rector replied, a faint moaning still in his voice, ‘Geographic, and quick with it…’ Then no sound at all, not a voice, a murmur, a groan or a grunt, nothing. Malone finished his Millry-bar, stowed the wrapper in his trouser pocket and hi-tailed it back to the recess yard, where a girl named Pamela was busy showing all who dared look the underside of her dress, beneath which she revealed an otter’s foot, a baseball and two pairs of bloomers cinched into a knot, two knots, in fact, that held sway against the crop of her thigh. The rector left the cloister of his toilet, his assistant in tow, and checking to see if he’d left his hat in the loo, corseted across the yard, a faint moaning and groaning and wisp of unearthly air cockscombing in his wake.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Keeled to Scuttle

I sit in the roil of your thoughts thinking up ways to count to one-hundred-and-one backwards without exhaling one single breath. I recline in the decumbency of your memory, scheming ways to steal your yet to be thought, thoughts, thoughts best left to forgetfulness and shitty reasoning. I lie in the hammock of your dreamscape swung side to side like a ship keeled to scuttle, sunken into the shallows of your cheeks, where fleas’-bodies and Joseph K’s spiny carapace collects apples, russet cores braded to twiggy legs, jimmying like millipedes on PCP. I am tired, too tried to continue this servitude, this slavery to your thoughts, the time lost in between, all those thoughts yet to be thought, memories yet to be had, memories to be forgotten.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Jorge's Mother

Having not slept the night before, I feel refreshed. Borges slept with his eyes open, his mother watching him as he slept. Borges lived with his mother until her death, then for some time afterwards. She knotted his cravat, polished his shoes and cinched his belt round the vicarage of his waist; made sure he ate properly, took his vitamins and wore matching socks.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Majesty of Words

wrote by candlelight
the quixotic
Eros of his thoughts
never blinded
to the majesty
of words

Moments Lost


in between

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Vector Savant

Every move I make is calculated. All that I do, from the simplest to the most complex, is well-thought out before a commitment to movement, thought and action is taken. Sometimes, more oft than not, I move in circles, wide uneven rhomboids or lariats, other times in a straight line without a beginning, middle or endpoint. In this manner, and perhaps in others I have yet to determine or acquire mastery of, I am an algebraic savant, a vector without a proper reason for vectoring. I do math, but care little, perhaps not at all, for proper fractions or equations. Perhaps what I am trying to impart, to tell you, is that all movement, at least movement as I experience it, is incalculable, beyond math, algebra, vectors and reason. Every thought I make is incalculable, without reason, a thought without a thinker, and thereby incalculable.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Fool's Story

I give you fair warning; this is a story told by a fool. Not one of Dostoeveski's idiots, a boorish intellectual, but a fool whose sole purpose in life is to spread foolishness and confusion. Idiocy is far too common; I leave that to anarchists and idealists. I am the excrescence that fills the void, the otherness to the reality you feel, hear, touch, taste, fuck and shit out of all the holes that you lay claim to. I am no idiot, but a foolish man with little patience or tolerance for fools. I tolerate myself, but only out of shear necessity, a necessity to strike a balance in the imbalance of my life. All other necessities are meaningless.

I don’t like people to ask me for a cigarette, even though I smoke myself, I find the habit in others repulsive. My father smoked, then quite and took to snuff. Black like roe, it stuck to the hairs of his arms and littered the carpet at the foot of his chair. I do not have fond memories of this, nor does my mother, whose job it was to sweep up under my father’s feet. I had an addiction, but some god or the other wiped my slate clean, leaving me with little desire for such wastefulness. If I waste anything, it is time, which I have more than enough of to waste and squander. I am above punition in such matters, as I see no purpose in laying blame where none is warranted. If anyone is to lay blame, it would be I, and that is out of the question. I am blameless. Others, I fear, are not so lucky.

I have worn my hair the same way since I was a teenager, not giving in to the custom of adulthood. It will stay as it is, or was, and that will be it. I have no time for cutting and trimming and behind the ears shaving with a razor sharp enough to slice me to ribbons. It is far less perilous to leave it be, and pay the consequences of not conforming to custom. If necessity should have it, which it may, given the vagaries of my existence, a time may come when I will need to attend to this, but for the time being, I choose not to do so. Hair has become a social issue, as are good looks and the right shoes. If I could, I would wear neither shoes nor good looks, and be done with it once and for all. But as I cannot, I am fated to an indifference that makes life a bad memory. Don’t ask me why it is, it just is, so settle for that or keep your gore hole shut. I have little patience for yammering and bad manners, or people who ask me for a cigarette when clearly I have no intention of giving them one. They are blameful. I am not. I fear nothing, but not fearing anything at all. If I were fearless, I would surely be dead, rotting in some lime pit with arms and legs severed from joints and hipbones. God has seen to that. Others have not been so lucky.

The Other, Other

I have the crassness, or some such respiratory indelicacy. Breathing becomes wheezing because a sputtering expectoration of insides-out, blackleg, phonographic things and not things. I am reading Paul Celan, more aptly, it is he that is reading me, in between the lines and striations of my being: my being-me in the world of things, of not things and things yet to be, to-be-things yet. Thank you P.C. you have closed the abyss of my heart, reawakened my spirit, my humanness, my Being-me in Others, not me and me, the other Other that is me and me alone. My responsibility to the Other other that is me, but not me: Me and the Other: the One, the indivisible Other that is One.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Still Haven't Slept

We might suggest, then, that creativity is an act of imagination, an act of insight into the Ideas of things as they are apprehended and understood in the creative imagination. Creativity moves beyond those things that the senses perceive, into a realm of possibilities where actions of will-less contemplation create things of beauty and merit. In Schopenhauer’s philosophical system, creativity, imagination and insight engender the object of the aesthetic or artistic; it is through the actions of contemplation and reconfiguration that we arrive at things that we call ‘creative.’ We imagine things to be different than they are; we in turn contemplate things, notions and ideas that may be apprehended outside the given domain of the subjective.

Werther's Original

I’m having a tough go with sleeping, even though the exhaustion has set in like gangbusters. What the fuck is a gangbuster, some somnambulist with rickets, a narcoleptic miscreant with a horrible overbite. This not being able to sleep, anti-narcolepsy, some might say, fuckers! might have its good points, the least of which is being conscious for a sunrise or having that first espresso in a weatherglass, fuck. CBC-2 has promised me an early morning of Mahler, a 5th I’d do me just fine right about now, or a brisk walk with my Waterford’s weatherglass topped off with frothy espresso. Werther’s original, a blunderbuss sawed off at the armrest-end pointed directly at the ear-jaw juncture, just below the eye and above the temple. Teutonic cry-baby should have had the good manners to lay out a Rubbermaid mat or a tarpaulin before he messed up the front lawn, sad pathetic whist.

About Forgetting

the worst thing
about being in love
is having to forget
you ever were

Monday, March 12, 2007

Things Best Left Forgotten

We all have stories to tell, mine’s just shorter. He doesn’t remember me, but I remember him. He was smaller then, but so was the world, or the way I remember it. I don’t remember much from then, not much worth remembering. If I were to remember what I needed to remember, all those moments, I’d be remembering things best left forgotten. It’s less complicated that way, and in the end easier to forget what shouldn’t be remembered. I won’t bore you with the details of my life, the moments in between, those are too many to recount, and even if I could, recount them, they’d seem vague and distant, not worth remembering at all.

I don’t remember my birth, that day forty-nine years ago when I was called into this world, drawn out from the inside. If I could remember I suppose I’d remember it as a warm place, an inside that was safe and warm. The outside wasn’t, it wasn’t warm or safe, but a place of confusion and light, a place of speculation and anger, a place that exist inside me now, even though I wish it didn’t. The place that was the outside is now the inside, the inside in of me, my self seen from the inside out. It’s not what you see, but what I see when I look inside of me, at the outside in of me.

I am not to be trusted, so if you chose to read on, remember that I am not someone who pays attention to details or truth. After all, in the end all truths are alike, someone else’s remembering, some seen from the outside in, others from the inside out. It’s always easier to lie than to tell the truth, even though a lie seldom gets told without some truth to it, something about it that isn’t a lie, but the truth told from the inside, from somewhere deep inside the lie. So if I lie, I will be telling the truth, but a truth that lies deep inside, where the difference between the truth and a lie is speculation, a truth told to cover up a lie.

I don’t sleep much anymore; my thoughts forbid that I find some comfort in sleep. Sleep would be too easy, too comforting, a reprieve from the drudgery of wakefulness. Were I to sleep, and wish be that I could, maybe the inside out would stop, maybe it would find some comfort in the inertia that sleep provides. There’s no use in thinking about it, inertia comes when it’s good and ready, not a moment before. Perhaps this wakefulness is sleep, but I’m unaware of it, not yet allowed entry into a wakeful sleep.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Daylight Savings

This morning before pushing the clock forward I daubed nail polish remover onto my eyelids to ensure a good night’s sleep and to remove a discouraging blemish that has been dogging me for years. Should this prove a failure, and by all rights foolhardy, I will peal the lids from my eyes and begin again, this time with turpentine or a mild abrasive. You see, I have no use for my eyes, and being a man of temperance and fair mood see no good reason not to scourge myself of them once and for all. And furthermore, this will ensure that I sleep well past noon, and if I’m lucky, well into next week.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


I see things from the inside out rather than from the outside in. This poses a number of problems, the least of which is my capacity to differentiate between the real and the not-so-real. This introspective-I has a tendency towards solipsism, an inchoate despotism that engenders a self-qua-self delusion, an ego-less-I conflated with an ego-lusion-ism. Best call it a night before I loose the capacity to differentiate between the inside-out-outside-in me.

About Me

My photo
"Poetry is the short-circuiting of meaning between words, the impetuous regeneration of primordial myth". Bruno Schulz