Monday, October 15, 2007

Love and Law, Part 3: Feminine Non-All

Part 2

Summary of Part 2: The Law crushes life, and only something like madness can escape the law and affirm life.

A partial attempt to escape that Law/madness battle is something like libertinism, the “path of uninhibited jouissance.” This amounts to the denial of the Law, the move toward a life of pure pleasure without restraint. This collapses, however, when the necessity of the Law for pleasure is remember. Sin - or pleasure - needs the Law. If one denies the Law, one has no access to anything but the most banal enjoyment, like Zarathustra’s little pleasure of the day and the little pleasure of the night.

Another attempt to escape the cycle of guilt and pleasure is the full acceptance of the Law. In other words, this is the choice to live one’s life in a radically moral way. The fault here, as Lacan points out in his discussion of Freud, is that whoever “attempts to submit to the moral Law sees the demands of his superego grow increasingly meticulous and increasingly cruel.” The Law, when one willingly enters into its economy, can only grow. The positive order of being attempts to overtake all excess, creating a world in which every action is carefully formed to continuously answer the question of what the Law wants. The life thrown into the Law is spent asking the Law, which is the Other, “what do you want from me?” Because there is no specific answer offered, the subject must search for more and more emphatic ways of answering this question for themselves.

So here we have three separate yet related problems for the relationship between Law and desire. Under Law, desire can only be expressed in a hyperbolic way, in a rush into the repulsive real where morbid guilt awaits. The question for both Lacan and Žižek revolves around the possibility of moving beyond this impasse. Lacan asks if the ethics of psychoanalysis leaves “us clinging to that dialectic.” The search is for a relationship to desire beyond the Law, and Žižek locates this in a non-all logic of love.

In The Puppet and the Dwarf, Žižek introduces his reading of non-all logic by dealing with a potential problem for Lacan’s formulations of sexuation. Žižek pits Bruce Fink’s and Suzanne Bernard’s reading of this against each other. In Zizek’s portrayal, Fink argues that feminine jouissance is both ineffable and inextricably bound up with speech. Fink appears willing to allow this sort of contradiction or incompletion in Lacan’s work. This seems like a reasonable enough position to take, considering Lacan’s general views on lack and knowledge. However, Žižek insists that this cannot be written off as an innocent contradiction, as this problem lays at the crux of sexual difference itself. To solve this problem, Žižek turns to the work of Suzanne Bernard in the same volume.

The logic of feminine non-all does not mean there is some mysterious part of a woman that remains outside the symbolic. Rather, there is a “simple” lack of totalization. All totalization takes place through its constitutive exception, in much the same way that the Law is sustained by transgression. Here, the argument is made that the woman is in the symbolic without exception. There is nothing in a woman that is not immersed in the phallus. So the woman is completely symbolized, but because there is no exception, she cannot be said to be totalized by the symbolic. There must be some excess here, a nothing that is a something. It will be by following up on this logic of non-all with a reading of Christianity universality that Žižek tackles the Law and desire problem.

Part of the solution involves the idea that something can be immersed by not totalized because there is an excess; in the case of the feminine non-all subjection to the Law, there is the jouissance of the other. Being in the symbolic without any sort of exception produces its own excess, formulated by Lacan as S(A). It is down the road of excess that we need to travel if this question of Law and desire is to be answered. Žižek will follow St. Paul in looking to Christian agape and Christ as a figure of excessive (eternal) life for clues to the solution.

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