Monday, October 29, 2007

Love and Law, Part 7: A Shift in Perspective, and Conclusion

Part 6

Summary of Part 6: When you are working within the confines of the pleasure principle, a life gripped by love and one crushed by law look about the same.

Žižek makes it quite clear that the perspectivism of the parallax gap is operative here. The life gripped by love and the life crushed by the insane superego appear identical from the outside. Both are lives that appear to be utterly without freedom; what separates them is not a change in content or actions but a shift in perspective. The way love appears as identical to Law can only be surmounted by a shift in the subject themselves - one must enter the life of the spirit for themselves.

The non-all logic of love is hinted at in the New Testament again in 1 Corinthians. This is the passage that speaks of love as being only for incomplete beings; it is only incomplete beings with incomplete knowledge that have access to knowledge. However, this passage also speaks of love as still existing even when knowledge is complete. This, again, must be read in terms of the non-all. Žižek says “love is not an exception to the All of knowledge, but precisely that ‘nothing’ which makes incomplete even the complete series/field of knowledge.”

It is not difficult to see the application of this to the symbolic realm of the Law. One that lives the life of the spirit is submersed in the Law, living out the “as if” demands. The one that is living life instead of existing in a state of living death is encompassed by a rigid series of responsibilities and demands upon conduct; however, they are not totalized by the Law. The subject never becomes an automaton, engaged in compulsive repetition of acts, trying to answer the question of what the Other wants.

It is here that we may return to the Kantian relationship between morality and freedom cited above. Kant argues that the ability to legislate laws is the pre-condition of freedom, and vice verse. Freedom cannot exist without a certain relationship to the symbolic Law. Freedom without Law will never have access to jouissance. What is freedom but the ability to be thrown into one’s desire, which is held by the Law and guided by the nothing of love? Law, desire, love and freedom all presuppose one another, though, as Paul would say, “the greatest of these is love.”

By way of conclusion, it is clearly the way of love that steers a path through the dismal responses to the harsh dialectic of Law and desire. The path of the libertine attempts to deny Law itself, and discovers that pleasure descends into mechanistic repetition. It leads to a life incapable of investment in any particular object and the abandonment of desire. The alternate path of the ascetic finds the superego growing immeasurably, swallowing up any last hint of agency or life. One’s desire is constantly foreclosed, deferred, mutilated. Both of these paths lead to the Pauline existential positions of death. Love, however, leaves the subject under the Law, but the lack of totalization leads to the ability to make choices and decisions as a subject. Learning to love is, then, a vital part of fulfilling the psychoanalytic maxim of wo es wor, soll ich werden. Love is an element of that which allows me to appear where it was, for my desire to grow where it was once crushed by the desire of the other.

No comments: