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b. For Badiou, on the other hand, it cannot follow that the repetition of the repetitive One can be called infinite. Repetition, as a quantitative “bad” infinity, may indeed have qualitative being, but one may ask what it is that makes this quality “infinite” (and a “good” infinite at that)? For Hegel, the answer is simply because repetition “tires of the void,” of the insubstantiality and empty beyond (or “trans-finite polarity”) of the finite. For Hegel, the void does not present an obstacle because it is empty, nothing, not determinate.15 It is because of Hegel’s vehemence on this point that Badiou will fault his exclusion of the mathematical—in rejecting the bad infinity, Hegel, in effect, excludes the empty set as well: “in the numerical proliferation, there is no void, since the exterior of the One is its interior; the pure law which institutes the spreading of the same as One. The radical absence of the Other—indifference—does not legitimize declaring that the essence of the finite number, its numericality, is infinity.” The void, the empty set, Ø, cannot simply be reduced to nothing in repetition if, as interior of the One, {Ø}, it is what is being repeated. It is only by a retroactive maneuver, (which places the empty infinite as product, rather than origin, of the One) that Hegel can then locate the good infinity elsewhere, outside the extimacy that the mathematical provides. In naming the true infinity, Hegel draws upon a “bad” element, the void of the finite, to make his claims. There remains an empty object in Hegel, despite his best intentions.

Paradoxically, it seems as if Badiou and Lacan are at cross-purposes in their critique of Hegel. For Lacan, Hegel’s grandiose gesture exhausts, or denies, the function of the Other; for Badiou, there is too much otherness in this meeting between the finite and the infinite, in this preservation of the difference-in-the-one. For the latter, the Hegelian One is both itself (finite) and its other (void as indeterminate) which (illogically for Badiou) thinks the infinity of number from the being of One number. Why name the One “infinite,” if not because the “One” (as counted, as title) must erroneously presuppose the infinite as its content? In his preservation of the other through the interiority of the One, Hegel is not Hegelian enough—he is still located on the side of Badiou’s nemesis—Gilles Deleuze. For what does Deleuze designate as his formula for the subject? Precisely the “Leibnizian” formula of the One over its infinite denominator: 1/∞.16 It is One with the infinite, or rather, the infinite folded in the One as its pure interior. But Badiou cannot, nor should 28 Penumbra his reader, think the being of the One in global terms. The One is not what contains the infinite, it is what the infinite passes through.

Thus, what both Hegel and Deleuze presuppose, in spite of themselves, is an anti-mathematical theory of the subject. The very “point” of punctuality which marks the One receives its consistency through being “filled out” by its infinite denominator. Prior to this, it must be asked if there can even be a subject. For Badiou, there can be a different sort of consistency for his subject: it entails that any finite point expresses a subject. This is not to say, however, that there is therefore a formula of numbers (a Symbolic) wholly sufficient onto itself which can also exist without a subject. There is, as Miller has shown, something more: the empty set, objet a. This does not presuppose a “substance” of the subject: on the contrary, if anything, there is too much substance in this Hegelian One. And thus, finally, we are faced with a choice;

if both Hegel and Lacan presuppose a subject—which is the locus at which philosophy can persevere—it is Hegel who opts without hesitation for a multiple subject. Psychoanalysis proposes, in contrast, a subject of division, of the “cut.” That the former would appear as more appealing is perhaps reducible to a refusal of the site where truth, in psychoanalysis, is to be sought. Truth is produced through repression, through the hole it produces in knowledge. It is here, impossibly, that the function of the Other (and, in consequence, of truth) is not exhausted. As Badou himself writes: “a truth is the principle of a subject, by the empty set whose action it supports.”17 What Descartes, Lacan, and Badiou all share is a view of the complete exteriority of the subject to its representative. With the inauguration of the “I think” comes the guarantee that “I am” must reside elsewhere. It is in this sense that the subject is not the void. The naming which effectuates the subject leaves its indiscernible reference, its truth, in the future anterior of the situation of which the subject is a discernibly finite part. The subject, as One, names that which will become the truth that precedes it, the hole in knowledge, S(Ø), which supplements its situation. It is the finite real, if such can be conceived, of its situation. If there can be an agreement between Badiou and Hegel, it is that the subject is indispensable for philosophy to persevere. What gets lost, however, in the latter’s insistence on the interiority of the finite, is the very extimate element that any external foundation must presuppose as its truth.

In subordinating the true to the interiority of a conscious subject, one may as well dispense with it altogether. It is a small step that one takes when going from a point where the true is subordinated to the “human” towards another point where philosophy realizes its end. Badiou can evince the promises that this end affords, and it embodies everything which philosophy should save us from.





Hegel Unsutured Notes

1. The quote comes from Lacan’s unpublished Le séminar X, L’angoisse (1962From a lecture given on November 14, 1962.

2. See Miller, “To Interpret the Cause: From Freud to Lacan,” Newsletter of the Freudian Field 3.1-2 (1989): 50. In his book, The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1995), Bruce Fink notes that Lacan at times has suggested much the same: that is, that “... all truth is mathematizable.” He quotes from Lacan’s unpublished Seminar XXI, The Non-Duped Err/The Names of the Father (1973-74): “There is no such thing as a truth which is not ‘mathematized,’ that is, written, that is, which is not based, qua Truth, solely upon axioms. Which is to say that there is truth but of that which has no meaning, that is, of that concerning which there are no other consequences to be drawn but within [the register] of the mathematical deduction.” Fink, 121.

3. The majority of my interpretation comes from Badiou’s Being and Event, trans. Oliver Feltham (London: Continuum, 2006). Also see “On a Finally Objectless Subject,” trans. Bruce Fink, Who Comes After the Subject, Connor, Cadeva and Nancy, eds. (New York: Routledge, 1991) 24-32.

4. See Jacqueline Rose’s translation of “Suture (Logic of the Elements of the Signifier)” in Screen 18. 4 (Winter 1977-8). Also see Joan Copjec, “The Subject Defined by Suffrage,” Lacanian Ink 7 (1993): 47-58.

5. We can thus see the primary distinction between the use that Gilles Deleuze makes of the term “suture” and the import that it has for psychoanalysis. For the former, the repression of the object proceeds from repetition: “... we cannot suppose that disguise may be explained by repression. On the contrary it is because repetition is necessarily disguised by virtue of the characteristic displacement of its determinant principle, that repression occurs in the form of a consequence in regards to the repetitions of presents: “... We do not repeat because we repress, we repress because

we repeat.” Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York:

Columbia, 1993) 105. While Deleuze repeatedly drew upon Lacanian concepts throughout his career as a philosopher, it is clear that for psychoanalysis, his reading is absurd. Repetition could not even be possible without the included element—the null set—following the exclusion (repression) of something—the empirical subject.

6. Hegel, Science of Logic, trans. A.V. Miller (Atlantic Highlands, NJ:

Humanities, 1969), 117.

7. Hegel, 118.

8. Hegel, 120.

9. See Slavoj Žižek, Tarrying with the Negative (Durham: Duke UP, 1993), 39.

30 Penumbra

10. Hegel, 136.

11. Hegel, 138.

12. Hegel, 141.

13. Hegel, 147.

14. Seminar X, lesson ofNovember 14, 1962.

15. This seems to be Žižek’s thesis as well. See “The Wanton Identity” in For They Know Not What They Do (London: Verso, 1991), 51-9.

16. Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley (Minneapolis: Minnesota, 1992) 130.

17. See Badiou, “Gilles Deleuze: The Fold—Leibniz and the Baroque,” in Gilles Deleuze and the Theater of Philosophy, Boundas and Olkowska, eds. (New York: Routledge, 1993) 69.

The Elements of the Drive Charles Shepherdson

In no region of psychology were we groping more in the dark. Everyone assumed the existence of as many instincts or “basic instincts” as he chose, and juggled with them like the ancient Greek natural philosophers with their four elements—earth, air, fire and water.

—Sigmund Freud, “Instincts and Their Vicissitudes” The fundamental features of Freud’s concept of the drive are now well known.1 To begin with, we may recall the distinction between the instinct and the drive. Insofar as the instinct is governed by the laws of nature (survival and reproduction), while the drive is open to symbolic displacement and substitution, Freud argues that sexuality is detached from its biological foundations and subject to representation—placed, as Lacan would say, in the field of the Other. And yet, the particular character of the relation between the drive and representation (and consequently the meaning of “sexuality” as such) remains obscure and open to debate.2 For even if it is detached from nature, this does not mean that sexuality is entirely inscribed within the circuit of representation. The Other is lacking, as Lacan says—it is “not all” and “not the whole truth” (T 3). This “lack in the Other” has decisive consequences for the theory of the drive, which will bring into play not only the imaginary and symbolic, but above all the category of the real and the object a, which mark the place of a certain defect in the law, a point of incompleteness in the structure of representation. The question is how we are to understand this “remainder,” this element beyond representation, and why it has a privileged link to “sexuality.” At least three points may therefore be stressed at the outset. First, although contemporary accounts of psychoanalysis often speak of Freud’s 32 Penumbra non-biological conception of the drive as if it coincided with historical accounts of the cultural formation of sexuality (the subject in relation to “the symbolic order”), Freud’s theory remains distinct from historical and sociological arguments in several decisive respects. The “economic,” “dynamic,” and “topographical” points of view that Freud developed all sought to account for the logic or structure that links representation to the body—elaborating the various techniques that might allow their relations to be reconfigured, and exploring the “mechanisms” and “causes” that account for anxiety, symptoms, affective shifts and other somatic effects. Freud’s work is thus quite different from historical accounts of subjectivity, although it remains clear that psychoanalysis will always require a sensitivity to the fact that in each case the “logic” of the subject unfolds within a concrete, socio-historical milieu.

It is therefore insufficient to say that for Freud, “sexuality” is not a biological phenomenon, but rather an effect of the symbolic order, if this means that we can regard it as purely conventional or as the product of cultural conditions.

In the face of current debates between biological determinism and cultural construction, psychoanalysis introduces the following difficulty: “sexuality” cannot be reduced to a biological fact, but neither is it a social effect. Like the incest taboo, it violates the distinction between nature and culture, not because it belongs partly to each, but because this very distinction avoids the concept of sexuality, replacing it with a choice between ‘biology” and “social convention”—an alternative that Freudian theory contested from the start.

At the broadest theoretical level, therefore, the importance of Freud’s account of the drive for contemporary discussions of subjectivity and embodiment is that it breaks with biomedical accounts of mental and bodily existence, while also refusing explanations which suggest that the “subject,” having been detached from nature, is in any way a simple “product” or “effect” of contingent social conditions. This apparently obvious point is often effaced by the reception of psychoanalysis: it is sometimes supposed that Freud’s work consists in exploring the relation between the “impulses” of the organism (the id) and the repressive forces of culture (the superego), and Freud himself often uses this language, as if the ego were a compromise between biological instinct and moral law. Such a view, however, collapses the distinction between the instinct and the drive, and misconstrues psychoanalysis as a confused combination of biomedical pretension and social psychology, when it would be more accurate to regard it as a distinct theoretical formation—not an attempt to patch together the forces of nature and history, but a theory with its own logic and structure. In this respect, psychoanalysis shares with phenomenology a profound commonality: both begin with a twin critique of naturalism and historicism. To consider the drive is thus to insist that Freud’s account of the body and of psychic life is irreducible to both biological and socio-historical models, however dialectically intertwined one may take these two domains to be.

The Elements of the Drive If the first point bears on the general theoretical arena occupied by psychoanalysis, the second point about the relation between the drive and representation bears more directly on the clinical dimension of psychoanalysis, for the concept of the “drive” always has a bodily significance in Freud’s work.



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