‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part sixteen)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on October 21, 2018 @ 10:11 am

Sentence structure varies in length from the very brief of commands such as “Go!” to the very long. Most sentences on average contain around 20 words. From this it has been estimated that there are a possible 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible sentences in the English language. There are some sequences of words that aren’t sentences. These words are considers unacceptable, one can argue that this is because there are prescriptive and descriptive rules about how sentence structure works. These rules are known as syntax, grammatical rules that determine the sequence of words that constitute a sentence. Some would say that grammatical acceptability is related to meaning. However nonsense writing such as that of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky would disprove this. The acceptability of sentence structure lies more in phrase structure. Behind this phrase structure lie the sentence’s underlying structure (or ‘deep structure’), which provides the starting point for semantic meaning, e.g., who does what to whom. However one can move around the element’s structure, perhaps for stylistic reasons, or to draw attention to one element rather than another, this is the surface structure (or s-structure). This is the structure of the sentence expressed in speech. A sentence’s underlying structure cannot be observed directly, instead it is inferred from various patterns in the surface structure. When an element of a sentence vacates a position to move somewhere else, it doesn’t depart cleanly. Instead it leaves a trace behind. The trace isn’t expressed out loud, but is evident in the speech pattern. These traces thus allow us to document that elements have been moved around and from where they have been moved. This then establishes that different types of sentence, such as questions, are not formed by running through the appropriate phrase structure rules, but by moving elements around in a tree structure in accord with the movement rules.
This relates to sentence formation, but how do we comprehend the sentences we read or hear? How do we parse sentences? We know that subjects use phrase structure to interpret the sentence in the first place. But how do we figure out the phrase structure? It seems listeners and readers use phrase endings to do so. But how do they identify such phrase endings in more complicated sentences? Parsing a sentence turns out to be a complex process due to the variety of sentence forms and also due to ambiguity. Temporary ambiguity can occur within a sentence, where the first part of sentence is ambiguous but the second part clears things up. It seems we use a variety of different strategies to parse sentences. For example as a matter of convenience, we assume sentences for the most part are active, rather than passive (at least in English) and listen out for them, although this can cause issues parsing when passive sentences are encountered. Other factors involved in parsing are function words and the various morphemes that signal syntactic role. There is also minimal attachment, this means that throughout a sentence the listener or reader looks out for the simplest phrase structure that will accommodate all the words heard or read so far. Parsing is also guided by semantic factors, not just syntax. With regards words for which there are multiple referents for the same word, then people tend to assume its most frequent meaning.
So we now have a combination of syntax and parsing, and we bring these to bear in parsing language, but how do these factors combine? The interactionist view is that all one’s knowledge comes to bear on a sentence simultaneously. Then there is the modular account, where one uses different sources of information at different points whilst parsing the sentence. One might first try to analyse the syntax without consideration of semantic elements, only bringing these elements to bear once the syntax has been understood. Although the interactionist model seems a best fit when it is observed that moment-by-moment, word-by-word parsing is influenced by semantics when trying to untangle syntax. But the picture is different when we look at word identification. When an ambiguous word is used, there is a delay, so initially in parsing word identification is quite open, but as the latter parts of a sentence come into play, the reader or listener make their selection and the ambiguity is shut down to one possible interpretation.
Although we have looked at the complexity of interpreting language, this description still understates things, firstly there are pronouns. Pronouns without specific referents can be very ambiguous. The sketch with the Knights Who Say Ni in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail who are ultimately defeated by an overuse of the word ‘it’ is a case in point. Then, especially with regards spoken word there is prosody, the rise and fall of intonation and the pattern of pauses, the rhythm and pitch cues of speech, which plays an important part in speech perception. It can reveal the mood of the speaker, it can, through effect, direct the listener’s attention to a specific focus or theme in the sentence. It can also render unambiguous a sentence that would otherwise be confusing.
And after examining this we have not dealt with how language is produced. How does one turn ideas, intentions and queries into actual sentences? How does language come from thought? This was partially covered by Vygotsky. Likewise after parsing a sentence how does one particular sentence integrate with earlier or subsequent sentences? With regards this we have looked at Wittgenstein, although there is also the issue knowledge of pragmatics, that is how language is ordinarily used. However this proceeds into on the one hand literature, the other politics, communicative ethics and rhetoric. We however want, for the moment to venture backwards to the unconscious and back to our discussion of Deleuze and machines. First though it is useful to refresh are discussion of Vygotsky and inner thought. For the psychotic and voice hearers, at least those distressed, there are clearly issues of ambiguity in the voices heard. Is this as Vygotsky argues the issue of predicates? We have seen that in a sentence of at least two parts it is the first part of a sentence that is ambiguous, but if inner thought is based on predicates, do we only hear one part. Take the statement ‘she passed’. Is that someone dying? Missing a turning in a journey? Passing an exam? Passing a ball in a game of football? But it is ‘heard’ so we have the phoneme issue in spoken word, so there is (like in the game Charades) a ‘sounds like’ element, so is the statement ‘she parsed’ instead? Perhaps we have a further clue when the statement is revealed as a longer one: ‘She passed the sentence’. Perhaps it was a mishearing after all and it is ‘she parsed the sentence’, someone (‘she’ bearing in mind ‘who’ is still ambiguous) has understood a sentence. But maybe not perhaps the referent is a judge and the judge has passed sentence on a criminal? As has already been implied this is before the issue of ‘referents’ with regards pronouns is taken into account. At we have yet to question the possibility of metaphor as argued by Freudian psychoanalytic theory. However, from this issue with sentence parsing in voice hearing, I would like to remind, for the third time, of Vygotsky’s statement that “while in external speech thought is embodied in words, in inner speech words die as they bring forth thought” and that “a thought may be compared to a cloud shedding a shower of words” and in the next article we will return to Deleuze and Gauttari and the machinic unconscious, that the chains thought in the unconscious are called ‘signifying chains’ (chaines signifiantes) because they are made up of signs, but these signs themselves are not signifying. The code resembles not so much language as jargon, an open-ended, polyvocal formation.”

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‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part fifteen)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on October 19, 2018 @ 9:02 pm

Deleuze and Guattari suggest that the understanding of the machinic unconscious can be traced back to Lacan. However they argue this unconscious is a multiplicity “but how very strange thisw domain seems, simply because it’s a multiplicity – a multiplicity so complex that we can scarcely speak of one chain or even one code of desire. The chains are called ‘signifying chains’ (chaines signifiantes) because they are made up of signs, but these signs themselves are not signifying. The code resembles not so much language as jargon, an open-ended, polyvocal formation.” (p.38). In this sense we can see we are looking at that part of thought beyond inner speech identified by Vygotsky where thought breaks up “But while in external speech thought is embodied in words, in inner speech words die as they bring forth thought” or “A thought may be compared to a cloud shedding a shower of words.”
I think it is appropriate for the moment to look at language from a cognitive perspective, and then look at some of the cognitive underpinnings of language use, specifically ‘connectionism’. Generally, in cognitive theory, sentences are considered to be comprised of ‘morphemes’, these are the smallest language units that carry meaning, these can be roughly split up into content morphemes and function morphemes. In the sentence “The umpires talked to the players”, the content morphemes would be ‘the’, ‘umpire’, ‘talk’, ‘to’ , ‘the’ and ‘play’, whilst the function morphemes would be ‘s’, ‘ed’, ‘er’ and ‘s’. In spoken language morphemes are conveyed by sounds called ‘phonemes’. Speech production is categorised via places of articulation and manner of production, that are affected by airflow and the movement, shape and physical characteristics of the mouth and vocal chords (think Watson’s theory of inner speech as sub-vocalisation). With voice hearing specifically though, we might think perhaps, especially with regards acousmatic voice hearing especially (i.e. voices heard through the ‘sound’ of distant, muffled speech) that speech perception and language parsing is important. One might think less so with regards ‘inner voice hearing’ although with regards Freud’s phrase ‘he is suffering from memories’ and that we have memories of things said and described we might at least entertain that such perception is still relevant, whilst also trying to hold at the same time Vygotsky’s arguments of inner speech, and Deleuze and Guattari’s polyvocal formations. “Features of speech production also correspond to what listeners hear when they are listening to speech. Thus phonemes that differ only in one production feature sound similar to each other; phonemes that differ in multiple features sound more distinct. This is reflected in the pattern of errors subjects make, when they try to understand speech in a noisy environment. Subjects misperceptions are usually off by just one feature, so that [p] is confused with [b] (a difference only in voicing), [p] with [t] (a difference only in place of articulation), and so on… This makes it seem like the perception of speech may be a straightforward matter: A small number of features is sufficient to characterise any particular speech sound. All the perceiver needs to do, therefore is detect these features and, with this done, the speech sounds are identified… As it turns out, though, speech perception is far more complicated than this.” (p.351). One of the problems is that “within [a] stream of speech there are no markers to indicate where one phoneme ends and the next begins. Likewise, there are often no gaps, or signals of any sort, to indicate the boundaries between successive syllables or successive words. Thus, as a first step prior to phoneme identification, you need to “slice” this stream into the appropriate segments – a step known as speech segmentation.” Reisberg points out that common sense suggests to us that we are usually convinced that there are pauses between words that mark word boundaries for us, but, he argues, this is an illusion and that we often ‘hear’ pauses that aren’t there. An example is when we measure the speech stream captured by a recording device on sequencing software, or when we listen to a foreign language we don’t know so are unable to put the word boundaries in ourselves, so as a consequence we hear a continuous, uninterrupted flow of sound. Another problem is coarticulation which refers to the fact that in speech we do not utter one phoneme at a time, they overlap. So as you are uttering the ‘s’ in soup your mouth is already saying the next vowel and so on to the next phoneme. “These complications – the need for segmentation in a continuous speech stream; the variations caused by coarticulation; and the variations form speaker to speaker or form occasion to occasion – render speech perception surprisingly complex.” (p.353). So how do we manage it? Well, we are generally able to supplement what we hear with expectations (conventions) and knowledge, our Lebensweld, and this guides our interpretation. This can also lead to ‘restoration effects’ where subjects hear ‘speech’ sounds that are not presented. However, generally, inferences are used to fill in gaps, as are redundancies (such as the predictability of certain conventions with regards phonemes in the English language).
However these are not the only means we have for deciphering speech, there is also categorical perception, this is the trendency to hear speech sounds ‘merely’ as members of a category e.g. the category of [z] sounds or the category of [p] sounds. But Reisberg continues “more precisely, we are quite adept ay hearing differences between categories, but we are relatively insensitive to variations within the category” (p.354), so we are better at distinguishing [p] from [b] but not so much amongst differing [p]s, Reisberg argues that “of course ,this insensitivity is precisely what we want, since it allows us to separate the wheat from the chaff: We easily detect what category a sound belongs in, but we are virtually oblivious to the inconsequential (and potentially distracting) background variations.” (p.354). But what about more complicated sounds? English speakers use 40 phonemes, but these can be combined and recombined to create tens of thousands of different morphemes, which can then themselves be combined to form even more words. These combinations though are not random. There are patterns to these combinations, some common, some rarer. The average person knows from around 45,000 to over 100,000 different words. For each of these words the speaker must know the meaning that corresponds to the words’ sound, that is our knowledge of words must be able to tie together the phonological representation with the semantic representation. With regards the idea of concepts that Vygotsky refers to, where at age 12 the average person moves from complex thinking to conceptual thinking, there is a connection between semantic knowledge and conceptual knowledge. Some concepts are harder than others to express in words, other concepts take many words to express. Even so there are many words that express single concepts and generally speaking on can only understand a word’s meaning if one understands the relevant concepts attached to it. Some argue that to understand a word one needs to know its definition, others that one must understand the prototype for the concept named by the word. Generally though words are used to name objects or events in the world around us. What a word refers to is called the referent. Saussure says that with the word H-O-R-S-E, where the concept of horse is what is signified, the referent is what ‘kicks you’. Thus the referent always means the actual thing in the real world, to which a word or a concept points. With regards the reference to Deleuze above the signifier is the pointing finger, the word, the sound-image whilst the signified is the concept, the meaning, the thing indicated by the signifier. The thing signified is created in the perceiver and is internal to them. Whilst we share concepts, we do so via signifiers. the signifier creates the signified in terms of the meaning it triggers for us. The meaning of a sign needs both the signifier and the signified as created by an interpreter. A signifier without a signified is noise. A signified without a signifier is impossible. Take for example The Prime Minister of the UK. The reference to any particular living person changes, but the meaning itself, the position within government and its relation to the governance of a nation state has more stability. With regards the meaning of the signified being created in the perceiver, the meaning of the term Prime Minister of the UK will be different for a Labour supporter than for a Conservative voter; for an anarchist than for staunch supporter of representative democracy. However the concept referred to by the signifier, that a particular person is the head of the government at a particular time remains more stable and allows the Conservative and the Labour supporter to know that they are referring ot the same position, as much as possible.
In addition to referent we may find that two or more phrases refer to the same objects in the world but mean different things. This case of ‘same reference, different meaning’ means there must be more to meaning than reference. This is called the ‘sense’ of a word. For example ‘creature with a heart’ and ‘creature with kidneys’ can refer to the same type of living organism.
The next article we will look at the psychological reality of linguistic rules before returning to the underpinning thoughts, and then we will take another look at what Deleuze and Guattari are trying to say.

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‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part fourteen)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on October 17, 2018 @ 8:00 am

To sum up with regards Vygotsky and inner speech, “Inner speech is not the interior aspect of exterior speech – it is a function in itself. It still remains speech, i.e. thought connected with words. But while in external speech thought is embodied in words, in inner speech words die as they bring forth thought. Inner speech is to a large extent thinking in pure meanings. It is a dynamic, shifting, unstable thing, fluttering between word and thought, the two more or less stable, more or less firmly delineated components of verbal thought. Its true nature and place can be understood only after examining the next plane of verbal thought, the one still more inward than inner speech.” (p.249). It is for this reason I have spent some time examining Vygotsky, as I would like to look further at the unconscious and its relation to voice hearing. We have looked at Freud and anxiety, Gombrich and projection, and we have looked at Reisberg and cognition’s relation to language, we have looked at Jaynes’ consciousness of consciousness. But what is it being projected? And what, if anything, is reflected back? For that reason I want to look at Deleuze and machines, if only as a stepping stone to Marx on machines in the Grundrisse. But for a moment let us carry on with Vygotsky. “That plane [the one still more inward] is thought itself. As we have said, every thought creates a connection, fulfils a function, solves a problem. The flow of thought is not accompanied by a simultaneous unfolding of speech. The two processes are not identical, and there is no rigid correspondence between the units of thought and speech” (p.249). He points out that “thought has its own structure and the transition from it to speech is no easy matter.” (p.250). Vygotsky continues “every sentence that we say in real life has some kind of subtext, a thought hidden behind it… thought unlike speech, does not consist of separate units… a speaker often takes several minutes to disclose one thought. In his mind the whole thought is present at once, but in speech it has to be developed successively. A thought may be compared to a cloud shedding a shower of words. Precisely because thought does not have its automatic counterpart in words, the transition from thought to word leads through meaning. In our speech there is always the hidden thought, the subtext.” (p.251). With regards the pursuit of the question, not only what gets projected, but also what gets reflected, in voice hearing it is useful to note that Vygotsky brings up a character from an Uspensky novel who finds himself unable to express himself in front of an authority figure: “experience teaches us that thought does not express itself in words, but rather realises itself in them. Sometimes such realisation cannot be accomplished, as in the case of Uspensky’s character. We must ask, does this character know what he is going to think about? Yes, but he does it as one who wants to remember something but is unable to. Does he start thinking? Yes, but again he does it as one who is absorbed in remembering. Does he succeed in turning his thought into a process? No. The problem is that thought is mediated by signs externally, but it is also mediated internally, this time by word meanings. Direct communication between minds is impossible, not only physically but psychologically. Communication can be achieved only in a roundabout way. Thought must first pass through meanings and only then through words.” (p.251-252).
However Vygotsky follows this with the argument that “thought is not the superior authority in this process. Thought is not begotten by thought; it is engendered by motivation, i.e., by our desires and needs, our interests and emotions. Behind every thought there is an affective-volitional tendency which holds the answer to the last ‘why’ in the analysis of thinking. A true and full understanding of another’s thought is possible only when we understand its affective-volitional basis… to understand another’s speech, it is not sufficient to understand his words – we must understand his thought. But even that is not enough – we must also know its motivation. No psychological analysis of an utterance is complete until that plain is reached.” (p. 252-253). He concludes “Only a historical theory of inner speech can deal with this immense and complex problem. The relation between thought and word is a living process; thought is born through words. A word devoid of thought is a dead thing… But thought that fails to realise itself in words also remains a ‘Stygian shadow’. Hegel considered word as Being animated by thought. This Being is absolutely essential for our thinking.” (p.255). Vygotsky ends saying that as the basic characteristic of words is a generalised reflection of reality then “this aspect of the word brings us to the threshold of a wider and deeper subject, i.e., the problem of the relation between word and consciousness. If perceptive consciousness and intellectual consciousness reflect reality differently, then we have two different forms of consciousness. Thought and speech turn out to be the key to the nature of consciousness… If language is as old as consciousness itself, and if language is a practical-consciousness-for-others and consequently, consciousness-for-myself, then not only one particular thought but all consciousness is connected to the development of the word. The word is a thing in our consciousness, as Ludwig Feuerbach put it, that is absolutely impossible for one person, but that becomes a reality for two. The word is a direct expression of the historical nature of human consciousness.” (p.256).
With regards this historical nature of human conscious, as a contemporary analysis of voice hearing and psychosis, then we have to deal with the existence in this ‘external world of signs’ of machines, at least since the advent of the Industrial Revolution and their relation to the development of capitalism, and this capitalism’s relation to consciousness-for-myself and its relation to the formation of subjectivity.
In the book Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari discuss their understanding of ‘machines’, they claim that “a machine may be defined as a system of interruptions or breaks (coupures). These breaks should in no way be considered as a separation from reality; rather, they operate along lines that vary according to whatever aspect of them we are considering. Every machine in the first place, is related to a continual material flow (hyle) that it cuts into.” (p.36). This theory of machines is related to Melanie Klein’s theory of partial objects, but is a more cybernetic variation, so it focuses on the flow between the connections, and the role of those connections in starting or stopping the flow of material (hyle) such as water in a hydraulic system, or say sense data in the body. This is related to the ‘body without organs’ (“eyes closed tight, nostrils pinched shut, ears stopped up” (p.37-38)) which with regards the child relates to a regression to the womb, although as such is still a ‘machine’ as foetuses are connected up to the flow of the mother’s body via the placenta. However with regards hyle such as ‘sense data’ we start getting an idea of their attempt to describe the workings of the unconscious and its relation to physiological flows, connections and disconnections. “Far from being the opposite of continuity, the break or interruption conditions this continuity: it presupposes or defines what it cuts into as an ideal continuity. This is because… every machine is a machine of a machine. The machine produces an interruption of the flow insofar as it is connected to another machine that supposedly produces this flow. And doubtless this second machine in turn is really an interruption or break, too. But it is such only in relationship to a third machine that ideally – that is to say, relatively – produces a continuous, infinite flux… In a word, every machine functions as a break in the flow in relation to the machine to which it is connected, but at the same time is also a flow itself, or the production of a flow, in relation to the machine connected to it. That is why, at the limit point of all the transverse or transfinite connections, the partial object and the continuous flux, the interruption and the connection, fuse into one: everywhere there are breaks-flows out of which desire wells up, thereby constituting its productivity and continually grafting the process of production onto the product.” (p.36-37).
As implied in the title, this series of articles are leading up to a coding problem known as the Byzantine General Problem, this coding problem is a problem of message transmission, or communication, we will get to that in a few more articles, but in the meantime here is Deleuze and Guattari on this issue, “every machine has a sort of code built into it, stored up inside of it. The code is inseparable not only from the way in which it is recorded and transmitted to each of the different regions of the body, but also from the way in which the relations of each of the regions with all the others are recorded. An organ may have connections that associate it with several different flows; it may waver between several functions, and even take on the regime of another organ… All sorts of functional questions thus arise: what flow to break? Where to interrupt it? How and by what means? What place should be left for other producers or antiproducers?… The data, the bits of information recorded, and their transmission form a grid of disjunctions of a type that differs from the previous connections. We owe to Jacques Lacan the discovery of this fertile domain of a code of the unconscious, incorporating the entire chain – or several chains – of meaning.” (p.38).

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‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part thirteen)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on September 21, 2018 @ 10:17 am

Carrying on with Vygotsky, he argues that “the relation of thought and word cannot be understood in all its complexity without a clear understanding of the psychological nature of inner speech” (p.224). There are several varied understandings on the term inner speech: inner speech understood as verbal memory, such as reciting a poem known by heart, this sort differs from vocal speech only as an idea or image on an object differs from the real object. Vygotsky argues that this type is a constituent element of inner speech but not all of it. Others such as the behaviourist Watson see it as truncated speech – speech minus sound or subvocal speech, according to Ivan Schenov a ‘reflex arrested after it travels two-thirds of its way’; according to Vladmir Bekhterev ‘a speech reflex inhibited in its motor part’. Again Vygotsky suggests these are subordinate interpretations but grossly inadequate alone. A third version Vygotsky finds too broad, the definition that covers everything that precedes the motor act of speaking, he protests that “it is hard to accept the equation of inner speech with an inarticulate inner experience in which the separate identifiable structural planes are dissolved without a trace” (p.225).
According to Vygotsky “inner speech is speech for oneself; external speech is for others. It would be surprising if such a basic difference in function did not affect the structure of the two kinds of speech… absence of vocalisation per se is only a consequence of the specific character of inner speech, which is neither an antecedent of external speech nor its reproduction in memory, but is, in a sense, the opposite of external speech. The latter is the turning of thoughts into words, their materialisation and objectification. With inner speech, the process is reversed, going from outside to inside. Overt speech sublimates into thoughts. Consequently, the structures of these two kinds of speech must differ.” (p.225-226).
As has been discussed Vygotsky, from his observations, thinks that inner speech develops from egocentric speech, so egocentric speech must provide the key to inner speech. Vygotsky sees egocentric speech as a phenomenon of the transition from interpsychic to intrapsychic functioning., speech for oneself originates through differentiation from speech for others, as the course of child development is one of gradual individualisation this tendency is reflected in the function and structure of speech. Egocentric speech “does not merely accompany the child’s activity; it serves mental orientation, conscious understanding; it helps in overcoming difficulties; it is speech for oneself, intimately and usefully connected with the child’s thinking… Egocentric speech develops along a rising, not a declining, curve; it goes through an evolution, not an involution. In the end it becomes inner speech.” (p.228).
Vygotsky notes that if as the quantity of egocentric speech decreases with age, then comprehensibility should decrease too, but he observes in his investigations that whilst the quantity of egocentric speech decreases as the quantity of social speech increases, between ages 3 to 7 unintelligibility of egocentric speech increases (as the quantity decreases). He asks “What does this decrease mean? The structural peculiarities of speech for oneself and its differentiation from external speech increase with age. What is it, then, that diminishes? Only one of its aspects: vocalisation. Does this mean that egocentric speech as a whole is dying out? We believe it does not, for how then could we explain the growth of the functional and structural traits of egocentric speech? On the one hand their growth is perfectly compatible with the decrease of vocalisation – indeed, clarifies its meaning. Its rapid dwindling and the equally rapid growth of other characteristics are contradictory in appearance only.” (p.229).
Vygotsky’s explanation of the development of inner speech proceeds as follows “The structural and functional qualities of egocentric speech become more marked as the child develops. At three, the difference between egocentric speech and social speech equals zero; at seven, we have speech that in structure and function is totally unlike social speech. A differentiation of the two speech functions has taken place… If the developing structural and functional peculiarities of egocentric speech progressively isolate it from external speech, then its vocal aspect must fade away; and this is exactly what happens between three and seven years. With the progressive isolation of speech for oneself, its vocalisation becomes unnecessary and meaningless and, because of its growing structural peculiarities, also impossible. Speech for oneself cannot find expression in external speech. The more independent and autonomous egocentric speech becomes, the poorer it grows in its external manifestations. In the end, it separates itself entirely from speech for others, ceases to be vocalised and thus appears to die out… but this is only an illusion… in reality, behind the symptoms of dissolution lies a progressive development, the birth of a new speech form… The decreasing vocalisation of egocentric speech denotes a developing abstraction from sound, the child’s new faculty to “think words” instead of pronouncing them. This is the positive meaning of the sinking coefficient of egocentric speech. The downward curve indicates development toward inner speech… We can see that all the known facts about the functional, structural, and genetic characteristics of egocentric speech point to one thing: it develops in the direction of inner speech. Its development history can be understood only as a gradual unfolding of the traits of inner speech.” (p.230-231).
Vygotsky’s experiments convinced him that inner speech must be regarded as an entirely separate speech function from external speech, “its main characteristic trait is its peculiar syntax. Compared with external speech, inner speech appears disconnected and incomplete.” (p.235). He continues “observing the evolution of the child’s egocentric speech step by step, we may discover that it becomes more and more peculiar and ultimately becomes inner speech. We applied the genetic method and found that as egocentric speech develops, it shows a tendency toward an altogether specific form of abbreviation, namely: omitting the subject of a sentence and all words connected with it, while preserving the predicate. This tendency towards predication appears in all our experiments with such regularity that we must assume it to be the basic form of syntax of inner speech.” (p.236). Vygotsky goes on to use examples from Tolstoy, specifically Kitty and Levin from Anna Karenina, and Pushkin’s poem of the deaf judge and two deaf men. The Kitty and Levin example exemplifies “the mutual understanding that can be achieved through utterly abbreviated speech when the subject is the same in two minds” (p.239) whilst the Pushkin example exemplifies “total misunderstanding, even with full speech, when people’s thoughts wander in different directions. It is not only the deaf who cannot understand one another but any two people who give a different meaning to the same word or who hold divergent views” (p.239). Vygotsky points out that whilst such is the occurrence of abbreviation in external speech, in inner speech the phenomenon is not an exception but the rule. In writing, communication “relies on the formal meanings of words and requires a much greater number of words than oral speech to convey the same idea. It is addressed to an absent person who rarely has in mind the same subject as the writer. Therefore it must be fully deployed; syntactic differentiation is at a maximum; and expressions are used that would seem unnatural in conversation” (p.239-240) “Written speech and inner speech represent the monologue; oral speech in most cases dialogue… dialogue always presupposes in the partners sufficient knowledge of the subject to permit abbreviated speech and, under certain conditions, purely predicative sentences. It also presupposes that each person can see his partners, their facial expressions and gestures, and hear the tone of their voices.” (p.240). This includes modulation of voices as shown by Tolstoy’s story of the drunkards changing the tone of expression of a curse word and understanding a larger meaning. “The speed of oral speech is unfavourable to a complicated process of formulation – it does not leave time for deliberation and choice. Dialogue implies immediate unpremeditated utterance. It consists of replies, repartee; it is a chain of reactions. Monologue, by comparison, is a complex formation; the linguistic elaboration can be attended to leisurely and consciously… In written speech, lacking situational and expressive supports, communication must be achieved only through words and their combinations; this requires the speech activity to take complicated forms – hence the use of first drafts. The evolution from the draft to the final copy reflects our mental processes. Planning has an important part in written speech, even when we do not actually write out a draft. Usually we say to ourselves what we are going to write; this is also a draft, though in thought only… this mental draft is inner speech… inner speech functions as a draft not only in written speech but also in oral speech… [except with] a tendency toward abbreviation and predication… This tendency, never found in written speech and only sometimes in oral speech, arises in inner speech always. Predication is the natural form of inner speech; psychologically it consists of predicates only. It is as much a law of inner speech to omit subjects as it is a law of written speech to contain both subjects and predicates… Those factors responsible for abbreviation in oral speech are inevitably present in inner speech. We know what we are thinking about; i.e., we always know the subject and situation. And since the subject of our inner dialogue is already known, we may just imply it… Piaget once mentioned that we trust ourselves without proof; the necessity to defend and articulate one’s position appears only in a conversation with others. Psychological contact between partners in a conversation may establish a mutual perception leading to the understanding of abbreviated speech. In inner speech the ‘mutual’ perception is always there, in absolute form; therefore a practically wordless ‘communication’ of even the most complicated thoughts is the rule… the predominance of predication is a product of development. In the beginning, egocentric speech is identical in structure with social speech, but in the process of its transformation into inner speech, it gradually becomes less complete and coherent as it becomes governed by an almost entirely predicative syntax. Experiments show clearly how and why the new syntax takes hold. The child talks about the things he sees or hears or does at a given moment. As a result, he tends to leave out the subject and all words connected with it, condensing his speech more and more until only predicates are left. The more differentiated the speech function of egocentric speech becomes, the more pronounced are its syntactic peculiarities – simplification and predication. Hand in hand with this change goes decreasing vocalisation. When we converse with ourselves, we need fewer words than Kitty and Levin did. Inner speech is speech almost without words. ” (p.242-244).
Vygotsky continues “with syntax and sound reduced to a minimum, meaning is more than ever in the forefront. Inner speech works with semantics, not phonetics. The specific semantic structure of inner speech is no less original than its grammatical syntax… The first and basic one is the preponderance of the sense [smysl] of a word over its meaning [znachenie]… the sense of a word [according to Frederic Paulhan]… is the sum of all the psychological events aroused in our consciousness by the word. It is a dynamic, fluid, complex whole, which has several zones of unequal stability. Meaning is only one of the zones of sense, the most stable and precise zone. A word acquires its sense from the context in which it appears; in different contexts, it changes its sense. Meaning remains stable throughout the changes of sense. The dictionary meaning of a word is no more than a stone in the edifice of sense, no more than a potentiality that finds diversified realisation in speech.” (p.244-245).
Vygotsky uses the translation of Krylov’s ‘The dragonfly and the ant’ to illustrate the difference between sense and meaning, he shows that the statement ‘Go and dance!’ can both mean ‘Enjoy yourself!’ and ‘Perish!’ “This enrichment of words by the sense they gain from context is the fundamental law of the dynamics of word meanings. A word in a context means both more and less than the same word in isolation: more because it acquires new context; less, because its meaning is limited and narrowed by the context. The sense of a word… is a complex, mobile, protean phenomenon; it changes in different minds and situations and is almost unlimited. A word derives its sense from the sentence, which in turn gets its sense from the paragraph, the paragraph from the book, the book from all the works of the author… the relation between word and sense…are much more independent of each other than word and meaning. It has long been known that words can change their sense. Recently it has been pointed out that sense can change words or, better, that ideas often change their names. Just as the sense of a word is connected with the whole word, and not with its single sounds, the sense of a sentence is connected with the whole sentence, and not with its individual words. Therefore, a word may sometimes be replaced without any change in sense. Words and sense are relatively independent of each other… in oral speech, we move from the central and permanent meaning of the word to its soft fringes and ultimately to its sense. In inner speech, this prevalence of sense over meaning, of sentence over word, and of context over sentence is the rule.” (p245-246). There are, however, other semantic peculiarities of inner speech, both of which concern word combination. One is agglutination, “when several words are merged into one word, the new word not only expresses a rather complex idea, but designates all the separate elements contained in that idea… the egocentric speech of the child displays some analogous phenomena. As egocentric speech approaches inner speech, the child uses agglutination more and more as a way of forming compound words to express complex ideas.” (p.246). the other basic semantic peculiarity of inner speech “is the way in which sense of words combine and unite – a process governed by different laws from those governing combinations of meanings.” (p.246). this is called ‘influx of sense’. “The sense of different words flow into one another – literally ‘influence’ one another – so that the earlier ones are contained in, and modify, the later ones.” (p.246-247). For example when a word that keeps recurring in a book or poem “sometimes absorbs all the variety of sense contained in it and becomes, in a way, equivalent to the work itself.” (p.247). “In inner speech, the phenomenon reaches its peak. A single word is so saturated with sense that… it becomes a concentrate of sense. To unfold it into overt speech, one would need a multitude of words… no wonder that egocentric speech and inner speech are incomprehensible to others. To understand a child’s egocentric utterance, one should know beforehand the subject of the child’s speech and the circumstances of the child’s communication.” (p.247). Vygotsky then mentions that there is one further factor contributing to the peculiarity of inner speech as reduced sound, idiosyncratic syntax and semantics that further adds to the opaqueness inner speech. This is argot or initiated dialects, “in inner speech, the same kind of idiom develops – the kind that is difficult to translate into the language of ordinary communicative speech.” (p.248).
“Actually, any attempt to impose multifaceted sense on word results in the creation of an original idiom. In inner speech, one word stands for a number of thoughts and feelings, and sometimes substitutes for a long and profound discourse. And naturally this unique inner sense of the chosen word cannot be translated into ordinary external speech. Inner sense turns out to be incommensurable with the external meaning of the same word.” (p.248). Vygotsky concludes “all our observations indicate that inner speech is an autonomous speech function. We can confidently regard it as a distinct plane of verbal thought. It is evident that the transition from inner speech to external speech is not a simple translation from one language into another. It cannot be achieved by merely vocalising silent speech. It is a complex, dynamic process involving the transformation of the predicative, idiomatic structure of inner speech into syntactically articulated speech intelligible to others.” (p.249).

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‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part twelve)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on August 31, 2018 @ 3:30 pm

Vygotsky argues that “inner speech develops through a slow accumulation of functional and structural changes, that it branches off from the child’s external speech simultaneously with the differentiation of the social and egocentric functions of speech, and finally that the speech structures mastered by the child become the basic structures of his thinking.” (p.94). He continues “thought development is determined by language i.e., by the linguistic tools of thought and by the sociocultural experience of the child. Essentially, the development of inner speech depends on outside factors; the development of logic in the child, as Piaget’s studies have shown, is a direct function of his socialised speech. The child’s intellectual growth is contingent on his mastering the social means of thought, that is, language.” Vygotsky concludes “If we compare the early development of speech and intellect… with the development of inner speech and verbal thought, we must conclude that the late stage is not a simple continuation of the earlier. The nature of the development itself changes, from biological to sociohistorical. Verbal thought is not an innate, natural form of behaviour, but is determined by a historical-cultural process and has specific properties and laws that cannot be found in the natural forms of thought in speech. Once we acknowledge the historical character of verbal thought, we must consider it subject to all the premises of historical materialism, which are valid for any historical phenomenon in human society. It is only to be expected that on this level the development of behaviour will be governed by the general laws of the historical development of human society.” (p.94-95).
On examining the relationship between thought and word Vygotsky argues “the meaning of a word represents such a close amalgam of thought and language that it is hard to tell whether it is a phenomenon of speech or a phenomenon of thought. A word without meaning is an empty sound; meaning, therefore, is a criterion of “word”, its indispensable component. It would seem, then, that it may be regarded as a phenomenon of speech. But from the point of view of psychology, the meaning of every word is a generalization or a concept. And since generalizations and concepts are undeniably acts of thought, we may regard meaning as a phenomenon of thinking. It does not follow, however, that meaning formally belongs in two different spheres of psychic life. Word meaning is a phenomenon of thought only insofar as thought is embodied in speech, and speech only insofar as speech is connected with thought and illuminated by it. It is a phenomenon of verbal thought, or meaningful speech – a union of word or thought.” (Vygotsky, p.212). Vygotsky suggests that the experimental investigations that he was part of confirm the basic thesis that ‘word meanings develop’. He takes into account with a critical eyes the school of association theory that the bond between word and meaning is an associative bond, established through the repeated simultaneous perception of a certain sound and a certain object. However he argues that “the association between word and meaning may grow stronger or weaker, be enriched by linkage with other objects of a similar kind, spread over a wider field, or become limited (i.e. it may undergo quantitative and external changes), but it cannot change its psychological nature. To do that it would have to cease being an association. From that point of view, any development in word meanings is inexplicable and impossible.” (p.213). Vygotsky then moves on to the influence of the Wurzburg school (as does Jaynes). Vygotsky argued that the Wurzburg school argued for the impossibility of reducing thinking to a mere play of associations in order to demonstrate specific laws governing the flow of thought. Vygotsky suggested that the upshot of this divorce of thought from association theory, left theories of speech even more in the sway of association theory. In Vygotsky’s history of speech and thought it was Gestalt theory that next tried to lift both thought and speech from association theory. Vygotsky’s criticism of the Gestalt school however is that they completely separated the functions of thought and speech which then “appears as simple analogy, a reduction of both to a common structural denominator… words enter into the structure of things and acquire certain functional meaning, in much the same way as a stick, to the chimpanzee, becomes part of the structure of obtaining the fruit and acquires the functional meaning of tool. The connection between word and meaning is no longer regarded as a matter of simple association, but as a matter of structure.” (p.215-216). Vygotsky argues that this move forward is an illusion and the same sweeping argument that was entertained by the associationists is here applies to structure, as Vygotsky says “all cats are gray in the dusk of Gestalt theory, as in the earlier fogs of universal associationism” (p.216). The two fundamental errors of the older theory remain: “the assumption of the identical nature of all connections and the assumption that word meanings do not change” (p.216). Vygotsky believes that the discovery that word meanings evolve leads psychology out a blind alley. “word meanings are dynamic rather than static formations. They change as the child develops; they change also with the various ways in which thought functions. If word meanings change in their inner nature, then the relation of thought to word also changes.” (p.217). Vygotsky continues “the relation between thought to word is not a thing but a process of continual movement back and forth from thought to word and word to thought. In that process, the relation of thought to word undergoes changes that themselves may be regarded as development in the functional sense. Thought is not merely expressed in words; it comes into existence through them. Every thought tends to connect something with something else, to establish a relation between things. Every thought moves, grows and develops, fulfils a function, solves a problem. This flow of thought occurs as an inner movement through a series of planes. An analysis of the interaction of thought and word must begin with an investigation of different phases and plans a thought traverses before it is embodied in words.” (p.218). In Vygotsky’s view a child masters external speech by starting from one read, then connecting two or three words; then, upon advancing to simple sentences and then to more complicated ones towards coherent speech made up of a series of sentences, that is the development of coherent speech proceeds from a part to the whole. However, with regards to meaning the first word of a child is a sentence. So semantically the child starts from the whole, from a meaningful complex, and only starts to master the separate semantic units, the meaning of words, later, and it is only then the formerly undifferentiated thought is divided into these units. Thus “the external and the semantic aspects of speech develop in opposite directions – one from the particular to the whole, from word to sentence, and the other from the whole to the particular, from sentence to word.” (p.219). This means the development of the vocal and semantic aspects of speech does not coincide, although this does not mean they are independent of each other. “In a sense, there are more differences than likeness between them. The structure of speech does not simply mirror the structure of thought; that is why words cannot be put on by thought like a ready-made garment. Thought undergoes many changes as it turns into speech. It does not merely find expression in speech; it finds its reality and form.” (p.219).
With regards the development of reasoning Vygotsky notes that Piaget observes that the use of subordinate clauses such as because or although etc. develop syntactically before their meaning is understood, grammar precedes logic. With regards signifying (discussed elsewhere) Vygotsky argues that any part of the sentence may become a psychological predicate, the carrier of topical analysis… entirely different meanings may lie hidden behind one and the same grammatical structure. Accord between syntactical organisation and psychological organisation is not as prevalent as we tend to assume – rather, it is a requirement that is seldom met… a spontaneous utterance, wrong from the point of view of grammar, may have charm and aesthetic value… absolute correctness is achieved only in mathematics” (p.220-221). Vygotsky continues “behind words, there is the independent grammar of thought, the syntax of word meanings. The simplest utterance, far from reflecting a constant, rigid correspondence between sound and meaning, is really a process. Verbal expressions cannot emerge fully formed, but must develop gradually. This complex process of transition from meaning to sound must itself be developed and perfected. The child must learn to distinguish between semantics and phonetics and understand the nature of difference. At first, he uses verbal forms and meanings without being conscious of them as separate. The word, to the child, is an integral part of the object it denotes. Such a conception seems to be characteristic of primitive linguistic consciousness.” (p.222). He concludes “The fusion of the two planes of speech, semantic and vocal, begins to break down as the child grows older, and the distance between them gradually increases. Each stage in the development of word meanings has its own specific interrelation of the two planes. A child’s ability to communicate through language is directly related to the differentiation of word meanings in his speech and consciousness… To understand this, we must remember a basic characteristic of the structure of word meanings. In the semantic structure of a word, we distinguish between referent and meaning; correspondingly, we distinguish a word’s nominative function from its significative function. When we compare these structural and functional relations at the earliest, middle, and advanced stages of development, we find the following genetic regularity: in the beginning, only the normative function exists; and semantically, only the objective reference; signification independent of naming, and meaning independent of reference, appear later and develop along the paths we have attempted to trace and describe… Only when this development is completed does the child become fully able to formulate his own thought and to understand the speech of others. Until then, his usage of words coincides with that of adults in its objective reference, but not its meaning.” (p.223-224).

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‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part eleven)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on August 29, 2018 @ 6:58 pm

Vygotsky points out that “no matter how we approach the controversial problem of the relation between thought and speech, we shall have to deal extensively with inner speech” (Vygotsky, p.84). Vygotsky tackles Piaget’s concept of egocentric speech, a form of speech that speech that the young child first learns. Piaget argues that children’s conversation falls into two camps: egocentric speech; and socialised speech. With egocentric speech the child mainly talks about herself, no attempting to place herself at the point of view of the hearer. “The child does not try to communicate, expects no answers and does not even care whether anyone listens to him. It is similar to a monologue in a play.” (Vygotsky, p.26). Socialised speech is different; “here a child begs, commands, threatens, conveys information, asks questions” (p.26). Piaget argues that even by age six the child’s speech is still predominantly egocentric. “Piaget emphasises that egocentric speech does not provide communication. It is rather chanting, rhyming, and accompanying the major melody of the child’s activity.” (p.28). As a lot of this talk is the child talking about their own activities, the fact that this occurs less in later stages of maturity means that it develops and moves to different stages of speech. According to Vygotsky, Piaget argues that this form of egocentric speech dies off, Vygotsky suggests that Piaget does not give sufficient attention to the development of inner speech, that Vygotsky thinks egocentric speech turns in to. “From the point of view of functional psychology, all silent thinking is nothing but ‘egocentric speech’” (p.32).
Vygotsky suggests that the total development runs as follows: “the primary function of speech, in both children and adults, is communication, social contact. The earliest speech of the child is essentially social. At first it is global and multifunctional; later its functions become undifferentiated. At a certain age the social speech of the child is quite sharply divided into egocentric speech and communicative speech… Egocentric speech emerges when the child transfers social, collaborative forms of behaviour to the sphere of inner-personal psychic functions. The child’s tendency to transfer to his inner processes the behaviour patterns that were formerly were social is well known to Piaget. He describes in another context how arguments between children give rise to the beginnings of logical reflection. Something similar happens, we believe, when the child starts conversing with himself as he has with others. When circumstances force him to stop and think, he is likely to think aloud. Egocentric speech, splintered off from general speech, in time leads to inner speech, which serves both autistic and logical thinking.” (p.34-35). Vygotsky goes on to say that “egocentric speech as a separate linguistic form is the highly important genetic link in the transition from vocal to inner speech, an intermediate stage between the differentiation of the functions of vocal speech and the final transformation of one part of vocal speech into inner speech.” (p.35). He states that the conception of speech development hinges on the interpretation given to egocentric speech so Vygotsky’s schemata of social, egocentric then inner speech differs from the schemata of the behaviourist pattern of vocal speech, whisper, inner speech which again differs from Piaget’s nonverbal autistic thought through egocentric thought and speech to socialised speech and logical thinking.
Vygotsky talks of the behaviourism of Watson, he suggests Watson questions whether we can know when this stage occurs, but Vygotsky suggests that problem is posed incorrectly, “there are no valid reasons to assume that inner speech develops in some mechanical way through the gradual decrease in the audibility of speech (whispering)”. (p.84). Vygotsky continues “there are no grounds for assuming that the two processes, so different functionally (social as opposed to personal adaptation) and structurally (the extreme elliptical economy of inner speech, changing the speech pattern almost beyond recognition) may be genetically parallel and concurrent.” (p.85). Vygotsky argues that whispering is only phenotypically different not genotypically, and that his own research suggests “structurally there is almost no difference between whispering and speaking aloud; functionally, whispering differs profoundly from inner speech and does not even manifest a tendency toward the characteristics typical of the latter.” (p.85). However whilst disagreeing with Watson’s thesis, Vygotsky notes that he hit on the right methodological approach: “to solve the problem, we must look for the intermediate link between overt and inner speech”. In conclusion Vygotsky states “in considering the function of inner speech in adults after the development is completed, we must ask whether in their case thought and linguistic processes are necessarily connected, whether the two can be equated. Again, as in the case of animals and of children, we must answer ‘no’.” (p.88). He continues “Schematically, we may imagine thought and speech as two intersecting circles. In their overlapping parts thought and speech coincide to produce what is called verbal thought. Verbal thought, however, does not by any means include all forms of speech. The thinking manifested in the use of tools belongs in this area, as does practical intellect in general.” (p.88).
Julian Jaynes discusses the issue of being conscious of being conscious, “in being conscious of consciousness, we feel it is the defining attribute of all our waking states, our moods and affections, our memories, our thoughts, attentions and volitions. We feel comfortably certain that consciousness is the basis of concepts, of learning and reasoning, of thought and judgment, and that it is so because it records and stores our experiences as they happen, allowing us to introspect on them and learn from them at will. We are also quite conscious that all this wonderful set of operations and contents that we call consciousness is located somewhere in the head… On critical examination, all these statements are false. They are the costume that consciousness has been masquerading in for centuries.” (Jaynes, p.21). Jaynes argues that using the method of introspection to illuminate consciousness is akin to shining a torch in a dark room, and upon finding that the parts of the dark room that the torch is shining on are bright with light, assuming that the whole room is lit up. Jaynes looks at different perspective on our understanding of consciousness, and then discounts certain cognitive relations, cognitive relations that we have been discussing in reference to the Reisberg text, Jaynes refutes the idea that “consciousness is an actual space inhabited by elements called sensations and ideas” (p.8); he also refutes that consciousness is necessary for concepts, arguing there is no necessary connection between them as root concepts are prior to experience, language lets words stand in for a concept; nor is consciousness necessary for learning, associative learning can be show to go ahead without any consciousness that it has occurred, for example the well-known Pavlovian response can be replicated by playing a certain type of music while eating a delicious meal can provoke a saliva response next time the music is played. Even though if you know about the phenomenon beforehand and are conscious of the contingency between the music and food then the learning does not occur. So consciousness is both unnecessary for the learning and can actually reduce this type of learning ability. In the learning of skills, as was discussed with regards Bateson, learning skills like tossing a coin, archery, football, or the piano consciousness does not take part in the acquiring of the skill, and even after the skill is learnt self-consciousness can undermine the application of those skills. Solution learning or instrumental learning is a more complex case. Jaynes points out that consciousness does indeed play a part in working out the solution to some goal, he argues, though, not always a necessary one. For example a group of psychology students were asked to compliment every female student wearing red, within a week a lot more people were wearing red, but on interview no-one was aware of having been influenced; Jaynes also argues that consciousness is not necessary for thinking, one of the examples Jaynes uses is very interesting with regards the type of Mindfulness course that is offered on many ‘recovery’ courses. There is a mindfulness technique that involves being given raisin, and really being ‘mindful’ of the raisin, its texture, what it looks like, its size, taste, what it feels like to chew it. This is a form of deliberate and focused introspection that allows one to be mindful of the moment, to be ‘present’ as the courses suggest is good for one’s mental health. In the experiment Jaynes describes one is asked to take two glasses with slightly different amounts of liquid in them and assess their weight. One is asked to introspect, just as the mindfulness course asks us to with the raisin, and then decide the different weights of the glasses. When one considers where this decision comes from it is discovered this introspection takes no part in the decision which is supplied by one’s nervous system. Another constraint takes place with regards partially-constrained association (as opposed to free association), it was found that once the stimulus word was given thinking was automatic. This is related to the use of priming in the discussion of cognitive thinking earlier. “Thinking, then, is not conscious. Rather it is an automatic process following a struction and the materials on which the struction is to operate.” (p.39). Jaynes goes on to say “Nor is this different from the case of speech which I mentioned earlier. When we speak, we are not really conscious either of the search for words, or of putting the words together into phrases or of putting the phrases into sentences. We are only conscious of the ongoing series of structions that we give ourselves, which then, automatically, without any consciousness whatever, result in speech. The speech itself we can be conscious of as it is produced if we wish, thus giving some feedback to result in further structions. So we arrive at the position that the actual process of thinking so usually thought to be the very life of consciousness, is not conscious at all and that only it preparation, its materials, and its result are consciously perceived.” (p.40-41); Jaynes then goes on to argue that consciousness is not necessary for reason, he says “reasoning refers to a gamut of natural thought processes in the everyday world. Logic is how we ought to think if objective truth is our goal – and the everyday world is very little concerned with objective truth. Logic is the science of the justification of conclusions we have reached by natural reasoning. My point here is that, for such natural reasoning to occur, consciousness is not necessary. The very reason we need logic at all is that most reasoning is not conscious at all.” (p.41). He describes reasoning from particulars, that is if I note that a particular piece of wood floats on one pond I might conclude that this piece of wood will float on a different pond. David Hume notes that much reasoning works along these lines, and Saul Kripke uses this Humean logic to discuss Ludwig Wittgenstein on language. And we will be returning to this later when analysing CBT’s relation to language. But for now we return to Jaynes who argues that this type of reasoning is simply expectation based on generalisation, there is nothing particularly extraordinary about it and it is an ability common to all higher vertebrates. “Such reasoning is the structure of the nervous system, not the structure of consciousness” (p.42). “But more complex reasoning without consciousness is continually going on. Our minds work much faster than consciousness can keep up with. We commonly make general assertions based on our past experiences in an automatic way, and only as an afterthought are we sometimes able to retrieve any of the past experiences on which an assertion is based. How often we reach sound conclusions and are unable to justify them! Because reasoning is not conscious. And consider the kind of reasoning that we do about others’ feelings and character, or in reasoning out the motives from of others from their actions. These are clearly the result of automatic inferences by our nervous systems in which consciousness is not only unnecessary, but, as we have seen in the performance of motor skills, would probably hinder the process.” (p.42). Jaynes is referring to the unconscious processes that Freud thought could be teased out with free association. Partially due to the automatic responses mentioned in the experiments on partially-constrained associative processes. Joyce refers to the thinking processes that scientists claim bring about solutions to their scientific and mathematical problems. Often when not working on the problem itself. “The essential point here is that there are several stages of creative thought: first, a stage of preparation in which the problem is consciously worked over; then a period of incubation without any conscious concentration upon the problem; and then the illumination which is later justified by logic… The period of preparation is essentially the setting up of a complex struction together with conscious attention to the materials on which the struction is to work. But then the actual process of reasoning, the dark leap into huge discovery, just as in the simple trivial judgment of weights, has no representation in consciousness. Indeed, it is sometimes almost as if the problem had to be forgotten to be solved.” (p.44).
Which brings us back to Vygotsky.

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‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part ten)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on June 6, 2018 @ 12:45 pm

To illustrate elusion Laing uses Sartre’s example of the waiter in a café, who Sartre charges with playing at being a waiter. He is both ‘a waiter’, it is his job, but he has to play a social role, there are certain accepted behaviours expected of a waiter, and he tries to emulate them in order to do his job. According to Laing, “there is the sense in which no man can ever be entirely what he is. However, the man who is actually impersonating himself assuming a role, is assuming a relationship to himself which is a very ambiguous one, in that he is both pushing himself into what he is doing, and at the same time not doing what he is doing.” (p.28). The sociologist who examined this dramaturgical game most famously is Erving Goffman in his book the Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. In this book Goffman argues that the best way to understand human action is by seeing people as actors on a ‘social stage’ who actively create an impression of themselves for the benefit of an audience and, in the sense that we are discussing similarities between elusion and the creation of the idealich, ultimately themselves. When we act in the social world, we put on a ‘front’ in order to project a certain image of ourselves (call this part of our ‘social identity’ if you like) – we create a front by manipulating the setting in which we perform (e.g. our living room), our appearance (e.g. our clothes) and our manner (our emotional demeanour). In these social settings we are called upon to put on various fronts depending on the social stage on which we find ourselves and the teams of actors with whom we are performing – the work-place or the school are typical examples of social stages which require us to put on a front. On these social stages we take on roles, in relation to other team-members and carefully manage the impressions we express in order to ‘fit in’ to society and achieve our own personal agendas. Managing the impressions we portray in everyday life involves projecting an ‘idealised image’ of ourselves, which involves concealing a number of aspects of our performance – such as the effort which goes into putting on a front, and typically hiding any personal profit we will gain from a performance or interaction. Unfortunately because audiences are constantly on the look-out for the signs we give off (so that they can ‘know who we are’) ‘performers can stop giving expressions, but they cannot stop giving them off’. This means that we must be constantly on our guard to practice ‘expressive control’ when on the social stage. There are plenty of things that can go wrong with our performance which might betray the fact that we are not really the person who our act suggests that we are – we might lose bodily control or make mistakes with our clothing, or as is often the case in mental health lose our sense of controlled emotional expression.
In the documentary the Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, Slavoj Zizek takes the architecture of the scene in house in Psycho and applies it to psychoanalysis. The basement is the id, where his mother’s body is, the ground floor is the ego, and the upstairs, first floor, where he hears, or even ‘becomes’, his mother, is the superego. In the example we are setting here in our portrayal of idealich and eleusion, this is the relation of self to self, this is its dimension. Vertical. In the Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Goffman also architecturally describes the stage, as acting out social roles is quite demanding, in addition to the front-stage aspect of our lives, we also have back-stage areas where we can drop our front and be more relaxed, closer to our ‘real selves’ (true/real ego), and where we can prepare for when we again need to go back front of stage and act in the world. In this sense the back stage is our unconscious and the background feelings we have, and the front of stage is our ego. This dimension is the relation of self to others, and is horizontal. Or transversal as Felix Guattari would argue in the Three Ecologies.

Lacan argues that the eleusion from the real ego to the Ichideal and the attempt to return is the relation of the imaginary to the symbolic. But with regards this structuration of the ego, and the relation of the Ichideal to Goffman’s theory of presentation of self in everyday life I want ot bring up an idea sometimes used in analytic philosophy and game theory, Common Knowledge. Common knowledge is understood as form of knowledge shared amongst a particular group of actors. There is common knowledge of something, that could be an idea, or a belief, or set of facts p amongst the set of actors G in that all the actor members amongst the set G know p, they all know that they know p, they all know that they all know that they know p, and so on ad infinitum. The reference to Goffman here is that this is associated with convention, whether in argumentation, rules of games like chess, or social behaviours. In computing, the Two Generals Problem is a thought experiment meant to illustrate the pitfalls and design challenges of attempting to coordinate an action by communicating over an unreliable link. It is related to the more general Byzantine Generals Problem (particularly with regard to the Transmission Control Protocol where The General Problem shows that TCP can’t guarantee state consistency between endpoints and why. A key concept in epistemic knowledge, this problem highlights the importance of common knowledge. I will be returning to this with regards the Byzantine General Problem, but before that I want to consider Axel Honneth’s theories of Recognition and Disrespect, which requires looking at the concept of alienation, as well as problems of discursivity in the knowledge base which will return us to Lacan’s understanding of the Reality Principle. In looking at common knowledge I want to look at the possibility of the imaginary affecting common Knowledge, especially art’s place in this, returning to Foucault’s portrait of Baudelaire as Modern flaneur and De Certeau’s Practice of everyday life. De Certeau argues in what he calls Reading as Poaching. In this chapter De Certeau contests the idea that consumers are passively guided and moulded by the media-products that are imposed on them. The assumption that the public is a passive recipient of the text is rooted in the Enlightenment’s ideological goal of the necessity of educating and reforming the public. The book was thought of as the perfect instrument to instruct. One can think of the significance of being able to read for the purposes of manumission in Henry Louis Gates Jr’s Signifying Monkey. Today the message of the book is no longer of primary importance. Rather, it is the book as a means to read that garners significance. De Certeau argues that “every reading modifies its object” (p.169). As such De Certeau opposes the image of reading as being a passive matter and states that reading is also a process of creative production, for the reader must actively construct a meaning on the basis of a collection of signs that the text presents. In spite of the normative power and conventions of the literate elite, a common poetics is practiced behind closed doors, if we think here of Goffman’s back-rooms. This is a creative and transgressive reading by means of which the reader deterritorializes him- or herself by traveling through invented, unknown lands that exist between self and image, between text and the reader’s social milieu, between the text that is read and other texts that are brought to the imagination through the reading process, and we can think here of Lacan’s idea of the Ichideal, and Laing’s idea of elusion. The emergence of this sort of reading has come hand in hand with the change from reading aloud to silent reading. Even though in silent reading the bodily activity has been reduced to the mobility of the eye, paying attention to the body as it responds to the practice of common poetics might help us explain the dynamics of this type of reading, and here we can think of Vygotsky’s discussion of the child’s development of inner speech.

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‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part nine)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on June 5, 2018 @ 5:26 pm

I want to focus on the Idealich and Ichideal for a while as it is one of the central components of this thesis looking at the formation of the subject described at the beginning of this series who projects a sense of self onto the Other. For the moment I want to raise a trope of the Hearing Voices Network that ‘the voices are real’, this particular phrasing was first raised by Ron Coleman in his book Recovery: An alien concept, but a similar phrasing , as has been mentioned, was mentioned by RD Laing (credited to a Dr Isaacs) in the 1961 book Self and Others, in which the phrase is ‘the phantasms are real’, RD Laing then deals with this dialectically and puts the phrase into a more social context, and I will be coming ot this in future articles, but suffice for now to acknowledge the egoistic nature of this Freudian concept is challenged elsewhere, and now to understand the ego’s share of this phenomenon, let us return to the Ichideal and Idealich.
Dr LeClaire states that according to Freud the sense of self has three origins: 1. Primary narcissistic satisfaction, 2. The measure of success, the satisfaction of the desire for omnipotence and 3. The gratification received from love objects. Leclaire isolates one of these for consideration “the development of the ego consists in an estrangement from primary narcissism and gives rise to a vigorous attempt to recover that state. This departure is brought about by means of the displacement of libido on to an ego-ideal imposed from without satisfaction is brought about from fulfilling this ideal. So the ego experiences a kind of estrangement, passing via a middle term, which is the ideal, and returns later to its primitive position.” (p.135-136). O. Mannoni remarks that this would be the structuration of the ego. Leclaire goes onto explain the this ambiguity of Freud suggests that this displacement of the libido onto an ideal can be either a displacement onto an image of the ego, an ideal that is dissimilar to the one that is already there, or it is a displacement onto something going beyond the form of the ego, something quite properly an ideal, a form. O.Mannoni argues that there is a distinction between the structuration of the ego and the development of the person, “because it is truly an ego that structures, but within a being that is developing” (p.137). Lacan concludes that this is quite properly structuration and it is this point that is the joint between the imaginary and symbolic.
It is that this point that I am minded again of Laing’s idea of elusion. Let us return to it again. Laing mentions ‘the complicated elusive relationship to one’s actual position’ in a chapter on ‘pretence and the elusion of experience’, he describes a thought experiment
1. One is sitting in a room
2. One imagines or pretends that the room is not a real room. But is a room that one is cinjuring up by one’s own imagination: (A-> B).
3. Having pretended this point almost to convincing oneself that the room is an imaginary toom, one then starts pretending that the room is a real room and not an imaginary room after all: (B -> A1).
4. One ends up, therefore by pretending that the real room is real, rather than perceiving it as real.
We can see here a relation to Lacan and LeClaire’s discussion of the ‘true/real ego’s’ relation to the ichideal. Where the phrase: “So the ego experiences a kind of estrangement, passing via a middle term, which is the ideal, and returns later to its primitive position”, is a description of an ‘elusive relationship’. Laing writes “In elusion, everything becomes elusive. Its symbols are will-o’-the-wisps, feathers, dust, fluff, straws in the wind – all that is difficult to grasp, grip, hold with one’s hands, pin down, control, handle, manipulate, define, catch. Not only the content of the situation but its qualities and modalities are eluded also. It evades being categorised as real or unreal imagination or phantasy. Beulah, the realm of the moon, under Chinese lanterns, rather than under the naked electric bulb… One finds that person who is entirely given over to a phantasy of something that can be searched for and found. He is only his very own searching. What one has is always not what one wants, and yet it is precisely the elusiveness of this want that one is unable to say what one wants, lacks, has not got, because what one wants (lacks) is precisely what one has not got… what is, what one is, what other people are, facts – this is not what is wanted. Those brute facts that cannot be eluded are repellent if not nauseating, disgusting, and obscene.” (p.30-31). This is Laing describing, what he labels, a hysteric’s relation to the reality principle as opposed to the idealich. This is as elusion is both a relation of self to self, and a relation of self to others.
One finds oneself thinking of Alvin Lucier’s sound-art performance I am sitting in a room. The performance involves Lucier (or the performer) speaking a few lines (“I am sitting in a room…” and so on) into a tape recorder in a room with a particular echoic effect. Thiese lines are repeated and then played back, and recorded again, and played back, over and over, the repetition creates an out of synch effect, and the intensity becomes an overwhelming noise or cacophony.
Laing continues “But if a person’s whole way of life becomes characterised by elusion, he becomes a prisoner in a limbo world, in which illusion ceases to be a dream that comes true, but comes to be the realm in which he dwells, and in which he has become trapped. To be constantly sustained, elusion requires great virtuosity: the dissonances of phantasy-imagination-reality can have great charm if kept implicit, but if too explicit they become cacophony.” (p.31). With regards the psychotic Laing argues that “the main-in-the-street: for instance, that he has a body which has an inside and an outside; that he has begun at his birth and ends biologically speaking at his death; that he occupies a position in space; that he occupies a position in time; that he exists as a continuous being from one place to the next and from one moment to the other. The ordinary person does not reflect upon these basic elements of his being because he takes his way of experiencing himself and others for granted. However the schizoid, and still more the schizophrenic, has a precarious sense of his own person (and other persons) as adequately embodied, as alive, as real, as substantial, and as a continuous being, who is at one place at one time, and at a different place at another time, remaining the ‘same’ throughout, and a sense of himself as an agent of his own actions (instead of a robot, a machine, a thing), and as the agent of his own perceptions (someone else is using his eyes, his ears etc).” (p.35). A state Laing describes as personal disintegration, as ontological insecurity. Laing paraphrases Winnicot when he says a hysteric is trying to get TO a madness. “Madness indeed seems to be sought by some hysterics as a way out of the elusiveness of everything. Madness would be something definite, an arrival, a relief. But although the hysteric may succeed in getting a certificate of insanity, it remains a counterfeit, a fraud which is tragic enough. The counterfeit can engulf the person’s life as much as the ‘real thing’. But ‘real’ madness eludes him as much as ‘real sanity’. Not all who would be can be psychotic.” (p.37).
Baudrillard discusses in Simulacra and Simulation the counterfeit. With regards the counterfeit he discusses money, a counterfeit that was the perfect copy in every way, is understood only in concept as a counterfeit, as it was not produced by the sovereign mint. The question for sanity is what is this sovereign guarantee? That Laing’s hysteric so desperately wants? If it exists at all? Is it the Master Signifier? For the psychotic in Laing’s description it is disintegration in the face of it. I want here for a moment to bring up a book that devoted itself to disintegrating Freud, alongside Marx and Nietzsche, and that is Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. In it, as with Laing and Winnicot claiming the ‘hysteric’ is trying to get to madness, and that ‘not all who would be can be psychotic’, so Deleuze and Guattari state that “A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better model than a neurotic lying on the analyst’s couch.” (p2).

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‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part eight)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on June 3, 2018 @ 9:00 pm

There is an interesting point in Book I of Lacan’s seminars discussing ego-ideals and ideal-egos between LeClaire and Lacan in which they bring up paranoiac delusions of being watched, as was discussed in part 6, it is worth going over Lacan’s observations to further illuminate this experience, but first let us distinguish between ego-ideal and ideal-ego.
In a not to dissimilar vein to Attachment theory (although Bowlby denies the existence of the Freudian death instinct) Lacan argues Freud locates what he calls narcissism in the need for support (Anlenung) of the child (His Majesty the aby), as an exchange in this care giving role to the dependent, the parents project their ideals onto the child. Freud isolates ‘the fixation of love’ (Verliebtheit) in four forms of love: 1. What one is oneself, 2. What one was, 3. What one would like to be and 4. The person who was a part of oneself – the caregivers of childhood (amongst others). This is the Narzissmusttypus. There is a reversal where the subject takes its bearings from the woman who feeds and the man who protects. One can argue looking at the less theorietical and more evidence based attachment theory, that we can to an extent degender these roles, but still see them as bearings. And of course any failure as a consequence will also add to what, as was discussed later, tends towards the subject’s relation to the later fully formed Superego. However at this stage we are talking ego development and at this stage Freud’s argument according to LeClaire is that the parents projection of their ideals onto the child dictates the form the narcissism takes, and its relation to the fourfold typology above. One can think of Charles Fernyhough’s book on memory, ‘Pieces of Light’, where he notes that some of our earliest memories when they are in the third person are most likely memories made up of stories told to us throughout our life, and less memories of actual events that develop later, around 3-4 years, where the ‘I’, the ego takes centre stage and those memories are more likely to be first person (although if played with repeatedly such memories can sometimes take a simulation of first person narrative).
With regards the adult ego, they question whether it gets subsumed in object investments. However it seems in Freudian analysis one of the purposes of repression is the ego’s ethical and cultural requirements in that “the same impressions, experiences, impulses and desires that one man indulges or at least works over consciously will be rejected with the utmost indignation ny another, or even stifled before they enter consciousness” (p.132-133) LeClaire then goes on to say that Freud formulates the issue such as “We can say that one man has set up an ideal in himself by which he measures his actual ego, while the other has formed no such ideal. For the ego the formulation of an ideal would be the conditioning factor of repression. This ideal is now the target of the self-love which was enjoyed in childhood by the true [veritable/real – Das wirkliche Ich] ego… Narcissism seems to make its appearance displaced onto this new ideal ego, which finds itself in possession of all the ego’s precious perfections, in the same way as the infantile ego was. As always where the libido is concerned, man has here again shown himself incapable of giving up a satisfaction he once enjoyed… This ideal ego is now the target of the self-love which was enjoyed in childhood by the true[/real] ego… He is not willing to forgo the narcissistic perfection of his childhood and… he seeks to recover it in the form of an ego-ideal.”(p.133).
If we go back to the first article on Gombrich and Paredoilia, we can get a sense of what is projected. But we also have to bear in mind that this is an individual’s relation with the world, what Husserl would call a life-world, as well the reality principle which is the social, economic and discursive organisation of the lifeworld plus aleatory effects that are beyond the individual’s control, somewhat similar to Lacan’s Intrusions of the Real. From this we can see the individual is situated in many overlapping cybernetic dynamics that some theorists call a network, however some of these dynamics are closer to the individual for longer periods, such as family, school, work, including the intense time period of childhood especially up to the age of four and during puberty. This later adult then has this relation to a more worked through ideal-ego that has a history. However these dynamics that haunt the individual through memory and sometimes trauma can stem from dynamics that were authoritarian nexi, and these formations will remain if not worked through.

LeClaire then discusses sublimation sought out of the relations of the formation of the ideal. “Sublimation is a process involving object libido. In contrast, idealisation deals with the object which has been ennobled, elevated and it does so without any modification in its nature. Idealisation is no less possible in the domain of ego libido than that of object libido” (p.134). Freud places the two libidos on the same plane. It is possible for the idealisation of the ego and a failed sublimation to then coexist. This formation of the ego-ideal intensifies the demands on the ego and as a consequence of the ethical and cultural needs of the ego mentioned earlier that have to interact with other egos who may not desire to be the object of sublimation so brings repression to the full. Lacan then points out that one of the libidos is on the plane of the imaginary and the other the symbolic – the law. “the demand of the Ichideal takes up its place within the totality of demands of the law” (p.134) Leclaire adds that “Hence sublimation opens up the expedient of satisfying this demand without repression” And Lacan responds that “That is successful sublimation”

We are left with the relation now of sublimation to psychosis. And from there we can look at how Foucault’s modern man’s life as art is relevant. Leclaire notes the relation of a psychical agency that ‘performs this task of seeing that narcissistic satisfaction from the ego-ideal is ensured and which, with this end in view, constantly watches the actual ego and measures it by that ideal” would ultimately lead to the formulation of the Superego. Here we can refer back to Freud’s comments on subjects who feel they are watched discussed earlier

It is here that I want to reference Bowlby again and recognise that he notes that Freud had a major turning point in his theory where he rejected early abuse and took his argument back to the child’s fantasies. But as Bowlby acknowledges violence and abuse can have major impacts on upbringing. Much of attachment theory is the importance of providing good enough parenting to create a reasonable ego-ideal. Trauma can negatively affect this. There is much research under the auspices of the Hearing Voices specialist institute Intervoice (Marius Romme, Sandra Escher, John Read and others) that links trauma to voice hearing, in some meta-analyses 65% of voice hearers have some kind of CSA or CPA. It is also woth noting that the subject of Freud’s research on psychosis, Schreber, had a father who was an inventor of equipment that was used to physically restrain and discipline children and Schreber’s father used it on his son.

One of Lacan’s students Maud Mannoni in her book the child and his illness, argued that the child developed symptoms threw the language ‘between’ the parents, in their relation, this creates a symbolic law that projects an ideal onto the child, the child learning through the phrases said what is expected of him/her, whether spoken directly to or spoken about the child. We can see here the beginnings of an authoritarian nexus and a cybernetics as described by Bateson and Laing. It is also worth noting that in the gestalt therapy of the Stones used in the Talking With Voices therapy, one of the ‘alters’ or personalities, that closest to the SuperEgo, is known as the Inner Critic, Hal and Sidra Stone argue that this protective alter develops more effectively my watching how others’ are treated and creating precautionary injunctions to prevent the subject getting into similar trouble. We can also understand this as listening to descriptions of character by third party witnesses that are between other rather than to the subject.

We can now imagine the situation post-2010 (or even earlier see my article Return of the Poor Law) where an increase in narratives of scroungers and welfare cheats, ‘skivers and strivers’ repeated in the media in a sustained propaganda attack on the welfare system would affect psychotics and other people with mental health issues who are already paranoid. What affect does this have on the sublimation of the ego-ideal?

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‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part seven)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on May 1, 2018 @ 8:27 pm

Whilst Miller and Rose’s concept of ‘technologies of government’ was introduced by Michel Foucault in his seminars on biopolitics and neoliberalism in the 1970s, one of the most well-known portraits of this society was Foucault’s friend Gilles Deleuze’s discussion of the Control Society, whilst much of the work published by Foucault in his lifetime focused on disciplinary societies of early Capitalism in the early 19th century, these followed on from the sovereign societies, that took tithes and a portion of production, the feudal system, but did not organise labour as the disciplinary society did. The disciplinary society had two main precepts, the individual and the mass, but, (Foucault argues in Birth of Biopolitics) from the 1950’s (Miller and Rose examine the Tavistock clinic as an example, mentioned earlier) and attempt was made to work on that organisation one that moulded differently. One of these methods was in changes in communication and work organisation. This relates in several ways to Bruno Latour’s ‘Action at a distance, But Deleuze lists them thus:
“In the prison system: the attempt to find “alternatives” to custody, at least for minor offences, and the use of electronic tagging to force offenders to stay at home between certain hours. In the school system: forms of continuous assessment, the impact of continuing education on schools, and the related move away from research in universities, “business” being brought into education at every level. In the hospital system: the new medicine “without doctors or patients” that identifies potential cases and subjects at risk and is nothing to do with any progress toward individualising treatment, which is how it’s presented, but is the substitution for individual or numbered bodies of coded ‘dividual’ matter to be controlled. In the business system: new ways of manipulating money, products, and men, no longer channelled through the old factory system.” (p.182).
The history of mental health care can be translated partially here, with the decarceration from the asylums, triggered by the Water Tower Speech of Enoch Powell in 1961, argued to be for cost cutting reasons by people like Andrew Scull. Pete Sedgwick saw this coming in his book PsychoPolitics, however he seemed to accuse anti-psychiatry of giving the language needed to the New Right, who then argued for the need for costs, whilst using both the language of anti-psychiatry, and the new forms of psychiatric medication such as Chlorpromazine as cover for the new market ideology that need not believe in paying for infrastructure, which the asylums maintenance was (one can only wonder whether this would have happened if modern forms of state financing such as Private Finance Initiatives were around, although the recent collapse of Carillion signifies the limits of that – one can wonder how where Lehman Brothers was an immediate result of the collapse, the Carillion collapse might be seen in a few years as a consequence of austerity). Bartlett and Wright’s Outside the Walls of the Asylum documents how poor the infrastructure required (according to the arguments of the anti-psychiatry movement and those aspects of the humanist (and sometimes religious – although often secular) social hygiene movement (that would burgeon into the Recovery movement) was due to the cost cutting after decarceration that led to the ‘crisis’ in Care in the Community, that happened very quickly, with CTOs for the ‘dangerous, single, mad male’ being the equivalent of ‘tagging’, and Philip Thomas and Pat Bracken’s Community Home Treatment teams being an equivalence of individualised and community treatment.
This is a historical change, it is caught up in the economic move after WWII of pseudo-Keynesianism (as catalogued by Rodney Lowe), and the organisation of the state, the power grab by neoliberals at the end of the seventies, followed by the collapse of the Soviet system in 1989-1991, that gave us first the Washington Consensus and then the Post-Washington consensus, the debate about structural adjustment that this debate on international development involved, and then post the 2008 economic crisis, in the UK, this structural adjustment was internalised in the form of austerity, until 2012 in most of the West, continued only in peripheral southern European states such as Greece and Spain (applied by external forces in the form of more powerful EU members), and the UK (applied internally with no compulsion from other nation states – followed in 2016 by Brexit).
It is in this milieu we get the combination of personalisation, ‘recovery models’, community treatment, CBT, DBT, Mindfulness, continued medication on the one hand and CTOs and benefit sanctions on the other, both applied to all service users who come in to contact with services.
But, what of this subject in receipt of services? This mental health patient or service user, this mad subject; the depressive, the psychotic? How do they carve themselves space? Although Deleuze was critical of Jacques Lacan I want to return to his work momentarily, to consider his (and Freud’s) understanding of the ego-ideal and the ideal ego. Freud argues that in a sense psychosis is related to a libidinous disinvestment, a withdrawal into his ego, only to ‘free it once more when he is cured’. Lacan argues that “Freud’s essential point is that it is almost of no importance whether a working over of the libido… is produced with real objects or with imaginary objects.” (p.130). Lacan mentions the German word Verarbeitung and the French word elaboration with reference to ‘working over’. We can think here of ‘talking with voices’ therapy, with regards the distinction between the working over of real objects (Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic springs to mind here – where in the battle between the two in the struggle ‘to the death’ that leads to the Master-slave distinction both realise at a certain level they will not get recognition if the other dies, so in the unequal compromise the ‘moral of the story’ is that the Master gets no recognition, but does get ownership, and the Slave must seek recognition in his alienated labour producing ‘real objects’ for the Master) and imaginary objects, the work towards recovery that the therapy attempts to kick start by ‘working over’ imaginary objects. However Lacan notes that the issue with illness appears when the ‘libido becomes oriented towards unreal objects’ (as opposed to imaginary ones) here he also refers to Stauung, or damming up, O. Mannoni likens it to a Dutch dike where the level of water behind raises due to the damming. One can refer back to the cybernetics of Bateson and Laing here where double binds or some other linguistic entrapment causes an impossibility of movement, a blockage and consequently a damming up. Of course this requires a ‘vital’ element, else the subject can just leave, or move out (e-motion) from the scenario. A question I shall keep returning to is whether the more punitive aspects of the austerity regime since 2010 can, if not ‘cause’, at least intensify situations where such vital questions, or anxieties, are already there. In healthy subjects perhaps such a disciplinary regime, and let us be reminded that there is latent sovereign society in disciplinary societies, and latent sovereign AND disciplinary societies in control societies, and an economic crisis does lead to an intensification of punitive control measures, shock doctrine, on the part of Capital as historical economic necessity, just as the exploited look to protect theirs. With regards this working over Lacan refers to Freud quoting Heine invoking the word of God, “Illness is no doubt the final cause of the whole of the whole urge to create. By creating, I could recover. By creating, I became healthy.” (131). It’s almost a call for a work-cure! Some cruel contraption created by Schreber’s father combined with the labour of a Tuke retreat to ‘kill or cure’ the sick and needy, in a tory workfare warehouse. But I think not. As mentioned above alienation is the major obstacle, the difference Hannah Arendt invokes between a ‘work’ that has a finished product, and the ‘labour’ that The Master Tuke asks of the Slave that is monotonous and unfinished. And that is before we meet Marx’s theory, but there is a glimmer of hope. In his acknowledgment of Immanuel Kant, ‘What is Enlightenment? (Was Ist Aufklarung?)’, Michel Foucault invokes the Art of Life. After looking at some of the positives and negatives of Kant’s Enlightenment, Foucault questions modernity, and in the figure of Baudelaire, he finds the ‘heroic’ modern man (in the introduction to Hegel’s Reason In History, Hartman notes that there are four figures of history in Hegel’s World Spirit, the Citizen (who is moral when the State nears its ideal, immoral the more corrupt the state is), the Person (the legal subject of the state, the private individual), the Hero (he who embraces world spirit, Hegel’s bourgeois hero) and the Victim of history (as much an banal Eichmann as anyone who is, say, given current prejudices, disabled, ‘rotting on benefits’). In fact with regards the refusal of work of the Italian autonomists and the work of Kathi Weeks mentioned earlier one can envisage a ‘mad’ or ‘benefit’ (or the eponymous ‘working class hero’) that has nothing to do with ‘getting a job’. But, no matter, Foucault’s bourgeois hero of modernity was Baudelaire.
“Modernity for Baudelaire is not simply a form of relationship to the present; it is also a mode of relationship that has to be established with oneself. The deliberate attitude of modernity is tied to an indispensable asceticism. To be modern is not to accept oneself as one is in the flux of the passing moments; it is to take oneself as object of a complex and difficult elaboration: what Baudelaire, in the vocabulary of the day, calls dandysme. Here I shall not recall in detail the well-known passages on ‘vulgar, earthy, vile nature’; on man’s indispensable revolt against himself; on the ‘doctrine of elegance’ which imposes ‘upon its ambitious and humble disciples’ a discipline more despotic than the most terrible religions; the pages, finally on the asceticism of the dandy who makes of his body, his behaviour, his feelings and passions, his very existence, a work of art. Modern man, for Baudelaire, is not the man who goes off to discover himself, his secrets and his hidden truth; he is a man who tries to invent himself. This modernity does not ‘liberate man in his own being’; it compels him to face the task of producing himself.” (p.41-42).
This is a different subjectivity from that of the technologies of governmentality, a different type of biopolitics BUT as Deleuze points out with regards postmodern, neoliberal subjectivities, this is still a hangover of disciplinary societies, what would an art of life under contemporary conditions be?

Bartlett, Peter and Wright, David – Outside the Walls of the Asylum (1999) Continuum
Deleuze, Gilles – Negotiations (1995) Columbia
Foucault, Michel, and Rabinow, Paul – The Foucault Reader (1991) Penguin
Lacan, Jacques – Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953-1954: The seminar of Jacques Lacan Book 1 (1991) Norton
Lowe, Rodney – The Welfare State in Britain since 1945 (1998) Palgrave
Miller, Peter and Rose, Nikolas – Governing The Present (2008) Polity
Sedgwick, Peter – Psychopolitics (1982) Routledge
Scull, Andrew – Decarceration (1984) Polity

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace