‘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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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace