Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Excerpts from Judith Butler's ‘Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France':

“the immediacy of desire proves to be always already mediated, and we are always much more intelligent in the moment of desire than we immediately know ourselves to be. In the ostensibly pre-rational experience of desiring some feature of the world, we are always already interpreting that world, making philosophical motions, expressing ourselves as philosophical beings.” (2)

“actualization only occurs to the extent that the subject confronts what is different from itself, and therein discovers a more enhanced version of itself. The negative thus becomes essential to self-actualization, and the human subject must suffer its own loss of identity again and again in order to realize its fullest sense of self. But once again, can this full self be found?” (13)

“Hegel’s sentences enact the meanings that they convey; indeed, they show that what “is” only is to the extent that it is enacted.” (18)

“the text must be read to have its meaning enacted.” (19)

“to implicate the reader indirectly and systematically.” (20)

“we recognize ourselves as the subjects we have been waiting for inasmuch as we gradually constitute the perspective by which we recognize our history, our mode of becoming, through the Phenomenology itself.” (20)

“We might read this subject as a trope for the hyperbolic impulse itself, that frantic and overdetermined pursuit of the Absolute which creates that place when it cannot be found, which projects it endlessly and is constantly “foiled” by its own projection. As a being of metaphysical desires, the human subject is prone to fiction, to tell himself the lies that he needs to live.” (23)

“As readers of his text, accepting time and again the terms of his journey, we indulge in the same exorbitant desires; we become makers of fiction but only to dream more shrewdly the next time.” (24)

“When we ask, what is desire “after,” we can give a partial answer: the illumination of its own opacity, the expression of that aspect of the world that brought it into being. This is part of what is meant by the reflexivity that desire is said to embody and enact.” (24)

“Desire is intentional in that it is always desire of or for a given object or Other, but it is also reflexive in the sense that desire is a modality in which the subject is both discovered and enhanced. The conditions that give rise to desire, the metaphysics of internal relations, are at the same time what desire seeks to articulate, render explicit, so that desire is a tacit pursuit of metaphysical knowledge, the human way that such knowledge “speaks.” “ (25)

“conceptual thinking must replace Understanding, for only the former can think the movement between opposites. The Understanding consistently mistakes stasis for truth, and can only understand movement as a series of discrete moments, not as the vital unity of moments that imply each other endlessly and do not appear simultaneously. The Understanding cannot grasp movement itself; it is always prone to fix its object in a present tense which purports to present exhaustively the full reality of the object at hand.” (27)

“Self-consciousness thus emerges as a kind of knowing that is at once a mode of becoming; it is suffered, dramatized, enacted. Consciousness gives rise to self-consciousness in the bungled attempt to explain what it knows” (28)

“The Understanding lacks reflexivity, and so cannot understand how consciousness’ own difference from that which it scrutinizes is itself part of the phenomenon under investigation.” (28)

“And yet this failed explanation reveals an unexpected clue to the proper formulation of the phenomenon. As an “Explanation,” the Understanding comes to be determinately manifest in material form; there is consciousness itself sprawled on the page, formed in letters and words, existing, materially, outside itself. In recognizing the authorship of that explanation, consciousness becomes aware of itself for the first time. No longer enthralled intentionally with a world that ostensibly monopolized reality, consciousness discovers its own reflexivity; it has become other to itself, and knows itself as such” (28)

“Consciousness thus relinquishes itself as consciousness in the process of explaining what it knows. By the time the Explanation is over, neither consciousness nor the object it seeks to explain are the same." (29)

”the only true satisfaction for desire is to be found in an object that mirrors the reflexive structure of desire itself.” (40)

“But what is it that the other recognizes us as? The answer is, as a desiring being” (58)

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