Title page for ETD etd-01212008-122015

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Spangenberg, Yolanda
Email yspan73@hotmail.com
URN etd-01212008-122015
Document Title ‘Toe-eiening’ van die ontoe-eienbare : 'n ondersoek na die samehorigheid van denke en poësie (Afrikaans)
Degree MA (Philosophy)
Department Philosophy
Advisor Name Title
Prof M J Schoeman Supervisor
  • language symbolic identification
  • Slavoj Zizek
  • Jacques Lacan
  • experience
  • poetry
  • objet petit a
  • simboliese identifikasie
  • verobjektivering van taal
  • factum loquendi
  • potentiality
  • Giorgio Agamben
  • potensialiteit
  • ervaring van taal
Date 2007-04-23
Availability restricted

This dissertation explores the problem regarding the objectification of language and the split between thought and poetry. The problem is examined from both a philosophical and a psychoanalytical perspective. The split between thought and poetry is rather complex and it manifests itself in various contexts.

In The Man without Content Giorgio Agamben (1999c) discusses this problem with reference to the sphere of the aesthetic. According to Agamben the birth of modern aesthetics and the problem of representation is the result of a primordial objectification of language. Agamben conveys the instance of the objectification of language as inseparable from a split between thought and poetry. Since modernity this division, which is at the origin of Western culture, has become increasingly manifest. It is, according to Agamben, the underlying cause of a series of schisms – for example between artist and spectator, genius and taste, and form and matter – which has, in our present time, reached its furthest point.

In The Parallax View Slavoj Zizek discusses similar schisms that is currently discernible in various spheres. In the context of my research, it is his discussion of the split between objective knowledge and subjective truth that is of special interest. In my dissertation this division is respectively brought to bear on the split between thought and poetry. (This claim is broadly expanded on in chapter four). The split between objective knowledge and subjective truth manifests itself, in the social context, as the antinomy of essentialism and constructionism.

My discussion commences in chapter one with an introductory overview of the theme under investigation.

In chapter two the theme is first of all examined from a philosophical perspective. In this regard it is primarily the work of Giorgio Agamben, and especially his view of the nature of language that guides my discussion. According to Agamben we cannot regard language as ‘something’ (an ‘articulated unity’) that has always already taken place. Language rather exists in the form of pure potentiality. By reinterpreting Aristotle’s doctrine of potentiality, Agamben comes to the conclusion that potentiality is, originally, an (im)potentiality. In so far as the human being is language, he is this (im)potentiality and this (im)potentiality should be seen as the dimension of the unappropriable. In view of this unappropriability man’s primordial situation cannot be a unity (at least not a ‘reflexive’ or ‘reflected’ unity). The human being, in so far as he is language, is the primordial gap that enables meaning and signification to take place. According to Agamben this (im)potentiality (the dimension of the unappropriable) has, however, undergone a primordial objectification in Aristotle’s logico-metaphysical structure of knowledge. Since then, language as the primordial gap that enables presence and meaning to take place, has been neglected or forgotten.

In chapter three the primordial objectification of language and the split between thought and poetry is also considered from a psychoanalytical perspective. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce the reader to some of the main concepts in Jacques Lacan’s exposition of symbolic identification. Attention will only be given to those aspects in the Lacanian psychoanalysis that are related to the theme of research.

In chapter four the psychoanalytic description of the problem is continued. The relation between thought and poetry is explained by reference to two ‘fantasmatic structures of denial.’ In the Lacanian psychoanalysis the two ‘fantasmatic structures of denial’ are descriptive of two distinctive modalities of reflection. They represent two subjective attitudes that in psychoanalytic terms are described as the ‘subject of desire’ and the ‘subject of drive.’ In this chapter the relation between these two ‘fantasmatic structures’ and Agamben’s description of thought and poetry in our time is being explored.

In chapter five the theme under investigation is brought to a preliminary conclusion. In this chapter the co-belonging of thought and poetry is being examined in view of Lacan’s later conception of language as non-All. Of special interest is Lacan’s concept of the ‘traversing of the fundamental fantasy’ as well as his ideas regarding the ‘end of the psychoanalytic process.’ In so far as language is not an ‘articulated unity’ but rather non-All, the co-belonging of thought and poetry implies more than a mere reciprocity of opposites. I hope that we will eventually be able to conceive of a different, and more original kind of relation between the subject and his own inherent unappropriability. The denial of this dimension is currently the cause of an impasse in the process of symbolic identification. It points to man’s egoistic illusion of authority and self-righteousness.

Lacan’s concept of the ‘traversing of the fundamental fantasy’ implies a kind of conciliation between (or co-belonging of) the word (the sphere of the symbolic) and a certain excess or remainder (the unappropriable) over which it has no control. The ‘conciliation’ or ‘appropriation’ as being used in this context should not be understood in the usual sense. The conciliation of the word with itself rather points to the subject’s experience and acceptance of the dimension of unappropriability. This unappropriability derives from the negativity inherent in man’s drives. In view of this unappropriability man’s primordial situation is characterised by a feeling of fragmentation and disruption. It is this feeling of fragmentation and disruption which makes man’s (or language’s) reference to himself impossible.

The task of thought then is to traverse the subject’s (language’s) own presupposition; that is, his presupposed unity or ‘fundamental fantasy.’ We have to accept the fact that our ‘essence’ is not ‘something’ that can be possessed or appropriated ‘as such’. Eventually we have to experience and ‘appropriate’ the unappropriable as the inconceivable content and limit inherent in every expression. The unappropriable is precisely that dimension in the sphere of the symbolic over which we have no control whatsoever. In view of this the concept of redemption also assumes a new meaning. In this moment the subject experiences his inherent unappropriability as constitutive of his freedom. He recognizes his freedom precisely in his primordial bondage (or lack of freedom) that he will never be able to get rid of. This experience should be brought to bear on Agamben’s description of the ‘experience of language’ (the factum loquendi) as a dimension of (im)potentiality. The subject’s experience and acceptance of a certain disruption (or the unappropriability of language) is the realisation of unreality here and now.

© University of Pretoria 2007

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