Saturday, May 23, 2015

Part 35: (Narcissus, Talismans, Cognition and the Depressed Academic): Dialogues on a Philosophy for the Individual

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2015)

With this post Flora Sapio and I (and friends from time to time) continue an experiment in collaborative dialogue. The object is to approach the issue of philosophical inquiry from another, and perhaps more fundamentally ancient, manner. We begin, with this post, to develop a philosophy for the individual that itself is grounded on the negation of the isolated self as a basis for thought, and for elaboration. This conversation, like many of its kind, will develop naturally, in fits and starts. Your participation is encouraged. For ease of reading Flora Sapio is identified as (FS), and Larry Catá Backer as (LCB).

The friends continue their discussion from Part 33 and 34, in which Flora Sapio returns to the talisman.

Contents: HERE.  
(FS)  ...but each one of the magicians made a crucial mistake: Aleph didn't know U.'s real name, Beth couldn't find U.'s picture, Gimel made the talisman in the wrong metal, and Daleth uttered the wrong formula.

By listening to her story, I understood who the Depressed (U.K.) Academic is – he is a maker of talismans. He knowns there is a talisman for everything – a talisman for the destruction of a city, and a talisman to eliminate your enemy; a talisman to rebuild a city, and a talisman to treat a serpent's bite. So the Depressed Academic stays awake for innumerable nights, melting the right metals, molding them in the correct shape, carving on them arcane symbols and inscriptions only the very few learned can understand...then he hides the talismans where no one can see them.

So absorbed is he in his game that he forgets his secret name, and he fails to remember each one of his names but the name of Professor, until the day comes when he realizes that talismanic symbols are etched in his palms and in his forehead. But, by then, the Depressed Academic has already become the object of his own spells – a very thin Narcissus, a disciple of the goddess Mania, or a follower of Alcyone...

But, as Betita and Ulisses said, cognition is both individual and relational, which leads to the observation that who we are is only one of the possible results of all of our prior life experiences.

The greatest mistake a certain philosophical current has made has been objectifying symbols. The Panopticon was conceived as a “mode of obtaining power of mind over mind”, or of giving power to the social self over the differentiated self, where the social self is clearly a symbolic construction. Whenever the Self recognizes that they are being “seen”, or “interpreted” by the Other they can, as Ulysses said, understand the perspective of the Other and change. Sometimes change can be for good but, sometimes the perspective of the Other forces a greater conformity upon the differentiated Self. This is what happens also in the case of the Witch, the Artist and the Prophet, or the Self who tries to maintain his differentiated Self only to be cast under a negative light. Most people, when they interpret the Other, follow always the same set of rules on interpretation....and these rules postulate that a symbol possesses only one meaning, and can be interpreted only in one way.

So a Witch, an Artist or a Prophet may see themselves as trying to engage the social self, understood both as their own false persona and the panoptical gaze of society. But, what they do only confirms the correctness of the social interpretation because the Witch, the Artist or the Prophet, being without access to the “symbolic dimension” cannot play with symbols and their meanings. A witch receives her power from the Devil, an artist is inspired by a Muse, and a prophet is possessed by the Spirit of Prophecy, exactly as the Depressed (U.K.) Academic is controlled by all the talismans he has collected and put on display for others to see. [Shall I name and describe each one of the talismans?]

...and the reason why the Depressed (U.K.) Academic feels so bad is because he is slowly and systematically killing his True Self, to make ample room for his False Self.

As I have tried to explain, some objectify the symbols by which the social self is made, while others play with them. We know how a symbol can have multiple meanings, let's say up to 99. Playing with symbols (= daring to break one's social self, or political self) means replacing one meaning with another, combining different meanings, or showing the entire range of symbols to the panoptical eye of society. The panoptical eye may then become blind, and the eye of the real selves may then open. Bridging all archetypes, belonging to each one of them and to none may be the only way to displace the panoptical structure outside and within the Self. This is something only a Magician (as opposed to a Depressed U.K. Academic) can do, and this is part of the reason why everybody likes magicians, and everybody accepts them – while only a few like witches, follow the artists or believe in the prophets.....and no one listens to the Depressed U.K. Academic.

The Panopticon is only a modern version of the tale of Argus Panoptes, the All-Seeing giant (or the Eye of Sauron, if you want). In recounting his version of the tale of Argus, Foucault spent great energies in describing each one of the eyes of Argus, but he completely forgot to tell us how Argus was slain by Hermes (or Mercury) who, being a trickster, knew how to induce the Panoptes to close his eyes.

1 comment:

Betita Horn said...

Dear Flora, Larry, Paul and Ulysses we can't forget that Foucault did not believe that the domination and power are sourced from a single source (such as the State, the ruling classes etc.).
For him domination, and power are exercised in different directions, each day, in multiple scale. He argued that this exercise was not necessarily oppressive, this exercise could be of service, for example, of creation. Foucault saw in dynamics between various institutions and ideas a complex web, in which it is not possible to speak about knowledge as cause or effect of other phenomena. To explain this complexity, he created the concept of power-knowledge. According to him, there is no power relationship that does not include the creation of knowledge and vice versa. Based on this premise, we can act productively against what we do not want to be and try new ways of organizing the world we live in.
Querida Flora, Larry, Paul e Ulisses nós não podemos esquecer que Foucault não acreditava que a dominação e o poder são originados por uma única fonte (como o Estado, as classes dominantes etc.).
Para ele a dominação e o poder são exercidos em várias direções, diariamente , em escala múltipla. Ele defendia que este exercício não era necessariamente opressor, este exercício podia estar a serviço, por exemplo, da criação. Foucault via na dinâmica entre várias instituições e ideias uma teia complexa, na qual não é possível falar sobre o conhecimento como causa ou efeito de outros fenômenos. Para explicar esta complexidade, ele criou o conceito de poder-conhecimento. Segundo ele, não existe relação de poder que não seja acompanhada da criação de saber e vice-versa. Com base nesta premissa, nós podemos agir produtivamente contra aquilo que não queremos ser, e ensaiar novas maneiras de organizar o mundo em que vivemos.