Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Language as Disease & Language as Play

"Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language. . . . My aim is to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to something that is patent nonsense. . . He who understands me finally recognizes [my propositions] as senseless." Wittgenstein.

from Norman Brown's Life Against Death:


"Language as disease and language as play - the two meet in the concept of neurotic play, that is to say, magic. . . . Now if we can say that language is diseased in so far as it contains magical qualities, in so far as it reflects a belief in the reality of thoughts and wishes, we are able to trace the magical quality of language to its organic connection with the narcissistic phase of infantile sexual development, the phase in which the child develops the pure pleasure-ego. For the world of the pure pleasure-ego is a dream world, a world constructed out of 'neurotic currency' in which wishes are true - though for the child this currency is not neurotic, since he knows nothing of the conflict of the pleasure-principle and the reality-principle and his unreal world is his real world. And by the same token it is a world of play, in which the representation of the gratified wish is accepted as real. And in effect . . . it IS real. . . Language as play and language as disease are the two sides of language as wish-fulfillment thinking, and wish-fulfillment thinking is a legacy of childhood indelible in our minds, carrying the secret project of the pure pleasure-ego, the search for an erotic sense of reality."


"Mankind today is still making history without having any conscious idea of what it really wants or under what conditions it would stop being unhappy; in fact what it is doing seems to be making itself more unhappy and calling that progress.


"Christian theology, or at least Agustinian theology, recognizes human restlessness and discontent, the cor irrequietum, as the psychological source of the historical process. But Christian theology, to account for the origin of human discontent and to indicate a solution, has to take man out of this real world, out of the animal kingdom, and inculcate him into delusions of grandeur. And this Christian theology commits its own worst sin, the sin of pride.


..."the proof that human needs are not what they seem to be lies precisely in the fact of human history. The Faustian restlessness of man in history shows that men are not satisfied by the satisfaction of their conscious desires; men are unconscious of their real desires. Thus a psychology of history must be psychoanalytical.


"Lacking the doctrine of repression - or rather not being able to see man as a psychological riddle - Marx ... turns to biology and postulates an absolute law of human biology that the satisfaction of human needs always generates new needs. If human discontent is thus biologically driven, it is incurable. . . But Marx's assumption of a biological basis for "progress" in history really amounts to a confession that he is unable to explain it psychologically.


"Psychoanalysis can provide a theory of "progress," but only by viewing history as a neurosis. . . . By the same token, psychoanalysis offers a theoretical framework for exploring the possibility of a way out of the nightmare of endless "progress" and endless Faustian discontent, a way out of human neurosis, a way out of history. . . . If historical consciousness is finally transformed into psychoanalytical consciousness, the grip of the dead hand of the past on life in the present would be loosened, and man would be ready to live instead of making history, to enjoy instead of paying back old scores and debts, and to enter that state of Being which was the goal of his Becoming."

6 comments:

fnord said...

Maybe discontent is not neurotic but just fundamental. Maybe it's just life. Rocks are perfectly content. Where is it writ that our unconscious desires are any more satisfiable (in some ultimate once-and-for-all sense) than our conscious ones? Personally, I feel more content in my life when I am not so discontent with my discontent.

Anyway, re: history and psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is itself just another historical development. I think the idea that you can use it to transcend history falls into the same trap that the passage is trying to articulate.

Kephas said...

That's a question that's addressed later on in the book. I agree, but also disagree. I am ambivalent. Intellectual knowledge allows us to grasp and map ever deeper aspects of the unconscious life - but is that a good thing?

An interesting point in the book, Freud's, is that unconscious aspects of the psyche become conscious firstly through denial. In other words, we know that we are getting close to unconscious areas of ourselves when we start to deny them. Anything we accept without a fight, therefore, isn't really breaking new ground.

eli said...

Language is a TIME-TRAVELLING SOFTWARE because it enables us to understand the THEN just now. In that sense, language is from the FUTURE. As soon as you can "seize understanding" you have transcended the NOW through a SIMULATION software called LANGUAGE.

My two cents.

The Duck that couldn't said...

BBC Horizon 2012 Out of Control PDTV HDTV

So when you're looking at these images, the best thing to do is actually relax. You get in to a zone where your brain just does the work.

Jim Cross said...

Didn't know there were many around talking or thinking about Norman O. Brown?

I was a big fan back in the 60's.

You might enjoy my own little take on Brown, Marcuse, and some other topics if you haven't already stumbled upon from some links at Reality Sandwich.

http://broadspeculations.com/2012/01/18/eros-thanatos-and-tantra/

Jim Cross said...

Didn't know there were many around talking or thinking about Norman O. Brown?

I was a big fan back in the 60's.

You might enjoy my own little take on Brown, Marcuse, and some other topics if you haven't already stumbled upon from some links at Reality Sandwich.

http://broadspeculations.com/2012/01/18/eros-thanatos-and-tantra/