And Now For Something Completely Different

If I was a book in a library, then I'd finally be free

Traversing the Fantasy: Where Do I Go?

with 3 comments

If we follow Descartes, we cannot be certain of things “outside” the mind, which are otherwise “objectively present,” though the subjective content of the mind qua mind is minimally certain. Cogito ergo sum. 

How is it that I know I am not psychotic, then, if the only content of my mind to speak of appears to me as objectively present? In other words, where is the minimal distance that separates truth from illusion, real from unreal, inside from outside?

Let’s make it clear by thinking of how people usually talk about The Matrix. They talk about being-in-the-Matrix as being different from being-not-in-the-Matrix, or rather, the kind of being of being-in-the-Matrix is different from the kind of being of being-not-in-the-Matrix. Where/what is the difference, but more difficultly where am I going when I traverse the fantasy of that difference?

UPDATE: Being-not-in-the-Matrix is, as far as I’m concerned, an absurd way to talk. Rather, for the sake of having a coherent sense of the world, we should talk about not-being-in-the-Matrix. There is a structural ambiguity here though: how are we to understand the difference between NOT being-in-the-Matrix and NOT-BEING (that is) in-the-Matrix? Is this difference simply a replay of the one I already considered. If the difference alludes you, think of at least two different ways to understand “he saw her with binoculars.” If that alludes you, you’re on the wrong blog.

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Written by Joe

May 3, 2008 at 9:25 pm

3 Responses

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  1. For Descartes, skepticism about illusion is solved by God. The reason we can be certain about things outside the mind is because God is a benevolent being and would not deceive us.

    I’m not sure that what presents itself to Descartes mind is only the objectively present. His mind is filled with colors, pains, etc., which are all qualitative. Where objective presence comes in is when he talks about what is real outside the mind. E.g. he doesn’t think colors exist outside the mind because they are qualitative, not quantitative.

    Strangely enough, Descartes, with all his skepticism elsewhere, famously dismisses the idea that he might be insane. He finds it ridiculous to even consider the possibility that his head is a pumpkin. So there really isn’t much to say about how he knows he’s not psychotic.

    But I think the answer to your main question about traversing the distance between truth and illusion (for Descartes) can be answered by referring to the Cartesian God.

    Shawn Johnson

    May 4, 2008 at 9:35 am

  2. I say it appears to us as objectively present, because Descartes posits the Cartesian theatre of the mind to account for the otherwise objective presence of everyday things. He does not deny it, he just says that our access to it is absolutely mediated.

    If there is no God, or at least if one really does not believe in God, then what mediates the distance between truth and illusion? Can we be strong enough to live with there being no God and thus no distance between truth and illusion? As far as Lacan is concerned, and this is where I am getting the phrase, “traverse the fantasy,” we need not believe in God, in the fictional distance that separates truth from illusion, but in order to be “normal” human beings we must nonetheless be able to make use of it.

    In a sense, the psychotic, by Lacan’s view, not only does not believe in God, but cannot make full use of God. He forecloses the name-of-the-Father, which means he refuses the symbolic fiction that structures social reality contra personal illusions. The psychotic break in the Lacanian situation is when the psychotic encounters this fictional distance qua name-of-the-Father as a Real hole in the Real world.

    You could think of this in terms of Da-sein and being-in-the-world, where what the psychotic has foreclosed is that its being-there is on the condition of its possible not being there. Lacan helps us see this by parodying Descartes famous maxim. He writes concerning cogito and unconsciousness, “I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think.” The psychotic literally thinks where it is, since its foreclosure of the name-of-the-Father means it does not form an unconscious, and literally cannot be where it cannot think. This is precisely Descartes universe, where we cannot think except for where we are, and the world beyond our thinking (i.e. the “outside world”) is unreal. Descartes’ formulation, though not necessarily himself in a clinical sense, is psychotic. Like the psychotic, Descartes attests certainty of his being in the certainty of his thinking. He thinks it absurd to consider otherwise.

    This all after my initial question about traversing the fantasy though. When one traverses something, they cover a distance, but distance is in its most basic sense a kind of determination. So, how is the fictional distance between truth and illusion to be determined?

    Joe

    May 4, 2008 at 10:17 am

  3. I think you respond to this in an entry on zazen?
    it seems so to me,
    when you speak about (traversing) the (difference) sitting and standing
    until something is emptied out
    and you sit and stand and knew It all along
    it is not so special?

    and in another post you speak of how it is not determined

    but coeval

    so,

    that is what occurs to me..

    Sol

    September 21, 2008 at 7:20 am


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