Thursday, 23 October 2014

Introduction: Weekly Journal Entries on Philosophy/Literature

I've decided to post up on here a few journal entries I write every week for a literature/philosophy class on Contemporary Theory. They are usually relatively disjointed, however I think it's important to resurrect this blog a little and since I've been so occupied with classes, I might as well put my own work for these classes online.

The first discusses extracts from Judith Butler and Genevieve Lloyd's "Man of Reason" (which I am in the midst of reading at the moment) on Hegel's famous "Lord and Bondsman" theory.

Judith Butler and Genevieve Lloyd on Hegel’s “Lordship and Bondage”

Lloyd sees in Hegel’s Lord-Bondsman Dialectic a rejection of the female world; she argues that the male has identified the female as the ‘particularity’ that needs to be transcended and removed in order to reach ‘universality’ and subjectivity. She notes that Sartre interprets the dialectic between master and slave as a struggle between being the observer and the observed. Here he observed ‘Other’ would be forced to become an object, stripped of subjectivity and therefore placed, like the bondsman, in a lower position, as their purpose is to reflect the observer’s subjectivity back to himself. According to Lloyd, Simone de Beauvoir argues that woman has permanently and intentionally placed herself in the position of this looked-at ‘Other’. The possibility of transcendence for the female is therefore prevented; it is further made impossible by male conception of the female body. Beauvoir argues that a prison-like “feminine domain” was created by male society in order to identify femininity and the female body in particular as the site of life and immanence; this enables male society to identify transcendence in direct opposition as a ‘male ideal’, as Lloyd states. However if the male concept of attainment of subjectivity relies on identifying and contrasting the self with particularity and therefore femininity (which remains as an identifiable, still-existent ‘zone’ embodied by the female, similar perhaps to Hegel’s bondsman) this creates a problem for the female who cannot do the same, as she would need to alienate herself from her own body as well as her femininity in order to reach transcendence, leaving nothing to define particularity itself. Therefore Lloyd disagrees with Beauvoir in arguing that ‘transcendence’ can be ‘gender-neutral’.

Butler, in contrast to Lloyd, focuses on Hegel’s conception of desire and the centrality of desire in creating subjectivity. She argues that desire is present in “Lordship and Bondage” and does not become replaced by recognition once a consciousness encounters another consciousness; instead, it becomes more and more sophisticated. In “Lordship and Bondage” Desire becomes self-conflicting; on one hand, it is “ecstatic self-sacrifice’, recognising that the ‘Other’ has ‘consumed’ the subject and giving itself up to this process. On the other the ultimate aim of desire is for the subject to be entirely self-sufficient and free. Therefore in the struggle onto death the subject tries to deny its dependence to the external ‘Other’, in whom the subject finds itself. This becomes a desire to annihilate the Other by dominating it and reducing it to a lesser form, a ‘body’ which the subject can define himself against. Butler sees both domination and enslavement as different forms of ‘death in life’, expressing desire’s unfulfillable wish to die. The lord’s desire becomes the transcendence of desire itself, implicit in his desire to be ‘beyond life’. In contrast, by ‘dreading freedom’ the bondsman discovers life as a site for expressing subjectivity. Butler also discusses the reception of Hegel by Kojève, who rejects this concept of nature being able to confirm human subjectivity as well as rejecting corporeality. Kojève identifies desire as something both transformed by expression; when desire is articulated it creates a ‘non-natural’ self separate from nature and therefore enables the subject to transcend the natural world and its determinism, and become historical agents. Therefore action by the subject on the world instates human freedom; instead of ‘revealing’ the relationship between the world and subject, it ‘creates’ a new relation to the world. This subject is defined by its own desire, which creates temporality in its anticipation of being fulfilled.

No comments:

Post a Comment