Philosophy Psychology

Desire and Fear

We are bound by fear to our Objects and fantasies of Other and Self as much as by desire and there is a complex logical undercurrent and rationale to the ways that we (enigmatically) encrypt aversion into attraction and revulsion or death into fertility and life.

The dissonant inflation of that symbolic and representational space we cultivate (and inhabit) between concepts of beauty and horror, desire and revulsion is precisely the ambiguity and uncertainty through which culture, technology and (for that matter) systems of gendered identity or power relations autonomously self-propagate themselves.

In aspiring to cognitive methods of psychological certainty and epistemological closure, we seek control; in seeking control, we orient ourselves to an Object or pathological fantasy Other of, through and as desire (or revulsion); in desiring (or its symmetrical and affective inverse) we project that malleable and fluid coordinate system of difference and distance through which by defining ourselves reflexively we isolate and individuate ourselves but also as the semiotic technology by which we locate ourselves in the conceptual topology of a symbolic cultural and social space; in orienting ourselves towards an Object (or even towards that aspirational, internalised Object and Other that notions of individuation, subjectivity or Self invoke) we find that, as we are foundationally conditioned by, entrained in and defined through this coordinate system of difference and we can never, ever, allow ourselves to attain or obtain closure because in so doing, this consummation would be to utterly and irrevocably disassemble our own substantive existence, and along with it – all meaning and purpose or teleological endeavour.

So – beauty and horror are bound in our psyche in ways both fertile and destructive like Eros and Thanatos and we find ourselves imprisoned by the endlessly self-curated and hyper-inflating logical space of our own existential emptiness. We culturally encrypt mystery and aversion into symbols of beauty and desire so as to maintain continuity and to inhibit (or at the very least) delay and misdirect the inevitability and personal fact of corporeal entropy and psychological or material disassembly. In free-fall, we orbit the gravitational nexus of our Others, our fictions, our fantasies and our Selves and all of our representational or aesthetic matrices in gestalt self-replicate this symmetry.

We are bound by fear to our Objects and fantasies of Other and Self as much as by desire and there is a complex logical undercurrent and rationale to the ways that we (enigmatically) encrypt aversion into attraction and revulsion or death into fertility and life.

Carravaggio’s Medusa at the Uffizi

4 replies on “Desire and Fear”

I think I’m beginning to understand your explanation of Subject and Object/Other as poles of a topological coordinate space; that only the space exists between us, even if only temporarily, and both poles are requisite for the space (distance) to exist. If I am correct in my understanding, then kudos to you for your novel (to me) explanation.

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To ascend this particular asymptote conceptually – consider that (for example) the negation and negative space of a torus is also a space looped back upon itself, that the opposite of a thing is often that same thing, in inverse, and how this reflects an abstract self-similarity of both form and function. Polar opposites are also mutually reflexive – it is only our limited narrative psychologies, bound as we are to notions of purpose and teleological end-points, that fails to see the unity at work here. Your feedback is always useful and thought-provoking, thankyou.

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I am familiar with Lacan. The Mirror Stage is a powerful mnemonic tool. I have dabbled in related theories of gender, identity and power. Foucault is also interesting.

Bruce Lee (martial arts) put it well – take what is useful, discard what is not. While it may never be wise to nail one’s analytical self to any specific theory or dogma, there is usually something to be gained from general familiarity. Freud is instructive, for instance, but largely discredited now.

What is particularly interesting about psychoanalytic theory, to me, is the ways in which even when it is overtly incorrect, it is compelling. What, I wonder, is going on here? Something about information self-replication…


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