Tuesday, May 17, 2016

preference of paths

Supposing the other letters have not been about love, this one makes its proclamation to the contrary. In a final essay, a student of mine (CC) wrote about the perspective of the object in relation to Margery William’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real. It’s easy to see from the very beginning, how inanimateness or deadness is taken as preceding existence or presence in the world, and that also places emphasis on the use of the term “object” in relation to people; what seems to be a metaphor-concept for people is perhaps more than that already. As CC describes, the rabbit emerges as an object through processes of “real” abstraction, which demonstrate the ways in which its being acted upon is a means of its becoming worn, its “fraying,” a term Derrida takes up from Freud in “Freud and the Scene of Writing” (thanks CM for this reference). The difficulty of grasping this process (not just a matter of understanding but of touching/taking hold of/feeling) has a correlate, as CC notes, in Winnicott’s discussion of object relating vs. object use: “Within the context of Winnicott’s understanding of object use there seems to be an implication that object usage is equitable to the love of an object; that the child must destroy the object so that it can love the object, or that in loving the object the child destroys the object. One cannot love an object that they cannot accept is an ‘entity in its own right’ and not simply a ‘bundle of projections,’ for the love of the self-made projected object is simply the love of oneself (Winnicott 118-120).” It’s Williams’s story that adds the terms of love explicitly, and CC’s paper identifies and lingers over these terms.

In thinking about this, I’m interested in how this process of destructiveness “places the object outside,” which is the moment responsible for the object becoming an “entity in its own right,” about which there is an implicit priority. In other scenes, such a placing “outside” is a gesture that is protective or defensive on one side and hallucinatory on the other, part of the distorted perspective of mental abstraction, which registers in complicity’s desire to see oneself there simply so that an “outside” can be experienced or felt as non-illusory. I’m interested in how this constitutive relation detailed in the Winnicottian scene relates to the otherwise protective /defensive gesture. Perhaps, as Balint describes, this indifferentiation accounts for the primacy of primary love, which disregards the object totally. But this prevalence raises a question about the implicit value placed on the “entity in its own right.” If this common work of putting something “outside” brings complicity and love into relation, it’s interesting that love becomes significant because it carries the possibility of feeling that complicity otherwise denies. Love (perhaps here it’s useful to re-invoke preference as Vor-liebe (although below Derrida will cite Freud as using “Bevorzugung)) is able to shore up the inadequacy of complicity not because it is reparative but because it reveals itself (from the perspective of the object) as destructive. This is a possible explanation of how the protective or defensive aspect of complicity also wants to hide from or de-link its destructiveness so that one can continue to love oneself (through others). Maybe that’s much the course of things but I feel radically uninclined in this way.

How to love that which is real about the object, when what is real is the process only of fraying? Derrida writes,
“An equality in resistances to the fraying or an equivalence in the forces fraying would eliminate any preference in choice of itinerary. Memory would be paralysed. It is the difference between frayings which is the real origin of memory and thus of the psyche. Only that difference frees a “preference of path” (Wegbevorzugung): ‘Memory is represented’ (dargestellt) by the differences in the frayings between y-neurones.’ We must then not say that fraying without difference is insufficient for memory; it must be stipulated that there is no pure fraying without difference.”

Memory’s being the “very essence” of the psyche accounts for this imperative. This stipulation turns away, as does Williams’s story, from the Lacanian real as hole or lack. If there is only fraying with difference, we might also say that there is only loving as becoming real, but then how is it that we must also account for so much brokenness, deception, misdirection, errant and irreversible fraying in these processes, when “fraying with difference” seems to displace the insufficiency of conceptualizing “fraying without difference”? Thinking about what is being frayed in this differentiating moment draws me back to CC’s earlier questions about the found/created distinction. Perhaps this is a site of violence (in contrast to destructiveness) where there is played out the demand of this question repeatedly. What if you were to see the processes repeated, the movement of this repetition, even against the seductive appearance of it being for the first time? Is this “entity in its own right” something encountered along the Wegbevorzugung or not, I wonder? And what is the difference between the “preference of path” (Wegbevorzugung) and “fraying” (Bahnung), the “breaking of a path (Bahn)”?

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