Monday, May 28, 2007

A problem of interpretation

I found a couple of interesting passages in the text "Done and To Be Done" (The Castoriadis Reader, p. 380-1) that concern education. Castoriadis lists some of the points of investigation that he finds interesting for a future follow up, among which:

"There is still the prescriptive/normative dimension, namely, the contribution these considerations can bring to a reflection on a form of education oriented toward autonomy"

And then:"Finally to be treated more amply than I have done so far [mentions two works] is the passage of the psyche and the heteronomous social individual to reflective and deliberative subjectivity (that is, the elucidation of the two different modes of sublimation)". (Ibid., emphasis in original)

It is not all clear what "these considerations" refer to. It could be matters of class, caste etc. which he'd just talked of -- or his work in general. But my main question to you, my knowledgeable colleagues, concerns the point about two modes of sublimation. What do you think: is he talking about 1) the passing from the unsocialized psychical monad to the socialized individual on the one hand, and 2) the passing from the state of heteronomy to autonomy in the case of a given individual, on the other? If so, my impression is that he has said quite a lot about the first, and almost nothing about the other. In other words, more work to be done.


At 5:44 PM, Blogger Charles said...

Does this address the second mode of sublimation you refer to: "The subject in question is, therefore, not the abstract moment of philosophical subjectivity;" -what Castoriadis refers a few lines hitherto as "the narcissism of consciousness" - "it is the actual subject traversed through and through by the world and others. The Ego of autonomy is not the absolute self, the monad cleaning and polishing its external-internal surface in order to eliminate the impurities resulting from contact with others. It is the active and lucid agency that constantly reorganizes its contents, through the help of these same contents, that produces by means of a material and in relation to needs and ideas, all of which are themselves mixtures of what it has already found there before it and what has produced itself.
In this connection too, it cannot be a matter of entirely eliminating the discourse of the Other - not only because this is an unending task, but because the other is in each case present in the activity that eliminates him." This is in the Imaginary Institution of Society, Part I: 2.iii "The sense of autonomy - the individual"
I suspect that Castoriadis would object to any rigorous difference between the two modes of sublimation, and say something like this: the second mode of sublimation, that is passing from heteronomy to autonomy involves the continual renewal of that initial break from the monad, a perhaps, never ending task. Does this help?

At 12:00 AM, Anonymous Ingerid S. said...

I am not sure, but thanks! Let me try to follow up. The text I quoted was "Done and to be done", and the two points mentioned by Castoriadis were, as I understand it, points on which there remains work to be done, i.e. he did not elaborate on them up until that point. Although I know he wanted to pursue the topic(s) of education, together with his student Raphaƫl Doridant, but did not get the time to do so.

Concerning your suggestion, if I understand it right, I do not think the passage from the heteronomy to autonomy, for the single individual, can be closely connected to the socialization process in general. Because this process, what you call the initial break from the monad, is something that happens with the heteronomous individual, in the process of becoming heteronomously socialized. So I think Castoriadis intends to keep these two modes of sublimation apart, as the quote clearly shows. But maybe I didn't catch some finer nuances in what you said.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Charles said...

Ingerid, it seems that one might pursue directly the meaning of "two different modes of sublimation": perhaps there is a sublimation process which leads more or less from the psychical monad to a social individual conditioned or predominated by the social-historical; and, on the other hand, there is a form of sublimation that frees that social individual from the former's heteronomous character, freeing up a creative aspect. It seems the topic of education would fall mostly with the latter, along with Castoriadis' rethinking of the "ends" of psychoanalytic therapy. But, it seems one would have to address the first mode of sublimation within the second. In this sense, early sublimation, or the first mode, could not simply be merely covered over or forgotten, but brought within the scope of another sublimation.
I intend this as a provisional response to your question. Very soon, I hope to study Castoriadis' thinking on psychoanalysis more in depth. Perhaps then I could be of more assistance.

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Ingerid S. said...

Thanks again. This corresponds to my interpretation. An interesting trail to follow - for me, I am working in the philosophy of education - is the passage from heteronomy to autonomy. Too bad Castoriadis has not laid out very many clues ... but there are some.

Very often, when Castoriadis talks of education he means socialization, and often of the heteronomous kind.

I wonder to what extent the psychoanalytical process, which you also mention, can be read as a parallell the process of education. He does mention these "impossible practices" as basically parts of the same movement, toward autonomous subjectivity (In Psychoanalysis and Philosophy, CR pp 349-360).

Then again, one should be careful not to cast the process of general education in terms of therapy.

At 12:24 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Hello Ingerid. I hope you read this comment, sent so long after your original question, but I just came across it and thought I might be able to contribute something. I would approach answering this question of the two different modes of sublimation via the concepts of closed and open significations. During the usual (historically speaking) process of socialization the child comes to sublimate its objects of desire by adopting social objects - social significations, in effect. These sublimated objects may include any number of norms, ideas and ideals, and will certainly also include the adoption of signification per se, and language in particular (in other words, the child takes a huge step on the road to socialization and sublimation when it begins to be able to derive pleasure from the use and, as it were, manipulation, of meanings in language.) What is characteristic of such significations in heteronomous societies is that they are closed. They give definitive meanings which are not open to serious negotiation, re-evaluation or reformation. Autonomy, on the other hand, entails the adoption of significations that are essentially open: that is, available for re-negotiation, re-definition, re-evaluation. I mean significations like 'truth', 'democracy', 'freedom', and even 'autonomy' itself. These signifactions differ from closed or heteronomus significations in an essential rather than an accidental way. To adopt 'truth' as a signification (or value), for instance, means diverting one's desires to an object that is never entirely and finally defined, that is essentially a process as much as or more than an object in the narrow sense. What Castoriadis is suggesting is that the adoption of such objects is so radically different from the adoption of heteronomous object that it must be seen as constituting a different mode of sublimation. Now this is an imposrtant question from an educational standpoint because if one's goal as an educator is to create autonomous individuals (or to foster their self-creation as autonomous), one needs to ask how such a sublimation is to be encouraged and achieved. How does one teach children to adopt , say, 'truth' as a value, rather than just teaching them this or that truth, which is the heteronomous approach. One must ask all sorts of educational questions in this connection. One for example is the question of when one can hope to begin to teach or encourage such an autonomous sublimation. One cannot hope to leap fully fledged from psychical monad to autonomous individual. The breaking of the monadic closure is to some degree achieved violently, is in fact forced upon the child by its parents and society. It is therefore essentially a heteronous imposition in its initial stages. This is reflected concretely in the fact that, whilst negotiation and the voluntary adoption of modes of behaviour are essential from the point of view of autonomy, one cannot hope to socialize a child by negotiation alone. One has to begin by insisting on certain socially accepted modes of behaviour, and only later can one introduce the child to the notion that such behaviour constitutes a convention that they might, and to some degree, ought to question. (So perhaps we need to teach children to believe in fairy tales literally before we can subsequently teach them how to understand them metaphorically and as often valuable myths.)
These are difficult and complex - and highly practical - questions, which require some experience in child-raising and education, and/or some knowledge of these fields of human activity, before one could give a really worthwhile opinion. The question of the difference between the two modes of sublimation might be answered without this expert knowledge, but would itself require some detailed knowledge of the psychoanalytic approach - sublimation is after all a psychoanalytical term.
This is only a beginning of course, but I hope it helps.


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