LEVI BRYANT AND THE PERFORMATIVE CONTRADICTION (2): LACANIAN NATURALISM

In a recent post Levi Bryant wishes to build on his “work on masculine sexuation” and contribute to an analysis of the pervasiveness of theistic structures of thought, extending to cases where the explicit content is atheistic. Unfortunately, there is no such “work” providing a solid base on which to build. There is only a naive credulous hermeneutic of Lacan’s graph of sexuation juxtaposed with an uncritical espousal of “naturalism” and “materialism”. When Bryant intervenes in the pluralism debate, and condemns people ‘s positions as implying the existence of immaterial beings and forces he gives the impression of a stern realist in touch with modern science. Yet in other articles he manifests his adherence to Lacanian psychoanalysis with no attempt to reconcile the two incompatible allegiances.

Freud is an outstanding example of mytho-poetic thought, and should be read as such outside his rationalist reductions and disguises. One of these monist reductions is his own monomyth of the Oedipus complex. Lacan takes some steps towards de-theologising Freud but stops halfway. Levi Bryant’s attempted naturalisation of Lacan is a theological move that neutralises the productive unconscious, placing all productivity on the posited side of a theological notion of “matter”, whose referent is deliberately vague and changing, as are the epithets used to name its components (objects, machines, assemblages, units, etc.).

Bryant’s problem should be political, not epistemological. It is in the institutionalisation of the mytho-poetic function and the hegemonic coding of its psycho-genic networks that the problem lies. This is of course the problem that Deleuze and Guattari considered under the names of “fabulation” and “desire”, against the contamination of thought by psychanalysm.

This fabulation is described by Deleuze in the cinema books, which are noteworthy for making virtually no reference to psychoanalysis and its hermeneutics. Bryant actively espouses Lacanian hermeneutics, with which he uses doublethink to maintain it alongside his naive “naturalist” hermeneutic of science. Bryant’s pronouncements are religious in the sense of selective synchronic snapshots of the productions of the diachronic mytho-poetic unconscious (cf. Deleuze and Guattari’s diagnosis of psychoanalysis as based on “photos” of desiring production. Bryant’s “religious” (in the traditional sense) interlocutors can only be fundamentalists in his eyes, as that is all his critical hermeneutic is capable of handling.

Hence Bryant must exaggerate with not a shred of evidence the proportions of Christians who are naive literal-minded believers, as he himself is a naive literal-minded believer in such Lacanian nonsense as his graph of sexuation and his mathemes, and in an old-school positivism relooked with more modern jargon (Luhmann, Badiou, Bhaskar). Bryant gives us the an amazing spectacle of someone eager to condemn “credulous” Christians and to pose hard-headed no-nonsense questions about exorcists and voodoo priests, denouncing the irreality of their ontological presuppositions, while declaring his belief in the Freudian and Lacanian unconscious. The Lacanian psychoanalyst is one of the closest things we have to a voodoo priest inhabiting our society, at least according to Deleuze and Guattari, but also to many others.

Bryant sees no such resemblance, no incoherence. Looking at Lacan’s mystifications he sees only scientific naturalism.

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