Tag Archive: psychoanalysis


Continuing from the previous post…

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“For Buddhism,” Clark writes, “the negative path of the destruction of illusion is inseparably linked to the positive path of an open, awakened, and compassionate response to a living, non-objectifiable reality, the ‘nature that is no nature.’’’

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John Clark’s recent article in Capitalism Nature Socialism, “On being none with nature: Nagarjuna and the ecology of emptiness,” has gotten my neurons firing in a productive way. Clark is a political philosopher whose book The Anarchist Moment had long ago excited me about the prospect of melding together a Daoist-flavored, but Murray Bookchin-inspired eco-anarchism with a Foucauldian critique of power. Clark abandoned his Bookchinian social ecology years ago, finding Bookchin’s project too limiting (though he still sees the need to periodically inveigh against it). But it’s good to see that he is still working on a socio-ecological project that continues to synthesize, deeply and thoroughly, from eastern as well as western traditions.

This particular piece is among the best attempts I’ve seen to apply Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka (Madhyamika) philosophy to environmental ethics, and it raises issues of relevance to ecophilosophy, the relational/objectological debate that featured here a little while ago, and eco-social liberatory practice. Since the article is only available through a personal or institutional subscription to the journal, I’m cutting and pasting some favorite passages into this post, interspersed with comments recontextualizing Clark’s argument within the philosophical currents I’ve been exploring here — specifically, Deleuze, Derrida, Lacan/Zizek, and others. What follows isn’t an in-depth philosophical analysis, and there remain many issues one could try to work out in the relationship between these different thinkers and traditions. I just wish to point out some of the resonances here. (And, sympathizing with Tim Morton’s — that Deleuzian anti-Deleuzian’s ;-) — recent lament about Derrida’s burial beneath mountains of Deleuze, I’ll briefly touch on their compatibility here, at least in a cursory way. They are both, after all, “philosophers of difference” — as one might argue Nagarjuna is, too — but I’ll be the first to acknowledge that there remain large differences, no pun intended, between their philosophical projects.)

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Where the Wild Things Are

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I loved Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, so I’ve compiled a list of some useful online resources about the film, book, and author (mostly for my own sake, so I can easily access them if and when I might get around to writing more about it). Just to summarize what I like most about the book and the film:

- Its existential realism: play, fun, mischief, friendship, love, loss, fear, loneliness, change, beginnings and endings… all there, in a kind of holistic mix that brings them all into reflective perspective.

- Its extended-family cameraderie/communalism: Max’s “wild things” are a social network of flawed but hearty characters, kinda like reality. And they like to pile on top of each other.

- Its valorizing of the imagination as a place to play (and work) things out, to figure out one’s emotions & responses to things, a place for practice (in the sense of preparing for reality, but also in the Buddhist sense of practice being everything).

- That they eat their kings (at least up until Max comes along). Kings need to know their place!

- Max’s performance is great.

- Finally, there’s the East European Jewishness of the characters (or call it their Italianness, their Slavicity, whatever) — I mean that quality of being emotionally and bodily there, present, expressive, close to the surface but resonant in the depths, which can be a troubling thing for those not used to it, but which can be lovely. In the film, this is in the the facial, bodily, and emotional expressivity of the acting (if animatronically enhanced puppet/costume/creatures can be said to act). There’s a soulfulness to these characters that stays with you long after Max leaves the island.

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I took a break from reading John Mullarkey’s Post-Continental Philosophy: An Outline – in which Mullarkey develops a philosophy of immanence drawing on, and critiquing, the respective efforts of Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, Michel Henry, and Francois Laruelle – to have some lunch and browse the latest issue of Tricycle. One of the articles, a personal-confessional story of the kind that’s typical for this popular Buddhist magazine, includes a nice, pithy summary of the Buddhist doctrine of dependent origination:

“It’s teeter-totter metaphysics–I arise, you arise; you arise, I arise. [...] You are because you are not something else; therefore, what you are not–the chair beneath you, the air in your lungs, these words–births you through an infinity of opposites. It’s like the ultimate Dr. Seuss riddle: Without all the things that are not you, who would you be you to? There’s no Higher Power in this system to grab onto for support; we are all already supporting each other. Pull a person or people the wrong way, and you immediately redefine yourself in light of what you’ve done to your neighbor.”

Isn’t this the metaphysics of immanence in a nutshell? A two-and-a-half-thousand year tradition of philosophy and practical psychology studies it intimately, while contemporary philosophers grope painstakingly towards it. A handful of philosophers work to bridge the two traditions (David Loy, Robert Magliola, Carl Olson, Youxuan Wang, Jin Park, et al.), but they are pioneers in a largely undiscovered corner of the forest (or wing of the insane asylum). Loy’s most recent books, Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution and The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory are particularly good at communicating, in a popular vein, the more theoretical/philosophical work he had done in earlier works such as Nonduality and A Buddhist History of the West: Studies in Lack. But it’s a little frustrating that this dialogue has not gotten further. (For instance, the parallels between Loy’s Buddhism and Zizek’s Lacanianism cry out for analysis. Only a handful of people seem to be working on a rapprochement between Buddhism and psychoanalysis, e.g., Raul Moncayo, Anthony Molino, Gay Watson, Mark Unno. Zizek’s own writing on Buddhism seems restricted to a superficial, pop-cultural analysis. The blog Something Completely Different has had a bit of discussion about this.)

Incidentally, Mullarkey’s book seems very good at first glance; he’s a clear thinker and writer. And his new book on film and philosophy, Refractions of Reality, looks even better. Its first chapter can be read here.

Or, Toward an eco-Buddhist-processualist cultural criticism

Note: This is work in progress and probably won’t be published for a while, and not in this form in any case. It comes from an attempt to theorize an ‘ecocritical’ understanding of culture that is in dialogue with the Marxist tradition of social and political analysis, Derridean poststructural philosophy, Buddhist psychology, and the psychoanalysis of Freud, Lacan, and Zizek, among others. I welcome comments.

For Fredric Jameson, it is history, understood in Marxian terms as a series of changing relationships among and between social groups and their systems of material production, that serves as a relatively stable ground or horizon against which the vicissitudes of human culture play their figure. For Derridean deconstruction (and other brands of poststructuralism), there is no ultimate ground, and textuality in its groundless infinite play is what shows us this most clearly. For the approach I’m working on, rooted in a more naturalistic understanding of the world than Derrida’s and a more ecological one than Jameson’s, there is similarly no ultimate ground, but there are relative grounds that can be found in the unfoldment of social and ecological relations. The hermeneutic I’m proposing doesn’t leave us errantly wandering among texts and discourses (as does deconstruction), but leaves us ethically responding to others (as many deconstructionists themselves do) among relations that are simultaneously material and biological (a la Marx and Darwin), discursive (a la culturalism), and imaginal-phantasmic (a la psychoanalysis).

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