My discourse proceeds in the following way: each term is sustained only in its topological relation with the others.

Jacques Lacan | Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis


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LX:23 | Hupomnēmata

Hupomnēmata, in the technical sense, could be account books, public registers, or individual notebooks serving as memory aids. Their use as books of life, as guides for conduct, seems to have become a common thing for a whole cultivated public. One wrote down quotes in them, extracts from books, examples, and actions that one had witnessed or read about, reflections or reasonings that one had heard or that had come to mind. They constituted a material record of things read, heard, or thought, thus offering them up as a kind of accumulated treasure for subsequent rereading and meditation. They also formed a raw material for the drafting of more systematic treatises, in which one presented arguments and means for struggling against some weakness (such as anger, envy, gossip, flattery) or for overcoming some difficult circumstance (a grief, an exile, ruin, disgrace). (209-10)

These hupomnēmata should not be thought of simply as a memory support, which might be consulted from time to time, as occasion arose; they are not meant to be substituted for a recollection that may fail. They constitute, rather, a material and a framework for exercises to be carried out frequently: reading, rereading, meditating, conversing with oneself and with others. And this was in order to have them, according to the expression that recurs often, prokheiron, ad manum, in promptu. “Near at hand,” then, not just in the sense that one would be able to recall them into consciousness, but that one should be able to use them, whenever the need was felt, in action. It is a matter of constituting a logos bioēthikos for oneself, an equipment of helpful discourses, capable - as Plutarch says - of elevating the voice and silencing the passions like a master who with one word hushes the growling of dogs. And for that they must not simply be placed in a sort of memory cabinet but deeply lodged in the soul, “planted in it,” says Seneca, and they must form part of ourselves: in short, the soul must make them not merely its own but itself. The writing of the hupomnēmata is an important relay in this subjectivation of discourse.

However personal they may be, these hupomnēmata ought not to be understood as intimate journals or as those accounts of spiritual experience (temptations, struggles, downfalls, and victories) that will be found in later Christian literature. They do not constitute a “narrative of oneself”; they do not have the aim of bringing to the light of day the arcana conscientiae, the oral or written confession of which has a purificatory value. The movement they seek to bring about is the reverse of that: the intent is not to pursue the unspeakable, nor to reveal the hidden, nor to say the unsaid, but on the contrary to capture the already-said, to collect what one has managed to hear or read, and for a purpose that is nothing less than the shaping of the self. (210-11)


Source

Foucault, Michel.  Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth.  Ed. Paul Rabinow. The New Press, 1994. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

The Place I Have Come To
Training of the Self By Oneself
Stultitia

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


Notes

The Lexicon is one example of hupomnēmata that I use as part of my process.

LX:24 | Excess and Deficiency

First of all, it must be observed that the nature of moral qualities is such that they are destroyed by defect and by excess. We see the same thing happen in the case of strength and of health, to illustrate, as we must, the invisible by means of visible examples: excess as well as deficiency of physical exercise destroys our strength, and similarly, too much and too little food and drink destroys our health; the proportionate amount, however, produces, increases, and preserves it. The same applies to self-control, courage, and the other virtues: the man who shuns and fears everything and never stands his ground becomes a coward, whereas a man who knows no fear at all and goes to meet every danger becomes reckless. Similarly, a man who revels in every pleasure and abstains from none becomes self-indulgent, while he who avoids every pleasure like a boor becomes what might be called insensitive. Thus we see that self-control and courage are destroyed by excess and by deficiency and are preserved by the mean. (II,1104a)


Source

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics.  Trans. Martin Ostwald.  Prentice Hall, 1999. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

The Most Basic Sphere of Concern is Schooling

Works and Days

Saturday August 22 2009

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Notes

 


 

 

LX:25 | I Know That I Know Nothing

I thought that he appeared wise to many people and especially to himself, but he was not. I then tried to show him that he thought himself wise, but that he was not. As a result he came to dislike me, and so did many of the bystanders. So I withdrew and thought to myself: “I am wiser than this man; it is likely that neither of us knows anything worthwhile, but he thinks he knows something when he does not, whereas when I do not know, neither do I think I know; so I am likely to be wiser than he to this small extent, that I do not think I know what I do not know.” (21d)


Source

Plato. Five Dialogues (Apology).  Trans. G.M.A. Grube.  Hackett Publishing 1981. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

Radical Reflection 

Works and Days

 

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Notes

 


 

LX:26 | Ideas (Alone and In Their Own Right)

Now as far as ideas are concerned, if they are considered alone in their own right, without being referred to something else, they cannot, properly speaking, be false. For whether it is a she-goat or a chimera that I’m imagining, it is no less true that I imagine the one than the other. Moreover, we need not fear that there is falsity in the will itself or the affects, for although I can choose evil things or even things are utterly non-existent, I cannot conclude from this that it is untrue that I do choose these things. Thus there remain only judgments in which I must take care not to be mistaken. Now the principal and most frequent error to be found in judgments consists in the fact that I judge that the ideas which are in me are similar to or in conformity with certain things outside me. Obviously, if I were to consider these ideas merely as certain modes of my thought, and were not to refer them to anything else, they could hardly give me any subject matter for error. (37)


Source

Descartes, René. Meditations on First Philosophy.  Trans. Donald A. Cress.  Hackett Publishing 1998. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

La Mort 

Works and Days

Concepts are Discursive 

Documents

 


Notes

 


 

LX:27 | Semiotics

At the heart of the semiotic enterprise are systems of conventional signs used for direct communication. These include, first, the various codes used to convey messages composed in an existing natural language, such as English. Morse code, semaphore codes, braille, and all the codes devised for secrecy can be used to convey an English message. Second, there is a whole series of specialized codes used to convey a particular type of information to groups who may not share the same natural language: chemical symbols, traffic signals and road signs, silver assay marks, mathematical symbols, the signs used in airports, trains, etc., and finally the recondite symbolisms of heraldic or alchemical codes. All these cases involve conventional signs based on explicit codes: since they are designed for easy and unambiguous communication, there is an explicit procedure for encoding and decoding, such as looking up the item in question in a codebook. Such codes are pure examples of semiotic systems, but precisely because they are so straightforward it is usually an easy matter to describe the principles on which they are constructed, and so they often prove much less interesting than less explicit and more complicated systems which fall into our next category.

More complicated than explicit codes are systems were communication undoubtedly takes place, but where the codes on which the communication depends are difficult to establish and highly ambiguous or openended. Such is the case, for example, with literature. To read and understand literature, one requires more than a knowledge of the language in which it is written; but it is very difficult to establish precisely what supplementary knowledge is required. Certainly, one is not dealing with the sorts of codes for which the keys or codebooks could be supplied. However, precisely because one is dealing with an extremely rich and complicated communicative system, the semiotic study of literature and other aesthetic codes (such as those of painting and music) can be extraordinarily interesting.

The reason for the evasive complexity of these codes is quite simple. Codes of the first type are designed to communicate directly and unambiguously messages and notions which are already known; the code simply provides an economical notation for notions that are already defined. But aesthetic expression aims to communicate notions, subtleties, complexities that have not yet been formulated, and, therefore, as soon as an aesthetic code comes to be generally perceived as a code (as a way of expressing notions which have already been articulated), then works of art tend to move beyond it. They question, parody, and generally undermine it, while exploring its possible mutations and extensions. One might even say that much of the interest of works of art lies in the ways in which they explore and modify the codes they seem to be using; this makes semiotic investigation of these systems both highly relevant and extremely difficult. (116-7)


Source

Culler, Jonathan. Ferdinand de Saussure.  Cornell University Press 1991. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

The Red Ink 

Works and Days

Concepts are Discursive

Documents

 


Notes

 


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