Blurbs for July Lectures

Love Comes in Spurts

Justin Clemens will speak about love in psychoanalysis. The talk situates Freud and the psychoanalytical heritage’s theories of love in a heretical position vis-à-vis naturalism on the one hand and culturalism on the other. Love in psychoanalysis is at once a world-forming and world-destroying form of dissimulating bond, in which you get to have your mother and eat her too – over and over again. Good times, great classic hits.

This Is Not a Love Song.

Adam Bartlett is speaking about what is love for philosophy. The talk elaborates both Plato’s and Alain Badiou’s rejection of the various pathologies of love – romantic, conjugal, ecstatic, pedagogical and so on – and traces out from this a shared though disjunct conception of what Badiou calls the Scene of the Two. As a construction between two, ‘love is a thought’.


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7 responses to “Blurbs for July Lectures

  1. Michelle

    Adam, I think you did a great job with the “philosophy of love”. Just to clarify, I took from your lecture that love cannot be understood as something embodied, neither does it exist as a body of knowledge (hence it does not predetermine the ‘experience’ of it). It is what is shared between two parties, and is infinite and ever expanding. Hence, we cannot or Socrates doesn’t know what love is… Is that right? I’m hoping it is, because I like the idea of love being experientially different. Would love to get further clarification on this… :)

    • Adam

      Hi, thanks!
      Socrates says that love is the one thing he knows about. But it turns out he knows about love because he had a conversation with Diotima. So what he knows, he knows from this conversation. As you know, for Plato/Socrates dialectic is the way to come to know the truth of something. Its not quite a matter of knowing what Love is as such but working back, so to speak, from what we say about love – now, in the middle ages, in ancient times etc., and in all kinds of discourse (for Plato ‘what the poets said’, ‘how its spoken of in the polis’)) – to what Plato and (differently but similarly) Badiou call its form or Idea. This is what P/S are always aiming at in their conversations with those who are ‘supposed to know’.
      Badiou’s ‘truth diagram’ maps this Idea and i would argue that Plato’s Socrates, in his own way of course, understands the trajectory or construction of the truth of Love (or politics or art or science) in a not dis-similar way. So Love names a procedure which is the truth of the Two. For Badiou, that there is no One is a fundamental ontological axiom. Based on some wild but solidly foundational mathematics concerning the infinite (infinite infinities – Cantor) Badiou declares that Being is pure multiplicity, that, at the ontological level there are only multiples of multiples – thus every One is also a multiple and any One is therefore a RESULT (the result of a count for one he says). In ‘big’ terms this means no God, No Nature, No History. Paradoxically, perhaps, this also means that truths can be thought as what is new in any situation (not sutured to some form of authority) and the production of the new requires that there be some subjects (not simply avatars of the state etc).
      Anyway, the upshot is that in terms of what we can think of what exists, of any presentation whatsoever, it has to be in accord with Being being multiple and not One. Of course this accords also with Freud/Lacan’s insistence that sexual difference is fundamental – there are two sexes, and they experience the world utterly differently. As such there is no relation between the sexes. You can see in the Symposium the effort to overcome or deny this irreducible non-relation in the first 5 speeches.
      Badiou, in accord with his ontology and following Lacan says that Love supplements this non-relation and it does so as a truth of the two. Its what this two construct as the world they share. So it is a production of what can be shared with regard to this difference. Something is constructed here that is identical with neither, thus in accord with their difference, but belongs to both. What this construction or world is depends on the two involved of course but in terms of ‘form’, the form of love, its always the same: encounter, declaration, formation of the two (finite subject) fidelity to the encounter = the construction of a shared world = the infinity of the situation to be explored and incorporated into the world of the two, this being the truth of the two and thus the world as it was for each individual becomes changed and is experienced from the perspective of the Two.
      My claim is that this is where P/S were aiming. But as we see in the Symposium, and as Badiou argues, love as a subjective procedure or the truth of any Two is under threat in worlds where sophistry holds sway.
      Check out Badiou’s ‘In Praise of Love’.
      Sorry this is a bit long, hope it helps.

      • Michelle

        Whoar, thanks Adam. So, the “truth” of love is what comes from the ‘interaction’/dialectic between Two. And what exists between them, is a “sameness” that they have constructed together with regards to/as a result of their differences… I think :P
        My next question is, you keep talking about the “forms” of love. My understanding of “forms” with regards to Plato is that “forms” express the “truth” of an idea, object etc., can I conflate that with the idea that “love” has some sort of ‘essence’? :S

        Btw, do you have an email? I feel raw here.

      • Adam

        Idea and form are the same. Two translations of the same concept/term. But yes, the idea is true in the sense that there may be any number of ways love manifests itself in the world – as many as there are twos as it were – but each of these ways ‘participates’ in the truth of Love. Love as a form or idea is singular, all the various ways partake of this singularity. Singular universal!
        See again the diagram or my last post which set out the trajectory of a truth and thus what is a form, in the sense i speak of – every construction of Love has that form no matter who it is or when or where etc.
        But its not an essence which would give itself to the world, you cannot locate love anywhere in the body of a being, in an object of nature and so on.
        Its what the playing out of love in the world shows itself to be. Thus its a thought of what this ‘showing’ is in terms of its intelligibility – which is not the same thing as its appearance or its knowledge or its rule etc. Truth has nothing to do with rules, judgement, criteria etc which is why it is ‘for all’. Recall, there is no relation here, Love is the construction of a world for this two on the basis of nothing – all the two has to refer to (and this is already a dodgy term) is the encounter that marks them out as a two and this is real in the world only on the basis of a nomination or declaration or a name. Thus when you declare ‘I love you’ it retroactively marks the encounter – which has obviously happened but disappeared – as the ‘real’ of the Two.
        No essence there, not potential, no destiny etc.
        A real novelty for the world, a real construction every day, thus a fidelity to the Two (and not the other…)
        If you want to email, look me up on Uni Melb website School of Cult and Com.
        Great questions.

  2. My fundamental question about love: Justin said that ‘Love always transgresses.’ He was speaking about Shakespeare in particular. So, if love doesn’t transgress, does it cease to be love?

    This is something I’m concerned with for my honours thesis – love as inherently transgressive. (Using Agamben’s reading of Paul as a theory-guide and Fyodor Doestoevsky as a ‘test case’ of sorts – Fyodor says there’s three types of love in one of his novels – narcissism, passion, and brotherly or ‘Christian’ love). I’m struggling for academic sources about love as transgression though, so if anyone knows of any, let me know!

    In other news, here’s a link to an interview with Badiou about Love:

    According to him, Love “is not a contract between two narcissists. It’s more than that. It’s a construction that compels the participants to go beyond narcissism.” There’s hope then, yes?

    • Justin

      Hi Erin
      My example was Shakespearean – Romeo & Juliet indeed putting a transgression at the heart of the star-crossed lovers’ love – but the point was more general (and more abstract): love always posits a boundary which it ‘leaps’ (‘crosses,’ ‘transgresses’) in its operations, towards an ‘other’ (which, by definition, has something that is ‘not you’ about it); in doing so, psychoanalysis insists that this ‘new’ ‘transgression’ is also a covert, self-dissimulating ‘repetition’ (it’s a ‘re-edition’ of ancient, unconscious investments); moreover, in this transgression-repetition, love ‘undermines’ itself (i.e., assaults the object of its love, turns into hate, etc.). The ‘transgression’ is therefore only one aspect of the work of love, but it is correlated with a law it itself posits or affirms only in order to go beyond. The paradoxes of normativity are therefore foregrounded too: the ‘law’ ‘transgressed’ by love is posited in and by the transgression itself. This law might be social or religious, it may be epistemological, it may be an entirely personal melange. The short answer is: something transgressive is integral to love. Also, if lovers are indeed going ‘beyond narcissism,’ that may be a good thing, but let’s not dash into saying we should be too hopeful about that…. Of course, this is simply one take on love, from one orientation within psychoanalysis….

      • Hi Justin,
        Thanks for responding!
        The point you made in the lecture on psychoanalysis about love leaping over into ‘the other’ (where basically, you have no idea what’s going on) really resonated. If love is outward turned (and I think it necessarily is, otherwise it is narcissism – although this could still be directed outward if you see ‘you’ in the other) then there is certainly an element of the transgressive, because it goes ‘beyond’ self-knowledge into this other unknown terrain.
        I find it really interesting that in psychoanalysis this concept of the ‘new’ is actually repetition – that ‘love’ (‘new’ ‘transgression’) is actually a re-enactment of unconscious desires. I guess I’m coming at love from a very different (non-psychoanalytic) angle, so it’s refreshing but also doing my head in.
        I think about love undermining itself (turning into hate, etc) in a different way, maybe because I’m not ready to give up hope, but also because I perceive love as a kind of ‘potential’ – love could act itself out in love or hate, it *could* enact good or evil – it’s precisely this ‘potential’ that makes it love and not compulsion (law).
        I like the idea that love that posits/affirms a law only in order to go beyond it – I’ve been thinking about this more in a ‘law as an attempt to inscribe/regulate/prescribe love’ – but I dig this analysis too. It’s establishing this limit in order to overcome it, setting up a straw man to revel in triumph when love goes beyond a requirement (law, a requirement that love itself established). But now I’m getting cynical…
        Thanks for engaging with this nonetheless!

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