Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lacan against Derrida

I realize I've been pitting these two thinkers against each other here constantly, but only to, in the end, constantly elaborate the Derridian criticism of Lacan and not the other way around. This is not due to any prejudices I have against Lacan and in favor of Derrida (though I do have some against Lacanians) so much as it is my taking longer to come to grips with the scope of Derrida's project. But now, I think, I'm in a position to let Lacan have his word, if only because I feel that I can let his voice criticize Derrida without reducing Derrida to what he is not (as is so commonly and easily done).
For what does Derrida, in the end, despise in Lacan? If we look back at "Le Facteur de la Verité," we're liable to see that it is not Lacan's assumption that structure (language) is in the end determining (though this is a constant grievance of Derrida's and is constantly tried to be refuted by Lacanians--most notably Zizek), but that Lacan's interpretative method when reading Freud is in certain places so extremely powerful.

Now, what do we mean by this? Let's revisit a famous lecture he gave at Johns Hopkins in 1966:

When I began to teach something about Psychoanalysis I lost some of my audience, because I had perceived long before then the simple fact that if you open a book of Freud, and particularly those books which are properly about the unconscious, you can be absolutely sure — it is not a probability but a certitude — to fall on a page where it is not only a question of words — naturally in a book there are always words many printed words — but words which are the object through which one seeks for a way to handle the unconscious. Not even the meaning of the words, but words in their flesh, in their material aspect (from Lacan.com).

Now, unlike so many other times in Lacan ("The best image to sum up the unconscious is Baltimore in the early morning"), I think this passage disarms with its straightforwardness, its simplicity, its ability to be verified. This would make sense, as it is precisely outlining the transition between a phenomenological approach to Freud and a structural one. In short, Lacan is pinpointing that fulcrum in Freud's work that he is constantly leaning on: the fact that Freud is using words to grasp at the unconscious not through their meaning, but through some of their relationships to each other. Look at the analysis of Irma's injection. What is important is not so much the deployment of Freud's ever amassing conceptual apparatus (condensation, displacement, etc.) in order to make sense of the dream, but how willing Freud is to let certain words in which he originally brought the dream to language ("...my friend Otto had given her an injection of a preparation of propyl, propyls . . .. propionic acid . . . trimethylamin...") work out the functioning of the dream of themselves, as it were. That is, Lacan sees that what is important is that Freud approaches the unconscious with certain formations or instances of structure that let him get a handle on its larger possible constitution, and do so much better than a sort of analysis by way of locating its operations by trying to apply a sort of network of explanatory concepts (repression, sublimation, etc.).
Lacan thus adopts this perspective towards the unconscious, and reads Freud for instances in which this perspective is apparent or lurking beneath the surface of his faculties. He too comes up with a network of explanatory concepts (object petit a, the Real, etc.), but notice that this is not what Derrida is angry at. This is not the case, because Derrida (like the best Lacanians) knows that these concepts themselves explain little. Thus it is just as futile for someone to read Lacan and think that they can map out the functioning of the subject by way of these terms as it is for someone to read Freud and merely look at when and where he is using "repression:" Alain Badiou is a supreme example of the bankruptcy of this approach as a communication of what Lacan is getting at, as well as Zizek and Bruce Fink, to a lesser extent. And in both Zizek and Badiou, this occasionally leads them to seriously fail to think a situation thoroughly: their way of talking about Lacan feeds back into the way they understand Lacan--being in the end closer to what we are calling Lacan and Freud's "perspective" than their statements allegedly explaining him. This is why Lacan's diagrams and mathemes don't pretend to explain anything wholly, and Lacan in his seminars always remains ironic towards them.
No, Derrida does not attack this aspect in Lacan. He attacks precisely that perspective which Lacan sees in Freud and adopts. He does so because he fundamentally thinks it does not remain as provisional or heuristic as it should. In other words, Derrida thinks that utilizing certain concepts as elements of a structure in order to "get a handle on the unconscious" is  doing more than "getting a handle on" something. This is his criticism of bricolage more generally.
Lacanians have defended Lacan against this charge, as we've already seen, by trying to turn Lacan's conceptual apparatus into something that can be shown to be anti-structuralist, and thus accommodating to Derrida's demands. In short, they seek to make Lacan's insight into something that is able to account for its provisionality, its heuristic character. Thus the turn towards Badiou and the fanaticism with which Lacanians demand that Lacan's thought have an "ontology." Thus Zizek's vanguardism when it comes to politics--and this is where things get dangerous on a Lacanian view of things--which prescribes the strategic and performative positioning of leaders in the role of the analyst, the "subject who is supposed to know," with respect to society.
But one might ask whether Derrida's demand--the demand that this utilization of concepts account for the possibility that it is doing more than getting a handle on whatever it is supposed to get a handle on--one might ask whether this demand is exactly applicable to what is most powerful and interesting and fundamental in Lacan (that is, what Derrida hates about Lacan!). I would argue that it might not. Indeed, it will absolutely apply in many (many!) cases with Lacan. But with what is most powerful and at the very heart of his readings of Freud and his analysis of the subject... this might be doubted.
Now, this is not because what Derrida asks is wrong. And it is absolutely, absolutely (I can't stress this enough) not because what Derrida asks isn't "practical," or is an impossible demand. Both of these views are held by Zizek and many other Lacanians, and this I think is what makes them particularly dangerous in some instances.
It is because Lacan's analysis by way of structures is not heuristic or provisional. Immediately, though, we must say (again against Lacanians) that this is not because it is universal, i.e. grounded in a universal ontology (even if this ontology itself is merely a procedure, merely provisional, like Badiou's). Rather it is merely because Derrida demands that something not be as heuristic as it is when, from the beginning, it does not function that way. Ultimately, this fundamental feature of Lacan's analysis, its core that constitutes its amazing power, works with structures that constitute more a density than a structure (that is, if structure is conceived as what operates provisionally, as bricolage). At least when Lacan is most powerful, most faithful to what we have seen him find in Freud. These structures are not provisional nor universal, then, but operational within certain conditions, when a certain situation has constellated itself just so. And this is why Lacan is best not when he is analyzing culture but when he is reading Freud. He is delimiting these densities or structures qua densities as they operate in Freud such that the entire Freudian project is not so much made commensurate conceptually with some sort of postmodernism (by being founded upon some secure postmodern ontological basis), but instead is made more robust as a mode of thinking and of analysis. Robust, in the sense that these densities are densities of possibility: Lacan explains the possibility of Freud thinking along a particular line and having certain thoughts available to him but only perhaps half-articulated or even not articulated at all--not because of the terms he uses and the connections between them, but precisely because of the structure or density that makes possible a particular nexus of thoughts in Freud's writing. Look at "The Economic Problem of Masochism:" to proceed through this essay as if Freud is merely dealing with his own terms and not reaching towards that point where he can conclude certain things by moving along the lines of a certain structure--a structure which Lacan can specify--would be unproductive. Why? Because, as Lacan understands, Freud is precisely moving in this other way, whether he wants to or not: he is trying to get a handle on the problem by means of certain other terms--terms that function within a certain structure with a certain density within the limits of his particular problematic. This is to say that Lacan reveals certain tendencies or functions in Freud's thought that locally determine (i.e. not provisionally, nor universally) the possibility of other thoughts either more or less developed falling into their places in his thinking. The task then for Lacan is to try and work out these structures a little more explicitly, while employing the same sort of approach.
I might elaborate on this more later, when I myself can express or communicate it better. But it seems to me this is what Derrida can't quite attack fully in his reading of Lacan, and thus what constitutes the limits of the Derridian project also. This project thus sometimes makes impossible demands in the wrong places--and it is not that it is wrong to impossibly demand (on the contrary, this is necessary), nor that one can't actually do anything when the project makes this demand in some place, but that one can't do anything with his thought when it is in the wrong place. In the end it is not a failing of the impossibility of the demand itself that Derrida puts to Lacan, but one of the fact that Derrida, to paraphrase an apt yet only tangentially related phrase of Foucault, cannot isolate that element of Lacan that he would attack by reducing all other elements to the relatively undifferentiated category of "the excluded" (cf. The Archaeology of Knowledge, 9). So Derrida attacks Lacan, but not that crucial Lacan which falls short of his demand. And this is not because the attack is wrong in principle, but because Derrida cannot see that the Lacan excluded from his critique can be a differentiated category, itself perhaps containing crucial elements. It is in this space that the really crucial Lacan lies--the place of the powerful Lacan. This is that Lacan that can profitably extend and work out the structures that make possible certain aspects of Freudian thought--and not to establish these structures as universal, or claim to use them only provisionally, but in order to more thoroughly develop particular possibilities out of the density of a structure in directions that Freud went and in others that he did not.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Some notes on Lévi-Strauss

Here are just some notes on various quotes from Lévi-Strauss' oft-read essays "Structural Analysis in Linguistics and Anthropology," in Structural Anthropology, which I myself was rereading. I should note that one probably should not read this particular essay without having ready at hand both Of Grammatology and Between Men.

In our haste to apply the methods of linguistic analysis, we must not forget that, as a part of vocabulary, kinship terms must be treated with linguistic methods in direct and not analogous fashion. Linguistics teaches us precisely that structural analysis cannot be applied to words directly, but only to words previously broken down into phonemes. There are no necessary relationships at the vocabulary level ("Structural Analysis," 36; Lévi-Strauss' italics).

In other words, as Lévi-Strauss explains in more detail later, structural analysis can only proceed by breaking down what is to be analyzed into discrete signifiers. One does not consider the relationship between signifier and signified (the sign or word considered at "the vocabulary level"), but looks at the relationships between signifiers. So when looking at a phenomenon, one must first attend to the representation or signifier: structural analysis proceeds by looking at "symbols," and not the things themselves as he says later. Or rather, it considers the analysis of symbols as the only possible way of getting at the things as they are.

Nothing can be conceived or given beyond the fundamental requirements of its [the "atom of kinship's"] structure, and, in addition, it is the sole building block of more complex systems; or, more accurately speaking, all kinship systems are constructed on the basis of this elementary structure, expanded or developed through the integration of new elements. Thus we must entertain two hypotheses: first, one in which the kinship system under consideration operates through the simple juxtaposition of elementary structures, and the where the avuncular relationship therefore remains constantly apparent; second, a hypothesis in which the building blocks of the system are already of a more complex order. In the latter case, the avuncular relationship [the characteristic trait in the functioning of the four terms of the atom of kinship], while present, may be submerged within a differentiated context (48; my italics).

The key here is that once a structure is constituted (once its atom is specified), one can account for the fact that not all empirical instances will exemplify the atom of the structure via the appearance of its characteristic trait (in kinship, Lévi-Strauss says this is the avuncular relationship caused by the incest-taboo) exactly in two ways. First, as he says, the various terms of the elementary structure can flip around or have different relations, thus producing a different appearance of the trait, thus making it an imperfect exemplification of the atom. Second and more common, the trait will be functionally present but hidden or submerged under the lens of analysis. In other words, the characteristic trait of the structure--as in the case of the avuncular relationship) will disperse itself or hide itself, repressed by the orientation of the structure to only appear in the context in which that structure is situated. In other words, it fades into the background, yet is absolutely constitutive and active within the functioning of the structure. Thus, the empirical instance of the structure will not have the atom form exactly because its characteristic trait will be dispersed.

The idea expressed in the above passage [by Radcliffe-Brown], that the biological family constitutes the point of departure from which all societies elaborate their kinship systems has not been voiced solely by Radcliffe-Brown. There is scarcely an idea which would today elicit greater consensus. Nor is there one more dangerous, in our opinion. Of course, the biological family is ubiquitous in human society. But what confers upon kinship its socio-cultural character is not what it retains from nature, but rather, the essential way in which it diverges from nature. A kinship system does not consist in the objective ties of descent or consanguinity between individuals. It exists only in human consciousness; it is an arbitrary system of representations, not the spontaneous development of a real situation (50; my italics).

This is probably the most general point about structural analysis: the point is that it is supposed to provide an artificial and arbitrary system, a technique or principle around and along which any particular empirical phenomenon would organize itself. Nature and the organic are subtracted, and claims to essentialism resisted. The danger of structural analysis, as Derrida and Sedgwick alledge, is that it can always not thoroughly eradicate nature even though it pretends to accomplish this. I think one of the most interesting ways of dealing with this danger is Derrida's: trying to conceive, not so much the arbitrariness qua play--Derrida himself warns us about taking this particular approach too seriously--but rather the technicity of this system in a more rigorously technical manner, according to Derrida. This means considering it not just as a principle for analysis (a bricolage) but as an infinitely technical, wholly mechanical operation or functioning. This has the effect of bringing back the empirical and the calculable, as Sedgwick does, trying to make the system or structure indeed account for it not clinging to supposedly dispersed or alleged traits as "present," though dispersed.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The future on film: Blade Runner and Children of Men

I find it extremely odd that Alfonso Cuarón would say that he wanted Children of Men to be, in the style of the future world that it depicted, the "anti-Blade Runner," and that he had to keep rejecting his art-department's drawings because they looked too "futuristic." This goes along with the revulsion against a fetishization of the fantastic and the futuristic that we find in Cuarón's films (even in his Harry Potter, where it is extremely refreshing), but I don't think that the opposite of this, in the world of sci-fi, would be Blade Runner.

While Blade Runner did go to Syd Mead and got extremely stylish and "fururistic" designs back, Ridley Scott's integration of the designs into the movie is arguably almost a thorough as Cuarón's. I think Cuarón would explain his approach as purely against the Blade Runner aesthetic or style primarily because he wants to have his films be more immediately relevant and political. But what this overlooks is that Blade Runner was and is still felt as extremely immediate and relevant, and even in some of the issues that Children of Men perhaps thinks that it is broaching. Overpopulation, immigration, environmental degradation and biotechnology (in the forms of grafting, cybernetics of course, organ farming, and even reproduction) all are crucial to the film, and get placed into its world almost as thoroughly.

Of course, there aren't any neon umbrellas in Children of Men. But to think that the aesthetic of the two worlds are contrary is a mistake, and perpetuates a sort of willing ignorance and indifference to the history of films that depict the future and participate in that genre we call science fiction--as if a sci-fi film can only be immediately relevant if it opposes its own depiction of the futuristic. This seem to fetishize the effort of Cuarón more than any of his attempts to resist this with his alleged verité: one can think that one is entering a newer depiction of the future than any other if one watches it with his comment in mind. Thankfully, one doesn't have to: and this is what makes Children of Men a triumph. What the film loses in its alleged immediate impact on issues that are "relevant" (terrorism, overpopulation, etc. etc.), it gains in contributing to the genre. This isn't the case in every film of course or even perhaps in most, but it is here.
Why? Because, as Blade Runner shows, a sci-fi film like this will be relevant anyway. This is because the genre has a closer relation to time and historicity than perhaps any other: even if a sci-fi film is placed in the past, because it contains a marked and explicit alterity with respect to our world (I say "marked and explicit" because of course any film's world has some otherness by virtue of its constructedness), the constitution of its environment will pose the question "what if our history were different so as to be like it?" This goes also for anything supposedly occurring in the present day.

By virtue of the mistaken assumption (taking Cuarón at his word) that it was going to resist the genre, Children of Men exemplifies with stunning brilliance the effect of one of the genre's innermost principles. This is because the toning down of the "futuristic," while perhaps producing greater contemporary relevance, the side-effect is produced of prompting a greater integratedness of the film in the world that it is depicting and exemplifying its historicity more. In other words, the verité, toned-down nature of the depiction does not necessarily produce relevance, but most definitely produces a sort of fullness of depiction of the everydayness of its world. This brings out that alterity more with respect to time, because the time in the film itself, its own history, is constituted with a greater density. Thus the modest quality of the futuristic details (the graffiti, the style of advertisements about getting fertility tested--which is similar to some you see now--the degradation of the trees by acid rain, etc.), and the high degree of the preservation of current technologies in the film (the London buses have the current interiors, and London itself is largely unchanged in architecture, etc.), have the wonderful effect of being able to do a lot of the traditionally sci-fi work in the movie: again, like Blade Runner, not because they help the movie become more immediate or closer to our present, but because they make it interact with our present with that historicality that is most characteristic of the depiction of alternate worlds in science fiction.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Time and Derrida

Here are two points to grasp about time as Derrida sees it. Perhaps the best way to think of them is phenomenologically, despite the impossibility of this thought from this (or any) perspective. What would the phenomenon of temporality and temporalizing be if we understood time this way? How does one have an intention (let alone a self) in such a time? Or, perhaps taking an less phenomenological approach, we can ask whether there can be any coherence of representations or signifiers (in terms of the self, can there be a self as the faking of an interiority, as mere exteriority, as performance understood without citation, as enacting a self that is simultaneously coherent and stable as an identity over time)? It is obvious that the answer is, for Derrida, no. But let's get to the two incredible, impossible points:

1) Time can "flow" backwards as well as forwards: time for Derrida ceases to be unidirectional. This already is an unbelievably profound, absolutely impossible thought. For it does not mean that time can be "rewound" or that we can re-enact the past. We see the immense differences with Lacan asserting themselves already. For Derrida, time isn't haunted by trauma in a typically Freudian sense. If we are not in the present, it is not because we are repeating some past unexperienced/traumatic moment (or lack thereof--i.e. repeating a lack or what is not there) or that (to put it another way, and, again, quite crudely) that moment has come to usurp our experience of the present, making it (again) a non-present or something. The Lacanian move backward in time here still presupposes the unidirectionality or forward-flowing of time. Or a unidirectionality in general. For Derrida, we don't jump into the past (or have the past return); time flows backwards. The "stream" is simply reversed. Or rather, it is reversed while still moving forward--and of course this makes it less simple. Time flows forwards just as much as backwards, and never "returns" upon itself in the sense that it rewinds and undoes itself, going back to the moment that is not yet. The return indeed is completely different, if you conceive it this way: one has to rethink what "repetition" means (essentially, it cannot be "caused" even by a non-cause, the Real, as Lacan holds: cf. "Tuche and Automaton" in Four Fundamental Concepts). And with respect to Heidegger, this means that time does not temporalize out of the future, or does not do so any more than it according to Hegel temporalizes out of the past (cf. Phenomenology of Spirit, §801-2: "In the Notion that knows itself as Notion, the moments … appear earlier than the filled [or fulfilled] whole whose coming-to-be is the movement of those moments..." etc. etc.). If this is grasped, the second point will need less comprehension:

2) There is no "proper" (eigentlich, "authentic") or primordial (ursprunglich) temporality, or rather this primordial temporality of which Heidegger speaks in Being and Time is precisely only also the everyday calculable time or clock-time that Heidegger says this primordial time alone makes possible. Being and Time, then, is shocked by this fundamental upheaval of one of its most basic theses (William Blattner has much to say about this thesis): in short, authentic time would be, according to Derrida, calculable. This also means, however, that calculable, everyday time is authentic, and not derivatively or in a "falling" (verfallen) way. In other words, the time of mere representation (or the signifier), of mere counting-off of instants (one second, two, three), of a whole life composed perhaps of mere passing the time, of bare life or mere sur-vival, is authentic or proper, is Dasein's ownmost. Indeed, in the later writings of Heidegger, the temporalizing gets thought on the level of the history of being out of the opening up of the different ecstases to begin with (and this thought is indeed right there in Being and Time, just less explicitly thought in this particular way), which is closer to Derrida because (even though priority is still given to it) the future itself is less important as such (cf. On Time and Being)

Friday, March 14, 2008

The body of Jean-Luc Nancy performs

Nancy's magnificent essay "Corpus," in The Birth To Presence, would do much for anyone trying to link a more phenomenological tradition of thought about the body and embodiment, culminating in the reflections of Merleau-Ponty that seem today to be gaining in popularity (and will be gaining even more, with the upcoming publication of Sean Kelly's new translation of The Phenomenology of Perception), to those reflections on embodiment that have perhaps more recently arisen (though, through Foucault, one could say that their origins are the same) in work on performativity. Nancy essentially could be said to--like Derrida--take the theses of the latter tradition and elaborate them in the language of the former--though perhaps with more intent than Derrida to elaborate, rather than focus on the resistances or misreadings this elaboration would also constitute. In short, Nancy makes the performative body thinkable in terms not of performativity but of the body "itself:" that task which Judith Butler attempts so nobly and rigorously within terms of performativity (and power) in Bodies that Matter.
Merleau-Ponty held that the body was a basic disposition or structure of intentionality constituting a particular point of view. This has the effect of reversing the oldest conception of the body in the way Nancy describes:

...one had to dispense with the body, with the very idea of the body. The body was born in Plato's cave, or rather it was conceived and shaped in the form of the cave: as a prison or tomb of the soul, and the body first was thought from the inside, as buried darkness into which light only penetrates in the form of reflections, and reality only in the form of shadows. This body is seen from the inside, as in the common but anguishing fantasy of seeing the mother's body from the inside, as in the fantasy of inhabiting one's own belly, without father or mother, before any father and bother, before all sex and all reproduction, and of getting hold of oneself there, as a nocturnal eye open to a world of chains and simulacra. This body is first and interiority dedicated to images, and to the knowledge of images; it is the "inside" of representation, and at the same time the representation of that "inside."
-"Corpus," The Birth to Presence, 191-2

Merleau-Ponty shows that the body itself must, prior to being this inside, create this insideness. In other words, it must be outside its inside, ek-statically, as an interface with the world that juts out into it. The body is outside, for Merleau-Ponty (for some merits of this view and the amazingness of Merleau-Ponty more generally, see one of my earlier posts on him).
But can this body itself be viewed by itself? It is here that the question of performativity would come up: one would be viewing one's own body from the outside. The difficulty of this for Merleau-Ponty is that viewing as such requires that the body precisely be unable to view itself. It turns back on itself, but can never quite slip out of its own grip on itself to fully, coherently, see itself. This would require it remove itself from its bodily, embodied perspective (to the third-person perspective that he says science studies), which Merleau-Ponty holds to be impossible. And it would have to do this precisely without overshooting itself or viewing itself past or beyond or outside itself. This is really the crux of the problem, and why the impossibility is there in the first place. Merleau-Ponty thinks intentionality can only be unidirectional, fundamentally, because (this is ultimately a Heideggerian claim which Merleau-Ponty does not make well in The Phenomenology of Perception; precisely because he is not trying to run into the problems Heidegger encountered in expanding and refuting Husserl's "Internal Time-Consciousness" essay; in other words, he sticks close to Husserl against Heidegger to be more Heideggerian than Heidegger) the body is temporal and finite. It temporalizes itself, or bursts forward towards the world temporally from... the inside. Or rather, an outside that can only gain coherence by equally being the most inside of insides. By being outside, by structuring the Platonic inside, Merleau-Ponty is really positing just an inside that is prior to the inside. At least in The Phenomenology of Perception. He moves beyond this in his later work, most notably The Visible and the Invisible. Of course this view might be the only one that makes sense to some people, most notably those just discovering Merleau-Ponty and using him to counter representationalist theories of perception and action either phenomenologically or in computational models (cf. Dreyfus, Taylor, Kelly, even Davidson etc.).
But it cannot account for performativity. This is probably why, despite the affinity that one might think resides between Butler and Merleau-Ponty in their concern for the bodily (and that some unthinking critics looking for new theoretical combinations have mistakenly asserted exists in their statements about the body), Butler does not engage him.
Merleau-Ponty holds an interesting and somewhat controversial (though, upon some reflection, completely intuitive) view regarding the objects that our body intends towards: they can be viewed (or, in general, related or intended to) from all angles. This means that when I am outside and my body sees a house across the street, I am seeing the back of the house as well as the side "facing" me. Why? Because my intention must already be relating beyond what is represented to the general presence of the house which my body recognizes. The house is part of a field of action or intention that could include me going behind the house: thus my body (perhaps more dimly) can be said to perceive the "back" of the house when I perceive its "front."
The question Nancy is asking, then, would be about how the body itself could be viewed like this. And viewed like this while also remaining that body that is viewing. In other words, how can the body view (we are using vision, because it is the easiest example) itself? This is the question of performance: the body must somehow remain itself at the same time as it performs or makes viewable (to this very body and to others--and we should note that we are only loosely using "viewable" here as a synonym for performance: we mean viewable only in the sense that the body is "viewing" or "seeing," not that performance has to do with mere exhibition as such) this self. To use a different sense: it would be like trying to hear oneself speak in the first and third person at the same time about oneself. And another (and this is a famous example): it would be like trying to touch oneself touching (take one arm and with a finger touch the other, trying to be touched in the second arm and feel the touching in the finger of the first arm at the same time).
Nancy claims throughout "Corpus" that this is precisely what the body does--and, we must add, thoroughly fails to do. At the point at which the body would see itself (and see all of itself, every angle of itself, like the house), it would precisely be failing to see itself: not because it is really still "inside" itself in being beyond itself and thus misses itself, but exactly for the reason that it does not miss itself and sees itself. It actually does hear itself speak in the first and third person, and this is why it becomes, as it were, deaf to itself. Or, with the example of touch, it touches itself touching and yet touches as itself: it touches itself and is touched by itself. Because this means it is no longer an "itself:" the body is external to itself, then, but not because it is beyond itself by virtue of some intention. It is because this "itself" is ("itself") an externality. In other words, it is "shared out of itself," partes extra partes:

...here, at the body, there is the sense of touch, the touch of the thing, which touches "itself" without an "itself" where it can get at itself, and which is touched and moved in this unbound sense of touch, and so separated from itself, shared out of itself.
-"Corpus," 203

The body would have to be some residue of both itself moving outward from inside (towards what the inner considered outer, that is, the outside that is related to in terms of the inside, thus when what is taken to exist or matter is only "insides") and coming back inside from the outside (towards what the outer considered inner, that is, the inside when what is taken to exist or have sense is only "outsides") at the same time. It would not be a membrane or an interface, however, that had consistency as a point by itself. Rather, it would be the trace of both inside and outside, first and third person, as they made their respective movements (holding that only insides and outsides, respectively, had sense) into their opposites. It would not exist at that point at which it would perform itself: this would have only the consistency of a performance. Thinking this point is the hardest because it lacks any density whatsoever, but, as I said, Nancy will help both those who think of performance to think phenomenologically and those who think of phenomenology performatively.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Intentionality: A Fundamental Idea of Husserl's Phenomenology

Here is what I think is an absolutely crucial, unbelievably (unbelievably!) brilliant text of Sartre's, in full, explaining and popularizing phenomenology. I'll make some remarks afterwards. In the meantime, hopefully this will get the text out there more, and help to save both it and Sartre from their current under-appreciated stature. At the very least, it still remains one of the most (if not the most) clear introductions to intentionality in Husserl, in my mind. This is a text everyone interested in philosophy should read. Who else could have explained its merits as a restoration of the horror and charm to things? Or the deficiency of other accounts which it corrects as the solipsism of a child kissing his own shoulder? Who else could have made you feel the operation of this idea within our everyday practices, precisely because of its theoretical sophistication, so viscerally that when we indeed think it, we react even bodily--becoming entranced, disgusted, or even dizzy with near-rapture? Who else, except Sartre?!

"Intentionality: A Fundamental Idea of Husserl’s Phenomenology"
From T
he Phenomenology Reader, ed. Dermont Moran and Timothy Mooney (London, Routledge, 2002). Found online in Thomas Sheehan's notes for his Sartre course at Stanford.
A translation (by Joseph P. Fell) of “Une idée fondamentale de la phénoménologie de Husserl: l'intentionnalité,” in
Situations I (Paris: Gallimard, 1947).

“He devoured her with his eyes.” This expression and many other signs point to the illusion common to both realism and idealism: to know is to eat. After a hundred years of academicism, French philosophy remains at that point. We have all read Brunschvicg, Lalande, and Meyerson, we have all believed that the spidery mind trapped things in its web, covered them with a white spit and slowly swallowed them, reducing them to its own substance. What is a table, a rock, a house? Answer: a certain assemblage of “contents of consciousness,” a class of such contents. Oh digestive philosophy! Yet nothing seemed more obvious: is not the table the actual content of my perception? Is not my perception the present state of my consciousness? Nutrition, assimilation! Assimilation, Lalande said, of things to ideas, of ideas by ideas, of minds by minds. The corpulent skeletons of the world were picked clean by these diligent diastases: assimilation, unification, identification. The simplest and plainest among us vainly looked for something solid, something not just mental, but would encounter everywhere only a soft and very genteel mist: themselves.
Against the digestive philosophy of empirico-criticism, of neo-Kantianism, against all “psychologism,” Husserl persistently affirmed that one cannot dissolve things in consciousness. You see this tree, to be sure. But you see it just where it is: at the side of the road, in the midst of the dust, alone and writhing in the heat, eight miles from the Mediterranean coast. It could not enter into your consciousness, for it is not of the same nature as consciousness. One is perhaps reminded of Bergson and the first chapter of Matter and Memory. But Husserl is not a realist: this tree on its bit of parched earth is not an absolute that would subsequently enter into communication with me. Consciousness and the world are given at one stroke: essentially external to consciousness, the world is nevertheless essentially relative to consciousness. Husserl sees consciousness as an irreducible fact that no physical image can account for. Except perhaps the quick, obscure image of a burst. To know is to “burst toward,” to tear oneself out of the moist gastric intimacy, veering out there beyond oneself, out there near the tree and yet beyond it, for the tree escapes me and repulses me, and I can no more lose myself in the tree than it can dissolve itself in me. I am beyond it; it is beyond me.
Do you recognize in this description your own circumstances and your own impression? You certainly knew that the tree was not you, that you could not make it enter your dark stomach and that knowledge could not, without dishonesty, be compared to possession. All at once consciousness is purified, it is clear as a strong wind. There is nothing in it but a movement of fleeing itself, a sliding beyond itself. If, impossible though it may be, you could enter “into” a consciousness, you would be seized by a whirlwind and thrown back outside, in the thick of the dust, near the tree, for consciousness has no “inside.” Precisely this being-beyond-itself, this absolute flight, this refusal to be a substance is what makes it be a consciousness. Imagine for a moment a connected series of bursts that tear us out of ourselves, that do not even allow to an “ourselves” the leisure of composing ourselves behind them, but that instead throw us beyond them into the dry dust of the world, on to the plain earth, amidst things. Imagine us thus rejected and abandoned by our own nature in an indifferent, hostile, and restive world -- you will then grasp the profound meaning of the discovery that Husserl expresses in his famous phrase, “All consciousness is consciousness of something.” No more is necessary to dispose of the effete philosophy of immanence, where everything happens by compromise, by protoplasmic transformations, by a tepid cellular chemistry. The philosophy of transcendence thrown us on to the highway, in the midst of dangers, under a dazzling light.
Our own being, says Heidegger, is being-in-the-world. One must understand this “being-in” as movement. To be is to fly out into the world, to spring from the nothingness of the world and of consciousness in order suddenly to burst out as consciousness-in-the-world. When consciousness tries to recoup itself, to coincide with itself once and for all, closeted off all warm and cozy, it destroys itself. This necessity for consciousness to exist as consciousness of something other than itself is what Husserl calls “intentionality.”
I have spoken primarily of knowledge in order to make myself better understood: the French philosophy that has molded us understands little besides epistemology. But for Husserl and the phenomenologists our consciousness of things is by no means limited to our knowledge of them. Knowledge, or pure “representation,” is only one of the possible forms of my consciousness “of” this tree; I can also love it, fear it, hate it; and this surpassing of consciousness by itself -- i.e., intentionality -- finds itself again in fear, hatred, and love. Hating another is just a way of bursting forth toward him; it is finding oneself suddenly confronted by a stranger in whom one lives, in whom, from the very first, one lives through the objective quality of “hatred.”
So all at once hatred, love, fear, sympathy -- all those famous “subjective” reactions that were floating in the malodorous brine of the mind -- are pulled out. They are simply ways of discovering the world. Things are what abruptly unveil themselves to us as hateful, sympathetic, horrible, lovable. Being dreadful is a property of this Japanese mask: an inexhaustible and irreducible property that constitutes its very nature -- and not the sum of our subjective reactions to a piece of sculptured wood.
Husserl has restored to things their horror and their charm. He has restored to us the world of artists and prophets: frightening, hostile, dangerous, and with its havens of mercy and love. He has cleared the way for a new treatise on the passions that would be inspired by this simple truth, so utterly ignored by the refined among us: if we love a woman, it is because she is lovable. We are delivered from Proust. We are likewise delivered from the “internal life”: in vain would we seek the caresses and fondlings of our intimate selves, like Amiel, or like a child who kisses his own shoulder -- for everything is finally outside: everything, even ourselves. Outside, in the world, among others. It is not in some hiding-place that we will discover ourselves; it is on the road, in the town, in the midst of the crowd, a thing among things, a human among humans.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gramsci Presentation

I gave this presentation to a class this week:

I will not be talking directly about hegemony but instead about something else that comes up quite often in the reading we did for this week and (as we will definitely see when we read Black Reconstruction) in the work of Du Bois: the writing of history. What are the demands of historiography for someone thinking about politics and working out Marxist concerns? This is my question. However, in pursuing it I may be constantly traversing a point at which the effort of writing history (as Gramsci in his notes seems to be approaching it) passes over into a concern that might influence his use of the word “l’egemonia.” If any such point exists, and if I ever do move through it, we might question it with respect to what it gives our understanding of Gramsci (and Du Bois) and what areas the mere possibility of its existence is already excluding from the field of my considerations—in other words, whether and how this point might only also be a blind spot.

This indirect approach might best start with a quotation from Gramsci’s notes towards an account of the Italian unification in the mid-19th century. Here, according to Gramsci, the Northern urban productive force (i.e. totality of labor + totality of means of production, including instruments and waste) had for various reasons to assemble the Southern urban forces around its lead so as to attain what Gramsci calls homogeneity of internal coherence among all urban forces. But, unlike the urban North, these urban Southern forces were not the leading forces in their own part of the nation: they were often led by the rural force in the countryside. Gramsci shows that these conditions were able to produce a “strident contradiction” that, if made explicit, would produce something incurable, something the Northern urban force could not use its particular homogeneity or cohesion to remedy. If we can, let us try and observe for now precisely how Gramsci is staging or setting this contradiction up as the posing of a question—letting the other complex concerns work themselves out afterwards. “The urban forces,” Gramsci says, in this state of affairs,

are socially homogeneous, hence must occupy positions [across Italy] of perfect equality. That was theoretically true, but historically the question posed itself differently: the urban forces of the North were clearly at the head of their national sector, while for the urban forces of the South that was not true, at least not to the same extent. The urban forces of the North had therefore to persuade [dovevano quindi ottenere] those of the South that their [i.e. the South’s] directive function [funzione dirrettiva] should be limited to ensuring the “leadership” [direzione] of North over South in a general relation of city to countryside. In other words, the directive function of the Southern urban forces could not be other than a subordinate moment [un momento subordinato] of the vaster directive function of the North. The most strident contradiction was created by this series of facts [La contraddizione piú stridente nasceva da questo ordine di fatti]. The urban force of the South could not be considered as something on its own [comme qualcosa a sé], independent [indipendente] of that of the north. To pose [porre] the question in such a way would have meant asserting in advance an incurable “national” rift [un insanabile dissidio «nationale»]—a rift so serious that not even a federalist solution would have been able to heal it [avrebbe potuto comporre]… In reality, however, there existed only certain “aspects” [«aspetti»] of such a national question, not “all” the aspects or even the most essential ones. … In practical terms, therefore, the question posed itself in the existence of a strong center of political leadership, with which strong and popular personalities from the South and the islands would necessarily have had to collaborate (SPN 99-100; Q19§26, 2043-44).

Now, as Gramsci composes this history, he does not oppose the “national question,”—that is, the question about the independence of the Southern urban forces from those of the North—he does not oppose this question to history as some historiographer’s construct or external mechanism that would pretend to make sense of history’s “actual” richness: provisionally, we may say that history for him is something that works itself out in structures similar to questions. However, we can also see that it is essential for him to keep marking the fact that history, though it works out itself in structures similar to questions, does not work itself out in the form of theoretical questions or meta-historical reflections. Thus, when he says, “to pose the question in such a way would have meant asserting in advance an incurable ‘national’ rift,” apparently we must see that the history of the productive forces, and not any particular person or historiographer, is the one posing or putting forth the question, and putting it to themselves. Similarly, we must see that it is opposing and avoiding its own questions by dispersing their disruptive potential into aspects, only some of which actually exist, as Gramsci says. The writing of history, then, appears to consist of looking at the conditions in which the productive forces can pose themselves discernible questions, and tracking the ways certain aspects of these questions, in their existence or non-existence, allow this force to avoid or seize the question through them.

 But what do we mean by this? What exactly is being seized and avoided? This can be put another way: why does Gramsci say that, in reality, only some aspects of the question exist? This is because, as we said peremptorily, the question itself (which, we remember, was the question as to the independence of the urban force of the South from the North) comes from beyond the capacity of productive force of the urban North to remedy it: the question’s aspects reside in that space in which the North’s own homogeneity or cohesion is precisely not enough by itself to endure the question’s possibility. This leads us to a deeper understanding of the role of the question at which Gramsci’s historiography looks. The question of the independence of the Southern urban force is there in the history Gramsci is writing because it is not yet possible for the Northern urban force to actually make this Southern force wholly independent “in reality.” If this were possible, if the Northern force were homogenous enough for this independence to occur, the Northern urban force would not be where it is, within a relation to the South and faced with this question as to whether it is or is not in this relation—indeed this is why actually posing the question would “assert in advance” of posing it that there would be a rift, as Gramsci claims. The only option for the urban North, then, is attempting the unification that would risk asserting the question of its independence from the South so as to avoid asking that very question. This means, on the level of the productive forces, working with what it already has—only aspects of the question, as Gramsci says, since the questions are somehow, by the fact of its cohesion or lack of cohesion, the fact that it cannot be asked merely by or with those productive forces.

What is it beyond these productive forces that could constitute the questions that Gramsci’s historiography traces? In answering this, we can see how historiography may become explicitly related to politics and Marxism for Gramsci. Because we know that it cannot come merely from a productive force, let us suggest that for Gramsci this cohesion or non-cohesion of a productive force resides within its relations—more precisely, in the area of these relations which exceed being merely the productive force itself considered qua productive, i.e. economically. If this is so, the historiography of this productive force can transform itself into analyses of relations of force, which, as Gramsci says,

cannot and must not be ends in themselves (unless the intention is merely to write a chapter of past history), but acquire significance only if they serve to justify a particularly practical activity, an initiative of will. They reveal the points of least resistance, at which the force of will can be most fruitfully applied; they suggest immediate tactical operations; they indicate how a campaign of political agitation may best be launched, what language will best be understood by the masses, etc. (GR, 209; Q13§17).

In order to see this transformation, we must look at where Gramsci effects the expansion of the area beyond productive forces as such: that is, in a few pages within the note titled “Analysis of Situations,” when he differentiates various “moments or levels” in the relations of the productive forces. For reasons of time, I cannot look at all of this differentiation now, but I can look at one of them: the “most purely political phase” (GR, 205) of what he calls the moment of the relation of political forces.

This moment is not as tied to the economic constitution of the productive forces as “the relation of social forces.” It indeed contains economic concerns (or concerns that only relate to the productive forces qua productive,) but in one of the three levels Gramsci specifies it is explicitly questions that, beyond these economic or “corporate interests,” arise. If we can, let us notice again merely how the word “question” must appear and function—again letting other concerns (like that of ideology, the party, etc.) be illuminated perhaps by virtue of this notice. “This is the most purely political phase,” Gramsci says,

and marks the decisive passage from the structure to the sphere of the complex superstructures; it is the phase in which previously germinated ideologies become “party,” come into confrontation and conflict, until only one of them, or at least a single combination of them, tends to prevail, to gain the upper hand, to propagate itself over the whole social area [a diffondersi su tutta l’area sociale]—bringing about not only a unison of economic and political aims, but also intellectual and moral unity, posing all the questions around which the struggle rages [ponendo tutte le quistioni intorno a cui ferve la lotta] not on a corporate but on a “universal” plane (GR, 205; Q13§17).

The “question” as it functions here is not just what makes productive forces risk themselves. It is the means by which they risk and secure for themselves that homogeneity and coherence that they have. By expressing or articulating a particular set of historical questions within its political dimension, a productive force can make all other forces struggle politically (and, as Gramsci says, also economically, intellectually, and morally) around it. These questions, then, would be the political development of contradictions in the historical situation of productive forces that were so particularly problematic that they could not be overcome. If historiography articulates how these political questions are constituted, they will indeed be working out not just the past, but also where force can be applied.

Let me just suggest that it would be in the beginning of the notes on “The Modern Prince” that we might find this articulation regarding how these political forces are constituted. There, it is the particular functioning of the myth that will illuminate the constitution of the currently broad definition we are using of “political.” The absolutely crucial question that these notes prompt us to ask, which is indeed that question towards which all of this has tended, would be whether Gramsci in the end was writing history (in the sense of "the past") in the passage above or constructing a myth. Or both--and have we gone any way in specifying what this conjunction or disjunction would be? We might also ask this of Du Bois next week. The fundamental point for me, however, is that Gramsci is trying to delineate a history that would be absolutely incommensurate in its truth with vanguardism as a practice: vanguards could only be untrue, could only be the populous in the grip of a mistake. But this precisely does not mean that vanguardism does not happen. Indeed, it put Gramsci in jail. But the question we need to ask ourselves--if we are to refine our inquiry--is whether myth or history as "the past" would do this. Or, again, both (or none). We could also conclude by showing that the last quote continues, “and thus creating the hegemony of a fundamental social group over a series of subordinate groups” (GR, 205). Hegemony would thus have already crossed our path somewhere—I’ll venture that point occurred when we moved from how the productive force questioned itself to how it used this questioning to express itself.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Zizek and truth

I just think this is such a badass poster, and wanted to have it here for you all to see:

That said, maybe some remarks are in order on some interesting things I keep returning to that Zizek has written. Throughout The Sublime Object of Ideology, Zizek I think puts things absolutely well with regard to deconstruction conceived as some sort of simple logical maneuver theoretical tool (in the sense of a tool which does not itself question and disrupt or interrupt its own functioning), which many of its deployments indeed affirm, if not overtly then at least when we interrogate them as to their most basic thrusts. But one can always and must always contend that this is only one side of deconstruction, if any side at all. But enough talk, let's quote him:

The problem with deconstruction, then, is not that it renounces a strict theoretical formulation and yields to a flabby poeticism. On the contrary, it is that its position is too "theoretical" (in the sense of a theory which excludes the truth-dimension; that is, that which does not affect the place from which we speak).
-The Sublime Object of Ideology, 155

The reason why this only hits at one side of deconstruction is that deconstruction always has a truth dimension. For good reasons with respect to his own amazing view of things, Zizek thinks that deconstruction is an attempt to remain external to any process of founding a truth, of bringing one into existence (this assumption is what will lead Badiou to come up with the absurdity of his version of a truth function). But this is what it does in each case. Deconstruction always says, at the end of its functioning, "truth is this." However, it always, in order to deconstruct, places the "is" in question. Thus we always get truth is this, but only as truth "is" this. Which precisely leaves us with an imperative--if we can look at it that way: "truth this!" "Make this truth!" "Bring it into being as truth!" ("But precisely by questioning, again, whether it is and whether there is being!")
So deconstruction is not some attempt to try and be as responsible to the object of investigation that one proceeds by attempting to wholly eliminate the subject position or place from which we speak. It is not trying to find some ultimate neutral ground with regard to the critique of its object. Like psychoanalysis, deconstruction asserts its interest in the object by folding itself back into its critique. But unlike (especially Lacanian) psychoanalysis, deconstruction asserts its irreducible interest with respect to the object at the limits at which, indeed, only the one true objectivity about it would be possible. Zizek does not see this, and thus can conceive it only as a one-sided effort to bring the object into relief as much as possible. In short, he re-dialectizes what was never (and yet always can be) dialectical.
Thus the opposition here Zizek is making--to try (nobly, as always) to bridge a bitter gap between deconstruction and psychoanalysis of the Lacanian type by denying that deconstruction is just hot air--really does not oppose anything at all. Perhaps we might also affirm that in this example, deconstruction is and should be flabby poeticism, if Zizek thinks from his perspective that deconstruction is, in reality, not flabby poeticism but an excess of theorizing. If it is therefore a mere theoretical tool, it is not by any means a simple tool that just functions as it is (like that psychoanalytic tool which would fold the critic back into the critique, leaving its subject position--even though it is a fantasy--always in tact), but remains the most complex and problematic tool (because it always--and yet without guarantee--fails to function as what it is).

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Spivak, Derrida, and "Anglo-U.S. critics"

Gayatri Spivak is reads certain critics carefully in the following remark in A Critique of Postcolonial Reason:

It is my suspicion that Anglo-U.S. critics such as Jameson, Terry Eagleton, and Frank Lentriccia insist so specifically on the de-centering, and on a narrative of de-centering, because the first and last Derrida they read carefully was "Structure, Sign, and Play" and the first chapter of Of Grammatology, where there is some invocation of "our epoch," meaning, specifically, an "epoch" that privileges language and thinks in structures.
-Critique of Postcolonial Reason, "Culture," 322

Spivak is no doubt referring to the opening of those essays, which state the following:

Perhaps something has occurred in the history of the concept of structure that could be called an "event," if this loaded word did not entail a meaning which it is precisely the function of structural--or structuralist--thought to reduce or suspect.
-"Structure, Sign and Play," in Writing and Difference, 278

Nevertheless, it is a peculiarity of our epoch that, at the moment when the phoneticization of writing--the historical origin and structural possibility of philosophy as of science, the condition of the epistémè--begins to lay hold on world culture, science, in its advancements, can no longer be satisfied with it. This inadequation had always already begin to make its presence feld. But today something lets it appear as such, allows it a kind of takeover without being able to translate this novelty into clear cut notions of mutation, explicitation, accumulation, revolution, or tradition. These values belong no doubt to the system whose dislocation is today presented as such, they describe the styles of an historical movement which was meaningful--like the concept of history itself--only within a logocentric epoch.
-Of Grammatology, "Exergue," 4

Spivak's comment can now be seen to be an extremely exact distillation of both of these passages. Her claim is that the focus on these texts seem to make Anglo-U.S. critics insist on "de-centering." Why they would do this is because of the "our epoch" or the "something has occurred." What is her logic? We'll get back to this tomorrow sometime.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Kant and the feeling of life

Paul Guyer is right to note (in the excellent Kant and the Claims of Taste) that we are already introduced to sundry problems when we merely open the Critique of the Power of Judgment and see the particular moments into which the Analytic of the Beautiful is divided. Kant has employed the logical functions of judgment that we find in the Critique of Pure Reason: quality, quantity, modality, and relation. Why would he do this? In the manner of many of the dismissals of the conception of beauty within the Critique of the Power of Judgement itself (and we will see this similarity is not unimportant) we are ready to say this organization is just another instance of Kant being interested in form for its own sake—it has no intrinsic necessity or concreteness. But Guyer objects to this view—even as he too does so while bemoaning Kant’s choice to organize the analytic this way—saying that the reason “cannot be a mere obsession with the architectonic, for this itself could not dictate the particular architectonic elements to be employed.” He gives a plausible analysis for why this would be so, but does not sufficiently explain perhaps the most intriguing element about Kant’s decision, which we can see in Kant’s own hazy remark on it in a footnote to the first moment:

In seeking the moments to which this power of judgment attends in its reflection [in ihrer Reflexion Acht hat], I have been guided by the logical functions for judging… I have considered the moment of quality first, since the aesthetic judgment on the beautiful takes notice of this first [weil das äthetische Urteil über das Schöne auf dieses zuerst Rücksicht nimmt].

Quality comes before quantity, when in the Critique of Pure Reason quantity comes first.
This is not to say that Guyer does not at all address why quality comes first in the third Critique. He just does not do so with respect to how the third Critique might be employing this distinction in some similar way to the first. That is, Guyer explains 1) that Kant employs the logical functions with some connection to the first Critique in mind, and 2) that quality must come first for Kant. But no connection is made between these two points, and thus the whole discussion cannot account for the status of the text as we have it. Indeed, it seems that Guyer merely brings the priority of the moment of quality up so as only to follow the exposition of the text in his analysis, since he ultimately concludes that the quality of aesthetic judgment itself (that it is without any interest, ohne alles Interesse) is actually only an aspect of the “practice” of carrying out an aesthetic judgment in accordance with the more important requirement of the second moment (universality, Allgemeinheit)—and thus could just as well have followed the section on quantity (“in fact, I will argue, it is only in the practice of aesthetic judgment that the moment of quality comes first,” Guyer, 100). Guyer then wholly abandons the interesting similarity and discrepancy between the first and third Critiques that he himself pointed out.
We can use his indications, however, and make the connection that he apparently does not think profitable if we look deeper at the quality of pleasure that Kant thinks is involved in a judgment. Obviously, this then means we are resisting Guyer’s thinking of the qualitative aspect as merely an aspect that just happens to occur in a particular judgment—we are granting a greater importance and necessity to it already, even if it is not yet analyzed. At the same time, this will also go some ways towards resisting the dispersion of the act of judgment into three “stages” that Guyer famously has to posit to eventually make sense of the judgment at all (Guyer 110-2, 151-5). That is, Guyer fundamentally seems to think that because the universality of the judgment must be at the center of its operation, the fact that the disinterestedness of pleasure would be subordinate or less central means that it would have to have some sort of existence elsewhere than in the moment in which the universality would be operative. This is no doubt because Guyer understands the stakes involved and the incomprehensibilities in which he would involve himself if he were to take a different position (Note 1: Namely, whether the argument of the third Critique and its conception of pleasure are in any way coherent: Guyer thinks that without his distinction there would be a vicious circle in the argument (where pleasure would be merely self-referential, or pleasure in pleasure), and others, notably Hannah Ginsborg (cf. The Role of Taste in Kant’s Theory of Cognition. New York, Garland, 1990.) think it would still hold up, but precisely only if we think of pleasure as this self-referential feeling. We can only attempt to indicate here, perhaps in a manner a bit like Guyer, how it might be possible to thread the needle between these two theories), but it is certainly not insignificant that Guyer’s formulation has to manifest itself also on some level as a particular assertion about the structure of the book in general: namely, that it is only in the practice of aesthetic judgment that the moment of quality comes first and so there remains no real reason why Kant would reverse the moments of quantity and quality.
Kant defines pleasure in the first paragraph of the first moment of the Analytic of the Beautiful:

In order to decide whether or not something is beautiful, we do not relate the representation by means of the understanding to the object for cognition, but rather relate it [i.e. the representation] by means of the imagination (perhaps combined with the understanding) to the subject and its feeling of pleasure or displeasure… To grasp [zu befassen] a regular, purposive structure with one’s faculty of cognition (whether the manner of the representation be distinct or confused) is something entirely different from being conscious of this representation. Here the representation is related entirely to the subject, indeed to its feeling of life [Lebensgefühl], under the name of the feeling of pleasure or displeasure, which grounds an entirely special faculty for discrimination and judging… (CJ §1, 89; KdU, 279).

Kant is extremely confusing here, seeming to say two things at once. First, he looks as if he is claiming that pleasure is a feeling to which we relate a representation in order to decide whether or not it is beautiful. He elaborates upon this in order to introduce the idea that the decision regarding beauty has a thoroughly subjective determining ground or is aesthetic, and does so by rephrasing things first in terms of what is objectively “designated” by the relation of a feeling to a representation and then in terms of the faculty of cognition can grasp something without being conscious of it. But then he says, in order to further restate how the decision is aesthetic, that as a feeling, pleasure is at bottom not this feeling to which we relate a representation but really a feeling of life, a Lebensgefühl. We are led to ask, then, what is this Lebensgefühl, this life-feeling or awareness of life, and how could it allow itself to subsume itself as it were under the name of another feeling, a feeling to which we relate a representation so as to decide if it is beautiful? We should note that this is not to say that we are positing (or that the text itself posits) two distinct feelings. Rather, we are trying to trace how one could, for Kant “go under a name” that would be different than “Lebensgefühl.”
Luckily, we can clarify things here if we return to Kant’s first unpublished introduction to the third Critique. There he says that,

Pleasure is the state of the mind [Zustand des Gemüts] in which a representation is in agreement with itself [eine Vorstellung mit sich selbst zusammenstimmt], as a ground, either merely for preserving this state itself [entweder diesen bloß selbst zu erhalten] (for [denn] the state of the powers of the mind reciprocally promoting each other in a representation preserves itself), or for producing its object. If it is the former, then the judgment on the given object is an aesthetic judgment of reflection; however, if it is the latter, then it is an aesthetic-pathological or of an aesthetic-practical judgment. It can be readily seen here that pleasure or displeasure, since they are not kinds of cognition, cannot be explained by themselves at all [für sich selbst gar nich können erklart werden], and are felt, not understood; hence they can be only inadequately explained [dürftig erklären kann] through the influence that a representation has on the activity of the powers of the mind by means of this feeling (CJ, 33; KdU, 237).

The language here is perhaps a little more loose or inadequate with respect what it wants to express, but through it we actually get a very precise sense of what Kant means when he says that one must merely use the name of the feeling of pleasure and displeasure. This is exactly because it is inadequate: in other words, because what Kant calls a feeling is precisely something that is not a kind of cognition, even calling it something like pleasure or displeasure will only abstract from its immediacy—that is, unless pleasure or displeasure is thought as so close to a bare type of feeling that it would almost lose all of our normal associations of pleasure or displeasure as something we can understand, make clear, or explain. (Note 2: It should be noted that Kant here gives us another possibility than this which he does not follow up on because he feels he has treated of it in the Critique of Practical Reason: that pleasure is a state of the mind in which a representation is in agreement with itself, as a ground, for producing its object or willing it into existence. That is, Kant is talking here about the case in which one gets a pleasure out of something like respect, which has to do with acting such that one creates, as it were, a particular state of things in the world.) This “bare” feeling that we are talking about inadequately, would be closer to a “state of mind” or (to be a little more literal with Zustand des Gemüts) a condition in which one is naturally disposed, such that one is all together correctly or as one should be (zusammenstimmt)—that is, (only) when this state or condition is the ground of some effort to preserve, or hold (cf. befassen in §1 above) oneself within this very state or condition. (Note 3: “State of the mind” is a really lamentable translation, since it seems to suggest that Kant is saying something like “state of the process in which mental data is computed” rather than “state of one’s particular temper or comportment”--Gemüt is nowhere near a solely mental phenomenon, especially in the way Kant is using it here. But though the resistance to psychologism here might be too insistent in Guyer's rendering, saying “one’s particular” as we do pushes things too far in the other direction. Kant is indeed getting at a more formal phenomenon than any one person’s general temperament, since (as we have just seen) the temperament is precisely only one directed towards preservation of this temperament. No doubt the translators are trying to anticipate extremely formal use of "den Zustand des Subjekts" in §10 of the Analytic of the Beautiful (but even then to think Subjekt and Gemüt are similar seems really unnatural). The point is, ultimately, that within this context, Zustand des Gemüt is just not as formal as “state of the mind.”) This effort gets clarified as a maintenance or movement of arresting (erhalten) in the Critique in §10. But the important point about all this is that Kant thinks his definition of the feeling of pleasure or displeasure is not a definition that can grasp at precisely what it is to be within that state that constitutes a feeling pure and simple. This make it sound as if it were more like a cognition than what it is: namely, something more holistic, something more dispositional, something more connected to a basic movement of life as an effort to hold onto life and to be held by life (or, in the case of displeasure, to be released from or hindered in this holding). Thus, if we were to really hold close to what we mean by the terms, namely a fundamental grip on life, “pleasure or displeasure, since they are not kinds of cognition, cannot be explained by themselves at all.
So this is why in the first paragraph of the Analytic of the Beautiful Kant is moving between describing the relationship between a feeling and a representation as pleasure and then calling this feeling itself a name for a life-feeling or feeling of life. Lebensgefühl is precisely this more holistic phenomenon of feeling that we have to use this shorthand to describe: that is, it is what we just have to call pleasure or displeasure, which are themselves normally thought of as feelings in a more mentalistic or less bare sense—as something we could indeed subsume under a concept and think or of which we could be conscious (cf. “to grasp a regular, purposive structure with one’s faculty of cognition… is something entirely different from being conscious of this representation”). In short, Kant is trying to reinstate what he sees as the originary type of feeling from which the feeling in the normal sense could be explained and with which any analytic cannot avoid engaging rigorously just as much as it cannot avoid failing in this endeavor. In short, Lebensgefühl is feeling (a feeling that we describe as pleasure or displeasure) rigorously conceived.
We can now see that it is perhaps because of the ambiguity regarding the precise signification of “feeling” that the moment of quality has to come first. Because Kant has to introduce the sense in which the feeling of pleasure or displeasure is not a feeling in the common sense of the word, because Kant has to show that this life-feeling is the most basic feeling from which any other feeling would have to arise (or in terms of which it would ultimately make sense as aesthetic, as subjective), he has to give priority to the particular logical function of judgment that would outline this most basic phenomenon. That is, if he is going talk about pleasure and pleasure in any of the moments, he must qualify somehow the way that it will be thought—namely, as a non-conscious feeling—before he actually deals with its particular functioning in the judgment itself, whether in the sphere of its disinterestedness or its universality. In short, this is why he would give the reason that “the aesthetic judgment on the beautiful takes [nimmt] notice of this [quality] first:” Kant has to deal with what (in-)taking or grasping (nehmen) is when it is done by a subject, and do so as such—that is, with respect to its most primordial phenomenon, its life—before he can explain how the grasping or holding of life itself is the particular type of pleasure that we find in the judgment of the beautiful. In short, quality comes first because Kant feels that any consideration of the aesthetic aspect of the power of judgment qua aesthetic (that is, subjective) has to deal with the ability of the subject in its constitution to be the particular subject that could indeed relate to itself aesthetically. The particular way Kant conceives of this relation is as a feeling, and so he must actually define the more basic sense in which “feeling” is working to constitute a subject before he can properly consider its modalities. Furthermore, he must do so without recourse to transcendental apperception, any consideration of consciousness, because we are not considering that at all here. Thus, he qualifies it as a grip. This preliminary qualification naturally fits in with the moment of quality the best, and so, perhaps, Kant reverses the order. No doubt this would make Kant’s decision a bit more circular—Kant has to outline how the grasping of life or the holding of the state of the subject in life is proper to a grasping subject that grasps the beautiful. But perhaps it would also show that Kant would be disturbing the logical order because he perhaps is endeavoring to bring it closer to the particular hermeneutical task that someone like Heidegger would employ (that is, jumping into the circle and determining the possibility for circularity) so as to be able to define how a subject is able to have a consciousness of himself without consciousness—that is, without (or rather also alongside) apperception.