Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wittgenstein and the philosophy of language- anality

Psychoanalysts continue to impressionistically use oral, anal, phallic, and other bodily zones as metaphors: 

On the anal level, the behavioral equivalents of diarrhea and constipation can be observed in patients who spew out an uncontrolled stream of words or who stingily and spitefully retain their verbal productions or eke them out only with reluctance and strain. One member would let loose a series of unrelated thoughts and ideas and then sit back with an expression of contentment while the group sought to make sense and order out of his “mess.” Having defecated, he was enjoying being cleaned up and diapered by the group. A delinquent group used several sessions to deluge its therapist with scatological expressions, which were accompanied by gales of group-wide laughter. The therapist was left with a clear feeling of being defecated upon.

However, in doing so they are creating a private language and neglect the common public expressions that reveal an underlying structure.

Consider the use of ‘shit’ in language. To beat the shit out of someone is to give a superlative beating, to be "the shit" is to be the best, to be a piece of shit is to be the most pathetic, to scare the shit out of someone is superlative fear, and to judge something as shitty as opposed to beautiful/good means its ‘the worst’ or most disgusting. Also to be a brown noser or ass kisser is an insult for wanting to get approval or be loved by authority. If we include the mourning ritual in some tribes to cover the body with ashes or dirt and consider the link between the dead body and shit that has been noted by many analysts in a previous post then we have all 4 sexual positions expressed in their superlative.

subject egoist- to be the most powerful or most pathetic 
object egoist- to be the most beautiful/the most ugly
subject altruist- the loss of love sees one want to join the dead object or cover oneself with shit
object altruist- to be loved by an authority is kissing his or her ass or shit

Wittgenstein has used his philosophy of language to mostly show the relation of self to ego (or subject). For example, we don't say 'I have been understanding arithmetic since I was 7 years old', although we do say 'I have been feeling depressed for the last couple of weeks'. The self is identified with feeling but not with the rational understanding of arithmetic. Rather arithmetic is seen as a praxis- something one 'blindly obeys'. It is a real capability that one can do but not something that one knows. One can memorize simple sums 2+2=4 but when it comes to larger sums one must follow the praxis of carrying whether in one's head or on paper to get the answer.  There isn't a rational essence in the self that "understands" arithmetic beyond being able to do it.

Wittgenstein's contribution doesn't stop with examining language to understand "the self" and its relation to practical reason.   

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