A Short Piece Featured in (Re)constructing “A Is A” by O.G. Rose
Negation Versus Effacement
Though similar, a distinction is needed between what leads to sublimation and what leads to neuroses and cessation.
As taught by Dr. Cadell Last, Freud warned about falling into the temptation of seeking “Primordial Unity” or “Ultimate Wholeness,” which is generally a desire to “return to the Womb” and escape the existential and dialectical pressures of everyday life. This is a desire to regain “Wholeness” with the mother, which symbolically relates to a desire to “return to Eden,” to find happiness in finding the perfect partner or job, to achieve philosophical “certainty” and an ultimate and stable truth, and so on. The desire for “Ultimate Wholeness” and all its problems are discussed extensively throughout “The Philosophy of Lack” series with Dr. Last, Tim Adalin, and Alex Ebert, and we have regularly claimed that “failing to accept lack” and/or “seeking Ultimate Wholeness” is problematic. “Wholeness” is nondialectical and idealistic, and we have suggested that it entails a “bad death,” while at the same time we’ve stressed the necessary role of death for living the good life. What’s going on? The logic all sounds like its canceling itself out.
Philosophy spends a great deal of time defining terms, making fine and yet critical distinctions between “negative freedom” and “positive freedom” (to allude to Isaiah Berlin), “fairness” and “equality,” and so on. This can sometimes seem pesky and annoying (Socrates was disliked by many, after all), but I think philosophy has done a good job arguing why such distinctions are needed (which, problematically, only philosophers tend to study). As “The Philosophy of Lack” series has advanced, it’s become increasingly clear to me that distinctions between “oneness” and “harmony” are needed (as taken up in “The Noumenon Frame” by O.G. Rose), as is needed a distinction between “effacement” and “negation.” It is this later distinction which I would like to focus on here.
A main point of “The Philosophy of Lack,” it is that by failing to accept and integrate with “lack,” we end up effacing ourselves in the name of achieving wholeness. If we “integrate with lack,” however, we can undergo a negation which could lead to a beneficial sublimation. The effort to “fill lack” then leads to effacement, while the effort to “live with lack” leads to negation/sublimation (alluding to the difference between “solving a problem” and “managing a problem,” as stressed by Johannes). To allude to “On ‘A is A’ ” by O.G. Rose, to live seeking “A is A” (A/A), per se, is to live seeking wholeness/effacement, while seeking “A isn’t A” (A/B) is to accept lack/negation/sublimation.
“Sublimation” is a Hegelian term which occurs when two entities dialectically relate in a manner that arises to “something new” which nevertheless “entails” the old. Now, as expanded on in “ ‘Hegelian Dialectics’ Are Not ‘Discussion Dialectics’ ” by O.G. Rose, it is not the case that this “sublimation” is identical with a “synthesis,” which here would mean that the negation caused by lack is not one that makes the lack vanish, but instead leads to the lack being “(re)incorporated” in new and valuable ways. What that exactly looks like is a topic which will take the rest of (Re)constructing “A Is A” to explore.
The issue with Freudian and problematic “Ultimate Wholeness” is that there is a “canceling out” but not sublimation. In a way, we could say that effacement is negation without sublimation (a state of ever-being-“cancelled out”), while negation is an effacement with sublimation. The presence of “sublimation” is the key difference between “negation” and “effacement,” terms which otherwise are “practically similes.” Furthermore , we can think of “negation” as being “non-escapist” and accepting of the incompleteness of life (a “dying to self”), while “effacement” is “escapist” and denies the incompleteness of life (alluding to Alex Ebert, we can associate “negation” with “death acceptance” and “effacement” with “death avoidance”). We want to avoid Freudian dreams of “Ultimate Wholeness” precisely to undergo a negation which leads to sublimation, while giving into the temptation of “Ultimate Wholeness” leads to an effacement, which “seems like” a negation, but ultimately isn’t because no sublimation occurs.
Is “effacement” equivalent to “suicide?” A fair question, and certainly suicide is a kind of effacement, but what I’m more so interested in here the unintentional ways that we end up pathological and effaced, especially resulting from efforts to achieve “wholeness,” unity, what we’ve always wanted, and the like. “Effacement” in this way tends to be ironic and unintended, while suicide is more intentional and/or direct. Sure, perhaps suicide is ultimately a result and manifestation of effacement, but the point is that “effacement” and “suicide” are not necessarily identical.
Moving forward, we can generally associate “effacement” with “something bad” while “negation” is “something good” (or at least “something necessary”). I hesitate to use such moral sounding terms, but I also think there is a problem if we never use terms like “good” and “bad” to designate some situations and circumstances as better than others. It is good to avoid effacement, considering all the neuroses this causes (as discussed throughout psychoanalysis and “The Philosophy of Lack” series), as it is good to seek “integration with lack” and the resulting negation/sublimation. Yes, it’s hard to maintain this distinction, seeing as “effacement” and “negation” are so similar, but I think it’s critical.
Negation sublimates, while effacement simply ceases. “Ultimate Wholeness” tricks us into effacement (that perhaps we think is a “negation”) constantly and all the time, a problem worsened by the natural tendencies of our brains. The brain is naturally “toward” “wholeness/effacement,” which means we must train it to accept “lack/negation/sublimation.” But how we do that will require studying how our brains work, thus the necessity of studying epistemology in our effort to grasp our ontology. The True Isn’t the Rational trilogy has formed accordingly, and this is why we will need to explore the distinction between “thinking” and “perceiving.”