A Short Piece Featured in (Re)constructing “A Is A” by O.G. Rose
The Human, the Subject, and the Paradoxical “Human Subject”
The work of Trey at Telosbound is an endless source of insight and inspiration, and as of April 2022 he spoke with Russell Sbriglia, bringing to my attention a distinction in Žižek’s thought that I never before caught. This inspired me to write this very short piece to insert toward the start of (Re)constructing “A Is A” (Part 1), though admittedly the rest of the book is already written, and it’s too late for me to go back through the text and change my terminology accordingly (as is the case with The Fate of Beauty, Digression(s), and so on). I will continue to use “human” and “subject” as basically interchangeable throughout my thinking, but here I at least wanted to note how “human” and “subject” perhaps shouldn’t’ be used as “similes.” In fact, defining them apart, we can understand the phrase “the human subject” as beautifully capturing the great paradoxical tension that we are and live with daily.
The work of O.G. Rose emphasizes how paradox defines us ontologically, how we naturally think of the world in terms of “A = A” and yet we are beings which cannot be captured in simple “A = A”-thinking. A lot more can be said about that, but all we need to know for now is that humans are strange tensions which are constantly at risk of “effacement” and self-destruction. However, it would be erroneous to say humans are “suicidal,” for though Freud was right about our “death-drive,” we also have an “ego-drive” which isn’t so quick to throw in the towel. All in all, we are a bizarre and difficult to understand mixture.
“The human” entails a self that desires to be, while “the subject” is primarily constituted by a “lack” (to allude to Lacan) which seeks to end its feeling of “lack.” Unfortunately, “the subject” is that lack, so if the lack is done away with, so too will “the subject” be effaced. “The human” doesn’t want to be erased, and so fights the tendency of “the subject” to erase itself out of being by “filling itself out of being,” per se. We tend to associate “filling ourselves” with gaining “fuller being,” but though that might be true for “the human,” “the subject” is actually lost, precisely because “the subject” is a “lack.”
But is that a bad thing? If “the subject” is fundamentally a “lack,” we’d be better off to live without it, wouldn’t we? Well, it would seem that way, but we are “human subjects,” which means “the subject” is fundamentally part of us: if we erase it, we will erase ourselves. We must be a mixture of self-destruction and self-interest, a paradoxical and profound tension, consisting of sides trying to devour one another. We are the devourer and devoured, and if we stop eating or being nutritious, we cease. If we are “complete” at all, we are complete like an ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail.
As discussed throughout O.G. Rose, humans are not A/A-beings, which can be associated with Aristotle’s “A = A.” Rather, humans are A/B, which is to say we are essentially paradoxical, ironic, and tragic. Both “the human” and “the subject” are A/A to themselves, but to one another they are a B (a different “A = A”). Together, then, we have an A/B, and it is this “A/B” which defines us and our daily lives.
Following Žižek, the phrase “the human subject” captures how we are an A/B-being, a mixture of “lack” and “being” that thus exists as a “becoming,” for our being is always trying to fill our lack while our lack is always trying to devour our being. We are a profound “give and take,” and if we are all “give” we don’t exist, but if we are all “take” then we stabilize and undergo effacement. We “take” what we “give” ourselves, and as long as there is always “giving,” there can always be “taking,” and thus we can continue to exist. But that means our existence necessitates a constant tension which makes possible drive and change, but what makes possible that drive and change is precisely what can cause us deep existential suffering. But this is us.
In closing, I wanted to briefly highlight the possibility of understanding “the human” as “toward being” while “the subject” is “toward lack,” which makes “the human subject” an entity which is “toward” both at the same time, causing paradox, pathology, and the like. This is not language I will use in my work regularly, but I wanted to note it still. This “strangeness” is why understanding humans is so difficult (for what does it mean to understand something strange?), and it will take The True Isn’t the Rational trilogy to explore. Our strangeness also unveils why we can find streaks of self-destruction and yet also radical egotism in the same human being — perhaps this is what it means that Jacob wrestled with God?
It is another subject, but in the conversation, Trey and Russell Sbriglia touched on another question that I believe is of great importance: Does the incompleteness of reality cause subjects, or do subjects cause reality to be incomplete? If reality is complete in of itself though and subjects made it incomplete, how did reality arise to incomplete subjects to make such occur? This question opens many doors, everything from Metaphysics to the “Vector Theory” of Elung and Bard (“incompleteness” could emerge between Vectors, for example).
To frame the question another way and in terms of Derrida: How are we able to create “gaps” between signifiers and the signified? “On Typography” by O.G. Rose will discuss the need for us to focus on the raw act of apprehending “that”-ness, but still the question hovers: How do we create “gaps?” Where do “lacks” come from? Did a “complete reality” emerge to something ontologically distinct from it (with the Vector of Mind, perhaps), which in never being able to incorporate reality into itself in the same way ontologically, thus creates “incompleteness?” As will be discussed later in (Re)constructing “A Is A,” are video cameras “incomplete” because they cannot film the screens they project onto without causing an eternal regression? Are mirrors “incomplete” because they cannot reflect one another? Or is the creation of eternal regressions simply a feature of what it means to “be” a mirror? Is it simply a feature of “being” a subject that we cannot observe ourselves without deconstructing ourselves away? Does that make us incomplete or “(in)complete?” Are we A/A, B/B, or A/B? Why or why not?
And thus the journey continues…
For more by Trey at telosbound, please visit here.