The subject as a philosophical question: the thinking subject
At issue within the philosophical tradition is the relation of the subject to thought. (see also consciousness ) Ever since Aristotle the nous had been separate from the psyche. "At the moment of its manifest emergence in the Cartesian formulation, the subject is not in fact a psychic reality, but a pure Archimedean point." (Giorgio Agamben, Infancy and History)
Descartes' formulation makes the subject a consequence of thinking. "I think therefore I am. Since Descartes, man experiences himself as the ego (ich ) that relates itself to the world by positing the world at its disposal in correct representational connections, that is, judgements, and thus posits the world opposite itself as its ob-ject. (see ground )
Kant posed the question of the subject with fresh rigor, separating the I think from the empirical I. For Kant, the transcendental consciousness is the synthetical unitary source 'thanks to which only I can attribute to an identical me the multiplicity of my representations.'" (this could serve as a classic account of what Deleuze and Guattari call the molar self, as opposed to the molecular self.) For Kant, time is pure form of the internal sense, that is, of intuitions of the self and of our internal state. (Time is therefore "autoaffection" and makes up the essential structure of subjectivity -- the theme picked up by Heidegger.)
In Deleuze and Guattari's work, the subject is not an "entity" or thing, or a relation between mind (interior) and body (exterior). Instead it must be understood as a series of flows, energies, movements, and capacities, a series of fragments or segments capable of being linked together in ways other than those that congeal it into an identity. For Deleuze "the unconscious is not a deep container of yet-unknown sources, but rather the marking of the structural non-coincidence of the subject with his / her consciousness.""Production" consists in those processes that create linkages between fragments -- fragments of bodies and fragments of objects -- and " machines" are...
The subject as a psychological question: the psychic subject
The principle issues of psychological subjectivity are the self and "others”, as well as the the self as experience of the "sense" of self.
Qualia and the self are really two sides of the same coin; obviously there is no such thing as free-floating qualia not experienced by anyone, and it's hard to imagine a self devoid of all qualia. (Ramachandran)
Daniel Stern describes the subjective sense of self in the infant, which includes senses of agency, of physical cohesion, of continuity in time, and of having intentions in mind. For Stern, the sense of self begins at birth (if not before) at a level of preverbal direct experience. "By (sense) 'of self' I mean an invariant process of awareness..a form of organization." (The Interpersonal World of the Infant, p.9)This sense of self is not a cognitive construct, but rather an experiential integration. Contrary to Psychological orthodoxy, which postulates a stimulus barrier that protects the neonate for the first few months, Stern claims that infants are pre-designed to be aware of self-organizing processes and begin to experience a sense of an emergent self from birth. During the first eighteen months, the infant goes through a number of quantum shifts in "presence" and "feel" through the aquisition of new senses of the self. (That are experienced and interpreted by the parent. ) The senses he describes are the "emergent self", the "core self", the "subjective self", and the "verbal self." While they are aquired in sequence and at specific ages, they are not phases that replace each other. Each sense of self continues to grow and coexist throughout life. (see also psycho-sexual space )
V.S Ramachandran lists the following characteristics or forms of the self:
the embodied self
the passionate self
the executive self
the mnemonic self
the unified self
the vigilant self
the conceptual self and the social self
The self and others:
The Lacanian account of the subject points to a constitutive splitting between "self" and " other."
The subject becomes a subject of desire.
According to Brian Massumi, these subjects assume what they end up denying: "oneness" (enough to give presence and absence, fusion or fragmentation, a modicum of meaning). (A user's guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia, p.83) "Lacanian splitting is a retrospective projection of distinctions belonging to the personal level of the constituted subjected group onto the entire dissipative system of the body: the multitude of individuals that contract to produce the person is reduced to the one-two-(three) of self-other- (phallus), distinctions which can only exist on the second-order level of identity and identity loss." (p.84)
Massumi calls this the problem of "adultomorphizing" the infant.
subject(s) as a political question?
"To be a subject or to be subjected, that is the question."
If the subject is now in question, and if the news of its death has perhaps been much exaggerated, at very least its history has become more visible.
Arjun Appadurai describes the production of " local subjects" as part of the requirements of localization. These are actors who properly belong to a situated community of kin, neighbors, friends and enemies, who often bear the inscription of locality on their bodies.
The modern nation-state developed a wide range of nationalizing technologies. These include the granting of citizenship rights, the development of rules on nationality, the invention of symbols of nationhood such as flags, ceremonials, the celebration of historical figures, and the observance of national holidays; the provision of social welfare policies, conscription, and public bureaucracies; and the building of roads, schools, hospitals, and prisons.
In the Marxist tradition, the proletariat is the political subject of history. A current version of that concept is "the multitude," referring to all those whose labor is exploited by capital. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri ask how the multitude can become a political subject in the context of Empire. (P.394) Althusser (and Lacan) define ideology as "the representation of the subject's imaginary relationship to his or her Real conditions of existence."
"When the subject is constituted by separation from the world, representation becomes the dominant mode of thinking and knowing. (see also Arjun Appadurai's appraisal of the work of the imagination.)
On the morning of April 30, 1975 Communist tanks crashed through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon. In an ornate second- floor reception chamber, General Minh, who had become head of state only 43 hours before, waited with his improvised cabinet. "I have been waiting since early this morning to transfer power to you," Minh said to the VC officer who entered the room. "There is no question of your transferring power," replied the officer, "you cannot give up what you do not have." (from the Lonely Planet Travel survival kit to Vietnam) In a similar vein, Rosi Braidotti has argued that one cannot deconstruct a subjectivity one has never been fully granted control over. In order to announce the death of the subject, one must first have gained the right to speak as one.
For Michel Foucault, the subject is a set of variables of the statement. He rejects persons, linguistic signifiers, or a phenomenology of the world as ways of making language begin. The impersonal "great murmur" of language, its language-being, varies in each historical formation. "Similarly, the conditions pertaining to visibility are not the way in which a subject sees: the subject who sees is himself a place within visibility, a function derived from visibility." (Deleuze, Foucault, p. 57) see visibility / articulability.
In Discipline and Punish, Foucault describes the modern "soul" as the real correlative of a certain technology of power over the body. "On this reality reference, various concepts have been constructed and domains of analysis carved out: psyche, subjectivity, personality, consciousness, etc; on it have been built scientific techniques and discourses, and the moral claims of humanism." (p.30)
Later, in The Use of Pleasure, Foucault goes back to the Greeks "subjectivation" of the self as a relation to oneself. Deleuze describes the ongoing relation to oneself as foldings that operate "beneath the codes and rules" of knowledge and power. Recuperated by power-relations and relations of knowledge, the relation to oneself is continually reborn, elsewhere and otherwise.
What counts as human in a post-humanist world? How to reassemble a vision of subjectivity after the certainties of gender dualism and sexual polarization have collapsed, privileging notions of process, complexity, and the multilayered technology of the self? The postpersonal theoretical style that leaves ample room to the exploration of subjectivity calls for "passionate detachment" in theory-making. (E. Grosz:) Contemporary theories of subjectivity call for the rejection of the traditional vision of the knowing subject as universal, neutral, and consequently gender-free, in favor of the "positional" subject, eg. the "female feminist subject."
The subject as a philosophical question: the thinking subject