06 November 2006

Future Anterior

The online journal Rhizomes has an illuminating article on the future anterior by Martin Hall, entitled Time and the Fragmented Subject in Minority Report. Lacan succinctly describes the future anterior as, "What is realised in my history is not the past definite of what was, since it is no more, or even the present perfect of what has been in what I am, but the future anterior of what I shall have been for what I am in the process of becoming." This temporal phenomenon is absolutely crucial to the work of analysis, as it is what allows the analysand to reconfigure the co-ordinates of his identity that have frozen his desire in the imaginary through a transformation of the valence of the signifiers composing the subject's history. That is, from the standpoint of identification, there is an autopoietic problem of identity, pertaining to how the subject must perpetually reproduce its identity in time by anticipating itself. This process takes place on the bedrock of the narrative through which the subject narrates itself. As Lacan puts it in his second seminar,

What did I try to get across with the mirror stage? That whatever in man is loosened up, fragmented, anarrchic, establishes its relation to his perceptions on a plane with a completely original tension. The image of his body is the principle of every unity he perceives in objects. Now, he only perceives the unity of this specific image from the outside, and in an anticipated manner. Because of this double relation which he has with himself, all the objects of his world are always structured around the wandering shadow of his own ego. They will all have a fundamentally anthropomorphic character, even egomorphic we could say. Man's ideal unity, which is never attained as such and escapes him at every moment, is evoked at every moment of his perception. The object is never for him definitively the final object, except in exceptional experiences. But it thus appears in the guise of an object from which man is irremediably separated, and which shows him the very figure of his dehiscence within the world-- obje ct which by essence destroys him, anxiety, which he cannot recapture, in which he will never be able to find reconciliation, his adhesion to the world, his perfect complementarity on the level of desire. It is in the nature of desire to be radically torn. The very image of man brings in here a mediation which is always imaginary, always problematic, and which is therefore never completely fulfilled. It is maintained by a succession of momentary experiences, and this experience either alienates man from himself, or else ends in a destruction, a negation of the object. (166)

The identity of the ego in the imaginary is not a noun or substance that endures through change, but is rather a verb or process whereby the subject "counts-itself-as-one" or presides over the ongoing autopoiesis of its identity in the imaginary. Thus a year earlier Lacan will remark that,

I believe that I have demonstrated that that is where Freud started from. What is at issue for him is the understanding of an individual case. THat is what gives each of the five great case-histories their value. The three that we have already looked at, pondered over and worked on together in previous years show you just that. Freud's progress, the discovers he made, lies in the way he considers the singularity of a case.

Consider it a singularity, what does that mean? That means essentially that, for him, the interest, the essence, the basis, the dimension proper to analysis is the reintegration by the subject of his history right up to the furthermost perceptible limits, that is to say into a dimension that goes well beyond the limits of the individual...

What reveals this dimension is the accent that Freud puts in each case on those points that it is essential to overcome by means of the technique and which are what I will call the bearings [situations] of the history. Does this amount to placing the accent on the past, as it may appear at first sight? I showed you that it is not as simple as that. History is not the past. History is the past in so far as it is historised in the present-- historicised in the present because it was lived in the past [my italics]. (Seminar 1, 12)

Lacan will thus conclude that, "...when all is said and done, it is less a matter of remembering than of rewriting history" (14). When Lacan speaks of taking the subject "beyond the limits of the individual" we encounter, in larval form, the crucial distinction between the subject and the individual, or the subject as that which is beyond identification... The subject of subjective destitution. Perhaps there has been no better film about subjective destitution and the subject than Alex Proyas Dark City. Initially we might conclude that Dark City is a film that unfolds entirely in the imaginary, as Rufus Sewell's character is able to re-create the city in terms of his own fantasy at the end of the film once he has mastered the power of "Q-ing" and defeated the Strangers. Yet what we encounter in this film is the excess of the subject over any of its identifications, as can be seen in the disturbing character of Dr. Schreber that lives a life of subjective destitution, without any sense of past or self, and the citizens of the city who's identities are perpetually reconfigured in the vain attempt to discover the soul that would render the Strangers immortal. This excess of the subject over identifications or the various avatars of the ego is cogito, or that remainder, that void, that cannot be eradicated, that is in excess of whatever I take myself to be. It is this excess of cogito over identification that ensures that we are never simply our interpellations, identifications, or habituations.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Levy,

thanks for the post [which I know you put it up for me ;)]. A random question though: what would happen to an individual if he/she were to experience the lack of subject identification? is that sort of de facto existence of subject? but what if he was to experience that on conscious level - as being consciously destituted?


November 08, 2006 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Justin, I think something like this is precisely what takes place in analysis. On the one hand, one discovers how their identity has been organized around their identifications. On the other hand, in traversing the fantasy a collapse of the big Other occurs as well, generating a destitution of one's identity insofar as one's identity is organized as a response to the Other. This is unpleasant and disorienting initially, but it also opens a space of desire in a universe that was previously experienced under the sign of closure. I write a bit more about traversing the fantasy in my post last month entitled "The Other Does Not Exist".

November 09, 2006 8:03 AM  

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