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All Topic Reviews
A Theory of Feelings Anger and Forgiveness Philosophizing Madness from Nietzsche to Derrida"My Madness Saved Me"10 Good Questions about Life and Death12 Modern Philosophers50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a GodA Cabinet of Philosophical CuriositiesA Case for IronyA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to Buddhist PhilosophyA Companion to FoucaultA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to HumeA Companion to KantA Companion to Phenomenology and ExistentialismA Companion to PragmatismA Companion to the Philosophy of ActionA Companion to the Philosophy of BiologyA Companion to the Philosophy of LiteratureA Conceptual History of PsychologyA Critical Overview of Biological FunctionsA Critique of Naturalistic Philosophies of MindA Cursing Brain?A Decent LifeA Delicate BalanceA Farewell to AlmsA Fragile LifeA Frightening LoveA Future for PresentismA Guide to the Good LifeA History of PsychiatryA History of the MindA Life Worth LivingA Manual of Experimental PhilosophyA Map of the MindA Metaphysics of PsychopathologyA Mind So RareA Minimal LibertarianismA Natural History of Human MoralityA Natural History of Human ThinkingA Natural History of VisionA Parliament of MindsA Philosopher Looks at The Sense of HumorA Philosophical DiseaseA Philosophy for the Science of Well-BeingA Philosophy of BoredomA Philosophy of Cinematic ArtA Philosophy of CultureA Philosophy of EmptinessA Philosophy of FearA Philosophy of PainA Physicalist ManifestoA Place for ConsciousnessA Question of TrustA Research Agenda for DSM-VA Revolution of the MindA Sentimentalist Theory of the MindA Stroll With William JamesA Tapestry of ValuesA Tear is an Intellectual ThingA Theory of FreedomA Theory of Jerks and Other Philosophical MisadventuresA Thousand MachinesA Universe of ConsciousnessA Very Bad WizardA Very Bad Wizard: Morality Behind the CurtainA Virtue EpistemologyA World Full of GodsA World Without ValuesAbout FaceAbout the Beginning of the Hermeneutics of the SelfAction and ResponsibilityAction in ContextAction Theory, Rationality and CompulsionAction, Contemplation, and HappinessAction, Emotion and WillAdam SmithAdaptive DynamicsAddictionAddictionAddiction and ResponsibilityAddiction and Self-ControlAddiction Is a ChoiceAdvances in Identity Theory and ResearchAftermathAfterwarAgainst AdaptationAgainst AutonomyAgainst BioethicsAgainst HappinessAgainst HealthAgainst MarriageAgency and ActionAgency and AnswerabilityAgency and EmbodimentAgency and ResponsibilityAgency, Freedom, and Moral ResponsibilityAl-JununAlain BadiouAlain BadiouAlasdair MacIntyreAlien Landscapes?Altered EgosAmbivalenceAmbivalenceAn Anthology of Psychiatric EthicsAn Ethics for TodayAn Intellectual History of CannibalismAn Interpretation of DesireAn Introduction to EthicsAn Introduction to Kant's Moral Philosophy An Introduction to Philosophy of EducationAn Introduction to the Philosophy of MindAn Introduction to the Philosophy of MindAn Introduction to the Philosophy of PsychologyAn Introductory Philosophy of MedicineAn Odd Kind of FameAnalytic FreudAnalytic Philosophy in AmericaAncient AngerAncient Models of MindAncient Philosophy of the SelfAngerAnimal LessonsAnimal MindsAnimals Like UsAnnihilationAnother PlanetAnswers for AristotleAnti-ExternalismAnti-Individualism and KnowledgeAntigone’s ClaimAntipsychiatryAre We Hardwired?Are Women Human?Arguing about DisabilityArguing About Human NatureAristotle and the Philosophy of FriendshipAristotle on Practical WisdomAristotle's ChildrenAristotle's Ethics and Moral ResponsibilityAristotle's WayAristotle, Emotions, and EducationArt & MoralityArt After Conceptual ArtArt in Three DimensionsArt, Self and KnowledgeArtificial ConsciousnessArtificial HappinessAspects of PsychologismAsylum to ActionAt the Existentialist CaféAtonement and ForgivenessAttention is Cognitive UnisonAutobiography as PhilosophyAutonomyAutonomy and Mental DisorderAutonomy and the Challenges to LiberalismBabies by DesignBackslidingBadiouBadiou's DeleuzeBadiou, Balibar, Ranciere: Rethinking EmancipationBare Facts And Naked TruthsBasic Desert, Reactive Attitudes and Free WillBattlestar Galactica and PhilosophyBe Like the FoxBeautyBecoming a SubjectBecoming HumanBefore ConsciousnessBehavingBehavioral Genetics in the Postgenomic EraBeing AmoralBeing HumanBeing Mentally Ill: A Sociological Theory Being No OneBeing Realistic about ReasonsBeing ReducedBeing YourselfBelief's Own EthicsBending Over BackwardsBerlin Childhood around 1900Bernard WilliamsBertrand RussellBest ExplanationsBetter than BothBetter Than WellBetween Two WorldsBeyond HealthBeyond Hegel and NietzscheBeyond KuhnBeyond LossBeyond MelancholyBeyond Moral JudgmentBeyond PostmodernismBeyond ReductionBeyond SchizophreniaBeyond the DSM StoryBioethicsBioethics and the BrainBioethics in the ClinicBiological Complexity and Integrative PluralismBiology Is TechnologyBiosBipolar ExpeditionsBlackwell Companion to the Philosophy of EducationBlindsight & The Nature of ConsciousnessBlues - Philosophy for EveryoneBlushBob Dylan and PhilosophyBody ConsciousnessBody Image And Body SchemaBody ImagesBody LanguageBody MattersBody WorkBody-Subjects and Disordered MindsBoundBoundaries of the MindBoyleBrain Evolution and CognitionBrain FictionBrain, Mind, and Human Behavior in Contemporary Cognitive ScienceBrain-WiseBrainchildrenBrains, Buddhas, and BelievingBrainstormingBrave New WorldsBreakdown of WillBrief Child Therapy Homework PlannerBrief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and FaithBrief Therapy Homework PlannerBritain on the CouchBritish Idealism and the Concept of the SelfBrute RationalityBuffy the Vampire Slayer and PhilosophyBut Is It Art?Camus and SartreCan Animals Be Persons?Cartesian LinguisticsCartographies of the MindCarving Nature at Its JointsCase Studies in Biomedical Research EthicsCassandra's DaughterCategories We Live ByCato's TearsCausation and CounterfactualsCauses, Laws, and Free WillChanging Conceptions of the Child from the Renaissance to Post-ModernityChanging the SubjectChaosophyCharacter and Moral Psychology Character as Moral FictionCharles DarwinCharles S. Peirce's PhenomenologyCherishmentChildhood and the Philosophy of EducationChildrenChildren, Families, and Health Care Decision MakingChoices and ConflictChoosing Not to ChooseChristmas - Philosophy for EveryoneCinema, Philosophy, BergmanCinematic MythmakingCity and Soul in Plato's RepublicClassifying MadnessClear and Queer ThinkingClinical EthicsClinical Psychiatry in Imperial GermanyCodependent ForevermoreCoffee - Philosophy for EveryoneCognition and the BrainCognition of Value in Aristotle's EthicsCognition Through Understanding: Self-Knowledge, Interlocution, Reasoning, ReflectionCognitive BiologyCognitive FictionsCognitive Neuroscience of EmotionCognitive Systems and the Extended MindCognitive Systems and the Extended Mind Cognitive Theories of Mental IllnessCoherence in Thought and ActionCollected Papers, Volume 1Collected Papers, Volume 2College SexComedy IncarnateCommitmentCommunicative Action and Rational ChoiceCompassionate Moral RealismCompetence, Condemnation, and CommitmentConcealment And ExposureConcepts and Causes in the Philosophy of DiseaseConceptual Analysis and Philosophical NaturalismConceptual Art and PaintingConceptual Issues in Evolutionary BiologyConfessionsConfucianismConnected, or What It Means to Live in the Network SocietyConquest of AbundanceConscience and ConvenienceConsciousnessConsciousnessConsciousnessConsciousness ConsciousnessConsciousness and Fundamental RealityConsciousness and Its Place in NatureConsciousness and LanguageConsciousness and Mental LifeConsciousness and MindConsciousness and the NovelConsciousness and the SelfConsciousness EmergingConsciousness EvolvingConsciousness ExplainedConsciousness in ActionConsciousness RecoveredConsciousness RevisitedConsciousness, Color, and ContentConsole and ClassifyConstructing the WorldConstructive AnalysisContemporary Debates In Applied EthicsContemporary Debates in Moral TheoryContemporary Debates in Philosophy of BiologyContemporary Debates in Philosophy of MindContemporary Debates in Political PhilosophyContemporary Debates in Social PhilosophyContemporary Perspectives on Natural LawContested Knowledge: Social Theory TodayContesting PsychiatryContext and the AttitudesContinental Philosophy of ScienceControlControlling Our DestiniesConversations About Psychology and Sexual OrientationCopernicus, Darwin and FreudCrazy for YouCreating a Life of Meaning and CompassionCreating ConsilienceCreating HysteriaCreating Mental IllnessCreating Scientific ConceptsCreating the American JunkieCreation, Rationality and AutonomyCreatures Like Us?Crime and CulpabilityCrime, Punishment, and Mental IllnessCrimes of ReasonCritical New Perspectives on Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity DisorderCritical PsychiatryCritical PsychologyCritical ResistanceCritical Thinking About PsychologyCritical VisionsCross and KhoraCruel CompassionCTRL [SPACE]Cultural Psychology of the SelfCultural Theory: An IntroductionCulture and Psychiatric DiagnosisCulture and Subjective Well-BeingCulture of DeathCultures of NeurastheniaCurious EmotionsCurrent Controversies in Experimental PhilosophyCurrent Controversies in Values and ScienceCustom and Reason in HumeCustomers and Patrons of the Mad-TradeCutting God in Half - And Putting the Pieces Together AgainCylons in AmericaDamaged IdentitiesDamasio's Error and Descartes' TruthDangerous EmotionsDaniel DennettDaniel DennettDark AgesDarwin and DesignDarwin's Dangerous IdeaDarwin's LegacyDarwin, God and the Meaning of LifeDarwinian PsychiatryDarwinian ReductionismDarwinizing CultureDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeathDeathDeath and CharacterDeath and CompassionDeath and the AfterlifeDebating DesignDebating HumanismDecision Making, Personhood and DementiaDecomposing the WillDeconstructing PsychotherapyDeconstruction and DemocracyDeeper Than DarwinDeeper than ReasonDefending Science - within ReasonDefining Psychopathology in the 21st CenturyDegrees of BeliefDeleuze and the Concepts of CinemaDelusion and Self-DeceptionDelusions and BeliefsDelusions and Other Irrational BeliefsDelusions and the Madness of the MassesDementiaDemons, Dreamers, and MadmenDennett and Ricoeur on the Narrative SelfDennett’s PhilosophyDepression Is a ChoiceDepression, Emotion and the SelfDepthDerrida, Deleuze, PsychoanalysisDescartesDescartes and the Passionate MindDescartes' CogitoDescartes's Changing MindDescartes's Concept of MindDescribing Inner Experience?Descriptions and PrescriptionsDesembodied Spirits and Deanimated Bodies Desert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974)Desire and AffectDesire, Love, and IdentityDesire, Practical Reason, and the GoodDeveloping the VirtuesDiagnosing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental DisordersDialectics of the SelfDid My Neurons Make Me Do It?Difference and IdentityDigital SoulDimensional Models of Personality DisordersDisability, Difference, DiscriminationDisjunctivismDisorders of VolitionDisorientation and Moral LifeDispatches from the Freud WarsDisrupted LivesDistractionDisturbed ConsciousnessDivided Minds and Successive SelvesDo Apes Read Minds?Do Fish Feel Pain?Do We Still Need Doctors?Does Consciousness Cause Behavior?Does the Woman Exist?Doing PhilosophyDoing without ConceptsDon't be FooledDon't Believe Everything You ThinkDonald DavidsonDonald Davidson on Truth, Meaning, and the MentalDoubting Darwin?Down GirlDreaming and Other Involuntary MentationDSM-IV SourcebookDSM-IV SourcebookDSM-IV-TR CasebookDworkin and His CriticsDying to KnowDynamics in ActionDysthymia and the Spectrum of Chronic DepressionsEccentricsEducational MetamorphosesEffective IntentionsElbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth WantingEmbodied Minds in ActionEmbodied RhetoricsEmbodied Selves and Divided MindsEmbryos under the MicroscopeEmergencies in Mental Health PracticeEmerging Conceptual, Ethical and Policy Issues in BionanotechnologyEmotionEmotion and ConsciousnessEmotion and PsycheEmotion ExperienceEmotion RegulationEmotion, Evolution, And RationalityEmotional IntelligenceEmotional ReasonEmotional ReasonEmotional TruthEmotions in Humans and ArtifactsEmotions in the Moral LifeEmotions in the Moral LifeEmotions, Value, and AgencyEmpathyEmpathy and AgencyEmpathy and Moral DevelopmentEmpathy and MoralityEmpathy in the Context of PhilosophyEmpirical Ethics in PsychiatryEnactivist InterventionsEnchanted LoomsEngaging BuddhismEngineering the Human GermlineEnjoymentEnvyEpicureanismEpistemic LuckEpistemologyEpistemology and EmotionsEpistemology and the Psychology of Human JudgmentEros and the GoodErotic MoralityEssays in Social NeuroscienceEssays in the Metaphysics of Mind Essays on Derek Parfit's On What MattersEssays on Free Will and Moral ResponsibilityEssays on Nonconceptual ContentEssays on Philosophical CounselingEssays on Reference, Language, and MindEssays on the Concept of Mind in Early-Modern PhilosophyEssential Sources in the Scientific Study of ConsciousnessEsssential Philosophy of PsychiatryEternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindEthical Conflicts in PsychologyEthical Issues in Forensic Mental Health ResearchEthical Issues in Human CloningEthical TheoryEthicsEthicsEthics and the A PrioriEthics and the Metaphysics of MedicineEthics and Values in PsychotherapyEthics Beyond the LimitsEthics Done RightEthics ExpertiseEthics in Plain EnglishEthics in PracticeEthics in Psychiatric ResearchEthics of PsychiatryEthics without OntologyEuropean Review of Philosophy. Vol. 5Everyday IrrationalityEvil in Modern ThoughtEvolutionEvolution and the Human MindEvolution's RainbowEvolutionary Origins of MoralityEvolutionary PsychologyExamined LifeExamined LivesExistential AmericaExistentialismExistentialism and Romantic LoveExperimental PhilosophyExperimental PhilosophyExperimental PhilosophyExperimental Philosophy, Rationalism, and NaturalismExperiments in EthicsExplaining ConsciousnessExplaining the BrainExplaining the Computational MindExplanatory PluralismExploding the Gene MythExploring HappinessExploring the SelfExpression and the InnerExpressions of JudgmentExtraordinary Science and PsychiatryFaces of IntentionFact and ValueFact and Value in EmotionFacts and ValuesFacts, Values, and NormsFads and Fallacies in the Social SciencesFaith and Wisdom in ScienceFatherhoodFear of KnowledgeFearless SpeechFeeling Pain and Being in PainFeelings and EmotionsFeelings of BeingFellow CreaturesFellow-Feeling and the Moral LifeFeminism and Its DiscontentsFeminism and Philosophy of ScienceFeminist Ethics and Social and Political PhilosophyFeminist Interpretations of Rene DescartesFeminist TheoryField Notes from ElsewhereFinding Consciousness in the BrainFingerprints of GodFlesh in the Age of ReasonFolk Psychological NarrativesFolk Psychology Re-AssessedForces of HabitForgivenessForgiveness and LoveForgiveness and RetributionFoucault 2.0Foucault and PhilosophyFoucault NowFoucault, Psychology and the Analytics of PowerFoundational Issues in Human Brain MappingFoundations of Ethical Practice, Research, and Teaching in PsychologyFour Views on Free WillFrank Ramsey (1903-1930)Free WillFree WillFree WillFree WillFree Will and Action ExplanationFree Will and LuckFree Will And Moral ResponsibilityFree Will as an Open Scientific ProblemFree Will, Agency, and Meaning in LifeFree: Why Science Hasn't Disproved Free WillFreedomFreedom and DeterminismFreedom And NeurobiologyFreedom and ResponsibiltyFreedom and ValueFreedom EvolvesFreedom RegainedFreedom vs. InterventionFreedom, Fame, Lying, and BetrayalFreudFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFreud As PhilosopherFreud's AnswerFreud, the Reluctant PhilosopherFriedrich NietzscheFrom Chance to ChoiceFrom Clinic to ClassroomFrom Complexity to LifeFrom Enlightenment to ReceptivityFrom Knowledge to Wisdom: A Revolution for Science and the HumanitiesFrom Morality to Mental HealthFrom Passions to EmotionsFrom Philosophy to PsychotherapyFrom Valuing to ValueFrontiers of ConsciousnessFrontiers of JusticeFurnishing the MindGalileo in PittsburghGenderGender and Mental HealthGender in the MirrorGender TroubleGenesGenes, Women, EqualityGenetic Nature/CultureGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetic SecretsGenocide's AftermathGenomes and What to Make of ThemGerman Idealism and the JewGerman PhilosophyGetting HookedGilles DeleuzeGlobal PhilosophyGluttonyGod and Phenomenal ConsciousnessGoffman's LegacyGoing Amiss in Experimental ResearchGoodness & AdviceGrassroots SpiritualityGrave MattersGrave MattersGreedGreek Models of Mind and SelfGut ReactionsHabilitation, Health, and AgencyHabits of MindHallucinationHandbook of BioethicsHandbook of EmotionsHappinessHappinessHappinessHappinessHappiness and EducationHappiness and the Good LifeHappiness Is OverratedHappiness, Death, and the Remainder of LifeHard LuckHarmful ThoughtsHaving the World in ViewHealing PsychiatryHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHealth, Illness and DiseaseHealth, Science, and Ordinary LanguageHegelHeidegger and a Metaphysics of FeelingHeidegger, Metaphysics and the Univocity of BeingHellenistic PhilosophyHermann von Helmholtz's MechanismHermeneutics As PoliticsHeterophobiaHeterosyncraciesHeuristics and BiasesHeuristics and the LawHidden ResourcesHidden SelvesHiding from HumanityHigh Art LiteHistorical OntologyHistory of Psychiatry and Medical PsychologyHistory, Historicity And ScienceHobbesHomosexualitiesHope and Dread in PsychoanalysisHot ThoughtHow Can I Be Trusted?How Can the Human Mind Occur in the Physical Universe?How Children Learn the Meanings of WordsHow Could Conscious Experiences Affect Brains?How Do We Know Who We Are?How Emotions WorkHow Emotions WorkHow History Made the MindHow Images ThinkHow is Nature Possible?How Propaganda WorksHow Science WorksHow Scientific Practices MatterHow Scientists Explain DiseaseHow The Body Shapes The MindHow the Body Shapes the Way We ThinkHow the Mind Explains BehaviorHow the Mind Uses the BrainHow to Be a StoicHow to Make Opportunity EqualHow to Solve the Mind-Body Problemhow to stop timeHow to Think More About SexHow We HopeHow We ReasonHuman CloningHuman Development, Language and the Future of MankindHuman EnhancementHuman Evolution, Reproduction, and MoralityHuman GoodnessHuman Identity and BioethicsHuman NatureHuman NatureHuman Nature and the Limits of ScienceHuman-Built WorldHumanismHumanism, What's That?HumanityHumans, Animals, MachinesHumeHumeHumeHume on Motivation and VirtueHume's True ScepticismHume’s Moral Philosophy and Contemporary PsychologyHusserlHystoriesI Am Dynamite!I of the VortexI Was WrongIdeas that MatterIdentifying the MindIdentity and Agency in Cultural WorldsIgnorance and ImaginationIllnessIllnessImagination and Its PathologiesImagination and the Meaningful BrainImagining NumbersImmortal RemainsImproving Nature?In Defense of an Evolutionary Concept of HealthIn Defense of SentimentalityIn Love With LifeIn Praise of Athletic BeautyIn Praise of DesireIn Praise of Natural PhilosophyIn Praise of the WhipIn Pursuit of HappinessIn Search of HappinessIn the Name of GodIn the Name of IdentityIn the Space of ReasonsIn the SwarmIn Two MindsInclusive EthicsIncompatibilism's AllureIndividual Differences in Conscious ExperienceInfinity and PerspectiveInformation ArtsInformed Consent in Medical ResearchIngmar Bergman, Cinematic PhilosopherInhuman ThoughtsInner PresenceInsanityIntegrating Psychotherapy and PharmacotherapyIntegrity and the Fragile SelfIntelligent VirtueIntentionIntentionality, Deliberation and AutonomyIntentions and IntentionalityIntentions and IntentionalityInterpreting MindsInterpreting NietzscheIntroducing Greek PhilosophyIntrospection and ConsciousnessIntrospection VindicatedIntuition, Imagination, and Philosophical MethodologyIntuitionismInvestigating the Psychological WorldIrrationalityIrrationalityIs Academic Feminism Dead?Is It Me or My Meds?Is Long-Term Therapy Unethical?Is Oedipus Online?Is Science Neurotic?Is Science Value Free?Is the Visual World a Grand Illusion?Is There a Duty to Die?Issues in Philosophical CounselingJacques LacanJacques RancièreJacques RanciereJean-Paul SartreJohn McDowellJohn SearleJohn Searle's Ideas About Social RealityJohn Stuart MillJohn Stuart Mill and the Writing of CharacterJoint AttentionJokesJonathan EdwardsJudging and UnderstandingJustice for ChildrenJustice in RobesJustice, Luck, and KnowledgeKantKant and MiltonKant and the Fate of AutonomyKant and the Limits of AutonomyKant and the Role of Pleasure in Moral ActionKant on Freedom, Law, and HappinessKant on Moral AutonomyKant's Anatomy of EvilKant's Anatomy of the Intelligent MindKant's Theory of VirtueKarl JaspersKarl PopperKarl Popper, Science and EnlightenmentKey Concepts in PhilosophyKierkegaardKierkegaard as PhenomenologistKierkegaard's Concept of DespairKierkegaard's MuseKinds of MindsKinds, Things, and StuffKnowing EmotionsKnowing, Knowledge and BeliefsKnowledge MonopoliesKnowledge, Belief, and CharacterKnowledge, Possibility, and ConsciousnessLacanLack of CharacterLack of CharacterLanguageLanguage in ContextLanguage, Consciousness, CultureLanguage, Culture, and MindLanguage, Vision, and MusicLaw and the BrainLaw, Liberty, and PsychiatryLaws, Mind, and Free WillLeaving YouLectures on the History of Political PhilosophyLevelling the Playing FieldLiberal Education in a Knowledge SocietyLiberatory PsychiatryLife and ActionLife at the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, 1857-1997Life Is Not a Game of PerfectLife of the MindLife's FormLife's ValuesLife, Death, & MeaningLife, Death, and Meaning: Key Philosophical Readings on the Big Questions Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of UtilityLife, Sex, and IdeasLight in the Dark RoomLike a Splinter in Your MindLiving and Dying WellLiving NarrativeLiving Outside Mental IllnessLiving with DarwinLiving With One’s PastLockeLocke LockeLogic and the Art of Memory Loneliness in Philosophy, Psychology, and LiteratureLooking for SpinozaLooking for The StrangerLost in DialogueLost SoulsLOT 2LoveLoveLove's ConfusionsLove's VisionLove, Friendship, and the SelfLove, Sex & TragedyLuckyLudwig WittgensteinLustLyingMachine ConsciousnessMad for FoucaultMad TravelersMade with WordsMadness And Death In PhilosophyMadness and DemocracyMadness at HomeMadness Is CivilizationMaking Natural KnowledgeMaking Sense of EvolutionMaking Sense of Freedom and ResponsibilityMaking the DSM-5Making the Social WorldMaking TruthMale Female EmailMan, Beast, and ZombieMandated Reporting of Suspected Child AbuseManiaManic Depression and CreativityMapping the Edges and the In-betweenMapping the Future of BiologyMarcus AureliusMaster PassionsMatters of the MindMe++Meaning and Moral OrderMeaning and Value in a Secular AgeMeaning in LifeMeaning in Life and Why It MattersMeaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and MindMeanings of ArtMeasuring HappinessMeasuring PsychopathologyMedia MadnessMedical Enhancement and PosthumanityMedical NihilismMedical ReasoningMedicine and Philosophy in Classical AntiquityMedicine of the PersonMedicine, Mental Health, Religion, Science and Well-BeingMeditations on Self-Discipline and FailureMelancholy And the Care of the SoulMelancholy and the Otherness of GodMementoMemory and NarrativeMental ActionsMental CausationMental Causation and OntologyMental HealthMental Health At The CrossroadsMental Health Policy in BritainMerit, Meaning, and Human BondageMerleau-PontyMerleau-Ponty and the Possibilities of PhilosophyMetacognition and Theory of MindMetacreationMetaethical SubjectivismMetaethicsMetal and FleshMetaphors of MemoryMetapoliticsMethods in MindMichel FoucaultMidlifeMill's UtilitarianismMindMindMindMind and ConsciousnessMind and CosmosMind and MechanismMind GamesMind in a Physical WorldMind in Everyday Life and Cognitive ScienceMind in LifeMind the BodyMind TimeMind's LandscapeMind, Brain and the Elusive SoulMind, Brain, and Free WillMind, Reason and ImaginationMinding MindsMindreadersMindreading AnimalsMinds and PersonsMinds, Brains, and LawMinds, Ethics, and ConditionalsMindshapingMindsightMindworldsMirror, MirrorMixed FeelingsMockingbird YearsModels of the SelfModern Social ImaginariesModern Theories of JusticeModernity and SubjectivityModernity and TechnologyMoody Minds DistemperedMoral BrainsMoral DimensionsMoral FailureMoral ImaginationMoral LiteracyMoral MachinesMoral ParticularismMoral PsychologyMoral Psychology and Human AgencyMoral Psychology, Volume 1Moral Psychology, Volume 2Moral Psychology, Volume 3Moral Psychology: Volume IVMoral RepairMoral Responsibility and Alternative PossibilitiesMoral TribesMoral Value and Human DiversityMorality and Self-InterestMorality in a Natural WorldMorality, Moral Luck and ResponsibilityMotherhoodMotive and RightnessMoving Beyond Prozac, DSM, and the New PsychiatryMultiple Analogies in Science and PhilosophyMultiple Identities & False MemoriesMusic, Madness, and the Unworking of LanguageMy Brain Made Me Do ItMy Double UnveiledMy WayNarrativeNarrative and IdentityNarrative MedicineNarrative PsychiatryNarrative Theory and the Cognitive SciencesNatural Ethical FactsNatural Kinds and Conceptual ChangeNatural MindsNatural-Born CybogsNaturalism and the First-Person PerspectiveNaturalism and the Human ConditionNaturalism in the Philosophy of HealthNaturalism in the Philosophy of HealthNaturalized BioethicsNaturalizing the MindNatureNature and NarrativeNear Death ExperienceNeither Bad nor MadNeither Victim nor SurvivorNeuro-Philosophy and the Healthy MindNeuroethicsNeuroethicsNeuroexistentialismNeurological Foundations of Cognitive Neuroscience Neurophilosophy at WorkNeurophilosophy of Free WillNeuropoliticsNeuropsychoanalysis in PracticeNeuroscience and PhilosophyNew Essays on the Explanation of ActionNew Philosophy for a New MediaNew Versions of VictimsNew Waves in Philosophy of ActionNietzscheNietzsche and Buddhist PhilosophyNietzsche and PsychotherapyNietzsche and Suffered Social HistoriesNietzsche on Ethics and PoliticsNietzsche's TherapyNietzsche, Culture and EducationNietzsche: The Man and His PhilosophyNihil UnboundNihilismNoir AnxietyNormative EthicsNormativityNorms of NatureNotebooks 1951-1959Notes Toward a Performative Theory of AssemblyNothing So AbsurdOblivionOn AnxietyOn ApologyOn Being AuthenticOn Being AuthenticOn BeliefOn BetrayalOn BullshitOn DelusionOn DesireOn EmotionsOn HashishOn Human NatureOn Human RightsOn Loving Our EnemiesOn Nature and LanguageOn PersonalityOn ReflectionOn Romantic LoveOn the EmotionsOn the Freud WatchOn the Government of the LivingOn the Human ConditionOn the InternetOn the Meaning of LifeOn the Philosophy of LawOn the Pragmatics of CommunicationOn the Punitive SocietyOn TruthOn Virtue EthicsOn What MattersOn What We Owe to Each OtherOne Hundred DaysOnflowOnly a Promise of HappinessOntology of ConsciousnessOpen MindedOpen Your EyesOrgans without BodiesOther MindsOur Last Great IllusionOur Own MindsOur Posthuman FutureOur StoriesOut of Its MindOut of Our HeadsOxford Guide to the MindOxford Handbook of Psychiatric EthicsOxford Studies in Experimental PhilosophyOxford Studies in Normative EthicsOxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 7Oxford Textbook of Philosophy of PsychiatryPanic DisorderPanpsychismPanpsychism in the WestPartialityPassionate EnginesPassionate EnginesPathologies of BeliefPathologies of ReasonPatient Autonomy and the Ethics of ResponsibilityPC, M.D.Perceiving the WorldPerception & CognitionPerception and Basic BeliefsPerception, Hallucination, and IllusionPerceptual ExperiencePerfecting VirtuePerplexities of ConsciousnessPersistencePersonal AutonomyPersonal Autonomy in SocietyPersonal IdentityPersonal Identity and EthicsPersonal Identity and Fractured SelvesPersonhood and Health CarePersonsPersons and BodiesPersons, Humanity, and the Definition of DeathPersons, Souls and DeathPerspectives on ImitationPerspectives on PragmatismPessimismPhenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal KnowledgePhenomenal ConsciousnessPhenomenal IntentionalityPhenomenologyPhenomenology and ExistentialismPhenomenology and Philosophy of MindPhenomenology of IllnessPhilosophersPhilosophers on MusicPhilosophers without GodsPhilosophical CounselingPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPhilosophical DevicesPhilosophical Foundations of NeurosciencePhilosophical History and the Problem of ConsciousnessPhilosophical Issues in PharmaceuticsPhilosophical Issues in PsychiatryPhilosophical Issues in PsychiatryPhilosophical Issues in Psychiatry IIPhilosophical MethodologyPhilosophical MidwiferyPhilosophical Myths of the FallPhilosophical Perspectives on DepictionPhilosophical Perspectives on Technology and PsychiatryPhilosophical PracticePhilosophical Reflections on DisabilityPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophizing the EverydayPhilosophy and HappinessPhilosophy and LivingPhilosophy and PsychiatryPhilosophy and PsychotherapyPhilosophy and Science FictionPhilosophy and the EmotionsPhilosophy and the EmotionsPhilosophy and the Interpretation of Pop CulturePhilosophy and the Moving ImagePhilosophy and the NeurosciencesPhilosophy and This Actual WorldPhilosophy As FictionPhilosophy BitesPhilosophy Bites BackPhilosophy for Counselling and PsychotherapyPhilosophy for LifePhilosophy in a New CenturyPhilosophy in an Age of SciencePhilosophy in Children's LiteraturePhilosophy in the Roman EmpirePhilosophy of ActionPhilosophy of ActionPhilosophy of Action from Suarez to AnscombePhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of BodyPhilosophy of Film and Motion PicturesPhilosophy of LovePhilosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePhilosophy of Love, Sex, and Marriage: An IntroductionPhilosophy of MedicinePhilosophy of MindPhilosophy of Mind and CognitionPhilosophy of Personal Identity and Multiple PersonalityPhilosophy of PsychologyPhilosophy of Public HealthPhilosophy of SciencePhilosophy of SciencePhilosophy of Sex and LovePhilosophy of Technology: The Technological ConditionPhilosophy of the Social SciencesPhilosophy on TapPhilosophy PracticePhilosophy the Day after TomorrowPhilosophy Within Its Proper BoundsPhilosophy's Role in Counseling and PsychotherapyPhilosophy, Neuroscience and ConsciousnessPhilosophy, Politics, DemocracyPhotography and PhilosophyPhysical RealizationPhysicalism and Its DiscontentsPhysicalism and Mental CausationPhysicalism, or Something Near EnoughPhysician-Assisted DyingPillar of SaltPin-up GrrrlsPlanning, Time, and Self-GovernancePlant MindsPlatoPlatoPlato, Not Prozac!Platonic Ethics, Old and NewPleasurePluralistic CasuistryPolarities of ExperiencesPolitical EmotionsPopper, Objectivity and the Growth of KnowledgePornPorn StudiesPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPortrait of the Psychiatrist as a Young ManPositive NihilismPost-TruthPostcolonial DisordersPostpsychiatryPosttraumatic Stress DisorderPower and the SelfPower SplitPractical Autonomy and BioethicsPractical ConflictsPractical Identity and Narrative AgencyPractical PhilosophyPractical RulesPractical Tortoise RaisingPractically ProfoundPracticing Feminist Ethics in PsychologyPragmatic BioethicsPragmatismPragmatism, Old And NewPraise and BlamePredicative MindsPreferences and Well-BeingPrescriptions for the MindPresocraticsPrimary and Secondary QualitiesPrimates and PhilosophersPrimitive ColorsPrivacyPrivileged AccessProblems in MindProblems of RationalityProzac As a Way of LifeProzac BacklashProzac on the CouchPsyche and EthosPsyche and SomaPsychiatric Aspects of Justification, Excuse and Mitigation in Anglo-American Criminal Law Psychiatric Cultures ComparedPsychiatric Diagnosis and ClassificationPsychiatric EthicsPsychiatric HegemonyPsychiatric PowerPsychiatric SlaveryPsychiatry and Philosophy of SciencePsychiatry and ReligionPsychiatry as a Human SciencePsychiatry as Cognitive NeurosciencePsychiatry in SocietyPsychiatry in the New MilleniumPsychiatry in the Scientific ImagePsychiatry, Psychoanalysis, And The New Biology Of MindPsycho-Physical Dualism TodayPsychoanalysis and Narrative MedicinePsychoanalysis and the Philosophy of SciencePsychological Concepts and Biological PsychiatryPsychology and PhilosophyPsychology and the Question of AgencyPsychology's Interpretive TurnPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychotherapy and ConfidentialityPsychotherapy As PraxisPublic PhilosophyPunishmentPure ImmanencePurple HazePursuing MeaningQuality of Life and Human DifferenceQueer PhilosophyQuestions for FreudQuestions for FreudQuine and Davidson on Language, Thought and RealityRaceRace in Contemporary MedicineRadiant CoolRadical AlterityRadical ExternalismRadical HopeRational and Social AgencyRational CausationRational Choice in an Uncertain WorldRationality + Consciousness = Free WillRationality and FreedomRationality and the Reflective MindRationality in ActionRawls, Dewey, and ConstructivismRe-creating MedicineRe-EmergenceRe-Engineering Philosophy for Limited BeingsReading AutobiographyReading Bernard WilliamsReading SartreReadings in the Philosophy of TechnologyReal MaterialismReal Natures and Familiar ObjectsReal ScienceRealism in ActionReason & EmancipationReason in ActionReason in PhilosophyReason's GriefReasonably ViciousReasoning About Rational AgentsReasoning in Biological DiscoveriesReasons from WithinReasons without RationalismReclaiming CognitionReclaiming the SoulReconceiving SchizophreniaReconstructing Reason and RepresentationReconstructing the Cognitive WorldRecreative 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Antigone’s ClaimReview - Antigone’s Claim
Kinship Between Life and Death
by Judith Butler
Columbia University Press, 2000
Review by Adrian Johnston, Ph.D.
Sep 16th 2002 (Volume 6, Issue 38)

Continental philosophy sees itself, in contrast to the Anglo-American analytic tradition, as offering an alternative to supposedly dull, tedious ruminations concerning formal logic and inconsequential hair splitting over petty linguistic details.  Apart from any of its numerous methodological problems, continental philosophy can be accused of being a pot that calls the kettle black when it depicts analytic philosophy as boring.  Why is this?  Theorists operating out of the continental tradition today suffer from an appalling lack of imagination and creativity.  They return to the same old examples over and over again, ignoring huge amounts of new and exciting material in favor of safely sticking with what others have talked about (especially those others around whom scholarly personality cults have been erected).  Is psychoanalytic metapsychology really going to benefit from yet another exegesis of Greek tragedy, in particular, from one more re-examination of Sophocles?  Part of what makes a piece of literature truly great, Sophocles’ Antigone included, is that it functions as a kind of Rorschach ink blot capable of supporting a plethora of interpretations.  Its richness resides in the number of plausible and thought-provoking readings it stimulates (however, the piece in question must nonetheless have enough internal structure that it doesn’t license an infinite number of readings in which “anything goes”).  Much of the richness contained in Sophoclean tragedy has already been brought out by a huge number of extant commentaries and critical engagements.  Is there anything more to be gained by going back over this well-trodden ground?  Would what might potentially be gained outweigh the perhaps greater rewards of turning to pieces that haven’t been so thoroughly scrutinized?

Judith Butler’s book, despite its title, doesn’t actually focus that much on Antigone.  Instead, she employs this text as a springboard for continuing long-running discussions from her earlier works.  Through critiquing the Hegelian and Lacanian approaches to Antigone—Butler is principally concerned with “reading” Hegel and Lacan as themselves readers of Sophocles—she seeks to debunk the structuralist myth of a transcendent, normative symbolic system of kinship and gender positions in which the concrete person is an overdetermined by-product of a static, pre-given order.  The conclusion Butler’s interpretive efforts build towards is that the organizing function of, for example, the family unit (primarily as portrayed through the prism of the Freudian Oedipus complex) has a genuine existence only insofar as it gets enacted by flesh-and-blood individuals.  And, Butler’s notion of “parody” developed in her previous books maintains that all enactments (or, in Butlerian parlance, “performances”) of a structural norm necessarily introduce an irreducible margin of deviance/deviation into this same norm:  the norm is never truly repeated, and all ostensible repetitions of it inevitably distort a formal purity that never was pure in the first place.  Thus, since the very being of the symbolic order (as Hegel’s “objective spirit” and/or Lacan’s “big Other”) parasitically relies upon particular performances of its pseudo-general forms, its trans-individual universality is itself ultimately a fiction that falters in the face of parodic performativity.  The title of the third and final chapter of Antigone’s Claim, “Promiscuous Obedience,” also refers to this notion.  Perhaps one could even attribute a great amount of self-referential cunning to Butler:  in performing what is presented as a reading of Antigone, she ends up producing deviations that are far from being recognizable as faithful reproductions of Sophocles’ original text.

Butler casts Antigone in the role of a feminist heroine who “performs a parody” of the norms of familial relations as well as the typical feminine position in the polis.  She is born into a family that one could call, to put it mildly, dysfunctional, a family in which the Lévi-Straussian prohibition of incest qua foundational norm of socialization has been violated (Butler pays a lot of attention to the fact that Antigone’s father, Oedipus, is also her brother, and that her own tragedy unfolds as a result of another brother’s death).  Antigone also endures two traumas.  First, she accompanies her father on his sad, painful wanderings after he exiles himself from Thebes upon realizing the truth of his act of parricide and maternal incest.  To make matters worse, before Oedipus vanishes at the conclusion of Oedipus at Colonus, he pronounces a sort of prophetic curse against his faithful daughter, with Butler casting this as a prediction that “she have no man except for the man who is dead” (pg. 60).  Second, after her two brothers slay each other in the course of a violent uprising led by one brother against the other, the young Antigone finds herself coming into conflict with the Theban king’s edict prohibiting the burial and mourning of the traitorous brother Polyneices.  Her love for the dead man drives her to a suicidal confrontation with Creon, a sacrificial gesture in which she dies in the name of the dead.  Antigone dares to challenge the authority of a masculine king in the most forceful and public of ways.

So, given these few preliminary reminders, what does Butler bring to a discussion of Sophocles’ play?  How does she exploit the elements of this tragedy to reinforce her theses about gender, kinship, identity, and performativity?  As noted above, Butler is mainly interested in using Sophocles to conduct a debate with Hegel and Lacan.  Early on in the text, she summarizes what she sees as the essential assumptions informing their respective approaches to Antigone—“for Lacan, kinship is rarefied as enabling linguistic structure, a presupposition of symbolic intelligibility, and thus removed from the domain of the social;  for Hegel, kinship is precisely a relation of ‘blood’ rather than one of norms.  That is, kinship is not yet entered into the social, where the social is inaugurated through a violent suppression of kinship” (pg. 3).  Whereas Hegel allegedly treats familial ties as a kind of quasi-natural proto-sociality to be “subsumed and surpassed” by a form of subjectivity mediated by the “higher” spheres of civil society and the state, Lacan elevates the triangulating logic of the Oedipal family to the status of a structural possibility condition for sociality per se.

Against Hegel, Butler insists that the family is always-already both social and political, and that state apparatuses repress the fact that the state’s enduring existence is founded upon the family—“citizenship demands a partial repudiation of the kinship relations that bring the male citizen into being, and yet kinship remains that which alone can produce male citizens” (pg. 12).  If the purpose of kinship relations is to produce citizens for the polis, then the political infrastructure itself is, obviously, reliant upon these kinship relations functioning in ways that lead to the (re)production of the polis (hence the socio-political importance of norms bearing upon familial patterns).  Hegel does indeed consider this to be the proper telos of the family unit in its subservient position within the social structure, and, of course, Butler doesn’t see eye-to-eye with him on this point.  Butler also maintains that Antigone’s impassioned outbursts against Creon represent a parodic appropriation of the king’s authoritative voice;  Antigone is unsettling because her masculine aggression makes Creon, as he himself says, feel impotent and effeminate, confronting him with the tenuous, constructed nature of his own gender identity.  Hegel, unlike Butler, refuses to depict Antigone as a heroic figure.  He contends that, in her invocation of the unwritten laws of the gods and the obligatory mores of the family against Creon’s appeal to the interests of the state and its citizens as explicitly written in legal code, Antigone clings to a lower tier of sociality.  She favors the obligations of blood ties at the expense of politically defined duties.  Butler is convinced that this Hegelian bias rests upon the false belief that familial kinship and political citizenship can be cleanly separated from each other, and that the latter can be granted priority over the former.

This said, doesn’t Hegel, in his 1821 Philosophy of Right, demonstrate the manner in which family, society, and state are inextricably intertwined?  One of his main points there is that the kinship positions within the family are always-already defined and mediated by enveloping socio-political institutions.  Conversely, he unambiguously acknowledges that there wouldn’t be a socio-political system without families as integral parts of this system.  Regardless of what he says about Antigone, is Hegel guilty of the arguments that Butler imputes to him?  When Hegel speaks of the feminine as “the eternal irony of the community,” he does so precisely on the basis of the indissoluble, two-way co-dependency of the family and the state.  The supposedly feminine/maternal desire to keep children permanently within the “interiority” of familial life is an “ironic” misrecognition of the fact that the family, as Lacan might put it, is an “extimate” structure, a unit whose inner organization is always-already related to and colored by the “exteriority” of the polis.  With the admittedly stereotypical figure of the clingy mother, one witnesses her refusal to understand that the children are never simply her own, that her entire family’s well being, as well as the notions defining what a family per se is as a constellation of social relations, is conditioned by the larger whole of which it’s a small part.

The amount of time and effort spent on Hegel is minimal compared with the space Butler devotes to Lacan.  Butler isn’t content to simply criticize the Lacanian reading of Antigone from the seventh seminar of 1959-1960 (The Ethics of Psychoanalysis).  She attacks Lacan for his structuralist transcendentalism, taking aim at what she understands to be the core tenets of his psychoanalytic theoretical system in its entirety.  Butler begins this task by noting that, for Lacan, a distinction should be maintained between, on the one hand, the contingent, empirical field of historically variable “sociality,” and, on the other hand, the necessary, transcendental domain of invariant “symbolic” structures conditioning the social—“a social norm is not quite the same as a ‘symbolic position’ in the Lacanian sense, which appears to enjoy a quasi-timeless character” (pg. 20).  Butler then proceeds to propose, worded in several different manners, that Lacan’s transcendental stance is merely a theoretical “bluff” whose specious authority derives from nothing else besides the arbitrary, groundless rhetorical force of the repeated act of this stance’s enunciation—“The ideal form is still a contingent norm, but one whose contingency has been rendered necessary, a form of reification…  ‘It is the law!’ becomes the utterance that performatively attributes the very force to the law that the law itself is said to exercise” (pg. 21), and  “the very description of the symbolic as intractable law takes place within a fantasy of law as insurpassable authority.  In my view, Lacan at once analyzes and symptomatizes this fantasy” (pg. 30).  Butler’s clearest and most accurate articulation of this critical position with respect to Lacan(ianism) occurs when she explains that, “the symbolic is universal and contingent at once, enforcing an appearance of its universality but having no mandate outside itself that might serve as a transcendental ground for its own functioning.  Its function is to transcendentalize its claims, but this is not the same as saying that it has or maintains a transcendental ground.  The effect of transcendentality is an effect of the claim itself” (pg. 43).  Butler’s goal in carrying out this critique is to undermine what is described as Lacan’s hasty reification of transitory social codes and arrangements—“the very division between the psychic or symbolic, on the one hand, and the social, on the other, occasions this preemptory normalization of the social field” (pg. 69).  Given that this position resides at the center of Antigone’s Claim (as well as other recent publications in which Butler spells out her objections to Lacanianism and its influence), it deserves careful examination.

Although a few Lacan-inspired authors should be rebuked along these lines, Butler makes a straw man out of Lacan himself.  Her entire critique relies upon transforming Lacan into a new Émile Durkheim dressed up in the terminological clothing of classical structuralism à la Lévi-Strauss’ 1949 Elementary Structures of Kinship.  She thereby ignores the entirety of Lacan’s later work from the ‘60s and ‘70s, this being highly problematic even if one doesn’t bother to contest her reading of his 1950s period as itself a caricature.  Butler dismisses any possible refutations drawn from elements of Lacan’s teachings as nothing more than afterthoughts appended to a crude formalist ahistoricism, a vulgar outlook that she’s determined to attribute to him (“a social norm is not quite the same as a ‘symbolic position’ in the Lacanian sense, which appears to enjoy a quasi-timeless character, regardless of the qualifications offered in endnotes to various of the master’s seminars” [pg. 20]).  The qualifications are more than just “endnotes.”

The misunderstanding is initiated with Butler’s blurring of the distinction between “transcendental” and “transcendent” (when she says “transcendental,” more often than not it really means “transcendent”).  The former refers to something as a condition of possibility for something else;  a transcendental condition is a necessary “x” without which it would be impossible for a particular reality to arise.  The latter (“transcendent”) is closer to what Butler has in mind when she interrogates Lacan’s transcendentalism under the assumption that he departs from the work of Lévi-Strauss:  something is transcendent if it stands above something else, if it’s a general, overarching system pre-existing constituent elements falling under its jurisdiction.  It isn’t the case that Lacan treats the symbolic order as itself transcendental qua ahistorical (i.e., as a Kantian apriori).  For Lacan, the Geist of the polis, the big Other as “objective spirit” (to put it in appropriate Hegelian terms), is indeed a historically variable set of empirical components:  particular tongues, certain social rituals, various institutions and practices, etc.  Lacan isn’t such an idiot that he’d seek to deny this, carelessly transforming the contingencies of culture into timeless norms.  Additionally, Butler ignores an import shift that occurs in Lacan’s later seminars, a shift signaled by his declaration that “L’Autre n’existe pas.”  That is to say, the big Other as a transcendent symbolic order doesn’t exist or, if it does exist, it does so as a sort of virtual phantasm emerging within and attaching itself to the complex reality of human social links (see the discussions of positive versus negative determination and the constitutive role of non-existent phantasmatic elements below).  Butler also neglects to mention that, ten years after his seminar in which he examines Antigone, Lacan describes the Oedipus complex as Freud’s peculiar personal dream;  in the seventeenth seminar of 1969-1970, L’Envers de la psychanalyse, Lacan speaks of “L’Oedipe, rêve de Freud” in a section of seminar sessions entitled “Au-delà du complexe d’Oedipe.”  How can one, in light of this, accuse Lacan of blindly reifying the nuclear family as an eternal form?  In structuralist psychoanalysis, one can define the family in a sufficiently minimalistic fashion that the reification charge loses all its sting:  the “family” is simply the first social unit (qua set of ordered inter-human relationships) in which the psyche of the developing child finds itself.  What’s more, in equivocating between Lacan’s “transcendentalism” and his 1950s recourse to the primacy of the symbolic, Butler also conveniently avoids grappling with the “material” (real) as well as “experiential” (imaginary) features of psychical life that Lacan argues are essential to understanding why it is that subjectivity comes to be mediated by and dependent upon the grand Autre of a symbolic order.  Lacan’s true transcendentalism mobilizes all three of his registers, with the dynamic processes of interaction between the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary functioning as effective possibility conditions for human reality.  By itself, uncoupled from its entanglement with the real and the imaginary (à la the figure of the Borromean knot), the symbolic isn’t a transcendental function in the strictest of senses for Lacan.  Taking such complications into consideration would demand of Butler that, at a minimum, she add a little more subtlety to her position contra Lacan.

However, there is a grain of truth in Butler’s perspective.  Each culture’s symbolic order, while being historical, empirical, contingent, and so on, is nonetheless indeed transcendent.  Every individual human being is born into a world always-already shaped by linguistic, social, and political forms of existence.  But, for this very reason, a symbolic order simultaneously plays a transcendental role in relation to the subjects formed in their dialectical co-dependence with this mediating socio-linguistic sphere, with factors such as human beings’ biologically determined prematurational helplessness going a long way towards explaining why it’s the case that individuals are propelled into the mediating matrix of the family as the first social unit meeting their needs.  Butler pays no attention to this dimension of psychoanalytic metapsychology, apparently assuming that the constructivist take on the “sex” versus “gender” divide obviates any requirements of dealing with the non-symbolic body as an influence on symbolic positions and practices.

As should now be evident, Lacanian theory doesn’t require the kind of dubious dichotomy between the symbolic and the social remarked upon above.  An easy way to clarify matters here is to invoke the Freudian distinction between phylogeny and ontogeny.  The symbolic order is a historically contingent formation at the phylogenetic level, the level transcending the ontogenetic life history of the individual.  In an inverse correlation, for the particular subject whose self-identity is mediated by this pre-existent system, this same symbolic order is effectively transcendental in that it serves as a possibility condition for this form of subjectivity itself.  Without a (not “The”) symbolic order—Lacan’s later pluralization of the Name-of-the-Father, where he speaks of les-Noms-du-Père rather than le Nom-du-Père, indicates his willingness to entertain the notion of a multiplicity of symbolic systems corresponding to different social formations—the individual would not be a proper subject.  One could perhaps say that the massive time lag between the different diachronic speeds of phylogeny and ontogeny is partially responsible for this dual status of the symbolic as paradoxically both historical (with respect to the phylogenetic collective) and transcendental (with respect to the ontogenetic individual).  This temporal discrepancy makes it seems, from the vantage point of the individual subject’s perspective, as if the symbolic order is synchronic, which it de facto is given the slowness of its rates of change versus the comparative brevity and rapidity of the individual’s life history.  Butler fails to fully appreciate Lacan’s philosophical audacity in tacitly relying upon a rigid distinction between the historical and the transcendental to critique him.  But, what about Butler’s key assertion that the Lacanian transcendental emperor wears no clothes, in other words, that the binding force of the symbolic rests upon an empty performative act?  Is there no other reason for the symbolic’s authority apart from the bald, blunt assertion of this authority by those theorizing about it?

Again, the transcendence of the symbolic order in relation to particular subjects is of paramount importance here.  Individuals neither choose what kind of symbolic order to be born into nor have the liberty to capriciously forge their own idiosyncratic symbolic orders ex nihilo.  Saying otherwise is simply to misunderstand what a symbolic order is by definition.  Is Lacan wrong to presuppose that some kind of socio-linguistic system pre-dates the entry of each individual into the world?  Furthermore, beyond Lacanian theory itself, psychoanalysis in general is committed to the notion that, as the saying goes, “the child is the father of the man.”  A strange thing about Butler’s work is that, for some odd reason, she feels compelled to make the repeated attempt to integrate psychoanalytic ideas into her theories while, at the same time, repudiating the essential axioms upon which analytic metapsychology rests.  One is reminded of Slavoj Žižek’s examples of new consumer products involving a “substance deprived of its substance” (for example, caffeine-free diet Coca-Cola):  with Butler, one gets unconscious-free, fatherless psychoanalysis (her reading of Freud’s 1917 essay “Mourning and Melancholia,” in her 1997 book The Psychic Life of Power, exhibits the same downplaying of the power of the unconscious).  What does this have to do with the disagreement at hand?

A psychoanalytic/Lacanian rebuttal of Butler would be to observe that, by the time an individual could or would conceive of the project of rebelling against norms or transgressing Oedipal sexual patterns, it’s already, in a certain sense, too late.  As with the gap separating phylogeny and ontogeny, temporality is once more central in understanding the problems with Butler’s arguments.  The subject of psychoanalysis is a genetic one, a subjectivity that acquires its very foundations through the unfolding vicissitudes of various levels of mediation (especially the family as the first social context encountered by the impressionable psyche of the nascent subject-to-be).  In the beginning, there is no “I,” no locus for choosing what kind of socio-symbolic environment will be responsible for laying down the early, essential coordinates of a subsequently emerging subjectivity.  Later, of course, the subject can (apparently) opt to reject many features of his/her past, embarking upon projects of revolt and renewal.  Psychoanalysis doesn’t deny this possibility.  The fact of the existence of many types of “deviance” proves that transgressions of social rules can and do occur.  And, psychoanalysis shouldn’t, as Butler helps to remind readers, be too quick to pathologize “abnormal” behavior.

However, the analytic caveat in this context is that transgressions are always, at least in part, reactions against a reigning norm.  The power of early familial ties is not limited to the common conception of the Oedipus complex as positively conditioning the libidinal economy (i.e., directly bequeathing a sexual identity to individuals as well as steering their object-choices).  Due to the fact that psychoanalysis denies that people can choose to make a total and complete break with the past—nobody can entirely escape their life history—socio-symbolic features also “negatively condition” the subjects they help to forge.  Part of what makes people who they are, psychoanalytically speaking, aren’t just the modes through which they emulate early Oedipal authority figures based on internalizations and identifications (i.e., positive determination), but also, additionally, the numerous and unpredictable ways in which they respond by struggling to differentiate themselves from these figures (i.e., negative determination).  Butler’s theory of performativity could, charitably viewed, be understood as a means of stressing the diversity of reactions against conditioning factors.  Nonetheless, whether embracing or repudiating his/her prior conditions, the subject invariably remains in both a conscious and unconscious rapport with what came before.

Again, Butler is correct to observe that symbolic structures are never flawlessly reproduced.  To put it in the simplest of terms, children never turn out to be exact replicas of their parents, regardless of whether or not the parents want this.  Likewise, counterbalancing some of Butler’s Foucauldian social constructivist tendencies, external power mechanisms are inherently incapable of flawlessly imprinting their patterns upon their subjects (with psychoanalysis helping to explain why this is true—Freud emphasizes that the unconscious and the id cannot be “educated” by external reality past a certain point).  But, this doesn’t mean that symbolic structures are fictions so fragile that their ephemeral power can be made to completely dissipate through the mere fiat of acting-out against the avatars of familial and social authority.  The fact that there are “errors” in the transcription of norms as symbolic codes doesn’t mean that there is no code in the process of being transcribed—Butler sometimes pushes her performativity thesis farther than it is genuinely capable of stretching.

In a kind of “scorched earth tactic” response to Butler, maybe one could even go so far as to claim that, while nobody ever completely embodies a given norm or structure (for example, the Lacanian “symbolic father” doesn’t exist as one exemplary instance walking around within an empirical field of actual fathers), the norm/structure has its own peculiar way of existing.  These symbolic forms “ex-ist” as a negativity haunting individual socialized agents, inscribed in their being as lacking, as impossible to fully live up to in the flesh (Kant’s metaphysics of morals, at stake in Lacan’s seventh seminar to a much greater extent than Antigone, offers an example of such impossibilities as inscribed within the subject itself).  Butler wants to believe that these spectral structures haunting human social reality can be exorcised, that one can eliminate the often painful and undesirable effects of their (non-)presence.  She speaks the truth when she observes that symbolic structures and norms are ultimately just individual as well as collective fantasies (it’s not for nothing that Lacan compares the phallus to an imaginary number, as well as, more generally, frequently referring to many of the concepts he utilizes as “non-existent”).  The Lacanian qualification, being the little difference that makes all the difference, amounts to insisting that non-existent, fantasmatic elements play a necessary, constitutive role in the forging and sustenance of human experiential reality, and that these (unconscious) fantasies, although variable, resist unrestricted modification at the behest of the subjected subject.

As already seen, Butler speaks of Lacanian theory as seduced by “a fantasy of law as insurpassable authority.”  Basically, the charge is that Lacanians desire an omnipotent father figure.  Consequently, rather than having good reasons for theoretically utilizing notions like the “symbolic” and “structure,” those employing Lacan’s ideas are moved by insidious ulterior motives.  Should one risk replying in the same terms?  By suggesting that all “norms” are contingent and alterable via “parodic performativity,” Butler panders to the persistent urge in people to believe that they are “masters of their own destiny.”  Despite the qualifications she would likely tack on here in reaction to this accusation, Butler’s project is secretly enthralled by fantasies of the limitless plasticity of an auto-fashioning self as well as titillating, risk-free provocations against impotent paternal authorities.  How could one avoid construing this as a regressive reaction against Freud’s “Copernican revolution?”  Butler “castrates” psychoanalysis, continuing to make reference to it in her own work, but only insofar as it remains demurely compatible with the agendas of certain socio-political and lifestyle movements.  And, she repeatedly fails to mention a single word about the super-ego as a possible barrier inhibiting or perverting enacted rebellions.  Moreover, couldn’t all this be interpreted as representing precisely the sort of negative determination that the ostensibly non-existent norm gives rise to as an overdetermined effect?  Among other features of her writing, these suspicions are reinforced by the symptomatic recurrence of a single adjective in Antigone’s Claim.  Again and again, Butler refers to those topics and opinions she highlights for praise as “scandalous.”  This is all so terribly transgressive, isn’t it?  Won’t the heterosexist patriarchy be threatened and enraged to its very core by another reading of Sophocles?  One feels tempted to ask exactly who is doing the fantasizing here.

Apart from the matter of whether or not Butler’s criticisms of Lacan’s transcendentalist tendencies are justified, the entire strategy of Antigone’s Claim is of dubious merit.  All too frequently, perhaps due to the pervasive influence of Derridean deconstruction upon tactics of contemporary interpretation, continental thinkers are under the impression that if a theory makes reference to a literary figure or text then this figure or text functions as a “Trojan horse.”  The theorist using a literary example cannot control the plurality of effects resulting from the textual reference.  Although a philosopher, for example, might want to use a scene from a novel as an example of a certain description of a human emotional reaction, those accepting a deconstructionist view dogmatically insist that this philosopher cannot cordon off this borrowed part of the novel as a mere metaphor or subservient, secondary representation of a purely intellectual form.  Those features not mentioned by the theoretical borrower of the literary text can be used to internally dismantle the conceptual architecture of the philosophical edifice into which literature has been invited.  Why this is always the case remains a bit of a mystery.  Perhaps an inversion of Kant’s categorical imperative as “You can, because you must!” is at work:  it must be true that the literary text deconstructs the philosophical text that refers to it… why?—because, with a little creative effort, one can successfully perform such an operation.  The ultimate ethical slogan of deconstructionist interpretation would thus be “You must, because you can!”  How is this relevant to Butler’s approach?  Many interpreters of the Freudian legacy (not just Butler) make the mistake of apparently assuming that the psychoanalytic concept of the Oedipus complex is derived from Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex.  One glance at Freud’s writings shows that this puts the cart before the horse.  After first formulating his ideas about how early childhood “family romances” impact the psychical development of the individual, Freud then subsequently compares his theory to the tragic figure of the Theban king.  The play furnishes Freud with a handy name for his notion of the relation between psyche and family.  However, as should go without saying, the concept of the Oedipus complex isn’t dependent upon or developed out of the text Oedipus Rex.  The Oedipus complex is the result of Freud’s careful observation and analysis of living, breathing human beings, not an empty theoretical flourish arrived at through an unorthodox reading of a piece of literature.  If Freud hadn’t happened to incidentally drop Oedipus’ name, would people be trying to evaluate his work by talking about Sophocles rather than examining present-day clinical and cultural evidence?  (Similarly, what if Lacan hadn’t been his own worst enemy by stubbornly clinging to Freud’s outdated “sexist” terminology despite his far-reaching revisions of these concepts in ways that subvert their standard sexual connotations?)  Whether or not every single detail of Sophocles’ tragedies accords with the system of metapsychology is irrelevant as far as the genuine truth-criteria for psychoanalysis as a theory of human nature goes.  Using, as Butler does, a fictional character to contest a body of knowledge built on the study of factual individuals is an approach of highly questionable worth.

Antigone’s Claim consists of three chapters, with the preceding controversies dominating the first two chapters (“Antigone’s Claim” and “Unwritten Laws, Aberrant Transmissions”).  The third and final chapter circumnavigates its way back towards the play Antigone.  When asked to justify her defiance of Creon’s edict, Antigone explains that the reason she had to bury Polyneices’ corpse was that Polyneices, as a brother begotten from two parents now dead, is singularly “irreplaceable.”  Butler insightfully underscores the falsity of this rationalization.  However, her reasons for doing so hinge on the fact that, as a child of incest, Antigone’s father is also her brother.  Thus, the body of Polyneices might very well be an overdetermined object in the strict Freudian sense (i.e., an object that covertly serves as a point of condensation for a plurality of other “objects”), simultaneously representing Polyneices, Eteocles, Oedipus, and maybe even Antigone herself (given her “becoming masculine” during the confrontation with Creon).  Antigone’s conscious sense of its irreplaceable singularity might mask the unconscious multiplicity of figures converging upon it.

What’s telling is the reason for the falsity of Antigone’s “claim” that Butler passes over in silence:  Ismene, the living sister that Antigone treats in the harshest and most unforgiving of ways, is also “irreplaceable,” being a sibling born from the same two dead parents.  Antigone places greater value on an inert piece of no-longer-living matter than on the only remaining sibling she has left in this world, a sibling who loves her dearly and will be emotionally crushed by Antigone’s death at Creon’s hands.  As the chorus says, Antigone is in love with death.  Many interpreters portray Antigone as a heroine.  And yet, contrary to this reading, doesn’t Sophocles provide ample evidence that she is just as flawed and disastrous a model as Creon, that this is a murky drama with neither protagonist nor antagonist?  Such hints abound in the play.  Antigone and Creon, both described by the chorus as sharing the same fatal character flaws of being “inflexible” and “headstrong,” meet with perfectly mirrored fates.  She becomes “alive while dead” by being buried alive as her punishment for treating the dead Polyneices as being of equal or greater standing compared with her last living relative (a relative she could be said to treat as already “dead” to her, especially as expressed by her words during the scene in Creon’s court where Ismene is summoned to stand side-by-side with her condemned sister).  Correlatively, Creon ends up “dead while living,” as he himself describes life after the suicides of his son and wife.  This is his divine, fated punishment for treating the living Antigone as a dead corpse, as well as for treating the dead Polyneices as a living criminal.

Antigone rejects Ismene’s compromise, proposed at the play’s opening, of secretly performing the burial rites.  Antigone stubbornly insists upon publicizing her flouting of Creon’s edict.  As she admits when questioned by Creon after having been caught in the act, Antigone already knows full well the prescribed sentence for transgression:  death by public stoning.  Then, just after Creon changes his mind and decides to have her entombed alive outside the city of Thebes (rather than executed before the watching eyes of the citizenry), Antigone lapses into a lament.  Her defiant language and explicit insistence upon accepting sole responsibility for her decision gives way to a moment of weakness in which she bemoans her troubled childhood, her bad family background, and the reckless behavior of Polyneices.  Before Creon’s change of mind about the nature of the punishment, she and she alone “did the deed,” whereas, afterwards, everyone else but her is now suddenly to blame.  The chorus chimes in to remind her that, as the saying goes, she’s lying in the bed she made for herself.  Everything abruptly shifts right at the moment where she’s deprived of the public spectacle of martyrdom.  What kind of heroine, feminist or otherwise, is this?  And, with reference to the concept of negative determination outlined earlier, doesn’t the fact that Creon occupies the socio-symbolic position previously occupied by Antigone’s father—Butler herself, as seen above, has no reservations about positing the existence of overdetermined objects—say something about the unconscious catalysts for her overt act of disobedience?  Is she truly outside of the “law of the father” that Butler is so quick to declare as fragile and deposable?

Why is Judith Butler fascinated by Antigone, falling under the spell of what Lacan isolates as Antigone’s Atè, her terrible beauty, her inhuman splendor?  Everything in Antigone’s Claim is steered by the polemics against Hegelian social philosophy and structuralist psychoanalysis in the name of “radical sexual politics.”  Antigone is fascinating for Butler on several levels:  she confounds gender roles, she doesn’t come from a typical nuclear family, she perhaps harbors incestuous desires for her other male family members, and she doesn’t end her life as a happily married woman with children.  But, does this mean that queer theorists, gay activists, and feminists should draw some sort of strange inspiration from a fictional tale of incest that concludes as a calamitous tragedy?  Are all deviations from “the Norm” similar or identical?  To what extent is homosexuality incestuous or, psychoanalytically speaking, more incestuous than heterosexuality?  Furthermore, is the only way to “rewrite” normative sexual codes through a violent passage à l’acte, through suicidal provocations of socio-political authority?  If Antigone is the ideal to be followed, then the prospects for those wishing to “live otherwise” today look a bit bleak.

The quantity of criticism here indicates that Butler at least has the merit of advancing assertions that are extreme enough to warrant an extended reply.  The robustness and spiritedness of her sustained confrontation with psychoanalysis is refreshing within an intellectual climate of placating consensuses.  In continental philosophy, people are too frequently worried about being polite by complementing texts and authors they might not actually agree with;  theoretical stringency is sacrificed for the sake of academic civility.  Butler isn’t afraid to step on a few toes when she comes across ideas she thinks are misguided.

Furthermore, other aspects of Butler’s work also deserve to be praised.  Although her critique of Lacan misfires, this shot strikes a deserving target:  as anyone in empirical anthropology today already knows, but as many continental theorists have yet to learn, Lévi-Strauss is essentially dead.  This isn’t to concede any ground on the importance of the Oedipal family.  However, reducing familial and social relations to the prohibition of incest is quite simplistic and risks concealing other layers of structural complexity.  Since many psychoanalytically inspired feminists still, whether knowingly or not, take “the elementary laws of kinship” for granted as part of their background assumptions, Butler is justified in alerting her audience to the problematic status of this dated thesis.  Also, her general notion of performativity qua repetition-as-impossible has great philosophical and psychoanalytic potential, once no longer shackled exclusively to the program of a politics of alternative lifestyles.  This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with Butler’s political agenda in and of itself (using one of Butler’s own examples, when Lacanian clinicians argue that a homosexual parental couple will likely induce psychoses is the children that they rear due to the lack of a “true” father, Butler is right, even on purely Lacanian grounds alone, to heap scorn on this hypothesis).  This review should not, under any circumstances, be misconstrued as an indictment of her views on, for instance, the position of homosexuals in modern-day western societies.  Contesting her critique of Lacan’s alleged transcendentalist ahistoricism is not tantamount to endorsing some sort of homophobic phallocracy.  It should also be said that embracing certain Lacanian ideas doesn’t invariably lock one into conservatively resisting any and every measure taken towards concrete social change, although a general Freudo-Lacanian outlook often encourages one to have a healthy degree of pessimism about just how much can be hoped for from the implementation of some of these changes.

What is questionable is the feasibility of forcing a shotgun marriage between psychoanalytic theory and feminist/gay politics in which the descriptive discourse of the former is made wholly subservient to the prescriptive injunctions of the latter.  It would be really interesting to see Butler make a more “radical” argument:  even if, descriptively speaking, psychoanalysis’ portrayal of the Oedipalized psyche is descriptively true/accurate, the prescriptive ethico-political domain sometimes “demands the impossible,” namely, the bracketing of these objectively true descriptions in an attempt to reconsider the installation of laws and the definition of rights (as Kant himself demonstrates, accurate descriptions of human nature can and should be ignored by “pure practical reason”).  Instead of insisting, as she does, upon the fictitious status of many psychoanalytic concepts, why not shift into a different strategic mode where discursive “fictions” (in this case, denials of psychical realities) are grasped as the very vehicles for altering the status quo?  But, on the other hand, Butler’s criticisms do have the benefit of reminding psychoanalytic theorists to seriously ponder the socio-political repercussions of employing their specific set of conceptual tools.

Butler’s challenge to structuralist modes of analysis entails, at root, calling into question the relation between the exception and the rule.  Is there, as with many snippets of “common sense” or “popular wisdom,” some truth to the old cliché that “the exception proves the rule?”  At a minimum, contrary to Butler, just because there’s an exception doesn’t automatically entail the nullification of the rule.  If anything—and the conclusion articulated here is itself a kind of “performative reiteration” of the Butlerian performativity thesis paradoxically arrived at through the very activity of critiquing her own position—psychoanalysis shows how the vitality of the living rule is sustained precisely within the ungovernable plurality of the deviations it engenders.


© 2002 Adrian Johnston


Adrian Johnston, Ph.D. holds a position as interdisciplinary research fellow in psychoanalysis at Emory University. 


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