In Praise of Intensity in Love

For the last few months I’ve been giving very close attention to love as a revolutionary category (cf., my last post about love here). I’ve considered the possibility that love has too often been relegated, or, if you like, sutured, to a particular field. Philosophy, then, allows us to bring to light a conceptual understanding of the different forms or stages of love. For example, I’ve claimed that there is a mystical version of love. The mystical version of love is the one which claims some obscure, undescribable and therefore unmediated connection between one person and another. The hysterical or psychoanalytical version of love is the one offered to us by Lacan and Zizek. For them, love is reducible to the transference encountered during the clinical setting. Thus, love in the everyday world is absolutely similar to the sort of love one feels for (the place occupied by) one’s analyst during the clinical session. Finally, philosophical love is the sort of love which allows us to rationally express mystical love and to realize the dangers and usefulness of hysterical love. Thus, by virtue of the fact that philosophy always comes after, as a time for understanding, it would be true, then, that the philosopher is wise enough to have passience (I invented this word, here, as a way to describe the fusion of the concepts of passion and patience). A philosopher has passience enough to defer his own hysteria so as to approach the moment of understanding.

The philosopher is a bit like the analyst then, in that he gives meaning to an obscure situation or feeling. Recall that the analyst’s discourse has but one ongoing clinical objective: “What is at stake in analytic discourse is always the following: you give a different reading to the signifiers that are enunciated than what they signify” (Lacan, Seminar XX – [note: the seminar on Love and Sexuality]). The analyst’s immediate objective is always to provide meaning for the relationship that occurs between the hysterical analysand and his Other and this, precisely, is the love of hysterical love. The philosopher’s love is a profound and perverse love of hysteria and all of its drama – it is a love of psychoanalytic love. The philosopher’s passience thereby involves the passion for the patient’s coming-to-understand, as well as the patience for the passion of the patient’s moment of psychical and behavioral change. In a sense, then, the philosopher intends to arouse a certain curiosity and excitement in the patient; the philosopher intends to demonstrate that the only thing that the analysand loves is the fantasy of recognition from an Other.

This, then, leads me to the new concept, intensity. I would like to reserve the concept of intensity to describe an experience that occurs after passience – it is an act which moves beyond the love of hysterical love. Undoubtedly, revolutionary love requires philosophical love – just as philosophical love requires hysterical love, and so on – but there is something truly unique that happens during revolutionary love. What is not unique is the fact that revolutionary love requires passience. One must be patient for revolutionary love to occur. But one must also have patience for it to occur – one must be prepared to never feel love at all rather than to delude oneself into believing that one has love when all one really has is (a) an understanding of another’s love, or (b) a love of the recognition of an Other. Hysterical love is a struggle, but it is a struggle only with an immediate fantasy. Conversely, revolutionary love is a struggle because it is a struggle to respond to an event. After all, it really is a struggle to live without (the consequences of) an event, it really is a weakness in our character to invent an event where there is none. In other words, it is a struggle to live without love. This is why revolutionary love is an intensity. Revolutionary love is an intensity because it is a provocation which stretches the body out, effectively breaking it, so as to force the revolutionary figure to invent for himself a new body and thus a new way of life. The revolutionary figure is thus in fidelity to the event only when he allows this intensity to speak through him as a truth.

This is why I depart radically from Alain Badiou’s philosophy of love. Badiou can only understand love and give meaning to an encounter that already happened. Conversely, revolutionary love has the intensity to love a world that is not prepared to love the revolutionary back. A lover is a revolutionary when he is prepared to give up everything for that fleeting encounter that he knows to be true. Does love not occur, then, when one gives everything to a lover that he once failed – perhaps without this former lover even knowing it – from behind the curtains? One can imagine a situation in which a man is in hysterical love with a woman and drives her to break up with him, after which he finally finds himself provoked by an event in which he can express anew his love for her: but only by working on himself, or by ensuring that she has the life that she deserves with the man that she deserves, and so on. Does love not happen in those instances when one loves the other so much that he is willing to not let her know it to be true? This, to me, is a love without recognition, without mystical immediacy, and without a lack of description – it is revolutionary love. The revolutionary lover is the only figure in the world who has ever felt genuine love.


One thought on “In Praise of Intensity in Love

  1. this is very hard to bear, but perhaps has a needed ring of truth. is full recognition even possible? or do we merely co-exist in the space of misrecognition. the courtly expression of deferal which bears only a secondary lack. the revolutionary lover does not need to express the truth of his love perhaps because he does not want to reiterate the mystical position, he finds passion and patience sufficient to his life, and does not require a purity as such. mystical love, which I might call denotive love; a love which merely designates it’s own occurences without intentionally producing a world in which love can traverse – through language / letters .
    after all, does not revolutionary love make a new world as such? perhaps even with no recognition, no expectation, but providing a jouissance for the women to lodge herself. for her to be loved while loving someone else.

    the revolutionary lover does not require recognition, but how are we to avoid the whimsical nature of openness if we don’t have a radical fidelity to a past event. limits rather than absolute exclusion (of anticipation of recognition) seem necessary and how else than philosophical reflection on love. though like Kierkegaard, not to make an object of love, for with Badiou one must not make love the sole conditon of philosophy. perhaps I’m suggesting that Badiou’s love does have some elements of radical love, in that he affirms the chance of love, the necessity of affirming chance, which is not randomness – which would be fatalistic, but rather an intention. my reading of nietszchian affirmation of chance is that one must intended to win before throwing the dice, to find the right combinatiom, and thus to make plans, to meet up, and not wait for an accidental encounter, even if the first encounter was accidental. the affirmation of chance is only after an inevitable betrayal of intentions, ie, the combination was other than what was anticipated, or worse hystically longed for – even if that really wasn’t what the lover wanted.

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