A colleague wrote to me a few months ago (and I haven’t forgot it) that I supposedly “live” my teaching.
This means a lot to me because it implies that, despite my eating disorder, I have somehow been capable of digesting certain crucial theories, lessons, knowledges, discourses; moreover, in some sense, I have made them a part of my own body.
A significant part of my teaching has been about love. It has been a theory of love developed over the course of about a decade. It is a theory that presumes that love occurs in various dimensions or registers. So, it does not begin, necessarily, within the real (as Alain Badiou’s theory would have it). Yet, neither does it begin necessarily in the imaginary (e.g., psychoanalytic transference).
There are modalities of love, manifold contours of love.
For instance: there is the love of the psychoanalytic clinic. In this case, love is often understood as a form of transference. One should be wary of love, then. Love is a symptom.
There is also the love of philosophy — a love of knowledge — akin to symptomatic love. A love of knowledge has the same structure as the love of an image, ego love, and so on, because it is a love of the body. In other words, it is a love of consistency.
There is the love of anti-philosophers: love as an experience, deeply embedded within the existential cruelty of a singular encounter. In this way, anti-philosophy is close to mysticism. The two share a belief that love is an absolute connection within the real that either surpasses language or else should never be imprisoned by inadequacies of language.
This was the love of Derrida, who refused so often to articulate his love. It is the love of the mystics whose love for god was beyond words. It was a love that they believed forged a direct and unmediated connection to the divine.
There is the love of sociologists: love as a distinctive social bond. This is similar also to the psychoanalytic position of love except that there is an added insistence on love as a link or discourse.
Finally, there is the revolutionary dimension of love. This is love as a strategy of dealing with the real: it is a courageous encounter against temptation, it is a difficult movement through the disruptive love event. It is fidelity, as such. Love is a disruption of the world as it currently exists, and it forces the militant of love to articulated its consequences, to develop and guard a new truth concerning the encounter.
These have been some of the coordinates for my foray into love.
If, at one time, these modalities seemed relatively mutually exclusive, today I see them as sharing certain structural properties.
At the centre of my teaching for a very long time was Alain Badiou’s conception of love. I wrote it into the centre of my teaching. It supported my love of a woman, it supported the love of my wife. So Badiou’s theory of love always secretly overruled the deeper and more nuanced psychoanalytic conception of love. No wonder my first gift to my ex-wife was a wrapped copy of “In Praise of Love” by Alain Badiou.
And where did I put that gift for her to find? I put it inside of the hole of a tree. Love here clearly filled the hole.
When my little theory of love was destroyed by experience — that is, when my love transformed into a lonely masochism — I held onto that theory still in desperation. I held onto the love-event. It felt it as a revolutionary decision or necessity, and if I let it go then I would have no intellectual life.
Indeed, I would just have a big hole in the tree trunk of my heart.
Alain Badiou’s account of love does not enough take into consideration all of the various folds of love. For Lacan, love is giving what you do not have (to somebody who does not want it). But, for Lacan, love is also what makes up for the lack. These were Lacan’s two fundamental convictions on the question of love.
If the one was a courageous position —
[giving what you do not have is truly courageous. If somebody gives what they do not have (instead of giving gifts, knowledge, support, and so on) then you can be sure of the love. It is a guarantee of love.
The anorexic knows this better than any other: the anorexic refuses the food and opts for the nothing itself. Why? As a demand for love. The anorexic sometimes thinks: “if I reject the food, perhaps my mother will be worried about me and provide me with the love that I so desire!”]
— then the other is a cowardly position: love makes up for the lack. This means that we run to love to fill the void of existence. This is the position of a person who would do anything, out of desperation, indeed out of despair, to fill the void with love. This is a love of temptation. It is love as a symptom. It is the love of a symptom.
What the psychoanalytic position therefore adds to Alain Badiou’s theory of love is the following: sometimes the love event can occur from the masculine position.
For example, I dedicated my last book to a woman who later became my ex-wife. I believed her to be my true love and I gave her everything I had. I had no idea that she was operating for me as an anchor, as a symptom. Woman is a symptom of man, claimed Lacan.
I held onto the love-event without realizing that it was from the masculine side of sexuation.
The epigraph of my book now reads: “For [myself], for remaining in fidelity to the love event (without realizing that you loved only from the masculine position.”
Recall that the masculine side of sexuation demonstrates that man loves (against his own castration) the objet petit a as phantasy. What I fell in love with for so many years was a phantasy. I could not see or come to admit the profound cruelty and sickness of the real woman, and so I produced the most elaborate and profound phantasy of our love.
This is why we need psychoanalysis.