Machine Ghost

Malabou and Badiou

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Some parts from Malabou’s What Should We Do with Our Brain? that’s helping me think through Badiou’s Theory of the Subject:

From Marc Jennerod’s foreword:

The analogy between cerebral organization and socioeconomic organization should thus, at the very least, lead us to an awareness of the relation between the subject and his brain. Abandoning the thesis of a rigid, predetermined, directing organ for the thesis of a supple, adaptable, plastic organ permits the political emancipation of the brain, the transition from a ‘soviet’ to a ‘liberal’ brain. But what is the consequence of this conceptual reversal for each individual? The brain itself has not changed. Humans in the Middle Ages, the Industrial Revolution, and the liberal revolution all have had the same brain, with the same capacities for learning and adaptation. What changes is the organization of society, the outcome of organizational forces and macroscopic interactions over which the brain has little influence. Thus the problem is, rather, that of understanding how an individual brain can respond to the challenges of its social environment (xiii-xiv).

From Malabou:

The brain is a work, and we do not know it. We are its subjects–authors and produces at once–and we do not know it. ‘Humans make their own history, but they do not know that they make it,’ says Marx, intending thereby to awaken a consciousness of historicity (1).

For me, this helped me understand what Badiou is referring to with the notion of the “obstacle of the real”–the idea of a chain and the forces that involuntarily push and pull on the subjects.  As Malabou questions, is the brain more plastic or flexible?

She defines the two terms as such:

plastic: to receive form and to give form

flexible: to adapt

These two terms are quite different, but Malabou argues that we use them interchangeably–maybe Badiou’s subject is really thinks it is a plastic subject, but in reality is only a flexible one because of what is pushed against it. (I guess in that sense it is “reacting” so it might be plastic.)  Anyway, I’m just starting Malabou, so there could be some other points that take me off this bit soon. More Badiou reading group next Wednesday, too.

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Written by kimlacey

January 17, 2010 at 11:02 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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