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Kristeva 2007, Rethinking Normative Conscience

Kristeva 2007, Rethinking Normative Conscience

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Published by: hollstes on Mar 21, 2009
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10/06/2014

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RETHINKING “NORMATIVECONSCIENCE”
The Task of the Intellectual Today
 Julia Kristeva
It is common knowledge that the “intellectual” is an Enlightenment gure whoseprototypes date back to the French encylopedists Rousseau, Voltaire, and Diderot.In the atermath o the crisis o religion to which these names are connected, thenineteenth and twentieth centuries gave rise to new orms o thought that wereto become the “human and social sciences” or, more simply, the “humanities.” These disciplines progressively ltered into the university, notably the Ameri-can university, though there remain “media personality” intellectuals outside theacademy committed to the same radical overhaul o thought. In taking over romtheology and philosophy, the humanities replaced the “divine” and the “human” with new objects o investigation: social bonds, the structures o kinship, ritesand myths, the psychic lie, the genesis o languages, and written works. We haveby these means acquired an unprecedented understanding — one that disturbscomplacency and hence meets with resistance and censorship o the richnessand risks o the human mind. Still, as promising as these territories are, thusconstituted they ragment human experience; heirs to metaphysics, they keepus rom identiying new objects o investigation. Crossing boundaries between
Common Knowledge
13:2-3DOI 10.1215/0961754X-2007-005© 2007 by Duke University Press
219
Symposium: A “Dictatorship of Relativism”?
 
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compartmentalized elds does not in itsel suce to construct the intellectuallie that we need now. What matters is that rom the outset the thinking subjectshould connect his thought to his being in the world through an aective “trans-erence” that is also political and ethical. In my own case, the clinical practiceo psychoanalysis, the writing o novels, and work in the social domain are not“commitments” additional to my theoretical and scholarly work. Rather, theseactivities are an extension o a mode o thinking at which I aim and which I con-ceive as an
energeia
in the Aristotelian sense: thought as act, the actualization o intelligence.In my experience to take the most relevant instance the interpreta-tion o texts and behavior, notably in the light o psychoanalysis, opens up anew approach to the world o religion.
 
 The discovery o the unconscious by Freud showed us that ar rom being “illusions” — while nevertheless being illu-sions religions, belies, and other orms o spirituality shelter, encourage, orexploit speciable psychic movements that allow the human being to become aspeaking subject and a source o culture or, conversely, a source o destruction. The reverence or law, the celebration o the paternal unction, and the role o maternal passion as the child’s sensorial and prelinguistic support are examples o this process at work. My analytic practice has convinced me that when a patientcomes or psychoanalysis, he is asking or a kind o orgiveness, not to ease hismalaise but to nd psychic or even physical rebirth. The new beginning madepossible through transerence and interpretation I call
 for-giveness 
: to give (and togive not just to onesel) a new sel, a new time, unoreseen ties. In this context, werecognize the complexity o the internal experience that religious aith cultivates,but we also bring to light the hate that takes the guise o lovers’ discourse, as wellas the death drive channeled to merciless wars and political vengeance. A new conception o the human is in the process o being constituted outo contributions rom elds in the humanities where transcendence is consideredimmanent. The new conception is o the human as synonymous with the desireor meaning, and o that desire as inseparable rom pleasure, which is rooted insexuality and which decrees both the sublimity o culture and the brutality o “acting out.” The intellectual today is conronted with a dicult, historic task commensurate with our now-dicult juncture in the history o civilization. Thetask is neither more nor less than to coax this new type o knowledge to emergeprogressively. In order to do so, we use the technical terms o our specic eldsbut without reducing them to their strict meaning, which is always too narrow. By positioning ourselves at the interace o the diverse disciplines o the humanities, we give ourselves the opportunity to clariy, even i only a little, the enigmas wehave still to comprehend: psychosis, murderous hate, the war o male and emale,maternal madness, nihilism, passion, sublimation, and belie.

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