Two Ways of Hacking up People J.

Stewart, Carleton University 2000 Both Alfred Hitchcock and Ian Hacking have engaged in projects that explore some idea of ‘personality disorder’ within particular models of personhood. Ultimately, both propose some clear problems for self-knowledge. My goal is to examine what models of personhood, as well as which issues of self-knowledge are here at stake, first in Psycho1, and then especially in Hacking’s seminal paper “Making up People”.2 I will suggest how Psycho is faithful to a general Cartesian picture of mind, and what problem this implies. I will then examine what issues of personhood and self-knowledge are at stake for Hacking. My interest is to show how Psycho contributes to a particular understanding of Hacking’s work. Part I Making it scary: Multiple Personality according to Hitchcock There are important and interesting reasons why Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is a fascinating and terrifying film experience. Much to Hitchcock’s credit, knowing ahead of time how the movie comes out in the end does not deter its effective creepiness. What becomes more incredible and haunting than the horrible acts Norman Bates commits is the explanation offered of why he did what he did. Or more appropriately, why he didn’t do what “he” did. At its end, the film suggests that it is possible to interpret what Norman Bates did, and at this point Hitchcock truly begins to tell a horror story. Much more shocking than some fatal knifings committed in a shower is not so much the idea that “person” and “body” do not necessarily come in 1-1 ratios, but further that it is possible to be denied access to and awareness of some other consciousness going on in your head and having a relationship with the actions of your body. This is the wildest attack of first-person authority possible while still affirming its basic premises: Sure you and only you have direct access to your thoughts and 1 All footnotes to “Psycho” are taken from the 1960 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. MCA Home Video, trademark 1987. 2 Ian Hacking, "Making Up People," in Reconstructing Individualism: Autonomy, Individuality, and the Self in Western Thought, ed. by Weller, Sosna, and Wellberry, Stanford University Press, 1986 2 feelings, but what if there are times when the Cartesian projector is running, but “you” are not in the theater? To explain what specific Cartesian inheritance I mean, let’s examine how the audience is invited to accept a particular story of Norman Bates, a story that is faithful to the Cartesianstyle picture I just mentioned. The final scene of Psycho, the “explanation”, is given through (none other than) a representative of the institution of psychiatry. The scene begins with all the characters (that are still alive) waiting in a room. The Sheriff notes, “Well if anyone can get any answers, it will be the psychiatrist. Even I couldn’t get to Norman, and he knows me.” At that point, right on cue, the psychiatrist enters the room. “Did he talk to you?” someone asks. “No” is his reply. Following a pause, the psychiatrist continues: I got the whole story. But not from Norman. I got it … from his mother. Norman Bates no longer exists. He only half-existed to begin with. And now, the other half has taken

over…probably for all time. What follows is the testimony of this expert as to the profound state of Norman’s mental confusion. He explains how Norman Bates came to commit matricide, (which the psychiatrist claims is “the most unbearable crime of them all. Most unbearable to the son who commits it”), develop a seriously paranoid and disturbed manifestation of dual personality, and murder at least three other women and two other men. As we are told by the psychiatrist, Norman’s story unfolds according to the following kind of pattern: It begins with a certain type of environment: A dysfunctional relationship with his mother (she is highly manipulative and demanding) and pronounced isolation (he lives entirely alone with his small family). Next, a specific kind of event: One that is highly shocking and traumatic (the sudden death of his father). This event intensifies the dysfunctional nature of his environment, for now he is entirely alone with his overbearing mother in complete isolation. (The psychiatrist takes care to note with emphasized disdain: “His mother was a clinging, demanding woman. And for years, the two of them lived as if there was no one else in the world. Then, she met a man…”) Their relationship is degenerate enough for Norman to be highly disturbed at this point, and when his mother takes a lover, his intertwined 3 existence with her is dangerously threatened. It proves to be the catalyst of a series of fatal intrusions upon this isolated world that shapes Norman’s highly fragile psyche. He was simply doing everything possible to keep alive the illusion that his mother was alive. And when reality came too close…when danger or desire threatened that illusion…he dressed up. Even used a cheap wig he bought. He’d walk about the house, sit in her chair, speak in her voice. He tried to be his mother. And aah … now he is. Now that’s what I meant when I said I got the story from the mother. You see, when the mind houses two personalities, there’s always a conflict. A battle. In Norman’s case, the battle is over. And the dominant personality has won. (Emphasis mine) This explanation gets off the ground only if Norman Bates is straightforwardly a Cartesian subject with respect to constitutive self-knowledge.3 That is, unless we understand that the ability to access his innermost thoughts, feelings, and memories is necessarily a privileged ability constitutive of Norman as an agent, then it could not make sense to say that his mind “houses” a personality, let alone more than one. Norman’s personality is itself understood as that selfcontained set of memories, feelings, and intentional states to which Norman has introspective access to. Norman is positioned as a self-knowing subject insofar as his knowledge is grounded in certainties about access to his mental states. Ultimately, however, Norman Bates is given a legitimate claim to not knowing about the “self” who committed these murders. Norman, apparently, has no access to the experiential memory of killing Marion Crane and others. The move that says ‘Norman’ does not have access to these ‘other’ memories, and therefore these other memories belong to someone other than Norman, is a move that still takes the criteria of personhood to be self-contained first person

privileged access. This move still identifies agents as a set of first-person accessible thoughts and memories. As soon as Norman fails to be a collection of self-contained first-person accessible thoughts, he fails to exist as anything we can make sense of as a proper agent. Suddenly, we insist on making sense of him as two agents, since (we want to say) there are, now, two sets of first-person accessible thoughts. 3 Not to mention some kind of psychoanalytic example of degenerate attachment to unstable parental figures. 4 The personality who does remember killing those people is now, according to the psychiatrist, the only personality laying claim to the present experiences of this body. We ought to say, according to the psychiatrist, that “Norman Bates” no longer exists. Norman Bates no longer satisfies the necessary criteria of existing as an agent: The personality defined as and through the unification and edifice of Norman’s Bates experiences is simply no longer responsive, no longer “there”. Although we might still identify a body as somehow still “Norman’s”, since there is no longer the right kind of evidence of Norman’s personality, Norman no longer exists. Here, personality itself is understood as that agency with privileged access to innermost thoughts, feelings, and memories. I take this to be thoroughly Cartesian in that Norman looses his status as a subject insofar as his definition as both the set of innermost mental states and the access to those states is suddenly jeopardized.4 The problem with this whole picture is that the kind of self-knowledge necessary for (agented) personhood seems to be a matter of first person authority without any guarantee of access to the right set of complete memories relative to a body (usually, for all purposes, your body). In other words for Norman, some crucial memories otherwise linked with his body seem to be curiously missing from his repertoire. Since personality means, at least in part, having access to your memories, the effective omission of these memories from Norman’s personality and their configuration elsewhere into a unified experiential memory are the basis for the claim that some other personality ‘owns’ those memories. The instrument of Hitchcock’s horror is thus not mere fiction, but the threatened reality of the terrifying possibilities of a self-contained psyche. For the interests of this paper, I have situated the theoretical model of memory and personhood at work in Hitchcock’s film as faithful to a general Cartesian picture of mind. We should care about this problem since it challenges a general, if not doxastic, view of personality 4 For crucial critiques of the Cartesian assumption of innermost feelings, thoughts, and memories as mental states assigned to individual subjects, and of the consequences of Cartesian individualism in philosophy of psychology, see Naomi Scheman’s Engenderings, especially “Anger and the Politics of Naming”, “Individualism and the Objects of Psychology”, and “Though This Be Method, Yet There is Madness in It: 5

and self-knowledge as precisely linked to Cartesian-style accounts that ground selfknowledge, memory, and indeed agency in first-person privileged access. In other words, Psycho presents a good model of the underlying Cartesian assumptions embedded in particular psychological discourse and practice, as well as particular philosophical discourse and practice.5 Part II Making it all up: Hacking on Personhood What is Hacking up to in “Making up People” that is of interest relative to my previous discussion of Psycho? Particularly, Hacking makes a claim regarding multiple personality disorder of the kind we have been discussing. He juxtaposes MPD with two other categories of what he calls “ways to be a person”. These are the category of gayness and the Parisian garcon de café. What could these three have in common, you ask? Hacking’s particular interest in multiple personality is a reading of its quite recent clinical history. He says: “I claim that multiple personality as an idea and as a clinical phenomenon was invented around 1875… Do I mean there were no multiples before [then]? Yes.”6 Hacking is engaged in the project of suggesting that evolving discourses that name categories of persons and the people actually in those categories “evolve hand in hand”. To this end, he has made claims like the following: People spontaneously come to fit their categories. Making up people changes the space of possibilities for personhood.7 In some cases, that is, our classifications and our classes conspire to emerge hand in hand, each egging the other on.8 If new modes of description come into being, new possibilities for action come into being in consequence.9 …our spheres of possibility, and hence ourselves, are to some extent made up by our naming and what that entails.10 Paranoia and Liberal Epistemology”. It is unfortunate that I do not have room to discuss Scheman’s argument. 5 This model is by no means universal, and to the extent that it is widespread, it may also be waning. 6 Hacking, 223 7 Hacking, 223 8 Hacking, 228 9 Hacking, 231. 10 Hacking, 226. 6 To my understanding, these quotations, and indeed Hacking’s position, suggest a kind of constitutive relationship between individuals and the establishing of categories of kinds of persons. But what does Hacking have in mind, exactly, when he says that people “spontaneously” come to fit their categories? Surely he doesn’t mean 1) that people come to fit their categories “out of the blue” nor 2) that spontaneity is somehow the key force to which we should attribute being constituted at all. Whatever he means has provoked him to distinguish the unfolding of gays and garcon de cafés from the unfolding of splits. Hacking says “multiple personality, the homosexual or heterosexual person, and the waiter form one spectrum among many that color our perception…Whatever the medico-forensic experts tried to do with their categories, the homosexual person became autonomous of the labeling, but the split is not… the class of waiters is [also] autonomous of any act of labeling.”11

So what does Hacking see as ‘autonomous’ about gays and garcons de cafés but not about splits? First, it is of course understood that the point about the appearance of the gay person is actually a point about the appearance of the ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ kinds of person. The idea that we have ‘sexualities’, and further that those have ‘orientations’, and even further that these divide people into natural kinds, is a (dubious) notion that has only recently been put into practice. Naturalization aside, being straight or gay or anything in between is considered a way to be a kind of person, and definitely not only with respect to sexual activity. With regards to the garcon de café, we are speaking about the showing up of a phenomena inextricably embedded in a particular social climate and context. What did this special waiter have out of the ordinary? Here we should, as Hacking does, ask for Sartre’s description: “His movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid. He comes toward the patrons with a step a little too quick. He bends forward a little too eagerly, his eyes express an interest too solicitous for the order of the customer.”12 Now, it’s not like Parisian garcon de cafes awaited such a description as Sartre provided before they could come into being. This is not 11 Hacking, 223 12 This appears on page 231 of “Making up People”, Hacking is quoting Sartre from Being and Nothingness. 7 Hacking’s point with regards to how such a phenomena came about. Rather, the precondition for the existence of these special coffee house servers is to be found in the particular social history of Paris. The Parisian café was, after all, a crucial site of movements in art, philosophy, literary criticism, etc. Those cafés were sites of a particular social climate; they had particular social significance. Sartre’s description of the garcon de café is also a description of their place within a particular, localized unfolding of social events and relations. Hacking’s point is that it was possible to perform such a social role, the garcon de café, only relative to concrete social interactions going on in those cafes, against the background of particular social climates in Paris at a particular moment in history. “As with almost every way in which it is possible to be a person, it is possible to be a garcon de café only at a certain time, in a certain place, in a certain social setting. The feudal serf putting food on my lady’s table can no more choose to be a garcon de café than he can choose to be lord of the manor.”13 What Hacking is hinting at here is actually what I take to be a complex story about what provides the needed context within which meaningful human action is possible. I couldn’t choose to be a garcon de café, for one I am the wrong sex, but more importantly such a performance would seem oddly out of place at Starbucks or some local coffee shop. Within the concrete social relations I find myself, there just isn’t the right set-up for me to pursue being a garcon de café. We have already seen that garcons de café did not start popping up in Paris after and because of Sartre’s publications. Hacking has paid

particular attention to the importance of what makes particular sets of acts meaningfully descriptive in order to say something distinguishing about the garcon de café and the homosexual that he will not say of the split. Although I remain not entirely sure why Hacking calls the place occupied by the garcon de café and the homosexual the ‘autonomous’ side of the making up people spectrum, I assume that he is referring to the fact that multiple personality is not a ‘lifestyle”. Hacking says: “I suggest that the quickest way to see the contrast between making up homosexuals and making 13 Hacking, 232 8 up multiple personalities is to try to imagine split-personality bars.14 The reason I want to consider as to why this is hard to imagine is the fact that MPD is not associated with a set of ritualized practices within concrete social relations, whereas the way to properly exist as queer is precisely to engage in a particular set of practices. What has gay liberation been about? Significantly, it has been about creating opportunities for homosexuality to be something that is publicly expressed and acknowledged, therefore allowed into the everyday practices and institutions that define our broad social context. The institutions of marriage, family, parenthood; gay liberation (and other liberations) have contributed to the struggle going on right now over what these are and who they can legitimately bind. If homosexuality is to be inscribed into institutions like marriage, family, and parenthood, the practices that define them will have to change. These institutions will have to change so that their practicing allows the integration of same-sex couples to make sense, to be meaningful, in other words, to be socially recognized and recognizable. The point is that being admitted into those practices is precisely the strategy for legitimizing and normalizing being gay. Being in a position to disrupt and challenge the normalized, naturalized practices like marriage, family, and parenthood is to demand the same meaningfulness, the same social significance, and thus the same status of those who are already defined in and through those institutions, as they exist now. The “gay bar” as an exclusive site for the expression of gayness demonstrates the establishment of a kind of sexuality as something that is played out and practiced in public space (however subversive this turns out to be). In short, homosexuals seek to live out the practices and rituals that reify an identity in a way that just engaging in sexual encounters will utterly fail to do. After all, heterosexuality is understood in the least as sexual encounters between people of opposite sex: heterosexuality is set up and practiced through an incredibly diverse, rich set of social rituals and general intersubjective relations. The “gay bar” is simply a (successful?) attempt to get a foot in the door of such established, significant social practices. I can mark myself as straight or queer by the way I dress, the social sites I frequent, the vernacular I take 14 Hacking, 233.

9 up, the kind of gaze I solicit, etc. The point is that to some important extent, the way I appear and the kind of gaze I solicit are what it is to exist as straight or queer. Who I am sleeping with is not my lived out, practiced socially recognizable identity. Multiple personality, on the other hand, has not been introduced into the general fabric of how people interact and practice who/what they take themselves to be. By noticing that there aren’t any split bars (unless they are really underground), I think what Hacking has done is point to the failure of multiple personality to acquire what it would need in order to contend for the status of a way to be a person. Norman Bates was not constituted as a split in the sense that he practiced the set of ritualized acts establishing him as such, or in the sense that he engaged in struggles over the interpretation of social institutions which barred splits from participating in reifying practices, or finally, in the sense that he was a member of a local, specialized social phenomenon embedded in a very specific branch of social history. The story of Norman Bates, and I suggest any clinical story that diagnoses things like MPD, is itself a practice, but one carried out at the level of clinical or academic study and theorizing, and a practice for whom struggles will take pace among philosophers and psychologists. My argument is not the contention that this kind of academic and institutionalized practice does not have to ability to inscribe itself into the regulating principles of everyday social life and identities. My argument is rather that MPD itself is both an anomaly within the Cartesian model that claims to account for it, and a perfect example, in its distinguishing features from queer culture and garcon de cafés, of what cannot count as a “way to be person”. The fact that garcon de cafés were noticeable phenomena and gay bars are some part of a widespread struggle over the questioning of normalized heterosexuality is precisely the relationship between social categories and people in those categories Hacking was after. I think what is least implicit in Hacking but which provides the key to the absence of split bars is the insight that what is often constitutive about social categories is precisely their room for negotiation, their room for questioning, and above all, the fact that subjects must actively seek out their engagement in ongoing projects of idealized identities and subjectivities. This is what really counts splits out of 10 the running for ways to exist as a person. To explain what I mean, consider the following conjecture. Couldn’t splits very well engage in a liberation of sorts - petitioning banking and voting practices so as to make legitimate the association of more than one agency for any given body? I say this is not a possibility the way queer liberation was a possibility. The crucial element that counts us as such and such subjects engaged in lived out practices of identity is

precisely the full time commitment to a unified social role. Living out and reifying subjectivity is a practice, taking its shape in various rituals and social roles. This is not to say that people need be predictable or consistent, but it does say that dissociative disorder (MPD) can’t be understood as the taking up of various roles from some time to another, when those roles do not mutually contribute to the lived out practicing of a unified being. In fact, we might loosely understand our friend Norman and MPD in general as the incapability, the failure of achieving a unified, dedicated use of the resources required to count as occupying some recognizable and interpretable social role. This unification, however loose, is how we can understand the claim of ‘personality’. Even if we have added an essential dimension to understanding Norman’s case, there seems to be little we can say to change his fate. Norman Bates was not reified to us, he was lost to us, but lost also, we are tempted to believe, to himself. The psychiatrist’s explanation relies on the former (Norman being lost to us) in order to make its case for the latter (Norman qua private, transparent thought and memories being lost to himself). The claim that Norman Bates ceases to exist is given our failure to interpretively access what was supposedly first person privileged evidence for his existence. Thus to some significant extent, the psychiatrist’s story of Norman Bates threatens to undermine the very model that affords it an explanation. This is an interesting point: If we accept multiple personality as a category of personhood, we destabilize our (already fragile) Cartesian-type criteria of person. In other words, Norman is an anomaly within the Cartesian picture of mind required to explain his exceptional case. Something Hacking never brings up is the obvious point that the very idea of multiple personality, even as a clinical 11 diagnosis, still challenges some widespread notions of what it is to count as a person even as it relies on those widespread notions in order to make its case. At this point, some might object that in order for me to disqualify MPD as a candidate for ways to live out and practice personhood, I need the very Cartesian picture of privileged, firstperson accessible mental experience I have brought into question. So aren’t I just sneaking the Cartesian maxim for personality back into my picture of what counts as unified subjectivity? I should like to make it clear that I have questioned the work Cartesian subjectivity as the whole story can do for us. The idea that our psyches are such that we can loose access to crucial sets of memories, feelings, and the general narrative or story of our life in such a way that others are forced to interpret our personality as degenerate, destroyed, or even on indeterminate hiatus, is an idea based on a particular model of mind and personality as practiced in psychology and philosophy. It posits persons as those self-contained, transparent collections of ready-athand

memories and thoughts. This self-containment; minds that ‘house’ personalities and are therefore occupant accessible only, is the only resource, on this model, positioned as establishing particular agented subjects. We ought to wonder, then, whether this Cartesian model is capable of affording us the required tools of social hermeneutics that I have been suggesting are so crucial to understanding the criteria for personhood. On its own, the Cartesian model can’t make sense of Hacking’s claim of what it is about splits vs. queers such that queers and not splits have been successful in challenging status quo social fabric such that their lived out identities are being inscribed into everyday life. I want to say, for Hacking, that multiple personality is distinguished by its lack of afforded possibilities for lived out subjective projects. Norman’s failure was not, on my view, primarily the failure to maintain only transparent thoughts and memories in his psyche. Rather, and for reasons that are openly not a first person perspective, Norman’s failure was primarily the lack of finding himself capable of taking up a unified project of lived out subjectivity. On my view, Norman is not so much an anomaly, as he is a tragedy.