Exemplary quotes?




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Isabelle Soifer's picture
October 9, 2019

"Projects, like other meaning-making processes, work in part because they exclude. Signal becomes signal, through often painful designations of what will, for the moment, count as noise."

This quote reminds me a great deal of a quote I learned of by Stuart Hall. While I do not recall the exact text of this quote, he asserts that one can keep on going theorizing and describing a social phenomenon. But at some point one has to take a stand, to take action. Making a project is painful--I am of the combination and contexture disorder variety. I have a strong feeling that guides me towards what seems most relevant/interesting, but then the exact object I am seeking out eludes me. After a certain point, I have to act as a DJ of sorts, adjusting the volume settings of various keys to determine a preferred arrangement. However, I am then left wondering what I may be missing out on with a different arrangement. What if the object I really want to find is elsewhere, and not here where I have been searching?

Kim Fortun's picture
October 6, 2019

For this, I want to return to Shapiro's Autonomy and Rigid Character (1981), as well as to his earlier work, Neurotic Styles (1965). In the latter work, Shapiro described the cognitive counterparts of obsessive-compul sive and paranoid psychology; for completeness, I will add some remarks about the cognitive counterparts of sadism.

The central concern of the obsessive-compulsive is control, not so much of others as of oneself. Shapiro writes: "In his psychology, self-direction is distorted from its normal meaning of volitional choice and deliberate, purposeful action to a self-conscious directing of his every action, to the exercise, as if by an overseer, of a contin uous willful pressure and direction on himself and even ... [on] his own wants and emotions" (1965, p. 36). Under this harsh regime, attention is subject to the same kind of control as is the rest of behavior, leading to a kind of focus so intensely sharp and restricted that it precludes peripheral vision, the fleeting impression, the hunch, the over-all feeling of an object. The consequence is loss of conviction: truth is inferred rather than experienced, the basis for judgment and decisions is sought in rules rather than feeling. The obsessive-compulsive "will not say, 'It is true, but will say something like 'It must be, or 'It fits" (1965, p. 50). And what does not fit is not acknowledged: "The rigid or dogmatic compulsive person simply ignores the unusual; he narrowly follows his own line of thought and goes right by anything out of the way" (1965, p. 62).

The cognitive style of the paranoid, although similar in some ways, is ultimately quite different. Grounded in the fear of being controlled by others rather than in apprehension about the loss of self-control, in the fear of giving in to others rather than to one's own unwelcome impulses, the attention of the paranoid is rigid, but it is not narrowly focused. Rather than ignore what does not fit, he or she must be alert to every possible clue. Nothing-no detail, however minor---eludes scrutiny. Everything must fit.

 The scientist, in these cases, looks at the object with one or more hypotheses and with the purpose of his research in mind, and thus "uses" the object to corroborate or dis prove a hypothesis, but does not encounter the object as such, in its own fullness. Also, modern natural science has as its main goal prediction, i.e. the power to manipulate objects in such a way that certain predicted events will hap pen. This means that only those aspects of the object are deemed relevant which make it suitable for such manipu lation or control. ... Thus it becomes an object-in use. . . . In their scientists') attempt ... to fit some object or phenomenon into some system, preconception, or hy pothesis, one can often observe a blinding of themselves toward the pure and full being of the object itself. Percep tion, then, may become almost an act of aggressive violence in which the perceiver, like Procrustes with his hapless vic tims, cuts off those aspects of the object which he cannot use for his purposes. (p. 171)