NVC Reading notes #2

If one of the first impressions on reading NVC is that something like a ‘psycho-analysis’ is being done then it is worth asking why this impression occurs and what relation to Freud exists.  That it should be, in a sense, relatively uncontroversial to suggest NVC ‘reads like’ a psycho-analytic text comes from the emphasis of the biological, biographical and historical interpretation of ‘forces at work’ in Nietzsche, an emphasis on these bio-facts rather than on the texts that resulted.  The texts are to be read as expressions of something underneath, something which we might encounter a little like we encounter the unconscious.  Texts become symptoms to interpret, something with which to diagnose the ‘real’ or ‘important’ forces that are the ‘truth’ of Nietzsche’s work.

This, however, brings us close to one of the first difficulties.  If we take a Freudian psycho-analytic interpretation to occur, as it were, from ‘outside’ the subject then close attention to Klossowski would suggest that the exact opposite is the practice of NVC.  For example, in psycho-analytic practice / interpretation the relation of the analyst / interpreter to the analysand / interpreted is crucially important.  The establishment of transference, the encounter with an ‘Other’ and the centrality of what i would call the ‘relation as revealing’ suggests a prime importance is given to a kind of sociality.  We might say that for psychoanalysis, it is in our ‘being-with’ (mitsein) we find our being. The analyst / interpreter justifies their position on the basis that the addition of their position is necessary to establish this being-with which is a precondition of finding the truth of the analysand /interpreted.  This sociality, this being-with, however, is a being-with of subjects and subjects are constituted as language speaking, meaning using beings.  Being-with reveals being because it is a kind of ‘being with meaningful beings’.  If this seems obscure then let me put it in more colloquial terms.

Take being-with to be ‘sociality’.  The claim is something like ‘the way we are with others reveals the way we are’.  Thus sociality is just this ‘being with others’ but it is in this ‘others’ that the presupposition can slip through, the metaphysical contraband.  To see this think of the situation in which the others are animals, not ‘humans’.  The distinction is important because it is as meaning using beings that we place ‘humans’ in a privileged and unthought position of social pre-eminence.  Why is it, for example, that the dog you talk to or the cat you confess to cannot play the role of an analyst / interpreter?  It is because they cannot offer this ‘mirror of meaning’, they cannot play the role of an analyst because they cannot talk.  It is not what an analyst says, of course but the fact that they could say which enables them to play the role they do.  It is not that the analysand talks which makes analysis the ‘talking cure’ but rather that the analysand talks to someone who can hear, by which we mean someone who can also talk (and talk back).

How, then, does NVC differ from psychoanalysis?

(1) Let us take the claim that psychoanalysis is a social but more importantly a ‘meaning’ activity.  It is, I would argue, premissed on the assumption that there is meaning.  This premiss is one that I think it wise to suspend when reading NVC, it is one of the premisses under investigation.

(2) Psychoanalysis is also a ‘social’ activity in the sense that the social somehow has priority (being-with revealing being).  Yet for Klossowski there is something problematic about the social for Nietzsche, the social being named as the ‘gregarious’ within NVC and the gregarious being something that is – at least to some degree – that which is to resisted (in the ‘combat against culture’ for example).

What is left that gives the impression of an analogy with psychoanalytic practices?  The emphasis on and analysis of forces (impulses), a concentration on the interplay of these forces as the focus of our analysis and the narrative role of the ‘bio-facts’ (such as the migraine) within the exposition / argument.  To the extent, then, that NVC shares these kind of features with psychoanalytic practice it is analogous but the ground of this analogy is not psychoanalysis itself but rather a materialism.  Reason is taken both in NVC and in psychoanalysis as implicated within a material ground.  What this means is that reason is not an autonomous faculty, somehow self-contained and spontaneous but rather it is at worst an illusory epiphenomena and at best interwoven with material forces that are themselves beyond reason.  Reason, in this sense, is made impure or dirty by both psychoanalysis and by NVC but it is made dirty because it is read as implicated within a material ground even if the exact nature of that material ground is not yet clear.

(Further reading on this relation to psychoanalysis and the Freudian unconscious : pages 28-31, in particular I would suggest looking at the idea that “our depth is unexchangeable because it does not signify anything” – NVC:31)

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