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Agnomenosis 1:

On the obsession with being titled 

 

Ghiath el-Marzouk

 

 

For titles do not reflect honour on men,
 but rather men do on their titles.

Niccolò Machiavelli

 

I have intended to coin the neologism agnomenosis to point to a specific psychopathology which the mind of the Ďmoderní man is afflicted with so inveterately to the extent that it dominates his or her behaviour and thinking at the expense of the real social demands of his or her role in life. The neologism is simply derived from the Late Latin stemmed nominal agnomen affixed to it the Greek suffix -osis, with the former literally meaning Ďin addition to a nameí and the latter indicating, among other things, a diseased or an abnormal condition as in thrombosis, neurosis, psychosis , and the like. The principal reason for coining this new term is, in fact, the well observed preposterous phenomenon which is typical of a sickeningly sick society and signifies that the agnomen in question becomes, in the eyes of the person who happens to hold it, even more compulsively significant than his or her authentic proper name (or even sense of identity) Ėjust as the prevalent interpretation of a given Ďcanonicalí text becomes more coercively important than the text itself, regardless of the deviant nature of this interpretation (see, for example, Adonis, 1989:187).

Given that proper names, unlike any other kind of signifier, do not tend to change or alter their Ďmeaningsí at any moment of articulation, as in the Lacanian formulation, the agnomen in question seems to undergo a series of psychically inflationary transformations, where each such transformation imposes a further nuance of signification depending on the level of narcissism which is typically exemplified by the psychical make-up of what will be called, the agnomenotic (on the analogy of the neurotic, the psychotic, etc.). And given that the level of narcissism itself presupposes several different layers or even sublayers of the meaning of Ďself-loveí, as in the Freudian formulation, the clinical structure of agnomenosis is in general identified with the most unhealthy incarnation of these layers and sublayers, and is therefore represented as a persistent symptom (or a set of symptoms) of patriarchal Ďpower structuresí that are characteristic of very serious clinical structures such as schizophrenia and fetishism, in particular. In consequence, the  megalomaniacal and obsessive manifestations of such clinical structures may well turn, at a primitively aggressive level, into a devastating blow both to human nature and to human society, as will be seen in the upcoming exposition.[1]

The exposition will begin with reference to Freudís distinction between primary narcissism and secondary narcissism so far as the normal and abnormal (or pathogenic) libidinization of the meaning of Ďself-loveí is concerned. Thus, on the one hand, the exposition will point to the integrational relationship between the two structures of narcissism and egoism in the sense that the former is a libidinal complement of the latter. And on the other hand, it will touch on the oppositional relationship between the two structures of egoism and altruism where the latter is explained in terms of a nullified longing for sexual satisfaction, hence its conformity with libidinal object-cathexis in the state of (heterosexual) love. Accordingly, the exposition will underline the expression of sexual overvaluation which is intrinsic to altruism in the same state with respect to the two contrasting types of object-choice (the anaclitic versus the narcissistic), and is therefore comparable with the symptom of megalomania that is indicative of forms of functional psychosis such as schizophrenia, especially when the symptom is modified by the subjectís adherence to word-presentation rather than object-presentation Ėwhether this latter object is a person or a thing.

By highlighting the close resemblance between Freudís psychical dichotomy Ďword-objectí and de Saussureís structural-linguistic dichotomy Ďsignifier-signifiedí, the exposition will make the first analogy between schizophrenia and agnomenosis by which the two psychopathologies converge in the presentational nature of the signifier (the word and the agnomen, respectively), and diverge in the distribution of narcissistic libido with regard to repression as a defensive procedure. Moreover, within the anthropological and psychological conceptions of fetishism, the distinctive aspect of the inherent sexual perversion in the psychological conception will be characterized by the symptom of obsessiveness. Hence, the second analogy between fetishism and agnomenosis will be made on the basis whereby the two psychopathologies agree in the compulsive import of the symptom in question, and disagree in the type of object-choice (the anaclitic versus the narcissistic) as well as the kind of sexual overvaluation (the active versus the passive). This dual analogy will lead to the identification of the clinical structure of agnomenosis with the two (sets of) symptoms of megalomania and obsessiveness, thereby identifying the acquired agnomen under consideration, which is quite bastardized in nature, as a manifestation of what will be termed, the Ďmanic-obsessive signifierí (in contradistinction to Lacanís notion of the Ďmaster signifierí). Finally, the dual analogy will also lead to the designation of at least three generalized categories of agnomenosis as a clinical structure: Ďagnomenosis of professionalismí, Ďagnomenosis of factionalismí, and Ďagnomenosis of authoritarianismí. These three generalized categories will, therefore, be discussed and exemplified by drawing on factual observations both in the so-called Ďdeveloped societyí and the so-called Ďunderdeveloped societyí.

Within the inevitable constitution of the ego, the (desiring) subject seeks to actively orientate a considerable magnitude of the libidinal energy which exists at his or her disposal towards the destined object of desire (be it a person or a thing) for the attainment of sexual satisfaction in the first place. This active orientation of libidinal energy is, at bottom, governed by narcissistic motivation which is, in and of itself, an innocuous character trait in the normal course of psychical development. In the abnormal course of such development, however, the narcissistic impulses tend to emerge far more perniciously when the libido in question is withdrawn from the destined object of desire, thus undergoing a passive (or rather reflexive) orientation towards the (desiring) subjectís own ego.[2] Freud himself differentiates between two generalized categories of narcissism as a psychical structure, primary narcissism and secondary narcissism, with the perceivable similitude between the two, moreover, suggesting a rather recalcitrant aura of self-centeredness where either category is related to the designated meaning of Ďself-loveí in one form or another. Yet it is the first category of narcissism which seems to approximate this designated meaning more closely than the second category, and thus the intended love of self that is prioritized over the love of others may well act as a psychical precondition for at least one kind of Ďsexual perversioní or even other kinds of Ďsexual disorderí, as pointed out by Freud restating psychopathologists like Ellis, Näcke and Sadger (see, for instance, Freud, 1914:65; 1916-7:465). It appears, therefore, that both of these sexual Ďabnormalitiesí (or Ďaberrationsí) originate from narcissism as the universal state of things, a primordial affective condition which does give rise to the aforesaid love of the other (but only later), without the narcissistic impulsion vanishing by necessity.

Although both sexual Ďabnormalitiesí (or Ďaberrationsí) are explained in terms of the libidinal energy that is reflexively directed towards the desired object, they are clearly distinguished by the internal and external nature of such reflexivity, respectively. Whereas a typical example of the Ďsexual perversioní refers to the tendency of a narcissist who treats his or her own body as if it were the body of the normal object of desire (in which case the tendency would be described as an auto-erotic one), a characteristic example of the Ďsexual disorderí points to the propensity of a narcissist who regards the body of another narcissist of the same sex as though it were the body of his or her normal object of desire (in which case the propensity would be identified as a homosexual one). In either case of sexual Ďabnormalityí (or Ďaberrationí), a quantum of libidinal intersubjectivity manifests itself on the psychical threshold of egoism (or even solipsism), a threshold which, in turn, reveals itself most predominantly in the (normal) state of sleeping where an emulation of intrauterine existence is compulsorily and repetitively conjured up, as will be seen later in the exposition. But insofar as the object of desire is libidinally externalized, as in the latter case of sexual Ďabnormalityí (or Ďaberrationí), narcissism is more likely considered to be entering into the less primitive phase of its development.

The second category of narcissism (secondary narcissism), on the other hand, is much easier to discern: the ego and the id are no longer as undifferentiated as they would be under the genesis of primary (or, rather, primitive) narcissism, and the designated meaning of Ďself-loveí is derived from the subjectís impulsive identification with the (external) object of desire as an essentially defensive demeanour whereby the former is induced to disavow the forfeiture of the libido that is associated with the latter. Secondary narcissism, from this viewpoint, is contemporaneous with the formation of the ego through such impulsive identification, and the Ďsecondaryí description of its self-love implication can be seen in the retrieval of the libido (which is originally inducted into the ego) from the impulsively identified object of desire. As discussed in a previous article, any amount of libido that is incorporated into a person or a thing (i.e. object-libido) would ultimately be amalgamated into the ego (i.e. ego-libido), thereby resulting in the duplicate proclivity for the enlargement of the infantís self-awareness (which may itself culminate in self-love) at the one extreme, and the circumscription of his or her emotional affiliation (or libidinal tie) with the parent at the other extreme (see el-Marzouk, 2008a; 2008b).

On such a basis, and by drawing an analogy from the organic world, what appears to be, the Ďextrinsicí correlation between ego-libido and object-libido may well be juxtaposed with the Ďintrinsicí correlation between the simplest living organism in this world (i.e. the amoeba) and those unauthentic protrusions or protuberances it constantly and incessantly  formulates (i.e. the pseudopodia). Just as an amount of the protoplasm is flown through these pseudopodia while its main substance remains in the amoebaís main body, a magnitude of the libido is emitted towards the object (or objects) of desire while its principal assemblage tarries in the egoís principal abode. Thus, in the normal course of psychical development, there exists no impediment to the possible transformation of ego-libido into object-libido, nor is there any (undesirable) hindrance to the restoration of the libidinal energy that has been actively orientated towards the latter to the ego itself (see Freud, 1914:68; 1916-7:465f.).

With this biological analogy in mind, it would be reasonable to suggest that the ego under the genesis of secondary narcissism, in particular, is forced willy-nilly to stand on a quite precarious interface between the normal conservation of proper self-esteem and the abnormal (or, rather, pathogenic) disposition towards the improper overestimation of the self, a disposition which can only be psychologically sensitized (and therefore socially automatized) through a destructive amalgamation of the subjectís dispirited sense of identity and the nonsensically grandiose and grandiloquent nature of the system of government which manifests itself in the well known institutions (such as, the family, the school, and the state). Since the destructive amalgamation, from this standpoint, is perceived to be a proactively coercive relationship between the ruling (communal) authority as a Ďpatriarchal wholeí and the ruled individual as a Ďfilial partí, it can also be diachronically traced back to the infantile constitution of such ruling authority. That is to say, the destructive amalgamation, from the same perspective, is understood to be a retroactively oppressive relationship between the so-called Ďdeveloping societiesí and the so-called Ďdeveloped societiesí, especially in the aftermath of any form of colonialism (or imperialism) that has been actually practised by some of the latter against the majority of the former.

Given the subjectís retrieval of libidinal energy from the impulsively identified object of desire, its Ďrecathexisí (or reinvestment) in the ego circumscribes narcissism with an egoistic emanation where the subject is unflaggingly beguiled under the delusion that the external world exists exclusively for his or her own advantage or even wish-fulfillment (as in the extreme case of solipsism). Hence, narcissism can be Ďbehaviourallyí separated from egoism in terms of the libido theory in the sense that the former is characterized as the libidinal (or, rather, libidinized) consummation of the latter, notwithstanding the possibility of further Ďbehaviouralí separation between these two psychical structures. It is possible for the subject to be categorically egoistic but, nonetheless, harbouring a nonnarcissistic predilection for the cathexis (or investment) of libidinal energy in the object (or objects) of desire. In this case, the nonnarcissistic predilection may be consolidated far more intensely so long as the fundamental satisfaction of the objectís need constitutes part of the subjectís need itself, and insofar as the compulsion to maintain such satisfaction does not entail any affective damage to the ego. However, it is also possible for the subject to be categorically egoistic whilst at the same time accommodating a hypernarcissistic inclination towards the Ďdecathexisí (or Ďdeinvestmentí) of libidinal energy from the object (or objects) of desire. As such, the hypernarcissistic inclination may be fortified to the extent that the subject would have very little need for the same object (or objects) of desire, whether the need in question be generated for the purpose of purely sexual gratification or, on the contrary, be engendered for the sake of highly nonsensual aspiration, with this latter alternative being derived from the subjectís (basic) need under the banner of heterosexual love.

From this Ďbehaviouralí separation between the two psychical structures, it can be perceived (albeit not easily) that egoism is the incontrovertible and constant structure, whereas narcissism is the controvertible and variable counterpart (see Freud, 1916-7:467). And given the analogous distinction between the id and the ego (where the former is a constant entity and the latter is a variable one, too), it can be perceived more transparently that egoism establishes a much closer tie with the id than it does with the ego, while the reverse is true for narcissism (see, also, el-Marzouk, 2008a; 2008b). This indicates that it is egoism (rather than narcissism) which abides by the laws of the pleasure principle much more submissively than it does by those of the reality principle, an excessively obsequious manner which is typical of the Ďcivilizedí and Ďmoderní man (especially the extremely docile Ďacademicí who is institutionalized by means of some form of opportunism or even nepotism), and thus procreates the most primitive incarnation of the oral phase during the infantile phases of libidinal and ego development. If it is true that the oral phase predominates over the psychical structure of the suborder Anthropoidea for the development of the ego itself, then the sustained egoism of the uncivilized and age-old anthropoid would be far less malignant and baleful than the maintained egoism of the Ďcivilizedí and Ďmoderní man Ėjust as the heteronomous infantís apparently obsessive concentration on material and/or emotional possessiveness is much more instinctive and congenital, and is therefore far more innocent and benign than that of the Ďautonomousí adult.

As mentioned at the outset of this part, one abnormal manifestation of (primary) narcissism is the impulsive proneness towards auto-erotism, an instinctual structure which is characterized by a connate nature, a persistent, self-concatenate conatus in Spinozaís sense, not to speak of the connate-acquired qualities of the ego. With the psychical mechanisms that underlie narcissism in mind, there must be something supplemented to auto-erotism (after birth), something acquired as a new psychical activity under such conatus in order to effectuate, and thence activate, those mechanisms (see Freud, 1914:69). Thus, so far as the development of the ego is concerned, the Ďsuccessfulí endeavour to gratify the impulsive proneness towards auto-erotism takes place at the earliest phase of such development by means of an instinctual (or instinct-) component known as passive scopophilia, a component which paves the way for the later inception of its antithetical counterpart, active scopophilia, particularly when the psychical structure of narcissism is entirely depleted of its libidinal content. It follows that the reversed transformation of active scopophilia into passive scopophilia, which is similar, in principle, to the inverted transmutation of (active) sadism into (passive) masochism, necessitates the inescapable recrudescence of the narcissistic object on the one hand, and the inextricable replacement of the narcissistic subject by an alter (extraneous) ego on the other hand, with the replacing ego, moreover, being acquired through impulsive identification (see, also, Freud, 1915a:129).

This means that the transformed passive scopophile (or the transmuted (passive) masochist, for that matter) entertains what may be called an overlibidinized narcissism, a psychical structure which does result from the superimposition of secondary narcissism upon primary narcissism, but whose highly destructive mission is to consummate (or, rather, contaminate) egoism with its overlibidinization, thus culminating, as it does transitively, in the overaggressification of its psychical structure (i.e. that of egoism). The antithetical counterpart of egoism is, of course, altruism, a further psychical structure which is distinguished from all other categories and subcategories of narcissism by one of two (nondestructive) characteristics, at the very least, that may ultimately entail the same affective attitude: firstly, the perceived absence of the libidinal energy which is to be invested in the object (or objects) of desire for the attainment of sexual satisfaction proper; and secondly, the perceivable presence of a psychologically and/or socially determined propensity for the desexualization of the libidinal energy in question under the aegis of Ďsublimationí, which is itself a developmental process (see, also, note 2).  

With regard to the normal state of being in love, however, the psychical structure of altruism seems to operate in parallel with the one that emanates from the (normally) invested libidinal energy, thereby converging with it in a unified psychical structure which cannot be differentiated even if the amorous longing for sexual gratification comes to a climax. In such a state, the object of desire tends to attract a given proportion of the subjectís pent-up narcissism, a proportion whose egoistic equivalent acts as an essential precondition for the sexual overvaluation of the former (that is performed by the latter). This signifies that the altruistic transposition of egoism will generate in the object of desire a delusional feeling of immense grandeur, as can be clearly seen from a love poem written by Goethe in his Westöstlicher Diwan [West Eastern Divan]. In this stanza, Hatim, the lover, appears to ruminate about his beloved Zuleikha in an amatory dialogue between the two (cited in Freud, 1916-7:468) (Notice, here, that James Strachey, the chief translator of Freudís complete works into English, cites the English version of this stanza from Ernest Dowdenís translation, West Eastern Divan, 1914):

     Wie sie sich an mich verschwendet,
     Bin ich mir ein wertes Ich;
     Haette sie sich weggewendet,
     Augenblicks verloer ich mich.

     (Does she expend her being on me,
     Myself grows to myself of cost;
     Turns she away, then instantly
     I to my very self am lost)

 

[End of Part 1, to be continued]

 

*** *** ***

 

References

Adonis (Ali Ahamad Said) (1989): ŖŠ«„ «Š»Ō«Ū«  [The Beginnings of Arabic Poetics]. Beirut: Daar al-Aadaab.

Darwish, Mahmoud (2004): ō»«ř [Counterpoint]. al-Karmel, 81:68-79.

Dennett, Daniel (1991): Consciousness Explained. Penguin Books (1993).

Freud, Sigmund (1900): The Interpretation of Dreams. Penguin Freud Library, vol. 4.

Freud, Sigmund (1905a): Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Penguin Freud Library, vol. 7.

Freud, Sigmund (1905b): Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. Penguin Freud Library, vol. 8.

Freud, Sigmund (1908): Character and anal erotism. Penguin Freud Library, vol. 7.

Freud, Sigmund (1914): On narcissism: An introduction. Penguin Freud Library, vol. 11.

Freud, Sigmund (1915a): Instincts and their vicissitudes. Penguin Freud Library, vol. 11.

Freud, Sigmund (1915b): Repression. Penguin Freud Library, vol. 11.

Freud, Sigmund (1915c): The unconscious. Penguin Freud Library, vol. 11.

Freud, Sigmund (1915d): Thoughts for the times on war and death. Penguin Freud Library, vol. 12.

Freud, Sigmund (1916-7): Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. Penguin Freud Library, vol. 1.

Freud, Sigmund (1917): A metapsychological supplement to the theory of dreams. Penguin Freud Library, vol. 11.

Freud, Sigmund (1923): The Ego and the Id. Penguin Freud Library, vol. 11.

Freud, Sigmund (1930): Civilization and its Discontents. Penguin Freud Library, vol. 12.

Freud, Sigmund (1932): The acquisition and control of fire. Penguin Freud Library, vol. 13.

Fromm, Erich (1950): Psychoanalysis and Religion. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Fromm, Erich (1976): To Have or To Be. Continuum (1997).

al-Hakeem, Tawfiq (1938):  Õ  ‘„” «Š›Ŗ— [Under the Sun of Thought]. Cairo: Daar Mişr.

al-Hakeem, Tawfiq (1974): ŕśŌ… «ŠśŕŪ [The Return of Consciousness]. Cairo: Daar al-Shuruuq.

Lacan, Jacques (1953): Some reflections on the ego. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 34:11-17.

Lacan, Jacques (1966a): Écrits: A Selection. Trans. A. Sheridan. London: Routledge (1997).

Lacan, Jacques (1966b): Écrits. Trans. B. Fink. New York: Norton (2006).

Lacan, Jacques (1972-3): The Seminar. Book XX. Encore: On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge. Trans. B. Fink. New York: Norton (1998).

el-Marzouk, Ghiath (2007a): «ŠŌ„Ő [Identification]. Damascus: Maaber.

el-Marzouk, Ghiath (2007b): Identification. Damascus: Maaber.

el-Marzouk, Ghiath (2008a): «Š√š« [The ego]. Damascus: Maaber.

el-Marzouk, Ghiath (2008b): The ego. Damascus: Maaber.

el-Marzouk, Ghiath (2009a): «Š„”šŌ ŇŠŪŚ [The subject]. Damascus: Maaber.

el-Marzouk, Ghiath (2009b): The subject. Damascus: Maaber.

el-Marzouk, Ghiath (2009c): «ŠŌ«Š [The signifier]. Damascus: Maaber.

el-Marzouk, Ghiath (2009d): The signifier. Damascus: Maaber.

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[1] The main ideas of this exposition were, in fact, originally written with other ideas in a lengthy research monograph to appear in the CLCS Occasional Papers Series at the Centre for Language and Communication Studies, Trinity College Dublin, a few years ago. For reasons which have to do with the general editorís sudden retirement as well as his incompetence and dishonesty in dealing with publication matters (given the considerable time-lag between the submission of the manuscript and the cessation of the Series), I was quite reluctantly forced to reconsider these main ideas from an entirely different perspective later on, a perspective which now addresses the human psyche as general mental structure, regardless of the workings of those mechanisms that underlie the language faculty proper. And for reasons which also have to do with the considerable length of the original research monograph, I have decided to divide this monograph into four principal parts for ease of reading and reference. Accordingly, these four principal parts will be brought out consecutively in Maaber, beginning with the June-July Issue 2016, both in the English version and the Arabic version.

[2] It is worth mentioning, here, that the bitter controversy which has been aroused over the implication of the term Ďlibidoí (that is, whether or not the term is restricted to the energy which is intrinsic to sexual instinctual drives) appears to be, in principle, a merely terminological matter rather than a conceptual one. Those psychoanalysts who are blindly convinced by Jungís insistence upon the primordial unification of all instinctual drives should not feel disinclined to dismantle this unification since it would not be laudable to speak of the antithesis between Ďsexual libidoí and Ďasexual libidoí, not to speak of the literal meaning of the term as Ďdesireí or Ďlustí in its Latin origin. To be sure, the unification can only be transiently maintained when normal states such as those of sleeping, being ill, and falling in love are considered in themselves, states which result in a uniform condition where the libido is detached from its object (or objects), and is thence accumulated in the ego in one form or another. Freud himself makes a distinction between Ďsexual instinctual drivesí and Ďself-preservative instinctual drivesí so as to imply the seemingly meritorious polarity between Ď(sexual) libidoí and Ď(asexual) interestí, respectively, and to account for the internal conflicts which bring about abnormal states like transference neurosis and narcissistic neurosis, specifically. Even the very energy that is inherent in sexual instinctual drives (and to which the term Ď(sexual) libidoí is confined) can nonetheless be desexualized or libidinally normalized through the developmental process of sublimation. If, however, the energy that is elemental to self-preservative instinctual drives is viewed as libidinal in nature, then the ensuing antagonism is simply displaced: everything which has to do with the libido comes under the generalized category, the Ďlife instinctual driveí (or Eros), as opposed to the further generalized category, the Ďdeath instinctual driveí (or Thanatos) (see Freud, 1916-7:462f.; see, also, el-Marzouk, 2008a:n.8; 2008b:n.2). Furthermore, given the psychological implication of the dichotomy between Ďmasculinityí and Ďfemininityí (rather than the biological or the sociological implication), the (sexual) libido itself is, in Freudís words, ďinvariably and necessarily of a masculine nature, whether it occurs in men or in women and irrespectively of whether its object is a man or a womanĒ (Freud, 1905a:141).  

 

 

 

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