07 February 2017

Thinking Allowed in Public

Terry Eagleton says that “What for the philosopher are possible objects of experience are for the materialist the fruits of productive activity, and it is this that guarantees their objectivity.” I’ve considered the first part of the sentence carefully: perhaps Eagleton suggests that a philosopher looks at an object and sees in it the possibility of its use, even its use in thought, whereas the materialist sees in an object its history: its relationships with the earth and the artisans who produced that object. For the philosopher, the object is the subject of thought and potential use, and for the materialist the object contains within it history.
     I don’t know why but I hear in Eagleton’s statement echoes of object relations theory à la Winnicott. Winnicott says that at first the good enough parent allows the child to think that every object is the product of the child’s desire and that every object is created by the child: the world is wholly subjectively created by the child. Eventually the good enough parent must disillusion the child, and thus, the child learns to create using the objects that are there to be created. Winnicott assigns to this space of creation the name transitional phenomena and defines this space is “the intermediate area of experience between the wholly subjective and the wholly objective (what Winnicott somewhere refers to as an “Insult”) that belongs to inner and external (shared) reality throughout life is retained in the intense experience that belongs to the arts, to religion, to imaginative living and creative scientific work.” Experience occurs when the object is ‘used’ by the child (or the adult) and not when it is considered for use. Eagleton says “If we start from human agency then the distinction between subject and object is ‘dismantled’ because practice is a material objective affair, but that practice is also inscribed with spirit.” That is, I manipulate and use objects based on their object status—I cannot lift a mountain--but my motives, values, purposes, interpretations, etc., make climbing it or painting it a possibility and even a joy. Thus, Eagleton says, the body belongs to both Nature and history—I infuse the material world with my Spirit and I am a product of my experience. Object relations theory, defined as it is by Frank Summers is “any systematic effort to account for personality development and pathology n the basis of the internalization of relationships with others.” Objects are always others and how we internalize our relationship with those objects accounts for our character.
     And so I have been wondering about the creation of educational objectives in the absence of student input—indeed, the creation of educational objectives at all! What is the materiality of the objective to the student who has had no part in its creation because without the materiality the object remains abstract with a vague use value in some imagined future. The objective has no immediate value; we might ‘have knowledge’ but that is itself an ‘estrangement’ because it suggests that knowledge is not part of me but added to me as a foreign object—like swallowing a medicine tablet.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The first thing I want to say to you who are students, is that you cannot afford to think of being here to receive an education: you will do much better to think of being here to claim one. One of the dictionary definitions of the verb “to claim” is: to take as the rightful owner; to assert in the face of possible contradiction. “To receive” is to come into possession of: to act as receptacle or container for; to accept as authoritative or true. The difference is that between acting and being acted-upon, and for women it can literally mean the difference between life and death..." - Adrienne Rich

07 February, 2017 14:38  

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