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Number 14: Summer 2019

Water in Water: Psychoanalysis and Post-humanism?

Rebecca Reynolds

‘Man’ is a little thing that has learned to stammer the word “infinity.”

— Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation

Oceanic Residues

“The separate being,” Georges Bataille writes, “is precisely a thing in that it is separated from itself: it is the thing and the separation” (1989, 75). Psychoanalytically-speaking, this “separate being” would correspond to the ego, which in so far as we come to understand it, equates to a feeling of certainty and autonomy, of being “marked off distinctly from everything else” (Freud, 1930, 66). But this, Freud plainly states, is deceptive: “[t]he feeling of our own ego is subject to disturbances,” he writes in Civilization and its Discontents, “and the boundaries of the ego are not constant(ibid, 67). The ego, in other words, is not a distinct entity, but the projection or perception of unity where it is uncertain, unstable, unr/Real.

As a point of departure, Freud offers examples of this instability: the relation between the ego and the unconscious mental entity of unlimited or, at least, unplumbable depth, as well as the relation of the ego towards a loved object, which threatens to dissolve boundaries to render the two entities one. But in this text, Freud is less concerned with how the ego operates as necessary narcissistic fiction and more so with the alienation that takes place around this psychic architecture, less with the attachments and identifications that give the ego shape, and more so with the processes of differentiation and separation that precipitate this fiction or fantasy. In a rather uncharacteristic way, he writes:

…the ego detaches itself from the external world. Or, to put it more correctly, originally the ego includes everything, later it separates off an external world from itself. Our present ego-feeling is, therefore, only