Comments 6

3: Being

I’m excited to present you with the outline for chapter 3 of Being & Death. Please read it over and let me know your thoughts! If you missed the opening post, you can read the outline comment guidelines and my overall purpose statement here.


I: The Respiratory Process

Chapter 1’s outline can be found here.

II: Queer Vision

Chapter 2’s outline can be found here.


III: Being

Chapter purpose: To present the semiotic view of the world, which understands our conscious experience of life through language, which, in its broadest sense, is a system of symbols set in opposition to one-another – duality. This aspect of language then structures our conscious experience at every level, from making us feel separate from others, to producing insatiable desire; all this makes us believe that the ‘self’ symbol is an impenetrable fact of reality. By understanding the way our consciousness works, we begin to see glimpses of something ‘outside’ the system through the very cracks in its incomplete model of reality.

Main take-away: “Being alive, or ‘Being’, is the realm of symbols in a state of duality; ‘the self’ is merely one of those symbols, and ‘consciousness’ is just the dance of those symbols.”


1) “LOST VOCABULARIES” – Section purpose: to introduce how we can begin to understand the limits of language by understanding the structure of the system of language.

  • “Forgotten Dialect of the Heart”
    • Jack Gilbert’s poem of the same name. Reproduce it here.
    • Reading of the poem: the fact that language is “not quite” allows for holes in the façade, glimpses into something beyond language.
  • Limits of a system
    • My love of semiotics comes not from the desire to understand a system, but more so to understand the limits of the system.
  • The kingdom of language
    • Intro/summary of whole chapter to come, re: Being, consciousness, duality, and selves. State my argument and thesis upfront.

2) “THE ORIGIN OF SEPARATE” – Section purpose: to give an overview of semiotics as ‘symbols set in opposition to one-another.’ The main opposition language establishes is the I/You binary, which structurally makes us feel separate from each other.

  • Semiotics and negative difference
    • Intro into semiotics.
    • Negative Difference defined.
    • Language as differential system. Extended outwards, we see the same with: color, time, and space.
  • The Mirror Stage
    • Lacanian “mirror stage.” The negative difference of I / You.
    • Jungian “mirror stage” as the same, but consciousness / the unconscious. We are separate from the ‘you’ exactly like we are separate from our ‘unconscious’.
  • A hole at the heart of being
    • Overview of the idea of lack. The mirror stage is the birth of separateness and lack. Show the first Void Drawing as a hole in Being.
    • In the face of lack, a desire for presence and completeness is created. The subject of lack thus desires to fill the hole and be whole.

3) “DESIRING MACHINES” – Section purpose: to follow the implications of this I/You split as it exists in our lived experience, namely, desire and consumerism.

  • The projection screen of desire
    • Overview of the structure of desire and drive in psychoanalysis.
  • Insatiable consumers
    • A look at how consumerism literally capitalizes on the lack and the structure of desire.
    • A look at how marketing is the ideology of lack and scarcity.
    • The hole of lack as prioritizing presence and shunning absence. The western system is one of presence, and therefore non-respiration and one-sidedness. We’re a hungry, dissatisfied culture.
  • The Technological Stance
    • An intro into Heidegger’s term of the same name, which puts man in a position to “use everything up.”
  • Lifting the Lack
    • A deeper look at drive. A look at meaning machines via art, and the ethos of “productivity as self-worth”

4) “FICTIONS OF THE SELF” – Section purpose: to look closely at the ‘I’ side of the I/You split, and see how self-identity is constructed.

  • n + 1
    • A look at the structure of identity in Lacan.
    • Intro to existentialism, re: existence precedes essence.
  • Selfing
    • We are a story we tell ourselves to ourselves.
    • The theory of the Ship of Theseus
  • The Ego
    • “The Ego” is that fiction we tell ourselves. We have identified with this ego and called it our “self.”
    • Look at this term through all three major psychoanalysts
  • Imaginary, Symbolic, Real
    • Overview of the Lacanian Triangle, and what each term means. Imaginary = the fiction of the self. The Symbolic = the realm of culture. The Real = the unspeakable void.
  • Cultural constructs
    • Intro into post-modernism, culture and power constructs, truthing, the play of meaning, the negative difference of sexual difference as power and ideology (Lacan).
    • Also: ideology and hegemony.
  • Conceptual categories
    • Intro to CogSci via Lakoff and Johnson. The very structure of our brains operates off of mid-level categories. We are wired to think and act this way.
  • “Know Thyself”
    • The power of taxonomy, via Foucault.
    • Agamben, and the origin of man re: “know thyself.”

5) “THE STRANGE LOOP OF SELF KNOWLEDGE” – Section purpose: to understand that the ‘self’ we just explored is emblematic of the very structure of consciousness. This is done via looking at contemporary theories of consciousness and the self.

  • Captivated by our own captivation
    • Consciousness as ‘Dasein’. The idea that humans woke up from captivation (being an animal) to our own captivation (self-consciousness). Read this via Heidegger and Agamben. Our own captivation is ourselves, the loop.
  • “I” is a strange loop
    • Intro to Hofstadter’s theory of consciousness re: strange loops – the looping of low-level and high-level categories creates a mirror-in-mirror structure that is the origin of consciousness and the self.
  • Embodied minds
    • Via Lakoff and Johnson, a look at how minds (intellect and reason) aren’t transcendent or disembodied, but rather how they, in a very real way, are embodied and come from our perceptual systems. Reason is structured by metaphor.
    • The “self” is just a conceptual category (our most robust symbol), which emerged from a body looking at itself. It’s just a metaphor (our most robust metaphor). As robust as it may be, it’s still just a symbol, a metaphor.
  • Phenomenal Self Models
    • Intro into Metzinger’s theory of the PSM, the ego tunnel, and the naïve realism of introspection.
    • The simulacrum and its explanatory story from Borges as a way to understand the PSM and naïve realism.
    • Looking at ourselves takes for granted the self that is looking, thus we have a split – the Cartesian fallacy.
    • A look into Lakoff’s split-self metaphors.
  • Survival of the self
    • Consciousness evolved as a “workbench” of reality.
    • Evolution of the self as survival mechanism. Origins of the self in DNA and the immune system. Also: our war against death that results.
  • A line in the sand
    • Where do we draw the line of self/non-self that feels so solid, but becomes so porous when examined closely?

6) “THE VIRTUAL UMWELT” – Section purpose: to examine the strange line between our conscious experience of the world and what it might mean to posit a world ‘outside’ of conscious experience.

  • Umwelt / Umgebung
    • Intro to Jakob von Üexel’s theory of the “umwelt.” Our world is not objective, but a reality tunnel.
  • The infinite richness of the Real
    • A look at phenomenal models vs. the infinite richness of reality.
    • Comparing digital sampling to analogue waveforms.
  • Virtual reality
    • Virtual/Actual/Real introduced, applied to the PSM.
    • The example of countries and territory as analogy.

7) “DREAMS OF DEATH” – Section purpose: to explore a classic example of philosophy’s attempt to get ‘outside’ our conscious experience of the world, and some illuminating contemporary conclusions that come from taking this metaphor seriously. (I do this to set up the next chapter).

  • Plato’s cave
    • The origin of Western Truth: Plato’s Cave, and the resulting 2,000 years of a philosophy of presence.
  • This cave is empty!
    • Metzinger’s reading re: PSM, which posits that there are no people in the cave, only ever shadows.
    • If all we are is shadows, then what would it mean to leave the cave and be filled with light?
  • Blinded by the sun
    • Derrida’s reading re: death by blindness
    • Is death the only way to exit lack?

8) “WHAT IS BEING?” – Section purpose: to conclude and summarize all you just read in this chapter, and transition us to the next.

  • What is being?
    • Being, most simply, means: “being alive.” It also means being conscious, which means it is the realm of the strange loop of self-awareness, of the workbench, of the survival mechanism. Being is also the realm of negative difference, of selves and egos, and of virtual constructs. The “self” that we are “self-aware of” is a highly constructed space, and as we shall see, highly flexible.
  • Being & death
    • Being only exists because we’ve separated out Death through negative difference.


  1. Pingback: 4: Death | Live The Questions

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