Sunday, 4 May 2014

Suicide and the Determinist Agenda

1) In the 1970s, when I was at University, studying English Literature, the prevailing movement in literary criticism hailed from across the Channel. A fella called Saussure had invented the discipline of semiotics and Roland Barthes had published Ecriture Degrès Zéro. The logical conclusion of their assumptions was that literary texts did not belong to their authors. Authors were simply conduits for the various influences, cultural, social and historical that operated on them. Texts were places where these influences met, crossed over and passed through. This provided wonderful fodder for “deconstructionism” and led to what became known as the “Death of the Author” (There was even a literary whodunit written with this title). The spectacular mistake made by these critics was that, without the authors to provide them with texts to deconstruct, they were out of a job. You seldom hear of this form of criticism these days. It simply disappeared down its own fundament.

2) In recent times psychologists have decided that we are so subject to priming influences and cognitive biases that we amount to little more than pools in which ripples spread out through our consciousnesses, influencing us in ways we can’t imagine or control. We used to think of ourselves as the “stars” of our consciousness, controlling the show from the centre of the stage, but now we have been dethroned and reduced to mere “bit-part”players. Just like the author, the self is dissolved, abolished or, at best, marginalized. What’s more, this is done with knowingness and, almost, delight, in the case of those who have made these “discoveries”.

In both cases there is a desire to reduce the human person to a creature at the mercy of pre-determined influences over which he or she has no control. Essentially, he or she is a straw blown in the wind. In both cases this excuses a desire for self-obliteration or the dissolving of the human person. What is behind this desire? How is it that creatures like us with, like all animals, an incredibly powerful inbuilt survival instinct so avidly seek after self-immolation? Can it be that, our reaction, as humans, to our natural inheritance of opportunity and responsibility, has become to flee from the latter as being too terrible to countenance? Does this mean that we are left in a constant state of vacillation between our irrepressible instinct to survive and our equally strong and craven desire to abdicate from what is asked of us? Are we all terminally conflicted?

A publication of the Mischief Publishing House

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