Autonomy and Schizophrenia

Autonomy and Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is like love: there is no specifically schizophrenic phenomenon or entity; schizophrenia is the universe of productive and reproductive desiring-machines, universal primary production as “the essential reality of man and nature.”

Deleuze and Guattari, anti-oedipus (5)

Revisiting Kant’s answer to the question What is Enlightenment? again for the thousandth time, I was struck with its schizophrenia. I’ve resisted falling into the mire of Deleuzian thought for a long time, but I’ve turned a corner of sorts. Until recently, I just didn’t see what good it would do—I preferred to take my irrationality from Burroughs and Miller, rather than from theory.

The paradox of maintaining “individuality” in the face of the need for society has planted me here. We band together to be “productive” and yet we become alienated from that production. Individuality and autonomy are not synonymous, and yet reading Kant it seems that he has taken them to be so—within a schizophrenic sort of limit system. Kant’s definition of freedom would shock some people. For him, it was purely spiritual, rather than corporeal. A nation in chains was okay, in fact it might even be beneficial—as long as autonomy in the matter of religious freedom were granted. Our infantile notions of freedom were only so much Teenage Wind.

… did you know that

Freedom, for Kant, was an entirely different matter.

But that the public should enlighten itself is more possible; indeed, if only freedom is granted enlightenment is almost sure to follow. For there will always be some independent thinkers, even among the established guardians of the great masses, who, after throwing off the yoke of tutelage from their own shoulders, will disseminate the spirit of the rational appreciation of both their own worth and every man’s vocation for thinking for himself. But be it noted that the public, which has first been brought under this yoke by their guardians, forces the guardians themselves to remain bound when it is incited to do so by some of the guardians who are themselves capable of some enlightenment – so harmful is it to implant prejudices, for they later take vengeance on their cultivators or on their descendants. Thus the public can only slowly attain enlightenment. Perhaps a fall of personal despotism or of avaricious or tyrannical oppression may be accomplished by revolution, but never a true reform in ways of thinking. Farther, new prejudices will serve as well as old ones to harness the great unthinking masses.

Freedom, in and of itself, in Kant’s view can result in more enslavement by prejudice. A person must be free in order to think, yet freedom does not necessarily promote thought. Some restrictions on “freedom” are beneficial. The fear of the masses is almost palpable. Like G.W. and his “patriot” act, Kant was a firm believer in the involvement of a strong ruler to set boundaries on freedom.

But only one who is himself enlightened, is not afraid of shadows, and has a numerous and well-disciplined army to assure public peace, can say: “Argue as much as you will , and about what you will , only obey!” A republic could not dare say such a thing. Here is shown a strange and unexpected trend in human affairs in which almost everything, looked at in the large , is paradoxical. A greater degree of civil freedom appears advantageous to the freedom of mind of the people, and yet it places inescapable limitations upon it. A lower degree of civil freedom, on the contrary, provides the mind with room for each man to extend himself to his full capacity.

This is positively schizophrenic. Less freedom means more freedom? But this is not the only schizophrenic aspect—extending to full capacity means, for Kant, to only think of others while thinking alone. It’s no wonder that there has have been many problems in instituting this course of action.

To use “public reason” in Kant’s terms is to be alone with a head full of voices. In an odd coincidence, Foucault and Deleuze’s suggested course of action is much the same. However, they call it by a more realistic label. They call upon people to de-individuate themselves. This is an odd sort of freedom. The freedom to stop being yourself. I doubt you’d convince many teenagers to do that.

We labor on with the notion that we can have both at the same time. That we can be fully autonomous individuals while keeping our private desires out of the public light. However, there is nearly an Eastern mysticism about it. To be responsible, publicly, means to be a disappearer. To accomplish this seems very close to a form of delirium.

What this leaves unanswered are things like justice, enslavement, and the massive expenditure of munitions on those outside the covenant of “Enlightened” society. Kant answered only with a belief that we are naturally impelled to do the right thing, morally. I’m not so sure that it has all worked out according to plan. The autonomy of “enlightenment” — for Kant (and I suspect George Jr. too)— means spiritual autonomy not corporeal autonomy.

It seems to me that the rhetoric of the Bush administration is headed much the same way, down that well traveled road. While spiritual freedom seems to be something we take for granted like giddy teenagers, the issues of corporeal freedom are still mostly unresolved in the idiot wind.

2 thoughts on “Autonomy and Schizophrenia”

  1. Freedom, Discipline, and Autonomy

    “H” In recent posts on true discourse , Milton and Nietzsche , and Deleuze, Foucault, and Kant on autonomy , This Public Adress asks, in effect, what is it to be free? I wonder if the discussion would benefit from three

  2. Freedom, Discipline, and Autonomy

    “H” In recent posts on true discourse , Milton and Nietzsche , and Deleuze, Foucault, and Kant on autonomy , This Public Adress asks, in effect, what is it to be free? I wonder if the discussion would benefit from three

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