Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Notes On Habit And Freedom

Long ago I read one of Zizek's essays "Madness and Habit in German Idealism: Discipline between the Two Freedoms."

The only problem is that I read it on an ipod. I couldn't take notes. I was reading it on a tiny screen on a moving bus in the middle of the summer.

I remember certain things about it. Like that Hegel seems very difficult to read. But, more importantly, I remember certain things about Zizek's description of habit.

He says that in the "shift from Aristotle to Kant, to modernity with its subject as pure autonomy: the status of habit changes from organic inner rule to something mechanical, the opposite of human freedom: freedom cannot ever become habit(ual), if it becomes habit, it is no longer true freedom.... This eventually reaches its apogee in Christ, who is 'the figure of a pure event, the exact opposite of the habitual' " (1, My italics).

Why this incompatibility of freedom and habit? Because I don't think I have any option but to live habitually. I have devoted so much thinking and writing to the issue of modifying autopilot, or intuitive behavior, all of it culminating in the language of habit. I hope to stick with the term habit for a while, because it seems the most accurate to me.

I need to write a larger essay on this issue of the relationship between habit and freedom.

Because I have some hunches. I took this note last night: "Freedom and habituation. In ancient times large institutions were not the dominant source of habit. Thus habit was a feasible form of freedom. But in modern times habit comes primarily from above, it comes from a disciplined and militarized society."

This is very much speaking about Discipline & Punish, about how military models infiltrated civilian society with the purpose of crafting subjects, providing them with certain habits that would make them fit better into the social machine.

But the ancients didn't have to worry about disciplinary institutions like we do.

I don't know what I'll write about all of this.

It will involve Foucault, Delanda, Zizek, some others. I plan on rereading Zizek's essay at some point soon.

I think that this writing will be useful for Part IV.4 of AZI. It will be a good point to isolate, because it will have major implications for that thinking and writing.

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