By Cathy Caruth
In the existing account of English empiricism, Locke conceived of self-understanding as an issue of mere commentary, sure heavily to the legislation of actual notion. English Romantic poets and German severe philosophers challenged Locke's belief, arguing that it did not account competently for the ability of proposal to show upon itself―to detach itself from the legislation of the actual global. Cathy Caruth reinterprets questions on the middle of empiricism via treating Locke's textual content no longer easily as philosophical doctrine but additionally as a story during which "experience" performs an unforeseen and uncanny function. Rediscovering strains and differences of this narrative in Wordsworth, Kant, and Freud, Caruth argues that those authors must never be learn in simple terms as rejecting or overcoming empirical doctrine but in addition as reencountering of their personal narratives the complicated and hard relation among language and experience.
Beginning her inquiry with the instant of empirical self-reflection in Locke's Essay referring to Human Understanding―when a mad mom mourns her lifeless child―Caruth asks what it implies that empiricism represents itself as an act of mourning and explores why scenes of mourning reappear in later texts comparable to Wordsworth's Prelude, Kant's Metaphysical Foundations of normal Science and Prolegomena to Any destiny Metaphysics, and Freud's Civilization. From those readings Caruth strains a routine narrative of radical loss and the continuous displacement of the item or the agent of loss. In Locke it's the mom who mourns her lifeless baby, whereas in Wordsworth it's the baby who mourns the useless mom. In Kant the daddy murders the son, whereas in Freud the sons homicide the father.
As she lines this trend, Caruth exhibits that the conceptual claims of every textual content to maneuver past empiricism are implicit claims to maneuver past reference. but the narrative of loss of life in each one textual content, she argues, leaves a referential residue that can't be reclaimed through empirical or conceptual good judgment. Caruth therefore finds, in each one of those authors, a rigidity among the abstraction of a conceptual language free of reference and the compelling referential resistance of specific tales to abstraction.
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Extra resources for Empirical truths and critical fictions : Locke, Wordsworth, Kant, Freud
But we have not been told what that trauma is; while we know that the empirical argument is a narrative and that its fictions are figurative displacements, we do not know exactly what they displace. The vocabulary of substitution, which mediates between mental and linguistic behaviour, still conceals a traumatic "origin" that the chapter has so far managed to contain within its own fictions. If, as part of this fiction, empirical accident becomes a figure for linguistic necessity, what, we might ask, is this necessity?
One might object that there is a great deal of empirical "truth" in, for example, the description of mental illness—that it is a surprisingly acute precursor to our own psychoanalytic case histories. But we might consider the possibility that this is not so much evidence of the power of reasoning based on the empirical observation of experience, but of the way in which our "experience" takes the form of empirical narratives. As psychoanalysts, and psychoanalyzed, we are empiricists; as empiricists, we are constantly telling the story of the nonempirical grounds of our own experience.
The emphasis on empirical accident as a controlling power reveals that it operates as a figure in a story. 34 So far, then, the chapter has permitted some critical distance from its own method of argumentation by attempting to "explain" a sort of explanation that is very much like its own. As a result, the argument has itself introduced a nonempirical, indeed a rhetorical terminology by which it can itself be read: the notion of substitution (the notion of substituting ideas for one another, similar to the classical definition of the "trope" in rhetoric).