The limit of failure: Perversion in psychoanalysis and temporality in ethical philosophy
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This dissertation aims to ask a question about the philosophy of limits. It does so primarily though investigations into two disciplines: psychoanalysis and ethical philosophy. These two parts are introduced and contextualized based on debates centered in 20 th Century American Literature including the work of Bret Easton Ellis and Don DeLillo. Part one begins by identifying the structure of perversion in Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis. Perversion is an important category from the very beginning of Freud's work and interacts with a great number of psychoanalytic categories. Perversion bears a special relationship to the fantasy and the problem of sexuation, as seen in texts like Deleuze's Masochism or Freud's essay "A Child is Being Beaten." In connecting perversion to the question of limits, one should turn to Lacan's increasingly important work on the ethics of psychoanalysis, including Seminar VII and the essay "Kant avec Sade." This intersection not only reflects a structural similarity between ethics and perversion, but also reveals the self-referential as a necessary point of failure. In part two ethical philosophy is evaluated in its relationship to temporality. This section includes discussions of the ethical and temporal philosophy of thinkers from Bergson to Derrida. Important in these considerations are the questions of form and repetition, as both are seemingly paradoxical but essential aspects of time. Limits enter this calculation primarily in relation to the moment of the present. The present is central to the philosophy of time, but also difficult to comprehend insofar as it marks the uneasy intersection between past and future, determinism and freedom. The conclusion evaluates several texts on the philosophy of the limit, primarily criticizing their asymptotic conception of limits. It suggests, instead, a model of the limit as failure, a place where the discipline encounters something it cannot account for or incorporate. Rather than maintaining or emphasizing finitude, however, this point of failure is the possibility for the system to open onto something more than itself. Conceiving of the limit as failure is productive not only for philosophical systems but holds additional promise for political problems and artistic creation.