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Consequently, the thought of contingency stands as a kind of ultimate consummation of the puncturing of human conceit – whether in its native form, or sublimated into the ultimate form of divine necessity. It is the bitterest pill to swallow, a distillate of everything indigestible that thinking has served up to us. Freud remarked that modern man had undergone three deep ‘narcissistic wounds’: Copernicus had demonstrated that the Earth is not the centre of the universe; Darwin, that the human being is a product of natural selection, emerging through the same blind material processes as every other creature; Finally, psychoanalysis was to undermine our impression that we are master of our own consciousness and destiny, for unconscious processes beyond our perception and control steer our relation to the world and to ourselves.

These are ‘humiliations’ in the sense that they violate the spontaneous human attitude, the ‘natural’ perspective from which the human subject can consider itself the central, necessary and founding fact of the universe in which it lives. The content of the entire series of these ‘narcissistic wounds’ is that the thinking subject’s self-image is not a transparent and originary given from which all thinking must proceed, and upon which all thinking can be solidly based. It is the product of other, unconscious processes and events: processes indifferent to the human and to thought; and events crucial for the emergence and continued existence of the latter, but whose necessity can by no means be established.

Robin Mackay - The Medium of

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