Beyond the Master/slave Dialectic: Erotic Ownership

In erotic ownership of another self, Eros draws the potential owner and the potentially owned by engendering desire, and in this draw draws both into the draw itself as an intimate being‐there-with. If we posit the two persons involved, though, as present­at­hand, fully determinable entities, and the desire as some sort of mutual relation, we fail to understand the way in which the beauty we perceive in the other draws as erotic

If the other were a fully determinable entity, a thing, such as a statue for instance, our desire to possess it leads to a contrary desire, that is, to keep possession the beloved should be made less desirable to others, hence less beautiful, less engendering of desire in others, but this would also engender less desire in ourselves.  From the potentially owned perspective, then, precisely they should allow themselves to be owned by one that doesn’t desire them fully, because one that desires them less will have less interest in reducing what beauty is there. This technical understanding of the situation misrepresents Eros, in that desire and possession as moments of Eros become contradictory, and in one way or another the contradiction leads to the loss of both.    It is also totalizing in that it re-presents both the other and the between as fully determined, totalized things in a totalized relation to one another. Rather than erotic, this technical understanding is thanatic, in that the self, the other, and the relation are experienced clinically, laid out before, precisely as a corpse is laid out before a clinical, theoretical gaze. As total, this type of possession can only be relative, predicated on  a  relation  between totalized entities. 

Beings as things can be seen as present-­at-­hand, and in our ‘rational’ way of thinking, we experience things in that manner.  We can even, in a theoretical stance, strip a thing of the relations that give it meaning, such that it becomes an object. Things can also be experienced as ready‐to-hand, in the way we perceive tools when we use them with only implicit recognition of their presentation,  primarily  recognizing them as fulfilling a function, for example we don’t really notice the chair we sit in as a chair in its full presentation, but as a  functional “for‐sitting‐in”. These two modes don’t exhaust the possible modes of being, though, since they only deal with beings as determinate things. Neither our self, nor the self of the other, nor the beauty of the other as Eros that draws us towards, nor finally the desire that we experience in this draw are fundamentally experienced as things in either the present‐at‐hand or ready‐to‐hand modes, still less as ‘objects’ stripped of their meaningful relations. In that selves have thingly aspects we are no different from the higher animals, other aspects of our being determine us as primarily selves, and in so doing redefine the animalistic traits we do have. 


Eros and desire as what draws and the draw itself are not experienced as a relation between present‐at‐hand things.  In erotic being-drawn-towards we are drawn towards a projection of the self and the other upon a possible shared horizon. In this draw we are simultaneously stretched temporally from our history (the past as what is retained in the present) towards a projected future. The present ‘moment’ in which we experience the other is not a single now‐point but is the entirety of this projected stretch. Desire is not a relation between two already present‐at‐hand things but is mediated by the self‐narrative of the projection, and Eros is not an ‘object’ of this desire but its goal, its telos. The erotic is what engenders the self-narrative of fantasy (hence why fantasy is always seen as fundamentally erotic) by drawing us towards possibilities that are not yet fully actualized as possession and being-possessed, and can always be further actualized.  Absolute possession is always partial, because as absolute it possesses what is only partially determinable,

As selves, the potential owner and owned are not primarily present-­‐at-­‐hand entities, but the opening of a place in which such entities can appear and pass away as the interplay of reality. In being-­‐with the other there is no ‘relation’ between isolated self-­‐things because selves themselves are the between in which any such relations can occur. Since both the draw of desire and the being caught up in the draw occur as projections, both desire/Eros and self/other are experienced as only partially determinable possibilities, and desire is desire to  actualize those possibilities as fully as possible. To possess in the mode of guiding the actualization of the possibilities of the other, while being‐possessed, is in the mode of being-guided in that actualization. The erotic as owned is simultaneously present‐at‐hand beauty and ready‐to‐hand usefulness, but more primarily the continuing increase of self, Eros and desire in a co‐actualizing being-there-with, where co‐actualizing determines the possessor as owner and the possessed as owned as an ongoing appropriating event, an enownment, in which each receives their appropriate potential from the appropriating event itself.

In this situation there is no contradiction between desire and Eros as its telos. Desire desires precisely the fullest actualization of the erotic and of the self as possessing the erotic. In the appropriating event the proper places of each are determined in an ongoing way, the places of the enowned and enowning as the fullness of enownment itself. Being caught up in the draw and projection of desire by the possessed itself co-projects the fullness of enowning as far as our finite projections can, and the event,  as  ongoing,  constantly  re-projects  enownment  onto  further  horizons.  By absolute being‐there-with in the appropriating event we avoid predetermining or over-determining the other, from either side, by holding open possibilities as possible, and remaining open to changing projections of those possibilities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: