Category Archives: responsibility


Mastery (of someone):  to appropriate, own and give a disposition, a state of being, to that person.

Domination: to make available to oneself as appropriate.

To submit: to be revealed or exhibited as available and proper.

Submission: available to hear and simultaneously obey.

Submissive: acquiesce to obedience through devotion.

Nobody Understands Me! Including Me!

Sometimes circumstances conspire to hit you on the head with something you know full well, but for some reason were avoiding your own understanding of. A few months ago circumstances to do with employment took a major turn from the situation I had been hired under, and wanting to make the best of things, along with maintaining a significant income, caused me to avoid understanding the significance of the change. This although had someone described the new situation prior to my accepting the position I would have run for the hills.

Even within the avoidant perspective I was framing the situation with, I spent much of the last couple of months watching the rest of the people on the project busily building a train and tracks to run it on, all the time knowing the destination wasn’t reachable by land. If someone isn’t ready to hear something, even if they respect you sufficiently to listen, your words won’t make any sense, and gesturing wildly towards the abyss between the current track and the destination is only going to convince people you’ve lost your mind, because not only is their perspective different, they have a different horizon, beyond which nothing is yet visible. This has nothing to do with intelligence or acuity, just the luck of the draw as to what you’re ready to see and hear.

This time circumstances conspired further. About a week ago I was forced to stop avoiding my own understanding and act on it, despite it seeming like the worst possible timing, both in terms of personal as well as financial stability. Already, though, it’s as if a massive fog has been lifted. Avoiding something you fully understand renders other things blurry as well, you can’t put blinders on to only one thing, they affect your vision of everything else as well.

Mastery / slavery ? Digressions in Terminology

How the more extreme forms of domination and submission oriented dynamics acquired the terminology “Master/slave” is an odd question at first glance, and one related to another form of terminology, that of “Owner/property”.
A slave, defined by being-owned, would by definition have an owner.  One who owned a human being would by definition have a slave, owning simple “property” would not distinguish one from any other in our current society.  Masters in various areas of endeavour might have servants, novices, acolytes, initiates, apprentices, etc.  But in the specific area of consensual slavery the slave’s owner appropriates the designation “Master”.  Seemingly in reaction to the ability and responsibility mastery requires, some in domination/submission dynamics opt out of the issue of what mastery entails, preferring to return to simple ownership, but the simulaneous reduction of human property (“slave”) to just “property” signals a felt lack, as if owning a human being without mastery is somehow inappropriate.
Consensual slavery has multiple defining features, but one of the principle features is a vow of obedience that overrules further need for consent, in most cases perpetual, at least in intention.  Perpetual vows of obedience are found in a number of other areas of human endeavour, but are most associated with the religious life.  Within many religious orders a vow of obedience to the order is prescribed.  While it is unusual today, vows of obedience to a particular person were at one time also common within Christianity as in other religions.
The justification for vows of obedience within specifically Christian theology stemmed from the limited perspective available to any given individual, together with the notion that community ameliorated that limitation and provided a brake on unconstrained and potentially mistaken willing by the individual.
Will as Will to Power, in the consummation of metaphysics and therefore Christianity itself, however, is the term for the essence of being itself, rather than a specific faculty of a specific being.  As the essence of being itself the slave’s being is as fully Will to Power as the Owner’s.  Rather than ameliorating the expression of Will to Power, the being of the community, religious or otherwise, is also Will to Power.  A vow of obedience could not in post Nietzschean terms accomplish any constraining of the Will to Power but would simply make the perspective panoramic, and as panoramic all the more perspectival.
A vow of obedience, as central to the slave’s being-a-slave, and hence the slave’s expression of Will to Power, serves two other purposes.  First the vow is a shield against the tempting, in particular the most tempting itself.  Second it is the focus for the more understanding and creative expression of that will demanded by its continuing alignment with the will of the Master.

It is in the radicality of the demand of obedience that it functions as a shield against the tempting.  “The most tempting itself” is an odd phrase at first –  temptation is often conflated with desire, yet in a sense it opposes and frustrates the pursuit of that which is most desired itself.  Temptation diverts from the pursuit of desire as much as from the pursuit of perfection, or any other particular pursuit.  As the “most” tempting fundamental temptation is something we always find ourselves in in advance.  Radical obedience, in either expectation or fulfillment, opposes the most tempting in an essential way because it is an extraordinary expectation, and an extraordinary thing to attempt.  “The most tempting”, the founding temptation in which we always find ourselves immersed is essentially the temptation of the mediocre, the averageness of everyday understanding and levelling off any distinctions that might threaten that tranquillizing mediocrity of everydayness itself.

Expecting this kind of vow implictly requires a sense of one’s own unique abilities, a sense that develops with mastery of those abilities itself, a sense that breaks and continually re-breaks the temptation towards a tranquilizing common mediocrity.  Consenting to such a vow requires an honouring of the uniqueness of the Master’s abilities that accomplishes the same severing from the temptation to mediocrity.

Refusal Or … ?

Between my post on refusal and now I’ve had a very odd change in my manner of being.

I had what used to be called, in the conceptual world, a “divine revelation”.  Since I live in the post conceptual (post religious-metaphysical-scientific)  world it was no long divine in any sense.   However it was reflexive in a way that no epiphany could be.  It was a revelation of the nature of revelation itself.

The reflexivity made me suddenly understand Hegel’s Absolute Knowing, Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence of the Same, and Heidegger’s vom Ereignis (from Enowning) simultaneously as attempts to provoke the experience.  Not that they do, but they do at least prepare one for it in a similar way to mystic practice preparing one for divine revelation.  Understanding understanding, as it were, doesn’t give you an understanding of anything in particular.  It gives you a different sense of things where understanding precedes self-conscious interpretation.

More on this later …

Freedom, freedom and Waffling

I’ve been reading Master Obsidian’s House blog site some more and a paragraph in another post caught my eye as something I’ve also been concerned with. Part of the reason expressing oneself as a part of the M/s subculture is that our language betrays what we in fact do and how we structure meaning within the world. Speaking of a tendency within the community Master Obsidian makes the following observation on a common and becoming more common attitude:

freedom in its purest sense embraced is the freedom to do anything and to be anything at all. And if we truly are inclusive, if we truly are seekers of truth then we must conclude as often as possible that every man and every woman has the ability and the right to pursue what ever strikes their particular fancy. And perhaps even more importantly than that notion, is the notion that whatever a person comes up in their pursuit of getting their particular fancy struck as it were – is great and wonderful and not to be denied.

Freedom, for me, comes in two flavors. There is the a priori freedom that every human being possesses no matter what their life circumstances. Without this freedom we would be unable to comport ourselves towards anything whatsoever. It is a necessity of being-in-the-world itself. This is properly called ‘ontological freedom’, which can be explained as the freedom of being itself. The other sense of freedom is the practical freedom that one possesses within-the-world. This is a matter of circumstances, and is also a matter of degrees. The proper term for this is ‘ontic freedom’, which can be made clearer as the freedom to dispose of beings as one wishes.

Enhancing the ability, if the individual chooses, to exercise ontic freedom is a noble pursuit. The as-one-wishes is crucial though, as not everyone wishes to exercise every possible ontic freedom. As well, circumstances being what they are, no one can exercise every freedom they may wish. We are all constrained by law, by custom, by societal opinion, and by our own ethical sense.

Choosing to not exercise freedoms may be due to ethics or societal norms, or it may be a more personal choice in that an individual may simply not feel comfortable exercising a good number of freedoms. If this number is great enough they may choose to enter into a D/s or M/s relationship, depending on the degree of unfreedom they feel most comfortable with. In an M/s relationship, once the choice is made it is made in a permanent sense, unless one is willing to break one’s word in an important manner.

Whatever that person, who is now a slave where continued consent is not required, may suddenly feel the urge to express may now only be expressed accordng to the will of the Master . The slave has given up the freedom to “get their particular fancy struck” unless it happens to coincide with the Master’s particular fancy at that moment. That ontological freedom is still present cannot undermine ontical slavery.

A Daedalus Christmas

Realizing I neglected to post over the holidays, I decided to wrap up what went on at House Daedalus. With mitda having put in a ton of effort to Christmas we had a pile of wrapped presents under the tree, the four usual adults, mitda’s mother (also technically an adult 🙂 ), kid-who-is-18 and the kidlet (9) all here to open them on Christmas Day. The presents were really quite good all round, me probably doing the best overall because mitda managed to score the last 5 Terry’s Dark Chocolate Oranges available in Austin Texas. And I do love the Terry’s Oranges. So I have enough of them to both share and be selfish with them. I also received a new copy of Sein und Zeit, my old one having oddly disappeared during the period when we lived with the MIL, and an apropos t-shirt emblazoned “If I’m not happy, nobody’s happy”. For all the gift recipients mitda had put together a bunch of cool stocking stuffers last minute on a very slim budget, and opening them was one of the highlights of the day.

Generally mitda herself doesn’t celebrate Christmas and so she had the slimmest pickings of the bunch (she remonstrated to everyone not to buy her presents in the weeks leading up), which didn’t feel so good when she worked so hard to make it a good holiday, even though she will always do well on her holiday of choice for gifts, Valentine’s Day. She and I had exchanged new rings in stainless steel, which appears to be the only metal she can wear these days without a reaction. And I have not-so-subtly brought her over to the ‘dark side’ of logic and set theory, and the two books she got on those subjects were a bigger prize for her than I expected.

Aside from trifles emmie’s presents were a bit, ahem, virtual. She is in line for some big gifts this year but it simply was impossible to make the giving of them coincide with Christmas, so she received pictures of the items in question and the family’s promise that the pictures would eventually have a material aspect to go with them. Materially she did get a wireless remote control for her digital SLR which will come in handy for getting herself in her photos. E received a bluetooth earbud from the family, which he seems to really get off on, and various and sundry smaller gifts from his birth family et al. Both kids did pretty well, although kidlet was disappointed to not get a new video game for his DS and made such known. With his recent grades (a number of F’s, although most were in spelling and spelling has always been a bane), it might be better that neither of his parents saw new video games as a necessity. And the MIL also had a few nice gifts, including some from mitda’s twin brother who lives some distance from here and couldn’t be here in person. He was sweet enough to include gift cards for mitda and I as well. The family received a gift card from the MIL that she really shouldn’t have budgeted herself to purchase, so every dollar on the card feels like twenty would have from anyone else. She has worked very hard this year to get herself back on track after a financially disastrous move a few years ago from California (occasioned by the very real need to take care of mitda’s grandmother during her last years) and shown incredible toughness of spirit and resiliency in handling very difficult circumstances.

Crrrriiiitttic !

During a conversation Saturday night a Master friend of mine brought up the “Master’s inner critic”, in the sense of the following situation. When living 24/7 in an absolute enslavement relationship it can be easy for the Master to get lazy at times. Suddenly there’s a “wait a minute, s/he didn’t do … while s/he was doing … – ah well, let it go this time, the game’s on …”, and this happens a few times in a day, maybe multiply that by a few days, and you’ve suddenly let a few dozen “ little things” slide.

Then suddenly you decide you have to correct him/her and set things straight. But the “inner critic” is saying “oh yea, come down on him/her NOW after you were too lazy to do it the other three dozen times”, and it becomes a difficult thing to do. And if it keeps on going the AE dynamic is lost completely, the slave no longer expects correction, and the Master loses the ability to do it and just lets the relationship lapse.

Ironically that very thing happened to me seemingly directly afterwards. Having been faced with two slaves suffering from the muted grays, browns and blacks of the depressive end of the bipolar spectrum, and having been home to take care of some things that I wouldn’t normally have time for, I found that all of a sudden E. was making dinner every night (or scrounging McD’s or KFC for the family), the bedroom, master bathroom, kitchen and closets all looked like thermonuclear test sites and at 7:30am the only person even close to being awake and prepared to leave the house was myself, so I was taking the kidlet to school while E. got ready for work, and my two slaves snored peacefully in bed.

Time to bring out the heavy guns! Yep, I sent an EMAIL, lol. Detailing what wasn’t done and that it had to be done from now on.

Or else!!!!

Or else what?

The inner critic was hounding me on that one but I went ahead anyway. Tonight the kitchen, bedroom, master bathroom and closet have all been cleaned and nitpicked over, we had a wonderful birthday dessertfest with mitda’s mother, and while these sorts of things are not a cure for bipolar depression we’ve discussed emmie’s situation in particular and come up with what I think is a workable plan to help her learn some new coping skills, as well as get her medications sorted out in a short amount of time, all without taking her near a hospital.

Critic, be damned.

Thought at its Limits

Foucault praises linguistics and psychoanalysis as examples of thought at its limits which discovers at the center of knowledge not humanity, but a sort of anti-humanity, a dead end if you will. Both linguistics and psychoanalysis find humanity suspended in a web of language, a language which mediates humanity and allows humanity to constitute an image of itself. But language is not such a stable support network; rather language’s promise of solidity is something like quicksand, an infinitely regressing system which cannot comprehend its own foundation since it has no center or originary meaning to rest on. “From within language experienced and transversed as language, in the play of its possibilities extended to their farthest point, what emerges is that man has ‘come to an end’, and that, by reaching the summit of all possible speech, he arrives not at the very heart of himself but at the brink of that which limits him; in that region where death prowls, where thought is extinguished, where the promise of the origin interminably recedes.” If humanity reveals itself only in and by language, humanity must accept a certain condemnation of silence to never be able to speak of its own origins and ends. Humanity is thrust into the foreground only to be distanced from its foundations, its background, a horizon which cannot speak and which, when approached, undoes thinking (as meaning is undone at the roots of language, the self at the roots of psychoanalysis), leaving only a horizon of the dead.

It is, then, in this context that Foucault speaks of humanity as a recent invention. Only with the elaboration of specific systems of thought which could inquire not into humanity’s ideal or essence, but the functioning of the foreground and the silhouette of humanity against the enabling background. “We shall say, therefore, that a ‘human science’ exists, not whenever man is in question, but wherever there is analysis – within the dimension proper to the unconscious – of norms, rules, and signifying totalities which unveil to consciousness the conditions of its forms and contents.” The subject of humanity was constituted during a certain moment in history which “dissolved” language, that is, an era which knowingly constructed its understanding of humanity “objectively,” in between the spaces of representationality which show how humanity is deployed. According to Foucault, the human sciences address humanity in so far as people live, speak, and produce (biology, philology, and economics), and create its model by isolating and questioning the functioning of humanity when the norms and rules break down, and on that basis rebuild knowledge by showing how a functional representation of humanity can come into being and be deployed (and thus, Foucault will later argue, perfect the techniques of normalization and socialized encoding of rules via totalizing methods of power).

As language is now re-coalescing at its limits, combining thought and unthought, the Other of knowledge must give itself over to the Same. Where the limits of thinking reveal its own basis as its foundational limitations, a new way of thinking is constituted which, as Levi-Strauss says, “dissolves humanity.” Foucault writes, “Since man was constituted at a time when language was doomed to dispersion, will he not be dispersed when language regains its unity?” The “death of man” seems a relatively peaceful event, not where humanity explodes with enormous violence, but a moment where humanity withdraws into the background such that a new array of knowledge can be foregrounded. Foucault does not yet have the advantage of a fully elaborated theory of language; however, if such a unity of language is not philosophized, humanity will forever find itself in a dying state, undoing itself by its own logic without our awareness. Foucault seems to ask that humanity die gracefully so that we can direct our energy to elaborating what is not yet thought, and approach a new horizon of articulation.

The Discourse of Mastery and Unlimited Responsibility

A “discourse of Mastery” is by definition ontologically (study of Being) penetrating. By this I mean that it gets at the totality of its subject matter in such a way as to have conquered it. To take an example Euclidean geometry, which carves pure space into dimensions, angles and arcs, is a discourse of Mastery of spatiality. As such it is repressive, in that it subsumes other perceptions of spatiality.

This repression can be very much freeing. Euclidean geometry frees the architect to do what he does knowing the basics will work, knowing the rules of the game. What happens when we bring quantum spatiality into the equation?

Essentially nothing, because while the architect may nod to quantum spatiality it doesn’t have ontological penetration for him. It doesn’t describe the beings he works with and utilizes on a day to day basis. Another Master’s Mastery is as such only of a similarly comprehensive interest to myself or to my slaves. It might well be a discourse of Mastery, but it is not mine.

Mineness is a human trait, a trait of human being itself, that it is in each case mine. Or rather, is in the first place, but with the possibility of being given to another. This “giving”, or “ giving up” is en-owning, a giving of one’s Being, an event (ereignis), an appropriation (bringing to the proper, to one’s own). This giving up brings en-slavement, the Master’s absolute subjugation of the slave. This subjugation brings its kind and tenor of Mastery.

With Mastery comes unlimited responsibility through the “ Mineness” of the slaves new mode of Being. The slave is, in totality, Mine as Master. I am therefore responsible for what my slaves do, say, imply, as much as I am for what I do, say, or imply from that event of enownment onward. From the event onward a slave is a human being with a difference, a modality of toolhood, they are some of the beings that I work with and utilize on a day to day basis. Mastery works itself out through the unlimited responsibility of using those tools daily, without hiatus. Mastery is a working through, a going through, and its workmanship is absolutely restless. It is restless in the way it moves and arranges its equipmental totality, its World, which is also the World of its slaves.

Situations and Limit Situations


When we do this we discover immediately that people are always connected to the world in a number of concrete ways. Heidegger (1927) in this context spoke of our ‘thrownness’. He said that we are always thrown into a world that is already there to start with and into which we simply get
…amounts to the disclosedness of the fact that Dasein exists as thrown being towards its end. (Heidegger 1927:251)

In other words: death is part of me and to accept my living towards this end gives my life back to me in a new way.

Jaspers (1951, 1971) spoke of limit situations as those situations which define our humanity. Sooner or later we inevitably come up against guilt, death, pain, suffering and failure. The philosophical take on this is that it is more helpful to encourage people to come to terms with some of the inevitable conflicts and problems of living than to help them cover them up. Limit situations are what bring us in confrontation with ourselves in a decisive and fundamentally disturbing way. They evoke anxiety and therefore release us from our tendency to be untrue and evasive about ourselves and our lives.

inserted. It is important to recognize the factual situations that we are confronted with. We are part of a certain culture, a certain environment with a particular climate and history, a certain society and a specific situation. It is only within the givens of that situation that we can exercise our own choices. Sartre (1943) called this our facticity and he recognized that we can never release ourselves from this, even though we can choose our position in relation to it. In terms of psychotherapy it also means that it may be necessary to look at people’s problems in a structural way. Instead of seeing everything as the person’s psychological, emotional or internal problem, difficulties can be seen as part of an overall situation. Context is crucial and has to be taken into account.

Limit situations

Of all the situations in which we can find ourselves there are certain ones that are irrevocable. These situations have to be accepted and worked with. We cannot avoid them or overcome them: we have to learn to live with them. Heidegger emphasised the importance of death as a marker of our finite nature. Death in this sense is not to be taken as something happening to us at some point later, but as something that is relevant to us right now. The realities of our mortality and of our incompleteness have to be faced for us to become aware of and true to our nature, which is to be finite. Heidegger considered that the reality of our death is that it completes us. The recognition of the inevitability of death gives us a certainty that nothing else can give us. The fear in the face of death allows us to claim back our individuality, our authentic being, as we are inevitably alone in death and find ourselves much sobered and humbled by the knowledge of our mortality. Death, according to Heidegger:

…amounts to the disclosedness of the fact that Dasein exists as thrown being towards its end. (Heidegger 1927:251)

In other words: death is part of me and to accept my living towards this end gives my life back to me in a new way.

Jaspers (1951, 1971) spoke of limit situations as those situations which define our humanity. Sooner or later we inevitably come up against guilt, death, pain, suffering and failure. The philosophical take on this is that it is more helpful to encourage people to come to terms with some of the inevitable conflicts and problems of living than to help them cover them up. Limit situations are what bring us in confrontation with ourselves in a decisive and fundamentally disturbing way. They evoke anxiety and therefore release us from our tendency to be untrue and evasive about ourselves and our lives.