For the Love of Žižek: a Fan’s Confession

We believe that feelings are immutable, but every sentiment, particularly the noblest and most disinterested, has a history.

Michel Foucault,
‘Nietzsche, Genealogy, History’

I was not always a keen reader of theory, that anamorphic genre that blends literary, sociological, philosophical, political, and other conceptual apparatuses under one appellation. Adorno, Bahktin, Barthes, Judith Butler, Derrida, Foucault, Jameson, Kristeva, Lacan, and Lyotard, were never my thing. I’ve read some Marx, some Lenin, and some Mao before. But that’s just it. It was only recently, particularly the beginning of this year that I began to develop a taste for what most readers would readily dismiss as dry and obscure texts. I have Slavoj Žižek, the Slovenian guy, to thank for that.

Yes, I am a fan of Žižek in the same sense that my classmates are fans of the Korean pop boy band Super Junior, or in the way that my other friends are avid followers of J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter, or in the sense that my baby sister follows Spongebob Squarepants on television every weekend, or in the way that some of my acquaintances are obsessed with the Japanese porn star Maria Ozawa. I am a fan in the fullest sense of the word, like the Noranians of the past or the Pinoy Big Brother devotees of today.

What made me a fan of Žižek, first and foremost, is his acerbic humor, his engagement with popular culture, and of course, his reworking of Marxist ideology critique from a Lacanian lens to include the economy of enjoyment as a political factor. But what I like most about Žižek, in contrast to much of his Western postmodern liberal leftist contemporaries, is Žižek’s no nonsense endorsement of the supposed “Lost Cause” of revolutionary upheavals that aim for egalitarian emancipation as the only means of radically transforming the exploitative and oppressive order of the present.

In Michel Foucault’s theorization of power, resistance is inevitably co-opted by power in advance. Žižek, writing in his The Ticklish Subject, goes beyond Foucault by questioning this certainty. That

resistance to power is inherent and immanent to the power edifice (in the sense that it is generated by the inherent dynamic of the power edifice) in no way obliges us to draw the conclusion that every resistance is co-opted in advance, included in the eternal game Power plays with itself.[1]

For Žižek,

the key point is that through the effect of proliferation, of producing an excess of resistance, the very inherent antagonism of a system may well set in motion a process which leads to its own ultimate downfall.[2]

Žižek thus attacks the two main strands of postmodern leftism in the west: the liberal, multiculturalist, pluralist Left that aims for “capitalism with a human face” for reinforcing the rule of capital and the self-proclaimed radical anti-capitalist Left for refraining from engaging in a revolutionary project that does not eschew the excesses of such interventions: “the pious desire to deprive the revolution of this excess is simply the desire to have a revolution without revolution.”[3]

Of course, this line, in the Philippine context, does not depart much from the standard national democratic criticism of reformist and pseudo-leftist groups that mislead the people into believing that participation in the parliamentary arena and legal struggles can by themselves effect meaningful social transformation.

Perhaps this uncompromising oppositional stance can account for a bomb threat that cut short Žižek’s talk on his new book, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, to an audience of 800 in New York City last week? Žižek’s new book, after all, calls on the disparate Lefts of the west “to discard the narratives of the crisis that blame the meltdown on contingent deviations, and expose the mortal flaws of the global capitalist system as such.”

Being a fan of someone doesn’t mean eating him hook, line and sinker though. I, as a fan, also have many hesitations about Žižek. For one, I still can’t follow much of his elaborate discussion of Lacanian Psychoanalysis and German Idealism. Secondly, there’s the matter of some of the notions advanced in his vast body of texts. I don’t agree with Žižek, for example, on his line that the only alternative to U.S. imperialism and China’s emergence as an authoritarian-capitalist power is Europe. Recent developments, such as the Maoist victories in Nepal, the Naxalite upsurge in India, and the unwavering march of the national democratic movement here in the Philippines contradicts Žižek’s comment that “The Third World cannot generate a strong enough resistance to the ideology of the American Dream.”[4] I am also suspicious of Žižek’s opposition of theory and action and the privileging of the former as too easy a way out:

You know, Marx thesis eleven: philosophers have only interpreted the world; the time is, we have now to change it. Maybe, as good Marxists, we should turn it around. Maybe we are trying to change it too much. It’s time to redraw and to interpret it again, because do we really know what is going on today?

We need theory more than ever. Don’t be—don’t feel guilty for withdrawing from immediate engagement and for trying to understand what’s going on.[5]

Shouldn’t the two go side by side instead? ■

[1] Slavoj Žižek, The Ticklish Subject (London: Verso, 2000), 256.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Slavoj Žižek, Revolution at the Gates: Žižek on Lenin, the 1917 Writings (London: Verso, 2002), 261.

[4] Slavoj Žižek, “Thanks, But We’ll Do It Ourselves against Enlightened Administration,” In These Times, 19 June 2005, http://www.lacan.com/zizekamish.htm.

[5] Slavoj Žižek, interviewed by Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, 12 May 2008, http://www.democracynow.org/2008/5/12/world_renowned_philosopher_slavoj_zizek_on

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21 thoughts on “For the Love of Žižek: a Fan’s Confession

  1. Truth be told, Karlo, this is your only entry on Žižek that I’ve read carefully. I don’t have much to say for I find myself disoriented in such spheres, but I find it commendable that even as a fan, you don’t allow yourself to be spoonfed by just anything the guy says; a lesson to be learned by any fan of any particular icon.

    I don’t think I have the propensity to read him just yet, but for further Žižek curiosities, I know who to turn to.

  2. Mariborchan: LoL, I’ll be the first to sign up for that. :P

    Miracle: Thank you for the honest comment. We should always be critical about everything. I’m done with the very short introduction to literary theory that you lent me. I’ll send it back to you soon. I suggest that book as a good place to start in lieu of Žižek. :)

  3. To reiterate the sentiment of the poster immediately before me at a length more appropriate to the present subject: your appreciation of Zizek seems an honest and estimable effort, Karlo, but – in view of the limitations in your background knowledge you openly admit to – I really would warn you to be wary of your own enthusiasm here. It really isn’t appropriate to be a “fan” of Zizek’s in the way one might be a fan of a Korean boy band. Porn, boy bands, best-selling cheap novels all have their decades-long traditions which are of such a nature that it’s hard to imagine anything coming along that might radically “lower standards” within any of them, given that the standards have always been pretty low in each case. But I’ve been watching with horror as already indeed with Lacan, Derrida and several other widely-read and -praised charlatans, but in the last twenty years in an unprecedented way with Zizek, an Academia which – for all that one might say in criticism of it – played its part for a long time in maintaining standards of clarity and earnestness of thought, has allowed itself to be flooded and choked with what really is the most arrant nonsense, that doesn’t even make much pretence of being anything else.

    Zizek, as you know, claims, like his mentor Lacan, to be a connoisseur and competent judge of just about everything under the sun. But I can assure you that, beyond the sphere of random interpretative “bright ideas” about the possible unconscious undercurrents of Hollywood movies (where, I suppose, just about “anything goes” in the way of theoretical speculation), pretty much everything he has written is demonstrably inaccurate or untenable. His extensive writing on German Idealism, for example, largely consists of warmed-over synopses of the work of more competent and serious German scholars in the field, which he removes from the reach of plagiarism charges by inflicting on the basic ideas he has stolen a few arbitrary exaggerations or absurd inversions that serve indeed to make the interpretations of Kant or Hegel “his” but also serve to make them utter rubbish that has nothing any longer to do with Kant or Hegel at all.

    That really is what you need to understand about Zizek. He stands at the extreme end point of a tradition that has developed particularly in France over the past fifty years in which the point in philosophical and theoretical writing became less and less to say things that were TRUE and more and more to say things that were more BREATHTAKING and AMAZING, more UNHEARD-OF, than whatever the guy publishing just before you had published. Whatever he says about, say, Hegel is dictated primarily, if not exclusively, by this: it has to be something that no one ever even THOUGHT of saying before him (that Hegel’s philosophical method was not dialectical, for example, or that he was a materialist who believed that the mind had no role in forming reality). There are, of course, a huge number of such things that “no one ever thought of saying about Hegel before” that Zizek can fill his books up with. But the reason, in most cases, for no one ever thinking of them is that they are patently entirely wrong.

    More relevant to your concerns is the sad fact that the very same principle applies to the seemingly anachronistically robust and militant political ideas that Zizek subscribes to and propounds. If you’d followed Zizek and the wider political-theoretical scene for twenty or thirty years as I have, you’d soon recognize why Zizek has been proclaiming, for about ten years now, what appear to be good old-fashioned Leninist principles. The fact is that doing something so crashingly “old-fashioned” and “unoriginal” was the only way he could hold on to the only thing that matters to him: originality at any cost. Every form of departure from and “sublimation” of Marxism and of the socialist revolutionary tradition in general had been tried by someone, in France or elsewhere, in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, and in the early 90’s the only thing that no one expected from a leading, French-trained theorist was for him to start going on about proletarian revolution again. So that’s what Zizek did. For no other reason, I am sure, than because he knew it would confound expectations and draw the spotlight of intellectual fame and notoriety on to him once again.

    It really does anger me to see that this profoundly cynical move on his part really has won him the interest and support of people of political good will like yourself. That is why I urge you to think again.

  4. “But I’ve been watching with horror as already indeed with Lacan, Derrida and several other widely-read and -praised charlatans”

    I hope this is not another attempt to read current conditions from a modern standpoint because doing so will always lead to the conclusion that poststructuralism is nonsense. And this kind of reading, is exactly what Heidegger described as “vergessenheit”.

  5. Well, without wanting to turn this into one of those pointless internet polemics (albeit this time one conducted on an at least ostensibly somewhat higher level than most) I’m afraid my immediate impulse is to retort to your comment on my comment with the probably disobliging remark that you’re throwing terms from intellectual history around here with much the same opportunistic, impressionistic abandon as one finds them thrown around in Zizek’s work. Admittedly, Zizek seems to be pretty well-read in the texts of a certain narrow traditition – one which certainly includes Heidegger – so it’s unlikely one would find anything as crude as these remarks in any of his published work.
    I’ll explain, of course, what I mean by calling your remarks “crude”.
    Your talk of a “modern standpoint” appears to indicate that you hold a very crudely dogmatic position in a debate which is surely a long way from being resolved – and isn’t, I would have thought, generally seen as having been resolved by Zizek and by the community of other theorists (Agamben, Badiou, Laclau and so on) with whom he is constantly in dialogue. I do indeed consider a large proportion of “post-structuralist” writing – using the term very loosely to describe work inspired by the writings of those Parisian “maitres à penser” of the 60’s and 70’s who offered developments and re-applications of the work of De Saussure – to be “nonsense”. But to say that I do so “from a modern standpoint” must tend to caricature either my position or (I would hope) yours. If you think that having reservations about the intellectual seriousness of Slavoj Zizek necessarily means believing that there is a single “grand narrative” that can provide the definitive answer to every conceivable question, that human history has a single identifiable goal and pattern of development towards this goal, and so on – in other words, involves being the sort of eighteenth-century Liberal or nineteenth-century Marxist who were the “straw men” implicitly targeted already by Lyotard’s “Post-Modern Condition” some thirty years ago now – then you’re certainly utterly misrecognizing the majority of Zizek’s contemporary critics. Alternatively, if you believe that continuing to hold to ANY element or aspect of the world-views that dominated the 19th and 20th centuries – I mean, continuing to believe that discourse in some way reflects, and does not in every case absolutely create, reality, for example, or that there is a demonstrable difference between theory and rhetorical rhapsody – disqualifies the person who holds to it from participation in current intellectual debate….well, then I’m afraid that a figure I’d also always assumed had to be a “straw man” maybe isn’t so “straw” after all. Apparently there really is such a thing as the “convinced post-modernist” who swears by all the caricatural anti-dogmatic dogmas – “there is nothing outside the text” and so on – that he is lampooned as swearing by and believes he can disarm all criticism in advance by saying: “these ideas are ideas that define the age we live in; not to accept them entirely and uncritically is to declare oneself an anachronism.”

    But, of course, I wouldn’t blame you in the least for retorting to these remarks that they are far too general and vague and miss, in turn, what YOU mean by “modern standpoint” and so on (though you will, of course, admit, that they’re a vague reply to vague assumptions and accusations from your side). Fortunately, you do also, toward the end of your short post, offer me a chance to make my charge of “crudity” a little more concrete.

    The “crudest” sentence in your post is very definitely the last one. It is, as I say, a very good example of the sort of rhetorical thrashing-about with only half-or quarter-understood concepts that I deplore in what you call “post-structuralist” publications. Even if its key terms were clarified, the statement that “reading current conditions from a modern standpoint is exactly what Heidegger described as ‘Vergessenheit'” would plainly be wrong in not just one but several respects. I take it that, when you refer to Heidegger on “Vergessenheit”, you’re referring more exactly to his frequent mention, in his later work, specifically of “Seinsvergessenheit”, “forgetfulness of Being”. Now, we could talk for hours or days about the various respects in which the recent drift away from “modernist” essentialism into “post-modernist/post-structuralist” relativism might be portrayed as an erosion of what Heidegger was referring to with this phrase – that is, indeed as a kind of “anamnesis of forgotten Being” – and the respects in which, of course (and these are surely much more obvious), this drift toward relativism cannot be so portrayed, but must rather be viewed as a deepening “forgetfulness”. But I think that, however far such a discussion might take us in the direction of one of these interpretations or the other, it would NEVER take us – presuming that it were conducted seriously – even in the vicinity of your claim that “Reading current conditions from a modern standpoint is EXACTLY what Heidegger described as ‘(Seins)vergessenheit'”. Plainly, what Heidegger was grasping at with his talk of “forgotten Being” is only very, very approximately, and with a hundred qualifications and conditions, to be identified with “post-structuralism” or with any of the ideas associated with this term.

    You will understand, then, why my inclination is to classify your “defence” of Zizek under much the same rubric with the texts you defend. The supremely annoying thing about Zizek’s ever-multiplying published pronouncements is likewise his predilection in them for suggesting or implying that one phenomenon is “really exactly what” another, entirely different phenomenon is in essence, if both are only considered from the correct, Lacan-inspired point of view. Zizek’s writings are famously easy to pastiche, because one really can and does find in just about every book he’s published a dozen paragraphs with a single identical argumentational, or rather rhetorical structure: first the authoritative and convincing psychoanalytical/philosophical exegesis of some piece of pop-culture trivia (Hitchcock’s “Marnie” or a joke that had circulated thirty years ago in the former Yugoslavia) and then a sudden segue – via some such question-begging phrase as: “And do we not encounter this very same figure of ‘desire-denied-but-transforming-itself-into-its-own-denial in….?” – into a topic of a different nature, and a different order of seriousness, altogether, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall or the war in Iraq.

    There are a hundred different reasons why “post-structuralist” intellectual discourse – again in a very broad and probably abusive sense that includes both Zizek’s writing and your defence of it – has developed this and many other annoying and dishonest rhetorical “tics”. But all of them could be cleared up by just a moment’s serious reflection and by the moral decision to ask oneself: “Does what I’ve just written make any sense at all, or just a vaguely impressive noise?”

  6. It is important to point out at the onset that your comment possesses too many assumptions, an over-interpretation or (total misinterpretation) to my short reply. Among them, to say the least, was assuming that my post defended Zizek, it didn’t. And from this assumption, you devote much on your reply to something which is not an issue in the first place, it becomes non-essential.

    The essential point I wanted to convey was simply to ‘hope’ that such a comment is not one of those critiques that spring from a mad rush of ignorance of postmodernism (the postmodernism that stands on a philosophical tradition). But perhaps Nietzsche was right when he said that: “Hope is the worst of all human problems because it prolongs the torments of man.” since my ‘hoping’ was nothing more but a torment of waiting for the inevitable, in this case, the inevitable issue of criticizing postmodernism with modern discourse.

    What do I mean? In Bk. 7 of the Republic, Plato talks about the Allegory of the Cave, and we know what happened there, think of Modern Discourse – the Enlightenment Project- as the cave, for those who are so comfortable with modern discourse to the point of embracing it as a metaphysical dogma, would find such a reference to be absurd in their standards, and think of the liberation from the Cave as a vantage point in looking at the Cave as a dark and desolate place, with the realization that reality is actually bigger than the cave.

    The paradox in the Tractatus of Wittgenstein is another example. If we are to consider the Tractatus as correct, then we should consider that it is meaningless in the first place. Here we see the Tractatus as an example of Modern Discourse, the exhaustion of Reason – started by Descartes ended with Kant – (Husserlian Phenomenology and German Idealism are but optimistic tail-ends to the impossibility of knowing the thing-in-itself) which uses its own principles to legitimize itself and yet at the end it falls short, it ends as a paradox. Although Russell with all his brilliance did not foresee this, his student, was I believe cognizant of this limitation, exactly why he hinted by quipping the ‘throw(ing) away of the ladder.’

    And this is how Modern Discourse ends up, after the exhaustion of reason, it will end up in tautology. Although it had its golden age, and without it, the thing that you call as a non-sense event or postmodernism would not be possible. Because Postmodernism is exactly the time of realization and compensation for the limitations of Reason (Kant’s conclusion)

    Such is why, I implied that your post maybe standing on a modern standpoint, and now clearly it is, because it is the usual case of modern dogmatists to dismiss postmodernism as non-sense immediately, as it was the case of those who are in Plato’s cave, who dismiss immediately the views of the person who was able to escape the cave as absurd, as non-sense. Such a line of thinking (postmodern), which is radically different from the modern manner, is too much to bear for a modernist mind-set since it attacks the comfort zone, the very principles of Modernity. An outright dismissal is nothing more but being rash, and therefore uncritical.

    Also you should reread Heidegger. To consider his forgetfulness of Being as an erosion and possess an unbridgeable link with postmodernism is, if I may, a very narrow interpretation, if not a total misinterpretation on Heidegger. Heidegger paved way to postmodernism exactly because of this destruction(destruktion, which preceded Derrida’s Deconstruction) of the history of Ontology, we have forgotten Being (Sein) we started forgetting when the princes of Philosophy initiated the ‘intellectualization of culture’ the compartmentalization of being as substance, as ‘that which is’, as an entity, as seinde, and that the current task is to return back to primordial thinking, as the pre-socratics did, to think before the Platonic Being as Presence or the Aristotelian Being as Substance. We need to return back to the consideration that “Being and thinking is the same” Did he not also say that the “the time of systems is over” from his Beitrage, is this not a hint of poststructuralism or postmodernism?

    And poststructuralists(postmodernists in general) it doesn’t matter which tradition they came from –marx, de Saussure, freud, Husserl, etc. – saw this very limitations of structures, of modern systems, Lyotards’ “incredulity to metanarratives”, because it has become untenable, it has finally exhausted itself, it has turned itself upside down, a paradox, a tautology, a vicious circle, a ‘great simulation machine’. In their attempt to analyze the current condition, they go beyond modern discourse precisely because of its limitations. Their language is trying convey something in which modern discourse is unable to do so, and Heidegger’s forgetfulness comes from this.

    Why some of your kind thinks that postmodernism is non-sense, perhaps because it uses a language (it must do so) that is foreign to the modern tongue. It cannot use modern discourse, because it will only legitimize the violence it produces. Postmodernism is an awakening from the modern slumber, they may sound to a modernist as non-sensical, but it is because they are unable to see beyond their bubble, and to be able to do this, one must be acquainted with the entire history of human thought, because it is this which postmodernism, particularly Heidegger (and even Kant and more later on Derrida) wanted to dismantle.

    Derrida, lacan, badiou, perhaps even Zizek? They are merely following this awakening from a Modern slumber. postmodernism is not NON-SENSE in that it is a cheap charlatan trick, the very least, the only manner in which one can understand what postmodernism talks about, is to have a thorough knowledge of 200o years of conceptualizing, for after all those times, these are the times, the interesting times, when it is ripe to deconstruct.

    So allow me to answer the moral question you presented, either out of virtue, consequence or just plain duty, that postmodernism is not nonsense, but your post is exactly what i said it was: it stands on a modern standpoint. It is dogmatic, and therefore uncritical, hiding in the mask of reason of a 17th century kind. And I thought we already learned from Kant.

  7. Yes, well, I can see that this is pointless – as I stated that I feared most such Internet debates/polemics tend to be.

    In the first place it’s kind of silly debating in English with someone whose first language clearly isn’t English and who has neither understood the structure of certain key sentences in my last post nor is capable of properly structuring an English sentence themselves. (It’s difficult to take a stance on claims like “to consider his forgetfulness of Being as an erosion and possess an unbridgeable link with postmodernism is a misinterpretation” because it’s not really written in English. But I think it’s clear, at least, that it has nothing at all to do with what I actually said about Heidegger).

    And secondly there wouldn’t be any point in trying to reply to – or even to FIND – the “substance” of this last jumble of desperate intellectual-historical “speed dating” even if it WERE expressed in comprehensible English. I doubt if there is anyone alive today who can seriously claim to have “a thorough knowledge of 2000 years of conceptualization” but there a few people, including myself, who have a pretty good general synoptic knowledge of it, and there isn’t one of us who doesn’t or wouldn’t throw up our hands in horror or in sardonic laughter about these glib, silly “thumbnail sketches” you offer of “what Plato meant”, “what Kant meant”, “what Wittgenstein meant” and so on. Each of these writers requires, if you’re going to talk about their ideas at all, long and careful study of what they said within the specific historical context in which they said it (which excludes crazy arbitrary anachronistic analogies like “Plato’s Cave is Modern Discourse” and so on). And even if you put in this study – indeed PARTICULARLY if you put it in – there will never result from it any such glib little “and this means this, as we all know”s as you reel off one after the other here. The stance, for example, that Kant took on “Reason” was a complex, ambivalent, dialectical one already in the first edition of the first Critique, was made more complex again in the first Critique’s second edition, and still further layers of dialectical complexity were added by the second and third Critiques, not to mention all the new light thrown on the Critical Philosophy by generations of interpreters after Kant’s death. This alone is enough to make nonsense of any such little “one-sentence summaries” as “Reason started with Descartes and ended with Kant”.

    I accord, by the way, no less respect in this regard to Heidegger than I do to Kant or Plato. Which is why – although the language seems to have been a little too complex for you to have grasped this – my last post didn’t include any absurd attempt to sum up in two lines “what Heidegger meant”. All I said was that he plainly DIDN’T mean and COULDN’T have meant, when he talked about “forgetfulness of Being”, “modern discourse’s” forgetfulness of the truth of “post-modernism” (an idea as ridiculous and anachronistic as your identification of Plato’s Cave with modernism).

    But honestly, there really is, at bottom, nothing sensible to be said in reply to your last post. I’m sure you know yourself, somewhere in your heart or at the back of your mind, that you’ve never really seriously sat down and tried to read and understand a single paragraph of the work of any one of the people whose names you throw about here. Well, “Lacan, Badiou, and Zizek” maybe, because in their writings you find your interpretations of Plato, Descartes, Kant etc. dished up ready-made for you, and spiced with all sorts of effortlessly comprehensible fluff about movies and TV shows. Which is why I wish that writers like Zizek would only stick to their interpretations of movies and TV shows – many of which are highly ingenious and may, for all I know, even be insightful and correct – and leave Plato and Kant to rest in the peace and dignity that their arduous endevours to discover the truth deserve.

  8. internet polemics – it is useless to argue with somebody who argues for non-existing points, who claims that he never claimed what Heidegger meant et al, but concludes that he “didnt” and “couldnt” have meant such things – is this not a claim in itself?

    and in regards to anachronism, Plato’s cave could be understood in light of current conditions (if we do believe that his philosophy transcends time) i.e., it shows us the possibile position of modern discourse as similar in someways to those of the cave-dweller in the allegory. while it is true, that at times philosophers must be read in their historical context, it is also true particularly in philosophy, that philosophical ideas transcends time (knowledge as justified true belief, whether we take it in meno or in the republic, is the traditional definition of knowledge, and one has to take this interpretation from the tropic language of plato) and thus anachronism serves specifically that form of distanciation which allows for a possible interpretation of philosophical texts (gadamer)

    but again, i share your view, that this is a pointless exchange, simply because there is insincerity in this dialogue (which includes your incessant attempts to fancy paralogisms)

  9. Yes, it’s pointless. But not because I’m insincere, just because you are evidently rather stupid.

    If anyone who happens to be reading along with this still has any doubts about that, let me just give two very straight, simple, and “non-fancy” answers to your rhetorical questions:

    (i) No. A claim about what a philosopher could or could not possibly have meant need not at all necessarily be a claim about any substantial element of his philosophy. It is perfectly permissible, and also quite correct, to claim that Plato could not possibly have been referring, say, to the planet Pluto when he spoke about a “topos ouranos”, since the planet Pluto was only discovered in the early 20th Century, several thousand years after Plato’s death. In saying that “Plato could not possibly have meant THAT” one is saying absolutely nothing about what Plato DID mean or think, and one is not engaging at all with such substantial philosophical questions as “was he an idealist or a materialist?” and so on. Exactly the same applies to what I wrote about Heidegger. It would take days or months to discuss all the aspects of what he meant, or could have meant, in speaking of a “forgetfulness of Being” – one would have, to do justice to the topic, to discuss first “Being and Time” and then all the changes in his work after the so-called “Kehre” – but it is just common sense to recognize that what he thought was “forgotten” wherever “Being” was forgotten could not, as you claim, have been anything “exactly identical” with “post-modernism”, since it is extremely doubtful that Heidegger, who died in 1976 and lived the last thirty years of his life in a world defined by very non-contemporary interests, ever even heard of the term.

    (ii) Your second retort, again, is difficult to decipher and therefore difficult to reply to: more decontextualized flinging about of two-word references to “the greats” (Gadamer, Plato’s “Meno” and so on). Once again, it is impossible here to give a synopsis and analysis of the argument of Gadamer’s “Truth and Method”. And I will concede to you that, even if we went through every one of the several hundred pages of that book, we probably wouldn’t find on any single one of them a passage which explicitly stated: “The insights achieved by some philosophies have a validity that transcends their specific historical context. But this does not mean that we can take absolutely any element of a philosophy whose core substance transcends its age and say that this element can be made to refer to absolutely any element or aspect of absolutely any other era we choose: that Descartes’ 17th Century distinction between res extensa and res cogitans can be interpreted, for example, as referring to the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in the 19th Century. Some analogies between products of different historical eras may work, if they are thought through and tested carefully. But most just won’t – or at least most won’t if people are going to try to pass off as a valid analogy just any vague superficial resemblance that happens to spring into their head.” No, we probably wouldn’t find such a statement in Gadamer’s “Truth and Method”. But only because these things are so obvious that no intelligent writer is going to bother stating them in a book meant for intelligent people.

    Anyway, let’s put an end to this. I’m certainly not going to be responding to any further ridiculous ripostes on your part, Dada. Maybe the exchange has served the purpose, Karlo, of making it clear to you just what sort of intellectual company you keep in remaining a “Zizek fan”.

    • Sorry for the delayed response… Was caught up with stuff (among others) related to last week’s horrible massacre of 57 civilians (including 34 journalists!) in Maguindanao by the private army of a local ally of the US-Arroyo regime… Still catching up on lots of things but I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt for me to add one more reply here.

      The fact is I still lack a deep understanding (which makes me stupid) of the philosophical matters Dada and Mr. Alex Reynolds were busy babbling about in this little piece of virtual space (about what Heidegger, Plato, Gadamer, etc. meant…) so I unfortunately cannot make any substantial comment on any of that. I’d rather enjoy watching more SNSD music videos or reading Julio Cortazar for my literature classes.

      But yes, I can still try to explain here why Dada and I are not exactly on the same camp (although we both share a varying degree of interest in “post-structuralist/postmodernist” thought) and why I am still a fan of Zizek despite of Mr. Alex Reyonolds’ injunction:

      Although I don’t lightly dismiss much of postmodernist/post-structuralist thought (in the general sense that we’ve understood the terms above), I’ve also been suspicious of the way it easily dismisses materiality/Worldliness in favor of textuality, discourse, simulacra, spectrality, and so on.

      I still have an affinity for diverse strands of Marxist theory and practice and is wary of post-structuralism/postmodernism’s (how do I put it? –very sorry, ESL handicap) “theoretical” violence against Marxism – a violence which goes hand in hand in legitimizing/reinforcing/reproducing what Jameson theorized as the cultural logic of late capitalism.

      Dada’s “postmodernist/post-structuralist” loyalties makes him uneasy of Marxist “grand narratives” (and the “totalizing” categories of class struggle, revolution, dictatorship of the proletariat, and so on). I, on the other hand, am interested in the former only in as much as it can be co-opted in the latter, which is why I find Zizek’s peculiar reworking of Marxist ideology critique through the lens of Lacanian psychoanalysis (despite certain reservations) charming.

  10. Ah… well I see my “babbling” was indeed a waste of time on two levels, then: firstly insofar as it was a discussion conducted with an idiot who pretended to know things, and secondly insofar as it was conducted for the benefit of an idiot who openly admits to knowing nothing.
    Fine, Karlo, well you go on as you’ve been going on, then; tu es dans la bonne voie: read some “charming” theory, and get “caught up” in some stuff about a massacre, and then watch a music video, and then read some “babbling” (which probably won’t be as “charming” to you as your “charming theory” because it doesn’t have words of commendation from eminent professors written on the back of it) and then read some more “charming” theory (or possibly watch another music video). If it should turn out – as my “babbling” might have suggested to you if you had had the powers of concentration to see anything in it beyond “babbling” – that the “post-modernist/post-structuralist” stuff CAN’T quite be “co-opted” into a Marxist narrative of revolution after all, then I’m sure you’ll find a way to “co-opt” the music videos into this narrative instead (which will, after all, be a terribly, terribly “charming” little operation to carry through, won’t it?)

    And all will be for the best in the best of all possible worlds – which will never be short of either theory, or novels, or music videos, or massacres for us all to be “charmed” and “caught up” by…..

    • I’m sure you’ll find a way to “co-opt” the music videos into this narrative instead (which will, after all, be a terribly, terribly “charming” little operation to carry through, won’t it?)

      In fact, now that you mentioned it, that’s one thing I’d like to do really soon. And I must add with all seriousness that such a “little operation” would be quite charming. All’s well that ends well…

  11. hi, am new on your blog, and stumbled on this very amusing exchange with apparently one of those pretentious americans (saying this, mind you, is a precision on the opinion that not all americans are pretentious). ha ha ha. am nul on the topic you’re discussing, but the way this reynolds goes on, wow :-), sounds like one very frustrated creature. even god almighty would not be so despotic, i’d like to think, lol. the following lines, for ex., sound like he’s writing the 10 commandments:
    *I really would warn you to be wary of your own enthusiasm here. It really isn’t appropriate to be a “fan” of Zizek’s in the way one might be a fan of a Korean boy band.
    *But I can assure you that, beyond the sphere of random interpretative “bright ideas” about the possible unconscious undercurrents of Hollywood movies (where, I suppose, just about “anything goes” in the way of theoretical speculation), pretty much everything he has written is demonstrably inaccurate or untenable.
    you thought it necesary to wtite another post just to reply to his comments. i hope all this has not unsettled you so much.
    what i find especially rude is when he says this – “just because you are evidently rather stupid.”, not because i’m the kind of do-goody person who still believes in santa, i’m at a loss for words, but maybe i’ll leave it at “it’s also stupid to call someone stupid for disagreeing with one’s opinion”.
    as for his saying this “In the first place it’s kind of silly debating in English with someone whose first language clearly isn’t English”, there’s this popular joke that goes:
    Q- what’s the biggest country in the world where the whole population speaks english as a foreign language? A – The USA.
    A friend of mine , a non-native speaker of english, chats a lot, and whenever he has to ask me what a certain word or line means, 90% of the time, it’s because he’s chatting with a pretentious american. he never has that problem, though when he’s chatting with brits, australians or the irish. i end up telling him ‘can’t you just chat with people who really speak english?’
    as for saying ‘tu es dans le bonne voie’, (you’re on the right road, literally) well, unless he has met you and has had permission from you to do so, he has no right to use ‘tu’ (the informal you), he should use ‘vous’ (the formal you, just like the spanish usted). pardon my french, it’s virtually non-existent, but one thing i do know for sure, despite my addled brain, confusing ‘tu’ and ‘vous’ can land one into serious trouble, as illustrated in the film ‘entre les murs’ where a high school pupil demonstrates his disrespect for his teacher by using ‘tu’ and eventually, for other reasons as well, gets expelled.
    i admired the way you and dada stood up for your opinions. bravo. from an antique up’ian. am off to explore your blog, if i may, it’s the weekend before xmas, and it sort of eases my homesickness to read kabayan blogs.
    and merry christmas too. and a happy new year, if you get to read this after the holidays :-).

    • hi, ibbie.

      american or not, this rude bully and his attempt at forcing us to subscribe to his views by way of insults and misrepresentations/misinterpretations sure was amusing.

      i felt like posting an additional post in response to his comments to further develop my own views on the matter. about his snide remarks on the “silliness” of our english, I’m reminded of filipino poet and literary critic gemino abad’s line: “english is ours, we have colonized it.”

      but i guess i’m too busy reading novels and listening to korean girl bands and joining worthwhile causes and chasing after a girl to take cases of online bullying too seriously.

      thanks for dropping by. merry christmas! :)

  12. since you’re a fan of Žižek i recomend his movie (if you haven’t seen it yet of course : )): The pervert’s guide to cinema

    nika

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