Slavoj Žižek sings ‘The Great Pretender’



Simon Critchley on Critical Theory today

‘”The world is shit; look at all the mosquitoes. The true world lies elsewhere, it’s time to escape a doomed civilization.” The mosquitoes is a quote from Marcion obviously, as you recognise.’

‘I also understand the desire for violence, and have been thinking hard about this in relation to what Judith calls a “non-violent violence”, and a mutully shared critique, or a critique that we both share, of the rather sad, mannerist, macho adoration of violence that one finds in Zizek, which is also tied to his authoritarian love-affair with the state. Not that I’m bitter, or anything.’

‘The necessity of violence is one thing; the glorification of violence is another – and we mustn’t confuse the two.’

‘The future is always the ultimate ideological trump card of capitalist narratives of progress.’

Is philosophy just making us maladjusted?

A basic fact which we have to accept is that philosophy – no matter what the tradition – is predicated upon being at a distance from society. Philosophy is investigation, interrogation, and even if we don’t follow a Platonic notion of the world as sheathed in illusion, philosophy is not simple acceptance of the way things are. The point of contention here becomes whether this distance is more often than not adversarial as a seeming matter of principle as well as course. As noted, interrogation and investigation entails being at a remove from matters, and eventually opposition to a situation may follow a critique. I am questioning whether there is something about the way we philosophize – while reading, writing, or talking to other philosophically-inclined types – that rhetorically sets us up to be at a dangerous remove from society, state, our fellow citizens.

Dangerous here, because I am unfashionably democratic in my fundamental political convictions. I follow the somewhat idealized notion of the wisdom of crowds, before giving in to the demonized notion of the idiotic mob as the governing metaphor of political life. Or at least I try. Continue reading

The philosopher-strategist and the philosopher-tactician: Hume and Žižek

I have been trying to work on an approach recently which makes an analogy with the construction of argument in terms of the tension between strategy and tactics in the prosecution of a war. As such, I have been trying to see whether the tactics of a philosopher can be shown to be integral to their overall philosophical originality, the speculative framework which they create being akin to a strategy in this light. It when I was rereading through Hume’s Treatise that I started thinking about this, and how often it is a single lightning insight of a given philosopher that anchors in our mind, such that I find myself saying things like “Hume basically tried to separate cause and effect“, as though that should be sufficient explanation of his position.

When I step back from this, however, I have to ask whether this is actually a fair characterization of what goes on in a philosophical work. Is there simply one idea, and everything else flows from this? This seems too narrow and too linear a description, surely, to do justice to the intricacies of philosophical argumentation. Consider then, the notion of the tactic and how it nests into the macro-scale concept of the strategy. Continue reading

Žižek as a dirty old librarian, and other analogies

I am confident that another post about Slavoj Žižek is not what the world needs, but here it is anyway.  As usual, I’m not going to discuss the content of his arguments, but rather to consider the way he does philosophy. I have pointed out elsewhere that a significant part of the structure of his theoretical edifice is predicated on the total uniqueness that he arrogates for himself. This is the persona of Žižek, which we all know and question and joke about. Do we not do this, however, precisely because he expressly forbids us to get too close to him, and thus to get too close to his arguments. It is not that his hyperbolical elitism and contempt for “stupidity” is incidental, but rather that this may be a large part of his project. He is, in Berlin’s essay of the hedgehog and the fox, the hedgehog of the one defining idea. It is the expression of the idea, the formal structure which he erects that leads to confusion about whether he may in fact be a fox. His idea is the kernel of all that follows, but it is the method and approach that define the term Žižekian. Indeed it is that which we most often allude to in describing him as a Lacanian-Hegelian-Marxist-and-so-on. This need to define a compound identity is a sign of how masterfully (intentional Lacanian nod) he has expressed his ideas. It is this form of expression I wish to engage with. [Disclaimer: You can take your pick among the fallacies I have committed here, but this is not a proof one way or the other of Žižek’s theories, but rather a handful of analogies and metaphors I wish to suggest might allow us to read him with somewhat less hysteria that usually attends such discussions.]

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Problems with multiculturalism

This title may sound as though this is intended as a contrary ruse (I assume the other assumption of vulgar racism is not attributed to me), but it is not. I am trying to come from a position that examines the structure of so-called exchange. I want to leave aside the notion of multiculturalism as a kind of liberal performative, one in which we disavow all racism, for an attempt to consider things on a somewhat more abstract footing. That is to say that the reasons for exchange are contentual, and I leave them bracketed outside the remit of this brief argument. Continue reading

An alternative to yes/no

Truth in the broad philosophical sense is redundant. If not because of postmodern relativism, then because of Rorty-derived pragmatism. It has Platonic and theological overtones which we can only interpret as the worst cognitive cacophony. True and false have a place in predicative logic, in the same way that 1 and 0 are the bedrock of information technologies. Leave them there.

Consider an alternative, three-fold approach, which allows for consideration of the world, the human, and the possible. Accordingly, things can be discussed in the following terms:

The World

The Human

The Possible







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