Morality-without-god and totalitarianism, Slavoj Žižek
Slavoj Zizek “Rumsfeld, UNKNOWN KNOWNS, and Psychoanalysis”
Kierkegaard was anti-wiseman man par excellence.
Slavoj Žižek, everybody’s favorite contrarian philosopher, against wisdom, in conversation with the New York Public Library’s Paul Holdengräber.
Tolstoy would’ve rolled his eyes.
Marcus Pound on Slavoj Zizek
This is an exceptionally clear presentation of a notoriously unclear thinker.
Heidegger still has this trust,… ‘Open yourself to language’, ‘Language speaks through you’. But Lacan’s idea is that, at the most elementary, when language speaks to you, you are tortured; there is radical discordance. … Subject is for Lacan precisely that ‘x’ which is the outcome of this torture.
I … appreciate … Elfriede Jelinek. She had a wonderful, very Lacanian, phrase: we must torture language to make it tell the truth. That is the big topic of her work, language as torturing.”s. zizek (via alterities)
“Western Buddhism” is … a fetish. It enables you to fully participate in the … capitalist game while sustaining the perception that you are not really in it; [pretending] that you are well aware of how worthless this spectacle is; [pretending] that what really matters to you is the peace of the inner Self to which … you can always with-draw.”
fantasy provides the frame which enables us to experience the real of our lives as a meaningful Whole
the disintegration of a fantasy can have disastrous consequences.”
Lacanian ethics is not an ethics of hedonism: … For Lacan, hedonism is in fact the model of postponing desire on behalf of ‘realistic compromises’: in order to attain the greatest amount of pleasure, I have to calculate and economize, sacrificing short-term pleasures for the more intense long-term ones”
(Chomsky:) What you’re referring to is what’s called ‘theory.’ And when I said I’m not interested in theory, what I meant is, I’m not interested in posturing—using fancy terms like polysyllables and pretending you have a theory when you have no theory whatsoever. So there’s no theory in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find in all of the work you mentioned some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a twelve-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t. So I’m not interested in that kind of posturing. Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don’t see anything to what he’s saying.
(Zizek:) I think one can convincingly show that the continental tradition in philosophy, although often difficult to decode, and sometimes—I am the first to admit this—defiled by fancy jargon, remains in its core a mode of thinking which has its own rationality, inclusive of respect for empirical data. And I furthermore think that, in order to grasp the difficult predicament we are in today, to get an adequate cognitive mapping of our situation, one should not shirk the resorts of the continental tradition in all its guises, from the Hegelian dialectics to the French “deconstruction.” Chomsky obviously doesn’t agree with me here. So what if—just another fancy idea of mine—what if Chomsky cannot find anything in my work that goes “beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a twelve-year-old” because, when he deals with continental thought, it is his mind which functions as the mind of a twelve-year-old, the mind which is unable to distinguish serious philosophical reflection from empty posturing and playing with empty words?— Žižek accuses Chomsky of thinking ‘like a 12-year-old’ | ROAR Magazine
..since Turing, the possible job of a programmer has run the risk of forgetting mathematical elegance. Today, prior to the conquest of digital signal processors, the hardware of average computers is at a kindergarten level: of all the basic forms of computation, it barely manages addition. More complex commands have to be reconverted into a finite, that is, serial, number of cumulative steps. An unreasonable chore for humans and mathematicians. Where recursive, that is, automatizable, functions succeed classical analysis, computation works as a treadmill: through the repeated aplication of the same command on the series of interim results. But that’s it. A Hungarian mathematician, after he had filled two whole pages with the recursive formulas according to which a Turing machine progresses from 1 to 2 to 3, and so on, observed in German as twisted as it was presice: “This appears as an extraordinarily slowed-down film shot of the computation process of man. If this mechanism of computation is applied to some functions, you start living it, you begin to compute exactly like it, only faster.” Consolation for prospective programmers…— Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter
We find, then, the paradox of a being which can reproduce itself only in so far as it is misrecognized and overlooked: the moment we see it ‘as it really is’, this being dissolves itself into nothingness or, more precisely, it changes into another kind of reality. That is why we must avoid the simple metaphors of demasking, of throwing away the veils which are supposed to hide the naked reality. We can see why Lacan, in his Seminar on The Ethic of Psychoanalysis, distances himself from the liberating gesture of saying finally that “the emperor has no clothes”. The point is, as Lacan puts it, that the emperor is naked only beneath his clothes, so if there is an unmasking gesture of psychoanalysis, it is closer to Alphonse Allais’s well-known joke, quoted by Lacan: somebody points at a woman and utters a horrified cry, “Look at her, what a shame, under her clothes, she is totally naked” (Lacan, 1986, p.231).”
Zizek: the first step to freedom
The fetish is effectively a kind of symptom in reverse. That is to say, the symptom is the exception which disturbs the surface of the false appearance, the point at which the repressed Other Scene erupts, while the fetish is the embodiment of the Lie which enables us to sustain the unbearable truth. Let us take the case of the death of a beloved person. In the case of a symptom, I “repress” this death and try not to think about it, but the repressed trauma returns in the symptom. In the case of a fetish, on the contrary, I “rationally” fully accept this death, and yet I cling to the fetish, to some feature that embodies for me the disavowal of this death. In this sense, a fetish can play a very constructive role in allowing us to cope with the harsh reality. Fetishists are not dreamers lost in their private worlds. They are thorough “realists” capable of accepting the way things effectively are, given that they have their fetish to which they can cling in order to cancel the full impact of reality. In Nevil Shute’s melodramatic World War II novel Requiem for a WREN, the heroine survives her lover’s death without any visible traumas. She goes on with her life and is even able to talk rationally about her lover’s death because she still has the dog that was the lover’s favored pet. When, some time after, the dog is accidentally run over by a truck, she collapses and her entire world disintegrates…
So, when we are bombarded by claims that in our post-ideological cynical era nobody believes in the proclaimed ideals, when we encounter a person who claims he is cured of any beliefs and accepts social reality the way it really is, one should always counter such claims with the question “OK, but where is the fetish that enables you to (pretend to) accept reality ‘the way it is’?” “Western Buddhism” is such a fetish. It enables you to fully participate in the frantic pace of the capitalist game while sustaining the perception that you are not really in it; that you are well aware of how worthless this spectacle is; and that what really matters to you is the peace of the inner Self to which you know you can always with-draw. In a further specification, one should note that the fetish can function in two opposite ways: either its role remains unconscious—as in the case of Shute’s heroine who was unaware of the fetish-role of the dog—or you think that the fetish is that which really matters, as in the case of a Western Buddhist unaware that the “truth” of his existence is in fact the social involvement which he tends to dismiss as a mere game.”
"Often things begin as a fake, inauthentic, artificial, but you get caught into your own game.
And that is the true tragedy of Vertigo. It’s a story about two people who, each in his or her own way, get caught into their own game of appearances. For both of them, for Madeleine and for Scottie, appearances win over reality.
What is the story of Vertigo? It’s a story about a retired policeman who has a pathological fear of heights because of an incident in his career, and then an old friend hires him to follow his beautiful wife, played by Kim Novak — the wife mysteriously possessed by the ghost of a past deceased Spanish beauty, Carlotta Valdes. The two fall in love. The wife kills herself.
The first part of Vertigo, with Madeleine’s suicide, is not as shattering as it could have been, because it’s really a terrifying loss, but in this very loss, the ideal survives.
The idea of the fatal woman possesses you totally. What, ultimately, this image, fascinating image of the fatal woman stands for is death. The fascination of beauty is always the veil which covers up a nightmare.
Like the idea of a fascinating creature, but if you come too close to her, you see shit, decay, you see worms crawling everywhere.
The ultimate abyss is not a physical abyss, but the abyss of the depth of another person. It’s what philosophers describe as the night of the world. Like when you see another person, into his or her eyes, you see the abyss. That’s the true spiral which is drawing us in.
Scottie alone, broken down, cannot forget her, wanders around the city looking for a woman, a similar woman, something like the deceased woman, discovers an ordinary, rather vulgar, common girl.
The denouement of the story, of course, is along the lines of the Marx Brothers’ joke : this man looks like an idiot, acts like an idiot, this shouldn’t deceive you, this man is an idiot.’ The newly found woman looks like Madeleine, acts like Madeleine, the fatal beauty. We discover she is Madeleine. What we learn is that Scottie’s friend, who hired Scottie, also hired this woman, Judy, to impersonate Madeleine in a devilish plot to kill the real Madeleine, his wife, and get her fortune.
‘We could just see a lot of each other.’
‘Why? Cause I remind you of her? It’s not very complimentary.’
The profile shot in Vertigo is perhaps the key shot of the entire film. We have there Madeleine’s, or rather Judy’s, identity in all its tragic tension. It provides the dark background for the fascinating other profile of Madeleine in Ernie’s restaurant. Scottie is too ashamed, afraid to look at her directly. It is as if what he sees is the stuff of his dreams, more real in a way for him than the reality of the woman behind his back.
‘That’s not very complimentary, either.’
‘I just want to be with you as much as I can, Judy.’
When we see a face, it’s basically always the half of it. A subject is a partial something, a face, something we see. Behind it, there is a void, a nothingness. And of course, we spontaneously tend to fill in that nothingness with our fantasies about the wealth of human personality, and so on. To see what is lacking in reality, to see it as that, there you see subjectivity.
To confront subjectivity means to confront femininity. Woman is the subject. Masculinity is a fake. Masculinity is an escape from the most radical, nightmarish dimension of subjectivity.
‘I’m trying to buy you a suit.”But I love the second one she wore.And this one, it’s beautiful.’’No, no. They’re none of them right.’[…]’You’re looking for the suit that she wore, for me.”I know the kind of suit that would look well on you.”No, I won’t do it!”Judy. It can’t make that much difference to you.I just want to see what…’
‘No, I don’t want any clothes. I don’t want anything.’
Here we are - yes, that’s it. When Judy, refashioned as Madeleine, steps out of the door, it’s like fantasy realised. And, of course, we have a perfect name for fantasy realised. It’s called “nightmare”.
Fantasy realised. What does this mean? Of course, it is always sustained by an extreme violence. The violence in this case of Scottie’s brutal refashioning of Judy, a real, common girl, into Madeleine. It’s truly a process of mortification, which also is the mortification of woman’s desire.
It is as if in order to have her, to desire her, to have sexual intercourse with her, with the woman, Scottie has to mortify her, to change her into a dead woman.
It’s as if, again, for the male libidinal economy, to paraphrase a well-known old saying, the only good woman is a dead woman.
Scottie is not really fascinated by her, but by the entire scene, the staging. He is looking around, checking up, are the fantasmatic co-ordinates really here?
At that point when the reality fully fits fantasy, Scottie is finally able to realise the long-postponed sexual intercourse. So the result of this violence is a perfect co-ordination between fantasy and reality. A kind of direct short-circuit.”
Slavoj Zizek – The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema
the analyst never knows what will happen when he pushes analysis too far and dissolves the analysand’s symptoms too radically—
a local interpretive intervention into a particular symptomal formation can … bring about a catastrophic disintegration of his world.
The analyst should … respect appearances without taking them too seriously; they are ultimately all we have, all that stands between us and the catastrophe.
This modest approach of merely “making life a little bit easier,” of diminishing suffering and pain, forgetting about capitalized Truth, makes the late Lacan almost a Rortyan.”