. . . . . . Ideology I: No Man is an Island... •

. . . . . . . . Slavoj Zizek

[space] nav gif nav gif nav gif nav gif nav jpg nav gif nav jpg nav gif nav gif

nav gif nav gif nav gif

In his review of Badiou's Ethics, Terry Eagleton wrote:

There is a paradox in the idea of transformation. If a transformation is deep-seated enough, it might also transform the very criteria by which we could identify it, thus making it unintelligible to us. But if it is intelligible, it might be because the transformation was not radical enough. If we can talk about the change then it is not full-blooded enough; but if it is full-blooded enough, it threatens to fall outside our comprehension. Change must presuppose continuity - a subject to whom the alteration occurs - if we are not to be left merely with two incommensurable states; but how can such continuity be compatible with revolutionary upheaval? [1]

The properly Hegelian solution to this dilemma is that a truly radical change is self-relating: it changes the very coordinates by means of which we measure change. In other words, a true change sets its own standards: it can only be measured by criteria that result from it.



Deleuze often varies the motif of how, in becoming post-human, we should learn to practice "a perception as it was before men (or after) /.../ released from their human coordinates" (Cinema 1, 122): those who fully endorse the Nietzschean "return of the same" are strong enough to sustain the vision of the "iridescent chaos of a world before man"(ibid., 81). Although Deleuze resorts here openly to Kant's language, talking about the direct access to "things (the way they are) in themselves," his point is precisely that one should subtract the opposition between phenomena and things-in-themselves, between the phenomenal and the nolumenal level, from its Kantian functioning, where noumena are transcendent things that forever elude our grasp. What Deleuze refers to as "things in themselves" is in a way even more phenomenal then our shared phenomenal reality: it is the impossible phenomenon, the phenomenon that is excluded from our symbolically-constituted reality. The gap that separates us from noumena is thus primarily not epistemological, but practico-ethical and libidinal: there is no "true reality" behind or beneath phenomena, noumena are phenomenal things which are "too strong," too intens(iv)e, for our perceptual apparatus attuned to constituted reality – epistemological failure is a secondary effect of libidinal terror, i.e., the underlying logic is a reversal of Kant's "You can, because you must!": "You cannot (know nolumena), because you must not!" Imagine someone being forced to witness a terrifying torture: in a way, the monstrosity of what he saw would make this an experience of the noumenal impossible-real that would shatter the coordinates of our common reality. (The same holds for withessing an intense sexual activity.) In this sense, if we were to discover films shot in a concentration camp among the Musulmannen, showing scenes from their daily life, how they are systematically mistreated and deprived of all dignity, we would have "seen too much," the prohibited, we would have entered a forbidden territory of what should have remained unseen. This is also what makes it so unbearable to witness the last moments of people who know they are shortly going to die and are in this sense already living-dead – again, imagine that we would have discovered, among the ruins of the Twin Towers, a video camera with magically survived the crash intact and is full of shots of what went on among the passengers of the plane in the minutes before it crashed into one of the Towers. In all these cases, it is that, effectively, we would have seen things as they are "in themselves," outside human coordinates, outside our human reality – we would have seen the world with inhuman eyes. (Maybe the US authorities do possess such shots and, for understandable reasons, are keeping them secret.) The lesson is here profoundly Hegelian: the difference between the phenomenal and the noumenal has to be reflected/transposed back into the phenomenal, as the split between the "gentrified" normal phenomenon and the "impossible" phenomenon.



In his critical remarks on psychoanalysis, Pippin reduces it to yet another mode of the "substantial" determination of the subject which thus misses the Kant-Hegelian dimension of reflexivity that sustains subject's autonomy and self-responsibility: as a subject, I cannot refer to the Unconscious that determines me as a direct motivation – if unconscious motifs effectively determine me AS AN AUTONOMOUS SUBJECT, I should be the one who freely endorses the force of such motifs, who ACCEPTS them as motifs - in short, every reference to the irresistible direct force of such motifs has to involve a minimum of what Sartre called mauvaise foi... What if, however, it is Pippin himself who misses here a crucial homology between the reflexivity inscribed into very heart of the Kant-Hegelian subjectivity, and the "reflexivity" of desire elaborated in detail by Lacan? What we have in mind here with regard to Kant is the so-called "incorporation thesis," the inextricable normativity of even the most elementary perceptions: even when I merely state the obvious, making the most elementary statement of fact "a table is there in front of me," I am not purely passive, I also DECLARE a fact, I reflectively signal that I UPHOLD this statement. This, however, is exactly what Lacan has in mind when he insists that, in every statement, the subject's position of enunciation is inscribed: when I state "I wear stoned jeans," my statement always also renders how I relate to this fact (I want to appear as having a down-to-earth attitude, or following a fashion...). This inherent reflexive moment of "declaration" (the fact that every communication of a content always simultaneously "declares itself" as such) is what Heidegger designated as the "as such" that specifies the properly human dimension: an animal perceives a stone, but it doesn't perceive this stone "as such." This is the "reflexivity" of the signifier: every utterance not only transmits some content, but, simultaneously, renders how the subject relates to this content (in the terms of German Idealism, that every consciousness is always-already self-consciousness). [2]

In a scene from Break Up, the nervous Vince Vaughn angrily reproaches Jennifer Anniston: "You wanted me to wash the dishes, and I'll wash the dishes – what's the problem?" She replies: "I don't want you to wash the dishes – I want you to WANT to wash the dishes!" This is the minimal reflexivity of desire, its "terrorist" demand: I want you not only to do what I want, but to do it as if you really want to do it – I want to regulate not only what you do, but also your desires. The worst thing you can do, even worse than not doing what I want you to do, is to do what I want you to do without wanting to do it… (This brings us to civility: an act of civility is precisely to feign that I want to do what the other asks me to do, so that my complying with the other's wish does not exert pressure on him/her.)

Pippin is sympathetic to Manfred Frank's rejection of "neustructuralism" as unable to account for subjectivity, meaning, but critical of Frank's version of prereflexive self-acquaintance as crucial dimension of subjectivity. Pippin sees this dimension in the Kant-Hegelian reflexivity – autonomy – self-responsibility, [3] but what he fails to see is how this Kantian reflexivity opens up a space for the Lacanian subject of the unconscious. The Freudian "unconscious" is inscribed into this very reflexivity; recall the case of someone whom I "love to hate," like the villain in a Hitchcock film: consciously, I just hate his guts, yet unconsciously I – not love him, but – love to hate him, i.e., what is unconscious is the very way I reflexively relate to my conscious attitude. (Or the opposite case of someone whom I "hate to love" - like the hero in film noir who cannot hedlp loving the evil femme fatale, but hates himself for loving her.) This is what Lacan means when he says that man's desire is always a desire to desire: in exact formal replica of the Kantian reflexivity, I never simply and directly desire an object, I always reflexively relate to this desire, I can desire to desire it, I can hate to desire it, I can be indifferent to this desire of mine, just tolerating it neutrally... The philosophical consequence of this reflexivity of desire is crucial: it tells us how the opposition conscious/unconscious is related to the opposition consciousness/selfconsciousness: the Unconscious is not some kind of prereflexive, pre-thetic, primitive substrat later elaborated by conscious reflexivity; quite on the contrary, what is most radically "unconscious" in a subject is his self-consciousness itself, the way he reflexively relates to his conscious attitudes. Therein resides Lacan's thesis: the Freudian subject is identical to the Cartesian cogito, or, more precisely, to its later elaboration in the Kant-Hegelian self-consciousness. That is to say, for Hegel, "self-consciousness" in its abstract definition stands for a purely non-psychological self-reflexive ply of registering (re-marking) one's own position, of reflexively "taking into account" what one is doing. Therein resides the link between Hegel and psychoanalysis: in this precise non-psychological sense, "self-consciousness" is in psychoanalysis an object – say, a tic, a symptom which articulates the falsity of my position of which I am unaware. Say, I did something wrong, and I consciously deluded myself that I had the right to do it; but, unaware to me, a compulsive act which appears mysterious and meaningless to me "registers" my guilt, it bears witness to the fact that, somewhere, my guilt is remarked.



"If the Absolute were only to be brought on the whole nearer to us by /our/ agency, without any change being wrought in it, like a bird caught by a limestick, it would certainly scorn a trick of that sort, if it were not in its very nature, and did it not wish to be, beside us from the start." This passage – the key claim that the Absolute itself "wishes to be beside us," with us, present to us, to disclose itself to us, is read by Heidegger as providing Hegel's own formulation of the old Greek notion of parousia. Rather than dismissing this claim as a proof of how Hegel remains prisoner of the "metaphysics of presence," one should draw attention, first, to the fact that Heidegger himself provides a further variation of this same topic with his notion of Dasein as das Da des Seins, the "there" of Being itself, which means that Being itself "needs" a man as its only "there," and that, in this sense, in spite of all of its withdrawal, it also "wants to be with us." Furthermore, this "wish to be with us" is more enigmatic and complex than it may appear – it is to be conceived along the lines of the famous conclusion of Kafka's parable on The Door of the Law, when the man from the country finally, at his deathbed, learns that the Door was there only for him and that now, upon his death, it will be closed. All the mystery of withdrawal, of the inaccessibility of what the Door was concealing, was thus there only for the Man, to fascinate his gaze – the Door's reticence was a lure destined to obfuscate the fact that the Door "wished to be with the man." In other words, the trick of the Door was the same as that of the anecdote about the competition between Zeuxis and Parrhasios: the Door was like the painting of a curtain on the wall, it was here to evoke the illusion that it is concealing some secret.



There is a shot of Judy's face in Vertigo, its left half completely dark, and its right half in a weird green (from the neon light outside the room). Instead of reading this shot as simply designating Judy's inner conflict, one should confer on it its full ontological ambiguity: as in some versions of gnosticism, Judy is depicted here as a proto-entity, not yet ontologically constituted in full (a greenish plasm plus darkness). It is as if, in order to fully exist, her dark half waits to be filled in with the ethereal image of Madeleine. At this very moment when Judy is reduced to less-than-object, to a formless pre-ontological stain, she is subjectivized – this anguished half-face, totally unsure of itself, designates the birth of the subject. Recall the proverbial imaginary resolution of Zeno's paradox of infinite divisibility: if we continue the division long enough, we will finally stumble upon a point at which a part will no longer be divided into smaller parts, but into a (smaller) part AND NOTHING – this nothing "is" the subject. And, is this, exactly, not the division of Judy in the above-mentioned shot? We see half of her face, while the other half is a dark void.

Subjects are literally holes, gaps, in the positive order of being: they dwell only in the interstices of being, in those places where the job of creation is not done to the end: the very existence of a subject is a proof that God was an idiot who bungled the job of Creation. Far from being the Crown of Creation, a subject bears witness to the fact that there are spots of unfinished reality in the order of things: the objective correlate of a subject is a proto-real spectral object-stain which is not yet fully actualized as part of positive reality. The problem is that, when we are in front of a human being and see only the visible half, we automatically de-subjectivize it by way of filling in the void, by way of projecting onto the darkness the imaginary wealth of personality: the de-subjectivized other becomes a full "person," the face turned into a Levinasian fetish, the sign of the abyssal depth of the person's inner life, and the two halves (the outer face and the inner psychic life) are combined into the rounded Whole. What is difficult is not to perceive the wealth of personality beneath the face, but to avoid this trap, to ABSTRACT from the mirage of this wealth and to acquire the ability to see the de-fetishized reality of the subject: to see the gap, the darkness, without filling it in with the fantasmatic content of "inner life" that is supposed to shine through it. In other words, the difficult thing is to see reality in its pre-ontological status, as not fully constituted, to see the nothing where there is nothing to see.

Or, to put it in more speculative Schellingian terms, subjectivity is the unique point at which the dimension of ontological openness, obfuscated by the passage from "quantum" proto-reality, explodes again in the midst of the fully constituted reality. Which is why, in contrast to constituted reality, in which actuality is more than potentiality, present more than future, in subjectivity, potentiality stands "higher" than reality: subject is a paradoxical entity which exists only as ex-sisting, standing outside itself in an ontological openness.



"The secret of the Other is the secret for the Other itself" – but crucial in this redoubling is the self-inclusion: what is enigmatic for the Other is MYSELF, i.e., I am the enigma for the Other, so that I find myself in the strange position (like in detective novels) of someone who all of a sudden finds himself persecuted, treated as if he knows (or owns) something, bears a secret, but is totally unaware WHAT this secret is. The formula of the enigma is thus: "What am I for the Other? What for an object for the Other's desire I am?"

Because of this gap, the subject cannot ever fully and immediately identify with his symbolic mask or title; the subject's questioning of his symbolic title is what hysteria [4] is about: "Why am I what you're saying that I am?" Or, to quote Shakespeare's Juliet: "Why am I that name?" There is a truth in the wordplay between "hysteria" and "historia": the subject's symbolic identity is always historically determined, dependent upon a specific ideological constellation. We are dealing here with what Louis Althusser called "ideological interpellation": the symbolic identity conferred on us is the result of the way the ruling ideology "interpellates" us – as citizens, democrats or Christians. Hysteria emerges when a subject starts to question or to feel discomfort in his or her symbolic identity: "You say I am your beloved – what is there in me that makes me that? What do you see in me that causes you to desire me in that way?" Richard II is Shakespeare's ultimate play about hystericization (in contrast to Hamlet, the ultimate play about obsessionalization). Its topic is the progressive questioning by the King of his own "kingness" – what is it that makes me a king? What remains of me if the symbolic title "king" is taken away from me?

I have no name, no title,
No, not that name was given me at the font,
But 'tis usurp'd: alack the heavy day,
That I have worn so many winters out,
And know not now what name to call myself!
O that I were a mockery king of snow,
Standing before the sun of Bolingbroke,
To melt myself away in water-drops!

In the Slovene translation, the second line is rendered as: "Why am I what I am?" Although this clearly involves too much poetic license, it does render adequately the gist of it: deprived of its symbolic titles, Richard's identity melts like that of a snow king under sun rays. - The hysterical subject is the subject whose very existence involves radical doubt and questioning, his entire being is sustained by the uncertainty as to what he is for the Other; insofar as the subject exists only as an answer to the enigma of the Other's desire, the hysterical subject is the subject par excellence. In contrast to it, the analyst stands for the paradox of the desubjectivized subject, of the subject who fully assumed what Lacan calls "subjective destitution," i.e. who breaks out of the vicious cycle of intersubjective dialectics of desire and turns into an acephalous being of pure drive. With regard to this subjective destitution, Shakespeare's Richard II has in store a further surprise in store for us: not only does the play enact the gradual hystericization of the unfortunate king; at the lowest point of his despair, before his death, Richard enacts a further shift of his subjective status which equals subjective destitution:

I have been studying how I may compare
This prison where I live unto the world:
And for because the world is populous
And here is not a creature but myself,
I cannot do it; yet I'll hammer it out.
My brain I'll prove the female to my soul,
My soul the father; and these two beget
A generation of still-breeding thoughts,
And these same thoughts people this little world,
In humours like the people of this world,
For no thought is contented. The better sort,
As thoughts of things divine, are intermix'd
With scruples and do set the word itself
Against the word:
As thus, 'Come, little ones,' and then again,
'It is as hard to come as for a camel
To thread the postern of a small needle's eye.'
Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot
Unlikely wonders; how these vain weak nails
May tear a passage through the flinty ribs
Of this hard world, my ragged prison walls,
And, for they cannot, die in their own pride.
Thoughts tending to content flatter themselves
That they are not the first of fortune's slaves,
Nor shall not be the last; like silly beggars
Who sitting in the stocks refuge their shame,
That many have and others must sit there;
And in this thought they find a kind of ease,
Bearing their own misfortunes on the back
Of such as have before endured the like.
Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented: sometimes am I king;
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,
And so I am: then crushing penury
Persuades me I was better when a king;
Then am I king'd again: and by and by
Think that I am unking'd by Bolingbroke,
And straight am nothing: but whate'er I be,
Nor I nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased
With being nothing. Music do I hear?

(The music plays.)

Ha, ha! keep time: how sour sweet music is,
When time is broke and no proportion kept!
So is it in the music of men's lives.
And here have I the daintiness of ear
To cheque time broke in a disorder'd string;
But for the concord of my state and time
Had not an ear to hear my true time broke.
I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;
For now hath time made me his numbering clock:
My thoughts are minutes; and with sighs they jar
Their watches on unto mine eyes, the outward watch,
Whereto my finger, like a dial's point,
Is pointing still, in cleansing them from tears.
Now sir, the sound that tells what hour it is,
Are clamorous groans, which strike upon my heart,
Which is the bell: so sighs and tears and groans
Show minutes, times, and hours: but my time
Runs posting on in Bolingbroke's proud joy,
While I stand fooling here, his Jack o' the clock.
This music mads me; let it sound no more;
For though it have help madmen to their wits,
In me it seems it will make wise men mad.
Yet blessing on his heart that gives it me!
For 'tis a sign of love; and love to Richard
Is a strange brooch in this all-hating world."

It is crucial to properly grasp the shift in modality which occurs with the entrance of music in the middle of this monologue. The first part is a solipsistic rendering of a gradual reduction to nothingness, to the pure void of the subject ($): Richard starts with the comparison of his cell with the world; but in his cell, he is alone, while the world is peopled; so, to solve this antinomy, he posits his thoughts themselves as his company in the cell - Richard dwells in the fantasms generated by a mother (his brain) and father (his soul). (The pandemonium he thus dwells in, in which the highest and the lowest co-exist side by side, is exemplified by a wonderful Eisensteinian montage of two biblical fragments, "Come, little ones" (reference to Saint Luke 18,16, Saint Matthew 19,14, and Saint Mark 10,14) counterposed to "It is as hard to come as for a camel to thread the postern of a small needle's eye" (reference to Luke 18,26, Matthew 19,24, and Mark 10,25). If we read these two fragments together, we get a cynical superego God who first benevolently call us to come to him, and then sneeringly adds, as a kind of second thought ("Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that…"), that it is almost impossible to come to Him…) The problem with this solution is that, if he with his thoughts is a multitude of people, then, caught in this shadowy unsubstantial world, the substantial consistency of his Self explodes, he is forced to play "in one person many people." And, he concludes, he effectively oscillates between being a king, a beggar, etc., the truth of it and the only peace to be found is in accepting to be nothing.

In the second part, music as an object enters, a true "answer of the Real." This second part itself contains two breaks. First, in his usual rhetorical vein, Richard uses this intrusion to, yet again, form a metaphor: the playing of the music out of tune reminds him how he himself was "disordered" (out of tune) as a king, unable to strike the right notes in running the country and thus bringing disharmony – while he has great sensitivity for musical harmony, he lacked this sensitivity for social harmony. This "out of joint" is linked to time – the implication being that, not merely is time out of joint, but time as such signals an out-of-jointness, i.e., there is time because things are somehow out of joint. – Then, no longer able to sustain this safe metaphoric difference, Richard enacts a properly psychotic identification with the symptom, with the musical rhythm as the cipher of his destiny: like an alien intruder, music parasitizes, colonizes, him, its rhythm forcing on him the identification with Time, a literal identification, psychotic, where he no longer needs a clock but, in a terrifying vision, he directly BECOMES the clock (in the mode of what Deleuze celebrated as "becoming-machine"). It is as if Richard is driven to such extreme of painful madness with this music that, for him, the only way to get rid of this unbearable pressure of music is to directly identify with it… In one of the episodes of the 1945 British horror omnibus Dead of the Night, Michael Redgrave plays the ventriloquist who becomes jealous of his dummy, gnawing with the suspicion that it wants to leave him for a competitor; at the episode's end, after destroying the dummy by way of thrashing its head, he is hospitalized; after reawakening from psychic coma, he identifies with his symptom (the dummy), starting to talk and contorting his face like it. Here we get the psychotic identification as the false way out: what started out as a partial object (the dummy is a doll stuck on his right hand, it is literally his hand acquiring an autonomous life, like the hand of Ed Norton in Fight Club) develops into a full double engaged in a mortal competition with the subject, and since the subject's consistency relies on this symptom-double, since it is structurally impossible for him to get rid of the symptom, the only way out of it, the only way to resolve the tension is to directly identify with the symptom, to become one's own symptom – in exact homology to Hitchcock's Psycho at the end of which the only way for Norman to get rid of his mother is to identify with her directly, to let her take over his personality and, using his body as a ventriloquist uses his dummy, speaking through him.

Finally, there occurs an additional shift towards the end of the monologue, in the last three lines: music, which first is experience as a violent intrusion that drives Richard to madness, now appears as a soothing "sign of love" - why this shift? What if simply the return to real music that he hears: it is a "sign of love" when separated from the metaphoric dimension of recalling the disharmony of his kingdom. The designation of music as "a sign of love" has to be understood in its strict Lacanian sense: an answer of the Real by means of which the circular-repetitive movement of drive is reconciled with – integrated into – the symbolic order.



"Woman is a symptom of man" – does this mean that a woman comes to ex-sist only when a man picks her up? So what is she prior to it? What if we conceive the idea of a symptom that pre-exists what it is a symptom of, so that we can consider women as symptoms wandering around in search of something to attach themselves to as symptoms – or even just being satisfied with their role as empty symptoms? [5] One can effectively claim that a woman who withdraws from sexual contact with men is a symptom at its purest, a zero-level symptom – a nun, for example, who, rejecting to be the symptom of a particular man (her sexual partner), posits herself as the symptom of Christ, THE man (ecce homo).

This notion of the paradoxical pre-existence of a symptom can also be given a Benjaminian twist. Tchaikovsky, "Francesca da Rimini": in the middle (11 minutes into it), a passage ALMOST like Bernard Hermann, a kind of flight into the future; then standard Romanticism recuperates itself. It is really as if Tchaikovsky produced here a symptom in the early Lacanian (or Benjaminian) sense of a message that is coming from the future, of something for which the time when it was written was lacking the proper means to hear/understand it properly. (This is how modernism works: what were originally fragments of an organic Whole gets autonomized. The same in Miro's paintings.) No wonder that THIS is the music used for the balet sequence at the end of Torn Curtain – a kind of revenge of Herrmann whose score Hitchcock discarded, a scene in which the "repressed returns." (Did he chose this piece?) [6]



There is a nice anecdote about a Latin-American poet who accomodated the political tenor of his poetry to his most recent mistress: when his mistress was a proto-Fascist Rightist, he celebrated military discipline and patriotic spirit of sacrifice; when he got involved with a pro-Communist mistress, he started to celebrate guerilla warfare; later, he passed on to a hippy mistress and wrote about drugs and transcendental meditation... THIS is what "woman as a symptom of man" means, not that man merely uses a woman to articulate his messagfe – on the contrary, woman is the determining factor: man orients himself towards his symptom, he clings on it to give consistency to his life.

Insofar as a symptom is inherently related to its interpretation, i.e. insofar as it functions somehow like Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, as an attempt to take into account and answer in advance its possible interpretations, it involves an intricate structure of temporal loop: a symptom is a purely reflexive entity, a pre-emptive reaction to its own future effects.



In an old Christian melodrama, a temporarily-blinded ex-soldier falls in love with the nurse who takes care of him, fascinated by her goodness, forming in his mind an idealized image of her; when his blindness is cured, he sees that, in her bodily reality, she is ugly. Aware that his love would not survive the permanent contact with this reality, and that the inner beauty of her good soul has a higher value than her external appearance, he intentionally blinds himself by looking for too long into the sun so that his love for the woman will survive… if there ever was a false celebration of love, this is it.



Hegel uses the term Begriff (notion) in two main opposed meanings, "notion" as the very core, the essence, of the thing, and "notion" as "mere notion" in contrast to "the thing itself", and one should bear in mind that the same goes for his use of the term "subject": the subject as elevated above the objective, as the principle of life and mediation of objects, and the subject as designating something "merely subjective", a subjectively-distorted impression in contrast to the way things out there really are. It is all too simple to oppose these two aspects as the "lower" one, pertaining to the abstract approach of Understanding (the reduction of the subject to the "merely subjective"), and the "higher" one, involving the truly speculative notion of the Subject as the mediating principle of Life of reality; the point is, rather, that the "lower" aspect is the key constituent of the "higher" one. One overcomes the "merely subjective" by, precisely, fully endorsing it – here, for example, is how, in the famous passage from the Preface to his Phenomenology, Hegel celebrates the disjunctive power of "abstract" Understanding:

To break up an idea into its ultimate elements means returning upon its moments, which at least do not have the form of the given idea when found, but are the immediate property of the self. Doubtless this analysis only arrives at thoughts which are themselves familiar elements, fixed inert determinations. But what is thus separated, and in a sense is unreal, is itself an essential moment; for just because the concrete fact is self-divided, and turns into unreality, it is something self-moving, self-active. The action of separating the elements is the exercise of the force of Understanding, the most astonishing and greatest of all powers, or rather the absolute power. The circle, which is self-enclosed and at rest, and, qua substance, holds its own moments, is an immediate relation, the immediate, continuous relation of elements with their unity, and hence arouses no sense of wonderment. But that an accident as such, when out loose from its containing circumference, — that what is bound and held by something else and actual only by being connected with it, — should obtain an existence all its own, gain freedom and independence on its own account — this is the portentous power of the negative; it is the energy of thought, of pure ego.

Hegel does not overcome the abstract character of Understanding by substantially changing it (synthesis instead of abstraction, etc.), but by perceiving in new light this same power of abstraction: what first appears as the weakness of Understanding (its inability to grasp reality in all its living complexity, its tearing apart of the living texture of reality) is its greatest power.

NOTES

[1] Terry Eagleton, Figures of Dissent, London: Verso, 2003, p. 246..

[2] This self-declaratory reflexivity is also discernible in the domain of fame: people can be famous for this or that, but they can also be famous simply for being famous. Recall the phenomenon of Paris Hilton, an absolute repulsive nobody of who trash media are full, reporting on her every step. She is not famous for doing or achieving or being something special – the dialectical reversal in her case consists in the fact that media report on her most stupid accidents – jumping over a car in a crowded parking lot, eating a hamburger, shopping at a discount store – because he is a celebrity. Her ordinariness, vulgarity even, is directly transubstantiated into the feature of a celebrity.

[3] On "Not Being a Neo-Structuralist" in Pippin's The Persistence of Subjectivity.

[4] Lacan identifies hysteria with neurosis: the other main form of neurosis, obsessional neurosis, is for him a "dialect of hysteria".

[5] And what is then a man for a woman? A catastrophe, as Lacan conjectures somewhere? What if, bearing in mind the couple symptom/fantasy, man is a fantasy of a woman? Does Lacan not point in this direction when he claims that don Juan is a feminine fantasy? Both woman and man, not only woman, are thus co-dependent on each other, like Escher's two hands drawing each other. The trap to be avoided here is to conceive this relationship as somehow complementary – as if, once a man finds his symptom in a woman and the same woman her fantasy embodied in a man, there finally is a kind of sexual relationship. What one should bear in mind is that fantasy and symptom are structurally incompatible.

[6] However, Hitchcock's discarding of Herrmann's score cannot be simply dismissed as his concession to Hollywood commercial pressure. In the DVD edition of Torn Curtain, one can also watch some scenes accompanied with the Herrmann score, among them the Gromek murder. In the released version, this scene has no musical accompaniment, all we hear are the occasional grunts and groans – how much more efficient is the scene this way, how much efficiently it renders the oppressive REAL PRESENCE of the painfully prolongated activity of trying to kill Gromek, than Bernard's standard score of the Wagnerian brassy ostinati!

Slavoj Zizek's Bibliography

Slavoj Zizek's Chronology

© lacan.com 1997/2007
Copyright Notice. Please respect the fact that this material in LACAN.COM is copyright.
It is made available here without charge for personal use only. Available only through EBSCO Publishing. Inc.
It may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose.