Sometimes one begins a conversation on social networks and after a few short exchanges it suddenly stops, your interlocutor rejects what you have been saying with a short sharp rejoinder, like a verbal slap in the face. What is to be done? Such is life. My reply is simple:

This is not up to the level of the rest of the exchange as I understood it. This is a pity as I put time and effort into formulating and arguing for my ideas and for my perspective, which are inhabitual, I grant you that. Such crushing quick dismissals are an unfortunate practice of intellectual discussion and do no work.

Nowhere do I say what you mock me for saying. I am disappointed as what I thought were the beginnings of an open dialogue turn out to have been a closed discussion all along. It is counter-productive. I have no time for such things.

There is no shame in opening discussions, in trying to bring about dialogue, in initiating free exchanges, in contributing to the debate. The shame is on the other side, that of those who will never feel it, who find their behaviour normal.

One cannot allow oneself to be paralysed or discouraged by these outcomes, despite their frequency and their probability. We know that the probable outcome is disappointment or worse. This is described by the Stoics’ recitation of adversity, and the injunction to prepare yourself for the worst.

But we go on in the expectation of the improbable, of the event, of the unlikely encounter. We continue to expect the unexpected, which sometimes happens and often doesn’t.

That’s how we think and that’s how we live. It’s also how the universe works, according to the thinkers we love.

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Nobody would ever write a book on the “dark” Zizek as, following in Lacan’s footsteps, he systematically highlights dark options and terminology. In contrast, Deleuze, like Jung, is both dark and bright.

The Shadow for Jung, but Deleuze too talks about the Shadow, is archetypal and not just a secondary formation, and God himself has a Shadow. For Deleuze the shadow is a gateway to becomings (becoming woman, animal, molecular, cosmic) and also the combat with the shadow as the only real struggle.

Zizek shares the Lacanian rejection of the “inner life”, which is quite worrisome, and for Lacanians who practice or who have been in analysis it is in bad faith. For Jung most of our “inner life” is outside, in primitive participation and also in what he calls the “psychoid” aspect of the archetype.

The hypothesis of the death drive may have had a biographical origin in Freud’s failures, as most of his concepts did, but it was no doubt also guided archetypally. James Hillman a post-Jungian analyst makes death and the underworld the major archetypes of the psyche and of analysis.

The shadow as personal complex can never be completely integrated because underlying it is the shadow as archetype. Integration is not the last word on the process of individuation as ego integration during the process of individuation must give way to integration in and by the self, which has a transpersonal composition.

“Inner” is a term rejected by Deleuze because of its dualist presuppositions and replaced by “intensity” but many intensities are located “within” us in familiar language. I see no reason to oppose Jungian and Lacanian perspectives as embodying absolute opposites of inner and outer, given that one tendency of Hillman’s psychology  is to undo this dualism and to find, and produce,”soul in the world”. Some people usefully combine both of these perspectives, for example Ted Friedman: https://tedfriedman.com/centaur-manifesto/

I have always analysed Zizek (and before him Derrida) as representing a half-way house between Freud and Jung, and between Lacan and Deleuze, pouring old wine into new bottles, and thus as an unconscious Jungian.

I originally came to France in 1980 to get away from the Lacanian doxa that surrounded me. However, I don’t have any problem with making heuristic use of many concepts and images, a practice advocated by Deleuze and Guattari.

Zizek is not a seamless block, to be accepted or rejected in toto, but is a multiplicity that contains good aspects as well as bad, and is in becoming, like everyone else. I find the first chapter in LESS THAN NOTHING one of his most Deleuzian pieces, and it constitutes a tour de force in its synthesis of influences both named and unnamed (in particular Lyotard).

I would never re-read Jung as a prefiguration of Lacan, but I do take seriously the advice of Jungians who claim that only Jungians can understand Freud as they re-read him for the mythology.The same approach can be applied to Lacan and Zizek.

So I do not capitulate before Zizek’s texts but I propose a close reading that is at the same time a transformation. Reading is individuation, and I individuate both myself and the text I am reading by means of my process of interpretation as both Deleuze (who is a conscious Jungian) and Bernard Stiegler (another unconscious Jungian) have often emphasised.

Deleuze refuses the notion of constitutive lack because of its Lacanian and “priestly” associations. However his system is built on negativity (which is different to “negation”) as even a cursory look at his favourite prefixes (a-, de-, dis-, non-, in-) shows. He talks constantly not only of difference and deterritorialisation, but also of unmaking (dé-faire), a-signifying, de-territorialisation, disjunction, non-philosophy, in-nommable. He also talks about the fissure (“fêlure”) constitutive of the personality and of every event. He claims that deterritorialisation is primary, that it comes before territorialisation.

It is important not to fusion problematics but it is also important to find secret passages and unfamiliar resonances. Noone writes on Zizek or Laruelle from this perspective, and fewer Deleuzians than I would like practice it.

Note: I am indebted to a conversation with Andy Noobpwner for helping me clarify these points.

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Reading DISPARITIES (3): Zizek’s Quantum Hermeneutics

It is a disappointing feature of much of the discussion in Continental Philosophy  that it is dominated by the vocal supporters of one or another master thinker. The Deleuzians mock Badiou and condemn Zizek, the Zizekians dismiss Latour, the Laruellleans condescend to everyone else. The audience is summoned to take sides in a battle for hegemony rather than to participate in an open dialogue. Many choose to keep silent for fear of being held up to ridicule, patronised, or simply ignored.

This refusal of dialogue is not only ethically reprehensible and inhumane, it is also an epistemic vice that harms intellectual progress. My ambition on this blog is to restore dialogue, at least between ideas, even if their proponents and defenders avoid exchange. Something is lost if we do not envision alternatives, our ideas become emptied of sense, meaningless war cries or signs of membership in the right club.

I read Zizek with Laruelle’s non-philosophy in mind, even though neither discusses the other. I think that each adds something to the understanding of the other. In particular, Laruelle’s emphasis on the far-reaching consequences of “quantum thought” allows us to see that Zizek’s use of quantum physics is not just one example amongst many other ones, but is of central importance. The different interpretative options that each adopts allow us to see more clearly what is at stake in each option and their possible coherence or conflict.

Zizek like Laruelle is a non-standard philosopher. Also like Laruelle he turns to quantum physics for a model of non-standard thinking. However Zizek’s use of quantum physics is very different from Laruelle’s in that Zizek privileges its disparatous pluralist aspects whereas Laruelle privileges quantum uniformity, called by him “unilaterality”. Laruelle’s thought is one of ultimate convergence, resumed under the name of “determination in the last instance”. In contrast, Zizek’s thought favours divergence and “over-determination”.

Zizek makes use of quantum physics as model but he acknowledges that Badiou’s use of set theory and category theory achieves similar goals. Laruelle is less pluralist. In his book ANTI-BADIOU. He requires us to choose between quantum and set theory. This is in accord with the uniqueness hypothesis:

there is only one non-philosophy, there is only one non-standard philosophy and Laruelle is its thinker.

Zizek does not discuss Laruelle directly, but he outlines a critical analysis of the use that Ray Brassier makes of Laruelle’s key concept of “determination in the last instance”. For Zizek the big problem with Laruelle, Brassier, and their epigones is scientism and what he calls “direct naturalization”.

Zizek rejects naturalism as a project based on the “full naturalization” of Being and the “total naturalization of humanity”. He argues that this naturalist project is one of total de-subjectivation, and that subject is based on denaturalization.

Another problem is that Laruelle’s and Brassier’s scientism leads to the uniformisation of thought and to the denial of incommensurabilities and divergence in favour of uniformity and convergence.

A related point is the denial of ontological difference. Despite impressions to the contrary Laruelle’s non-philosophy falls under the same aporia as Harman’s OOO: it asserts an apophatic veil but then, in contradiction with this, proceeds to specify what lies behind the veil (Harman’s real objects, Laruelle’s One) and its mode of relation (Harman’s withdrawal, Laruelle’s unilaterality). Brassier’s naturalization of Laruelle’s One, like Levi Bryant’s naturalization of Harman’s objects, is an attempt to resolve this aporia by simply dropping the apophatic aspect.

Perhaps behind the alliance of Zizek and Badiou mentioned above there is a rivalry and a divergence of interpretation. Zizek is to Bohr (qualitative approach) as Badiou is to Dirac (formalist approach). Dirac contributed a useful formalism to quantum physics, which was mathematically equivalent to the others, but his underlying philosophical interpretation of the formalism was not equivalent.  Dirac was more deterministic than Bohr and seems to have rejected the ontological interpretation of the uncertainty principle. Laruelle leaves Dirac (formalism) behind but doesn’t quite get to Bohr because his non-philosophy leads him to subordinate complementarity to unilaterality.

Note: for more discussion on Laruelle’s quantum thought see my paper: https://www.academia.edu/9639078/LARUELLES_QUANTUM_HERMENEUTICS

Zizek argues that the recourse to quantum physics is necessary to avoid presupposing a stratification and hierarchisation of Nature, rising from the supposed completeness and presentiality of inanimate nature to the incompleteness and absentiality of human nature. For Zizek such a theory of emergence is a form of dualism and explains nothing.

Zizek lists four features that according to him characterise both the quantum universe and the symbolic universe: the actuality of the possible, knowledge in the real, the delay of registration, and retroactivity. The key feature for the discussion here is the non-causal “retroactivity”, which is in direct contradiction with Laruelle’s notion of unilaterality that he imports arbitrarily into his deployment of quantum thought. Zizek also differs from Laruelle in that he assigns superposition/coherence to the side of overdetermination and disparity and collapse/decoherence to that of determination in the last instance.

Paradoxically Zizek’s use of quantum theory is a gesture of anti-scientism. It is a key part of his argument against the scientistic vision that theories of emergence tend to reinforce, a vision of a unified science corresponding to the stratified hierarchised whole of a unified nature. In contrast, Laruelle’s use of quantum theory is both monistic and scientistic, and can easily be recuperated by a monist naturalism.

Zizek shows us that science itself, in the form of quantum physics, furnishes us with some of the best arguments against scientism.


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Reading DISPARITIES (2): disparity and speculative realism

Contrary to the dismissive stereotypes about his work perpetrated by superficial critics and commentators whose opinions have been formed without any engagement with his texts, Zizek is indeed a philosopher albeit a non-standard one, and his thought constitutes an important contribution to the present wave of metaphysical creativity in Continental Philosophy. As such, it fully belongs inside the contemporary constellation that includes the philosophies of Badiou, Latour, Laruelle, and Stiegler.

Note: I am using “metaphysical” not in the negative post-Heideggerian sense shared by these thinkers but in the sense of Karl Popper’s “metaphysical research programmes”, systems of thought proposing a general perspective on the world, containing both testable and untestable elements. For an outline of this approach to Continental Philosophy see this summary post. I propose five criteria for evaluating such research programmes: pluralism, diachrony, apophaticism, testability, and democracy.

I have been trying to demonstrate on my blog that all these thinkers can be examined as belonging to the same constellation of thought and their contributions can be usefully discussed in terms of a philosophical dialogue that exists whether they are familiar with or favourable to the other contributions or not.

There is no need for the one-sided fantasmatic identification with the thought of one of these figures and scathing condemnation of the rest. There is no need for war cries and anathemas: Zizek is great, Laruelle is absurd! (or vice versa). Each of these thinkers can help us to avoid the traps of one-sided formulations, impoverished examples, incomplete references and unthinking prejudices stemming from our involvement with just one of the others.

In this series of posts I am reading Zizek’s new book DISPARITIES as he asks it to be read, against the grain, following the guiding thread of the disparate in his text and drawing a simple line between the disparate and the monist elements. This is the method that he is both advocating and illustrating in this book.

From the beginning Zizek applies this perspective, arguing for a disparate reading of Hegel as against a reconciliatory reading. He opposes the disparate un-determined Kraken to the uniform holistic deterministic mole. He deploys the elements of disparity he finds in Kant, Hegel, Lacan, Heidegger, Badiou and others to re-think his analysis of the contemporary field of thought.

In the first chapter Zizek discusses a number of thinkers who either belong to the movement of speculative realism or are thematically associated with it: Franco Berardi, McKenzie Wark, Karen Barad, Ray Brassier, Timothy Morton, McKenzie Wark, Adrian Johnston. In each case he locates in the interior of each thinker’s work the disparatous elements that he favours and sets them against the forgetting of disparity that continues to block thought within the confines of the Big Other.

Discussing Ray Brassier Zizek approves of the Sellarsian critique of direct naturalisation but rejects for this reason Brassier’s privileging of the causal “determination in the last instance” over transcendental “overdetermination”. From Franco Berardi Zizek retains the notion of the traumatic impact both of the discovery and of the deployment of neuro-plasticity as undermining our humanity and its notion. In McKenzie Wark Zizek approves of the notion of a fundamentally unstable nature, of a rift in nature which splits humanity itself. From Karen Barad Zizek takes the notion of the apparatus as an inhuman mediation of the inhuman to the human, enabling us not only to get to know the inhuman real but also to construct new devices on inhuman bases. From Timothy Morton, he takes the disparatous nature of hyperobjects as heralding the change in our conceptual apparatus needed not only to comprehend but even to apprehend the Anthropocene.

Finally Zizek considers Adrian Johnston’s objections to his privileging quantum mechanics as scientific exemplar of ontological incompleteness. This argument will be discussed in the next post.

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Reading DISPARITIES (1): Zizek, China Miéville and the Ontology of the Kraken

At first sight Zizek’s new book DISPARITIES looks like a disjointed disparate set of reading notes on a diverse group of trendy books from within the fields of Continental Philosophy and of Speculative Realism. To that extent its title is apprpopriate, if only as mise en abyme of self-description.

However, we quickly realise that the disparity of the title constitutes a new member of the heterogeneous chain of master terms embodying the provisional unity to Zizek’underlying ontological project. Other terms include negativity, parallax, quantum incompleteness, or ontological difference.

One could easily add to this chain Bruno Latour’s recent concept of “being-as-other”. In effect, each of these terms is a temporary halting point, provisional quilting points for the work in progress (or at least in process). Zizek cites, and tries to distinguish himself from, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida, and Adorno. Yet he is of the same ilk, and his self-distinction fails.

Zizek’s distinction from these fellow thinkers lies in his refusal to read Hegel as a monistic philosopher of unification and reconciliation. He argues that in Hegel’s thought there is no unifying “mole” or cunning of reason, no dialectical determinism, no puppet-master of history. For Hegel too substance is barred, subject is barred, negativity is primary, there is no Big Other. Against the hermeneutics of the monistic mole, Zizek proposes a disparate reading of Hegel.

But Zizek himself is sometimes guilty of uniform perspectives and molish readings. In the case of Deleuze this leads Zizek to dismiss the disparate concept of the “rhizome” for the sole reason that it is derived from Jung. Zizek jokingly calls this Jung-phobia an example of his own “Stalinist”prejudices, where Stalin is one of the names of Zizek’s mole.

Zizek’s “criticism” does not invalidate the concept at all, and applies equally to his own position. Jung is Zizek’s blindspot, as he argues Hegel is for Deleuze.

In Zizek’s mind “Jung” is the symbol of all that is homogeneous, harmonious and holistic, whereas Deleuze in fact uses Jung for his disparate pluralist potential. Zizek criticises Deleuze for being influenced by Jung. He singles out the “rhizome” as a Jungian concept and proceeds to replace it with the concept of the Kraken. Of course the Kraken is just as Jungian as the rhizome. But having ritually denounced Jungianism Zizek can now tranquilly go on to embody it unconsciously.

Continental Philosophy is full of knee-jerk anti-Jungianism, due to a lack of openness and transparency, and of acknowledgement of disparateness, in its own intellectual history. It maintains a deconstructive relation to Freud without realising that Jung was the first to deconstruct Freud effectively.

In fact, Lacan did an internship at the Burghölzli Clinic in August and September 1930 under the directorship of Hans Maier, Jung’s ex-assistant. I think that Lacan was more exposed to Jungian ideas than he let on, preferring to foreground instead the influence of Surrealism, which pursued a similar deconstruction of Freudism to Jung’s.

The first critique/deconstruction of Freudian ego psychology does not date from Lacan but from Jung, but you would never guess this from Lacanian discussions of the failings of ego psychology. Deleuze had more openness and more honesty, freely admitting to Jung’s influence from the early 60s onwards. Zizek’s denegation represents a regression.

Deleuze and Guattari have the rhizome taken from Jung, but they also have the Thing, the Entity, from the Lovecraftian/Melvillean model. The Kraken is a figuration of both, of their unity. The rhizome is ambivalent between the mole and the kraken. Zizek in DISPARITIES gives attention only to the authoritarian aspect of secret manipulation and determination. He equates the pluralist rhizome and the monist mole as covert determinations. Zizek then proposes his own solution of the Kraken, which in fact is merely a repetition of the ignored uncanny Real aspect of the rhizome.

See also my take on Deleuze, Lacan, Zizek, Jung here.

China Miéville from his early novel called coincidentally KRAKEN to his most recent THE LAST DAYS IN NEW PARIS is far more Deleuzian, and so Jungian, than Lacanian. Miéville provides us with an example of the disparate in the realm of science fiction and his weird ontology is both Zizekian and Deleuzian. See: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/weird-ontology-and-noetic-estrangement-china-mievilles-the-last-days-of-new-paris/.

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CLEARING THE GROUND (3): Latour and the pluralist outside

As a pluralist I am against Laruelle’s (and his followers’) uniqueness hypothesis (although it is precisely not a hypothesis for him but an unquestioned and unquestionable fact). This is the hypothesis that Laruelle is the one and only non-philosopher, and that he alone has escaped philosophical sufficiency and speaks from a posture of immanence. I have argued that the exact opposite is true: Laruelle preaches non-philosophy, but he does not practice it very well.

The example of Badiou confirms my alternative hypothesis that on the contrary there are many non-philosophers, and that immanence is not an all or none affair, but a matter of gradation. Badiou, I argue is on the way to immanence, and further along that path than Laruelle. But this does not mean that I wholeheartedly endorse every aspect of Badiou’s system nor that I think he is the last word on immanence.

Another major transformation over my six years of blogging came from my encounter with Bruno Latour’s pluralist project AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE. I have been and remain both very enthusiastic over and very critical of this project, as my final evaluation of it shows. However, I do not criticise Latour for any lack of pluralism, but for the lack of democracy in his project.

The fact that Latour chose to publish this dissident fellow-traveler’s perspective in his retrospective catalogue RESET MODERNITY is a sign of Latour’s pluralism. Bruno Latour preaches pluralism, like many others, but he does not stop there – he actually practices the pluralism he theorises. Unlike the rather solipsist Laruelle, Deleuze and Guattari worked together as equals, Badiou and Zizek cultivate a form of philosophical friendship. Stiegler’s Summer Academy is a collective venture, and Latour seems to work best in a team.

AIME is a game-changer, in many respects. It has considerably upped the ante of what can lay claim to be counted as pluralism in thought. Lacan’s four discourses and Badiou’s four conditions, whatever their demerits, are nonetheless more pluralist than Laruelle’s simple two (the dualism of standard and non-standard). Latour acknowledges fifteen modes of existence and considers the list to be open, which is even more satisfying from a pluralist perspective.

I consider Deleuze and Guattari’s schizoanalytic project, which includes Deleuze’s cinema books, to be a timid contribution to post-Jungian thought. It is regrettable that Badiou and Zizek regress from this breakthrough by combining a pluralist ontology with a Lacanian image of the psyche.

Latour does not participate in this regression. He incorporates the positive advances of schizoanalysis into his AIME project, inluding it both within the mode of metamorphosis and within the fundamental ontology’s primacy of being-as-other. Hence his closeness to Jung, and to post-Jungians such as James Hillman.

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CLEARING THE GROUND (2): Blindness (Laruelle) and Insight (Badiou)

I have been summing up my six years experience of philosophical blogging, and trying to describe the movements and transformations in my thought that have resulted from this digital experiment.

In a previous post I recounted how I moved from an initially very positive evaluation of Laruelle’s non-philosophy to a much more mitigated one. In parallel I moved from an initially hostile perspective on Badiou to a positive evaluation of his most recent work. It is difficult for me to discuss the one without the other as a key turning point in my renewed appreciation of Badiou was Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU, which I first reviewed favourably, as locating some very important problems with Badiou’s philosophising, but then came to criticise as failing in its goal.

Laruelle falls prey to the philosophical sufficiency that he diagnoses in others, due to his uniqueness hypothesis: the assumption that there is only one non-philosopher, namely himself. Deleuze, Derrida, and Badiou are excluded quite explicitly. A second objection is that Laruelle himself fails to speak from immanence insofar as he remains “Laruelle-the-only-non-philosopher”. Laruelle is thus blind to the elements of non-sufficiency and of real immanence in other philosophers than himself.

The case of Laruelle’s treatment of Badiou is quite exemplary in this regard. At first sight BEING AND EVENT seems a perfect case of philosophical sufficiency. Badiou also seems to aimat immanence and fail to attain it immanence due to the “strong” systematic thought that his philosophising mobilises and exemplifies.

My argument is that this diagnosis is only partially true of BEING AND EVENT, much less true of LOGICS OF WORLDS, and irrelevant to the work leading up to Badiou’s forthcoming IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS (to be published in French on January 17, 2017). If we take into account this development we can see that, contrary to Laruelle’s claims, Badiou’s defense of philosophy leads him both to a stance of non-standard philosophy and to a posture of immanence. Badiou’s philosophy is non-standard, or non-sufficient, because it places philosophy under conditions instead of posing it as absolute. It is also what I have called “on the way to immanence”.

I do not think that “immanence” is an all or none affair, so a part of my argument has been internal, comparing Laruelle’s claims, and self-publicity, about his project with his actual achievements. Rhetorically I have attempted a reductio ad absurdum by conceding to Laruelle that “non-standard philosophy” exists, arguing that it is a matter of degree, and showing that Laruelle is far more “standard” than he claims to be, and that some of those he criticises are more “non-standard”, according to his own criteria.

Proceeding externally, I argue that Badiou’s placing of philosophy in relation to an outside and under conditions, his recognition of the importance of learning from anti-philosophy, his turn to pluralist phenomenological worlds in LOGICS OF EVENTS, and his subsequent attempt to think the effects of Truths under the condition of their immanence to multiple worlds are all factors that counter systematic sufficiency and that embark Badiou on an a-parallel encounter or non-convergent dialogue with Deleuze (for more details see: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2016/07/17/badious-becoming-deleuze-a-personal-observation/).

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