“AM I A PHILOSOPHER?” (3): Zizek’s ethics – against arrogance and stupidity

My discussion of Zizek’s talk “Am I a Philosopher?” is an unfinished attempt at giving a close reading of Zizek’s text. The text’s argumentative structure is not obvious, and the relevance of the later sections to the question in the title is not apparent. However, Zizek’s polemic with Miller, at the end, on the nature of the Real provides very useful indications concerning his “quasi-ontology”, that he mentions at the beginning, in the third,paragraph, and then seems to drop:

Another move in this dir­ec­tion is my elab­or­a­tion of the quasi-onto­logy of “less than noth­ing” in my read­ing of the onto­lo­gical implic­a­tions of quantum phys­ics.

This talk begins by citing various accusations of “arrogance and stupidity” that people have directed at Zizek. His response is a philosophical one. He refuses the accusation of arrogance, claiming that his discourse is that of the hysteric rather than of the “arrogant” Master. He further claims not to fall into the stupidity of a positive pre-critical ontology, and situates himself at the analytic pole of an ontology of the incomplete, inconsistent real.

On the question of “stupidity” and ontology, I explore the link between the two in my essay IS ONTOLOGY MAKING US STUPID? I wrote this before Zizek’s LESS THAN NOTHING came out, but I think that his discussion of stupidity at the beginning of this book ties in well with my own analysis. On the question of “arrogance” and philosophy, I explore the link between the two in my various discussions of Laruelle. Laruelle was quite virulent in his condemnation of philosophy’s “suffisance” (the French word means both sufficiency and arrogance). He later came to see that his own “non-philosophy” was itself guilty of the arrogance that it condemned in standard philosophy, and tried to break with this more decisively in elaborating a “non-standard” philosophy implementing quantum thinking. Thus we can see him as moving from an arrogant position such as Zizek analyses in the middle Althusser and a position closer to Zizek’s quantum “quasi”-ontology.

To conclude on this point, in my opinion the prefix “quasi-” functions as a vanishing mediator, it drops out once the transition to post-Kantian philosophy has been made, and we can go back to talking simply about philosophy or ontology. One must not forget that Zizek maintains that philosophy beginning with Kant no longer does ontology in the same old standard way.

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2 Responses to “AM I A PHILOSOPHER?” (3): Zizek’s ethics – against arrogance and stupidity

  1. Wayne Brooks says:

    Finally, a description of the philosophy and non-philosophy of what Zizek is up to. Refreshing to see an understanding of the nonstandard philosophy which Zizek’s Lacanian/Hegelian apparently wild and rambling jaunts as the Joker of the world. There is a method in his madness, not unlike Nietzsche via Zarathustra or Deleuze via schizoanalysis which is a turn to the performative rather than the analytical, identitarian, scientific reductionism of the Big Other. What is left is the Joker of the petit objet a, the unreducible excess of jouissance which dances between the impossiblities of either nothing or nothing but the transcendental.

    Liked by 1 person

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