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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One Response to Reading DISPARITIES (2): disparity and speculative realism

  1. Thank you. I found Berardi very scary. So I forgot about him.

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