Reading DISPARITIES (7): OOO and “Spirit is a Bone”

Zizek’s argument with OOO concerns the difference between the speculative judgement and the reductive judgement, and the impossibility of reductionism. He cites Hegel’s statement “Spirit is a bone” as an example of a judgement that at first sight seems to be a reduction of subject to substance, but which is aimed at producing a speculative shock in the reader. This shock is the opposite of the mind-numbing effect many of OOO’s seeming self-evidences produce (what I called its “stupidity”). Hegel’s phrase is meant to awaken us from the familiarity of the notion of substance and to question its coherence, so that it may no longer be taken for granted.

In Zizek’s account the subject is the outcome of the failure of symbolization. This failure  concerns not just reference to the object but the object itself. The object can never be its own interpretation, it can never completely be just an object.This is Zizek’s way to avoid both “correlationism” and the sort of meta-correlationism that he is arguing is instituted by OOO.

The discourse of OOO, like the discourse of science for Lacan, depends on the foreclusion of the subject. Lacan says “foreclusion” and not subtraction, because the subject can never be fully subtracted. “Subject”, at least at this stage in the argument, is another name for the absence of a foundational level. Zizek does not deny the truth of science, he explicitly recognises the biological and neurological bases of consciousness, but he refuses to consider them as foundational. In his terms they are substance, but not subject:

It is here that we should bear in mind the difference between the Freudian Unconscious and the ‘unconscious’ neurological brain processes: the latter do form the subject’s natural ‘substance’, i.e. subject only exists insofar as it is sustained by its biological substance; however, this substance is not subject.

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