Some people have expressed objections to my posts on Zizek’s DISPARITIES, against their style and utility, treating them as an acute case of post-modern psycho-babble. Here is the outline of a reply:
“Psycho-babble”? No, definitely not. Maybe “philo-babble” would be an appropriate term.
My goal in this series of posts was to write a review of Zizek’s new book that would take his ideas seriously both in themselves and in relation to a broader context of thinkers. In short, I was trying to explicate Zizek’s thought in order to show that it was not just pure “babble” as many of his detractors think, nor that it is the amazing unprecedented theory of everything philosophical that many of his admirers believe it to be.
Zizek’s books can read as a conceptual mess, but I think that I have made some parts of it clearer, even though the use of some jargon is necessary if I want to be faithful to the letter of his text. Of course as I integrate his vocabulary into a larger context I transform its scope.
The first post in particular has also a polemical intent. I wanted to compare Zizek’s philosophy to that of François Laruelle, and to show that Zizek gives us a better, more satisfying, and more comprehensible account. If you want to see real hard-core philo-babble just take a look at Laruelle’s writings. Zizek is much clearer, and usually more entertaining.
The thing that I am proudest of in this post is the relation I establish with Karl Popper, something that noone has commented on. I think that Continental Philosophy as it is most often practiced is too self-absorbed and jargon-laden, and so uninterested in and incapable of relating its ideas to a more general discussion.
By using Popper’s idea of metaphysical research programmes I was able to set up criteria for comparing rival schools of thought that habitually ignore each other and that actively discourage (pretentiousness!) and obfuscate (jargon!) comparison, discussion, informed critique and evaluation. These “criteria” constitute an open list of considerations to help us get our bearings in the rather obscure common problem-situation, made obscurer by the fact that its participants are indifferent to or ignorant of the shared values and to the possible points of comparison
Laruelle and the Laruelleans are the most hostile to such open discussion, and maintain a near impenetrable wall of jargon based on idiosyncratic definitions of terms. To them the idea that Laruelle’s thought could usefully be considered a “metaphysical” research programme comparable with that of Latour, or Zizek, or Stiegler is unthinkable, because they define “metaphysics” in a way that suits their grandiose claims of being the only ones to get outside metaphysics.
Here I was obliged to use Popper’s jargon in order to let us see through Laruelle’s jargon and to take it down a peg. Sometimes you have to fight jargon with jargon. I would never try to give an account that replaces the original and exempts you from reading it, but my claim is that if you are reading this stuff and you have difficulty understanding it, or if you find it problematic in ways difficult to articulate, my posts will help you out. I can’t convince you to take the ride, nor do I want to, but if you do decide to take it I can help make it smoother-going.
As to “post-modern”, I plead guilty only on the noble acceptation of that term given by Lyotard: incredulity towards meta-narratives of legitimation. This incredulity is an anti-dogmatic and anti-authoritarian stance that must not be confused with the unfortunately more widespread acceptation of postmodernism as relativism. There is no problem with meta-narratives, only with their dogmatic or authoritarian uses as ultimate instances of legitimation.