SEX AND THE FAILED ABSOLUTE (4): the heuristic core

Zizek’s SEX AND THE FAILED ABSOLUTE has an interesting and unusual structure. In the interest of de-schematising his thought he has resorted to a quasi-mathematical form of presentation: a nested layout of theorems, corollaries, and scholia.

The book contains 480 pages, and after a brief introduction (15 pages) it divides into four « Theorems » (numbered from I to IV), each followed by a « Corollary » (numbered from 1 to 4). Each theorem and corollary is followed by from three to five « Scholia » (numbered by decimal notation, e.g. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 then 2.1 etc.). For the full table of contents see here.

Each theorem is stated and expounded in a chapter of about 50 pages on average (more or less, depending on the theorem. I will list the theorems here by chapter title, by name and by the formulation they are given in italics at the head of each theorem-chapter.

Note: the theorems are not given a name by Zizek, so I have chosen these. I have also chosen the formulation of Theorem III by quoting a very general statement within the chapter, as it is the only chapter without a formulation in italics at its head.

We shall see in surveying the four theorems that the book’s title SEX AND THE FAILED ABSOLUTE corresponds to only two of the four theorems. A more accurate title would be SEX AND THE FAILED ONTOLOGY OF UNORIENTABLE SPACES OF REAL ABSTRACTION.

1) THE PARALLAX THEOREM (or THE « FAILED ONTOLOGY » THEOREM)

THEOREM I: THE PARALLAX OF ONTOLOGY

« Not only our experience of reality, but also this reality itself is traversed by a parallax gap: the co-existence of two dimensions, realist and transcendental, which cannot be united in the same global ontological edifice » (17).

2)  THE REDOUBLING THEOREM

THEOREM II: SEX AS OUR BRUSH WITH THE ABSOLUTE

« The only way for us, humans, caught in the parallax gap, to break out of it is through the experience of sexuality which, in its very failure to achieve its goal, enables us to touch the dimension of the Absolute » (107).

3) THE UNORIENTABILITY THEOREM

THEOREM III: THE THREE UNORIENTABLES

« conceptual thinking is a matter of self-referential twists and inward-turns which, at the level of the figural, of what Hegel called “representation” (Vorstellung), cannot but appear as a perplexing paradox » (225).

4) THE NEGATIVITY THEOREM

THEOREM IV: THE PERSISTENCE OF ABSTRACTION

« In the twisted surface of unorientables that is our reality, abstraction is not just a feature of our thinking but the most basic feature of reality itself whose organic unity is always and by definition ruined » (343).

 

 

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