ZIZEK’S DELEUZE/LACAN PACT: an ongoing project

In my comments on Zizek’s INCONTINENCE OF THE VOID I  have given him the best and most charitable reading I can, given his refusal both of deconstructionist negativity and of “new” positivity. The same applies to my comments on his previous book DISPARITIES.

I see no value at all in OOO, be it hard (Harman) or soft (Morton), and other versions of Speculative Realism leave me unconvinced. I have tried to set the historical record right concerning realism on my blog. I took considerable time, several years in fact, before coming to this conclusion.

Speculative Realism pales in comparison to Latour, Badiou, Stiegler and Zizek – even if all these thinkers’ systems of thought have serious problems in my view.

I think Zizek is wrong in his evaluation of “new materialisms”, but I do not know their work very well.

Zizek is by no means hostile to all of Deleuzian thought, and his favourable citations of Deleuze have become more frequent. He has even theorised a “pact” that would take the best parts from both.

But what I have tried to establish is a compromise, a pact between Deleuzians and Lacanians. Against the Deleuzians and the Lacanians themselves. Of course, if we reduce Lacan to Oedipus, to prohibition, etc. this pact cannot be established. But if we envisage the Lacan of the theory of the real, who is much more interesting, ties can be established with Deleuze” (Zizek, A TRAVERS LE REEL, page 17 my translation).

However, in practice Zizek oscillates between a naive dogmatic pre-Deleuzian Lacanism and a more sophisticated post-Deleuzian one. So I certainly don’t take his evaluations as gospel.

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REVIEW OF BLADE RUNNER 2049: on the ontology of replication

ABSTRACT: Can a copy be as good as, or even better than, the original? If not a copy, then a creative repetition? Can the successor species to humanity, or the sequel to a film, have a soul?

I greatly enjoyed BLADE RUNNER 2049 but I do not share the opinion that it somehow “surpasses” the original film. My impression is that the new film is a pedagogical sequel. It is much more explicit about some of the issues raised by the first film, and even about its enigmas, which are no longer simply suggested but explicitly discussed.

Full text here or here.

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Zizek has very slowly come to overcome many of his own objections to Deleuze, and to espouse some of his positions. The beginning chapters of LESS THAN NOTHING are quite striking in that regard.

In a book of interviews from 2010 Zizek even proposed a “pact between the Deleuzians and the Lacanians” based on the idea that with the “third” Lacan the opposition can be overcome:

“Of course, if we reduce Lacan to Oedipus, to interdiction, etc. this pact cannot be established. But if we envisage the Lacan of the theory of the real, who is much more interesting, ties can be established with Deleuze” (Zizek, A TRAVERS LE REEL, my translation).

It is about time that Zizek acknowledged that there is a similar evolution in Jung, from the biologistic Jung dating back to before his break with Freud and his schizophrenic encounter with the unconscious, through his search for the core myth (or fundamental fantasy) to the “psychoid”  (or quasi-psychic quantum real) Jung of the last period.

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Some of the works that are held up as exemplars of the epoch of the philosophy of difference are in fact implicit critiques of difference as too structuralist.

In particular Deleuze’s DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION and Derrida’s DIFFERANCE are cases rather of the re-temporalisation of synchronic difference, they are transitions to other concepts such as multiplicities and dissemination.

Similarly, some of the works held up as exemplars of the end of the epoch of difference (Badiou, Agamben, Laruelle) are latecomers to the critique of difference, codifying the creative effort of those who broke with that research programme. These thinkers are just part of the second wave of the end of difference, the first wave was ten years earlier with Deleuze, Derrida, Foucault, and Lyotard.

I do not accept François Laruelle’s self-serving Grand Narrative of difference. This is an intellectual imposture built on a falsified hypothesis. Deleuze’s philosophical system is not a “philosophy of difference” but a pluralism.

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BADIOU AND INDIFFERENT BEING, by William Watkin, is a very useful and interesting book on Badiou’s “Platonic gesture” in ontology. It is the first volume of a projected two. The aim of this first volume is to begin re-read Badiou’s BEING AND EVENT in a way that bears in mind the modifications of perspective brought about by Badiou’s sequel volume LOGICS OF WORLDS.

As the title suggests, Watkin gives great importance to the concept of indifference. He argues that the epoch of the hegemony of the philosophy of difference in French thought came to its end between 1982 and 1988. For Watkin Badiou’s BEING AND EVENT sounds the death knell of the epoch of difference and announces an epoch of indifference.

Long-time readers of my blog will know that I agree with this diagnostic of the end of the epoch of difference, but I have often argued that this end comes about much earlier, in the period 1969-1976.

Gilles Deleuze left the philosophy of difference behind implicitly in LOGIC OF SENSE (1969). I say implicitly because there is no explicit critique of the notion, it merely fades into the background behind more important concepts such as multiplicity and intensity. Writing with Guattari, Deleuze gave full expression to this change in RHIZOME, and this expression culminates in the exposition and enactment of a philosophy of multiplicities in A THOUSAND PLATEAUS in 1980.

Badiou in his recently published (in French) seminar, TRUTH AND SUBJECT, of 1987-1988 attacks the philosophy of difference under the name of the “modern sophistics”. It should be noted that he does not criticise the sophists’ pluralism but their relativism.

Badiou is himself a pluralist, advocating a Platonism of the multiple. He distinguishes the sophistic relativism made possible by the philosophies of difference from the realism of the thought of the multiple.

What Badiou criticises in the modern sophists (or post-moderns) is their hyper-plasticity, a type of thought making the irreducibility, the infinite variability and the disparateness of language games the ultimate foundation of democratic society. Against this ideology of modern society, Badiou argues that the task is not “to take shelter in this heterogeneity” but to create a new space of thought.

However, this new space is not reducible to the single master-concept of “indifference”, as Watkin claims. At the end of the first class of this seminar Badiou cites three “nodal concepts”: the multiple, the subject, the indiscernible. Multiplicity, subjectivity and indiscernibility are the knot of the post-sophistic space that Badiou articulates with his Platonism of the multiple.

Nor is Badiou unique in his valorisation of “indifference”. Deleuze is a great philosopher of indifference and indiscernibility. Nuancing Watkin’s case for the end of the epoch of difference and the opening of a new epoch, I would argue that among the three notions characterising the new conceptual sequence (multiplicity, subjectivity, indifference) the main concept linking Deleuze and Badiou is not so much indifference as pluralism.

If we wish to highlight one term, the multiple seems a better candidate than indifference to bring out the kinship between such diverse thinkers as Deleuze, Derrida, Badiou, Lyotard, Foucault, Serres, and Latour.

My hypothesis is that the “epochal” passage is from difference to multiplicity. This hypothesis also has the advantage of allowing us to see the continuity between the philosophies of difference and of pluralism, and why several thinkers were brought to pass from the first to the second at almost the same time.

For more details on this line of thought, see:

LARUELLE AND DELEUZE from difference to multiplicity

Deleuze philosophe of difference or philosopher of multiplicity?

From Differentialism to Pluralism

Watkin cites François Laruelle’s critique as part of the closure of the epoch of difference. However, when Laruelle published THE PHILOSOPHIES OF DIFFERENCE in 1986, he was criticising a dead paradigm, one that had been dead for 15 years. This time lag effect is a constant in Laruelle, whose work is always post-festum:


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BLADE RUNNER 2049 AND ARRIVAL: a pedagogical cinema

Denis Villeneuve’s ARRIVAL is a brilliant film, thoughtful and moving, visually powerful and emotionally rewarding. I cannot recommend this film too highly.

However, just as his BLADE RUNNER 2049 differentiates itself from the original BLADE RUNNER by providing an explicitation of  certain of its elements and themes, and even of its enigmas, Villeneuve’s ARRIVAL can be seen to modify Ted Chiang’s original novella STORY OF YOUR LIFE in order to render it more comprehensible.

The novella deals with an alien race with a different conception of time, one that is based on apprehending causality as a synchronic array rather than as a diachronic sequence. The film tries to concretise this alien conception in terms of an alien perception of time, one that involves precognition. It is never stated in the novella that actual foreknowledge is obtained from learning the Heptapod language. The synchronic vision of our life may be “just” a consequence of retroactive apperception of meaning. Saying yes to the event involves affirmation of its consequences, both good and bad.

This shift from synchronic conception to precognitive perception is useful to show how the alien language rewires the human brain and its vision of the world but the drawback is that it reintroduces linear causality in form of the use of inside information about the future to bring about a desired outcome.

Whereas in the novella we never know why the aliens came, it seems to be just part of their existential fatality, in the film they come to gift us with their language and with it their precognition, because they have foreknowledge of a future time when they will need our help. This reintroduces a sort of egoism, and reduces the exchange to our linear model, making it a sort of insider dealing.

In the novella there is an exchange between humans and aliens, but the Heptapods seem to have no idea of equivalence: each side gifts the other without a requirement of equal value. The only seemingly new “gift” of scientific knowledge, aside from their language (whose value seems more philosophical than practical) turns out to be a not yet widely publicised recent discovery.

Villeneuve adds the “insider futures trading” aspect as a pragmatic repetition of the more epistemological linguistic exchange. This pedagogical explicitation does not necessarily betray the original story, but can be considered to fill in a gap, or to spell out an implicit motive. The aliens bring us something we needed, a linguistic vehicle for the revelation and assimilation of the Stoical, and Nietzschean, Eternal Recurrence. In return, they may need our linearity so that their own seemingly passive habitus of willing the event may be redoubled into active willing.

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Zizek’s INCONTINENCE OF THE VOID (2): Deleuze/Zizek parallel or parallax

Zizek’s reply to his critics has important points in common with Deleuze’s “apology” in “Letter to a Harsh Critic”. In particular, both reject negative psycho-social interpretations of their person and work as malevolent, attempts to imprison them in stereotypes and to judge them by criteria that make it impossible to understand what they are saying.

There is the critic of identitarian thought, the appeal to a counter-tradition of philosophy, the method of immanent subversion (Deleuze’s immanent “buggery”), the refusal both of deconstructionist strictures against metaphysical thought and of pre-critical ontologies, an attempt to elaborate a non-standard philosophy, i.e. one that does not conform to the “dogmatic” image of thought.

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