Adam Kotsko on “Zizek and Meillasoux”

He said my comments got under his skin:

“In the bits Virgilio is quoting, he’s talking about human experience and saying that the most fundamental problem isn’t that our experience (the Symbolic) “can’t reach” the Real, it’s that the Symbolic can’t reach itself — it is inherently incomplete, which is precisely the point where itdoes reach the Real. This doesn’t mean that the Symbolic “creates” the Real or (even stupider) that language comes first and the external world is a consequence of its incompleteness.”

Out of respect for his blog I decided not to comment further. But I think I deserve to counter his views on my particular view of Zizek which I think he misunderstood. The bits he is referring are the following comments I made:

“In his lecture held at Bonn University, he emphasized the following (Bonn has compiled reading materials from its Summer School Program this year; the title of Zizek’s essay is “How to break out of correlationism”):

“The Real is the point at which the external opposition between the symbolic order and reality is immanent to the symbolic itself, mutilating it from within: It is the non-All of the symbolic. There is a Real not because the symbolic cannot grasp the external real, but because the symbolic cannot fully become itself” (pagination not available).

I take his words to be consistent with his Lacanian orientation. Zizek, at some point in the transcribed lecture, has additional words to spare:

“[Why] this constitutive withdrawal from reality of a part of the Real? Precisely because the subject is part of reality, because it emerges out of it….We can also see in what way two lacks overlap in this impossible object (the Real): the constitutive lack of the subject (what the subject has to lose in order to emerge as the subject…) and the lack in the Other itself (what has to be excluded from reality so that reality can appear)…. So the Real is not some kind of primordial Being which is lost with the opposition of subject and object (as Hölderlin put it in his famous Ur-Fragment of German Idealism); the Real is, on the contrary, a product (of the overlapping two lacks)… (pagination not available).

As to the Hegelian connection of this notion of the Real (which Zizek broadly exhibits in Less Than Nothing), Jean Hyppolite can help us draw the connection regarding its relation to the opposition between being and nothing: “That is due to the fact that it is the self that has posited itself as being and that this positing is not tenable; it engenders a dialectic. The self is absolute negativity and this negativity shows through in its positing itself as being. If the self is being, that is because being as such negates itself, and if being is the self that is because it is in-itself this negation of itself” (Jean Hyppolite, Genesis and Structure of Hegel’s Phenomenology, trans. Samuel Chernak and John Heckman [Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1974], 590).

This ‘being’ is the active subject, or simply the subject. And I humbly think this is the resting point of the Real for Zizek whose Hegelianism is no longer news.”

For some reasons I decided not to include a follow-up thread before Kotsko made his last comment, which runs as follows:

I think Laruelle is more to the point when he states that the Real is the Man-in-Man (contrary to Žižek’s subject-in-Real, or Man-in-Real): the in-Man being the product of the doubling of Man’s self-objectification of the Real in which the doubling proceeds from Man to the Real whose foreclosure deflects the objectification.

Now to Kotsko’s points regarding my view.

First, it was Zizek’s views not mine. Kotsko seems to attribute to my view the proposition “the Symbolic “creates” the Real or (even stupider) that language comes first and the external world is a consequence of its incompleteness.” Where did he get this attribution? Precisely where we can locate Zizek saying “There is a Real not because the symbolic cannot grasp the external real, but because the symbolic cannot fully become itself.” But why attribute it to me? Earlier in the discussions I made the following comments:

“…But if only for a fully symbolic leap we can properly make the necessary leap to infinity or absolute knowledge relative to what can be temporally ex-posed as knowable by the Universe that as Real unilaterizes objective reality by affecting it through the throw of the dice. One simply has to radicalize or accentuate the full symbolic or speculative direction of thinking.

Rather than the principle of sufficient reason inscribed by the correlation of subject and object (in Žižek, always from the standpoint of an incomplete subject, yet a subject in the last instance that must decide to be a subject vis-a-vis the Real) Meillasoux’s contingency or unreason allows what ‘is’ to be what it is. The very contingency of the Real allows the subject to either objectify the Real or negate the autonomous persistence of the Real ala Žižek. The ‘symbolic failure’ of the symbolic order only comes later, as a unilateral excess of the Real. The subject has never been in the Real contra Žižek.”

(NB: Before I laid out those views I issued an apology for gatecrashing). But, in fairness to Adam, his post on “Zizek on Meillasoux” is a careful analysis of Zizek’s views on After Finitude and its many controversial claims. I admire Kotsko. His book Zizek and Theology has been of valuable help to me as I am working, among others, on philosophy of religion. Meillasoux is not only a controversial thinker but full of ambivalence. His ambivalence nonetheless challenges us to rethink our philosophical ways. And we are grateful Zizek has handed out his initial verdict which will continue to provoke discussions in the academe and the para-academic.

See for your fair assessment of the discussions.

Btw, happy holidays to everyone!

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