Tag Archive | Jacques Derrida

Thinking the uncommon

In one of the most interesting post I have encountered recently in the blogosphere–Object-Oriented Psychoanalysis and Derridean Deconstruction–Cengiz Erdem argues that the common things of everyday existence are produced out of the depressive position or abnormalities. As the author comments, psychic development is complemented by the death drive. Whereas this relationship is typically represented as a binary opposition in mainstream discourse, it is here presented as a reciprocally determined double-bind. Erdem’s claim, following Melanie Klein and Wilfred Bion, is that “for a healthy creative process to take place giving birth to new thought” an antecedent disintegration or fragmentation of common sense is required. In other words, the breakdown of one’s consciousness and knowledge is the necessary condition for the possibility of reintegrating novel ideas and producing creative new thought.

In psychoanalytic terms, this entails the negation or considered dissent of the predominant symbolic order in which one explicates the problems inherent to the structure of society. In this questioning process–given that individuals are necessarily complicit in socio-symbolic acculturation–the subject loses him- or herself, splintering one’s formerly stable and consistent identity. That is to say, since subjects are constituted by symbolic structuring, to interrogate this is to persecute one’s very self. As the author says later on, “The subject of the death drive shakes the foundations upon which is built its own mode of being”. But following the confrontation of the “banalities of symbolic societies” the subject tends towards the reparation, reconciliation, and reconstructing of the symbolic order, albeit in a structure otherwise than before.

This becoming self-consciousness doubtless entails pain and subjective intensity. In the case of Heidegger’s being-towards-death, this process involves hopelessness, despair, and angst. Or in Kierkegaardian terms, it is the anxiety or dizziness of freedom. But rather than focus on escape as the solution, as the existentialists understood Platonic rationalism and Western culture as a whole doing, this interior angst should be valorized as the creative agency constitutive of the subject. As Nietzsche put it, pain, suffering, and horror are prerequisites for the novel becomings of existence because the creation of new thoughts and uncommon individuation requires the destruction of old forms to clear space for the new.

Erdem identifies a similar theme in critical theory: “The critical theorist breaks down the meaning of the text and out of the pieces recreates a new meaning, which is to say that creativity bears within itself destructivity and inversely. It may not be necessary to destroy something intentionally to create something new, but to have destroyed something is usually a consequence of having created something new”. In Derridean terms, the peripheral meaning of a text internally contradicts the dominant meaning, causing the text to split and collapse on its own accord. In this sense, the creative drive of a text that brings it into being and the destructive drive that causes its ultimate dissolution “are within and without one another at the same time”. In the final analysis, Erdem concludes that Derrida and his deconstruction project are ineffective when it comes to the generative strategy of re-creating objects or texts out of disintegrated ruins, claiming that he “perpetually postpones” effective or affirmative action, a judgment I will let stand as is and let the reader decide on.

Given my own interest in Deleuze, the psychoanalytic notion that creative thought emerges out of meaningless chaos strikes me as very close to Deleuze’s objects of encounter as considered in Difference and Repetition. What engenders thought or what forces us to think, as Deleuze tell us, is an object of encounter, something that is not immediately recognizable to the dogmatic image. That is to say, it is discordant from the vantage point of recognition and identity. It “perplexes” thought and “forces it to pose a problem” (p. 140). In this way the violent encounter of something unthinkable unhinges common sense from its streamline functioning, creating a discord in the faculties of recognition, and compels thought to grasp that which is not immediately intelligible. In a memorial passage Deleuze states the experience of an uncommon object in this way: “It is not a sensible being but the being of the sensible. It is not the given but that by which the given is given. It is therefore in a certain sense the imperceptible” (p. 140).

So while the object of an encounter indeed stumps thought, it can only be said of intensive objects that thought truly begins. In this sense, familiar thoughts and opinions are only ever the product of events in which thought is disturbingly faced with what it does not directly identify as something previously observed. Or to express it in a simple sentence, thought is engendered by introducing aberration into thought. All of this suggests that objects of encounter are the necessary condition for possible new and stable thoughts to emerge. This is, for Deleuze, what it means to think an original, novel or uncommon thought: neglect the common values and sensible concerns of how things stand in society at large. Knowledge is only conditioned by the unidentifiable condition of the uncanny, the imperceptible.

Derrida on Lucretius and modern genetics

Our perception of dynamic systems theory in Derrida is further confirmed in his discussion of atomist theories as outlined in Mes chances [Taking Chances]. Lucretius’ cosmological account readily presents us with a theory of system that directly parallels Derrida’s ontology of writing:

In the cosmology of Lucretius, the pre-phenomenal, primordial state of undifferentiated matter is represented as an infinitely descending cataract of atoms. Because these atoms move in parallel trajectories, from top to bottom, in a continuous stream, there is no contact between them, and therefore no possibility of existence as such. The clinamen is the oblique deviation or departure (in French, one would say ‘écart’) from this parallel and non-interacting descent of particles. The collision and combination (or ‘agglutination’) of atoms resulting from this swerve leads to the creation of the world and its phenomena. It is important to note that the occurrence of the clinamen is purely arbitrary…1

What is of peculiar interest here is Derrida’s reading of the clinamen as an indeterminate occurrence that yields maximum consequences. Although the deviation is minimal and arbitrary, the chance inauguration is retrospectively legitimized and translated as necessary. That is to say, the accidents of the event become frozen.

All of this suggests furthermore that the emergence of order from atoms is not fixed in totality but can dissolve and enter into new combinations. Derrida’s theory of system in relation to the Lucretian atom is characteristically meaningless, which is to say it possess no intrinsic meaning. Given that all relations are in the end arbitrary it goes without saying that all minimal elements can emigrate from their identifiable compositions and join a different articulating structure. Consequently, all atoms, marks or traits of a given relation are repeatable from one environment to another. In Derrida’s terms, they exist as traces.

The atomist “combinatorial principle” of chance and necessity in all complex systems serves as a comparable model to “the scriptural metaphors of modern biological and cybernetic theory” insofar as both are concerned with the double articulation of indeterminate excess and self-regulating code.2 In this respect all systems are “necessarily conservative (the condition of their existence and persistence) but equally inherently unstable (the condition of their dynamism).”3 This oscillation between disrupting chance and regulating containment is no less true of linguistic systems, but Derrida’s argument is much broader: the random process of condensation and combination of heterogeneous elements can be generalized to encompass all systems.

Although Derrida is hesitant to take positivistic steps that would identify him too strongly with the natural sciences his atomist materialism is nevertheless implicated in the field of molecular biology, specifically in modern genetics. As the genetic ‘script’ of DNA that transmits genetic information and contributes to hereditary processes of evolution suggests, organisms always contain a certain logic of chance mutation in the reproduction and perpetuation of themselves. Genetic theory shows, in other words, that the “process of copying or editing” a ‘text’ is always susceptible to errors: “additions, deletions, transpositions”.4 Johnson’s analysis demonstrates, moreover, that Derrida’s initial idiom of inscription is noticeably altered to include “what one might call…‘bio-genetic’ metaphors”, such as germ(ination), insemination and seed, particularly in ‘La dissemination’ [Dissemination], ‘Glas’ [Glas] and subsequent texts.5 However, Johnson is correct to point out, in my judgment, that Derrida’s implicit consideration of modern genetic theory and atomistic dissemination are supplemental articulations of a wider theory of writing proper. That is to say, Derrida is not concerned with bio-genetics or the atomist tradition per se as much as he is interested in a broader ontology of writing.

This at once brings us to Derrida’s proposed program for rewriting the constraining logocentric heritage of Western metaphysics. As the metaphoricity suggests, Derrida’s strategy of deconstruction involves tampering with the code in its process of reproduction.6 On this bio-technological basis, one forces the telos of an entity to stray from its intended destination by means of cutting and transplanting its codes to form new sequences. In fact, this means of interventional transformation can also be found in Derrida’s scriptural lexicon: the meaning of texts are, after all, amplified and contaminated by subsequent works or citational grafts that reproduce textual chains in new contexts. Or, to refer back to Derrida’s interpretation of Lucretius, the creation of variegated things in the world is a result of atoms or particles colliding and agglutinating into random combinations.

In all these examples the strategy remains the same: philosophy evolves by selecting and recombining the “continuous drift of differences” handed down by the system.7 More specifically, Derrida’s practical intervention involves choosing sequences of texts that do not follow the conventional trajectory of Western philosophy: “Derrida’s own selection of forces is intended to keep the system moving, to ensure the continual transformation of the code, the continuous differentiation of the ‘supplément de code’.”8 Expressed in other terms, Derrida is sensitive to pick marginal, suppressed, ‘tout autre’ forces and prove how they are in fact more powerful, which, it goes without saying, strangely approximates deconstruction to Darwinian natural selection. In short, Derrida’s program is to accelerate the process of discontinuities!

1 Johnson, System and Writing, 134.

2 Johnson, System and Writing, 137.

3 Johnson, System and Writing, 138.

4 Johnson, System and Writing, 166.

5 Johnson, System and Writing, 166.

6 “If Derrida’s bio-genetic metaphor is followed to its logical conclusion, then his proposed rewriting of the logocentric programme could be expressed in terms of genetic manipulation. In genetic technology, alternations in the DNA of a cell are obtained by means of the splicing and grafting of sequences of the genetic code, and this recombination of sequences can serve to modify aspects of metabolism or anatomical structure.” Johnson, System and Writing, 182.

7 Johnson, System and Writing, 163.

8 Johnson, System and Writing, 186.

Dynamic systems theory: Derrida

The problem with how Derrida has been (mis)received by others is a concern Christopher Johnson is all too familiar with. The emphasis in literary criticism as concerns Derrida, for instance, has largely been on deconstruction, and understandably so. That is to say, criticism has almost exclusively focused on the instrumental power of deconstruction as a potential and radical critique in writing. However, the error with reading Derrida in this limited and biased way is that we miss the second moment of deconstruction: a general theory or ‘ontology’ of writing itself. As will become evident, this question of writing is integral to deconstruction itself.

The other side of the Derrida equation is a positive and general structure of writing. In contrast to the ‘orthodox’ interpretation of Derrida’s work that construes his texts in terms of “destructive criticism, a philosophy of nihilism, or a theory of infinite polysemy”, Johnson is ready to propose a scriptural model that strikes a strong similarity to dynamic systems theory.1 In this case Derrida comes much closer to a wider episteme of the life sciences, something that would significantly short-circuit the ‘critical’ reputation he has suffered under.

Taking as an example Artaud’s account of the painful experience of writing and his struggle to inscribe words given the infinite possibilities grammar provides, Derrida notes that the inauguration of all creative productions arise from this excessive condition. This anguishing experience of writing for Artaud, according to Derrida, is generalizable for all advents of inscription because it requires one to cut out a plethora of possibilities that jostle for actualization. In other words, the crisis of cleaving and dividing the infinite heterogeneity itself into determinate irruptions is always and necessarily violent.

This cruelty, however, must not be understood in an exclusively moral or anthropological sense. Derrida’s broad sense of the term violence in his model of inscription is, rather, meant to suggest that it is rigorous, implacable, calculating and applied. For Derrida, it is the “passion of inscription”.2 Although the passion and anguish of inscription are applicable to spoken as well as graphical expression, Derrida privileges writing because it bears a stronger intensity. As we all have likely experienced, writing is more restricting, constraining and difficult than speech. Additionally, scratched and clawed graphical inscriptions are more enduring than speech. After all, it leaves a permanent, tangible mark upon its selected medium.

This account of Derrida’s general economy or theory of system, however, still leaves out its exact functioning. That is to say, how does it work? By way of contrast, Derrida corrected the flat, static and univocal method of structuralism by employing his own voluminous and hydraulic metaphors. What was lacking in structural analysis, according to Derrida, was force and overflow—two elements structuralism had a proclivity for subordinating and suppressing. This simultaneous movement of two extremes—force and form—can also be thought of in terms of the opposition between the respective traditions of Apollo and Dionysus in Western metaphysics; a distinction famously made by Nietzsche. On the one hand, Apollonian philosophy has a “tendency towards synchronism, reductive closure and the hypostatization or reification of structure” whereas Dionysian philosophy tends toward unrestrained force.3 But it is noteworthy, Derrida’s economy vigilantly avoids presenting these two as mutually exclusive alternatives. The strategy of deconstruction, after all, is the undoing of complimentary opposites. For Derrida, Dionysian force and Apollonian form function as an inseparable pair.

Returning to our analysis of graphical inscription it can be said that the Dionysian force flows vertically. However, this ascensional force must eventually come down and stabilize in the necessary support of an Apollonian form. To be more precise, the undifferentiated force eventually must descend and stabilize in a temporary equilibrium or homeostasis. This combined movement of hydraulic ascension and fall is, for Derrida, the very process or economy of writing. What is more, their intersection is the very condition of possibility for inscription: by themselves these dual polarities produce nothing. For Derrida, and characteristic of Nietzsche as well, the carving of a graphical inscription requires descent, work and bending. That is to say, it is the very process of cutting into a resistant medium.

The originary moment of inscription, however, cannot be thought simply as a pristine and total origin. Rather, after force has descended and made an etching in the earth this same force survives by circulating within the economy. The moment of determination therefore is both singular and persevering. Derrida characterizes this continuation and circulation of force as repetition. It would be erroneous, however, to think of this repetition merely as the return of the same. In contrast to “a second apparition identically doubling the first”—a characteristic move of logocentrism—Derrida argues that a lesser effect or ‘trace’ is preserved out of the violent descent from infinite excess to finite form.4 In brief, it continues as ‘differing nuances’. In this way, the temporary homeostasis or Apollonian form is always open to destabilization and further transformation given its complicit contamination of Dionysian force.

1 Christopher Johnson, System and Writing in the Philosophy of Jacques Derrida (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 9.

2 Johnson, System and Writing, 23.

3 Johnson, System and Writing, 42.

4 Johnson, System and Writing, 56.

Systems theory

Systems theory, to be brief, originated as a response to the Western analytic science of the seventeenth century that was characteristically ‘closed’ and mechanistic. That is to say, using broad strokes, classical science sought to isolate entities from their environment in order to observe them in their ‘purity’. However, this scientific methodology of detaching units from their context or ecology was exhausted once it was found to be an inappropriate form of inquiry and came to be effectively replaced by processes of interchange and exchange. Of particular significance was the collapse of vitalism or essentialism that held individual entities to be timeless and fixed, doubtless a product of the Darwinian natural selection of species.1

The alternative that systems theory offered to science was, in contrast, significantly more open and ‘living’: “The system is regulated, restrained, contained by control mechanisms such as negative feedback, both internal and environmental, but at the same time is able to depart in different degrees and on different levels from the regulatory norm.”2 The system, stated differently, is simultaneously limited and free. Or again, it is in a strange sense both finitely closed and infinitely open.

So while a given system is constrained by its own self-governance and internal rules it is always possible to transgress these positive determinations without completely undermining the whole organization. Moreover, systems theory, like modern technological science, rejects teleological premises that unequivocally determine the finality or future of an entity.

However, in line with traditional Western science since the seventeenth century, systems theory does accept a certain form of direction inherent to all organisms or programs: “it seeks primarily to preserve, to reproduce itself, that is, to perpetuate and reproduce an invariant structure (the code or programme). The code is, in a very special sense, the memory of the system, and its function is essentially a conservative one: to transmit an invariant structure.”3 But as Johnson goes on to say, the structure is always susceptible to contamination, interference and mutation. The point here is that there is no such thing as a ‘pure’ system or code. Rather, the drift of minimal difference—a differing with itself—is integral to the process of transmission and reproduction in any given system and is the necessary precondition for new structures or life to emerge at all.

1 “To give a more specific example – which is also more general, but in the present context by no means arbitrary – one could say that the process of evolution is not an ascent of species towards some determinate apex of development, but the selection after the event of mutations most amenable to environmental constraints. By virtue of a feedback process (both positive and negative) the genetic code is therefore regulating (before) but also regulated (after) in the sense that its pro-gramme is executed in a context that is perpetually changing, hence perpetually modifying the conditions of possibility of the code.” Christopher Johnson, System and Writing in the Philosophy of Jacques Derrida (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 169.

2 Johnson, System and Writing, 146.

3 Johnson, System and Writing, 147.

Derrida’s passion for the impossible

Derrida was an atheist with Jewish roots who spoke about God in his own way. In Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida John Caputo makes a controversial encounter with Derrida’s relationship to religion, arguing that deconstruction is a passion for the transcendent. Moreover, Caputo claims that we have not understood deconstruction properly, that is, we have read it less and less well, if we fail to see it as an aspiration for the religious or prophetic. More specifically, deconstruction is interested in making room for the tout autre, the “wholly other”. In other words, it is a “passion for the impossible”, the excess or plenitude of existence, an act that surely sets in motion a transgressive vector: it is “a passion for trespassing the horizons of possibility”.

Deconstruction is primarily a strategy of calling forth, provoking or uncovering the unrepresentable. As such, it is impregnated with the impossible or the transcendent. It is prompted or haunted by the “spirit/specter of something unimaginable and unforeseeable” (p. xix). Caputo notes that religion is precisely a covenant with the impossible, unrepresentable or unforeseeable. It is a pack or promise made between the wholly other and its people. But for Derrida, deconstruction is religiousness without concrete, historical religion. That is, Derrida is beholden by the dogmatics of no particular faith. For him, it is more a certain experience of or tormented relationship with the impossible as such. Stated otherwise, Derrida prays and weeps to God but does not know to whom he is praying and weeping.

Although this all may seem rather uninteresting, it is significant that Caputo applies this profound specter of religion to all states of affairs; for instance, anthropology, justice and politics. The bent of deconstruction, its posture of expectancy, runs deep. It can never be satisfied because the impossible can never be present, it is always that which is coming. As such, we must open ourselves and our present to something new, that which is uncommon, strange, impossible. Or, as Caputo puts it, “Were the horizon of possibility to close over, it would erase the trace of justice, for justice is the trace of what is to come beyond the possible” (p. xxiv). In this case, Derrida’s religion or notion of transcendence is not otherworldly, even if it is “spiritual” or “out-of-this-world” in some respects. Moreover, rather than a list of dogmatic propositions or historical/narrative accounts of God’s dealings with humankind, what we are usually familiar with in religions, Derrida’s religion is prophetic, messianic and eschatological, an opening towards the future of what is to come.

The scandal that Caputo is proposing is to say that deconstruction is circumcision: a cutting into the Same to open up the possibility or the event of the Other, the tout autre. Anticipating the discussion to follow, Caputo is worth quoting at length here:

The circumcision of deconstruction cuts it off from the absolute, cuts off its word form the final word, from the totalizing truth or logos that engulfs the other. Deconstruction proceeds not by knowledge but by faith and by passion, by the passion of faith, impassioned by the unbelievable, by the secret that there is no secret. It is called forth by a promise, by an aboriginal being-promised over to language and the future, to wander destiner-rant, like Abraham, underway to who knows where. Deconstruction proceeds in the dark, like a blind man feeling his way with a stick, devoid of sight and savvy, of vision and verity,…where it is necessary to believe, where the passion of faith,…is all you have to go on (p. xxvi)

The messianic logic of Derrida can and has been applied to all aspects of existence. For instance, democracy is a democracy to come, a democracy otherwise than its current state, a democracy beyond its current limitations and deadlocks. This is not a democracy that can be totalized, classified or closed any more than we can define God. More profoundly still, as Bernauer acknowledges in Foucault’s Force of Flight, “Foucault says of human begins what Eckhart says of the divine being: whatever you say God is, that is what God is not; you cannot say what human begins are but only what they are not” (p. 56). The point is as follows: we cannot say a thing concerning humanity or the God or politics to come. We are blind to the future and no positive ideal holds. Indeed, the remark Bernauer makes of Foucault is the same one made by posthumanist studies: once we have defined humanity within strict boundaries of demarcation and mastery, we have already failed to grasp the human as such.

The Parallax of Belief

I think it is pretty clear that the opposed movements of belief and unbelief are always-already a minimal difference inherent to one of the terms….which term that is happens to be a parallax view, to my mind. On the one hand, theology considers atheism to always be parasitic on some form of theism. The argument goes, according to continental philosophy of religion mostly, that there is no such thing as an unbiased, universal vantage point. Moreover, one is always-already socially interpellated to view the world from a particular perspective. As such, all interpretations of reality are situated within a horizon of taken-for-granted epistemological assumptions. In other words, every position depends on act of faith. Or, in less religious terms, every positions is contingent upon an absolute presupposition. Thus, nihilism–more popularly known as atheism outside of France–is somewhat of a theology; albeit an a-theology.

On the other hand, the tension between immanence and transcendence is considered to be a minimal difference/gap in immanence itself, according to various forms of materialist discourse. Theism and atheism, in other words, are not externally opposed but are rather characterized by internal overlapping; they are both inherent to a larger whole that encompasses them both. Žižek describes this minimal difference spectacularly:

The tension between immanence and transcendence is thus also secondary with regard to the gap within immanence itself: “transcendence” is a kind of perspective illusion, the way we (mis)perceive the gap/discord that inheres to immanence itself (The Parallax View, p. 36)

The split between the theism and atheism is merely the noncoincidence with finitude itself; so says Žižek. Accordingly, there is no rapport between one and the other; no synthesis or mediation is possible between the two. Instead, with this parallax view, one must constantly shift perspectives between the two points. Given this insurmountable gap, no neutral common ground is possible. They are two sides of the same coin, but can never touch.

A good example of this incommensurable dialectic is Jastrow’s Duck-Rabbit. Cunningham describes the deadlock of viewing the picture as follows:

One either sees the duck or the rabbit – never both at the same time. The mind oscillates between the two. But what must be remembered is that the appearance of two (God or Nature, duck or rabbit) disguises the one picture upon which they are made manifest. In this way there is only ever one, but this one picture is able to provide the appearance of two despite their actual alternating absences: nothing as something; the completely absent rabbit as duck, which is yet equally the completely absent duck as rabbit (Genealogy of Nihilism, p. xiv)

For another clarifying example, see the Moebius strip. We are dealing here, according to Žižek, with two levels that never touch yet are excruciatingly close.

…the paradox consists in the fact that these two series never overlap: we always encounter an entity that is simultaneously—with regard to the structure—an empty, unoccupied place and—with regard to the elements—a rapidly moving, elusive object, an occupant without a place….they are not two different entities, but the front and the back of one and the same entity, that is, one and the same entity inscribed onto the two surfaces of a Moebius strip (The Parallax View, p. 122)

This comes very close to the apophatic strand of Christian theology. While some people are more comfortable with rigidly classifying people along hard lines and lumping them into oversimplified categories–especially when it comes to religion and politics–the contemporary discourse scene is much more ambivalent. Jon Stanley has an excellent essay in the recently published “God is Dead” and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself entitled “Why Every Christian Should ‘Quite Rightly Pass for an Atheist'”. He begins with some apropos quotes:

Only an atheist can be a good Christian — Ernst Bloch

Only a Christian can be a good atheist — Jürgen Moltmann

I quite rightly pass for an atheist — Jacques Derrida

His best material emerges when he speaks to the fact that the early Christians were accused of being an atheistic cult because they did not worship Caesar. That is, a Christian would “pass for an atheist” by denouncing the official religion of the Roman Empire and all that it entailed; particularly its violence. Today there is very little tolerance for “blurring the boundaries” between belief and unbelief, but this was clearly an ambiguous category for the early Christians. For Stanley, Derrida is an unlikely (or is it likely?) ally in acknowledging this tension.

Derrida has also continually drawn attention to the “porous boundaries” between atheism and theism. Leaning on the apophatic tradition of negative theology, he speaks of a certain type of atheism that “at times so resembles a profession of atheism as to be mistaken for it,”… (p. 13)

Truth is the truth of relativity

In my post ‘A new kind of atheist’ I proposed that overdetermined and inconsistent meanings of existence constitute the whole truth of reality and is in no way a failure to cognitively map our situation.  I suggested that this understanding of the Real very well might make ‘suprarational faith vs rational nihilism’ a misconceived dualism. What I lack in rhetorical eloquence I leave to Žižek to make up the difference. Pay particular attention to the final sentence!

…everything is not just the interplay of appearances, there is a Real–this Real, however, is not the inaccessible Thing, but the gap which prevents our access to it, the “rock” of the antagonism which distorts our view of the perceived object through a partial perspective. And, again, the “truth” is not the “real” state of things, that is, the “direct” view of the object without perspectival distortion, but the very Real of the antagonism which causes perspectival distortion. The site of truth is not the way “things really are in themselves,” beyond their perspectival distortions, but the very gap, passage, which separates one perspective from another, the gap (in this case: social antagonism) which makes the two perspectives radically incommensurable. The “Real as impossible” is the cause of the impossibility of ever attaining the “neutral” non-perspectival view of the object. There is a truth, everything is not relative–but this truth is the truth of the perspectival distortion as such, not the truth distorted by the partial view from a one-sided perspective (The Parallax View, 281)

From my understanding, Alain Badiou seems to offer the same wisdom. In every axiomatic set there exists a void or gap that is uncounted in the situation. But what makes Badiou radical is that he locates truth precisely in the void rather than in spite of it. What’s more, one is a subject of truth if s/he locates him- herself in the void. All this comes to mean that our understanding and explaination of reality is in no way incomplete in the same way theology thinks of it. The truth is not “to come” in an eschatological unfolding or (thinking Derridian here) infinitely deferred. The partial, distorted and perspectival view of the Real is truth. Nietzsche, to prove this point for Žižek, failed to articulate the “right” position because he failed to recognize truth in the struggle for a “non-perspectival view”. Žižek’s concluding point is this: subjects must “come to peace with incommensurability itself“.

Despite this being a relatively short post, this sums up the fruit of a year of researching alternatives to the continental/analytic philosophy divide–primarily through the works of Deleuze, Badiou and Žižek. One of the prime reasons I have followed theology to the extent I have is partly due to the incompleteness or closedness of philosophy. But if this alternative proves reasonable I believe I’ll be heading in different directions from before. Žižek has already been a great model for myself; a critical psychoanalytic atheist philosopher who is also interested in how theology could possibly animate critical thought.

For those interested, here are some books on my summer reading list on a continuation of this journey:

Brassier, Ray. 2007. Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction

Meillassoux, Quentin. 2008. After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency

Harman, Graham. 2009. Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics