feather. stiff as a board.
it’s a game you play in junior high, maybe earlier. willing yourself to be lighter than air and hard as a rock.
i could never make it work.
so today i’m reading zizek’s ticklish subject. trying to read, trying to find to read…
and Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Penelopiad’.
First, on ‘The Deadlock of Transcendental Imagination, or, Martin Heidegger as a Reader of Kant’:
in a fascinating discussion of heidegger reading kant, zizek points to (creates?) a mis-step in heidegger’s reading of kant’s theory of the imagination. to do so, zizek first proposes that Heidegger’s project is, contrary to popular belief, political. It is a decisionism, Dasein’s decisionism given throwness and all the rest. All the rest for Heidegger of course being an engagement with the nazi’s that zizek considers a wrong step in the right direction: i.e. rather than revamping the project of Being and Time to pull out the subjectivist transcendental centers that still remained (ex: starting with dasein to get to the existential analytic) (which are said to be the flaws that lead to his nazi affiliations) heidegger should have instead, stuck to those subjectivist approaches. “nazism,” zizek writes, “was not a political expression of the ‘nihilist, demoniac potential of modern subjectivity’, but, rather its exact opposite: a desperate attempt to avoid this potential” (p.21).
(purportedly zizek means this for heidegger… because clearly…) but moving on…
along these lines, (those above) heidegger’s unfinished project of Being and Time is unfinished for the same reasons that heidegger saddled up with the nazi’s. it is a problem of imagination. really. “what heidegger actually encountered in his pursuit of Being and Time was the abyss of radical subjectivity announced in Kantian transcendental imagination, and he recoiled from this abyss into his thought of the historicity of Being” (p.23).
the problem lies in designation. with imagination being the site of spontenaity in Kant the question is: phenomenal or noumenal? “on the one hand, [kant] conceives of transcendental freedom (‘spontenaity’) as noumenal: as phenomenal entities, we are caught in a the web of causal connections, while our freedom (the fact that, as moral subjects, we are free, self-originating agents) indicates the noumenal dimension.” yet kant’s own reasoning shows that given access to the noumenal we would in fact be puppets, bound to the law and utterly dictated by it. So whither transcendental freedom?
zizek points out that heidegger reads kant faithfully through this problematic and levels a fair critique at his regression to traditional metaphysics. yet when kant (unknowingly?) splits the noumenal into two parts (that which cannot be known and that which appears to the subject as the unknowable) something radical takes place that opens a path for Hegel’s later reading of “imagination qua the ‘activity of dissolution” and ultimately gives zizek grounds to stake out an invasion/inversion of the subject.
Drawing from an amazing passage in Hegel’s phenomenology on this dissolution: “To break an idea up into its original elements is to return to its moments, which at least do not have the form of the given idea, but rather constitute the immediate property of the self. …The activity of dissolution is the power and work of the undestanding, the most astonishing and mightiest of powers, or rather the absolute power. …But that an accident as such, detached from what circumscribes it, what is bound and is actual only in its contects with others, should attain an existence of its own and a separate freedom – this is the tremendous power of the negative, it is the energy of thought, of the pure ‘I'” (p.30).
the power of imagination, as cited in this passage from hegel is the power to tear apart. It is not, then, reason which dissects and does violence to thought, but imagination which is a more originary violence, and always already ‘dismembering’ of thought. zizek reiterates this in an investigation of kant’s work on the sublime, again inverting the traditional reading of the sublime as violent to thought, to reason, instead to the sublime which is the ‘real’ of imagination, barely veiled by reason as what it already is.
“Our (Hegelian) point, however, is that this mythical/impossible starting point, the presupposition of imagination, is already the product, the result, of the imagination’s disruptive activity. In short, the mythic, inaccessible zero-level of pure multitude not yet affected/fashioned by imagination is nothing but pure imagination itself, imagination at its most violent, as the activity of disrupting the continuity of the inertia of the pre-symbolic ‘natural’ Real” (p.33).
Ok, so then moving quickly as this recap is surely dragging…
‘The Passage through Madness’. zizek resituates normality as a paranoiac psychosis (via lacan) and doesn’t stop before citing sexual difference (again via lacan) in kant’s work on the sublime.
where he goes next will have to wait until i’ve had some sleep…