[lit-ideas] Re: SoS-a sideways view

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 11 Jun 2006 08:40:02 -0700



I didn't know anything about Zizek and so looked him up on Wikipedia and
then Amazon.com.  One paragraph from a review of his The Puppet and the
Dwarf, purportedly about the "core" of Christianity, had one paragraph that
caught my eye: "The basic attitude of the book is fueled by contempt for
opportunistic liberals, academics, and intellectuals, in short, the Last
Man, who drinks decaf and jogs to stay fit, and make a habit of demanding
the highest ethical ideals from society KNOWING full well society cannot
possibly deliver. Zizek's venom is aimed at the fact that this very
impossibility allows intellectuals without any real moral commitment to
wallow smug [in] their safe, cushy university jobs and still feel good about
themselves for having demonstrated a nobler social conscience: A life
devoted to speaking dangerously with all the possibility of danger (and
caffeine) removed."


I've got to order that book.  Thanks, John.


Your snippet from a dialogue between Chance & Zizek didn't seem nearly as
promising.  We do need to understand our historical context, the context out
of which we ask "is there a God,"   But after this, don't we go ahead and
ask the question?  We certainly do, but if instead of "historical context"
we use Collingwood's "Constellation of Absolute Presuppositions" (I've lost
track of Taylor's "framework" and as of where I am in his book, so has he)
and take a look at ours as we ask this question, we may decide that the
answer is embodied in the presuppositions.  


In fact if instead of "God" we substitute Jesus and answer the question
"yes," then we can see a "traditional Constellation of Absolute
Presuppositions" at work - the ones described in the NT as the "New Nature."
If you first have this New Nature, this specific Constellation of Absolute
Presuppositions, then you have no choice but to answer yes.  But then we can
wonder about Zizek's second question, "are we free."  Did we choose this
"New Nature" or was it imposed upon us?  If we "have no choice" then we
aren't free.  And yet the Christian solution is that the New Nature enables
you to be free from the bondage of Desire, the very thing that Taylor
describes Marcus Aurelius as railing against.


Be that as it may, perhaps this paradigm of how one becomes a Christian can
be applied to how one becomes a Liberal?  Does a particular Constellation of
Absolute Presuppositions demand that one become a liberal and function as
Zizek describes above?  If so, why is Zizek heaping scorn upon such a
person?  Surely such a person isn't free to do otherwise - in fact,
accepting this conclusion; I'm already beginning to feel benign toward Mike






-----Original Message-----
From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx]
On Behalf Of John McCreery
Sent: Sunday, June 11, 2006 6:49 AM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] SoS-a sideways view


Following a series of links brought to be an interview with Slavoj

Zizek, who is, in some circles, an academic superstar (see

xhttp://newcloud.com/exchange/interviews/zizek.html). The following

exchange reminded me of some of the issues Charles Taylor is wrestling





Chance: What does it mean to return to big theory?


Zizek: You remember, years ago it was fashionable to say big theory

overlooks its own historical, concrete, anthropological conditions and

presuppositions. That it is naive. Foucault has this attitude in its

utmost when he says, before asking what's the meaning of the universe,

you should ask in what historical context is it even possible to ask

this question. So direct truth questions become questions about the

concrete historical conditions in which one can raise such a question.

I think this was a deadlock.


Today's big theory is no longer a naive big theory. It's not saying

"let's forget about historical context and again ask, does god exist,

or are we free." No, the point is that concrete theory - the idea that

we cannot ask metaphysical questions, only historical questions - had

a skeleton in the closet: it has its own big theory presuppositions.

Usually, even some rather primitive historicist, relativist ideas, for

example, everything depends on historical circumstances or

interactions, there are no universalities, and so on. So for me, it's

about not forgetting from where one speaks. It's about including into

reflection, into historical reflection, the very historicism, which

was unquestioned in this eternal, Foucauldian model. I find it so

boring. It's so boring to say, "no, you shouldn't ask are we free, the

only question is what does it mean in our society to ask the question

are we free."




Of course, I could now just be in my dotage.





John McCreery

The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN


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