This is Slavoj Zizek. I will never like a picture more than this one.
TEXT: Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
“One can even develop into a Hegelian triad the lines from Psalm 23:4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” It’s first negation would have been a radical reversal of the subjective position, as in the ghetto-rapper-version: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for I am the meanest motherfucker in the whole valley!” Then comes the negation of negation that changes the entire field by way of “deconstructing” the opposition of Good and Evil: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for I know that Good and Evil are just metaphysical binary opposites!”
-Slavoj Žižek, Žižek’s Jokes: (Did You Hear the One about Hegel and Negation?), 18
I’m currently reading Slavoj Žižek and Boris Gunjevic’s God in Pain and I came across this passage in one of Žižek’s chapters:
The radical break introduced by Christianity consists in the fact that it is the first religion without the sacred, a religion whose unique achievement is precisely to demystify the Sacred.
In The Fragile Absolute (Chapter 9 The Structure and Its Event), Žižek writes:
Is not the status of this Event itself (the mythical narrative of the primordial violent founding gesture) ultimately fantasmatic; is it not a fantasy-construction destined to account for the unaccountable (the origins of the Order) by concealing, rendering invisible, the Real of the structural antagonism (deadlock, impossibility) that prevents the structural synchronous Order from achieving its balance? In short, is not the Event of the primordial crime secondary, a retroactive ‘projection’ destined to translate/transpose the synchronous antagonism/deadlock into the diachronous narrative succession? (92-93)
I wonder if this analysis of the projection of structural dissonance into a primordial diachronic narrative might be transposed onto radical theology of the Altizer-ian vein. For, is this not precisely how the transition from “Revealed Religion” to “Absolute Knowing” in Hegel’s phenomenology plays out? What appears, under the guise of revealed religion, as a mere mythical temporal sequence (the incarnation and death of God), becomes recognized, within Absolute knowing, as mere “picture-thinking” (Verstellung). This picture-think or diachronous narrative is revealed, at the end of the day, to be a transposition of the deep, one might even say “structural,” truth of Absolute Knowing; revealed religion becomes recognized as a narrative construction built upon the more essential truth of philosophical science–certainly valuable in its own right, but nonetheless derivative or secondary.
Should the more literal-minded interpretations of radical theology, therefore, be situated within the broader context of a structural death of God? Rather than constituting a historical/narrative account, should the movement of the death of God be understood as the diachronous presentation of a primordially synchronous reality, viz. the paradox of the transcendence/immanence of God, the paradox of the presence/absence of God? Perhaps, this account could be taken even further, for John Caputo’s critique of Altizer amounts, substantially, to an accusation that Altizer is too “modern” (insufficiently postmodern), that Altizer has merely substituted one metanarrative with yet another metanarrative, rather than challenging metanarrativity as such. It is possible that such an accusation might be framed in this Žižekian language. Perhaps, even, although Žižek firmly places himself in the Altizer-ian camp and against the postmodernism of Caputo (in The Monstrosity of Christ), that the two thinkers are more closely aligned on this question than either might wish to admit.
My top 13 favorite reads of 2013…
13.) Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
12.) David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous
11.) Slavoj Žižek, Parallax View
10.) Richard Bauckaum, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses
09.) Jean-Luc Marion, God Without Being
08.) Christina Gschwandtner, Postmodern Apologetics
07.) Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity
06.) Emmanuel Falque, The Metamorphosis of Finitute
05.) Slavoj Žižek, God in Pain
04.) Jacques Derrida, Given Time
03.) Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition
02.) Edmund Husserl, Ideas I
And the grand finale…
01.) Caroline Walker Bynum, Fragmentation and Redemption
The designation “Christian” maintains both positive and negative resonances. This is news to no one. Yet, postmodernism’s acute consciousness of language and its value has lead to an odd predicament and tension within the last few years. On the one hand, there are those Jesus-followers of a quite conventional variety, by no means “radical theologians,” who have sought to strip themselves of the label “Christian.” This label, it is contended, is weighed down by both present political and moral connotations and a violent past of such severity, or (from the opposite end of the traditional theology paradigm) the term is not attested to scripturally with the requisite vigor to justify its use. Either way, “Christian” is no longer understood to be a recoverable term [see. e.g. here or here]. Yet, on precisely the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum, we have a wide array of Neo-Marxist materialists (e.g. Badiou and Zizek) clamoring for the title of “Christian” (see: Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, The Monstrosity of Christ, or Paul’s New Moment). This leaves us with an unprecedented paradox. The name “Christian” is becoming the domain of the radical theologian and continental philosopher, at the same time that it is being slowly abandoned by the traditional theist. What does this mean for the future of the “Christian”? Are these perspectives relegated to the fringes of their respective positions, or is “Christian” destined to become the name of the radical theologian and philosopher, abandoned by traditional religiosity?
Influenced by the recent surge of interest in the political ramifications of Paul’s thought (see: Badiou, Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism; Zizek, Milbank, & Davis, Paul’s New Moment: Continental Philosophy and the Future of Christian Theology; etc.) as well as the work of Raymond E. Brown I have decided to put together a short series of posts examining an alternate biblical source of political thought, imagining the possible shape of a Johannine politics.
In The Churches the Apostles Left Us, Brown writes, “Johannine ecclesiology is the most attractive and exciting in the NT. Alas, it is also the least stable” (pg. 123). In the vein of this thought, and following the Paul-enthusiasts tendency to adapt ecclesiological insights as political ideas, these investigations will begin with a consideration of some of the enticing and powerful characteristics of a Johannine politics, before moving into some of the instabilities and risks inherent to such a philosophy. Although by no means firm, the tentative outline of the subjects of these posts will be as follows:
As always, some deep resonances between this philosophy and the work of prominent continental philosophers can be expected. So far, I anticipate engagement with my standard cast-of-characters–Derrida, Caputo, Henry, Marx, Zizek–as well as some Deleuzian insights as I have recently begun my foray into Difference and Repetition in conjunction with some of Caputo’s lectures on Deleuze.
The philosophic value of irony has been a topic of investigation from Kierkegaard’s On the Concept of Irony With Continual Reference to Socrates, if not all the way back to Plato’s dialogues themselves. Yet, seemingly unaware of the long philosophical tradition of practiced irony, Christy Wampole’s recent article “How to Live Without Irony,” through an irredeemably surface reading of so-called “hipster” culture, advocates a total rejection of irony, a self-conscious cleansing of the inauthenticity of ironic self-reference. Yet, is such a radical position vis-a-vis irony necessary? Is there no possible value to be gained from the use of irony in discourse or even life?
In Slavoj Zizek’s Are We Allowed to Enjoy Daphnée du Maurier?, he offers the seemingly paradoxical assertion that, not only does feminine masochism fail to support patriarchy and its most heinous manifestation in sexual violence, but that feminine masochism is subversive of this patriarchy itself.
“What this means is that, paradoxically, the staging of what appears to be a masochist scenario is the first act of liberation: by means of it, the servant’s masochistic libidinal attachment to his[sic] master is brought into the light of day, and the servant thus achieves a minimal distance towards it. In his essay on Sacher-Masoch, Gilles Deleuze elaborated this aspect in detail: far from bringing any satisfaction to the sadistic witness, the masochist’s self-torture frustrates the sadist, depriving him of his power over the masochist. Sadism involves a relationship of domination, while masochism is necessarily the first step towards liberation.”
In essence, through the overt enactment of patriarchal power relations, the frailty and fiction of this power structure is made manifest. The apparent acting out of this problematic structure, in reality functions as its very undermining. By playing out the structure as fiction, it is revealed to already be fiction.*
Could not irony, even “hipster” irony, provide such a necessary acting out. Does ironic fashion not reveal the vacuous nature of fashion? Does ironic language not reveal the artificiality of language? Rather than reject irony, perhaps it is the role of the philosopher to live out irony, to live it out as radically as Kierkegaard or Socrates. Perhaps it is the destiny of philosophers to become hipsters.
EDIT 12/06/12: [Check out THIS response to Wampole by The Atlantic‘s Jonathan D. Fitzgerald]
*Special thanks to Noelle Vahanian’s “Theology ‘after’ Lacan”. Presented at SPEP 2012
This is Slavoj Zizek. I will never like a picture more than this one.