Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Slavoj Žižek Shows You Where He Keeps His Socks

...in the kitchen. Oh, are you not familiar with the world's hippest Slovenian philosopher? "Some dismiss him as a silly controversialist; others fear him as an agitator for neo-Marxist totalitarianism." There you go! It's probably one of those two things.


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He's also known (primarily in my head) as "the guy every guy I have ever dated has been unreasonably obsessed with." YMMV!


@WaityKatie I been out of the philosophy game for awhile but it's difficult to tell if the dudes I know actually like and agree with his philosophy or they think it's funny that he has the airs of a crazy person and is willing to improvise about the significance of any pop-culture bullshit at the drop of a hat. He made an appearance at some Ivy a week or two ago and it was basically him doing exactly that.

Also the radfems I know like him because of his stalinist rhetoric. Sending people to the gulag, and so on

Nicole Cliffe

Um, HI. YES. Right? (present partner excluded)


@Nicole Cliffe "For some reason, all these over-educated white dudes REALLY LIKE the mysoginist horn-dog white dude with a beard who tells them why every pop culture artifact they like is actually super important."


@deepomega I've always found him deeply unimpressive, but can never admit it to the dudes, because then I just open myself up to charges of NOT GETTING IT, and also probably being dumb.


@WaityKatie As a dude, I give you permission to scorn him.


@WaityKatie you gotta lance that boil at some point. There is perhaps nothing as gloriously embarrassing as dudes earnestly mansplaining leftist ideology. It's like being transported back to the freshman dorm.


@deepomega - To be more fair than necessary to zizek, that's like, the vast majority of both analytic and continental philosophers.

Phil. is sadly, it seemed to me going through school, even worse than the STEM fields at repelling women via not the content of the courses but the conduct of the professors and undergrads.

That said, there will hopefully be some change. I remember as an undergrad enviously dreaming of what life was like the the Churchland relationship - philosophy is one of the most enjoyable things a couple can do together without touching!

(the other is arguing over whether or not a word should be allowed in scrabble, which is far more fun than actual scrabble)


@leon s - I don't know if I even need to say this, but I feel like I was really unclear, which I hate doing. I meant w/ the conduct, not content thing, not that "Unlike STEM, the content of Phil. should appeal to women" - although I think my comment might unfortunately read like that.

What I meant was, number theory and fluid dynamics and the like are obviously gender neutral, so there, it's the conduct of people, and nothing more, which leads to the gap. In Philosophy, some people argue the misogyny in some ancients, which basically everyone studies first, turns off women to the field.

I wanted to disagree with that - I think it's a lame copout that condescending men in Phil departments spit-out to excuse themselves from any complicity in the lack of women in philosophy departments. Especially my beloved analytic departments, where I have actively seen some assholes push women away, because "logic is too much like math". Which, holy fuck, that is the worst.

space opera

@leon s Yes! I love thinking about, like, quiet evenings at home with Paul and Pat. I first encountered the Churchlands in my intro cog sci class in undergrad, where the professor was the female half of a cognitive science professor couple, and so my mental image of both couples is sort of conflated. She was also the best sort of philosophy of mind professor, who had this eerie laugh that would bubble up whenever she discussed the nature of consciousness... as if it was all this wonderful, terrifying cosmic joke. They had a teenage son and I so desperately wanted to know what he was like.

Then again, I shudder in fear at the thought of dating/marrying a fellow academic, so.


@leon s I actually loved logic (well, the basic class I took in college, anyway) and hate math 4-eva, so there's no way logic can be like math! (did you enjoy that logic?)


@WaityKatie - haha. Logic jokes forever. You know what's funny? I TOTALLY HATED Math until I took logic. Then I loved logic, and I ended up getting into real-basic type number theory and shit, and it turns out there is actually REALLY COOL MATH, but the jerk-ass math-nerds hide it away and don't let regular people know about it.

@space opera - I imagine that could be weird - luckily for me, I decided not to be an academic (which meant, very sadly, not getting advanced degrees in Philosophy - I wanted a doctorate, but I just couldn't justify spending all that time and loans knowing I wouldn't end up a proff, which is the only job there is for phil doctors). Because I'm a weirdo who imagines the future too much, I often dream of dinner parties where I'm 45 and still well-read enough to keep up w/ future-leon-wife's professor friends ("What do you call a post-structuralist who gets bit by a wolf? A Lacan-thrope!")


@leon s Philosophy, some people argue the misogyny in some ancients, which basically everyone studies first, turns off women to the field.

And yet despite plenty of literature being filled with misogyny and sexism, English departments seem to have no trouble finding women. What a silly idea.

space opera

@leon s Good husbands-of-professors are in short supply, I hear (from my advisor, who loves to dole out the life advice). Probably in higher demand than recent graduates of doctoral programs ;)


@leon s Well, I sort-of liked Algebra, but I straight up hated Geometry, Calculus, et al. I don't think I can ever stop hating them. Hmmm, what is this mystery cool math? They surely do hide it well.


@space opera - I think the part that scares me about academic life is needing to follow the openings available - like, I knew when I was an undergrad I needed to live in NYC when done (I had lived there before and needed to get back). I could have done my other degrees wherever, but let's face it - philosophy isn't a huge field. I'd want to teach somewhere with doctoral programs, because I'd rather mentor young thinkers early in their careers than teach M&E to 20 year olds two sessions a semester for 50 years.

Which, that's just not many choices. Sure, NYC has a huge concentration of amazing programs - but not too many "okay" ones. And the fact is, as much as I fall in love with my own words, I wasn't ever going to be an NYU/Columbia caliber philosopher. Even CUNY seemed out of reach to me, because Kripke, who was my absolute favorite by sooooo much as an undergrad was there, and the idea of one day teaching in the same rooms as kripke seemed to me as alien as like, playing Madison Square Garden used to when I was a kid in bands.

So, I gave up. Now I work in the private sector, and when people find out I studied philosophy they either ask me if I've read any Deepak Chopra or ask me about Plato and young boys. It's a bummer.

@WaityKatie - Kaplan's "The Nothingness That is" (about the number zero) and "The Art of the Infinite" are two popular mathematics books I absolutely adore which are fun, accessible intros to number theory. I harbor this fantasy of putting an ad on Craigslist looking for a Tuesday Math Happy Hour, where some really smart math person comes out to a bar and blows my mind with number shit once every other week in exchange for free beer because of these books.

space opera

@leon s I hear ya. I have basically resigned myself to spending a few years somewhere very isolated and then *hopefully* managing to end up at least somewhere on the east coast. It's a tough career if you feel particularly attached to one place. And I do psych & neuroscience, which I suppose is slightly easier in terms of finding positions/funding... not that anything is easy right now. But everyday I appreciate my boyfriend for following me around the country and tell him that under no circumstances is he allowed to return to grad school (I'm kidding about that) (mostly)


He acts like an excentric version of the original Yoda here@y


The Armond White of philosophy. Only way more sexist.


@deepomega My God! Judy Butler, and so on


@Danzig! My good friend, and ideological enemy, Judy Butler.


@Decca Should I kill myself? Judy! My God


@Danzig! Experience tells me that her good friends and ideological enemies (or at least one) do actually call her Judy.


It's kind of obviously both of those things.


@thematt he's like Baudrillard in a lot of ways, maybe less cognizant of or deliberate in the ways in which he's constantly clowning on his readers and annoying other philosophers. Sort of a fly in the ointment. Only this fly in the ointment loves gulags!


whether or not these are real quotes doesn't really matter - https://twitter.com/zizek_ebooks


@Danzig! If you put him in front of a keyboard, those quotes WILL eventually happen.


His name is super fun to say, though.


I am absolutely sure that I've read some Zizek stuff, but a mere six months after graduation, I retain nothing.


I imagine that someday when people finally get sick of him he'll end up working the deep fryer at a Zaxby's. Zizek, serve this man a Zalad.




zizek is a slippery fish. here is where i take him to be speaking in earnest:

"the point is to avoid the trap of the standard liberal oppositions, freedom vs. totalitarian order and so on and so on, to rehabilitate notions of discipline, collective order, subordination, sacrifice and all that."

he seems to me better at the part about avoiding (or breaking down, or exposing the absurdities of) these "traps" than at actually rehabilitating any of these notions, but perhaps that is the work he leaves up to us.


@Midie Throwing bricks at golden calfs like "not setting up concentration camps" is easier than explaining what concentration camps might be good for, I guess.


@Midie - The easiest thing in Philosophy is to construct a negative argument. Given a little time, any undergrad can raise some sort of thought experiment that works as a decent counterpoint to any system out there.

Constructiong robust new replacements for the things you dislike - positive work as opposed to negative - is really fucking hard. Zizek doesn't seem to actually like doing it, so his work is full of ambiguity and 'jokes' and constant refutations of the bullshit circular variety "Rejecting my argument is proof that it's right" which we (rightly) mock Ayn Rand for.


@leon s
i'm not sure i agree. sure, it is easy to reject or express an aversion for a position or a statement (especially one that offends our common sense of decency), but that is not the same as making a good negative argument (which requires actually understanding that which you are critiquing).


@leon s you might be interested in this New Inquiry article on how Lacan might be fundamentally incoherent (which jibes w/ apparent feelings on the parts of some that I've heard that Zizek is a charlatan) - http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/marginal-utility/theory-cults/ . TNI usually makes my skin itch but I liked this one.


@Danzig! - Thanks man! I look forward to reading this tonight - although it will definitely sit will with me as an analytic, as I have a pretty negative view of critical theory in general.

@Midie - I may have been a touch too flippant in saying that 'any undergrad' can construct negative arguments, but I standby a negative being de facto easier to construct than a new theory, if only because any robust construction of a new theory is both inherently a negative argument against the theories it seeks to replace as well as (if posited in a robust way) standing in anticipation of some of the negative arguments against itself.


@leon s
sure, that makes enough sense.
all i really wanted to say is that if Zizek is sincere about a project of breaking down our comfort with lazily accepting the opposition between freedom and totalitarianism ("and so on and so on"), this is something I can get behind. this is a real problem for political thought. and as you say, this can't be either a negative nor a positive endeavour simply.
his role in the media is that of a gadfly, and frankly i don't blame him for this because people seem to be more attentive to his playful and incendiary rhetoric than to that of a pedant or a preacher. but that doesn't mean we have to reject him, just because he does a better job at demonstrating the difficulties in our accustomed ways of thinking than he does of "replacing" the old with the new (which for the record, i don't really think is the best way of describing the work of philosophers either, but i'll quit nitpicking your language ;)


@Midie Nitpick away! I enjoy when people point out where I'm wrong, it's just one more bad-notion in my head replaced with a better one! Sorry if I seemed at all argumentative! I guess I always just thought of zizek more in the realm of 'merit as a thinker' than as 'how good he is at getting people to listen', cuz i just kind of assume most people don't want to listen to intellectuals of any stripe.


"The Fragile Absolute" was easily one of the best post-modern philosophy books I've read--
Derrida can go suck it--at least Zizek has a (warped) sense of humour.


I remember joking awhile ago that all my close male friends can do a Zizek impression, and all my female friends can do a passable Camille Paglia. It's a joke, but it's also tragically true.


@Decca It's like you're narrating my life


Fuck this guy and his organization!

Springtime for Voldemort

"Controversialist" is how you pronounce "troll" in academese, though if you prefer a more old-school pronunciation, "provocateur" is also acceptable.


I just love his accent. That is what I took away from my college philosophy and feminist theory classes...(as far as Zizek is concerned).

Miss Maszkerádi

Slavoj Fucking Zizek....I wish he would just go away....he infuriated me some years ago with a piece (lacking coherent reasoning and any grasp of historical context) that, as I remember it, basically said that Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the Ode to Joy in particular, was fascist and racist and rapey. Just.....no. No, it is not, Mr Zizek, you are simply trolling, and I am not impressed.

Miss Maszkerádi

Beethoven aside, my general impression of him is that he has all the intellectual rigor and originality of your average male freshman philosophy major, fond of saying "Well, like, NOTHING is as it seems, you sheeple...and all human action is fundamentally motivated by selfishness, wow, I must be the first man in the world to ever discover this truth. Bow down to worship and blow me, silly lesser intellects!" And now I'm feeling all stabby and wanting to send all pretentious chauvinist men (99% of them, right Mr Zizek?) to a fucking gulag. Wow, I am easily trolled by shitass philosophers.

Miss Maszkerádi

Admins, any chance my above two comments can be deleted? I left them up too long to delete them myself but I've belatedly decided I don't even want to go on record under a username talking about Comrade Zizek. Mostly in case he googles himself, I don't want to give him the satisfaction of provoking me.


Please tell me I'm not the only one that thought, at first glance, that this video was about Zeljko Ivanek...


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