Zizek, Hegel, Possibility

This is why the Hegelian ‘loss of the loss’ is definitively not the return to a full identity, lacking nothing. the ‘loss of the loss’ is the moment in which loss ceases to be the loss of ‘something’ and becomes the opening of the empty place that the object (‘something’) can occupy, the moment in which the empty place is conceived as prior to that which fills it – the loss opens up a space for the appearance of the object. In the ‘loss of the loss’, the loss remains a loss, it is not ‘cancelled’ in the ordinary sense: the regained ‘positivity’ is that of the loss as such, the experience of loss as a ‘positive’, indeed ‘productive’, condition.

Would it not be possible to define the final moment of the analytic process, the passe, as precisely this experience of the ‘positive’ character of loss, of the original void filled by the dazzling and fascinating experience of the fantasmatic object, the experience that the object as such, in its fundamental dimension, is the positivization of a void? Is this not the traversing of the fantasy, this experience of the priority of place in relation to the fantasmatic object, in the moment when, recalling the formula of Mallarmé, ‘nothing takes place but the place’?

In the field of philosophy, Hegelian Absolute Knowledge – and perhaps only Hegelian Absolute Knowledge – designates the same subjective position, that of the traversing of the fantasy, the post-fantasmatic relationship to the object, the experience of the lack in the Other. Perhaps the unique status of Hegelian Absolute Knowledge is due to the question that can be posed to proponents of the so-called ‘post-Hegelian inversion’, whether the likes of Marx or Schelling: is this ‘inversion’ not, in the last resort, a flight in the face of the unbearability of the Hegelian procedure? The price of their ‘inversion’ seems to be a reading of Hegel that is totally blind to the dimension evoked by the traversing of the fantasy and the lack in the Other: in this reading. Absolute Knowledge becomes the culminating moment of so-called ‘idealist panlogicism’, against which one is able, of course, to affirm without any problem the ‘process of effective life’.

The Most Sublime of Hysterics: Hegel with Lacan, Slavoj Zizek

The conception of the self (ego) as identical with, yet threatened by and aggressive toward, the other (specular image) is at bottom alienation pure and simple; seeing him or herself as the other and other as self makes the very notion of selfhood one typified by a perpetual oscillation between projection and assimilation. The self and other are thus two sides of the same process, at the heart of which is alienation; they are mutually dependent on each other for their definitions, imaginatively existing while in reality merely ex-sisting: “The ego and the counterpart form the prototypical dual relationship, and are interchangeable. This relationship whereby the ego is constituted by identification with the little other means that the ego, and the imaginary order itself, are both sites of a radical alienation” (Evans 82). As Lacan says, although in an inversion of terms which reveals the mutually constitutive relationship of alienation to the imaginary, “alienation is constitutive of the imaginary order” (qtd. in Evans 82). Alienation, the ability to think the self as other and the other as self is thus the defining feature of the I, the basis for the fantasy of selfhood.

Returning thus to desire as a constitutive feature of human existence, we find a ready expression of how the desire for the other’s desire functions in the mirror stage. As I have shown above, the infant enters the imaginary through a process of identification with a specular image, an “other” with which it longs to be identified. The essential component to such identification, however (and the aspect that renders it impossible), is the necessity for the other similarly to desire identification with the infant. This desire for the other’s desire is not a simple matter of mutual desire such as that experienced in erotic love, but a more all-encompassing demand for total recognition; the infant wants not some part (however large) of the other’s desire, but all of it – he or she wants to be the be-all and end-all of the other’s desire. The impossibility of such a total identification is what keeps subjectivity moving from object to object in its quest for an object that will represent and capture the other’s desire and by possession of which the individual can absorb and utterly subjugate the other’s desire. Most simply put, desire is always a desire for the other’s desire; only the other’s desire for a given object transforms it from an object of demand or need into one of desire.

A Very Brief Introduction to Lacan, Prepared by Professor Stephen Ross

It seems to me that there is a play of differences in the way Zizek thinks of Hegel and the way the “post-Hegelian inversion” of “idealist panlogicism” would think of Hegel. If we think of the latter as the final move of Concept that loses contingencies from being and essence, truly the ‘concrete universal’ (asymptotic as abstract universality but concretized by taking full account of particularities), then the stated thesis eliminates the possibility for criticism and lays hold of the claim for presupposition-less. The concrete universal cannot be lacking. Otherwise, it would not be concrete; it would be abstract. By definition, the Concept as concrete universal must be self-determined. If it is not self-determined it would not be concrete. A tautology is hidden in this formula that must, of necessity, be true. If a concrete universal means that all contingencies are taken account of in the sublation of the Concept then an argument against the concreteness of the universal only proves what it would criticize – that the argument is already taken account of in the earlier movements of Spirit (being, essence). This also proves the presupposition-less claim that presuppositions are not dismissed but accounted for; therefore, there are no presuppositions. This is a ‘check mate’ of Spirit.

Many critiques against the pan logicians including Zizek’s Hegelian reading are already interior to the argument and can only result in a misunderstanding of latter moves. Thus, Zizek must have attributed a foundationalism to Hegel’s moment of negation that refuses the move into the resolution of oppositions, resolution not as some kind of new-age’y, mush of unity but as holding terms in their distinctness together. Thus the lack created by the loss of the phantasm of the object stops short of the culmination of the self in the object and the object in the self. Even from Lacan the self as mirrored from image, the specular, is the fantasm of object. Therefore, the lack in object and final depletion of desire, aggression; fantasm, is simultaneously the end of the spectacle. The self-object as master-slave dies and, according to the Concept, is resurrected in its final unity (which is all it ever really was). Thus, the negation gives way to inevitability, the final state of completion and therefore, self-determination. The critique of Zizek has been taken hold of and accounted for; Zizek no longer has to reify loss but let it pass into its natural death to find its completion in Concept.

This illustrates the impossibility of falsifying tautology. Critiques from psychology whether individual or sociological; political whether bourgeois or materialistic; philosophical whether categorical, empirical, existential or nihilistic; religious and mystical will always be taken already into account by the concretized absolute power of tautology. To criticize Hegel is tantamount to suggesting that true is false for pan-Logic. To think the concrete absolute is not concrete is to affirm that the concrete universal ‘is’. In this then the Concept has emancipated itself.

The emancipation of the Concept certainly does acquire the sure footing of self-sufficiency. It completes the lack of self and object (specular) in itself. The completion is not a lack but a fullness; the subject and object complete themselves in each other. Therefore, the lack is regarded as only a negative step along the way to Concept. The final Concept is not the final solution, the foundationalism of violence, otherwise it would not be universal. The concrete universal must contain all individual objections and contingencies as moments of hierarchy. The tautological seal must be all inclusive for the Concept to be what it is. -In this then has the authentic notion of tautology been universalized. When tautology is universal and concrete it must, by definition, provide a hermeneutic for any excess. Even more so, there is no ‘excess’ to Concept, no exteriority, as that would defy itself; the excess of Being and Essence IS Concept.

The possibility for no excess to Concept is impossible. If there truly is no excess, the possibility cannot exist, have essence or be thought…and yet, it ‘is’. Existentially, the absolute impossibility of the possibility of excess to the Concept exists (exits). It may be fantasm that the pan logicians must perpetually defend against. It may already be taken hold of in earlier movements of Spirit but how could it be if it is what it is?

Let’s recapitulate, the possibility referred to here is not a contingent claim against the Concept but a universal claim against the concrete universal – the possibility of excess to ‘concrete’ universality. Of course, the logical play is that would not be universal but abstract universality. Thus, to speculate that there is a possibility for excess to ‘concrete’ universality is to misunderstand the tautological definition of concrete universal. This ‘misunderstanding’ contradicts the defining ‘definition’ and therefore cannot be allowed. To allow it would be to allow nonsense, chaos, contradiction…perhaps what may be meant as existence?…poetry?…the supplement of writing? Is there a ‘concrete’ existence that is not taken account of by the pan logicians? Perhaps the moment of Being exceeds the contingency of Being without arriving at Concept. There may be lack in the notion of existence that topples the triads of the Logic. “Ah”, you say, “but that then would not be existence because existence would have to take hold of chaos (apeiron (πειρον) – unlimited, infinite or indefinite from – a-, “without” and περαρ peirar, “end, limit”, the Ionic Greek form of πέρας peras, “end, limit, boundary”).”

Could the alpha-privative of limit, form, Concept already have been thought of at the beginning as the (Hegelian) end? Wouldn’t this turn the whole notion of progress, world historical Spirit, on its head? Why would it not be possible to turn the Hegelian tautology on its head and think of chaos (and contingency) not as a moment of Concept but Concept as a moment of chaos?

In thinking of the chaotic thought of excess not as abstracted from the concrete but as exceeding the concrete (henceforth the Possibility) we may have tried to think the sublimely ridiculous but we may also have stumbled back into existence not as a moment of Concept but as an excess of Concept. To suggest that the thought is absurd (ever heard of Kierkegaard) is not to extinguish its ridiculousness but merely to ignore it. The Possibility may take on all the adjectives of disdain, derision, improper, profane and unholy but nevertheless, even a Hegelian, could not deny that it COULD be posed (in all its horror and lunacy). This positing would then be an exteriority- perhaps a bastard exteriority as Chaos and Eros (neither divine nor mortal but a bastard) for Hesiod but nevertheless, an exteriority.

The impossibility of this exteriority may inherit all the moral indignations that it deservedly acquires from pan-Logic but Possibility must exist as a bastard. The ‘must exist’ not of subjugated moment but as circumscription of Concept may be Hesiod’s chaos. In Possibility, Concept may be but a moment albeit an eternal moment. Tautology would thus not be contradicted but in the possibility of the im-possibility of this otherness, the thought that can’t be, allowed to be, even thought; -the secret that cannot be uttered, the Other that cannot be faced – it undoes me and Concept(s). Perhaps in this undoing, absolutely chaotic passivity, anarchy; there may be something as Ethics – the need to act from the other that faces me in his or her im-Possibility. Of course, I know that all this can be re-appropriated into its proper ‘place’, its bare nakedness as Possibility can be thought as what it is ‘not’ or as what it should be or really ‘is’ but that would not think the thought as given but as what could be accounted for, what it really could be. This ‘real’ turns on the necessity of the Concept not the idea given by Possibility. Thus the materiality of the idea is transformed into its ideal. The eternal question that must reoccur is the violence of the ‘same’ – the totality of the Concept.

It may be that Possibility can be just as archaic and violent not as unifying violence but as tearing down violence (mystification). It may be that Possibility may throw out Ethics just as likely as it would include it. Violence in this case would be an overtaking of the other, the other that cannot be allowed, that must be mastered in order for the self to survive and thrive. It may be that Possibility would re-enact the fantasm of object; even more, give it unrestricted license. Agreed, Possibility is not bonded to Ethics. It may be that Possibility is the ‘rabbit hole’ of Alice. These objections do not take away Possibility although they do try to give it place. However, its place-less-ness remains; it’s excess to place. It is just as likely and historically, probably much more likely, that the bastardization of Concept can take its leave of Ethics. I know that the true Hegelian would protest that this is not the true Concept as a Christian would proclaim that the true Christ is not the Christ of the Crusades. Nevertheless, the profanity of the Concept has occurred in history and will occur again. The rubric of the proper has always held the potential for mass im-properness (Foucault). It may be that when the improper profanity of Concept is fueled by the fire of concrete absolutism, a kind of ‘no exit’ from Concept increases the passion of extremism to the infinite (a negative Kierkegaard theology). There certainly seems to be a historical circularity of the impossibility of the canonical text, concrete universality, as Derrida may point out. However, the trace may be the Concept’s impossible repeatability as ‘pure’, -each repetition is condemned to fail from its own infinite insistence of itself. In this case, Possibility may restrain the fanaticism of the play of Concept. Possibility then would not, could not ever be eternal or mortal but an interlude that humanizes in the shadow of Concept.



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