Zizek and Schellingian Realism

So I wrote the following over on Graham’s blog. I’m going to post it here and then add a couple of things that I meant to say or should have said:

“If we think of it in basic Schellingian terms (which I know are problematic because Zizek is a very… *select* reader of Schelling) I think it might be more clear. This is coming from the middle Schelling by the way (Freedom Essay, and the Weltalter):

– There exists some infinite unconsconsciousness (Ungrund).

– A decision (cutting off) is made (for Schelling this is by God and thanks to his Hermetic ontology [As Above, So Below], the decision is made on all levels of existents). It’s not REALLY God who made the decision as God only comes to be IN THE DECISION. It is the “will to be” (which Schelling inherits from Spinoza with some alterations…), the drive for existence itself.

– This decision is the decision for consciousness which creates the division between consciousness and unconsciousness (for Zizek, this would be the division between the Symbolic and the Real).

– The problem arises though when you compare notes between Schelling and the Lacanians (including Zizek and Badiou). For Schelling, this is all done by Will (aka Freedom), whereas you’re right Graham, it is humans (although I suspect transcendental subjects) for the Lacanians.

– I think it’s better to think of examples from time rather than from things. I mean, this is exactly where Heidegger gets his “the past comes to meet” you bit; there only exists a past when you are in the present. Who I was only makes sense in the context of who I will be, so I can only ever understand the direction my childhood took after a certain time, with a certain distance.

– Now, the past isn’t less real than the present, but a break has been decided, and we now distinguish between the two. For God, this becomes the break between the unconscious drives for existence and actual free existence, creation and self-knowledge. For the human being, it means basically the same thing from a psychological level, that I am able to look back at who I was (what is self-consciousness but the ability to really look at oneself?) Ultimately though, the human being is the eyepiece for God, and through our consciousness it is God who becomes self-aware (for example, through scientific insight into Nature).”

Now, what I want to add is that although it seems the Lacanians are explicitly human-cenetered (Badiou is perhaps the worst for this, as we’ve seen in the recent blog posts), Schelling doesn’t even say he’s talking about humans. The Freedom essay and the Weltalter are explicitly THEOGONIES. I don’t think we can properly infer that it is only God and the Human Being that he’s talking about either. If we incorporate his later philosophy of time and freedom with his earlier philosophy of nature, it seems that everything that exists underwent some sort of decision from their unconscious surroundings. Again, in the early works he talks about things coming to be by accident, that they ought not to be. I am beginning to think that the later works are simply the extreme microcrosm/macrocosm cases, where in the early works he describes coming to be in terms of the processes of Nature, the later works are both this on the smallest scale (an individual thing coming to be) but also the grandest scale (God coming to be).

Back to Zizek though, I want to say that while I agree with Graham’s conclusions (ultimately I disagree with almost everything Zizek says), I just worry that he’s not being fair to Zizek and possibly putting words in his mouth. I think it’s a lot more complicated than either “the subject produces the world” or “they co-produce each other,” but rather that both are produced by the same decision, neither of which made that decision.



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2 responses to “Zizek and Schellingian Realism

  1. kvond

    I’m glad you reposted this here because I missed it over at Graham’s site. I like it very much.

  2. Thanks for the kind words.

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