Tag Archives: Freud

The Schelling Effect?: Philosophy in the Shadows


I gave a guest-lecture for one of the graduate seminars here at MUN last week. The course is a historical reading of Schelling’s Freiheitsschrift, providing the context necessary for a thorough reading of Schelling’s essay from Spinoza, to Kant, to Fichte, to Boehme. My lecture took the opposite strategy, making a case for taking Schelling as a significant figure by tracing his ideas and concepts through post-Schellingian thought. I’ve decided to post the handout from this otherwise unscripted lecture since I know there are people who frequent this blog who are very much interested in Schelling and his effect on philosophy. I hope this will help those interested further their study of some of Schelling’s key concepts.

I have posted the handout here on my Academia.edu page.


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The Walking Dead (trailer)

I’ve mentioned before how fascinated I am with the pop-culture zombie; I think this show is the next logical step as the undead become more and more mainstream. This is a polished re-presentation of what has now become essentially the standard zombie-mythos, steeped in the emergence of disease, humans becoming nothing but the vessels of some virus or bacteria which thinks of nothing more than it’s own propagation. What’s amazing in all of this is the way that life is portrayed as evil, that it is unable to curb itself to the point of it’s own collapse at the hand of it’s own parasitic drives. Life is evil because it is excessive, because Nature cannot be domesticated, because it is ultimately unpredictable. How far we’ve come from the undead as a figure of demonic possession, beings that were simply Evil. Now, evil needs a reason and that reason is unsustainability.

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International Journal of Zizek Studies – Call For Graduate Student Papers


The following CFP should be of interest to many who read this blog. I’ll see if I can’t come up with something on Žižek, Badiou and the metaphysics of psychoanalysis.

Žižek and Badiou

This special graduate student issue of the International Journal of Žižek Studies will explore the relationship between Slavoj Žižek’s and Alain Badiou’s work. It asks, how can we combine Žižek’s and Badiou‘s work? Are there specific areas or issues which enable a productive confrontation between their respective approaches? And, how can we utilise the differences and continuities to stimulate innovative engagements within other discourses?

For Issue 5.1 of the International Journal of Žižek Studies we invite graduate student submissions, within any context, on the above or related themes. Abstracts of 250 words should be submitted by 31st August 2010 and the final deadline for submission of papers will be September 15th 2010. Please contact Guest-Editor Robert Crich to discuss submissions or queries: CrichRA@cardiff.ac.uk

Areas of interest include: comparative-engagements which utilise their different approaches to shed new light on a particular topic; comparative studies of their respective approaches to any particular issue; evaluations of their critical positions in relation to a particular theory or thinker; evaluations of the overlap between their respective philosophical and critical positions; their political positions and, for example, their critiques of liberal democracy, multiculturalism or the notion of tolerance; their account of capitalism and the role of political economy in their work; the role of ideology critique in their work.

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Thinking, the In-Itself


There’s been some back and forth and back again between Paul and Graham largely as a result of Paul’s recent interview with Peter Gratton as part of Peter’s course on Realism. See also the exchange between Ben and Graham on Hegel and Zizek.

Paul’s been brining up Hegel for a while now since he’s “in the air” in Dublin. I have to say this makes me more than a little uncomfortable. I’m not friendly to Hegel or Hegelianism and the neo-Hegelianism of the Ljubljiana Lacanians makes me equally as on-guard. The reason I’m so uncomfortable with this is the ease with with they all do away with the very real problem of the in-itself.

The in-itself is of course a long-standing issue for debate in post-Kantian philosophy and is one of the important fault lines that Meillassoux revives in After Finitude where he bases correlationist thought on the principles of correlation and factiality. The strong correlationist is the one who maintains the strength of the principle of correlation and does away with the principle of factiality (doing away with the in-itself, contingency, and freedom ultimately). I shouldn’t have to repeat this, I’m assuming people know this. By aligning yourself with Hegel (especially) you fall immediately into the Fichtean move of rejecting the in-itself (or more accurately for Fichte, making the in-itself a closeted for-us, making things-in-themselves a necessary illusion in order for the performance of the infinite ethics of the Kingdom of Ends; depending on your reading of Hegel, the same move is made though possibly for different reasons).

The same move is made by the Lacanians; the in-itself for Zizek is nothing but the “Imaginary Real,” a fantasy of a non-Symbolic realm prior to language or even humans. There is no world outside of the Symbolic for Zizek meaning there is no in-itself. This is why ultimately he favours Hegel to Schelling. Schelling of course maintains the in-itself in opposition to both Fichte and Hegel (though with the support of Schopenhauer, who is of this Schellingian strain of post-Kantian thought that finds its way into people like Nietzsche, Freud, Bergson, etc.) The significant move of this strain of post-Kantianism is not only that they maintain the in-itself, but that with this school of thought the in-itself is in some sense known. In opposition to both the Fichtean line which does away with the in-itself and the more orthodox Kantian line which maintains the in-itself but also its unknowability, this line of thought (which I refer to as “Vitalist”) says that the in-itself is in some sense grasped through self-analysis (this is the importance of “intuition” for Schelling and Bergson for instance). We have access to our own noumenal existence by which we understand other existents to have their own non-phenomenal (that is, non-for-us) existence. Just as I am not the sum of my phenomenal appearance (I am unconscious, I am will, I am virtual, etc, etc.) neither are objects.

This also gives us clues as to how non-human objects interact with each other, as well as their inner lives. First, it allows for a pre-human and post-human world. Vitalism accepts history as a given, things existed, things happened, before there were human beings to observe them and these things are in no way dependent on our knowing to have existence. In the same way, aspects of my existence go un-actualized, remaining unconscious. This in no way means they do not exist, simply that I don’t know of them.

The importance of this cannot be under-estimated. The road to anti-realism is paved with Hegelian intentions. I don’t see how anyone could read Hegel and take a realism from it without doing some serious work (which even the Marxists have trouble maintaining, what does Nick Land call dialectical materialism? Shoddy idealism, I think). This means ultimately that I’m on the side of Graham and Grant on this one, once the in-itself is ditched, there is no possible realism. For the same reason then that Fichte irreversibly anti-realist, so too is Hegel.


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Announcement: Hollywood’s Undead and the Philosophy of Fear

Hollywood's Undead

I wanted to announce that I’m giving a public lecture a week from today. I was asked to give a talk on psychoanalysis and I’ve decided to talk about psychoanalysis and film, specifically vampire and zombie movies. The paper I’m presenting can be understood in three ways: First, I want to discuss the trajectory that these creatures have undergone throughout the history of cinema. Second, I will discuss what this trajectory means in terms of what we fear, assuming of course that Zizek is right and that films express our own beliefs and fears better than we can ourselves. Third, I want to present my own critique of apocalyptic films of this nature.

This is a topic that’s been on my mind for some time now and I look forward to being able to talk about it as part of this great series. Here’s a blurb about the lecture series from the MUN Philosophy site:

St. John’s Public Lectures in Philosophy
Presented By Memorial University’s Philosophy Department

The reasons for this series of lectures are to support the intrinsic value of public, philosophical discussion, to provide a free public forum for such discussion, and to stimulate a culture and love of learning in St. John’s. The lectures last approximately 30 to 40 minutes and are followed by an hour of discussion. The lectures deal with a wide variety of philosophical topics and all citizens are invited to participate. The lectures occur on the last Tuesday of each month.


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Nature and its Discontents

Walden 2.0

Ben has some thoughts up on Zizek’s “Unbehangen in der Natur.” I was talking about this for Jockey Club on Friday so I thought I’d just make a couple of comments. Like Ben, I have some serious problems with Zizek’s piece as well as his conception of nature. For Ben this seems to be the imposition of a transcendental subjectivity but for me it is the concepts of alienation and rupture.

There is a clear connection between this piece and Freud’s “Unbehagen in der Kultur” (“Civilization and its Discontents”, uneasiness in culture). It is not the case that fro Freud most of us socialize normally but some people “don’t quite make it” and so must be normalized. It is rather that culture as such, in order to appear normal, ordered, etc., involves a whole series of distortions, manipulations, and pathologies. We are then “uneasy” in culture as such. One of the goals of Zizek’s work on ecology is to show this as true for nature as well, that we are uneasy, homesick, in nature itself.

This is the alienation of subjectivity, which is essential to Lacanianism. The subject only exists as alienated, through alienation. But is it the case that the human being is fundamentally alienated from nature-as-such? Part of Zizek’s structuralist narrative that he inherits from Lacan, Levi-Strauss, Rousseau, etc., is the dichotomy of nature and culture, that there was some sort of transcendental rupture in reality when human beings developed the capacity for language and suddenly we went from being apes to human beings. In this process we began instantly to supplant nature with culture, imposing ourselves on the chaos of nature, ordering it. Is this the case? Isn’t it rather that the human being, and human culture, developed slowly out of nature? Zizek wants us to believe that either there is a radical break with culture or we are New Age obscurantists who want to naively go “back to nature.” There is surely a middle ground to this ridiculous dichotomy, one that will say that culture is thoroughly “natural,” while still being (clearly) different, in the same way that both animals and minerals are natural but different.

Where does this supposed alienation from nature come from? Zizek doesn’t tell us. He wants us to think that nature is terrifying and horrible, and certainly it can be though isn’t always, that we are fundamentally afraid of it. Now, I didn’t grow up in an industrial centre or a big city; I grew up in the woods of south eastern New Brunswick, we had deer and wolves and bears in the area, sometimes in our backyard. As a child, I was never “alienated” from my surroundings, I was at home. I’m reminded of Erazim Kohak’s Embers and the Stars, one of the few works of phenomenology that I really truly like. Kohak abandons his life in Boston to live in the woods and essentially writes a phenomenology of nature. He doesn’t feel alienated either, but at home in the wilderness. Of course, he isn’t living in a cave or anything, he builds a cabin, but still. He lives with the rhythms of nature, he feels a kinship to a family of porcupines who live down river. Nature is not terrifying.


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Dreams of the Paranoic: Late Night Thoughts on Jung

When I started reading C.G. Jung in my undergrad as part of a reading course on late medieval and early Renaissance alchemy, I started keeping a dream journal. This turned into a blog on my dreams that I updated constantly. I was immediately taken by Jung, beginning with his Memories, Dreams, Reflections, up through reading through a large number of his Collected Works. It seemed to me then that psychoanalysis was the contemporary iteration of Augustine’s Confessions, that I was continuing this long tradition of studying the self that began in Ancient Greece and was continued by the mapping of my dreamscapes. I’m perhaps not as fond of Jung as I was years ago when I eagerly devoured his writings; there’s a certain naive quality that permeates his writing, which in a less cynical mood I could easily call an innocence and count as a positive attribute.

The reason I bring this up is that I haven’t been sleeping well lately. This started of course when my grandmother passed away and has continued since then. I’ve had issues with sleep since childhood, beginning with long periods of insomnia. The latest problem began as one of feeling rested. I would sleep a healthy amount and still feel exhausted upon waking. I’ve tried simply sleeping more, same result. Then the problem turned into one of waking up in the night, first once, then several times. Last night this escalated to frequent paranoid nightmares: feelings of being watched, being followed, waking up and feeling like someone is in the hallway. Anyway, when I began my dream journal years ago, it helped with nightmares, so I’m thinking of starting one again. I still haven’t decided if it will be a paper or online journal, and if online, if it will be private or public, and if public if it will be anonymous or not.

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