Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spending Time with My New Friends Derrida, Lacan, and Žižek

Winding up this past semester was one thing, getting through an intense immersion through the works of Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Slavoj Žižek is another...

Jacques DerridaDerrida via Wikipedia

Jacques-Marie-Émile Lacan'''Lacan via Wikipedia

Slavoj Žižek (b. 1949) - Slovenian philosopher...Žižek via Wikipedia

I have a long interest in social philosophy and chip away at stacks of books at home and my office every few months. Since March, my work on the line of Hegel-Marx-Freud-Saussure-Heidegger-Derrida-Lacan-Žižek has exploded. I can still rely on my past learning of Marx and Freud, have just enough of Hegel to bumble around, and enough of Heidegger and Saussure to make the leap. But the last line of Derrida, Lacan, and Žižek needed sustained attention for some new queries I'm exploring.

There's no way I'm going to summarize these thinkers. Let's say for the moment that I find Derrida's critique of Husserl's subject to be fundamental and important, introducing a radical opening/gap/crisis of subjectivity that demands attention. Derrida is directing me back to Heidegger, and a new translation of Being and Time is coming out in time for my new resolve to think more carefully about the metaphysics of human subjectivity.

Lacan, on the other hand, reworks Freud in intriguing and productive ways. I'm glad I quickly found that one cannot simply "read" Lacan - he demands much prior preparation. He never explains himself, and his ideas have shifted over time. In the experience of reading him, the translated seminars are one thing (conversational, narrative); the massively compacted ideas in Écrits is another (compact, dense). Still, this remarkable thinker opens ways for understanding the self and human relationships that are still being developed.

Which leads to Žižek. Here we find a creative (almost frenetic) thinker who is both a social critic and a metaphysician. Žižek's Sublime Object of Ideology reveals a Lacanian reading of Hegel (via Marx) that brings forth surprising insights into the nature of guiding "beliefs" or "truths" at a macro-level. The conceptual apparatus is daunting to the uninitiated, so I'm grateful for graduate school and my continued readings in philosophy from Descartes onward to get me through. Nevertheless, Žižek's understanding of ideology has got me pondering a lot of things, and it is this orientation that feeds into his approach to Christianity as found in The Puppet and the Dwarf among other writings. It is this reading that has been attractive within the Emerging Church Movement, and Žižek's popularity is making its way through reconsiderations of Christian theology in books recently published by T&T Clark (see also here and here) and Eerdmans. In contrast, his social critique is quite different from such metaphysical considerations, thus accounting for the difference in the experience of reading The Parallax View and Living in the End Times.

So, I've been busy spending time with my new friends. Back to reading.