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Episode #196 ... The improbable Slavoj Zizek - Part 1


Today we give an introduction to the thinking of Slavoj Zizek-- at least as much as is possible in ~35 mins. The goal is for this to be a primer for the rest of the series.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello everyone, I'm Steven West. This is Philosophize This. So at the end of last episode I asked about the possibility of doing an interview with Slavoj Zizek in the coming weeks. And the response was overwhelmingly positive, but there were some people expressing their concerns, like don't change the format of the show, Steven West. Don't turn this into an interview. Show. And sorry I wasn't more clear about it last time. We're doing a series of the show on Geejek right now and then several other big thinkers doing their work today and that's the direction we're moving in. And I really just wanted to know if anyone was interested in a conversation totally additional to the podcast that I'd put out there if anybody wanted to hear it. I mean, do you guys think I want to make this into an interview show? I want to turn what we're doing here into just, you know, background noise that people put on whenever they're doing actually important stuff Please I love this show. I love how much we can pack
30 minutes. Just feel the need to reiterate. I just want to keep doing the stuff you find people enjoy. That's what I'm going for. That said, in retrospect, I probably should have waited to ask if anyone wanted to hear about G-JEK until after I did this first episode. Of the series. Reason being is with every one of these podcasts, there's always a different challenge that comes up specific to the episode that needs to be solved. And the one that came up for Zizek was how do you make someone that's as complex as Zizek can be sometimes accessible to people... People who may not even know who he is or what he's even talking about, but do that in a way where it also doesn't make it too... Boring for people that are already fans of his work. So just keep in mind, that's what I'm trying to do in this episode, as dumb as that may be. You can never cover all of Zizek and. And because I'm writing this and I'm trying to be respectful to both those audiences, I guess it just needs to be said at the start that if you've never heard of the philosopher Slava Žižek before, first of all, he's a Slovenian philosopher alive today doing his work right now, and I guess the most accurate way to describe what some people think about
philosopher, is that people are often confused about what it is he's trying to say when he says it, for a number of different reasons. In fact, if you're new to him as a thinker, You probably should take a listen to him first so you can get a frame of reference here. Good news is there's tons of them out there. Out there just go to wherever you watch videos type in Z-I-Z-E-K and I guess sit down and hold on to... The sides of your chair really, really tight. This is a man who, at first glance, has a very bizarre method of delivering what it is he's trying to say, but it's intentionally bizarre, which we'll get to by the end of this. Is the man that's famous for saying lines like Gandhi was more violent than Hitler Was a very honest man, actually. Or that Heidegger was not a great philosopher in spite of his time as a Nazi. He was great because he was a Nazi. These are real things that he said. Now, any intelligent person who hears this stuff has to assume, well, this is obviously an act. He's just saying stuff to provoke people and get a reaction out of them. And it's tempting at this point to just…
right off Zizek as some sort of philosophical troll, not really saying anything of value. If a troll online is just someone saying stuff so they can make people offended and then get a reaction out of them, then the word troll doesn't even come close to describing Because part of the reason he uses this provocative style of communication is to purposefully disorient people, shake them out of a dogmatic slumber. They've been living in for their entire life, where they've internalized ideology and typical ways of thinking to the point where they're not even totally aware of the ideological game that they're participating in every day of their life. Zizek once said that a worry of his when it comes to his work is that he's not going to be able to get to the point where he's not going to be able Not that he's going to be ignored by the masses, but that he's going to be accepted by the masses. Why would a philosopher be worrying about something like that? Try to understand it. We gotta try to see things from Zizek's perspective as much as we can, which is what I'm here to try to do.
I think combing out as much as I can is the best place to start trying to do that. Because while Zizek no doubt has a bunch of different takes on specific modern issues, it'll certainly get you thinking about him in a different way than you ever have before, and we'll talk about those. There's a sense in which, before we ever even get there, we first got to know where he's coming from with the method or the form of his philosophy. By the end of this episode, we'll understand why it may be useful to look at Slavoj Zizek as more of a work of art than just simply as a philosopher. So one thing you gotta know about Slabach Ishek is that, among other things, he is nothing short of incredible when it comes to his knowledge of philosophical. Topical theory. And he's even more impressive when you consider how wide a range of thinkers he's able to reference and bring in to modern discussions to reinterpret culture like he does. The 101 version of this, if you're just searching for-- facts on Zizek is that there are three main thinkers that are near and dear to his heart. There's Hegel, who...
Talked about on this podcast. There's Marx, who's useful when critiquing late-stage global capitalism. And then there's the famous French psychoanalyst named Jacques Lacan that from here on out I'm just going to call Lacan because... Because I'm not French, and I'm really trying my hardest here to not sound like a pretentious douchebag for the rest of the episode, saying la ha. Now again, géjécanté. The world through far more than just these three thinkers, but there is some truth to them being particularly important to him. And there's a million different starting points we could pick here for talking about his work, but I just want to pick one, get us started, and ask a very general philosophical question where we can compare... A very typical way of viewing it to the way Zizek sees it. Here's the question. What is it like to be someone who's having-- conversations with other people about how to make the world a better place. As a person that's participating in that, what has your experience of that been like your entire life? Now, I realize that this is a...
Weird question, because I'm not asking what is it to make the world a better place, or what tactics do we use to make social or ethical progress that would make the world a better place, but specifically, what is it like to be a human subject that is participating in that process. We're talking about human subjectivity here, which Zizek spends a lot of time on. Well, there's many answers to this question. The most common answer in the modern Western world could be that someone thinks, Well, I'm born, my life begins, and I knew almost nothing about the world as a baby. But then as... Life went on, I learned a lot of stuff about how the world works. I got an education, I read newspapers, I watch documentaries, I listen to really smart, Smart people talk about how the world works, and from all this, I formed my opinions based on what the truth seems to be to me and what I think the best path forward is for society. To answer the question, when I'm talking to people in these...
Political discussions. I'm really just testing my understanding of the truth up against other people's understanding of the truth. I'm a truth seeker, really. That's all that I am. and in the process of Peaking truth. I've gotten into some pretty heated political debates over the years, for sure. I come across people who vote different than me, I try to point out contradictions in how they see things, they try to point out contradictions in how I see things, and while it's pretty uncomfortable to be in these debates, may get me riled up sometimes, ultimately, if the person across the table from me is a reasonable person who's well educated, there's a chance the two of us may be able to To come to some sort of resolution. There's a chance I might be able to convince this person to come over to my side on a couple things. That's how social progress is made. Well, that's if they're reasonable, this person might say. But let's be honest, this person might also say, most of the people in today's day and age that I come across in these conversations are not reasonable people. Most of the people that vote differently
Are ideologues. These are not people that are trying to change their mind about anything. They're people who have just I'm excited to believe in an ideology. They found the truth about the way the world is, and they... Thanks for watching. Found the gospel, and now they're going to spend the rest of their life like a fundamentalist in the public square, screaming at everyone for being a heretic, for going against the gospel. You know, how dare you not believe the things my teacher told me? This person might say you can start to feel bad for him if it wasn't for the fact that ideology itself... Is derailing this process of social and ethical progress. Look, I'm a truth seeker, not an ideologue. And these people, quite frankly, are a problem for society. Now, if you take everything I just said...
As one possible way to view what you're doing when you participate in the political process, Slava Dzizek's going to disagree. He's going to say that what this person lacks when they see themselves as a truth seeker... Is a deeper level of awareness about the game that they're actually participating in every day. They have these political discussions. He'd probably start with the oversimplified way that the word ideology is being used here. He'd say that the word ideology is a very that it is not the case that you are someone who's really searching for the truth. Ideology is just something reserved for people that have given up on the search for truth. Good your intentions are, no matter how much you don't follow some codified doctrine, no matter if you're agnostic, you say oh, I'll seek the truth for my whole entire life and I'll never actually arrive there. Doesn't matter. To Zizek, you are always making sense of the world.
Through the lens of an ideology. Or more accurately, a bunch of different ideologies stacked on top of each other that have huge effects on your thoughts, values, desires, and what you end up doing in the world. The question to Zizek is... Not do you have an ideology, but how self-aware are you of the ideological structures that dictate your thinking? And then from that place. Of self-awareness, how self-determining can your actions become? Let's slow down for a second, though. Let's re-write… story from before about what it is to participate in a political discussion. Žižek would agree with at least the first part of the story. Story, we are born into the world as babies and don't really know anything about it. But then Zizek's gonna ask the question, inspired by the psychoanalysis of Jacques Lacan, how does… is that baby?
its subjectivity. Well, mostly Zizek thinks from what Lacan called the symbolic order. Sounds super fancy, just stay with me. A question in conversations about human subjectivity is, how can this baby from our example ever hope to understand the full chaotic complexity of base reality? Be born into the world and then understand all that on its own. Well, it can't. So what does the baby do? It learns to make sense. Of its reality through the mediation of symbols of all different types that simplify reality, the symbolic order. For example, language is a collection of symbols. As we know, a word is a A symbol that makes reference to something in reality. But as we also know, words are limited and can never truly capture the full extent of what something is. Words are not reality, but... To most of us, it doesn't really matter that much. Words do a good enough job to communicate most of the time, right?
As these words are combined and then systematized, they then give rise to other types of symbols we use to make sense of things. Things like rituals, traditions, social norms. These are undeniably things that help people organize the endless possibilities in life. But we also recognize that at another level, there's nothing objective about these things. Combine and systematize those symbols, and eventually you'll land at symbols that are even more complex. How about political stances, like conservative or progressive? How about social or economic policies? How about postmodernism, or classical liberalism, or pragmatism, or multiculturalism? None of these are harnessing the full truth about reality. How could they be? They're just elaborate collections of symbols that people have come up with to try to describe Of reality in an incomplete way. And when these symbolic ways of simplifying reality get unified under a framework that gives someone a comprehensive way of understanding big things like how society works overall.
Roles of individuals in a society, the relationships between different groups. Collection of symbols starts to align you with other people who feel the same way as you do. And you guys got your identical narratives that led to your worldview and your Shared lingo and special terms that you use together, terms that you call each other, And I'll see you in the next video. Through the framework of an ideology. In other words, nobody is accessing the truth. Everybody's reality is mediated by symbols. Everybody's been internalizing ideology from the moment they were born, where their identity, their social roles, how they see themselves, their subjectivity, Comes from this interaction they've had throughout their life with these symbols that simplify the world for us. Again, the question to Zizek is not... Whether you have an ideology. The question is, how self-aware are you of yours? So while the...
Herd ideology being connected to someone's thinking may most of the time carry with it a purely negative connotation. To Zizek, having an ideology is a negative connotation. Ideology is not far from just being alive and having thoughts on the world and a type of human subjectivity where ideology is inescapable. And from that perspective, ideology is not something that's bad necessarily. But again, there are different degrees of self-awareness we can have about it. Zizek's work, among other things, is a call to action for people to think critically and understand the true nature of their lives. This game that we're all participating in. See, he's not saying that everyone's the same here. You know, religious fanatic on one-- and Nobel laureate on the other. Same person, basically. No. Obviously, there's a big difference between the people that uncritically accept an ideology, spend the rest of their lives being a foot soldier for it, thinking they've arrived at the truth with a capital T. Who needs thinking anymore? Difference between that person and someone who's a bit more humble and open to seeing the world differently. But you're not off the hook just because you
point to someone else around you and say hey look that person's worse than me, they're the real problem, I'm just a truth seeker but you are still living under the structure Of ideology in big ways that you may not even realize. Because no matter how humble you are, that's the thing about ideology. To Slavoj Zizek, there will always be a gap between what symbols can explain about reality and the real between our constant. Search for truth and objective truth between some universal meaning to life and the… we can find in the world for short periods of time in our lives. There will always be that lack, that negativity in German idealism. And there's useful things about that lack, if you're Zizek, and we'll get to them. But the point is, ideologies are designed to be things that take that gap that exists and make the world look so simple. That the gap isn't there anymore. Ideologies give people a very narrow lens to see the world through and then convince them that what they're doing is not there anymore.
They're seeing is just the truth. And because that lens will distort and mask the true nature of social structures, and because people are often at the mercy of how others view these social structures, that makes ideology, to Zizek, a particularly dangerous form of passively exploiting people if it's not well understood. So to him, we gotta try to understand it. It's very important. You have to try to understand yours, and you have to try to understand it generally, because the same kind of tactics are often used across different ideologies. Turns out there's some common tactics that are Very effective at capturing people's psychology. You gotta ask questions like, how exactly does ideology work? How does ideology affect the values, the desires, the beliefs of people? Where does it get injected? How does the language of an ideology mask certain aspects of a reality? The suffering of people a world has built on the... Backs of? How does ideology so effectively give the people immersed in it a more narrow worldview where because of how narrow their
Field of view is, they then preserve that ideology despite the bad that it's doing. God, you want a philosophical exercise to try to practice? seeing the world a little more like Zizek sees it, try listening to a conversation between two people that are talking about the state of the world right now. Just try it. Just, if you listen to podcasts or whatever it is. You listen to one where two people have long-form conversations on it. Pull up an episode, listen to it, and when you listen, don't think about it as though these are just two people who are seeking the truth about the universe like I am. Instead, listen to it like you're a... Detective or something, and you're looking for evidence of the ideologies they've internalized that they're bringing into that conversation. Pay attention to the language or the metaphors they use to describe reality. Pay attention to the narratives they bring in about how society should be functioning. They believe in will be something they're all for when it brings about that world. But then their values will change the second it becomes about another type of person or another world that may come about. Again, that's selective vision. Notice how they'll blame all the
World on some opposing ideology. Which they'll call an ideology, funny enough. Theirs isn't, but that one is. Zizek has a great line of this. He says, quote, The minimum necessary structuring ingredient of every ideology is to distance itself from another ideology, to denounce its other as ideology. End quote. This is one of the tactics. More than that, though. Notice how often in these conversations, when people make claims about how the world is, they'll try to make things not a matter of opinion. You know, this isn't me saying this. This is the nature and truth of the universe. Or in other cases, they'll make things into something that's completely undefinable, just an arbitrary social construction. Notice how many times, if you're paying attention, some of the things you're doing Somebody who makes their ideology public like this will contradict themselves in the same calendar month. And again, none of this is something that makes these people conscious, evil.
Evil foot soldiers of an ideology. In fact, if someone had an attitude where they thought if you can find contradictions in someone else's worldview, that must mean that they're stupid or misinformed. That's another thing Zizek would think is a little oversimplified. Contradictions and paradoxes. These are not the marks of someone being misinformed necessarily. To Zizek, these again are the marks of ideology. This is the evidence, if you are looking for it. This is where you can see ideology reveal itself for what it truly is. Not the truth, but a collection of symbols trying to simplify things that's incapable of ever fully capturing the real. You will always have contradictions in the way that you make sense of things because Way that you're making sense of things. In fact, it can seem like if you're not aware of the contradictions present in your own way of looking at the world, well, a couple different options, I guess. One option is that you're really just not trying.
Very hard. You're not truly aware of the extent of your own positions, maybe because you're too busy trying to look for contradictions in other people all the time. The other option is that for some people, we're pretty deeply embedded into an ideology. While it's not impossible for them to see contradictions, it can be... Effectively impossible because their field of view is so narrow that they'll just never have the thought where they come across the contradiction in their own thinking. To that person their whole life might just feel to them like, Well, there's nothing wrong with my thinking. I just see the truth about things. So again, finding a contradiction in your own worldview is not something to be embarrassed about to Zizek. In fact, if anything, it's a sign of a You're actually doing the work of critically thinking. You're starting to understand the limitations of ideology.
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by consumerism with more consumerism. This is an example of ideology obscuring the true nature of the problem. Or take the fan of capitalism, who says that capitalism's great because look at all the choices... Gives people. They can buy anything they want. Hyper focusing on the fact that people can, yes, choose between 15 different kinds of barbecue. Sauce at the store, but ignoring the lack of choice that people have when it comes to participating in any other economic system. Ideology limiting the very definition we have of choice. Now, these are two examples that we recently used on the Anarchism series we just did, and I'm sticking to them. With him for right now because I don't want to derail this more general conversation about Zizek's work. Trust me though, these contradictions are everywhere to Zizek and throughout. This series. We're going to be talking about 1cc's and specific issues we're dealing with today. But this may be the end of the
Be a good point in the episode to bring this back to the question of why Zizek delivers his philosophy in the specific ways that he does. How do we... Understand the form of Zizek's philosophy, not just the content. First, I gotta give an example of the format or the style that he often uses, which may confuse the ever-living heck out of everyone listening. We will explain why he's doing it in this way given all that we've covered about Zizek so far. Here's the format. He starts with a position, usually a position that's held by people who see themselves as progressives in the Western world, and not just the loaded term of progressive, but people that generally think I have a policy that's going to make the world a better place. He starts with a progressive position like that, and he will state their position, and he will make it sound super appealing, as though it's so true, it's practically common since. Who could ever disagree with it? And then as quickly as he does that, he will…
the position on its head, show it from a completely different angle by interpreting it through a different ideological framework, and then make a case for how in reality the position's actually the opposite of what it first seems to be, showing for him that getting a deeper understanding about Is going to come from finding the meaning that exists hidden in the margins, beyond what was consciously intended by the person who held the position because of the limitations of what their ideology allows them to see. And you may think he'd be done at that point, but no. He's just getting into the meat of his arguments. Then he's going to point out a bunch of contradictions and paradoxes in the position, which at this point he'll most likely pull out tons of references from all of them. Over the place in the media landscape. For example, he'll compare something like the abortion debate to Lacan's view of the Oedipus complex, which he'll then compare to something like the Peloponnesian War in ancient Greece, which he'll then flesh out a bit with a comparison. Into an episode of South Park he saw the other day. And then he'll bring everything together, really hammer the point home by given.
Hegelian interpretation of some some book like Eat, Pray, Love That's a classic structure of Zizek doing what he does best and the point is that this type of analysis can all be so Disorienting to people. People can feel like after listening to them, they're having a hard time understanding exactly what it was he was trying to say. But what they oftentimes don't realize is that that was his entire point, that if you didn't feel disoriented-- what he just said, then Zizek didn't really do his job. Let me explain. Because of how he sees ideology, the way it dictates so much about how people see the world, his goal when he speaks is not to give you a neatly-dicked, I'm not going to give you a neatly-dicked idea. Packaged together a little fact that teaches you something new about the world that you can easily tack onto and appropriate into your existing ideology. He knows that a lot of people are watching, looking for a clear takeaway of a better ideology to start believing in. But his goal isn't to take the world...
Chew it up in his mouth and mama bird it over to you like, Hey, take this better ideology I have for you. No, the reason he targets progressives in particular is because he's trying to wake up. The people who could be revolutionaries, if only they saw the rigid ideological structures that limit their thinking. Think of all they could do. If only they were more aware of the game they're actually participating in. As odd as it is, as a way of going about it, Zizek is trying to be inspiring here. You know how Simone Weil would sit her students under a tree while she was teaching geometry? And when she was given these lessons, she wouldn't just ask a bunch of geometry questions and ask people to give answers. The goal wasn't for students to find... Conclusions, but to instead discover new lines of thought about geometry, new ways of seeing the questions themselves, understanding the questions at a deeper level rather than just memorizing answers. And to her it was like, this is
way you do it because if you're trying to learn about the world and you set out and you're looking for answers all the time as to what the truth is you're going to find out. Find those answers. But sadly, those answers are not going to be the truth. In many ways, the answers that you end up finding just become false options. That you settle for along the way. Well Zizek, in a similar sort of way, is also trying to get people to see the world differently by encouraging them to see the world differently. To see something like a social issue, for example. Like to debate with people. One that you feel like you already got a very familiar grasp on. And by familiar, that means someone has plenty of ideal. That have allowed them to understand the issue fully. And when Zizek talks about it, by interpreting the issue, the issue from a totally foreign ideological lens. The hope for him is that this shows how ideology to interpret the world in a million different ways. And the hope is to illustrate how the specific ideology that you're interpreting the world through has a massive effect on your own.
Impact on the selective view you have of the issue you're discussing. That there's always way more to understand about these issues if you look for it, perspectives that you may already feel at a certain level, but again the confines of your ideology don't allow for you to see it clearly. The result is, after listening to Szizek, you feel confused. I've never heard these kind of connections being made before about these issues that I honestly don't. Like I have a pretty solid grasp of. So when Zizek says Gandhi was more violent than Hitler, it's not that he's on some sort of campaign against Gandhi. It's that when he says it in that way, the person listening has to confront some very difficult questions. If he's going to say that Gandhi's more violent than Hitler, well, what is violence, then? What are we trying to accomplish when we oppose violence? How does the ideology that I'm currently subscribed to get me to ignore certain kinds of violence? See, even if these questions are easily answered by an ideology,
It at least gets people thinking about the assumptions that they bring to bear on everything, assumptions that otherwise may just sit around passively never being looked at. To Zizek, the goal is to sh- shake people out of the common ideological lanes that people fall into by default when they're born into the world as those babies that internalize symbols? Well, here's a question. From a probability standpoint... What are the most common ideologies that people fall into? There's of course religions that give people a totalizing worldview, but this is a philosophy podcast. How about the ones that are more cleverly disguised than that? Postmodernism, pragmatism, classical liberalism... Socialism, capitalism. You can keep going down the list, but you get it. From a probability standpoint, these are the symbols people use to make... Makes sense of the world these days, and then cordon themselves off into groups of like-minded people. The hope for Zizek is that by getting people to see the world, they can see the world through
See things outside of these narrow takes, that a higher level of clarity about the issue overall will be arrived at, because you'll understand the true stakes of whatever the conversations about. They're not doing what everyone else is doing. They're special. Say you're a pragmatist, for example. You can say, Look, I don't follow any of these isms that other people do. I don't have a doctrine. That's why I'm a pragmatist. Those postmodernists out there want to say that everything's a grand narrative, but where does that leave society? So instead of being lost in doubt for the rest of my life, I just want to go with what works for a society. I mean, don't we have to keep moving forward? but to Zijek you know he'd probably That if you're a pragmatist, that's probably because things are going pretty well for you with the way things are currently set up. But how about all the people that things aren't going very well for, that you never really... To see that much given your ideological limitations and position in society. The reality of what's working in a society...
All of a sudden becomes very different when the problems are on your doorstep. And the fact that some policy is working in a particular way that things are currently set up. That says nothing about whether the system overall is ethical. A pragmatist of Zizek is often too uncritical of the status quo. They just want to keep things working at all costs. But anyway, it's been said by some that Slava Zizek is kind of like a modern-day Socrates. And before you think that's too crazy of a statement, just consider it for a second. What does he do? Well, like Socrates, he is an absolutely bizarre kind of person to someone who's embedded into one of these common ideologies. They don't understand him. And like Socrates, when he would go into public into the Athenian Agora, Zizek in our time makes himself public by doing interviews. And media appearances. And when he engages with people in these conversations, one of his big goals is to inspire deeper levels of critical thinking about things that people often take for granted. What does that sound like? Another similarity, uh, that he's
Needs to be said is that by having these conversations and taking the positions he does pisses a lot of people off in the process, not unlike Socrates. Because in our time, the media he's taking advantage of for exposure can't really play him politically into a neat category where they can always rely on him to agree with their politics. Issue they may agree with him on. There will be another position he takes that's completely outside the ideology of people that are trying to make a show where we're all buddies and we're fighting against the bad guys out there. Here's our super smart philosopher friend to confirm to us that we're all right again. Be silly together. We got our friend G-Jack on the line here with us. Hey, can you say Marxist superstructure three times fast for us? Go. Go. No, he isn't going to be appropriated into the system like that.
That can be easily absorbed and wielded around as a smart guy political weapon. He has a quote where he says that I like to occupy a position where even if I'm attacked and rejected, I'm not contaminated. Again, his fear is not that the masses will reject him. His fear is that he'll be appropriated to the extent that he's fully accepted by the masses. He is a walking paradox, and he knows it. He is a piece of artwork where you need to understand both the form and the content to be able to capture the true meaning of what it is. And in a world where people fall into these common ways of symbolically interpreting things and grouping up, Slava Žižek refuses to see the world through these common lanes because he understands how ubiquitous ideology is. Truly is. This is why he points out so many examples of ideology in basically every media type. In movies, books, cartoons, music. This is the...
Ideology that we're internalizing every day. And he wants to not only show people that it's going on, but at a deeper level, show how we can use different media, different symbols, to reinterpret social media. In a different way that will allow us to see the issues more broadly. Great philosophers, when you look at the sources they read that inspired them, some of the most interesting thinkers in history will have a lot of stuff that's totally obscure, not a part of a typical Western philosophical education. Simone Weil comes to mind of teaching herself Sanskrit so she could read the Bhagavad Gita, or her Gnosticism or Neoplatonism. Walter Benjamin comes to mind with his mysticism or his German Romanticism. If philosophy is sometimes a matter of thinking thoughts that other people haven't thought of before about the world,
One way to try to help yourself do that, if you wanted to do it, even if you just wanted to be an interesting person, is to try to look at reality through ideology and media that isn't the most common ideology and media that people are falling into during your time. Of course you're going to just think like everyone else if you do that, but try interpreting reality through a different, less probable ideological lens. It reminds me of the semi-recent episode we did On ChatGPT, where when you ask a large language model a question, because it's trained on text data made up of conversations that people have already had-- What it's doing is generating an answer made up of the most probable words that seem like they should follow based on all the other answers it's seen in its training data. It produces a conversation, in other words, that looks a lot like other conversations it's seen. And someone like Chomsky would say...
That's wonderful and all, but we can't rely on this thing in its current form to be something that's going to give us anything that leads to progress. Scientific progress often doesn't come from whatever scientists think is the most probable thing to come next in a scientific paradigm, but through highly improbable theories that come from people questioning the entire order of things. Well, in a world where a lot of people believe in the same common forms of ideology, in a world of highly probable interpretations of all the problems we're dealing with, this is the highly improbable take of Slava Zizek. Because philosophy to Zizek is not about coming up with the solutions to the problems necessarily. It's about getting people to ask the right questions so that pro- Progress can be envisioned. We need people reinterpreting this historical moment and finding a way out of this digital panopticon that from within the common ideological frameworks to some seems impossible. Now, again, Rome wasn't built in a way that was not built in a way that was not built
Day. And nobody ever understood Zizek in a day either, so there's only so much we can cover on this episode. A lot of questions to answer, but one of the first ones I'd imagine, if it were me listening to this and I'd never thought about Zizek before, is if everything is ideology, essentially, then in the current philosophical climate of post-structuralism and relativism, how could he make any sort of claims about political or ethical progress? What's his making those sorts of claims? I mean, why wouldn't he just be considered a postmodernist? We'll be answering this question, among many other things, in the next episode of the Zizek series very soon. But first, even sooner, we're going to be dropping an episode on a book from a philosopher who is a friend of the show.
You may remember him from the episode we did on panpsychism. His name is Professor Philip Goth, and we're going to be talking about the book he released at the end of last year called Why? on teleologies and purpose in the universe. So we have a few episodes coming out in the coming weeks. Keep your eyes open for them. And, oh yeah, about this interview with Zizek. Still working out the details with the people, but I gotta ask. Knowing what we know now, after this episode, if you were asking the guy a question, if you were trying to get something insightful or unique out of Zizek, what would you ask him in an interview? Don't tell him, but let me know. Thank you for listening. I'll talk to you next time.
Transcript generated on 2024-02-27.