Chomsky v. Zizek, Part 2

Various articles, blogs have covered an alleged debate that has sprung up in response to Noam Chomsky’s insult of writers like Slavoj Zizek, who Chomsky believes posture, by using fancy terms like polysyllables and pretend to have a theory when they have no theory whatsoever, see: http://veteransunplugged.com/theshow/archive/118-chomsky-december-2012, anyway, here is my take on the event(s):

See also:

A. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/19/noam-chomsky-slavoj-zizek-ding-dong;

B. http://www.openculture.com/2013/06/noam_chomsky_slams_zizek_and_lacan_empty_posturing.html;

C. http://www.openculture.com/2013/07/slavoj-zizek-publishes-a-very-clearly-written-essay-length-response-to-chomskys-brutal-criticisms.html; and

D. http://www.openculture.com/2013/07/slavoj-zizek-responds-to-noam-chomsky.html, for example.

Chomsky:

1. Zizek provides no theory.

Theory:

1. Tested general propositions

2. Regarded as correct

3. That can be used to explain

4. That can be used to predict

5. Explanations of which status still unproven and subject to experiment.

A. In Zizek’s book The Parallax View, he proposed that anecdotes he provided share an expressed “Occurrence of an insurmountable parallax gap, the confrontation of two closely linked perspectives between which no neutral common ground is possible.”

B. In Chomsky’s book On Language, Chomsky said, “There is no very direct connection between my political activities, writing and others, and the work bearing on language structure, though in some measure they perhaps derive from certain common assumptions and attitudes with regard to basic aspects of human natures. Critical analysis in the ideological arena seems to be a fairly straightforward matter as compared to an approach that requires a degree of conceptual abstraction. For the analysis of ideology, which occupies me very much, a bit of open-mindedness, normal intelligence, and healthy skepticism will generally suffice.”

C. Zizek likes theoretical thinking.

D. Chomsky’s “Generative grammar…attempts to give a set of rules that will correctly predict which combinations of words will form grammatical sentences.” As a poet, I find this proposition ridiculous or at least mechanical and empty, but of course I understand it. It seems at times words come to me in an arbitrary fashion. I can work with magnetized words and arrange them in such as way as to adhere to the surprise combinations that can be afforded after a little attention. One day, I expect a poet will be made to contest a computer in the act of writing a poem based on Chomsky’s theory. And the poet will know at the outset that given any number of possible sequences, a line will be formed that will serve the same function that a line in a good poem might. Because the process of writing poetry is about writing words that make us think about ideas and in so doing we think within ourselves about things that were once outside of us. They become meaningful and important because they catch our aesthetic eye, our love of language and ideas.

F. Zizek is a philosopher. He likes to study the nature and origin of ideas. He likes theorizing of a visionary or impractical nature.

G. Chomsky becomes a philosopher when he says Zizek has no theory. And Chomsky admits that “There is no very direct connection between [his] political activities, writing and others, and the work bearing on language structure, though in some measure they perhaps derive from certain common assumptions and attitudes with regard to basic aspects of human natures” and “Critical analysis in the ideological arena seems to be a fairly straightforward matter as compared to an approach that requires a degree of conceptual abstraction. For the analysis of ideology, which occupies me very much, a bit of open-mindedness, normal intelligence, and healthy skepticism will generally suffice.”

H. Chomsky said we don’t need critiques of ideology we just need the facts because there is already a cynicism of those in power. He exemplifies this with the fact:  ‘This company is profiting in Iraq.’

I. Zizek said daily life is ideology. He said that Krugman said that the idea of austerity is not good theory. It was just a conclusion drawn by those in power to fix the economy, Krugman said.

J. Zizek in effect calls Chomsky a cynic when he says that cynics don’t see things as they really are. He cites Chomsky’s inability to see that the Khmer Rouge or Stalinist Russia were horrible, since Chomsky did not consult primary sources, i.e. public discourse.

K. Zizek is comfortable with the efficiency of theoretical thinking.

L. Even Chomsky mentioned that he has been asked to speak on mathematical linguistics and yet he is not credentialed therein. He is self-taught. He said the mathematicians could care less. “What they want to know is what I have to say…whether I am right or wrong, whether the subject is interesting…whether better approaches are possible — the discussion dealt with the subject, not with my right to discuss it, p. 6.”

M. Zizek provides theory. In the act of speaking/writing, his ideas as words in the English language are proposals, often general, and they are tested as they hit the air or even in his mind they are being heard. We often know what sounds correct. Our beliefs, attitudes, and values are shared given the general consensus inherent in experience. Thereby, they are regarded as correct or incorrect. These propositions of his are used to explain and predict, and at times they are explanations that are unproven and subject to contemplation and the rigors of experimentation, but Zizek in his assertions, no matter the weight and complexity of his words, is legitimately explaining what we may wish to ignore or feign the desire to decipher, define, or connote.

N. The fact that Chomsky said that grammar contains a rudimentary generative syntax implies a universality of language. And Lakoff has said this and I believe Merleau-Ponty did too. But, this commonality of the capacity to think in words in complement to Chomsky’s desire that simplicity be used relates to the metaphorical world. And whether we deduce or empirically test, we remain bound to language to express. Thomas Kuhn said our biases are always there. An insect would roll his eyes at our conclusions. We are stuck in this world self-entertaining. And for Chomsky to attack a man certainly as entertaining as he is in bad form. Empiricism and deduction are no greater than theorizing and espousing, like the mathematicians, we all just want to know what Zizek has to say…whether he is right or wrong, whether the subject is interesting…whether better approaches are possible and the discussion dealt with the subject, not with Zizek’s right to discuss it.

 

See also: https://savioni.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/chomsky-v-zizek-part-1/

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4 comments

  1. Because the process of writing poetry is about writing words that make us think about ideas and in so doing we think within ourselves about things that were once outside of us.

    Again, a future post of mine not far on the horizon. Wrote away at the gym this morning while my son was in class. Too tired to work out, and words running over.


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