Continuation of a debate about the validity of Zizek’s writing/speaking as espousing theory or ideas vs. Chomsky’s condemnation of him for not espousing theory.
You can check out articles about this attack by Chomsky that lead to the debate at: http://www.openculture.com/2013/07/slavoj-zizek-publishes-a-very-clearly-written-essay-length-response-to-chomskys-brutal-criticisms.html
I have to admit that I have a very bad cold, so I hope I am thinking clearly.
@Jkop, What I meant by Chomsky’s failure to address the meaning of Zizek’s terms is that if you read Zizek and if you define the words he uses, you will come up with what I found, which is that Zizek is clear.
Zizek’s statements offer conclusions. His whole book Parallax View, for example, is a thesis/theory about two sides of an intellectual coin.
I am really put off by this idea that Zizek does not theorize. His propositions are theories about reality.
When I talk about Thomas Kuhn, I am addressing paradigm shifts, where, which I am sure you know, old great theories are replaced by other great theories, which will also be replaced. What that says is that it turns theories into postulates that seem to work as the legal concept known as shifting sands. We are so sure until someone comes up with a better idea or theory. Lakoff talks about metaphors. Our theories are metaphors for how reality works. As human beings, we can think in terms that our brains can define and share. When we communicate great theories, we reduce them to metaphorical symbols or formulas and I believe great theories are born through insights that are then proven. Ideas give birth to accurate ways of seeing the world or at least new ways of seeing. Each idea about something is a theory.
Chomsky attacks talking. He attacks the generative nature of language. He hates that Zizek or Foucault, I am sure, or any other number of writers, who tool up complex language to define something that he thinks should be made simple for a 12-year-old to understand. Well, I disagree because that would be to take the joy out of reading Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness or Heidegger’s Being and Time or Foucault’s section on “Madness, The Absence of an Oeuvre,” for example.
The words these great minds use create vast landscapes of ideas and thoughts, they bring us to a greater appreciation of who we are because we are not left on a single plane of understanding or appreciation. When I read Heidegger’s Being and Time, I felt he understood, as I felt, that there are billions of things going on at once, which is easily understood by a 12-year-old because of the capacity of the intellect or sensitivity to life. Heidegger wrote in such a way as to both manifest his point and to alter the reader’s mind. It was being in the mind of the genius as he thought about being and time.
What defeats Chomsky or makes his argument disingenuous is his statement about mathematical linguistics and his lack of credentials and yet he gives talks and the mathematical linguists listen because he might say something that is correct or new. Being credentialed does not a theory make.
Zizek can use the English language anyway he wants, because in the end we simply take our dictionaries and define the terms and address the grammatical constructs, which have meaning. We can test his theories in terms of our experience/experimentation.
I do not agree with your assertion that some of Zizek’s terms are indeterminate. None, as far as I can tell, are thus. They are based in the English language or at least they are translatable.
Nothing I have read of his evades argument. His words are inherently argument, for anything a person says is arguable.
It is theory in the sense that one definition of the word theory is: “A contemplative and rational type of abstract or generalizing thinking, or the results of such thinking.” (Taken from Wikipedia).
As a poet, I disagree that poetry is not theory. It is an emotive synthesis of reality akin to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. It works on the plane of emotion, while Einstein’s works on the plane of explaining the phenomena known as dilation when measuring quantities that are relative to the velocities of observers, and where space and time should be considered together, but where the speed of light is unvarying for all observers. (Taken from Wikipedia)
Both poetry and Einstein’s theory are trying to communicate what reality is, the poet in emotive terms, Einstein on even more abstract terms and hence Einstein’s obscure postulates that could just as easily be called indeterminate, except that he puts words to the postulation, just as the poet puts words to her postulations. (Please read
POETRY IS NOT A PROJECT by Dorothea Lasky
http://www.uglyducklingpresse.org/archive/online-reading/poetry-is-not-a-project-by-dorothea-lasky/ to know what I mean by the similarities between poets and scientists.)
When I write the following, for example, I am contemplating a rational type of abstract or generalized thinking. It is a theory about a moment in a cafe, where I am looking through the front window at a woman. I hope to be with her just by her crotch, which is what I want of a particular design, and where I come to this point, time and time again, such that in terms of the measurements of these various quantities they are relative to the speed of my observation, to the similar observations of others, who also come to this point, dilating, where the space and time of the moment should be considered together as the light in knowing this is invariant:
It looks like rain but it isn’t, thunderclouds but they aren’t. Back in Milano, the cafe, that is, where I peer through the shattered glass of the front window, hope walks by… I can’t see faces just the crotches of slim women – what I want in a lover. Time and time again I come to this point. (The poem, “In Truth,” page 14, Uncertainty, by Mario Savioni, (c) 2000 and revised in 2011, go to: http://www.blurb.com/b/2134039-uncertainty)
Both Einstein and poets are using the English language to explain a phenomenon they have experienced or in the poet’s expressive obscurity he too is communicating what is true because obscurity may be his theme. There is no failure in obscurity; sometimes that’s the point. I once reviewed an artist’s work and found her work ugly, but it was in that ugliness that she was making a point about reality that was true. At times ugliness is true and truth is always beautiful, even though it may be asymmetrical (See: http://chronicle.com/article/When-Beauty-Is-Not-Truth/136803/).
I think you guys are not getting the point. Zizek is a great mind and Chomsky is disingenuous or at least forgetful that ideas are the stuff of theory and words are definable and so we are never lost to obscurity. If so, we are not working hard enough.