Chomsky v. Zizek, Part 3

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:

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 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:

In Truth

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:

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:

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.

“Instances When a Work of Art Shatters the Limitations of its Medium,” A Response to the Post of the Same Name by Cristian Mihai

(Go To:

Wrapping my mind around this concept: Medium. I think you mean this denotation: Artistic technique or means of expression determined by materials/method. (Taken from:

This is interesting to me in terms of the (perhaps) limiting perspective I have of an “eloquence of the idea,” a concept provided to me by Stan Tomita, Professor/Instructor of Photography, University of Hawaii, where one chooses a medium to express the idea in mind. The idea comes with the medium implied/provided, and where that which seemed to “shatter” the limitations of a medium, could extend to the inclusion of another medium, such that multimedia becomes the vehicle for production.

But, I don’t think that is what you mean. A work, for example, drafted in a particular medium could dwarf its utility.

Let’s consider the word “limitation.” I think you mean to limit your definition to the denotations: Restriction, shortcoming or defect. (Again provided by

Let us consider a work of art that is restricted within it’s medium or where the medium has a shortcoming or defect.

Also, let us note the word choice “shatter;” A work of art that shatters the limitations of its medium. This assumes media have limitations.

We need examples of media, but first I would like to offer a definition of medium as a way of communicating.

As I sit here and contemplate the idea of shattering the limitations of a particular way of communicating, I tend to think in terms of the opposite, which is where the artist is contained within the means of communicating, implying a discipline in using the particular medium he has chosen or as has been chosen for her.

I am staring at a painting I did, simply white paint on black paint. The lines of white form the idea. It is line travel, shape and form impression. Within the context of the painting, I followed an inner, emotional guide to first draw the lines by putting tracing paper over the black-painted surface and the tracing paper made yellow lines, while I drew in a manner befitting my inner direction or mood. I would close my eyes and push the pencil over the paper, which would then produce a yellow line that I later painted white. I call these works skeleton paintings, which are a step above the pencil-on-white canvases, and a step below the color field paintings that make up the collection of some 10 paintings. One is as large as 10’ x 6’.

I don’t think in terms of a medium limitation but rather my limitation to use the medium in an artistically worthy way. It is my skill-set that I question, not the medium. And with images of photography, I am often amazed by the results, which are often not what I planned, mainly because of the results of exposure and the medium as a compositionally limiting and also compositionally unlimiting medium. I think we compose in the camera, but we also see the images as compositions after we take them, both as negatives and as the images we produce at various sizes and through different means: Papers, canvas prints, etc.

There are burning and dodging issues. I once did a series where my focus was on the effect that various exposure times had on the moments I was depicting. I would go from least exposed to most exposed only to find that, in one case, I argued that the person, where two were presented, was more in the white in a composition that was about the “gray area.” The image was about truth and that there are no blacks and whites in this world, but that in such a world, one side had to be better than the other, which of course was not true if the manipulation of exposure had anything to do with it.

I think the word “shatter” implies that this is the operable desire of the artist to “shatter” the limitations of the medium she works in. But, I am just glad that I can use the medium to create a work that communicates the thought I had in mind. I am not interested in shattering but rather in being true to the muse, who would have told me that I needed to use more than one medium or even to use the medium that would over-extend it. I think it is then that the muse’s directions are more important than the medium of expression and that the concentration should not be on the medium but upon the muse, who is giving direction and one should not see the making of art as having a personal ambition to be the best, but rather to be humble that the muse is even speaking to you. I think this is what is wonderful about being an artist. You realize these ideas are not yours. They come to you and it is your job to depict them as exactly as they have been provided. The medium just seems the appropriate vehicle within which to present them.

You are talking in terms of a television show that defeated your rational mind, where you became so involved in the story that you lost all sense of reality and felt something. I love this. This is a great work of art that can do this. As you know, it is catharsis you felt, having gone into yourself and felt rather than concerned yourself with the noise of the communicative vehicle or incompetent use of the communicative vehicle.

You said the author planned this. As an artist or writer, I never think in terms of planning, but in adhering to the story line in my mind as the muse, God, or me, who gets these ideas.

You talk about the difference between movies and books when it comes to being more visual. You say they offer different experiences. Movies provide more to make it easier to get involved but it limits the imagination.

I want to argue with you here. Often, the same thing happens to me while watching a story on TV vs. reading a book. If they are both good at what they do, I end up going into myself and thinking about things they bring up. I was mentioning how black and white TVs vs. color or large screen vs. small didn’t matter, if the storyline or the acting, for example, made me go into myself and think or feel something relative. I am often at a loss, for example, when watching a movie simply utilizing special effects as a vehicle for special effects. They don’t have the story I need to feel or to be shown in relation to my life.

I have known this about camera lenses, for example, where what I am shooting is more important than the kind of camera I have. But, the lighting is extremely important too or I have found that I wanted the image to be much bigger but at the time I only had an iPhone, for example, to take the image. I can however, use the image to paint a larger canvas of the content and still serve the role I had envisioned.

I also want to say that the imagination is separate from the communicative device, where when we are in our heads or hearts as an affect of say a movie or a book and it is there that we are at play in the fields. So, I would disagree with you on this point about the lack of imagination as a cause of the vehicle of communication.

I often get ideas from other works of art and have, in fact, created a book called After to illustrate this kind of appropriation or transpiration of feeling/affect. (See:

When I read books, I get ideas. I think in terms of linguistics: “Language form, language meaning, and language in context.” I am interested in grammar as it expresses meaning. I might argue that language is meaning. I don’t think I knew anything until I had the language to describe it. I was only experiencing feelings before I had language to give me the words to describe what I saw and felt. Thoughts are words. I couldn’t relate them to the world until I heard what other people were saying. And my vocabulary grew and my life at this point is so complicated in terms of words that I often forget about reality. Words that crisscross, words that form new ideas, words that are ideas that didn’t exist until I made them up or they were made up for me. I think language is separate from reality. It is a symbolic means to describe reality, which remains out there but we need it to relate to each other so that we have reference points, shared experiences, metaphors we can use to talk to each other. Perhaps we wouldn’t have language if we were alone, but art objects express our inner being.

When I watch movies, I get emotionally sympathetic. Often my writing is about relationships or lack thereof and so the interrelationship between the ideas I get from books is an interconnected one. If I watch movies, I have a lot of emotional experiences, but if I read I can become inspired to put them in words. Well, that’s not exactly true. I can write because of how a movie made me feel.

So, I am not sure I agree with you about freedom coming from books as being enough. I think both media “Tap in the viewer’s resources to compare situations (experience). I don’t agree that a good book or a relevant book takes work to stoke the imagination. Sometimes single words become my focus.

I am not sure I understand the idea of a middleman in a story; the medium is the middleman, who disappears as the motor of the self kicks in.

Certainly, it is like magic in that before we know it, we are transactional. But, again I beg to differ that great investment must be made on the reader’s part to become engaged, relevance and flawless prose, poetry, etc., allows the transfer.

You do agree with me and in effect contradict yourself when you say that scenes (in both movies and books) affected you equally.

I am not one to read scenes over and over, rather, philosophical tomes have caused me long hours of definitive inquiry to know what the author intended (at least if his use of words was intentional), but as for the scenes in novels, I am pretty quick at seeing the forest and the trees.

The broken DVD was probably just cheap, which is not saying much. I used to linger during porno features to get a second look, but usually once the impression was made in a movie, I would close my eyes, proverbially speaking, and sense how that environment and actions made me feel.

I’ll have to look at the trailer for The Artist to see what you mean. As I said, it is usually linguistic issues or meaning coming from words that makes me return until I understand them and not the images of things. I am an artist, that was my first language and things are never as meaningful as relationships between people, and ideas are even more abstract, where it is just the words, the text having no voices, and no imagery to contextualize.

Yes, Gatsby’s description, while pure, describes the less powerful position of the narrator in comparison to Mr. Gatsby, who if truly trembling would have excluded the less confident disposition of the two.

I don’t see how the use of the scene is an “instance when a work of art shatters the limitations of its medium,” rather it proves the capacity of the medium to transpose meaning and shared experience among men and women – readers to understand what was going on between the men, what might have been going on between the men, and what might have been going on with/in the character of Gatsby.

I still think that the medium serves those who can use it well as Fitzgerald proves.

Chomsky v. Zizek, Part 1

Having read Chomsky’s book On Language and Zizek’s book The Parallax View, I found Chomsky to be less intellectually entertaining. Chomsky talked about a Universal grammar, while Zizek blew me away on a number of topics, most interesting of which was a discussion of Henry James’ book The Wings of the Dove as well as the concept of anti-anti Semitism. Chomsky clearly defeated Alan Dershowitz in a debate about Israel (See:… but he did not defeat Foucault in the sense that as was stated in the debate by Elders that Foucault was “working on a completely different level and with a totally opposite aim and goal,” which Foucault agrees to when he says: “Therefore I have, in appearance at least, a completely different attitude to Mr. Chomsky apropos creativity, because for me it is a matter of effacing the dilemma of the knowing subject, while for him it is a matter of allowing the dilemma of the speaking subject to reappear.”

I think Chomsky has an agenda, where he states, for example: “What I’m arguing is this: if we have the choice between trusting in centralized power to make the right decision in that matter, or trusting in free associations of libertarian communities to make that decision, I would rather trust the latter. And the reason is that I think that they can serve to maximize decent human instincts, whereas a system of centralized power will tend in a general way to maximize one of the worst of human instincts, namely the instinct of rapaciousness, of destructiveness, of accumulating power to oneself and destroying others.” This is versus Foucault’s position, where he states: “I would say that our society has been afflicted by a disease, a very curious, a very paradoxical disease, for which we haven’t yet found a name; and this mental disease has a very curious symptom, which is that the symptom itself brought the mental disease into being… You can’t prevent me from believing that these notions of human nature, of justice, of the realization of the essence of human beings, are all notions and concepts which have been formed within our civilization, within our type of knowledge and our form of philosophy, and that as a result form part of our class system; and one can’t, however regrettable it may be, put forward these notions to describe or justify a fight which should-and shall in principle–overthrow the very fundaments of our society. This is an extrapolation for which I can’t find the historical justification,” (See:….

Chomsky might be contradicting himself when he said in his book On Language that, “Language serves essentially for the expression of thought… Perhaps the instrumentalist conception of language is related to the general belief that human action and its creations, along with the intellectual structure of human beings, are designed for the satisfaction of certain physical needs (food, well-being, security, etc.). Why try to reduce intellectual and artistic achievements to elementary needs?” (From:
Language and Responsibility, pp. 88-89.)

He was critical of George Lakoff too when he said that Lakoff was “Working on ‘cognitive grammar,’ which integrates language with nonlinguistic systems.” Chomsky said he didn’t “See any theory in prospect there,” Ibid, p. 150. Chomsky said that Lakoff proposed “arbitrary” relations between meaning and form.

If we take the idea of “Anti-anti Semitism,” for example, what Zizek is talking about is fundamentally important. His assertion is that people are changing their once sacred and protective views of Israelis because it would appear that like an abused child, Israelis have grown up to abuse. It is a slow awareness but one that legitimizes Zizek because his theory both predicts the future and explains the present and so the idea is not arbitrary, but rather it is profound.

I think Lakoff and Zizek have a lot in common, where Lakoff’s book Philosophy in the Flesh talked about how science was no greater than what man could conceive through the context of his mind as in metaphors, which is a bit like Chomsky’s idea of organs having a memory and that language was already built in.

Whenever someone attacks another person because of the type of language that person uses, as in Chomsky’s statement: “I’m not interested in posturing–using fancy terms like polysyllables and pretending you have a theory when you have no theory whatsoever,” it fails to address the meaning of those terms separately or conjoined. I found Zizek to be clear and informative, where I found Chomsky to be narrowly focused and repetitive.

I think Chomsky may be loosing his sense of humor and taking himself too seriously. How can someone “kind of like” another person? The world is full of ideas. Philosophers look over the shoulders of scientists and discuss the application of discoveries. Chomsky says that we never change, which is a bit like saying that what scientists discover is nothing new. And Lakoff would agree. Chomsky generalizes the “posturing” Paris intellectuals and I believe he commits the sins of the argument ad hominem and arbitrariness he blames Lakoff for. I believe he is projecting his own failure to change a world that has allowed him to theorize. Funny, he says, “Humans may develop their capacities without limit, but never escaping certain objective bounds set by their biological nature.” (Chomsky, Ibid., p. 124)

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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:, anyway, here is my take on the event(s):

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C.; and

D., for example.


1. Zizek provides no 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.


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