Slavoj Zizek: The Place of Blindness

Our brain is almost entirely blind to itself, and it is this interval between ‘almost’ and ‘entirely’ wherein our experience of consciousness resides.

– R. Scott Bakker, The Last Magic Show

…philosophy as such is defined by its blindness to this place: it cannot take it into consideration without dissolving itself; without losing its consistency.

– Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology

Zizek like the Laughing Buddha, Budai, enlightens us through laughter and paradox, jokes and juxtapositions of high and low culture. And, at times, he surprises even himself, as in his first book The Sublime Object of Ideology where he uncovers the very form of philosophical blindness:

Philosophical reflection is thus subjected to an uncanny experience similar to the one summarized by the old oriental formula ‘thou art that’ [‘Tat Tvam Asi’]: there, in the external effectivity of the exchange process, is your proper place; there is the theatre in which your truth was performed before you took cognizance of it (11).1

Instead of a Freudian ‘scene of instruction’ this site or place is more of a confusion, a misrecognition scene in which individuals caught up in their own private solipsism exchange relations blind to the actual staging of thought itself (11). Thought and its reasons are blind to each other in the movement of the act. This misrecognition brings about a fissure in consciousness into ‘practical’ and ‘theoretical’ domains in which the ongoing active exchange between agents is carried on in complete non-knowledge, ‘practical solipsism’. And if these agents were to know too much, to awaken out of their solipsistic awareness, to ‘pierce the true functioning of social reality, this reality would dissolve itself (12).

This is probably the fundamental dimension of ‘ideology’: ideology is not simply a ‘false consciousness’, an illusory representation of reality, it is rather this reality itself which is already to be conceived as ‘ideological’ – ‘ideological’ is a social reality whose very existence implies the non-knowledge of its participants as to its essence – that is, the social effectivity, the very reproduction of which implies that the individuals ‘do not know what they are doing’ (15-16).

It is the ideological reality itself as ‘false consciousness’ that supports the sociality of this agent (being). We enter these ideological bubbles or spheres as children and are immersed in the effectivity of sociality long before we understand the dilemma of our blindness into its impact and strange control over our lives. The symptoms of this ideological world’s logic escapes us until the moment that knowledge after the fact awakens in us that ‘mise en scene’ of self-knowledge. In the moment of this antagonistic duel between knowledge and non-knowledge the kernel of self-reflecting negativity that is the transcendental field forms in the place of blindness.

1. Slavoj Zizek. The Sublime Object of Ideology. (Verson, 2008)

6 thoughts on “Slavoj Zizek: The Place of Blindness

    • Yea, between J.G. Ballard and Don Delillo the supposed post-modern world clamored for its own inescapable truth. A truth somewhere between Disneyland and NASA, the African veldt and London. In the silences between these two innovators came the roaring of our age, the whimpering cries of T.S. Eliot’s Hollow Men and Brecht’s Revolutionaries. In their wake we follow this unity of opposites into the discord and antagonisms of the 21st Century like the victims on the stage of some future apocalypse that never happened. Always late to the game we are wind surfers of thought rather than the creators of great Ocean Liners. Lost among the fragments of their pages are the promises we never kept, the broken commitments to ourselves and each other, the endless nights of bitter recriminations that we did not go far enough, did not actually enter the habitats of our unfounded dreams.

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      • My god that was beautiful!

        Last night I attended a talk given by Pierre Cassou-Nogues. Its orbit circled the outline of a vanished planet: a certain mind reading machine that was a hoax. One would go along to the art gallery and sit happily in a little clear plastic box. You’d wear a hat with sensors and a wire running from it up to a screen. You’d read a book and the machine would convert your thoughts into a kind of low quality youtube clip, live on screen. You could of course play it back. This hoax is a species of parafiction Cassou-Nogues thinks reveals to us our happiness to have the machine tell us what we think. Whether or not it is true, we are ready for it to be true.

        Here the ‘false consciousness’ would be the idea that the machine is lying. It doesn’t matter that the machine is lying. Our blindness to what we really thought, to that specific segment of the real that we thought was own (our innerspace, as Ballard would say) was always a falsity that let us get on with things. That we’re ready for the machine to tell us means that we are ready to be not-blind, but not that we’re ready to take responsibility for sight. The machine will supply my reasons; the Other will see for me. So is surrendered the space of consciousness, the distance between “the almost” and “the entirely”. Surrendered rather than taken.

        Endocolonisation isn’t anything new.

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