The Blind Passenger

From the Lacanian standpoint, it is not enough to say that every symbolic representation simply fails, is inadequate to the subject it represents (‘words always betray me …’); much more radically, the subject is the retroactive effect of the failure of its representation. It is because of this failure that the subject is divided – not into something and something else, but into something (its symbolic representation) and nothing, and fantasy fills the void of this nothingness. And the catch is that this symbolic representation of the subject is primordially not its own: prior to speaking, I am spoken, identified as a name by the parental discourse, and my speech is from the very outset a kind of hysterical reaction to being spoken to: ‘Am I really then, that name, what you’re saying I am?’ Every speaker – every name giver – has to be named, has to be included into its own chain of nominations, or, to refer to the joke often quoted by Lacan: ‘I have three brothers, Paul, Ernest, and myself.’ (No wonder that, in many religions, God’s name is secret, one is prohibited to pronounce it.) The speaking subject persists in this in-between: prior to nomination, there is no subject, but once it is named, it already disappears in its signifier – the subject never is, it always will have been.

—Slavoj Žižek, Disparities

In miniature the above offers us succinctly the full thrust of Žižek’s dialectical materialism: a mode of reversalism, retroactive causality, and the recentering within the Democritean principle of the Void over Substance as the central core of his philosophical framework. The notion that there is no pre-existent essence, no Platonic form out of an eternal realm that incarnates itself as Subject, or imposes its Idea on a passive material world of substantive objects, etc., but rather there is a process, a processual in-between, a movement – a continuous negation, a “blind passenger”:

The Ancient Greeks had two words for nothing, meden and ouden, which stand for two types of negation: ouden is a factual negation, something that is not but could have been; meden is, on the contrary, something that in principle cannot be. From meden we get to den not simply by negating the negation in meden, but by displacing negation, or, rather, by supplementing negation with a subtraction. That is to say, we arrive at den when we take away from meden not the whole negating prefix, but only its first two letters: meden is med’hen, the negation of hen (one): not-one. Democritus arrives at den by leaving out only me and thus creating a totally artificial word den. Den is thus not nothing without “no,” not a thing, but an othing, a something but still within the domain of nothing, like an ontological living dead, a spectral nothing-appearing-as-something. Or, as Lacan put it: “Nothing, perhaps? No— perhaps nothing, but not nothing”; to which Cassin adds: “I would love to make him say: Pas rien, mais moins que rien (Not nothing, but less than nothing)” — den is a “blind passenger” of every ontology. As such, it is “the radical real,” and Democritus is a true materialist: “No more materialist in this matter than anyone with his senses, than me or than Marx, for example. But I cannot swear that this also holds for Freud”— Lacan suspects Freud’s link to kabbala obscurantism.1

Zizek’s philosophy will stand the test of time or fall by the wayside over this notion of the Democritean “Den”: Den is thus not nothing without “no,” not a thing, but an othing, a something but still within the domain of nothing, like an ontological living dead, a spectral nothing-appearing-as-something. A Spectral Materialism of Zombies and Ghosts? It gets better,

The rise of den is thus strictly homologous to that of objet a which, according to Lacan, emerges when the two lacks (of the subject and of the Other) coincide, that is, when alienation is followed by separation: den is the “indivisible remainder” of the signifying process of double negation— something like Sygne de Coûfontaine’s tic, this minimal eppur si muove which survives her utter Versagung (renunciation). (ibid.)

Galileo Galilei muttered, “Eppur si muove” (“ And yet it moves”), after recanting before the Inquisition his theory that the Earth moves around the Sun: he was not tortured, it was enough to take him on a tour and show him the torture devices … There is no contemporary evidence that he did in fact mutter this phrase, but today the phrase is used to indicate that, although someone who possesses true knowledge is forced to renounce it, this does not stop it from being true. But what makes this phrase so interesting is that it can also be used in the exact opposite sense, to assert a “deeper” symbolic truth about something which is literally not true— like the “Eppur si muove” story itself, which may well be false as a historical fact about Galileo’s life, but is true as a designation of Galileo’s subjective position while he was forced to renounce his views. In this sense, a materialist can say that, although he knows there is no God, the idea of a God nonetheless “moves” him. It is interesting to note that, in “Terma,” an episode from the fourth season of The X-Files, “E pur si muove” replaces the usual “The truth is out there,” meaning that, even if their existence is denied by official science, alien monsters nonetheless move around out there. But it can also mean that, even if there are no aliens out there, the fiction of an alien invasion (like the one in The X-Files) can nonetheless engage us and move us: beyond the fiction of reality, there is the reality of the fiction. (Zizek, KL 280)

In Zizek’s parlance “Eppur si muove”  is the formula of dialectical materialism at its most elementary: “moving” is the striving to reach the void, namely, “things move,” there is something instead of nothing, not because reality is in excess in comparison with mere nothing, but because reality is less than nothing. This is why reality has to be supplemented by fiction: to conceal its emptiness. So that for Zizek we are all already lost in a cosmos of cartoon fantasy, building our reality systems, constructing our representations of the world our of sheer fantasy because we can do nothing else. Our art – our technics is this bid to fill the void of our emptiness (lack) and the emptiness of reality (lack) with meaning and purpose. A never-ending restlessness of a creature whose very lack of being drives it to supplement itself and the cosmos: two negations churning in negativity, sparks dancing in the Void. Or, as Zizek would have it:

Eppur si muove should thus be read in contrast to many versions of the extinction/ overcoming of the drive, from the Buddhist notion of gaining a distance towards desire up to the Heideggerian “going-through” Will which forms the core of subjectivity. [Less than Nothing] tries to demonstrate that the Freudian drive cannot be reduced to what Buddhism denounces as desire or to what Heidegger denounces as the Will: even after we reach the end of this critical overcoming of desire-will-subjectivity, something continues to move. What survives death is the Holy Spirit sustained by an obscene “partial object” that stands for the indestructible drive. One should thus (also) invert Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of how we relate to the proximity of death in the Kierkegaardian sense of the “sickness unto death,” as the series of five attitudes towards the unbearable fact of immortality. One first denies it: “What immortality? After my death, I will just dissolve into dust!” Then, one explodes into anger: “What a terrible predicament I’m in! No way out!” One continues to bargain: “OK, but it is not me who is immortal, only the undead part of me, so one can live with it …” Then one falls into depression: “What can I do with myself when I am condemned to stay here forever?” Finally, one accepts the burden of immortality. (Zizek, KL 312)

Zizek would have us believe we are condemned to immortality as dead things. Our universe being none other that the stage upon which Death’s Kingdom condemns us to an eternity of motion and negation. Transcendence in immanence being none other than this negation of negation in eternal process in a rotating rhizome replete with voidic sparks. The axiom of this process is for Zizek: “One divides into two” – or everything that exists begins by subtraction, making distinctions, withdrawing from within and without. The spirit of negativity will never be reconciled as in false Hegelianism, rather as Zizek in his revision of Hegel/Lacan tells us: “there is no reunification, no final synthesis, the struggle goes on forever” (Less Than Nothing).

But, how does “One divide into two”? Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason once argued that the that Reason is outside of the causative elements of the natural world and as such is not subject to the law of cause and effect. Hence, for Kant, Reason needs no prior explanation for any of its choices or volitions. He’d go on saying that the “reason one cannot say that before the state in which it determines the power of choice, another state precedes in which this state itself is determined. For since reason itself is not an appearance and is not subject at all to any conditions of sensibility, no temporal sequence takes place in it even as to its causality, and thus the dynamical law of nature, which determines the temporal sequence according to rules, cannot be applied to it.”  Zizek remarking on the notion of infinite regress or the axiom of “One divides into two” relates it this way:

Gilbert Ryle once played with the idea that the only way to bring to an end the interminable division of an entity into smaller and smaller parts would be to reach the point of the “last division,” the point at which One no longer divides into two positive parts, but into a part and nothingness. For Lacan, this nothingness positivizes itself as the objet a. This nothingness which supplements every positive identity is not to be confused with the differentiality constitutive of every identity: the relation between the One and the objet a is not that of differentiality [(i.e., calculable – as in calculus, etc.)], but that of diffraction at its most elementary: the One (the clearly delineated object) plus its teleiosis, its blurred virtual supplement, “more than one but less than two.”  This two-ness, the doubling of an entity into itself and its teleiosis, the nothingness of its objectal shadow, precedes any relationship to the big Other (the symbolic order) as well as to a complementary other (a polar opposite: masculine and feminine, light and darkness, left and right …). The objet a is not complementary to the One, but its supplement; a strange supplement which makes the One to which it is attached not so much more as less than One, corroding it from within; it is an excess which subtracts. (ibid.) [italics mine]

The point for Zizek is that we as-Subjects do not become self-divided till we enter into relationship with the cultural Big Other (i.e., become linguistic animals educed and educated by family, academia, and culture at large becoming inscribes within an artificial Symbolic Order, etc.). In other words the whole process of objectification, inscription, and artificial supplements which produce the human as human are part of a vast and intricate machine that act as a ‘hyperobject’ (Timothy Morton). Culture is a hyperobject that stretches across time producing an external device and engine from cultural transmission and retention (tertiary rentention: Stiegler) for memory and its linguistic / mathematical notations. For Zizek this is not so much a positive but rather a negation (or subtraction) from the original oneness of Being – an “excess which subtracts” (Less Than Nothing).

From the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum we have seen before in Graham Harman’s philosophy of objects that this notion of subtraction – or, as he prefers, “withdrawal” begins as well from within all objects:

Object-oriented philosophy has a single basic tenet: the withdrawal of objects from all perceptual and causal relations. This immediately implies a single basic problem: how do relations occur? Despite the unsoundable depth of substances, their failure to express themselves fully even in physical collisions, objects do somehow manage to interact. These relations are the very carpentry of things, the joints and glue that hold the universe together. Given that objects never seem to enter into relations, what does enter into relations? If objects cannot affect one another directly, then perhaps they do so by means of qualities. The notion of free-floating qualities, stripped away from any underlying substance, is the central theme of a group of philosophers already termed the carnal phenomenologists. Following Husserl, they recognize that the objects aimed at by intentional acts never quite become visible. Nonetheless, we do not just float through a void, pointing sadly at the ineffable: we also live in the world as in a medium, enjoying juice and sunlight, suffering and dying from epidemics. We inhabit a sensual space in which, strictly speaking, objects cannot be present. Yet there are objects everywhere, like black holes or vacuums hidden from sight. By following the tension between these two moments of human perception, it may be possible to unlock the tensions found in the universe as a whole.2

The key above is the question: Given that objects never seem to enter into relations, what does enter into relations? For Harman it is the sensual qualities, the supplemental appendages or prosthesis that do the work of interaction rather than the objects themselves. But why must this be so? What is an object that it must use a supplemental prosthesis to act in the world? Could it be that here, just here both Harman and Zizek touch base? Could the object itself after all be the moving void (this less than nothing that is yet “something”?) that Democritus and Zizek’s use of the eppur si muove (“And yet it moves…”). How does Harman describe the real object? In one of his essays Harman comments,

Real objects are sliced apart into private, mutually exclusive vacuums, with none of them ever touching their neighbors. By contrast, there is a sense in which intentional objects pass gradually into one another. Like textile pigments, intentional objects bleed into one another.3

Remember Democritus? The Void? Here Harman makes a distinction between the ‘Real’ object and the Husserelian/Heideggerean ‘Intentional’ object. For Harman this distinction between OOO (Object-Oriented philosophy) and phenomenology is key, for “although Husserl seems to begin his philosophy by putting objects out of the picture, he restores them to the throne in the form of intentional objects” (Harman, 128). For Harman this divide leads us into the paradoxes of modern dualism.

Everything already points toward intentional objects. There is no pre-given blur of sense data that then gets molded into tangible units. Everything appears in intentional acts, and intentionality is always and only object-giving. (pp. 128-129).

The point is that the sensual sphere of perception begins and ends in self-division, dualism of intentional acts of production – the production of objects. All we ever have access to0 is intentional objects and acts. Whatever the ‘real object’ is in-itself we can never know. Which leads us back to Zizek’s notion of the Real as the blocking agent, or the site of a no-site in which we produce or cover over in fantasmatic representations (i.e., intentional acts and objects). All this leads to Harman’s central thesis:

My thesis, which will sound strange at first, is that everything in the world happens only on the interior of objects. Since objects cannot touch one another directly they must be able to interact only within some sort of vicarious medium that contains each of them. The inside of an object can be viewed as a volcano, kaleidoscope, witch’s cauldron, steel mill, or alchemist’s flask in which one thing is somehow converted into another. (Towards Speculative Realism: Essays & (p. 131).

Which brings us to the notion of vicarious causation derived from the Arab, French, and English occasionalists: the key to occasionalism is not the rather dated and arbitrary theology that would have God meddle in everything that occurs. Instead, the key is that things in the world exist only side-by-side, not bleeding into one another. And this “side-by-side” is what links the empiricists (even when they are atheists) to full-blown occasionalist theology. (Harman, p. 129) As he states it “occasional cause, which we can rename vicarious cause so as to avoid needless theological overtones, is nothing less than the problem of how things can be both separate and linked. And this problem lies at the root of famous classical oppositions such as the one and the many, identity and difference, and the opposition between substance on the one hand and aggregates, accidents, relations, and qualities on the other.” (TSP, p. 131) My last note from Harman is a quote on the total object:

The intentional object and I both somehow reside in the inner molten core of a real object, the total intentional act. This gives new meaning to the old phrase “intentional in existence.” It is not just that phenomena exist as the contents of a mental sphere. Rather, mental life and its acts are both contained within a larger object in some still undetermined way. (TSP, p. 132)

Object petit a

“The objet a is not complementary to the One, but its supplement; a strange supplement which makes the One to which it is attached not so much more as less than One, corroding it from within; it is an excess which subtracts.” (LTN, KL 13589) He’ll comment on this statement telling us that this “nothingness which attaches itself to every entity as its shadowy double is the zero-level of negativity and is as such inaccessible” (ibid.) Isn’t this a description of Harman’s real object, withdrawn, inaccessible to direct access, a “volcano, kaleidoscope, witch’s cauldron, steel mill, or alchemist’s flask”, etc.? Or, “the overlapping of two lacks, the subject’s lack and the lack of/ in the substance itself”? (ibid.) Almost as if he were reading Harman or vice versa,

The world consists of only two elements: objects and their interiors. Those interiors are speckled with intentional objects, which we have also called images or simulacra. But we have also seen that objects never touch, since they recede into the monastic solitude of private vacuums. But on the interior of objects, something does happen. This is a place where one object (a human observer, for instance) is sincerely occupied with images, and where various images crowd side by side, each of them encrusted with countless accidents. (Harman: TSR, p. 160) [italics mine]

This sense that within the solitude of these private vacuums a volcanic activity is taking place, or as Zizek in his dialectical form states it: “pure repetition is sustained by the nothingness of the objet a which haunts every One, for the One repeats itself in the attempt to recapture its shadow. Although the objet a is the non-signifying glitch within a symbolic edifice, it can thus only be conceived against the background of the gap that separates a formal structure from the elements that fill in its places.” (Zizek: LTN, KL 13598)

Is this not the separation of real from its sensual qualities of Harman’s total intentional act or object? As Harman suggested the inside of this vacuum is an interaction of relations with images or simulacrum, so that even for Zizek this process is one of never-ending churning within a ‘symbolic edifice’ in which the real object can never be signified. In fact Zizek will describe the structure of this ‘real object’ (although he does not name it that, but uses the Lacanian object petit a instead):

We are dealing here with the properly dialectical paradox of an object which “is” only its formal structure, a paradox that offers a solution to the problem of structural change stronger than the permutation of terms within a fixed set of places: permutations come to an end when an element intervenes whose emergence (or disappearance) changes the structure itself. Such an element is the Lacanian objet a: an element to which— since its status is thoroughly non-substantial— the form( al matrix) itself is linked as to its umbilical cord. At the (admittedly rather abstract) level of social dynamics, such an element is what Badiou calls the “symptomal torsion” of the social edifice, its Rancièrian “part of no-part”: this element cannot just be submitted to permutation and made to occupy different places within the same formal edifice— the change in its position necessarily brings about a radical transformation of the entire edifice itself. One can only talk about the “part of no-part” against the background of the topic of suture.(LTN, KL 13657)

I don’t want to get sidelined into a discussion of the notion of suture or the “part of no-part”, but rather return to the theme of eppur si muove. As Zizek asks —“ Why does the dialectical process always go on? Why does dialectical mediation always continue its work?”— is precisely the eppur si muove of the pure drive. This structure of negativity also accounts for the quasi-“automatic” character of the dialectical process, for the common reproach concerning its “mechanical” character: belying all the assurances that dialectics is open to the true life of reality, the Hegelian dialectic is like a processing machine which indifferently swallows up and processes all possible contents, from nature to history, from politics to art, delivering them packaged in the same triadic form. (LTN, KL 11305) The compulsion to repeat that Freud would name the ‘death drive’ is the heart of negativity, which as Zizek suggests brings two forms: the great motif of the post-Hegelian assertion of positive being is the accent on material, actual, finitude, while the compulsion to repeat introduces an obscene infinity or “immortality”— not spiritual immortality, but an immortality of “spirits,” of the living dead. (LTN, KL 11323)

To put is in another context the real object for Zizek is lack itself – or the object petit a: the object-cause of desire which is nothing but the embodiment of lack, its place-holder (LTN, (KL 11365):

 The relationship between object and lack is here turned around: far from lack being reducible to the lack of an object, the object itself is a spectral positivization of a lack. And one has to extrapolate this mechanism into the very (pre-) ontological foundation of all being: the primordial gesture of creation is not that of an excessive giving, of assertion, but a negative gesture of withdrawal, of subtracting, which alone opens up the space for the creation of positive entities. This is how “there is something rather than nothing”: in order to arrive at something, one has to subtract from nothing its nothing( ness) itself, that is, one has to posit the primordial pre-ontological Abyss “as such,” as nothing, so that, in contrast to (or against the background of) nothing, something can appear. (LTN, KL 11369)

This sense that the real object is a “spectral positivation of a lack” coincides with Harman’s notion of the volcanic core:

Although everything in the volcanic core of an object is unified simply by the fact of belonging to that object, this is merely unification from above; on the inside, it is articulated into countless facets, notes, qualities, accidents, and other halos, echoes, and shadows. Since all relations are objects, and all objects are formed in turn of a swarming internal empire of relations, the basic model of the world that results is both simple and endlessly pluralistic: namely, nothing exists but the interiors of objects, since objects are nothing but their interiors.4

Or, as Zizek aptly describes it:

What precedes Nothing is less than nothing, the pre-ontological multiplicity whose names range from Democritus’s den to Lacan’s objet a. The space of this pre-ontological multiplicity is not between Nothing and Something (more than nothing but less than something); den is, on the contrary, more than Something but less than Nothing. The relationship between these three basic ontological terms— Nothing, Something, den— thus takes the form of a paradoxical circle, like Escher’s famous drawing of the interconnected waterfalls forming a circular perpetuum mobile: Something is more than Nothing, den is more than Something (the objet a is in excess with regard to the consistency of Something, the surplus-element which sticks out), and Nothing is more than den (which is “less than nothing”). (LTN: KL 11372)

Isn’t the universe of things itself an object within and object, an excess in perpetual motion, a paradox in process of creation and annihilation, a pluralistic multitude: a something more than nothing, a movement (negativity) more than something, a nothing more than movement or death-drive / repetition compulsion / negativity?

The rhetoric of the philosophers always tends toward the impossible, toward the limits and gestures of language, striving against the cultural parlance of one’s circular world of the Big Other – the Symbolic core of its strange inability to say or speak the truth. Instead we seem as above left with all these linguistic forays into the abstruse realms of philosophical traces trying to solve a puzzle that we do not have access too, that is always and forever illusive and moving, a target mobile and excessive to our desires for knowledge and understanding. We are like children playing draughts with the kingdom of time, mere pranksters of thought who in our fumbling’s continuously spew out or arguments trying to capture what will never be reduced to language or its structures. We are seekers of the impossible. The illusive object is forever foreclosed to thought, a mere refractive being whose access will always be mediated by a blind passenger.

The Blind Passenger

I leave you with Jorge-Luis Borges’s small parable, The Problem:

Let us imagine that a piece of paper with a text in Arabic on it is discovered in Toledo, and that paleographers declare the text to have been written by that same Cide Hamete Benengeli from whom Cervantes derived Don Quixote. In it, we read that the hero (who, as everyone knows, wandered the roads of Spain armed with a lance and sword, challenging anyone for any reason) discovers, after one of his many combats, that he has killed a man. At that point the fragment breaks off; the problem is to guess, or hypothesize, how don Quixote reacts.

So far as I can see, there are three possibilities. The first is a negative one: Nothing in particular happens, because in the hallucinatory world of don Quixote, death is no more uncommon than magic, and there is no reason that killing a mere man should disturb one who does battle, or thinks he does battle, with fabled beasts and sorcerers. The second is pathetic: Don Quixote never truly managed to forget that he was a creation, a projection, of Alonso Quijano, reader of fabulous tales. The sight of death, the realization that a delusion has led him to commit the sin of Cain, awakens him from his willful madness, perhaps forever. The third is perhaps the most plausible: Having killed the man, don Quixote cannot allow himself to think that the terrible act is the work of a delirium; the reality of the effect makes him assume a like reality of cause, and don Quixote never emerges from his madness.

But there is yet another hypothesis, which is alien to the Spanish mind (even to the Western mind) and which requires a more ancient, more complex, and more timeworn setting. Don Quixote—who is no longer don Quixote but a king of the cycles of Hindustan—senses, as he stands before the body of his enemy, that killing and engendering are acts of God or of magic, which everyone knows transcend the human condition. He knows that death is illusory, as are the bloody sword that lies heavy in his hand, he himself and his entire past life, and the vast gods and the universe.5

Imagine a blind woman entering into relations with another from her solitary world of darkness. Of what can she know of the other? What relations can be formed? Not having sight he will be unencumbered by the sensuous profiles of site, but will perhaps touch the other with her hands seeking in the contours and wrinkles of the other’s face something unique, something that will define the other’s outward form and also reveal something of the other’s inner being. And, yet, what is unique? When the other suddenly speaks is this nothingness become something? Does a voice suddenly reduce the other to certain well-define qualities: it is a male not a female voice; is there a difference? Is it low or high pitched, does it have a guttural or nasal pitch? Is it loud or soft? Does it speak a specific language, come out of shared culture? Is it … all these little distinctions are subtracted out of the original nothingness of a being presenting itself to the blind passenger. For her there is this continuous process of subtraction (or, abstraction?) of the qualities presented that flow into the structures of her cultural frame, which as she knows may be deceptive and fail miserably in the face of the unknown.

Many of the terms she uses were constructed by people with sight, so that she has never been sure of their truth, their reality. She lives in a solitary world, confined, withdrawn; and, yet, she is able to interact in her own way. She has invented out of her darkness an indirect way of relating to things around her. She has built up non-signifying and a-imagistic signs for relating to what other’s take for granted. She touches these real things through their appendages, their supplements, and subtracts these qualities as the only thing she can apprehend. Whatever is hidden from her may or may not exist, but it does not matter; for in her world there is only the intentional act of inventing a relation. A process at once negative and continuous.

Even her own outward form has come to her from all those others, a linguistic world conferred upon her of descriptions that could be true or false. She does not know. She will never know. She is language, inscribed by others with a framework of thought in which she disguises herself. Lacan would teach that the hysterical subject is the subject whose very existence involves radical doubt and questioning, her entire being is sustained by the uncertainty as to what she is for the Other; insofar as the subject exists only as an answer to the enigma of the Other’s desire, the hysterical subject is the subject par excellence. (Disparities, KL 4207) Lost in the maze of this darkness she assumes this Other that has been conferred on her by all those others within her circle: family, teachers, workers, etc., must be the correct version of herself as a Subject. How could she doubt this? And, yet, something down inside will not accept that this is so, that she is not this or that, but something else altogether beyond the grasp of those who can see and communicate with her. And, yet, she cannot put into words this thing she is – it is outside words. Or as Zizek relates it there is a gap in the symbolic order which is cosubstantial with this order. This is what Lacan means by ‘there is no sexual relationship’: there is no deep instinctual formula of the harmony between the sexes which should be uncovered, the Unconscious is not a deep-seated wisdom but a big mess, a bricolage of symptoms and fantasies which deal with or cover up this deadlock. (Disparities, KL 4333)

Ultimately our blind passenger, the woman is deprived of even this, this Other she is that has been conferred on her by the others. As Zizek will remark:

This is the division of the subject at its most radical: the subject is reduced to $ (the barred subject), even its innermost self-experience is taken from it. This is how one should understand Lacan’s claim that the subject is always ‘decentred’ – his point is not that my subjective experience is regulated by objective unconscious mechanisms that are decentred with regard to my self-experience and, as such, beyond my control (a point asserted by every materialist), but, rather, something much more unsettling: I am deprived of even my most intimate subjective experience, the way things ‘really seem to me’, that of the fundamental fantasy that constitutes and guarantees the core of my being, since I can never consciously experience it and assume it. One should counter Boulter’s question ‘To what extent do trauma and mourning require a subject?’ with a more radical one: to what extent does (the very emergence of) a subject require trauma and mourning? The primordial trauma, the trauma constitutive of the subject, is the very gap that bars the subject from its own ‘inner life’. (Disparities, KL 4419)

Our blind passenger barred from a knowledge of herself as seen through Others eyes, and not able to ever speak her own self into being because the words are always already tainted with all the others, she is left destitute like one of Samuel Beckett’s bodiless dramatist’s, traumatized that she is not who she is.

As Emily Dickinson so subtly put it:

I found the phrase to every thought I ever had, but one;
And that defies me, — as a hand
Did try to chalk the sun
To races nurtured in the dark; —

How would your own begin?
Can blaze be done in cochineal,
Or noon in mazarin?6

How does one transcribe the impossible? How translate into the parlance of our shared culture, things that are in excess of its linguistic tools? How expose the real object with the supplements of the sensual intentions of others? We are all locked in our cocoons like sleeping or hibernating animals in a dark winter inscape, never able to expose our precious being to the world. Or again,

The Bravest — grope a little —
And sometimes hit a
Tree Directly in the Forehead —
But as they learn to see —
Either the Darkness alters —
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight —
And Life steps almost straight.

Subtract everything from the sensual, the qualities, the profiles and what are you left with? If the darkness we are could touch the darkness of the other what would relate? Stripping the world of its sensual appendages brings us to the limits of the impossible, to the boundary zones of all relation where the blind passenger stands in her dark hollow with that something, nothing, and den.


  1. Zizek, Slavoj. Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism .Verso; 1 edition (May 22, 2012)
  2. Harman, Graham. Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things (p. 20). Open Court. Kindle Edition.
  3. Harman, Graham. Towards Speculative Realism: Essays & (pp. 127-128). NBN_Mobi_Kindle. Kindle Edition.
  4. Harman, Graham. GM: (p. 193).
  5. Jorge Luis Borges; Andrew Hurley. Collected Fictions (Kindle Locations 5176-5190). Penguin (UK). Kindle Edition.
  6. Dickinson, Emily. Delphi Complete Works of Emily Dickinson (Illustrated) (Delphi Poets Series Book 2) (Kindle Locations 1573-1575). Delphi Classics. Kindle Edition.

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