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Slavoj Žižek: His work is a blur of non-sequiturs and weighty quotations (Matthew Tsimitak CC BY-SA 2.0)

In 155 BC, the Athenians sent a delegation to Rome. Carneades, the leading academic sceptic of the day, was one of the ambassadors. He gave an oration on the importance of justice, a speech which made a huge impression on the listeners, who were swayed by Carneades’ formidable rhetoric and reasoning. The next day, Carneades argued against the concept of justice, again convincing everyone with his flawless logic. Carneades’ tongue so scared the Romans that they sent him packing.

Carneades was of course trying to make a serious point about the difficulty of knowledge, but from the very beginning of philosophy, sophistry, in the pejorative, bullshit, sense of the word, has always been lurking in the sophy.

Is Slavoj Žižek a philosopher? Well, he has a beard, which is a good start. He has achieved an exalted status in much of the academic world in the last few years, where many in the humanities seem to take his outpourings seriously. Žižek does describe himself as such on the flyleaf of his latest opus Disparities, to wit a “Hegelian philosopher”, but goes on to add he is “a Lacanian psychoanalyst and a Communist”. Žižek is also International Director at the Birkbeck Institute for Humanities. I have no problem with his appointment, but I wonder if Birkbeck would be willing to appoint a loud-and-proud fascist to a similar position, and before anyone starts arguing that Communism is morally superior to fascism, they should have a look at 20th-century history.

When I read this stuff about Lacan and Communism, I can’t help feeling Žižek is fessing up to his true nature. If I had any doubts they were dispelled by the introduction, where Žižek refers to Louis Althusser, the wife-strangling French Marxist, and his notion that philosophy is the class struggle in the field of theory. You can’t write that unless you’re either having a laugh or you’re as thick as a plank, and I don’t think Žižek is thick.

The only good thing about the late Communist bloc of Eastern Europe, I’d maintain, was the education system. It was a no-nonsense system where you knew the answers or you failed the exam. And there were lots of exams. No coursework, no self-expression, no mania for making things fun or easy. No worrying about hurting students’ feelings. There was none of the sick-note culture that now pervades universities in Britain where every other student is dyslexic, depressed, or having gender reassignment and gets dispensation as a result. Žižek is a product of that system and the small country (Slovenia) he comes from.

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February 2nd, 2017
8:02 PM
What is the point of utterly vacuous "reviews" like this? Tibor Fischer obviously has a massively high regard for himself if he assumes that all the people of the Earth are so desperate to hear his opinion that that is all that he offers and absolutely nothing else. >>>"Then Žižek points out that the “first” philosopher, Thales of Miletus, believed everything was made out of water, you know, where krakens live. Relevance to first analogy? Zero." Reviewer does not understand the book that he is reviewing, would seem to have zero understanding of Zizek's work and seems incapable of basic reading comprehension. And is far more interested in putting on display his own opinions. If Tibor Fisher is to continue with the business of "reviewing" books, he would best served banishing the personal pronoun "I" from his writings. >>>"The only good thing about the late Communist bloc of Eastern Europe, I’d maintain, was the education system." Pretentious tea-party chatter.

Terence Blake
October 29th, 2016
5:10 PM

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