And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Monday, May 30, 2022

On Subjectivity and Right Hemispheric "Other-Belief" v. Left Hemispheric "Self-Knowledge"

 Slavoj Žižek, "The subject he supposedly believed in"

The subject he is supposed to believe in and the subject he is supposed to know are not symmetrical, because belief and knowledge are not symmetrical: the most radical status of the great Other as a symbolic institution is faith (trust), not knowledge; for faith is symbolic, knowledge is real (the great Other gives a fundamental 'trust' and is based on it). There is always a minimum of 'reflection' in faith, 'believing in what someone else believes' ('I still believe in Communism' means 'I still believe there are people who believe in Communism'), while knowledge has nothing to do with someone else's knowledge. So I can believe through someone else, but I don't know through someone else. That is: when someone else believes in my place because of my inherent reflection of faith, I believe through him; there is no such thinking in knowledge – assuming that someone else knows, I do not know through it.

According to a famous anthropological anecdote, 'primitives' who are said to have 'superstitions' when they are asked about this issue directly, 'Here some people believe...' they immediately postponed the beliefs and passed them on to someone else. We do the same to our children: if we are staging Santa Claus rituals, it is because our children believe (assume so) so that they do not lose hope.

Isn't the same excuse used in the myth that a cynical or dishonest politician suddenly becomes an honest man? – 'I cannot discourage those who believe in him [or me] [the legendary 'ordinary citizen']'. Moreover, doesn't this need to find others who 'truly believe' lead us to label Others (religious or racist) as 'fundamentalists'?

The way faith works is uncanny, it always works under the guise of 'believing from afar': there must be an ultimate guarantor for the faith to work, but this guarantor is always postponed, shifted, never confronted in person. So how is faith possible? How will the vicious cycle of postponed beliefs be broken?

The point is that there is no need for a subject who directly believes that faith will work: you just have to assume it, that is, you have to believe in its existence – either in the guise of a legendary founding figure who is not part of the reality we live in, or in the impersonal guise of 'people believe, believe'.

An important mistake to be avoided in this context is the 'humanist' notion that claims that the belief embodied in things, the belief in things that is postponed, is in fact a reification of direct human belief; accordingly, our task is to reconstitute the creation of 'reification' in a phenomenological sense, demonstrating how the original human belief is transferred to objects... The paradox that must be protected from such attempts at phenomenological creation is that the postponement is initiating and constitutive : there is no direct existing living subjectivity that we can call 'the first owner of it' in order to ascribe the belief embodied in 'social things'.
From the Epidemic of Dreams

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner

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