viernes, 19 de septiembre de 2008

Against Historicist Hermeneutics

Our epoch’s ethical orientation can be best summarized as that of an avowal of a hermeneutic understanding of human nature, and of a restriction of the notion of politics to the sphere of cultural conflicts. This hermeneutic understanding begins by opposing itself to the modern univocal conception of human reason and nature by which we could safely judge different propositions, cultures, historical periods and forms of life. Thus, in a somewhat post-modern fashion, the hermeneutic orientation begins by pairing the Nietzschean suspicion against universal truths with the hermeneutic historicism proper to Heidegger or Gadamer, in order to delimit the methodological principles prior to ethics or politics. Since reason and truth are context-sensitive, it follows that an ethical questioning seeking to incorporate multiple cultures must avoid reductionisms to any one particular conception of reason, and must rather be receptive to understanding the plurality of discourses and forms of life in their dignified difference. What we have all in common is that we are all in fact different, unique individuals, in a world sharing various cultures, customs and idioms. In this sense the hermeneutic vision accepts reason as the democratic tribunal for the pacified exchange between distinct cultures in the common project of mutual understanding and of an effective politics. We may thus speak, following Badiou, of an equation between philosophy qua the discourse of the being of truth and democracy. The democratic principle tells us that all individuals and cultures are free to participate in the dialog of ethics or politics, and present their own views and opinions. Furthermore, it asserts that no subject is in principle excluded from the opportunity to participate in the dialog of reason, and so (in Badiou's language) the axiom of 'equality of minds' proposes a tribunal of practical reason which welcomes the alterity of Otherness in its fullness, and escapes the dark destiny of metaphysics once and for all.

A forgetfulness of this democratic principle, or so the hermeneutic story goes, follows to the barbarities of violence, discrimination, struggle, and war. Evil is seen as a continuation of the metaphysical violence of an ethnocentric conception of reason and is thus equated to non-democracy. If we fail to obtain a hermeneutic understanding of truth, we fold back into the metaphysical violence of onto-theology, the elevation of an entity or being into the rank of God, or supreme guarantor of knowledge, and thus to the horrors proper to totalitarian terror and the non-democratic excesses of power. Against a representationalist conception of truth which sees the intellect as mirroring the world and the task of reason as proving a singular unifying discourse about the real, a hermeneutic conception sees truth as the structural worldview proper to a peculiar culture and historical time. Against the metaphysical understanding of ethics which sees practical reason as the transparent tribunal to the universality of the Law, the hermeneutic version anthropologizes ethics in favor of a contextualism of tolerance, admitting the plurality of cultures and ways of life in their own dignity. In sum, whereas the old metaphysics identifies reason with similarity and the supression of alterity by seeking foundations, the hermeneutic worldview sees alterity as foundational for identity. It rests on accepting alterity by first accepting the radical finitude of our being and the openness of truth for human thought. By historicizing truth, the task of reason becomes fusion (in Gadamer’s sense) rather than reduction, multitude rather than foundation, the openness of contingency as opposed to the closed spectrum of universality or necessity.

The multiplicity of cultures and forms of life is accepted and protected under the banner of democratic freedom. To the axiom of equality of minds we may thus supplement that the anthropologization of ethics in our times proposes an axiom of equality of cultures. Not only are individuals free and ends in themselves qua individuals, like Kant proposed, but all cultures and traditions share this integrity as well. The fascination of our contemporary notion of human rights, for example, seeks both to secure the liberties of the individual as well as those of the forms of life he/she integrates; the individual is to be protected as the one who harbours the historical truth of his time and of his freedom to participate in a distinctive way in a world. We can thus summarize this principle along Badiou in saying that for today's political ideology there are only bodies and languages, only individuals and cultures.

Since the hermeneutic orientation of thought assigns no ontotheological privilege to any one conception of reason or truth, there are no available procedures to disavow an ethical position in principle. Ethical truth can only attain the rank of universality, paradoxically, by accepting the possibility that the objectivity it claims for itself is not transitive to other situations. So in this view the ultimate horizon for ethical truth is in fact the democratic openness to dialog and discourse, always relative to culture and history. More than a plain relativism in which all judgments or opinions are equivalent, the axioms of equality of minds and cultures value the recognition of plurality and thus equate evil to the denouncement of Otherness, or what amounts to the same here, to non-democracy.

I would claim that this democratic fetishism found in the hermeneutic understanding of ethics goes even further in its dialectics. Not only are individuals and cultures equal in principle, but it is precisely because the ultimate horizon for the understanding of intersubjectivity is found in the historicizing of truth that an individual ought to be free to live in the way he chooses. The universality of freedom of choice supervenes on the ethical neutrality of the choices one is free to choose from. The individual must be protected because he harbors in his life the truth of his own freedom. Since the hermeneutic view opens its tribunal to all cultures and forms of life, to all debates and questions, then freedom of choice and expression can be safeguarded under the banner of democratic legitimacy and protected from the tyranny of totalitarian terror.

The consequences of this view are far reaching and obviously complicated for these purposes. I will try to summarize what I take to be four of the most important results of the hermeneutic vision of the world, drawing from the works of Badiou, Zizek and Agamben:

1) Procedures of constructive politics are expected to not exceed their situational dimension. This is to say that a local project in politics should not be construed in such a way that by its criteria and formulation, its effects are transposed to other situations in which such criteria might not be assumed, validated or wanted. The universality of human rights will safeguard the independence of nations and cultures, and thus condemn traditional revolutionary politics as acts of barbarism and all acts of violence as in principle reprehensible. The localization of truth within a democratic framework neutralizes all revolutionary attempts to oppose this democratization as acts of irrational violence against the sovereignty of freedom, democracy and human rights. As Badiou puts it "The return of the old doctrine of the natural rights of man is obviously linked to the collapse of revolutionary Marxism."

2) Since within the historicist dimension reason cannot exceed the admission of the multitude of ways of life, political procedures are assigned to culture as the cornerstone for ethico-political debate. Politics and ethics are seen as tantamount to questions about cultural/ethico/religious/political freedoms, rights of cultural minorities, ethnic groups, and so on. The inability to exceed local situations entails politics must remain intra-situational, and thus confined to expert-knowledge and specialization. There are no longer truly political questions to overlap with ethics, since there is no longer the aspiration for a new common body of politics beyond the fusion of distinct horizons in cultural dialog. Cultural difference takes the place of the political by becoming the body of a human ethics, an ethics of cultural democracy.

Democracy in this way substantializes cultures as the objective bodies which participate in the political process of politics. Thus the preservation of multiculturalism entails that whoever opposes the democratic vision of the rights of man (Muslims, fundamentalists, communists, terrorists) is excluded, criminal or tyranical. To assert as a principle the fundamental opposition to another form of life, to be intolerant to the Other is to err, to sin, to violate. Tolerance only for those who tolerate democracy. (This entire procedure of human rights can be read in the succession of wars in the name of democracy which took place during the 20th Century as part of the crusade for ‘freedom’).

3) Individuality or particularity is more important for politics than equality or universality. The imperative to respect and conserve alterity qua the plurality of ways of life and cultures, as well as the rights of the individual to freely act, compete and develop him or herself within the democratic framework exceeds the consideration of whether there is in fact equality in the situation admitted by assigning politics to culture. The priority of freedom over equality is equivalent to the priority of enjoyment over justice. The emerging result can be viewed, as Badiou has pointed out, as that of a monstrous inequality within our Western countries and especially outside them, suggesting that “…maybe this absence of justice is the price we have to pay for freedom.”

4) As Slavoj Zizek has remarked, the old Aristotelian logic of the right measure is replaced by the injunction to enjoy as part of the constitution of the free subject. We obtain the equation identity equals freedom and freedom equals the freedom to enjoy. The freedom to affirm one’s roles and identity presupposes the availability of cultural elements and identities as something one can legitimately purchase or claim for one’s own. The objectification of culture into the object of politics is adjacent to the objectification of cultural symbols as the currency of the economy in which subjects effectively participate and in which they are constituted as such. Within capitalist market dynamics this takes the form of the radical purchase of traits, products and symbols, i.e. from fashion statements, to medical implants, to the new-age obscurantist search for trans-cultural experiences, ‘food-court’ ideology, and so on. By the same token, the exclusion of an individual from the socio-political process is tantamount to the limited access to the resources of this identification; the excluded are in fact those who are not free to enjoy and to define themselves through the assimilation of a unique identity. It thus becomes a case, to run once more along Badiou’s terminology, of a nihilistic democratic materialism, i.e. the radical purchase and disposal of all bodies. The nihilistic disavowal of meaning in the world is supplemented by the injunction of the emancipation of the individual, the call of self-creation and freedom through the elevation of the living body and the aspiration to enjoyment. It is thus both a biopolitcs of life adjacent to the hedonist creed; the excess of enjoyment is but the obverse supplement of the denial of meaning, or hedonism is the obverse of nihilism.

Once our metaphysical shackles have been loosened, the individual can in fact participate in respectful democratic dialog: he no longer seeks reductions but admitts plurality, he asserts his own position but is equally tolerant to the Other. Within the dialectics of democratic materialism, the ethical neutrality of the roles one assumes allows the constant production of roles and symbols to remain in circulation to guarantee the possibility of genuine subjects. On the other hand, the hermeneutic promise for an impartial world in which horizons are fused and in which tolerance abolishes violence easily becomes suspect once the long succession of wars under the banner of democratic freedom and human rights is put to the test. The dialectic of multicultural understanding proposes a dialog between different cultures in which the integral limits of each agent are effectively ‘fused’ or ‘expanded’ through some diplomatic procedure. To review, the obscenity of this lax logic of understanding can be roughly sketched argumentatively as follows:

a) Truth and reason is context-dependent, and not univocal or subsumable under a singular ideal of reason (anti-metaphysical foundation).

b) An ethical program that seeks to fairly consider the views and opinions of other cultures and individuals cannot begin by imposing/transposing the conceptual structures of one culture to the other, since this amounts to ignoring the uniqueness and distinctiveness of each culture.
c) Ethics thus amounts to a process of dialog in which each identity affirms itself in its radical uniqueness, the prospect of a reduction betrays context-dependency; one can at best hope for a genealogical anthropology in which the views and language of the Other are respected in their uniqueness.

And yet the promise of a democratic sphere of dialog is substantiated amidst the violence of the Western world through the very unclear notion of a ‘fusion of horizons’. We claim respect for the Other does not amount to the suppression of difference, but the admission of his radical alterity. And yet this alterity remains entrapped in regurgitating the old anti-Metaphysical slogan that reverberated in Nietzsche’s thought, announcing the death of God; or through Heidegger as the death of metaphysics. The slogans of tolerance and multicultural dialog effectively dismiss how it is to one standard that the freedom to enjoy grants respect and bows to: the democratic one. To Zizek’s challenge “Would we say Hitler was perceived as an enemy of humanity because we didn’t hear his own side of the story?” the democratic trend of thought reiterates “No! precisely because Hitler represented a totalitarian power we can say that only through dialog and democracy we can reach ethical truth for which the name is justice.” But if it is this sort of justice we take as the destiny of thought and life then we can go along with Badiou to the end and plainly state: no democracy for the enemies of democracy, no freedom for those who oppose freedom. The freedom of culture or choice thus becomes reducible to the following paradoxical qualification to the commandment of freedom: “you are free to do what you want, on the condition that you do the right thing”. The justice is tantamount to opposing the non-democratic world is perhaps too visceral a claim to consider, reason for which the slogans of tolerance and dialog can effectively coat the violence of our times behind the ideologicalfacade of humanitarian nobility.

With this prospect in mind, we can clearly demarcate the democratic project as propagating a culture without believers, a decaffeinated culture. Muslims yes, without fundamentalism, without violence. Freedom of choice, yes, as long as the choice agrees with the democratic principle and its rule. One is free to choose the cultural symbols and roles one desires freely as long as these roles are already deprived of that which effectively separates them from democracy. The objectification of culture is in this way dissolved within the prospect of a globalized world in which horizons are fused; only that those who must pay for our freedom are those whose freedom is unknowingly stepped over.

What is then the role that philosophy plays in this infinitely open dimension for dialog? If hermeneutics wants to go beyond the trivial relativist claim that different situations exist, it must rely in the proposal of an operator of consensus; the 'fusion of horizons' cannot be concentrated in the patronizing gesture of acknowledging alterity. The formal requirement that philosophy imposes is that of a criterion for objective consequences, criteria for the rational discussion to emerge. The problem then does not come in the inoffensive plea to recognize the Other, but in determining the conditions under which reason must be capable of disagreeing. Put somewhat differently, one can say the task is proposing constructive criteria which restrict what can be legitimately accepted as a respectable position. Instead of avowing an all-embracing prospect of tolerance unconsciously submitted to the rule of democratic freedom we must be ready to contest the democratic fetish. Along with Zizek, we can agree in that tolerance functions de facto as its opposite; the rule of tolerance is not the abolishing of rules, but precisely making the protection of individual liberties from harassment the priority for the State. And it is indeed only within the liberal equation of happiness to the purchase of identities within a cultural idiom that we can fundamentally oppose the non-democratic vision of the world. This obsession for a 'respect for the Other' can perhaps then be exemplified in the Anglo-Saxon qualification preceding any affirmative proposal: 'in my opinion...'.

We can safely dispense of whatever completes such claims inside a purely relativistic framework; but hermeneutics seeks more than that. The 'fusion of horizons' seeks the democratic agreement and expansion of views through a peaceful exchange in dialog. And yet beyond the fascination of alterity, the democratic world restricts the free exercise of the views which it neutrally considers. No democracy for the enemies of democracy. No freedom for the enemies of freedom. The barbarity of this circular logic should appear less compelling now than it did to vulgar skepticism. The problem seems thus that once we go beyond the 'deconstruction' of the ethnocentric modern conception of reason, and the genealogical reconstruction of Otherness through the hermeneutic method, we still lack the means to construct a new logical framework for the construction of a prescriptive new politics. Until then, the 'fusion of horizons' might appear as the helpless obscurantist chant of philosophers, extending the historicist romanticism which readily unveils but does not confront. The obsession with enjoyment and the terror of violence can thus safely continue its course without any threat from the theoreticians. At least not for now.

martes, 12 de agosto de 2008

Against the Ageless Stones

Let us explode, in this quiet now
And close the gap that arches our soil
With the toil of memory and sacred truth,
Let us build the unfathomed link
To bind the old world, and show
How indifferent was the hiss
That sang those few who walked the shore

Let's lead astray the prowling voice,
And sink our nails into strident noise
May the tilting nerve resist the chord
And gouge our hearts for the good of all

Let our frail arms be a world
And hunt down the ascending moons
That light clear stars from veils in void
And may we never lay in the cozy mourn,
Whose slumbering rule now blinks through blight
And pats in the back the ruse to avoid
Blight’s aching glow

To shovel the pale earth’s loam,
And sow the promise of new names
To call those out…
Nothing more,
Not an inch, not a sound

Hush now...
Let us break
The insolent noise

Hush now, listen…

To the gist of those left lost

viernes, 25 de julio de 2008

miércoles, 16 de abril de 2008

Foucault vs. Chomsky or the Impasse of Ontological Indeterminism

The debate between Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky from 1971 serves as a wonderful example which concentrates some of the crucial philosophical knots proper to post-structuralism and its critics. Foucault, well in accord to the post-modern, Heideggerean tendencies of historicism and 'hermeneutics of suspicion', follows to the gap of Gelassenheit, the point of an impasse at the moment of prescription. He remains at the neutral point of anti-essentialist recognition: all facts are culture-bred and thus intra-situational, and thus any positive programme based on borrowed concepts is but an indulgence on ideological supports for a present system of power.

The same struggle was already put before Heidegger in the famous section on authenticity in Sein und Zeit, and its prescriptive impasse: the clash between Dasein's solitude and its ontological being as Mitdasein (being-with), of authentic resoluteness existence against the inauthentic idle talk of Das Man, and ultimately the short-circuit for decision making in facing the gap between being and beings. Familiar story, told in an unfairly synthesized version, but you get the point. Foucault's suspicion is, in effect, the distribution of the ontological gap across the entirety of the state of the historical situation. The key is to 'unmask the reigning mechanisms of power' which articulate the structure of our contemporary class society.

Here we see the standard view which produces the standard criticisms against post-structuralism: the ontological neutrality entailed by the hermeneutic approach leads to an impasse at the level of action; bridging the gap between the subject and an ontology results in the twofold constriction: the identity of the subjects and objects becomes the partially determined concept of a particular structure of power, and this indeterminacy serves to guarantee immobility at the point of agency. The results of both the standard procedures of a hermeneutics of suspicion is decidedly post-Cartesian in that the category of the subject becomes part of the situation, rather than the separate point to which we can withdraw to gain an apodictic foundation for knowledge (the theme which runs from Descartes to Husserl, even Sartre). The question of an ontology takes the place of the question of an epistemology: there is no minimum definition of the subject as a substantial ground for thought; ontology itself precludes the substantializing of the subject.

In this way, the notion of a subject qua agent is put in unstable grounds. The introduction to Badiou's 'Infinite Thought' by Feltham and Justin Clemens provides a nice synthesis of the dilemma between poststructuralists and its critics, citing the impasse of historical determinacy against the possibility of independent agency in Foucault:

"For example in his middle period, Foucault argued that networks of disciplinary power not only reach into the most intimate spaces of the subject, but actually produce what we call subjects. However, Foucault also said that power produces resistance. His problem then became accounting for the source of such resistance. If the subject - right down to its most intimate desires, actions and thoughts - is constituted by power, then how can it be the source of independent resistance? For such a point of agency to exist, Foucault needs some space which has not been completely constituted by power, or a complex doctrine on the relationship between resistance and independence. However, he has neither."

Following the necessity to constrict the conception of the subject, post-structuralism (most notably post-Lacanian) reduces the subject to being the suture of its situation; it is precisely a-substantial; it lacks a proper place of inscription, decentered, or to use Derrida's catchy phrase, it remains 'outside the text'. This is also grounds for the Lacanian gap between the Real and language. But Foucault does not yet consider the identification of subject with the gap; if anything he remains within the negative procedure of denying foundation. This way, The 'anthropological' point of departure thus consists, paradoxically, in denying an identifiable set of traits of the anthropos to be distributed within the field of knowledge, as foundational for univocal interpretation; the subject belongs to the situation and cannot be displaced outside of it without reproducing the structures which constitute the situation as such. Thus, power becomes reiterated over and again through appeal to the substantiality of the subject, which must be escaped.

In this way, Foucault begins by calling into question Chomsky's proposal of a 'human nature' and a standard for common values departing from the very general platitudes (love, justice, freedom...) since these concepts must themselves be understood as the ideological situation in which the mechanisms of power operate. But since Foucault has neither a theory of how positive ethico/political action can occur on the part of agents, nor an ontology to give which could be used for such projections, he runs against the pragmatic accusation that post structuralism "leads down a slippery slope to apoliticism". (1)

Here Foucault assumes too much about Chomsky's understanding of the concept of 'class', and for that the latter was not capable of understanding the extent to which Foucault's argument may lead us to locate to locate the knot of the problem. The crucial misunderstanding occurs when Chomsky reduces Foucault’s notion of class as that of economic classes within capitalist societies. But one cannot understand class as that assigned to any particular historical social order, and certainly not any particular economic or political notion of class. To say the transmission of power occurs just or primordially at the level of economic classes is certainly an excess. Furthermore, Foucault is well aware that classes are always in operation in the form of concrete economical and political processes and mechanisms, within concrete situations. But what must be understood is precisely that there is no singular notion of a class which underlies uniformly human life throughout historically, ontologies are determined from within and not transcendentally. Certainly the notion of class which is structured by the operation of Marxism is different from the feudal state, just as the notion of a 'deity' is not homogenous for medieval Christian ontology as that of other cultures, and so on. Of course, we should also be prepared to go beyond Foucault and acknowledge that the process of hermeneutic interpretation does not pose an exception to the indeterminacy of this process, but that it itself becomes subject to the negative process which would expose it as operating on a certain exclusion, an absent center.

The result is clear: one cannot propose an ontology on these terms, but must operate as if the hermeneutic text was exhibiting the systematic conformity of the situation to the interpretative text. Put more simply, the hermeneutic interpretation Foucault proposes can only serve to exhibit intrinsically the structures of power if it becomes at the same time part of the interpretative text being proposed itself, the analysis of the situation is not just another edifice with its distinct classes, but an entirely independent, indeterminate system for the interpretation of situations intrinsically. Of course, one must question whether Foucault's interpretative framework, guided by the operation of power and manifested as classes does not consist itself in just another text itself including the possibility for a deconstructive reading. One may simply recall the Derrida /Gadamer fiasco on the hermeneutic ideal to get a grasp on how easily the problem of interpretation turns muddy on anti-essentialist grounds. We can thus say that, for Foucault, the category of class as circumscribed to economic class would constitute a paradigmatic example of what Kant would have called a private use of reason: recurrence to a concept which is contingent and contained within the situation where power is applied directly; class is never the class of individuals, but of the universal which allows a set of individuals to be included in the situation, i.e. to be a subset.

In any case, for our purposes it is sufficient to note that Foucault wishes to produce as a concept of class itself divorced from specific vocabularies or historical presentations. That the terms belonging to the interpretative text he proposes may itself be exhibited as groundless, contradictory or resting on its own system of classes must not deviate us from the essential direction of his thought. For what is precisely at stake is precisely how the reduction of one system to a more general one, while necessarily operating within a situation and from its own terms, may nonetheless result in a possibility for change, and thus a space for individual and collective agency to emerge.

Foucault thus uses 'class' as an absolutely general concept with respect to social, political and economic standards. Indeed, the very conceptual divisions we sketch out to begin our analysis become themselves to be questioned hermeneutically as integral parts of a particular discourse. We can say that Foucault's notion of class is effectively post-Marxist, in that the state becomes understood essentially as the establishment of a relationship to classes, or to use Badiou's helpful jargon, subsets or parts. Here we can follow Badiou's clear exposition of the Marxist concept of a class to elucidate Foucault's own usage of the term:

"Marxist thought related the State directly to sub-multiples [universal, ideological, prescriptive] rather than to terms of the situation [individual, empirical, passive]. It posits that the count-as-one ensured by the State is not originally that of individuals, but that of the multiple classes of individuals. Even if one abandons the terminology of classes, the formal idea that the State- which is the state of the historico-social situation- deals with collective subsets and not with individuals remains essential. This idea must be understood: the essence of the State is that of not being obliged to recognize individuals- when it is obliged to recognize them, in concrete cases, it is always according to a principle of counting which does not concern individuals as such... This is the underlying meaning that must be conferred upon the vulgar Marxist idea that 'the State is always the State of the ruling class'. The interpretation I propose of this idea is that the State solely exercises its domination according to a law destined to form-one out of the parts of the situation..." [B&E, Meditation 9, Pg. 105]

It is clear that Foucault is operating by the same logic here. The appeal to 'human nature', 'justice', 'freedom' and so on, cannot be understood as anything but as reintroducing oneself to the parts of the situation which the state (the representation of the historico-social situation) legitimates to be counted; there is no relation to individuals in the situation apart from what the State legitimates to be counted. Which is why Chomsky’s reply that power is not necessarily manifested in the form of classes fundamentally fails; all societies have a particular system of classes, and power is nothing but the effective human exchange which sustain the structure of these classes. So we are left, it seems, with a twofold result: a gap between the subject and justification, and the gap between negation (in the sense of unmasking/challenging the structures of power) and affirmation (in the sense of determining the space for an ontology which allows for decision without relapsing into the structures of domination).

A ‘new’ ontology should thus be both conscientious of the ontological indeterminacy of the situation while at the same time challenging the structures of power presented in the situation by unmasking their operation. At the same time, Foucault offers nothing which suggests the possibility of an ontology. We thus remain, with Foucault, entrapped in the all-too familiar anthropological, anti-essentialist theses which have become themselves another economy of power, the preservation of a certain status quo through the deployment of intra-situational platitudes. These are all well-known to most of us in their many versions: universal truths are impossible, there are only different perspectives, we are all human after all, one must be anthropologically aware and not impose our concepts onto other cultures, the attempts to elevate reason in order to justify everything misses on the dynamism of change, etc. But the equally familiar point follows that when we demand a homogeneous ethico-political project for mankind by evoking concepts such as 'freedom of choice, privacy...' and deploy a particular conceptual framework for the articulation and justification of these claims, we are relapsing into universalist metaphysics; a blindness which leads to thinking humans can be judged under one standard. As Paul would have put it, from the viewpoint of universal reason "...there are no Jews or Greeks". In order for recognition to avoid identification, one cannot operate axiomatically through the concepts which are proper to the situation as such. The question is thus the question of the gap between the different positions, or as Zizek puts it apropos of Paul: "The struggle which truly engages him is not simply "more universal" than that of one ethnic group against another; it is a struggle which obeys an entirely different logic; no longer the logic of one self-identical substantial group fighting another group, but an antagonism that, in a diagonal way, cuts across all particular groups."

This perpetual oscillation between conceptual indeterminacy and the urge for positive political action cannot be resolved within the dialectic that Foucault deploys; it is merely constrained to repeat the deconstructive process of identifying the points of suture within the present state of the situation to expose them as structures of power. The 'danger' Foucault speaks off is indeed certain, but one that ultimately must be confronted. It is the danger to be found, as recognized by Lacoue-Labarthe, of repetition as such; of the inherent mimesis intrinsic to the dialectical process which follows from the assertion universality. This immediate tension, or danger, has ran its familiar course through the post-modern tendencies of discourse, ever since Heidegger demarcated Das Man and idle talk (Garede) as the (inauthentic) danger of a withdrawal of being; a deferral of the gap between the ontic and the ontological. Similarly, Derrida's notion of differance concentrates this necessary moment of deference at the point of tension between the repetition of the concept and its inherent universality:

"To put old names to work, or even just to leave them in circulation, will always, of course, involve some risk: the risk of settling down or regressing into the system that has been, or is in the process of being deconstructed. To deny this risk would be to confirm it: it would be to see the signifier- in this case the name- as a merely circumstantial, conventional occurrence of the concept of as a concession without any specific effect. It would be an affirmation of the autonomy of meaning, of the ideal purity of the abstract, theoretical history of the concept. Inversely, to claim to do away immediately with previous marks and to cross over, by decree, by a simple leap, into the outside of classical oppositions is, apart from the risk of engaging in an interminable "negative theology", to forget that these oppositions have never constituted a given system, a sort of ahistorical, thoroughly homogenous table, but rather a dissymmetric, hierarchically ordered space whose closure is constantly being traversed by the forces and worked by the exteriority, that it represses: that is, expels and, which amounts to the same, internalizes as one of its moments. This is why deconstruction involves an indispensable phase of reversal. To remain content with reversal is of course to operate within the immanence of the system to de destroyed. But to sit back, in order to go further, in order to be more radical and daring, and take an attitude of neutralizing indifference with respect to the classical oppositions would be to give free reign to the existing forces that effectively and historically dominate the field. It would be, for not having seized the means to intervene, to confirm the established equilibrium." (Dissemination)

This passage condenses the very impasse which happens between Foucault and Chomsky: the double danger. Whereas Foucault is steadfast to point out that it is necessary to elucidate how the present class system is upheld by a certain economy of power, this remains an essentially negative task, it speaks as if the elucidation of the oppositions which structure the situation could be shown as having belonged to particular framework of interpretation, external to the situation itself. In the case of Foucault, this is where an ontology of power seems to transpire: since by the hermeneutic procedure of exposing the power structures of the situation one sublates them under the mark of the general system of 'power struggle' that constitutes and allows the interpretative text to operate. On the other hand, Chomsky's position succumbs to the second danger: by neutralizing the indifference given to the classical oppositions in order to go further (i.e to show how the concepts of justice and freedom have been assumed in a particular form by the organisms of power to seek a correction on the basis of these concepts) is to relapse into the situation's terms. Here I think we have a lot to learn from Badiou and his notion of subtraction, and how for an event to happen from the situation, there must be a point of absolute (axiomatic) decision. The radicality required exceeds by far that required by opposing the empirical, circumstantial shortcomings of the state of the situation, and thus much more than Chomsky's somewhat depressing conception of 'human nature' as the foundation for a new ethics or politics.

Which is why Chomsky appears (finally) as the obvious conservative: his recognition of the brooding conceptual indeterminateness is sufficient, and ultimately folds back to some very general platitudes which appear inoffensive and trivially true, but turn out to be 'Eurocentric' or worse. Of course, it seems quite cynical to deny that human beings want goodness, love, and so on; the intuitiveness of these seems immediate. But the meaning of these concepts, and how they operate inside a concrete order where power is enforced, is the impasse of such a dialectic course. What is needed is a radical reworking of our conceptual possibilities to arrive at novel possibilities for thought which exceed that allowed by the state of the situation. And this is something neither Chomsky nor Foucault have been ever prepared to give; even if the both have militantly reacted against the present organisms of-power.

Chomsky is thus finally trapped in a rather innocent ethical ontology using very broad concepts of- 'human nature', 'kindness', 'love', and reiterating the necessity of decision in light of the gap. The state of the situation is thus condensed in the following, apparently silly dilemma: if universality fails at the realm of justification (since justification itself fails to be universal), how do we resist a posture of Gelassenheit and propose an effective reworking of our social world. Of course, for Chomsky, this occurs within the organisms of society by denouncing acts of injustice and proposing improvement at the level of economical, political states by constantly referring to the abovementioned platitudes as the standards which must be preserved.

Foucault here is right in pointing out that Chomsky's optimism in founding society using as justification certain concepts runs the danger of preserving the status quo, or trivially modify it. But Chomsky is right in that the formal indeterminateness of concrete possibilities cannot perpetuate inertia with respect to our socio political acting. Then again, Foucault is also correct in that the conceptual work must be ready to denounce commitment to fundamental notions which support the order. Finally, the task seems to require to locate the possibility of a new conceptualization of the situation so we may produce, through a sufficient theory and the will to action, a new possibility to represent the situation or, to use Badiou's term, opening the possibility for an event, the possibility of producing a novelty by announcing that which has been thus far excluded by the organisms of power and affirming new ones through axiomatic decisions. This is where Badiou, Zizek, and the like, are cooperating towards a new possibility of understanding our present historical situation.

martes, 15 de abril de 2008

May 1968 - Atelier Populare Posters

("The posters produced by the ATELIER POPULAIRE are weapons in the service of the struggle and are an inseparable part of it. Their rightful place is in the centers of conflict, that is to say, in the streets and on the walls of the factories. To use them for decorative purposes, to display them in bourgeois places of culture or to consider them as objects of aesthetic interest is to impair both their function and their effect. This is why the ATELIER POPULAIRE has always refused to put them on sale. Even to keep them as historical evidence of a certain stage in the struggle is a betrayal, for the struggle itself is of such primary importance that the position of an "outside" observer is a fiction which inevitably plays into the hands of the ruling class. That is why these works should not be taken as the final outcome of an experience, but as an inducement for finding, through contact with the masses, new levels of action, both on the cultural and the political plane.")

Some wonderful material from the Atelier Populaire through the May 1968 events in France. I will comment on some of the posters later.

martes, 26 de febrero de 2008

On Badiou's Being and Event - The Void Set

I just finished meditation 6, and my worst fears each time appear closer to becoming true. Following his formulation of the axiom of union, which states that:

"for every set, there exists the set of the elements of the elements of that set. That is, if α is presented, a certain β is also presented to which all the δ’s belong which also belong to some γ which belong to α. In other words: if γ∈α and δ∈γ, there exists a β such that δ∈β. The Multiple β gathers together the first dissemination of α, that obtained by decomposing into multiples of multiples which belong to it, thus un-counting α:

(Vα)(Eβ)[(δcβ) ↔ (Eγ)[(γcα) & (δcγ)]]"

This must follow to guarantee the consistency of the ZF system's condition that the relation of belonging to a set does not take place between elements qua individuals and sets; it takes place as the relation between sets and sets. What this implies is that for any set its members as such may be shown to be multiples themselves with other multiples as their own members. Consequentially, it is implied by the irreducibility of the multiple that for every set, another set may be formulated that includes the members of that first set as being themselves sets of another set of members, thus including the members of what the first set took as self-standing elements. We thus avoid the concentration of ontology in 'the one' multiplicity which can be counted as not being itself a set, thereby avoiding the taking of a set as being composed of elements (what Badiou thus terms 'containing the dissemination of the first set). However, this apparent constriction has its obverse offering in the axiom of the void set. At the very least, now everything turns on how Badiou will respond the second part of what he calls the ‘double-question’:

“(b) Is there a halting point- given that the process of dissemination, as we have just seen, appears to continue to infinity.”

Perhaps this knot devolves in what Alexei meant in his short note by calling attention to Badiou’s reluctance to bite the Fichtean bullet; that of asserting an infinite task. His preliminary offering of the ‘axiom of the void’ seems to be the ‘ad-hoc’ operator which can initiate the prevention of that consequence. And the way this is introduced seems too rushed, and suspiciously so:

“The solution to the problem is quite striking: maintain the position that nothing is delivered by the law of the ideas, but make this nothing be through the assumption of a proper name. In other words, verify via the exendrary choice of a proper name, the unpresentable alone as existent; on its basis the ideas will subsequently cause all forms of presentation to proceed.”

Now, perhaps I’m missing something crucial, but isn’t this merely saying ‘the axiomatic system to follow will rest by the implicit reference to a nothing, explicited only through a proper name; that is to say, with no positive account of its contents.” Of course, since presumably there is no ‘content’ to the pure multiple, in the sense that it could be accounted for explicitly by a consistent multiplicity. That is to say, the void set functions precisely in that empty term which exists only as that which both (a) doesn't belong to any set and (b) has no members and thus sets as members of its own. In what sense, should we then, take this set to exist? It exists in the sense that the name itself cannot stand without itself being quantified existentially as excluding any relation to belonging. In other words, it cannot stand as a free variable being occurring freely in a formula in which the other terms are quantified, and thus cannot be be assigned a property, i.e. it cannot function as an operator for the count-as-one. This is why the void set is defined thus:

(Eβ)[ ¬(Eα)(α c β)]

But this is approaching operational dogmatism: the axiomatic rule must be followed on the basis of a term for which not only we cannot account for- but that even attempting to account to for it becomes explicitly prohibited by its own principle. The interesting result is that this is meant to prevent the boring pseudo-Kantian impasse that we have no ‘access to the thing itself’; or put in Badiou’s own language, a consistent multiple that can serve, in its count as one (and thus affirmed consistency), as primary with respect to all other multiplicities.

Yet this seems like a transcendental copout, having designated this void as an empty term to which no multiple belongs (thus pure difference, indifferent to content). How is this anything but a formalized paraphrase of ‘that which transcends the phenomenal’ being, by definition, non-graspable by thought/language? One could without much trouble read this like the strict Kantian definition of finitude as transcendental horizon (as Heidegger does).
“There exists that to which no existence can be said to belong”, “the unpresentable is presented, as a subtractive term of the presentation of presentation”, or “a multiple exists which is subtracted from the primitive idea of the multiple”.

But then this multiple which does not conform to the idea of the multiple has the operational content of deferring its belonging to multitudes; to sets as such. This is too much- since it guarantees that as soon as we try to even utter something about the void set we already violate its own law. This is a fantastic way to use the ‘proper name’ as a philosophical deity, in the strict sense of ontotheological. Of course, the system might thereby show its consistency pretty faultlessly afterwards: that assumption in place, the rest becomes almost uninterestingly valid.

The void as that which doesn’t belong, which subsists without the quality of belonging only proper to the multiple makes this a term which hushes any objector in situ. Not only we cannot define the void, but that we can all of a sudden use it as the backbone for our entire axiomatic system without ever calling into question its consistency (for, of course, it has none).

In short, I think this (again) is a blend of the two fantasies of philosophy: the scientific rigor of inductive principles and the space for an ‘unaccountable’ term which would put an end to all pretensions of essentialism (differance, ontological difference, the inconsistent multiple). I’m not sure what to make of this, but I will nonetheless see what possibilities this offers structurally. It might not be the most interesting approach I’ve read (it’s not hard to see why Dreyfus would want to tear this guy apart) but he’s make a good job of making himself noticeable by pissing off everyone off. The analytics will abhor this intrusion of nothingness as worthy of consideration (and consider it ad hoc); continentals, especially of Heideggerean/Derridean tendency, will be appalled at pretences of the axiomatic structure that will follow. This is very nicely identifiable in the following passage:

“There are not ’several’ voids, there is only one void, rather than signifying the presentation of the one, this signifies the unicity of the unpresentable such as marked within presentation”.

This has been appropriated by Zizek through his own notion of the ‘parallax’ as designating either ‘the empty place without content’ or ‘the excess of content for which no place occurs’. Either we take this ‘void’ as an empty term for which no content can be attributed, or we take it as that which cannot be captured by the structure of (consistent) multiplicities and thus ontology; as an excess. Of course, in strict Badiouean nomenclature, saying this much would already be too much. Perhaps this is why the privilege granted to the ZF system appears suspicious from the start. Guess we'll have to see...

martes, 5 de febrero de 2008

Enjoy! - The Hawaii Chair.

Another wonderful example of Zizek's observation that today's (permissive) biopolitics of control and extreme hedonism take part as two sides of the same phenomenon. In today's striving for self-realization, individualism and happinness, instead of enforcing the Law by banning excess, excess is rather encouraged by already offering itself as a mechanism of control. This is done precisely by making the object itself the agent for censorship: the object is already in itself deprived of it's illicit component.

Thus we get a series of objects deprived of their malignant property: 'beer without alcohol', 'safe sex', 'sweets without sugar'. Self-realization is possible only by avoiding the malignant inhibitions that might interrupt our process of unmediated enjoyment. In this way, the ideal of a 'healthy life' is, for example, promoted as the objectified course through which the prohibition to commit exceses is regulated (decaf coffee, non-alcoholic alcoholic beverages, etc). You can enjoy all you want, on the condition that you do not harm yourself in the process. Biopolitical control is the obverse side of the apparent consummerist, hedonistic urgency to enjoy. In a nutshell: "you are free to do what you want, on the condition that you do the right thing".

Transgression is no longer something one must not disobey, but one it becomes something one effectively cannot disobey, something one obeys by following the very injunction to enjoy. The object thus functions as its counter-agent; it is already desubstantialized for consumption, so one can 'freely enjoy' and commit excesses in order without violating the Law. The regulation of micropractice (to use Foucault's term) is thus driven to the point where through the injunction to enjoy ideology is mobilized in modern capitalism. The latest in this list of desubstantialized products ... The Hawaii Chair!

Take the work out of your workout: Enjoy!

domingo, 20 de enero de 2008

Zizek Against Gelassenheit!

Zizek's short (but powerful) critique of Heideggerean 'destiny' follows closely Miguel de Beistegui's accusations that Being and Time is internally inconsistent. He departs from what is generally considered the point at which Being and Time lays the grounds for a notion of a communal fate, in which the clash between Dasein's being-towards-death and being-with occurs:

“But if fateful Dasein, as being-in-the-world, exists essentially in being-with-Others, its historical happening is a co-historical happening and is determinative for it as a communal fate. This is how we designate the historical happening of a community, of a people. Destiny is not something that puts itself together out of individual fates any more than being-with-one another can be conceived as the occurring together of several subjects. Our fates have already been guided in advance, in our being-with-one-another in the same world and in our resoluteness for definite possibilities. Only in communication and in struggle does the power of destiny become free. Dasein’s fateful destiny in and with its “generation” goes to make up the full, proper historical happening of Dasein.” [B&T: Pg. 276]

Zizek follows Beistegui in objecting that this passage is inconsistent with Heidegger’s own account of being-towards-death and his phenomenological analysis. If, according to Heidegger, an individual’s being-towards-death provides resoluteness precisely by confronting our loneliness in that we die alone, it seems obscure how this can be reconciled with the idea of a community resolutely accepting a ‘common fate’.

“In what sense can communities also display the attitude of resolutely assuming one’s fate in confronting death? How is the death of a community to be thought here? Simply as the entire community risking its destruction in violent confrontation with other communities?” (The Parallax View, Pg.211)

The specific question of communal faith devolves upon the basic ethical problematic entailed by the ontological difference: how do we, upon experiencing the gap between the ontic and the ontological in resoluteness, become capable of undertaking concrete decisions that are in accord with resoluteness? That is to say, the question is not just whether the gap between beings and being is adequate, but that when assumed it is not at all clear how we are to draw an explicit ground for ethico-political action. Beistegui and Zizek's thesis is, then, that this can only be done by an additional injunction supplementing the phenomenological analysis- one which would allow Heidegger to introduce his own political agenda, the very same that in the early 30's lead him to embrace the prospect of National Socialism.

Zizek elucidates this move in Heidegger through the latter's notion of the “essential sacrifice” as discussed on his lecture courses about Hoelderlin, referring to the act of communal sacrifice displayed by soldiers at the front: “...its most profound and only reason is that the proximity of death as sacrifice brought everyone to the same annulment, which became the source of an unconditional belonging to the others.” Crucial here, is the play between the concrete decision (ontic) following the abyss of finitude in resoluteness (ontological). If being-towards-death puts me before myself in solitude, how can I thus assume a communal fate (Gelassenheit) as resoluteness? How can we make the jump from the crude fact that we die alone to the moment in which we all assume a common destiny? And how must this destiny assume the form of the essential sacrifice, alike that of the soldiers in the front? Without answers to these questions, the proper grounding for Gelassenheit seems quite opaque, at least from the perspective of the early Heidegger's alleged avowal of communal fate in sacrifice.

No wonder that not only does Heidegger’s call for resoluteness appears insufficiently justified, but internally inconsistent. Beistegui attributes this to a tacit notion of “domestic” economy as guiding Heidegger’s dictum- an unjustified call for communal solidarity on the basis of identification with a “home”, a binding space of dwelling. Put to the service of political action, this principle soon leads to the suspicion that Heidegger tries to equate resoluteness with the unconditional commitment to one’s community. The alarming gesture is, of course, that resoluteness seems not only to allow for uncompromising obedience to one’s community, but that it effectively demands it. And doesn’t this logic subserviently allow for such blind commitment to the point of legitimizing violence if only it is grounded on blind allegiance, of the sort that led to the horrors of National Socialism?

This is what have traditionally been the grounds for rejecting Heidegger's notion of resoluteness as resting upon a 'decisionistic formalism'. Zizek accordingly claims that, for Heidegger, resoluteness calls for action departing from “….the communal heritage in which Dasein’s existence is caught up”. A destiny is deemed the destiny of one’s community, as a whole, in the sense of an unconditional communal solidarity. If we are to resist this seemingly plausible reading of the Heideggerean text, we must fold back to the interplay between the ontic and the ontological and the way in which resoluteness gets experienced. Since the communal Gelassenheit can only follow by passing over the gap between the individual and the communal, Dasein’s acceptance in confronting death as its most radical (im)possibility cannot offer gratuitously a set of ontic guidelines for either individualistic or communal action.

Does Heideggerean resoluteness thus rest on a mere coming to terms with the fact that one cannot escape from death? Aren't we in this way cornered into all the predictable pseudo-Nietzschean historical relativism (since we all die alone there is no transhistorical horizon of meaning to which we can all cling, meaning is just a phenomenon of existence, etc)? Can all the racket and time devoted to this notion in Being and Time devolve in such an embarrassing conclusion?

Against Zizek and Beistegui’s reading, we should be careful of not oversimplifying the Heideggerean text. First, we should recall that it is precisely in confronting death resolutely that one may accept the radical contingency of one’s belonging to the community, to being the result of a history and of one’s shared experienced with others. Isn’t this the result of looking at death at the face- that worldhood as such opens by being thrown into a concrete situation with others, Dasein is the opening to the world into which it is thrown precisely as being-with. But because Dasein is necessarily thrown into a situation, this situation in itself sustains the space of meaning. What then, if the individual’s resoluteness at being-towards death is what provides it with the possibility of experiencing its being-there as the being of a shared world? In other words, unlike Beistegui and Zizek think, there is no ‘gap’ between the acceptance of one’s individual death and the communal fate of Dasein, for death as a concrete possibility is what remains impossible for Dasein, one cannot lose oneself without simultaneously losing the world, in the strict existential sense in which we are being-in-the-world. What then, about sacrifice and destiny?

If death opens me to my essential being-with Others, does this mean I must assume unconditional surrender to the community to which I owe my understanding of the world, the community to which ‘I owe’ my sense of the world? Yes and no. Beistegui reduces the communal Gelassenheit to a shared decisionistic formalism which guarantees solidarity amongst one’s own community, the 'domestic economy' in the notion of ‘home’. But isn’t this so-called home a perverse narrowing down of Heidegger’s being-with? Of course Dasein as being-with others becomes enrooted in a particular place, in a community and correlatively to others. But this remains at the ontic level, while being-with is a fundamental existentiale; it does not tell us we should acknowledge our belonging to any particular categorization of a community (Nation, culture, family, race). Isn’t it then that reducing being-with to a mere ontic result functions as the exact opposite of grasping the ontological gap/dimension required in for resoluteness? Put directly, in resoluteness we do not come to grasp the ontological by means of a concrete identification with the particular context of meaning which articulates my sphere of possible decisions (ontic), but by recognizing how this belonging to a situation in being-thrown unveils how my universe of meaning can only subsist insofar as I coexist with others in a shared world of meaning.

That is to say, Heidegger’s point is not that one’s upbringing in a community demands commitment and sacrifice, but that one’s commitment is already there, not as an explicit thematic possibility in the face of might we might withdraw, but as the necessary background which articulates our being-in-the-world. This way, the ‘communal’ resoluteness is not, as Zizek thinks, a narrow plea for nationalism, being-with does not mean one must follow a localized state-community to stand against all possible adversaries. Rather, because we are already thrown into a situation articulated by our being-with Others only through confronting this contingent dimension can we resolutely accept that in a very strict sense that one belongs to a common destiny- one is guided already by communal understanding of the world.

The ‘essential sacrifice’ of the soldiers in the front is thus not ‘essential’ because it represents commitment to one’s community as the result of resoluteness, but because in the face of death- of the impossibility of a non-shared world- one is thrown back to the inescapability of communal existence; one’s sacrifice is the suspension of radical subjectivization, of the acknowledgment that without common struggle and communication, Dasein’s destiny remains closed and caught in the cobweb of the situation (Das Man). This is not in any way to encourage violence against all which oppose one’s community, since the crucial point here is that being-with is an ontological structure pertaining to all beings. The nullifying of the other is the lack of resoluteness precisely insofar as particular ontic decisions are driven to extremes, are given their full weight as irreplaceable, as necessary. Thus, violence occurs at the ontic level- when the other is deprived from its character as Dasein in being-with, from taking it as a mere object, a thing which stands against, a foreigner, a tool, 'the Jew' (ultimately- objet petit a?)

And what if this is precisely the point at which Lacan and Heidegger must meet? What if resoluteness in the face of death allows me to identify objet a as precisely pathological, as a fundamental failure at the level of the ontic, pointing towards the gap, the precise point at which the symbolic order fails to guarantee its inclusion. Isn’t it then that resoluteness functions as the exact opposite from a mere blind adherence to any ontic category, even that of communal-wellbeing? In this sense, the sacrifice of the soldier at the front is not merely the sacrifice of the man 'for his nation', but the point at which one evidences that the universe of meaning collapses when those 'like myself' are threatened in the face of death. Resisting death one must cling to its being-in-the-world, that Dasein as such needs others to exist, that death is threatening to Dasein not as the impossibility of being a self, but of being-in-the-world with others. In this sense, communal fate is not merely ontic but ontological; in resoluteness, the abyss of meaning lying at the face of death and of finitude becomes the humble acceptance of the responsibility for one’s existence with others. This is why Heidegger must speak of Dasein’s primordial Being-guilty from an ontological standpoint; it is not guilty because it belongs to any one particular community, to a Volk, or because it has freely chosen its possibilities in a foul manner. Dasein as such, is guilty since it cannot but take part in a communal destiny; it cannot but be thrown into the world and to definite possibilities for existing.

Within the prospect of the reins of such destiny understood as the concrete historical situation, Dasein must, through confrontation and struggle, guarantee a future is still pending, that something is still to come, that destiny as such may be set free. The accusation of decisionistic formalism arises at precisely this point: if resoluteness does not make any particular agent responsible, if guilt is on the other hand of Dasein as 'humanity in general', then doesn't Heideggerean resoluteness function as a formalistic escape-goat for identification and commitment to any particular ontic decision and thus course of action? If death, as such, in confronting us with our finitude, goes to place man before the radical contingency of his being at the ontic level, then doesn't the ontological gap that persists in resoluteness precisely risk the trivialization of concrete decisionism favor of a pseudo-Nietzschean ethical relativity with respect to the individual?

By the same token, doesn't Heideggerean fate oppose the Nietzschean avowal of struggle as the inescapable dimension of man by admitting that in the ontological Dasein remains suspended at the ontic level- that acknowledgment of our contingent belonging to a community, to our being-with, can at best reveal how this ontic dimension can only lie on the background of a fundamental gap, an abyss of freedom lying in the face of death. In short, Gelassenheit appears to guarantee that the ontic dimension can be deferred as something that one may only commit to fully only in ontological forgetfulness, as a contingent result of one's situation and past, at the same time taking part in the Western evergoing process of 'withdrawal from being'. The risk seems to be then than resoluteness thus may lead to an ethics of 'provisory existence'. This is precisely what Zizek proposes:

"In other words, could we not say that we find ourselves in Heidegger the moment we fully assume and think to the end the fact that there is no transhistorical absolute knowledge, that every morality we adopt is "provisory"? Is not Heidegger's hermeneutics of historical being a kind of "ontology of provisory existence?"

The problem with this passage lies not in the fallacy of asserting that since our ontic decisions are ultimately all subject to history/communal Gelassenheit should lead one into relativizing the importance of ethical/political action. Zizek's criticism is rather that the gap cutting the ontical from the ontological precisely guarantees that at the level of ontic choices, of concrete decisions, one cannot ever go all the way; resolute activity cannot but accept contingency at the ontic level, to being-with as dependency on others at the ontological level, and so prohibits unconditional commitment to any one view. This is, of course, until the unthematized 'domestic economy' supposedly creeps in to impose the ideological injunction, according to Zizek and Beistegui, thus betraying the strict results of Heidegger's phenomenological analysis.

But since, as we have shown, Heideggerean communal Gelassenheit cannot lie at the level of ontic decisions or commitment to any localized identified roles, it seems resoluteness should force us into Heidegger's later call for a passive indeterminacy, a receptive suspension of all commitment in which we openly await the arrival of the Gods, what Zizek deems ultimately the Heideggerean ethics of 'provisory existence': "What can be more incompatible with Gelassenheit than the Nietzschean celebration of way and ruthless struggle as the only path toward the greatness of man?". But here we should point out that, contrary to what Zizek asserts, the impossibility to close the gap between ontological and the ontic is what for Heidegger, on the contrary, should guarantee no ontical decisions are deposited on illegitimate ontological foundations- that is, to an onto-theological grounding from which decisions, at the ontic level, could be safeguarded from critique. Dasein's fate, insofar as it has been delivered into a concrete situation, can only proceed by the radical materialization of belief- of putting all ontic decisions at the level of responsibility. Here we get the real substance of Heidegger's argument: only in knowing one's place inside a historically determined framework and in being-towards-death are the contingent ontic determinations of our being freed for sublation, for change, for fate to be set free.

Doesn't Isn't it then, that the soldiers at the front, in the face of death, experience the most profound dimension of Heideggerean anxiety and are thus able to experience resoluteness? When the symbolic order, the idle-speech of Das Man breaks down, threatened by the prospect of an impossible closure only provided by death, all ontic decisions are leveled; meaning fails to transpire in the form of some entity or other. In that moment, in one's radical confrontation with finitude one finds that one must assume one's shared fate, not just in the sense of having been historically thrown into a situation, but in the radical inescapability of our being-with others. That being said, Zizek's critique only functions if we allow Gelassenheit to remain at the level of historical relativity, subject to a primordial passivity due to the ontological gap. As to why exactly the ontological difference forces us into provisory existence, Zizek cannot but appear but making an unspoken warning.

For if Dasein, as being-with, must accept the responsibility for ontic decisions not on the basis of ontological foundations, but the acceptance of communal faith, what criteria should correspond to guide one's action? How does resolute Dasein act as such, how does it interact at the ontic level and thus also at the ethical level. This is why Heidegger's ontological difference allows us to glance at the dimension of the 'enemy' as such, that which stands-against a Volk or people as a force to be nullified, which can be read from his lecture courses in 1933-1934:

"Enemy is the one and anyone from whom an essential threat to the being [Dasein] of a people [Volk] and its individuals emanates. The enemy doesn’t have to be external, and the external enemy is not the most dangerous by a long way. It can also look as if there is no enemy out there. In this case, the fundamental need is to find the enemy, to bring him out into the light or even first to create him, so that we can thereby assume a stance against the enemy and avoid the obtuseness of our being. The enemy can install himself in the innermost root of the being of a people, oppose himself to the latter's proper essence, and act against it..."

Zizek's criticism, however, goes further than that. The conflation of the demanding call for 'choosing a hero' from the domestic perspective of communal fate avows struggle as primordial, it remains tacitly tied up to the domestic call for struggle against the enemy, of intersubjective solidarity stemming from the admittance of one's belonging to a historical situation and to a community. In order to escape decisionistic formalism Heidegger must betray the ontological differance by imposing the domestic ontology in the face of the gap, of the impossibility of ontic closure in the face of death.

The solitude of the individual can only reach the communal in thus risking a new ideological prescription at the ontic level: commitment to the Volk, to the community in the form of struggle; the call for the communal Gelassenheit can only function with its perverse obverse- with the prescription of the domestic ontology which guarantees that the enemy is him who opposes one's community, and whose annihilation may therefore be ultimately justified. That the 'soldiers at the front' accomplish the 'essential sacrifice' can only mean that the unwritten essence governing the Heideggerean domestic ontology arises from the normativized obedience to the communal struggle against their enemies, and so the annihilation from the enemy is no longer merely inauthentic for remaining at the ontic level, but is the one ontological truth demanded by resoluteness.

The understanding is only authentic the moment it accepts its submission to the prescription of the domestic ontology. Zizek call attention to the paradoxical result:"... the (content) of authentic existential possibilities are "not to be gathered from death"- where are they to be gathered from? This is where the reference to a communal tradition comes in: they are to be drawn from the communal heritage in which Dasein's existence is caught up. In other words, it is precisely in order to avoid the standard criticism of 'decisionistic formalism' that Heidegger has to pass from the individual to the communal."

This way, Heidegger manages to avoid the question about how does resolute Dasein act ethically, at the ontic level; the former is an open question resulting from one's contingent historical, communal context. The 'real' question turns to be about how to act resolutely, with ontological awareness. In this reversed prioritizing of the ontological, Heidegger thus conflates the empty passivity of the ontological with the domestic ontology in resolute feith. The criticism is thus that the domestic ontology perversely disguises the normativity of a particular ontical programme, in which one must obey one's domestic roots? It's not only that, as Adorno pointed out, Heidegger's 'jargon of authenticity' corners us into a mere adherence to 'the word' of authenticity as the only way to be authentic; there is a concrete grounding for political action in the shadows of resolute being-towards-death and accepting communal fate. Unless Heidegger introduces this injunction all we're left with is a depressing historical relativism in the face of death, of the inescapable finitude of Dasein and the impending loss of the world. The enemy thus appears conveniently as the prescription for struggle, for the "essential sacrifice" of those resolutely adhering to their communal fate.

This is the same result apparent in Heidegger's avowal of tragic failure in his analysis of Antigone; the new law can only emerge from a transgression of a previous one, of the permanent struggle which guarantees the collapse of a certain symbolic order, of the constant overhaul of authority. How can this permanent struggle move at the level of Gelassenheit, in admitting the openness of the ontic possibilities if not from either (a) an ethics of provisory existence (of distanced acceptance, perspectivism, ontical decision as provisory) and (b) an ad hoc economy/ontology?

"The question here seems to be: how are we to combine (to read together) such an assertion of heroic combativeness... with the predominant tone of the Heidegger from after the Second World War, which is that of Gelassenheit, of letting-be, of humble subordination of and listening to the voice of Being?... What makes Heidegger advocate the "Vernichtung" of the enemy is the very fact that he is afraid fully to assert the struggle as primordial and constitutive-that he subordinates struggle to the all-encompassing One which gathers opposed forces together..."

The all-encompassing One in the form of 'eternal sacrifice' is thus reflected in Heidegger's fear of spelling out struggle as primordial; ontological difference in the persistent mobilization and revolutionizing of technology as inescapable from an ontological perspective. In other words, opposing the standard Heideggerean reading in which the enrootedness in tradition is proper to authentic historical dwelling and significance, we must remember that it is against the dimension of Das Man that destiny is set free, that struggle breaks out from the mindless obedience to the norm. It is not sufficient to be in the midst of a historical situation, just like mere indifference does not suffice for authentic existence. The Heroic 'eternal sacrifice' of the soldier is thus not just any particular alignment to a given set of communal views, but a call from 'struggle' as a formal structure, demanded by the domestic ontology in general; breaking free or participating in one's communal situation from the ontological comprehension allowed by phenomenological insight. Thus we get the plain decisionistic formalism of the first Heidegger camouflaged under the veil of a concrete vision of sacrifice, i.e. the sacrifice of the decision to mobilize one's historical reality and one's community in the space of historically-conscious decision. Struggle is in this way taken as a formal principle, as primordial, the ontological difference itself- The persisting gap of the Real separating the ontic from the ontological, can only uphold struggle as primordial. Seeing that Dasein is by necessity thrown into a situation as being with, and that only through anxiety in the face of death it can appropriate his possibilities, it plainly follows authentic Dasein must both be ontologically conscious and enrooted in a communal tradition. The structure of the domestic economy guarantees that struggle is circumscribed to the community's opposition to the enemy. Zizek thinks this posture separates Heidegger from his latter position of utter subjectivity, where Gelassenheit is placed at the level of a passive awaiting of the Gods.

Here perhaps is where Zizek's reading comes short. By now we know that the accusations of a domestic economy in the face of the enemy conflate without justification Heidegger's description of the enemy as perceived from resolute sacrifice with an all-too narrow notion of the scope of the Volk in Heidegger's call for communal fate? Since struggle is primordial, in Heidegger's admittance, doesn't this in itself already give away the Volk as something altogether broader than simply one’s 'community'. Already in Being and Time Heidegger asserts that, as such, Dasein is being-guilty, that it has of course no concrete enemies at the ontological level, but that at the ontic level, the enemy is the unavoidable gap that seeks integration to the symbolic order, to the proper functioning of things, the malaise which installs itself, not interrupting Das Man, but articulating its obsessive need to reappropriate that which opposes it. In short, the 'enemy' appears in the incessant mobilization of metaphysics and technology in inverse correspondence to the forgetfulness of being. Das Man procreates by being blindly submitted to an ontic possibility, thrown mindlessly into a situation. Resolute Dasein thus suspends the pathological urging of Das Man by replacing the thrive for pure presence-at-hand, of pure functioning, for ontological difference. That is to say, Heidegger posits the obsessive technological mobilization as being lost in the dream of capturing the object in the sense of a 'mystifying presence' lurking underneath the rubric of the available. Resolute Dasein thus posits the object not from the mindless falling of Das Man, but it for the first time becomes a possibility in the existential sense, something that I can break free from- in short, it opens the doors for communal destiny, for Gelassenheit.

It is from this point onwards that we should reappropriate Zizek's criticism. If Heidegger's reading is right, then Gelassenheit is found in the paradoxical space of passivity and struggle. On the one hand, conviction to the ontic without historical consciousness ignores how the 'enemy' as the cause-object of Das Man emerges from the irreducible gap of ontological differance, from the abyss of finitude, the forgetfulness of beings and falling in beings. On the other hand, the enemy itself only appears as that which in itself is already at work inside my symbollic sphere, mobilizing its means in a desire to compensate for its lack. The only resolute position, it would seem, would recognize the struggle as an existential possibility into which Dasein has been thrown, and then stand ildly awaiting for the Gods, decisionistic formalism. This is the dimension of the parallax gap that resonates in Zizek and that was missing in Beistegui's criticism. Doing so, we may acknowledge that, as both point out, the communal fate occurs when those imbedded into a situation awaken to their shared horizon of meaning and thrust forth in decision. But here we encounter the threat of decisionistic formalism conjoined with the domestic ontology: I am resolute insofar as I accept my place amidst others in a shared world, accept this situation opens up my horizon for possibilities, and thereby accept these possibilities as the possibilities that belong to me and to those who were brought up like me, in the same symbollic space:

"The resolutetion is preciselyn the disclosive projection and determination of what is factically available at the time. To resoluteness, the indefiniteness characteristic of every potentiality-for-Being into which Dasein has been factically thrown, is something that necessarily belongs." [s298]

The 'common hero' is thus the communal avowal of an ontic decision in the wake of resoluteness, of openly making oneself responsible for one's fate. The mindless commitment to this communal fate must in turn relegate those not belonging to a community outside the domestic economy; it is that which I cannot conceive within my own space of meaning. And this, in turn, guarantees that decisionistic formalism may operate as guaranteeing the state-economy, if only provisional, against whatever it decides it must oppose (so the story goes Heidegger's avowal of Nazism stems for its combination of technological mobilization from the horizon of communal responsability inside the space of the state). The enemy is thus, him which remains outside our very historical being, what is not Dasein-with as such, but merely being-with.

But this does in no way entail that the enemy is found in the space of resoluteness. In accordance to Heidegger, the enemy appear precisely where the object presents itself in resistance to irresolute Dasein. Since in resoluteness the acceptance of a common fate as possibilities, the enemy couldn't present itself as a 'provisory enemy'; as something that I cannot ever fully assert as different from myself, insofar as Mitdasein occurs at the level of the unbridgable gap between the being and its being as existing in the world with Others. When this dimension is acknowledged, the enemy must present itself as the symptom of Das Man, and not as Zizek thinks, in the space of Gelassenheit: "That resoluteness in which Dasein comes back to itself, discloses current factical possibilities of authentic existing, and sicloses them in terms of the heritage which that resoluteness, as thrown, takes over."

For doesn't Heidegger's analysis of Dasein's everydayness point precisely to the enemy, as that which stands-against, as a the installed object which appears as an excess in the symbollic order, as something which has the mode of unavailability, as the interruption from circumspective activity and of engaged agency? This means that Dasein only experiences the enemy in the moment where the symbolic order and its proper functioning breaks down, when the ready-to-hand is no longer integrated into a functional whole, but stands as an object, as something to be reintegrated into the proper functioning of the symbolic.

Heidegger's point is thus not that the object as such is the enemy in the sense of those who are in conflict with the Law of the community, but that within the proper functioning of the shared practices of a community, its future is always guided by that which resists it, by the exception which prevents its appropriation into the circumspective world of familiarity. Because of this, any commitment to decision at the level of ontic action, of a concrete privileging of an ontic term into the ontological is precisely what would close history within the mire of a certain circumspective operation. And isn't it then here that Zizek's criticism of our times as being entrenched in the silent assumption of capitalism in its practice precisely the seeming result of such Das Man taking over the globe, in the forgetfulness of being?

Forgetting the question of being is tantamount to forgetting that, at the level of ontic action, Dasein cannot but assume its fate; the object appears necessarily from the fore-conception gained by one's imbeddedness to a world of shared practices, to one's language, traditions and so on. Therefore, the properly resolute action is not that which simply attempts to nullify the enemy to prevent the interruption of the seamless function of one's communal practices, but that which in the face of the decision is called in concrete awareness of the inescapability of one's belonging to a shared world- that no matter what I do this object is neither 'mine' not everyone's, that embodied action as such only operates from the background of imbedded practices. "Resolutenes signifies letting oneself be summoned out of one's lostness in "the One"" [s299]. This summoning does no longer occur by the mere thriving of presence-at-hand, of blind servitude to technological mobilization, but within the framework of one's historical past- resolute being-with Others.

Therefore, Dasein, as being-with, does not obliterate the enemy for the mere sake of integration, but it demands that one be aware of how this object appears from such a perspective, from the gap guaranteed by the interruption of everydayness and circumspective concern and that which is not yet understood, that which lies outside the symbolic order as an excess of content, as the Thing, or as an empty place in the structure which cannot be accounted for to allow functioning to continue.

This is why Heidegger claims time and time again that grasping the Thing can only occur from the stripping down of significance of the familiar ontical world, that the present-at-hand appears in our failure to understand it, as a vague formal place which obstructs its constant becoming. The enemy as such is not just him who opposes the views of the culture one belongs to, but even within one's own community the enemy appears as that which is incommensurable as such between two ontical perspectives, the abyss of their ontological openness.The sacrifice of the soldier is not a sacrifice in virtue of giving his life for his country men (although this is of course true at the ontic level); the proper Heideggerean sacrifice and resoluteness finds ontic decisions as fundamentally ungrounded- subjected passively to an order of being lagging behind it every time from which the object as such can only function as a result.

The fate of the people thus relegates to the struggle in the event of appropriation (Ereignis), at the precise moment when the Thing appears in the gap of the ontological differance. Does this relegate us into Heideggerean passivity, a longing for the Gods in the prospect of unending technological reproduction? Hardly, it merely makes the pragmatic point that the sphere of resolute ontic decision can never in itself rest upon privileging particular entities, of raising an entity to the status of a God, so that thereupon one may causally be included in ontotheological necessity, in short, forgetting the ontological difference.

By the same token, this doesn't mean we should remain passively awaiting for an entity to arrive either (the 'Gods'), it merely tells us that experiencing the ontological dimension can for the first time put us in the face of our guilt- of our inescapable responsibility in being-with others, in that the world as such is co-inhabited, and that ontic decisions can offer no ontotheological ultimates, that at the ontological level, as Kant put it, we are confronted with the abyss of freedom, that we must assume our own destiny, to choose our own Hero. It doesn't say this Hero is the community in the sense of a state, or any other ontic category. In this sense, the Heideggerean point can be read as strictly pragmatist in approach: it doesn't provide positive criteria for decisions; it merely tells you that resolute activity doesn't allow for ontotheological ultimates.

The perverse reading narrows this radical dimension of Gelassenheit and being-with to the centralized domestic notion of a Volk. Zizek thus misses the crucial point of Gelassenheit and of resoluteness- the ontic decision must be accepted fully, perhaps provisionally in the sense that no decisions should be taken as guaranteed by ontological closure, but because precisely insofar as Dasein is in the world, within the horizon of its finitude, it must 'choose its hero'. It doesn't tell us this Hero should coincide with the spirit of one's community, National Socialism, or anything of that sort, Heidegger from the start was put in the 'third position'.

Perhaps the clearest example of Heideggerean sacrifice might be read ironically from one of Zizek's favorite film directors: Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice. Upon hearing the news that his entire family and countrymen are about to die from an impending nuclear bombing- the male-lead, Alexander, drops to his knees, praying in despair for God to rid him of the animal fear of death and offers to renounce his family, to burn his house and never speak a word again to another human, if only God will prevent the tragic outcome from happening. As he prays, he gives the necessary human apology- claiming that those who do not see are those who haven't really suffered.

Alexander's sacrifice nicely parallel the Heideggerean distinction between the ontic lostness in 'The One' and the resoluteness acquired upon facing death, and thus his own notion of sacrifice as that of the soldiers in the front. Alexander's sacrifice consists not only in giving up the things he loves for the sake of his countrymen, of any particular entity raised to the status of worthy of redemption. Alexander's repentance goes all the way; the sacrifice is not the sacrifice of any entity, but by but systematically renouncing the world. Not only has he given away his family and home, but the word itself, his connection to others, his openness to the horizon of meaning.

Isn't this radical renouncement to 'all things close' representing a much greater Sacrifice than giving up life, or any entity itself? Being deprived of his past in the face of the ontological closure of death, Alexander's sacrifice for the Other consists in giving up the other as such- the sacrifice of others equals the sacrifice of one's world, which is to say the reduction of Dasein into a mere void, a worldless substance, an offering to the God. This is the fundamental dimension of sacrifice, of assuming fully the ontological result that Dasein is being-with and as such Fürsorge (solicitude) is a positive ontological dimension of our being. That Dasein, insofar as it is being-in-the-world with others, is existentially constituted by care- the world, significance and being can only be for Dasein as an animal of culture, of being open coexistingly to others as caretakers of a shared world, communicated and transformed by the very fact that it is an ontological being, determined by care. This is why resoluteness in the face of death cannot be resolved by so-called Zen 'indifference'; struggle is primordial in the sense that one must assume the responsability that the world as such is Dasein's openness into a situation from its dealings with others, both beings like itself (being-with, Fürsorge) and beings different to itself (circumspection and presence-at-hand, concern, Besorgen). This is why resoluteness must remain in one's active engagement with being, and not in the suspended nihilism of the subject in the face of death:

"""Care" cannot stand for some special attitude towards the Self; for the Self has already been characterized ontologically by "Being-ahead of itself", a characteristic in which the other two items in the structure of care- Being-already-in... and Being-amidst... have been posited as well... Even in inauthenticity Dasein remains essentially ahead of itself, just as Dasein's fleeing in the face itself as it falls, still shows that it has the state-of-being of an entity for which its being is an issue" [s 193modified translation; substituted 'being-amidst' for 'being-alongside']

Dasein is not only its situation inherited by his social position, culture and 'generation', but by oscillating between the ineuthentic falling of Das Man into intrawordly matters and its experiences of the gap between the ontological and the ontic, the gaze into the object in anxiety, and (profound) boredom, when all entities level: "Everyday Being-with-one-another maintains itself between the two extremes of positive solicitude- that which leaps in and dominates, and that which leaps forth and liberates." Liberation is not indifference, but concrete assumption of my finitude, and the world as the shared space of meaning. This is why Gelassenheit cannot stem from a blind sacrifice for one's countrymen, nor can it lie in the space of Zen indifference. To assume fully Dasein's being as care one must accept its full structure, as concern and solicitude, as being absorbed in circumspective acting, and coexistingly being situated in relation to other human beings:

"Thus as Being-with, Dasein 'is' essentially for the sake of Others. This must be understood as an existential statement as to its essence. Even if the particular factical Dasein does not turn to Others, and supposes that it has no need of them or manages to get along without them, it is in the way of being with." [s123, Pg. 160]

This is why indifference as such cannot be the ultimate result of phenomenological analysis, and why the notion of the Volk must be extended to mean 'those with whom one coexists'- Dasein itself, not just those who happened to determine me in my community, culture and language. But then, isn't it clear that the primacy of struggle appears not in the full endorsement of the technological mobilization and science, but in the proper understanding of how science and technology as such present themselves as a legitimate challenge, as part of our very being. The ontological difference is thus not to be resolved by a passive immobility nor by blind mobilization by appeal to one's culture. One must accept the object of my concern is not the product of some sporadic encounter between myself and the thing, but that the thing as such can only appear on the background of a shared world, that as such my decision with respect to the thing must be elucidated by how it appears from the ontological structure as such.

The counter movement to nihilism is thus not a renounciation of the word in the passive 'awaitening of the Gods', or the struggle in the explicit warfare of the Volk, but of avoiding the object to appear as an isolated thing, uprooted from its existential significance. And since Dasein is essentially being-with, the anihilation of the enemy cannot but proceed from the ontic, the symbollic mandate of Das Man, by the transfiguration or perspectival distortion (to use Zizek's term) on the background of the ontological openness. In a very special sense, then, Heideggerean Das Man resembles Zizek's subjects of ideology, traumatized by a silent injunction to which they remain oblivious, unknowingly of how the symbollic network of signifiers and practices structures itself their own distortion of the Real.

In this way Lacan's minimum definition of the Real as the "that which resists symbollization" can also be perceived as the ontological difference itself, as Dasein's existential gap separating the order of being (symbollic) from the failure to understand (Heideggerean unavailable, the objet a as the traumatic thing which wants to be appropriated into the proper functioning of the symbollic). So, when Lacan says the Real is the impossible he is merely paraphrasing Heidegger's point that the ontological is precisely that which maintains itself open, reproduced in the very act of appropriation, already from the fore-structuring of the symbolic order.

The Sacrifice ends with Alexander's son, Little Man, uttering his first words in the movie as he lies at the bed of the tree, looking to the sky: "At the beginning there was the word" The word precedes the decision of sacrifice, being-thrown into the world and as guilty, Dasein's resoluteness arrives at the precise moment of sacrifice, in the face of death, not fleeing it in falling, but assuming its fundamental lack, its ontological dependence upon others, the unbridgeable gap between itself and beings, the ontological difference itself. Only in assuming this 'communal fate' from which Dasein exists as being-with, in the symbolic space of coexistence with the other can Dasein secure its fate.

This is why the 'word', as evoked by Little Man, must not merely be understood from the constricted purview religious/theological interpretation. It seems far too easy to take Alexander's sacrifice as his unselfish renunciation to life in the face death, of coming to the realization that more important than one's life is the unconditional love of himself for his brothers, the Messianic gesture of giving oneself for the human race, and so on. What this all too obvious reading misses the performativity of belief implicit in Alexander's sacrifice, how what the God demands is the explicit annunciation, the explicit surrender before the God.

Just like The Zone doesn't works just for those who believe in it, obeying one's innermost wish, the forgiving God addressed in Alexander's sacrifice only demands that the innermost wish coincides with finding itself- the wish to be absolved by the God himself. The lesson to be drawn from this is not that The Zone or God are just the products of the subject's whims and desire to believe, but that The Zone doesn't exist because it constitutes as such the excess to the symbolic, which must be assumed first in order to set the threatened symbolic order in motion. The Zone, the God functions as the Master-Signifier, the point in which the symbolic order must produce reference the its excess, to the empty place, in order not to lose itself. The only through performing the prayer, through the commitment to the word, can the word serve its function as redeemer, as arché for the subject's symbolic space, as the Master. This is in direct correspondence to the Lacanian view, as explained by Zizek in that "The Master is the subject who is fully engaged in his (speech) act, who, in a way, ‘is his word’, whose word displays an immediate performative efficiency".

In accordance, Alexander's sacrifice goes beyond the strict theological dimension; because the performativity of the Sacrifice occurs at the moment where not only Alexander's life is compromised, but the entire existence of man, the 'end of the world as such'. This involves no necessary reference to any particular religious ideology, or imagery. The understanding functions at a fundamentally ontotheological level, as related to the performative reference to the Master, in enacting commitment in the threat of the impending closure of Dasein as being-in-the-world. This is why resoluteness as such cannot operate by the mere blind adherence to communal principles. The God cannot be mapped within the symbolic space since it functions as a mere point of reference to sustain the symbolic order, to avoid its collapse.

"What this means is that, because there is no underlying society to give expression to, each master-signifier works not because it is some pre-existing fullness that already contains all of the meanings attributed to it, but because it is empty, just that place from which to see the 'equivalence' of other signifiers. It is not some original reserve that holds all of its significations in advance, but only what is retrospectively recognized as what is being referred to..."

For this reason it is necessary to read anew the 'late' Heidegger's view about the expectation of the Gods anew: all philosophy/metaphysics can do is to help prepare the disposition to expect the God so we may die in the face of the absent God; but it can never bring the God himself. A Heideggerean version of the Sacrifice would culminate with Alexander's resolution at the moment of death and not the performative redemption of mankind by the prayer. We should be clear about this dual result: whereas the Master-Signifier operates by setting in motion the gap in the symbolic order, it cannot function as a substitute for human responsibility, but is precisely the point of torsion at which the performativity of belief is materialized. But this means that it is not merely sufficient of gaining ontological clarification about our beliefs and thus attain 'Zen indifference' by admitting all ontic choices as neutral; it demands that we come to terms with the danger than forgetting the gap presents; which is ultimately tantamount to losing the possibility of thinking and of change.

This is why, for Heidegger, the wake of modern technological production represents metaphysics in its dangerous forgetfulness of being. Forgetting the question of being in the incessant mobilization of technology results in the age's nihilism- the disregard for the being itself, and its utter disposability. The 'event of appropriation' is thus becoming attuned to how we have become historically led astray in the process of technological reproduction. The gap of ontological difference must be restituted from confronting our own history, the history of Western metaphysics itself. It is in this sense that we should understand Heidegger's reading of Hoelderlin's famous line 'There where the danger lurks, the saving power also'. The saving power is not the advent of the God of salvation, materialized effectively. On the contrary, the Gap which allows for the expectation of the Gods is to be found in the gap of ontological difference, as the unbridgeable void sustaining the order of being within the symbolic.

What if we do not admit of this openness? What if we reject the provisional character of possible decisions? Does it thereby become impossible to truly carry forth a decision? This seems the next point of the problem. Of course we must resist the passivity of trans-historical relativism, since indifference ends up functioning as the passageway for ideological ghosts to set to work (Zizek’s point that in our times beliefs are materialized, and not in the sphere of belief or theory, and objet a being the fixating object prescribed in the rubric of capitalism).

This is why Dasein's openness as the ontological being is set to guarantee the Nietzschean impossibility between the two epistemological perspectives: (1) of Real as the unbearable thing which risks perspectival distortion, and (2) the utter loss of the 'thing' in favor of a multiple of perspectives appearances. Either the ontic structure presents to us as a lack of content, an empty place which resists its proper operation into the symbolic, or with respect to the object it appears as an excess of content with no place within the symbolic, which first stands against as preventing the closure of the symbolic. In Zizek's words:

"Everything is not just the interplay of appearances, there is a Real- this Real, however, is not the inaccessible Thing, but the gap which prevents our access to it, the "rock" of the antagonism which distorts our view of the perceived object through a partial perspective. And, again, the "truth" is not the "real state of things, that is, the "direct" view of the object without perspectival distortion. The site of truth is not the way "things really are in themselves," beyond their perspectival distortion, but the very gap, passage, which separates one perspective from another, the gap which makes two perspectives radically incommensurable... "

Isn’t it here precisely that objet a apparently parallels Heidegger’s notion of the enemy? The enemy, which installs itself in the symbolic order of a community guides unconsciously the possibilities practiced by the subjects as thrown subjects into a situation. The crucial difference between Zizek and Heidegger lies in the status of concrete action: resoluteness follows a phenomenological excursion to the ontological gap, made evident in the confrontation of our finitude. But isn’t it our biggest suspicion that resoluteness, as the acknowledgment of one’s being determined into a historical situation and being-with others, and in the face of the inevitability of death, won’t suffice?

For it seems quite evident, as Zizek points out, that today’s world is not mobilized by the dialectic of being which has its point of resolution in the appropriation of the ‘beginning’ of the West (as with the pre-Socratics), so we may thereby jump into Heidegger’s fantasized ‘second beginning’. What Heidegger ignores, and which prevents him from mapping his analysis of finitude into the social sphere of his time, is that the sphere of ontic decisions can’t be explained by the forgotten history of being, hiding behind our technological quest. The metaphysical question of being may have founded the history of philosophy, but it is no longer its ‘driving force’. In its place, as Beistegui pointed out, modern capitalism guarantees that the guiding force of productivity is legitimated by the market dynamics of reproducing surplus-value in an incessant cycle. Zizek thus claims:

“Heidegger shares this ignorance with fascism, whose ultimate dream is precisely that one can “domesticate” modern technology and industry, that one can reinscribe them into the frame of a new “home economy of the organic “state-community”… Heidegger, in his focus on authentically assuming a communal fate, overlooks precisely the way in which the reign of anonymous market forces is experiences as the new version of the ancient Fate”

Fate reigns not on the veiled history of the West’s quest for being, but in the anonymous socioeconomic process; social reality itself is transformed in accordance of the market dynamics, whose forces are ideological rather than ontological. Here is when ideology replaces hermeneutics; the task at hand is not to reawaken historical consciousness to face the ontological difference; the ontological difference itself can only be experienced from a certain standpoint, in our case within the dynamics of capitalist market economy. It is not enough to appeal to the history of being in philosophical texts to attain resoluteness; what Heidegger misses is how the true act of ‘resoluteness’ has to be found in the very core which sustains our present symbolic structure, from within the ontic rubric which sustains it.

And isn't the rubric of modern capitalism the formalization of generation of surplus value, so that it is precisely by a incessant need to reproduce capital. The result is that capitalism provides constant reproduction of its means by the generation of surplus-value, the incessant reproduction of capital is sustained not by the technological impasse of our confused quest for being, but the other way around. It is only through the underlying forces of market economy that the ontological gap gets experienced in order to be filled by the reproductive process, the self-reproducing dynamics of the generation of surplus-value guarantees there is always some gap to be filled, some object to be desired (the injunction to enjoy; Lacanian jouissance). The interesting paradox is that the pressumed resoluteness to stem from acknowledging the ontological difference avoids engagement with the concrete form in which it is structured in modern capitalism, the form of reproduction of capital and of enjoyment as the excess to be indulged in.

Thus resoluteness fails at its most crucial point- when we need to concretely map the structure in the social world itself phenomenology cannot but arrive too late; the injunction is already gathered, in the process of constant transformation, in the shape of capitalist market forces. The difference between the enemy and the ideological is that the former results from the ontological difference in the order of being, the latter affirms that this rupture is already mobilized by market-dynamics and not through the holistic knot with the Western historical ontological problematic. The gap between the ontic and the ontological cannot be applied to favor the ontological realm in modern capitalism, since the gap is what is sustained reproductively within the dynamics of capitalism in its concrete operation, as the underlying 'form' for concrete material reality, our 'ontic constellations', to risk a somewhat ridiculous expression.

The ontological difference is not hidden within the framework of modern capitalism, but incorporated to operate as a means in the ever going economic processes, in the form of the reproduction of capital. The order of being is ruptured in the very dynamics of capitalism for-the-sake of the generation of surplus-value, experienced as the anonymous, unexplainable common fate (the classic Marxist thesis is here to be recalled that the form of concrete material reality precedes the content as such, which is retroactively assigned). The criticism is thus not that resoluteness leaves us with passivity as its only option, but that the passivity is necessarily resisted by the commodity-form in the reproduction of capital.

It is from this point onwards that we should appropriate Zizek’s criticism that the ontical should not be suspended in favor of ontological. The radically materialistic thesis against resoluteness would be that even if there is no ontological closure from which to draw ontic guidelines, this is precisely the result of misperceiving a fundamental lack in the subject when the lack is in the object itself. The abyss opened by anxiety is not the loss of the object as such, the leveling of all objects into their disappearance, but the moment where the object is approached too closely, explicited as the gap separating the ongoing subject in its everydayness from raw reality. The object is thus perceived as an excess (with respect to the structure) and a lack (with respect to content) which must be incorporated into the symbolic order, as the traumatic gap of the Real itself.

In the reproduction of surplus-value, the commodities themselves can only appear as substantial insofar as the object presents itself as confronting it as something to be domesticated, as the sublime object of desire whose function is to reproduce desire itself, the gap, in its failure to be incorporated into the symbolic order. It is the gap in the symbolic which functions as the point at which Das Man breaks down, the empty place without content, embodied and demanded by the form of generating surplus-value in market economy. This is why Zizek calls attention to the fact that today, it is the anonymous forces of market dynamics which determine communal fate and not the ontologically forgetful Das Man.

The proper integration of Heidegger's phenomenological analysis should be complemented with the diagnosis of the form of capitalism in which it is integrated. For this, we must recall the old Hegelian point that a change in the subject necessarily implies a change in the object, and vice versa. In other words, the gap of ontological difference is not just the subject’s radical impossibility of finding closure in an ontic possibility, but of the object appearing precisely from the background of an already integrated ontic framework. The gap, the point of torsion that appears in modes of unavailability is what constitutes the object as such; only in seeking closure to the gap that a particular object emerges as the void, as that which resists domestication into the symbolic order. That the reproduction of this void as the condition of possibility for the mobilization of material means in the service of generating surplus value is the economical-political dimension missing from Heidegger’s call for resoluteness as such, the failure to map the ontical coordinates of the time. At that point, the narrowing down of concrete action in the form of capitalism becomes urgent, a mapping out of the ideological landscape in which the reproduction of surplus-value is materialized.

Zizek thus calls the symptom of capitalism the very form which sustains the paradoxical double of a biopolitics of control and the insatiable hedonism; through its permanent self-revolutionizing, capitalism demands the happiness of the individual in the form of supression of displeasure (prozac, self-help manuals, living a healthy life, politics of fear, safe sex, etc). In this way, the transgression of the limit in the form of excess is not what is condoned, but precisely by gaining access to the excess of pleasure can we transgress the limit imposed; instead of a society of control, we have pleasure mobilized as the single end:

"A certain excess which was as it were, kept under check in previous history, perceived as a local perversion... is in capitalism elevated into the very principle of social life, in the speculative movement of money begetting more money, of a system which can survive only by constantly revolutionizing its own conditions- that is to say, in which the thing can survive only as its own excess, constantly exceeding its own 'normal' constraints... there is no meta-language that enables us to translate the logic of domination back into the capitalist reproduction-through-excess, or vice versa. The key question thus concerns the relationship between these two excesses: the "economic" excess/surplus which is integrated into the capitalist machine as the force which drives it into permanent self revolutionizing; the "political" excess of power inherent to its its exercise."