Slavoj Žižek – Is there a post-human god? (Mar. 2017)


I just hope… I like to be here, i feel at home and like most of you, i still remember, no like most of you don’t, i still remember, 20-25 years ago Westwood(LA) was much livelier, maybe i shall return…. I’m especially grateful to Ken (name), and i see my other friends here for example, you know, how many ideas i also took from Ken, Ken had already developed this over ten years ago, , this, wonderful flash of an insight that, “What if what we call human rights are precisely the rights to violate the ten commandments, you know like they are at least for you in the US, the right to have arms, which means the right to kill. It’s no “Don’t kill”, sexual freedom means you can …….it’s a wonderful reading. I’m also glad to see here my good old friend John McCumber who, wrote years ago a wonderful book in the company of works on Hegel. He, his dream, I hope it’s the same as mine…the one of totally without any shame redeeming Hegel. For today. I even ironically in that over one thousand pages book, called ” Less then Nothing” when it certainly doesn’t weight less than nothing ehh…eh..ehhh my idea is even to perform materialist reversal of Marx, in Hegel. The crazy reading is that Hegel was more materialist then Marx. So I do… (jumps) with all this I’m just glad to be here. Not to loose time, since i usually talk too much, I just would like to begin with a warning so that i will not disappoint you. Neither the word Trump, i will just now mention things which brought me a lot of trouble lately… Neither the word Donald Trump (or the words), nor the word LGBTq + or, how do you put it now, will be pronounced here. I will not deal with that. I will do something…unfortunately you will be bored probably I will precisely do an old fashioned analysis of our present constellation, not in the United States, but general. “Where are we with humanity? What does this mean with religion? – and then i would try to conclude with an analysis of a good Danish triller, to illustrate what would have meant to me, kind of a Christian – Atheist position which i think is a religious position. I’m an atheist but i define myself (it will be clear why), as a Christian atheist…ehhh what this, how this would have worked. So, without further ado, let’s go on. Let me begin, paradoxically by a conservative philosopher whom some people even dismissed as a half Neo-fascist, but who is a friend of mine and i think he is interesting. I’m of course talking about Peter Sloterdijk, the famous author of already in the late eighties, of the critique of cynical reason. I think still, the achievement of that book is extraordinary. Because he first deployed this basic idea, which at a different level was then deployed by my good Austrian friend, you should, I think, invite him here. He’s extraordinary, Robert Pfaller. This idea of beliefs which socially function even if no one believes in them. It’s a wonderful idea, developed also under the guides of his (Pfaller’s) interpassivity. How others can believe for you. How we, today’s predominant ideology is cynical. “We are realists”, “We don’t care” ehh, emm, om i mean …. We don’t believe but we usually project our “believes” onto others. Nobody believes, but believe functions, like a classical, stupid, simplified example: Ehtt, ehhm…Christmas, Santa Claus. If you ask parents: “Do you believe in Santa Claus ?” Their answer would have been: “Of course, I’m not crazy, I buy the presents. Of course not.” Yeah but It’s a problem because then you ask children : “Do you believe in Santa Claus?” They say: ” Of course not. I just pretend to not to disappoint my parents…to get the presents … You see my point. Nobody believes in it, but it functions, socially it functions it is operative as a belief. And I think that not only religious beliefs function like that. Even our amusement. For example, and that’s Pfallers, Robert Pfallers idea. Take, what is for me the greatest contribution of American culture in the twentieth century towards civilization. You must know my joke, It’s “canned laughter”, on TV. Are you aware what a paradoxical thing canned laughter is? You return home in the evening tired as a dog, you put, you turn on the TV, you watch some stupid cheers or whatever show, and the TV laughs for you, literally. It’s wrong when people claim that this is some kind of Pavlovian manipulation to trigger your laughter. No, I’ve spoken with specialists, they are aware – It doesn’t function like this. It doesn’t function with me and I was told this is the norm. You look at people just like an idiot, tired. At the end you feel relaxed as if you have laughed. And you see, phenomena like this interest me tremendously. If i may repeat a joke which I used in some ten of my books, but It’s the best rendering of this paradox, I’m sorry some of you know it. My favored theoretical anecdote about Niels Bohr, you know Copenhagen and so on. Who, I’m sorry if you know the story… Once, he had a small country house out of Copenhagen in the countryside and once he was visited there by a friend, who saw above the entrance of the door of that country house, a horseshoe. I don’t know how you are here, but in Europe this is a superstitious item allegedly preventing evil spirits to enter the house. And the friend ask him – “Why do you have that this is superstition, aren’t you a scientist? ”
– “Do you believe in it? ” Neils Bohr answers:
-“Of course I don’t believe it. ” Then the friend persisted:
– “But why do you have it there? ” “Ahhh”. Neils Bohr was a reader of Kierkegaard. His answer was: – ” Of course I don’t believe it, but I have it there because i was told that it works even if you don’t believe in it.” That’s ideology today! You know, nobody believes it we are all cynics and so on but, we act as if we believe it. So, ehhh, at this level again Sloterdijk followed this path. And I was pleasantly surprised by his last book, or is it still the last I’m not sure, “What happened in the twentieth century? ” , which is interestingly enough, a direct dialogue with Alain Badiou. Ok, Sloterdijk is some kind of neo, half-neo conservative, critical of Badiou. But I was surprised, if you are not deceived by appearances, how far does Sloterdijk go. So, finally let me go into it. In his book, it’s not yet translated, (incidentally) unfortunately into English, I hope it will be it’s a short book, after rejecting the twentieth century, what Badieu calls, “La Passion du réel”, “Passion of the real, because for Sloterdijk this passion of the Real you know, get rid of appearances, eehm, arrive at the real, for, ehhm, for Sloterdijk this is Harbinger of political extremism which leads to extermination of enemies and so on, and so on. Well, Sloterdijk I think is wrong here. First If you read Badieu’s book “Century”, he, Badieu, is well aware that “Passion of the Real ” is always accompained by a passion for semblance …..This is why Badieu developes, in a very nice way, how the twentieth century “Passion of the Real”, which effectively entered at the different totalitarian reasons, Gulag and so on… Ehhh, instead of this Real of purification, let’s get rid of false semblances and so on, has to be replaced by …by the “Real of Subtraction”, it’s a totally different logic. And also Badieu is fully aware. That’s clearly Badieu, Sloterdijk misses, how precisely the regimes which may appear to be “Passion of the Real ” at its clearest. Like radical Stalinist regimes: ” You kill millions”, “You don’t care about appearances “… No, they do care! (about appearances). I don’t think there ever was a regime which was so desperately clinging to appearances, if there ever was a regime more like Stalinist regime. Maybe “Mauies”(citation needed) culture revolution… They are so sensitive to every breaking rupture of appearances (regimes in general). That’s the paradox, but ok, let me go on. So Sloterdijk claims that in the 21st century something new is happening which compels us to break with this procedure of the “Passion of the real” – “Let’s arrive at the thing itself, getting rid of all appearances and so on… And what he, Sloterdijk sees happening is best encapsulated by the title of the first two essays in this book ( “What happened in the 20th century”). 1st “The Anthropocene” and, 2nd. a wonderful subtitle – ” From the domestication of men, to the civilizing of culture”. “Anthropocene” as we all know designates a new epoch in the life of our planet, in which we humans, cannot any longer rely on the Earth as a reservoir, ready to absorb the consequences of our productive activity. We cannot any longer afford to ignore the side effects (collateral damage) of our productivity. This effects cannot any longer be reduced to the background of the figure of humanity. We have to accept that we live on a spaceship Earth (as they call it), responsible and accountable for its conditions. Earth is no longer impenetrable background or horizon of our productive activity, it emerges as another finite object which we can inadvertently destroy or transform it to make it unlivable. This means that, at the very moment when we become powerful enough to affect the most basic conditions of our lives, we have to accept that we are just another animal species on a small planet. A new way to relate to our environs is thus necessary, once we realize this. No longer a heroic worker, expressing his/her creative potentials, and drawing from the inexhaustible resources from his or her environs, but a much more modest agent collaborating with his/her environs, permanently negotiating a tolerable level of safety and stability. And, ” Is the very model of ignoring collateral damage not capitalism?”. What matters in capitalist reproduction is the self enhancing circulation, focused on profit. And the collateral damage done to the environs, not included in the cost of production, is in principle ignored. Even the attempts to take it into account, through taxation and so on, or by way of directly putting a price tag on every natural resource one uses including air, cannot but misfire. Because you know, there is a wonderful (but its crazy) – Capitalists attempt to deal with ecological crisis. The idea is (its a crazy one) of total commodification like somehow we should calculate for example our entire air supply on Earth. How much is it worth. Lets say I don’t know how many trillions, and then somehow divide it and add to the price. There is even an attempt in this way, some feminists were for it when I was young, to solve the problem of exploiting women by putting a price tag on unpaid homework of women. Now this sounds nice, there is a certain justice in it, but I don’t think it works, It’s simply what it seems to me, a total commodification. So in order to establish this new…ahhh, another thing I want to add here, is that: -“For this reason, I don’t think that the right way to criticize capitalism is to accuse it of being egotist, shortsighted and so on…Walter Benjamin was right, a true capitalist is possessed by a certain perverted ethics. Capital should turn around even if we all drop dead and so on…Maybe what we need to be good ecologists is precisely little bit more of common placed egotism. Like, you know, don’t be just obsessed with reproduction of capital, think about how our lives will turn out and so on, and so on… So in order to establish this new mode of relating to our environs, Sloterdijk claims, a radical political and economic change is necessary, what Sloterdijk calls: “The domestication of the wild animal culture”. His thesis is the following one, very simple one but I think convincing. Until now, each culture, disciplined and educated it’s own members, and guaranteed civil peace among them in the guides (guys) of state power. But the relationship between different cultures and states was permanently under the shadow of potential war, with each state of peace nothing more than a temporary arms-peace. As Hegel conceptualized it, the entire ethics of a state culminates in the highest act of heroism the readiness to sacrifice ones life for ones nation state, which means that the wild barbarian relations between states serve as the foundations of the ethical life within a state. Hegel, again, develops this nicely, how for him in our ordinary lives we just care about ordinary daily business, profit, happy family life and so on. And we forget about our basic universal ethical vocation. That’s why for Hegel, to simplify it somehow, war is necessary to remind you that you are not just utilitarian egotist whose activities here are to bring pleasures, satisfactions, whatever… you have universal ethical duty. I simplify Hegel of course it’s more complicated. But, ehh…. So “Is today’s North Korea, with it’s rootless pursuit of nuclear weapon and rockets, to hit with them distant targets, not the ultimate example of this logic of unconditional Nation State sovereignty ?” However, the moment we fully accept that we live on a spaceship Earth, the task that urgently exposes itself is that of civilizing civilizations themselves. Of imposing some kind of universal solidarity and cooperation among all human communities, a task rendered all the more difficult by the ongoing rise of sectarian religious and ethnic heroic violence and readiness to sacrifice oneself and the world maybe, for one specific cause. So it’s a very simple vision, but let us make a step back and reflect upon what Sloterdijk is advocating. The measures that he proposes, as necessary for the survival of humanity : ” The overcoming of capitalism expansionism”, ” Wide international cooperation and solidarity”, that should also be able to transform themselves into an executive power ready to violate State sovereignty and so on and so on…. ” Are they not all measures destined to protect our natural and cultural commons ?” If they do not point towards communism, if they are not…if they don’t imply a communist horizon, then the term communism has no meaning at all. Once I asked about this (asked Sloterdijk), and he squeezed out you know …. He said, – ” I just wouldn’t call it communism but communalism”, or whatever and so on… No but what I like is, this is how honest conservatives think. He, although he is terrified at communists crimes he is well aware that the unbridled logic of capitalist production and of State sovereignty, that is to say all this logic of ethical sacrifice for the ones country as the highest act, has to be abandoned, left behind. So although Sloterdijk critically rejects the 20th century extremism and “The Passion of the Real”, the shift he advocates is extremely radical. Much more extreme than the standard communist vision of a new society, which continues to rely on the capitalist unconstrained expansion. No wonder Sloterdijk remains vague about how to inact this immense transformation. Eh, closer approach would necessarily bring him to the old topic of communist reorganization of society. So, to resolve this deadlock, because again, when it comes to positive measures I asked him, Peter Sloterijk, – ” But how would you do this ?” He remains vague. – ” We don’t know”, and so on. Eh, we should follow the good old Marxist puff and shift the focus from politics, in the sense of
-“How can we be active politically?”, “What to do?”, to the signs of post-capitalism that are discernible within global capitalism itself. Especially the raise of what? – People like Jeremy Rifkin, Paul Mason and others and I am far from fully agreeing with them, but nonetheless they did detect what they call collaborative commons, a new mode of production and exchange which leaves behind private property and market exchange. One could thus conceive collaborative commons as the return at a higher level of the “gift exchange” ancient societies. In collaborative commons, individuals are giving their products free into circulation. This emancipatory (free of restrain, oppression) dimension of collaborative commons should of course be located into the context of the rise of so called “Internet of things”, combined with another result of today’s development of productive forces, the explosive rise of what Rifkin calls “Zero marginal costs”. More and more products, not only information, can be reproduced for no additional cost. What lurks behind “Internet of things” is of course a properly metaphysical vision of the emergence of the so called singularity. Our individual lives will be totally embedded in a divine-like “Digital Other” which will control and regulate them. This extrapolation confronts us clearly with the utter ambiguity of the “Internet of things”. Two mutually exclusive readings of the Internet of things expose themselves. 1. Internet of things as the domain of radical emancipation a unique chance of combining freedom and collaboration, where to paraphrase Juliette’s definition of love from Shakespear’s Romeo. – ” The more I give to thee, the more I have”, for both are infinite. Versus – 2. The internet of things as complete submersion into the divine “Digital Other” where I am deprived of my “freedom of agency”. How we should relate these two aspects? It’s what I found so fascinating now in Germany they are publishing the manuscripts, thousands of them of what we cannot, from hindsight we can call Soviet Bolshevik tech-gnosis. It’s so interesting to see how all that Reichart? – zwei bullshit and so on…Oh you find it in Bolshevism in the 1920′, no the predominant ideology, not just some marginal crazy guys, but among hundreds of thousands of intellectuals, even Trotsky (Lev Trotsky) subscribed to this vision. Was that, with new development of technology, the era of individual human beings, who regulate their lives through emotions, fears and so on, is over, that literally the ultimate task of communism is to construct a new man which will be immediately part of a collective and at the same time not immersed into his/her bodily existence. For example they used this image of sexuality. It’s an incredible movement I mean, we totally forgot about it The idea is the following one, that, now that the working class has power, capitalism is over, in the Soviet Union the State power is in the hand of workers blah, blah., the last fortress of the reaction (the only left bodily expression) is sexuality. Why?
– They claim because in sexuality you have this dependence on, dependence of feelings at its purest. You know, like, sorry to be vulgar, from my male chauvinist position, you see a beautiful naked woman… -Eehhh, you know, you are directly affected. Their idea is…I mean maybe…at my age it gets problematic, and so on….What they claim, what they claim (soviet gnostics) in communism even the most intimate sexual impulses, arouses and so on, should function like, how do you call those screens on a machine, you know like for example when you control a hitting machine. The point is not… or a machine which functions, you don’t have to feel if it is hot, you look at the temperature display. And the idea is that in developed communism our bodies will function in the same way. That even if you will feel something you will not be immediately affected by it. It will be like :
– ” Am I hungry ?”
-” Let’s look at the screen.” -” Do I need sex?”
-“Let’s look at the screen.” And this is… the theological background of this is extraordinary. It is a theological background of french post Jansenism cartesian thought , for example, my favorite post-cartesian philosopher Nicolas Malebranche have this, developed this idea. For him there was sex, they screwed like crazy, Adam and Eve in paradise, but his point is, they did it just as another instrumental activity. Getting erection was like raising the hand. Making love was like working on the field, you know. It was simply instrumental activity, you were not directly identified by it. And he, Malebranche, i found this beautiful, even identified in this weird term, the fall. The fall was when Adam thought, – lose this distance. When he thought that he’s directly affected by objects and in a nice anti-feminist twist, for Malebranche the object which seduced Adam into this empiricist mistake
– ” I’m immediately affected by object”, was of course the body of naked Eve, you know. Then, it’s a wonderful, crazy theory of Malebranche, that God punished us for this. How?
God saw how we humans wanted to abandon this divine distance -aka ” We are not our bodies” and said
– ” Now I will punish you by since you want to control your body as a machine from a distance” (God) – ” So I will give you (still God speaking), of course God was a male chauvinist here, to man, I will give you, I will make it so that part of your body will be uncontrollable in its movements – erections. You will not control it, It will happen when you don’t want it, when you want it desperately it will not happen and so on, and you know you find this theory already in Saint Augustin. It’s a theory that, the uncontrollability of erection is the divine punishment for the sin. And I mean it’s absolutely crucial to know this line of thought, like in silicon valley, they should return to their communist roots hopefully , how, in a much more primitive way (technologically), but nonetheless how this dream of digital immortality and so on, in a primitive way everything was already there formulated, in Soviet gnosticism. And you know what’s the saddest thing in it – Stalin put an end to it. The Stalinist cultural revolution in the late 1920’s was precisely with all its horrors a return to, let’s call it, normal human life. This is why Stalin imposed socialist realism, a move which was very popular at that point. The idea was what?
– People hated all that futurist-constructivist-avant-garde bullshit …. you now ehh, Malevish, Eisenstein… They wanted normal, warm stories, sentimental and so on ….Stalin gave all this to them. Now we are returning to it. What I want to say is again, I want to focus on this ambiguity of “Internet of things”, which is the final prospect of this, ehh, this total digitalization of our lives. What is happening is with Internet of Things is what?
– Things can also refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, electric clans in coastal water, automobiles and digital sensors, DNA analysis devices for environmental monitoring and so on. This devices collect useful data with the help of various technologies and then autonomously flow data to (between) other devices ,so human individuals, that’s also a crucial part of “Internet of Things”, how humans individuals are also things whose states and activities are continuously registered, transmitted without their knowledge.
– ” You know who developed this in a very naive way?” You’ll learn things from that book, It’a s best selling book now – Yuval Noah Hararis ” Homo Deus”. Again, I don’t buy his conclusions, but he provides a nice description of this process. ” How ( I refer now to Harari’s book) our self is composed of narratives which retroactively try to impose some consistency on the pandemonium of our experiences, obliterating experiences and memories which disturb this narratives. That’s our everyday experience. We don’t remember everything, we are censored by ideological mechanisms, not in any mysterious totalitarian way, but simply we try to make sense of our experiences and we try to organize them automatically to narratives. So ideology does not resides primarily in stories invented by those in power, to deceive others. It resides in stories invented by subject to comfortably deceive themselves. But the pandemonium persists. And now comes the wonderful confusion of… sorry, eh description (not confusion) of Harari, of the consequences of “Internet of Things”. Imagine a near future or society where all our acts are monitored by machines. It’s easy to imagine, you go to the toilet you don’t even have to think about it, your urine is analysed, soon we will have chips implanted controlling our health. Amazon.com, Kindle… you know what is controlled there, I was so surprised to learn even. You know that Kindle controls not only what books you buy but how much you read them which pages you read, and so on and so on… So, the machine monitoring you, what you shop what you read, what you watch on TV, in a way knows you better than yourself. It knows the raw data, bypassing the narratives that you construct about yourself. The machine registers the discourse and can maybe even enable you to deal with them in a much more rational way than your conscious self. Say, when I have to decide to marry or not, the machine will register all the shifting attitudes that haunt me. The past pains and disappointments that I prefer to swipe after the carpet. Do you know that, that they already made, I spoke to some friends of mine from Israel who did wide research. They did something very viscous. They got the permission from a couple of couples who were planned to be married, to be monitored for some time. And then, they compared the decision of the the couple to get married or not, they compared this, their conscious decisions, to the conclusion of the computer. The conclusion of the computer was much more accurate. Like, if they did marry the computer predicted this marriage will not last and vise versa and so on. Why not, and it was also demonstrated by experiment… – ” Why not, extend this prospect to political decisions?” While myself can be easily seduced by a populist demagoguery, the machine will take note of all your past frustrations, it will register the inconsistency between your fleeting passions and your other opinions. For example, you know, in the thrill of the moment before elections you make a crazy decision. It’s proven and it’s not even a reactionary conclusion, that, for example I’ll put it like this. Instead of you stupid americans being allowed to vote freely and then you get what you get, a crazy guy married to a Slovene girl…Melanie is Slovene and you that in Slovenia we exploit it. We already have Melanie cake, Melanie wife and so on, we are doing big business of it ….ehhh,a friend of mine did a wonderful experiment and demonstrated that if a computer were to be allowed , just some machinery collecting all the data, to follow your life, all your past decisions, sympathies and so on, and rationally conclude what are your actual interests and advice you how to vote Trump would have never been elected, you know… Ok I violated my promise I did mention the word Trump and so on, but what can we do. So again, why should machines not vote on our behalf? Now you will say this is a crazy dream, no but computer scientists here are much more rational, they are not claiming machines are perfect. They are just modestly claiming that on average they are much better than your conscious decision. But you know they are not totalitarian in the sense of imposing on you, they don’t define for you what is good for you. They accept your own version of what you want…happy life or whatever. And they just measure, do you in your decisions live up to your values and they tell you better than you yourself know, what to follow. It’s the same with medicine, although we need doctors, it’s clear that, even if machines can make a mistake on average if you allow a machine to diagnose you, It will do, on average I repeat, a better job than the average doctor. So, of course the conclusions of this if you go to the end are sad. Decisions made by human individuals are much weaker, less rational than the decisions made, if you allow them to be made, than the decisions made by machines. So as I quote from this Yuval Harari : ” This problematizes the notion of liberal individual who, that’s the premise, knows best what is good for him. I quote from Harari : ” Liberalism sanctifies (makes it pure/holy) the narrating self and allows it to vote in the police stations, in the supermarket and in the marriage market. For centuries this made good sense, because although the narrative self believes in all kind of fictions and fantasies, no alternative system knew me better. Yet once we had a system that really knows me better than I know myself It will be foolhardy to leave authority in the hands of the narrating self. Liberal habits, such as democratic elections will become obsolete, because google will be able to represent even your own political opinions better than yourself. ” ( end of quote)
Now one can make a realist case for this option. It is not what the computer registers as my activity…It’ not that the computer is omnipotent and infallible. It’s just that on average its decisions work substantially better than the decisions of our mind. So the digital machine is maybe the latest embodiment of the “Big Other” – the subject supposed to know – which operates as a field of knowledge, a chain of signifiers without a master signifier, a non-subjective machine. And the problem is then: – ” What will happen in this growing digitalization? ” There are two options… Will we be, will there be what Ray Kurzweil calls singularity in the sense that our minds will combine together into a higher unity or whatever which will nonetheless control this process, or will we be, how should I put it, dominated by the machines ? I think that the true problem here is that, I think there is no simple answer to this question. Namely, again the question is this one :
-” Who will control it?” -“Will we be, nonetheless our collective mind, masters of this process, or will be as individuals just reduced to coax in a machine and so on and so on ….” I believe here in Stalinist answer, I mean of course, one of the best jokes that I know from Stalinism, you know , It’s a wonderful joke, I’m sorry if you know it I used it once already in my books where – the joke goes like this: In 35 in Politbiro, Soviet Union, they had the debate:
– “Will there be money in communism or not?” Right-wing deviationists claimed:
– “There will be money of course, money is natural. How can you exchange objects without money?” Left-wing revisionists claimed… Left-wingers claimed:
– ” No! Money is capitalist, full of exploitation, there will not be money!” The comrade Stalin enters the debate and says:
– ” These are both deviations… Right-wing deviations, left-wing deviations. The truth is the dialectical unity of both – There will be money and there will not be money. Now nobody understands Stalin, they say – ” Comrade Stalin can you explain how can this be ?” and now comes… Stalin says it’s very simple, some people will have money, other people will not have money, you know … And that should be our answer. Will we control it ( The internet of thing), or not ?
– “Well some will control it, others will not control it.” I think that, I more and more believe that one version of our future is… Something is happening today. Futurologists call it – ” The decoupling of intelligence from consciousness. ” So more and more digital mechanisms, computers, will regulate our lives. But I think, for a long period at least, there will be a privileged class which will have a privileged access – programming this computers and so on and so on… And so, the reason I’m a communist – I’m claiming listen, I’m just following Hollywood i mean I basically claim that all this dystopias like Hunger games, Elysium and so on, they paint very realist, ok it’s exaggerated, very realist vision of what is awaiting us. So there are many other things to say here philosophically, if you had the misfortune to read all those books on singularity by Ray Kurzweil, you know what’s the problem with him, it’s a serious one. He cheats, he describes this singularity-we are all one mind- but the way he writes he still writes as if we will somehow retain our free-self, we will be reasoning, talking, having emotions and so on and so on. That’s the usual mistake of let’s call them, call them optimist futurologists. They paint a bright future but they forget to mention the price. That literally, personal freedom disappears in this singularity and so on. The other, negative dystopian vision will be – just coax in the machine and so on, is I think also wrong. Because to put it in Lacanian terms it is too theological in the sense that it trusts too much into the coherence consistency of the machine. I don’t fear computers because they will see everything and so on, I think computers can go crazy, they are always inconsistent and so on and so on, and that’s why subjectivity will persist. But let me go on so that I don’t lose time. Now I want to make a surprising jump from this vision of “Internet of Things” and you saw I hope, I don’t have time to go into detail, this ambiguity of the vision, how on the one hand if you read Rifkin and Paul Mason, It’s almost as if, ” Oh my god! Communism is almost here, you know “Internet of Things, no longer private property and so on…. But I think this very communist vision of ” Internet of Things” with no private property and the pessimist vision of ” We are all controlled ” – are two sides of the same. You cannot have one without the other. Here I would like to do something now to move to a more philosophical topic that may surprise you. I think that there is another way to approach “Internet of Things”. – “They are theoretically maybe, my enemies” , but you know, I’m a Leninist, I always say – ” Let’s learn from our enemies “, you know… like, although I am opponent of what is called “New Materialism”, I was nonetheless fascinated by Jane Bennet’s (Pride and Prejudice) famous description of how actants interact at a polluted trash-site. How not only humans but also the rotting trash, worms, insects, abandoned machines chemical poisons and so on – Each play their never purely-passive role. This idea that we shouldn’t oppose just human actants and passive trash, but this idea of, how should I put it in precise terms, of stepping out , of course not fully, but at certain level -out of our human skin as it were – and observe, analyse social processes as at this more (zero) onthological level where we are just one among the actants. This is I think the best apporach which somehow brings us close to how things function in the so-called “Internet of Things”. And I think that the ethical implication of such a stance is that we should recognize our entanglement withing larger assemblages. We should become more sensitive to the demands of other objects and we should reformulate self-interest, all this is clear. But now, and I don’t mean this in any way as an obscenity or a critique of it, but the truly subversive act would have been, I’m sorry for the tastelessness but that’s my point, for example to give a Jane Bennets description of Auschwitz. Not just humans, but human, trash, gas ovens and so on, how this functions as an assemblage and so on. There is something inhuman in it. Maybe in order for our survival we need to look at things like this. Not that we sacrifice humans, but to see us as one among the agents and how, and then how all of it functions. Because this is what is, in a way impossible-prohibited. What do I mean by this ? I was always fascinated by this idea that the Real, what Immanuel Kant calls – “Thing in itself”, is not so much some mystery out there that we cannn…. It’s something that simply we are prohibited to see in order to retain our common identity, meaning of life and so on and so on… Here, although I am not one of the great friends of Claude Lanzmann’s “Shoah” (1985’s documentary on Holocaust) i deeply agree with what he wrote at some point. He said : “Let’s say that we would discover by some miracle, rills, movie-cinema rills, of some Nazi officer who shot in detail the process of-in gas chambers or the living dead and so on… all the horrors. He says :
– ” I would have burned those rills immediately!”
You know it’s simply that our reality life-lived cannot sustain that. There are things that we…( I presume we-ourselves do not allow to be seen by us)…. And imagine, ok this is your american trauma, but imagine something similar. Like, imagine – and my paranoia is that maybe Homeland security has them they just don’t want to release them – September 11th there must have been some guys there who where recording what happened when the twin towers were collapsing and so on, you know… There is a certain domain that has to remain unseen for us to, for our lives to remain meaningful. And my point is that, maybe to survive we have to break out of this phantasmatic horizon of our lives and we have to learn to look at ourselves as it were from outside, as one among objects There is nothing mysterious in it. It’s not the same as looking at things from a divine perspective and so on and so on…. It’s still the way we humans see ourselves among the objects, but we have to perform what ration-formalists call “estrangement ” you know this radical asubjective view, which is possible. And not only possible but necessary. And now i came to my basic point:
– ” I don’t believe in this “Homo deus” (Yuval Noah Harari’s book) hypothesis.” If this universe will emerge I think that, it’s not that we enter a post-human era where we will be like gods. I claim that, god will be the first victim of it. Whatever we mean by God. But now comes the paradox, although I am a materialist. I am Christian or religious materialist, I think that there is a certain religious experience and don’t be afraid I am not a new age bullshiter. It’s not that “In some sense you feel the unity of all” and so on … You know, but that there is at an elementary level a religious experience which will have to survive even in this universe. -“What kind of?” Now if you allow me i will now check in myself, oh we’re not doing bad, i still have just a quarter of hour…. Now comes the cinematic example :
– ” I want to, this is now a very dark part but it’s central, please be patient for another 20 minutes. ” I am referring to a wonderful Danish noir film from 2016, now I can be arrested for saying this but you can download a very good copy on Pirate Bay or whatever. It’s called a “Conspiracy of Faith”. The original title is “Flaskenpost Fra P” – “Message in a bottle”. It’s directed by Hans Petter Moland. At the…towards the end of the film, i will, not yet…Wait a second, and then you will press the button. There is a conversation, a remarkable dialogue between Carl Mørck – burned out, terminally depressed detective and- a guy called Johannes – a handsome blonde serial killer of children, who is as interested in destroying their parents faith as in snatching their offering. The final confrontation takes place in a lone See cottage where Johannes ( the bad guy ) holds enchained as prisoners: Mørck – inspector and two children, kidnapped. A young boy and his sister – a girl. And we have the totally devastated – the detective – desperate. The murderer – Johannes presents himself as one of devils sons who’s task is to destroy faith and he tells Mork : – ” And now I take your faith away “.
Now let’s go through these three minutes and then i will just conclude, please and I will maybe put it in Badieu’s terms : “subtract myself from the image so that you can…” Let’s hope it will work. I say this is always a moment of anxiety…”Will it work?”
– ” I hope so” (random guy) “Ahhh… We have the sound”…(scene begins) Unfortunately the movie makes a little bit of a compromise here, no what I mean is the helicopter sound that you heard is the police coming and they even discovered then that the boy is not really dead they saved him and so on…I am more brutal here, I mean, deeply disappointed by this, no.. But again, let me provide you with this, I will end the reading of this. ” We should of course dismiss as ridiculous Johannes’s idea of acting as the devil son. An idea which is only meaningful only within the standard theological universe. If you follow T.S Elliot’s insight that devil’s ultimate temptation is the reference to good itself as he put it, Elliot, in his “Murder in the Cathedral” (verse drama, year.1935), the highest form of treason to do the right deed for the wrong reason, then it is Mørck himself, I think that’s the irony, who is the true devil’s son. You know, like, he acts with faith precisely as non-believer. And I’m not yet sure but through some friends in Denmark I got a contact with the director of this film. And like, just through my friends, ask him : -” Is this the underlying idea? “, forget about this stupid pseudo-beautiful blonde Nazi guy, Mørck is really devil’s son. He said : – ” Yes, this was the idea”. So devil’s ultimate trump card is not – “Give way to you lust for power, enjoy life, abandon the chimera of higher ethical values”, but – “Do all the noble bits your heart tells you to do, live the highest ethical life”, and be aware that there is no need for the – reference to God – in all this. “It is your own inner nature which is your guide here. You are following the law of your heart. ” Is this stance not personified in Mørck’s atheist readiness to sacrifice himself for God? I think it’s not as simple as that. That would have been the simple humanism: “We don’t need God, even if we….” No, I think Mørck’s position is much more radical. In what sense? First, the lesson of his position the detective – Mørck is, that only a believe which survives at disappearance of God as the “Big Other” -ultimate authority, is believe at its most radical. It’s a wager much more crazy than Pascal’s. You know Pascal’s wager :
– ” If you don’t believe act as if you believe and believe will come”. , remains epistemological – concerning only our attitude towards God. We have to assume that God exists, our wager doesn’t concern God himself. While for radical atheism the wager is ontological. The atheist subject engages itself in a political artistic and so on project. Believes in it without relying on any guarantee. So my thesis is that Christianity is the only consequent atheism. In what sense?
– Let me refer here to, I think this…The point I’m trying to make was best made by a French materialist (so called) – he wasn’t really a materialist Denis Diderot. In a short manuscript he called “Entretien d’un philosophe avec la maréchale de” ….ehm certain lady, he wrote, he concludes:
– After all, the most straightforward way is to behave as if the old guy – God exists, even if one doesn’t believe it. Now my comment : ” This may appear to amount to the same as Pascal’s wager apropos our ethical acting. Even if you don’t believe in God act as if you believe. However Didros point is exactly the opposite one:
– The only way to be truly moral is to act morally without regard to God existence. In other words, Diderot directly turns around Pascal’s wager in the advice to put your debts on the existence of God. Another quote: In a word it is that, beautiful combination, it is that the majority of those who deny re-numerating and revenging God have all to lose and nothing to get.” (end of quote) So in his denial of vengeful God, the atheist either loses everything….I mean if his wrong and there is a vengeful God – Haha, he will be punished. There is no God so nothing…. OR he gains nothing in the best case. If there is no God then who cares. It is this attitude, I think, which expresses a true confidence in ones belief and makes one “do good things without regard to divine reward or punishment”. It’s again as if the old guy exists. This old guy is God-the Father which recalls Lacan’s formula “Le père ou pire” – “The father or worse”. In true ethics one acts from the position of the inexistence of the “Big Other”. Again here we should bare in mind that this movie is a Danish movie and of course Kierkegaard is always in the background. The detective Mork, you know it’s clear in the movie already, is (this is officially declared in the film) suffers a terminal depression and I claim this terminal depression is precisely the form of what Kierkegaard called “Infinite resignation” – the crucial step towards an authentic religious experience. For Kierkegaard the renunciation -the sacrificial renunciation – cannot be part of an exchange with god. We sacrifice all – the totality of our life for nothing. (quote from Kierkegaard): “The contradiction which arrests our understanding of God is that – A man is required to make the greatest possible sacrifice, to dedicate his whole life as a sacrifice, and wherefore there is indeed no wherefore” (end of quote). What this means is that is no guarantee that our sacrifice will work, That it will be, the it will restore meaning to our lives. One has to make a leap of faith, which in the eyes of an external observer cannot but appear as an act of madness. Another quote from Kierkegaard:
” At first glance, the understanding ascertains that this is madness. The understanding asks “What’s in it for me?”. The answer is: “Nothing.”.(end of quote) When in the movement of infinite resignation I turn away from all temporal goods, then, I quote here Simon Weil: “My reason for turning away from is that i judge them to be false, by comparison with the idea of the good. And what is this good, i have no idea.” (end of quote) At this razors edge, where atheism and ideology overlap, we get a unique form of negative theology. This form of negative theology was wonderfully defined by Rowan Williams (you know, the ex-arch bishop of Canterbury, who quite surprisingly is a very intelligent theoretician also), who wrote about the work of four British, when he tries to develop in his book on Dostoevsky (Rowan Williams): “What is religious experience at its minimum?”, he refers to four British catholic novelists: O’Connor, Persys, Spark and Ellis and here is the passage: (beginning of quote:)”All four create a world in which the secular majority (an account of what is going on) is severely relativized. But there is no simple alternative that anyone can step into by a single decision or even a series of decisions. The religious dimension of these fictions lays in the insistent sense of incongruity. Unmistakable even if no one within the fiction can say what we should be congruent with. ” (end of quote) So you see it’s a very simple operation but I think deeply true…What’s the point of Rowan Williams here? And incidentally you should read his book on Dostoevsky. It’s so intelligent. For example he put it into words what was my old feeling – that there is something terribly wrong with Dostoevsky’s idiot. He gives a wonderful counter-intuitive reading. Usually people read Idiot as a saintly figure – this innocent goodness. For Rowan Williams, he is nightmare itself. As he develops, Mishkin is saintly innocent guy, but you must have encountered them, I have in real life. There are people who are in themselves saintly, good, innocent. But in every society they move their innocence bring havoc, catastrophe. People around them kill themselves and so on. And this is precisely what happens in the Idiot. All, Nastasya Filipovna, the other… All people die around and so on. So let me go on. Rowan Williams speaks here about a kind of negative theology which is the opposite of the usual negative theology (remark by the subtitler: at this point, I would like to mention that the concept of negative theology, as previously stated by Slavoj, rises at the razor edge where atheism and ideology overlap) which is:”It is…It’s not…It’s good…It’s bad… it’s beyond our categories…”. No, Williams’s idea is that at its most basic God is just this negativity incongruity; this reality cannot be all, we don’t fully belong into it, but there is no other place. First we get this void, this out of jointness; and this we experience in a shattering metaphysical experience (this out of jointness) in this precisely: When we assume what Kierkegaard calls radical resignation. We resign but not on behalf on some higher value and so on. And if religion doesn’t forget about this, then it is really no longer the opium of the people. Because i claim that, you know this unfortunate formula of Marx – Religion as the opium of the people – I have two problems with it. First… two, both tautological variations, I love it. First, as many people already remarked, today, in our drug infested culture, more and more the opium of the people is opium itself. And the second one, the Donald Trump version, sorry i mentioned him three times, as Adorno said somewhere wonderfully, in populism the opium of the people are people themselves. People themselves can also be the opium. So again, I claim that, If you take everything away no transcendence and so on, this negative theological minimum, this out of jointness – and we have different names for it. Freud called it death drive and so on…- this minimum remains. That’s why i take this film very literally. The evil guy, Johannes, was right. It’s precisely because he – Morck, the detective- totally resigned, doesn’t believe in anything, that he can do a pure ethical act, that he believes more than anyone else. What he does, acting automatically ethically but out of this total resignation, this is religious ethics at its purest. And in our desperate times where effectively you know, all conservative calls:”Let’s return to ancient values and so on and so on…”, are ridiculous – don’t work. We need this type of religion, maybe. What Morck is doing. Literally an atheist religion, but again, not in this shitty sense “Oh, although i don’t believe in personal God I have this mystical experience of some higher… “. No no no, you must have total resignation. Here I am totally opposed to those, even many of my materialist friends who claim “Of course I am against a personal God, I am even against the Church as an institution, but I have sometime this deeper feeling and so on”…And i usually explode there. I say: “No what interests me in religion”, It was already the case with Freud and the catholic Church, is “forget about God, I like catholic church…forget about God, I like church as a dogmatic institution you know…” Because again, I am sorry i don’t have time to go on but I think this is how, ethically we can even resolve the dilemma of “What if science proves that we do not have free will” I will like to apply to this the paradox of Protestantism. You know, predestination. Isn’t it, you know the story, i repeated it often enough. Isn’t the paradox of predestination that Capitalism – the most dynamic system in the history of humanity, pushing you all the time – relies on predestination. Everything is predestined. Wouldn’t it be more natural to say that Catholicism should be more appropriate. Catholicism is the idea that your salvation depends on your good deeds – Then i have to work hard to deserve it. No, why does Protestantism push us to be active all the time when you know that everything is already decided. Why should we not say “everything is already decided so fuck off i will drink bear, masturbate and watch movies you know….” No…aaahhh, the idea is, of course, what’s the catch. Everything is decided but you don’t know what this decision is. So for me, the pure, the purest situation of freedom is not this primitive choice, like “I go to a bakery, they have marcipan cake, strawberry cake, chocolate cake. Which should …” No!. The purest anxiety of freedom would be something like this: I know I am in a position to make a tough decision, do this or that. I know it’s already predestined, but i don’t know what it is. And this terrible pressure you know: Will I guess what is already predestined? It doesn’t help me to say whatever…. No, it’s a terrible anxiety, that’s freedom at its purest. Existentially. So even if at the level of objective fact, you can say it’s predestined – whatever, but subjectively – knowing that it’s predestined, makes your decision, when you have to enact what is predestined, even more an aspect of anxiety. So, I claim that (it’s not even an optimist vision), this minimum of atheist religious experience will have to be mobilized if we want to find our way in what is forthcoming (it is, effectively). You know this famous quote from Virginia Woolf: “On the 10th of October of 1914 or what, human nature change or …. (I got the wrong date)…. I think today the human nature is really changing. You know what’s human nature at its most elementary? – this distance inside-outside. Like, reality is out there, I think inside. But what is happening now are crazy things like, more and more it’s possible to wire our brain so that you think about something and it happens like recently I learned that even Stephen Hawking no longer needs his stupid finger, his brain is already wired and he, they can already do this at elementary level. Stephen Hawking just has to think forward and his wheelchair moves forward. I think the consequences of this will be tremendous, and all old ethical norms fail at this level. And again that’s why I think that the worse thing to do is to simply rely on – “Oh, It’s determinism, we are not free, so let’s take it easy”. No! Precisely when we know that we are determined but not know how and why, we will be confronted by freedom at its purest. That’s why I sincerely believe that the more our universe will get computerized, technisized and so on, the more we will need religious experience, but not in this bullshiting way you know: “The technological universe is empty so we need something to fill it in …”. That’s what Catholics are doing, no? (the Pope and so on …) Like: “Technology itself is not enough” ; “You need a deeper vision” and so on. No, I am talking about religious reference in a much more radical atheist way, and I have some allies, I liked it, it was crazy. You remember, was it reported also in your media what the Pope said a month ago, that an open atheist is much better than a hypocritical Christian and so on, and so on. Totally new alliances have to be constructed here. What I don’t agree with, and this is where, although in some way what they are saying is true – all this todays let’s call them official ideological materialists, Dawkings and so on. I am not saying they are too radical, I am simply saying they are not radical enough in the sense that, the most intelligent critique of them, that i read, is that although they claim that: “Free will is illusion, materialism and so on…”, but they enter deeply into what one can call a pragmatic contradiction. But they still act reason as if they are free beings and so on, they cheat, in this standard technological gnostic way. And this is a big problem, properly Lacanian problem. What kind of subject fits modern science? To put it very simply: If you accept consequences of science to the end ,ok – The obvious answer would have been:
The position of somebody like (name: Olen Patricia….) – We have to accept we have no free will and so on… I claim this position doesn’t work because it’s existentially impossible. Impossible in the sense that – I agree here with my favored cognitive scientist, I quote him in my old books Thomas Metzinger, who claims that you can not subjectively assume as your truth the fact that you are just a neuronal mechanism and so on. You can know this rationally but you can not subjectivize it. Ok, Metzinger is a Buddhist and he tries to prove, it is an interesting attempt that at the level of most radical Buddhist meditation, when you reach the level of – -what they call: “Thoughts without a thinker” – that you can do it. Then, the standard predominant position is the position of dualism, like, most cognitivists claim: “Ok, we just have to accept this as our necessary limitation, we can develop it scientifically that we are just neuronal automata but we will never be able to subjectively assume it. We, as they claim: Our free will and so on is a users illusion, we have to have it. Then we had, as I already mentioned the “some name’s” theory which says we can assume it – we become more open, more tolerant … No! I think that even the Buddhist way, although it’s the most intelligent (Metzingers), is too easy. There is a subject which fits this radical technological objectivization, an it’s precisely this Kierkegaardian resignation – subject of radical resignation – subject of, in my sense negative theology. I am sorry if I was too confused at the end but this is my line of thought and hope that some of you are interested in it. I developed the first draft of this, but it’s totally …. I begin going onto this path in my last book, last philosophical book: “Disparities”. Where there is a long chapter with a consciously vicious title: “Is God, in existence?; Stupid?; Evil? or virtual or whatever? And I try to develop there this notion of personal God as a necessary illusion, but not in this bad sense for stupid people and so on. If I may conclude with this to make it a little bit easier. I tell there, maybe you know it, it was told to me by my good friend Jean Pierre Dupuy – A certain pseudo-ancient anecdote, it’s not certain the origin, Nicolas Newman uses it, Dupuy uses it… Ok, one of the subtitles

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