YouTube: Eppur Si Muove / Playlist

This third masterclass focused on Žižek’s philosophy approaches the concept eppur si muove, or “and yet it moves”.  Eppur si muove is a central concept that appears in the introduction of Less Than Nothing.  It refers to a fundamental motion of language, or a motion of the symbolic order.

The logic of symbolism and its motion, in Žižek’s interpretation, is unconscious, following in the Freudian tradition.  The unconscious motion of the signifying chain, is organized in Žižek’s philosophy, with the notion of “the drive”.  The drive is not necessarily a psychical or conscious function, but more an unconscious repetition automatism, the fact that the logic of signifiers is constantly moving and thinking and speaking, independent of our ego or self-consciousness.

The idea here, following again from the Freudian tradition, is that this motion of the signifying chain is mediated by a type of libidinal sexual energy.  This sexual energy in its primordial form is a type of polymorphous perversity.  But as the subject develops in a biological body, it becomes channeled, eventually towards the concentration in the genital stage, and can be further moved through processes of creative sublimation in adulthood.

When Žižek focuses on this fundamental motion as the central energy and motion of his philosophical attention, we get a different focus on the nature of truth.  In the modern world, the notion of truth is understood in a literalist interpretation.  That means that when we are searching for the truth, we are searching for the literal truth of the external world.  Our logical signifier functions, are meant to correlate with this external outside.

In the postmodern tradition, often times philosophers will try to deconstruct the literal truth of a scientific presupposition, and instead try to historically contextualize these literal truths.

However, Žižek’s move, following in the Lacanian critique of relativistic historical interpretation, and focusing instead on the truth of desire, the indeconstructible truth of desire, which isolates metaphorical truth.  Metaphorical truth is not the truth of a literal correlation with the world, but the truth of a hole, the truth of the way an image appears in the void of our creativity, and fundamentally moves us.  In other words, we are not focusing on the truth of the world, but the truth of the motion of historical subjectivity.

In order to get this point across, Žižek relies on analogy of the Real that is derived from the founding gesture of scientific materialism.  In the emergence of scientific materialism as a philosophy one of the main events is the understanding that the planetary bodies move around bodies other than the Earth.  Galileo understood this when he identified that the moon’s of Jupiter rotate around Jupiter and not the Earth.

In a similar way, Žižek’s main claim is that this unconscious energy, this eppur si muove, that is logical and rational but unconscious, is a type of center of gravity that we orbit around, but we are unaware that we orbit around it (we think we are self-transparent and orbit our own self knowledge).  This analogy is related to Freud’s central claim that the discovery of the unconscious was a Copernican moment, a moment where our self-substantial ego, our center, is in some sense de-centered in relation to an unconscious.

From this program, Žižek ultimately attempts to engage in a form of symbolic materialism, emphasizing the weight, density, and gravity, of the logical chain of signifier motions, mediated by libidinal energy.  All of this leads to a push towards, not a historical deconstruction view of philosophy, but instead a view that tries to understand the truth of our desire, and thus the truth of our fictions, the truth of our social dramas.  Our desire, fictions and dramas are not something that we can totally deconstruct, but things that we can fully own and embody.

This owning and embodying is not a reduction to historical archetypes, but rather fictions and dramas that are open to the hole of our creative capacities.  This opens the space of real constructivism.  Real constructivism is not a radical constructivism where anything is possible, but a constructivism in relation to the Real as a type of inner tension in relation to our desires.

In this way Žižek tries to help us understand the way in which the hole of history is being mediated by a symbolic desire that is unconscious to our egos.

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