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Zizek's Ontology

A Transcendental Materialist Theory of Subjectivity

Johnston, Adrian

Publication Year: 2008

Slavoj Zizek is one of the most interesting and important philosophers working today, known chiefly for his theoretical explorations of popular culture and contemporary politics. This book focuses on the generally neglected and often overshadowed philosophical core of Žižek’s work—an essential component in any true appreciation of this unique thinker’s accomplishment.

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Series: Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy


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pp. xi-xii

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Preface: Reinventing the Psychopathology of Everyday Life

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pp. xiii-xix

One of Slavoj Žižek's favorite recent references is a short 1997 book on Gilles Deleuze by Alain Badiou (Deleuze: The Clamor of Being).1 In this text, Badiou contends that the typical first impressions arising from a reading of Deleuze's works tend to reinforce a misinterpretation of him as...

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pp. xxi-xxii

Modified portions of this volume have appeared in several different venues: "Revulsion Is Not Without Its Subject: Kant, Lacan, Žižek and the Symptom of Subjectivity," Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy, no...

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Introduction: The Immanent Genesis of the Transcendent

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pp. xxiii

One of Žižek most startling claims is his assertion that the Cartesian conception of subjectivity à la the cogito (especially as radicalized by Kant, Schelling, and Hegel) is, contrary to the prevailing intellectual consensus, anything but obsolete and outdated. However, it must be acknowledged...

Part 1: In the Beginning Was the Void: Psychoanalytic Metapsychology and the Modern Philosophical Legacy(Kant–Žižek)

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Failure Comes First: Negativity and the Subject

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pp. 5-10

Thinkers committed today to an ongoing explication of Kantian philosophy and its German idealist variants tend to see themselves as embattled guardians of the notion of subjectivity defending against a barbarous onslaught of postmodern attacks upon the very idea of any subject whatso...

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In Idealism More Than Idealism Itself: The Extimate Material Kernel of Psychical Life

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pp. 11-20

Perhaps the most striking feature of Žižek's fundamental theoretical stance, a feature that sets him apart from the vast majority of other contemporary theorists, is his conviction that supposedly outdated and unfashionably old-fashioned ideas deserve...

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I or He or It, the Thing...That Dies: Death and the Euthanasia of Reason

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pp. 21-31

As early as The Sublime Object of Ideology, Žižek employs the language of psychoanalytic psychopathology in "diagnosing" the shortcomings of the Kantian critical-transcendental framework. He repeatedly refers to Kant's thought as exhibiting features identical to patterns displayed...

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Avoiding the Void: The Temporal Loop of the Fundamental Fantasy

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pp. 32-44

According to Žižek's heterodox juxtaposition of Kant and Lacan, the psychoanalytic notion of fantasy has direct relevance to this splitting of subjectivity between, on the one hand, the noumenal subject of (unconscious) enunciation and, on the other hand, the phenomenal subject...

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Against Embodiment: The Material Ground of the More-than-Material Subject

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pp. 45-66

According to Freud, one feature of neurosis is a problematization of sexual life triggered by its associations with mortal finitude. He also mentions, during the course of the Rat Man's case history, that obsessional neurotics in particular have a tendency to latch onto topics enabling...

Part 2: Driven to Freedom: The Barring of the Real (Schelling–Žižek)

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Groundless Logos: From the Transcendental to the Meta-Transcendental

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pp. 69-79

The German idealist philosopher F. W. J. Schelling, long obscured behind the shadow cast by his contemporary Hegel, plays an absolutely pivotal role in the overall structure of the Žižekian theoretical matrix. Žižek 1996 book The Indivisible Remainder and his 1997 essay "The Abyss...

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Substance Against Itself: The Disturbing Vortex of Trieb

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pp. 80-92

In line with his descriptions of the Cartesian cogito, the Kantian noumenal Ding an sich, and the Hegelian "night of the world" (all of which he describes as terrifying monstrosities–see chapter 3), Žižek likewise...

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Acting in Time: Temporality and the Ent-Scheidung

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pp. 93-102

In the Weltalter narrative, the unbalanced Grund as Ungrund, due to its dissatisfying instability and desire-provoking contradictions, prompts the sudden event of a gesture of negation (with ground's internal inconsistency...

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The Terror of Freedom: The Forever Missing Mandate of Nature

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pp. 103-116

One might think that human freedom, an apparent autonomy seen nowhere else in the natural world, is something individuals prize as singularly emblematic of their humanity, as a quasi-divine gift forming the core of a sense of dignity and worth. One of Schelling's post-Kantian...

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Temporalized Eternity: The Ahistorical Motor of Historicity

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pp. 117-122

According to Žižek, the Schellingian Urgrund is the abyss of freedom subsisting at the very bottom of the depths of the atemporal past, the time before time. The reappearance of this archaic autonomy within...

Part 3: The Semblance of Substance and the Substance of Semblance: The Thing and Its Shadow (Hegel-Žižek)

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The Immanence of Transcendence: From Kant to Hegel

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pp. 125-144

At the end of an interview conducted in September 2003, Žižek declares that "ultimately if I am to choose just one thinker, it's Hegel. He's the one for me" (Žižek 2003a). Elsewhere, he concedes that "even when I try at...

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Substance as Subject: The Self-Sundering of Being

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pp. 145-177

In his 1974 televised interview, Lacan describes (Imaginary-Symbolic) reality as "a grimace of the real."1 Žižek reverses this description: the Real is a grimace of reality.2 He implies that Lacan's 1974 formulation...

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The Night of the World: The Vanishing Mediator Between Nature and Culture

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pp. 178-210

Žižek credits Kant not only with being the first philosopher, strictly speaking— recall that he pinpoints philosophy as truly beginning with the Kantian transcendental turn (see chapter 2)—but also with being the foundational...

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Spirit Is a Bone: The Implosion of Identification

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pp. 211-234

Despite his potentially misleading descriptions of the void-like subject (à la the withdrawal from reality by Hegelian midnight madness) as a mediator between natural substance and cultural subjectification (i.e.,...

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The Parallax of Time: Temporality and the Structure of Subjectivity

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pp. 235-268

A further interpretive twist can and should be grafted onto Hegel’s "the spirit is a bone." Phrenology focuses on one sort of bone in particular, namely, the human skull. Furthermore, a footnote in Tarrying with the Negative...

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Conclusion: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Free

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pp. 269-288

According to Badiou, philosophy always thinks under conditions—that is to say, philosophizing is an activity driven by evental impacts forcing it to move along certain truth-trajectories.1 In Manifesto for Philosophy...


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pp. 289-304

Works Cited

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pp. 305-320


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pp. 321-330

E-ISBN-13: 9780810164192
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810124554

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1
Series Title: Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Transcendentalism.
  • Materialism.
  • Žižek, Slavoj.
  • Subjectivity.
  • Idealism, German.
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