Please note that a new comment policy is in effect. See sidebar. Now. To work. I'm supposed to review the new Zizek book, The Parallax View (short circuits), for The Common Review. (Adam K. groans. Hey, what can I say? They asked, I said yes.) Zizek is now writing about David Chalmers (who has a wonderful home page and even one of those new-fangled blogs.)
One of my colleagues looks over my shoulder, as I remark Zizek's foray into analytic philosophy. "He knows about Chalmers?" Can you imagine my response? But my question for you, dubbleyou, concerns Zizek on Heidegger:
So when David Chalmers proposes that the basis of consciousness will have to be found in a new, additional, fundamental - primordial and irreducible - force of nature, like gravity or electromagnetism, something like an elementary (self)-sentience or awareness, does he not thereby provide a new proof of how idealism coincides with vulgar materialism? Does he not precisely miss the pure ideality of (self)-awareness? This is where the topic of finitude in the strict Heideggerian sense should be mobilized: if we try to conceive of consciousness within an ontologically fully realized field of reality, it can only appear as an additional positive moment; but what about linking consciousness to the very finitude, ontological incompleteness, of the human being, to its being originally out-of-joint, thrown-into, exposed to, an overwhelming constellation? (p. 168)
Yes, yes I know - Chalmers stuff already messed up six ways to Sunday. Chalmers nothing like a vulgar materialist. More like a Spinozist, if you ask me. (People said Spinoza was a vulgar materialist, too, come to think of it. But there is just no dragging some people to philosophy. Also, I think it is rather sloppy form of Zizek to footnote only Chalmers' whole bloody book, The Conscious Mind, rather than - say - a section, page, or even chapter, so that the inquiring reader might inquire after the alleged vulgarity in moderately efficient fashion.) Ok, ok, I'll include a footnote about the Chalmers. You twisted my arm.
But first, what's with the Heidegger stuff? I want to make sure I'm not missing anything here. "Mobilizing the topic of finitude"? That means: talking about death, right? For Heidegger, 'finitude' is 'being towards death'. Right? We may not understand what Heidegger means, but whatever he means by 'finitude' is the same as whatever he means by the other thing. I'm just trying to be sure that there isn't some completely other, important topic of 'finitude' in Heidegger. So Zizek is trying to make some point about how, if consciousness is finite, i.e. mortal, then Chalmers cannot possibly be right with his gestures towards panpsychism. (And it looks to me as though the argument is: your conclusion is wrong, because Heidegger's conclusion is right, so your argument must be wrong.)
What about "ontologically fully realized field of reality"? This is not ringing any Heideggerian bells in my belfry. 'Fully-realized reality'? Sounds like - I dunno - Plotinus. Plenitude and emanations and degrees of reality. More Platonic than Heideggerian. It doesn't sound like Heideggerese, but please correct me if I'm wrong. It sounds as though what Zizek is getting at, anyway, is a sort of Berkeleyan argument that you cannot conceive of a consciousnessless reality. For tree falling in the forest-type reasons, basically. If a reality exists, and no one is there for it to disclose itself to, is it? Suggested answer: no. Yet the point isn't that, then, we subjects are the world-subject, in any transcendental way. Rather, we are still "thrown into, exposed to". I think I can sort of grok what we are supposed to be agreeing to here, though I certainly don't , but the phrase nags: "ontologically fully realized field of reality"? Why put it that way?
[Oh, wait, there's more stuff about Heidegger on finitude on pp. 273-4. I'll get back to you, but I still want to know aboout 'fully realized reality'.]
I must say I am sincerely disappointed that there is no discussion of Pakula's The Parallax View [Amazon] - on sale for only $6.99! It turns out that the DVD version is probably much better than the old VHS version, the only way I've ever seen it. Pakula goes for the flat, long-lens, middle-distance look - in Klute, or example. Very chilly. Composed. Good. I never thought Parallax looked as good as Klute, however. Now (from reader Amazon comments, admittedly an unreliable source) I learn that's probably because the VHS version messed it all up in some misbegotten attempt to fit my TV screen with pan-and-scan. Tagline: "He saw too much". Alas, I fear we did not see enough!
Zizek's book is in this new 'short circuits' series he's gotten MIT to give him. "'Short circuits' intends to revive a practice of reading which confronts a classic text, author, or notion with its own hidden presuppositions, and thus reveals its disavowed truth." Eh. 'Revive'? Isn't that rather presumptuous? Like the man sang, "Well, you know/We're all doing what we can." I notice that Short Circuit is only $5.99 (marked down 40%). It's got a loooong way to go. Still. It's relevant. Is not the event which number 5 undergoes some sort of important metaphor of 'thrown-ness'? As the summary puts it. "He develops self-awareness, consciousness, and a fear of the reprogramming that awaits him back at the factory. With the help of a young woman, Number 5 tries to evade capture and convince his creator that he has truly become alive."
Why is it these sentimental SF productions are always hung up about life being the issue? A carrot is alive. (Still, I do like the moment in The Fifth Element when the big turtle-y alien passes Luke Perry the key through the gap: 'time does not matter, only life matters.' I get all verklempt, if not entworfen.)
But say what you will about Republican 'incompetence'. At least they repealed the law that said every movie had to have Steve Guttenberg in it. (You see what I mean?)
My subconscious is telling me I stole that joke from someone, but now I can't remember. Maybe I've just used it before.
Now, Chalmers. If you don't believe me about Chalmers being sort of a Spinozist-y sort of fellow, read something like his "Consciousness and its Place in Nature" piece. The view that Zizek seems to be mistaking for 'vulgar' materialism - i.e. materialism that does not consider other possible views, hence has its face rocked by coincidence with idealism - is what Chalmers calls Type-F Monism. (He thinks that since C.D. Broad's day, the range of potentially defensible types of view of the place of consciousness/mind in nature has winnowed from 17 to 6 - A - F.) The view Chalmers' is tempted by (but doesn't decisively stump for, because there are other possibilities) which Zizek appears to be talking about in the passage is Type-F Monism. I report, you decide:
At the same time, there is another metaphysical problem: how can phenomenal properties be integrated with the physical world? Phenomenal properties seem to be intrinsic properties that are hard to fit in with the structural/dynamic character of physical theory; and arguably, they are the only intrinsic properties that we have direct knowledge of. Russell's insight was that we might solve both these problems at once. Perhaps the intrinsic properties of the physical world are themselves phenomenal properties. Or perhaps the intrinsic properties of the physical world are not phenomenal properties, but nevertheless constitute phenomenal properties: that is, perhaps they are protophenomenal properties. If so, then consciousness and physical reality are deeply intertwined.
This view holds the promise of integrating phenomenal and physical properties very tightly in the natural world. Here, nature consists of entities with intrinsic (proto)phenomenal qualities standing in causal relations within a spacetime manifold. Physics as we know it emerges from the relations between these entities, whereas consciousness as we know it emerges from their intrinsic nature. As a bonus, this view is perfectly compatible with the causal closure of the microphysical, and indeed with existing physical laws. The view can retain the structure of physical theory as it already exists; it simply supplements this structure with an intrinsic nature. And the view acknowledges a clear causal role for consciousness in the physical world: (proto)phenomenal properties serve as the ultimate categorical basis of all physical causation.
This view has elements in common with both materialism and dualism. From one perspective, it can be seen as a sort of materialism. If one holds that physical terms refer not to dispositional properties but the underlying intrinsic properties, then the protophenomenal properties can be seen as physical properties, thus preserving a sort of materialism. From another perspective, it can be seen as a sort of dualism. The view acknowledges phenomenal or protophenomenal properties as ontologically fundamental, and it retains an underlying duality between structural-dispositional properties (those directly characterized in physical theory) and intrinsic protophenomenal properties (those responsible for consciousness). One might suggest that while the view arguably fits the letter of materialism, it shares the spirit of antimaterialism.
In its protophenomenal form, the view can be seen as a sort of neutral monism: there are underlying neutral properties X (the protophenomenal properties), such that the X properties are simultaneously responsible for constituting the physical domain (by their relations) and the phenomenal domain (by their collective intrinsic nature). In its phenomenal form, can be seen as a sort of idealism, such that mental properties constitute physical properties, although these need not be mental properties in the mind of an observer, and they may need to be supplemented by causal and spatiotemporal properties in addition. One could also characterize this form of the view as a sort of panpsychism, with phenomenal properties ubiquitous at the fundamental level. One could give the view in its most general form the name panprotopsychism, with either protophenomenal or phenomenal properties underlying all of physical reality.
Then he starts in with the zombies. So I'll stop.