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August 25, 2017

Slavoj Zizek on video games

His long time readers will recognize this as familiar ground to Zizek, though admittedly the first time I've heard him apply Kantian infinite judgement/Hegelian negation-of-the-negation to Pokemon. The following specific instance is from "From Che Vuoi? to fantasy: Lacan with Eyes Wide Shut."

In his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant introduced a key distinction between negative and indefinite judgment: the positive statement ‘the soul is mortal’ can be negated in two ways. We can either deny a predicate (‘the soul is not mortal’), or affirm a non-predicate (‘the soul is non-mortal’). The difference is exactly the same as the one, known to every reader of Stephen King, between ‘he is not dead’ and ‘he is undead’. The indefinite judgment opens up a third domain which undermines the distinction between dead and non-dead (alive): the ‘undead’ are neither alive nor dead, they are precisely the monstrous ‘living dead’. And the same goes for ‘inhuman’: ‘he is not human’ is not the same as ‘he is inhuman’. ‘He is not human’ means simply that he is external to humanity, animal or divine, while ‘he is inhuman’ means something thoroughly different, namely the fact that he is neither human nor inhuman, but marked by a terrifying excess which, although it negates what we understand as humanity, is inherent to being-human. And, perhaps, one should risk the hypothesis that this is what changes with the Kantian philosophical revolution: in the pre-Kantian universe, humans were simply humans, beings of reason, fighting the excesses of animal lusts and divine madness, while with Kant, the excess to be fought is immanent and concerns the very core of subjectivity itself. (Which is why, in German Idealism, the metaphor for the core of subjectivity is Night, the ‘Night of the World’, in contrast to the Enlightenment notion of the Light of Reason fighting the darkness around.) In the pre-Kantian universe, when a hero goes mad, he is deprived of his humanity and animal passions or divine madness take over. With Kant, madness signals the unconstrained explosion of the very core of a human being.

When I teach this material I parse it as:

living (mortal);
dead (mortal);
not-living (immortal or, more properly, "amortal" - angels, djinn, fae, pretty much anyone without a belly button);
not-dead ("living dead" - vampires, zombies, "what is dead may never die").

Where death is a negation of life, undeath isn't life, it's a negation of death. And equally,immortality isn't an afterlife, it's "unlife," a negation life-qua-life. I will know what to do with "not dead but dreaming" when someone completes the system of German Idealism.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at August 25, 2017 08:58 AM