Thursday, December 10, 2009

Zizek on bio-tech


"""Today, with the latest biogenetic developments, we are entering a new phase in which it is simply nature itself that melts into air: the main consequence of the scientific breakthroughs in biogenetics is the end of nature. Once we know the rules of their construction, natural organisms are transformed into objects amenable to manipulation. Nature -human and inhuman- is, thus, ‘desubstantialized’, deprived of its impenetrable density, of what Heidegger called ‘earth’. This development compels us to give a new twist to Freud’s title Unbehagen in der Kultur - discontent, uneasiness in culture. With the latest developments, the discontent shifts from culture to nature itself: nature is no longer ‘natural’, the reliable ‘dense’ background of our lives; it now appears as a fragile mechanism, which, at any point, can explode in a catastrophic direction.

Biogenetics, with its reduction of the human psyche itself to an object of technological manipulation is, therefore, effectively, a kind of empirical instantiation of what Heidegger perceived as the ‘danger’ inherent to modern technology. What is crucial here is the interdependence of man and nature: by reducing man to just another natural object whose properties can be manipulated, what we lose is not (only) humanity but nature itself. In this sense, Francis Fukuyama is right: humanity itself relies on some notion of ‘human nature’ as what we simply inherited, namely, the impenetrable dimension in/of ourselves into which we are born/thrown. The paradox is, thus, that there is man only insofar as there is impenetrable inhuman nature. With the prospect, however, of biogenetic interventions opened up by the access to the genome, the species is able to freely change/redefine itself, its own coordinates; this prospect effectively emancipates humankind from the constraints of a finite species, from its enslavement to the ‘selfish genes’. However, there is a price for this emancipation..."


""Should we not apply here the fundamental lesson of Kant’s transcendental idealism: the world as a Whole is not a Thing-in-itself, it is merely a regulative Idea of our mind, something our mind imposes onto the raw multitude of sensations in order to be able to experience it as a well-ordered meaningful Whole? The paradox is that the very ‘In-itself’ of Nature, as a Whole independent of us, is the result of our (subjective) ‘synthetic activity’ - do Skulason’s own words, if we read them closely (i.e. literally), not already point in this direction? “


jh said...

from this i'm not sure where you stand regarding man's ability in the laboratory of life
--do you think man is adequately possessed of a moral conscience which would impose ethical constraints or
is it now out of anyone's control
comme ci comme ca

does zizek believe this

he seems to imply something akin to curtis favilles' pessimism -
we're F**CKed

have you read the work
"the illusion of technique"
william barrett

i find your posts very hard to read
the grey font against the rather neutral background forces me to squint
hard black and white is always best

thanks for filling me in on Z
i doubt i'd ever read him otherwise


J said...

Hey JH.

I have over the last few years rekindled an interest in german idealism (Kant, mo' than Hegel, really) and begun to question, or at least re-examine empirical, naturalist/Darwinist views common to 'Merican edu-cational system, and political life--note the last quote I just inserted, "something our mind imposes onto the raw multitude of sensations." I may not buy all of the Zizek schema (ie the stalinist aspects) but he does understand the idealist starting point--that Reality including the perception of nature (not to say environmentalism) is not just a given.

Humans look at the world through rose-tinted glasses--or rose-tinted ideologies--, but they generally aren't aware of that, and/or refuse to acknowledge their own subjective biases.

Zizek doesn't really do ethics per se except in a sort of conceptual sense, as did Heidegger (not too PC, but whatever). Read Heidegger's Question concerning Tech.--technology as "danger" as SZ notes but that's more to it as well, one might say slightly Hegelian--and dare we say determined-- in the sense of modern Technik (like the hydro. plants on Heidegger's beloved Rhine) as a sort of... manifestation (not exactly comforting)...or that's how I read it.

J said...

J said...
That's not to bless luddite-ism, either (hear that Contingencies lurkers?). It's more akin to the "anthropic principle" (for lack of a better term) which even high-powered physicists now address. We don't see a real world, "the Facts". We see, first, via our own visual apparatus, conditioned by education and experience, AND by a priori subjective and cognitive parameters (including space and time).

Intense, eh dude. (And really Kant not so far from Descartes and dare we say some rational catholic thinking, tho' IK fleshed out Descartes quite a bit).

One Brow said...


Back on Nov 27th I posted what Feser wrote about essentially ordered causes. I remember we had a discussion on that, and I wanted your thought is I protrayed what happened correctly.

J said...

Hello OB.

I will take a look at your review of Feser's TLS--.

While I am not in agreement with Feser's heritage mongering (or his right-wing politics), I don't completely reject Aristotelian causes however quaint, but read it as sort of inferences from basic mechanics/statics. The primitive physics is one thing, the metaphysical inferences (ie form, final cause, etc) another.

To be brief I don't think Feser can do what he wants to do with those quaint pre-copernican systems, at all, theologically speaking. One can posit Order of some type; roses will be roses (and not tarantulas...), and space shuttles will follow a certain predictable trajectory. Cool. But that in itself is not proof of Design, even in Feser's intrinsic, Aristotelian sense (I can hear him yapping contra Paley, but he faces the same issues the IDT peeps do). Black plagues and swine flu's show order as well--obvious, maybe even trite, but a point Feser really doesn't address.

Feser doesn't really flesh out the intrinsic/extrinsic def. either, though insists there is some obvious difference. Any monotheism would ultimately be ...extrinsic, it seems. Feser sounds nearly hindu-like at times. See my post on occasionalism Any monotheistic view faces the problems of Occasionalism (so I remain agnostic in terms of rational theology [Feser's raison d'etre), though the belief issue is another matter)

In terms of evolution biologists note certain advancements--so there might be normative language of a sort. But then claiming that such normative language implies an Order-keeper aka monotheistic G*d necessarily exists also involves a great leap of faith.

That said, I am not completely down with the neo-atheist/Darwinist crew. Dawkins and Hitchens rushed in where a SJ Gould or Bertrand Russell sort of feared to tread (not that I love Sir Bertie either, but he knows what he's taking on, and maybe pauses, figuratively speaking, before calling in the demolition crew to notre dame)

J said...

from jh:

there is a whole area of jesuit philosophy which takes on kant joseph marechal being the foremost proponent and they acknowledge at some point that the impasse is non negotiable
descartes of course was educated by jesuits but he took the idiosyncratic method very seriously his is but a postrennaissance leap into original inquiry

the church has always insisted on the line of thinking from aristotle to augustine to thomas aquinas to the 20th century neothomist schools in france with gilson and maritain holding forth and yves simon

I agree--the german idealists are not thomists. Hegel I believe said some fairly nasty things about Aquinas (then, so did Martin Luther--Luther actually admired Augustine, however). Kant and Hegel have read the greeks, of course; Aristotelian logic is still in use. Kant was very interested in the foundations of geometry and Euclid. But he's also accepted and understands Copernicus, Gallileo, the english empiricists, Newton (in fact Kant offered some interesting critiques of Newton, anticipating relativity).

The thomistic/catholic tradition barely began to accept Copernicus and Gallileo, until, what, the 19th century. I have read there are still dissenting priests (though, again, some catholics were quite advanced--like Descartes-- but the official line was Aquinas/Aristotle). But Kant does not accept the rational theology (ie, Aquinas), or the scholastic terminology. He realized the empiricists, Gallileo, Leibniz, Newton put a big dent in that.

it all would seem a little boring to the continental school stemming from kant hegel hussurll and the existentialist descendants therein.

what would remain complete philosophical silliness would be if that whole school which demolishes metaphysics held itself completley aloof to the insights of a parallel tradition...can there be a bridge between the land of adamant arelidjious thought and a much older and arguably wiser seems to me the "scientists" and those who argue from objective rational facts alone are resistant to the point of insanity to any sort of discussion with the minds directed by faith...metaphysics gets re-established as children putsing ina playroom instead of real serious cognitive activity -- the only thing left to do actually
if you're not writing about metaphysics you're sweeping the floor

I agree there are metaphysical issues that most Mericans are simply not aware of (ie, say the conditions of experience and the status of the a priori, freedom/determinism for starters). Students are indoctrinated with a sort of basic naive empiricism, now, with the Darwinian/naturalist assumptions. That's one of Zizek's points.

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