Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Zizek , psychoanalysis and literary theory

Recently one of my friend showed me this video which is a interview of famous intellectual noam chomsky  on philosopher slavoj zizek . Chomsky has sharply criticised postmodernism and related work in critical theory etc.  below is my views on the video and related matters of psychoanalysis and literary theory .

1. I agree with Noam Chomsky that one should try to simplify things and academics and intellectuals shouldn’t act like high priests in a ivory tower but should try to share their knowledge with common people. For academics it would be a good idea that their work in public education  say  writing popular books etc should be  given importance for granting tenure etc. what do you think of this idea?
2. Literary theory : as alan sokal and others have shown there is lot of nonsense is there in literary theory. But I won’t dismiss it altogether at least part of what I have read of literary theory (from critical theory a friendly guide) most of it is applying  Marxism, feminism etc to literary works to identify hidden form of class bias, sexism, racism etc. Learning these theories will help us to identify these prejudices in our day to day real world interactions. From my personal experience I have learnt that eventhough “intellectually” we are against these form of exploitative forms it takes time and effort to put them in practice.
3. Lacan psychoanalysis: I am unable to understand the intellectual status of psychoanalysis. Popper criticised Freudian psychoanalysis  for being unfalsifiable  and psychologists have rejected most of the concepts of psychoanalysis . But many people say that it is a interpretive theory and it can’t be judged by the same standard of natural sciences (Reference : ch 4 philosophy of social science  by alex Rosenberg).
 For example philosopher Habermas  says (from habermas a very short introduction pg 18)
Habermas remained critical of the view that all knowledge, particularly knowledge of the social world, must conform to the canons of  natural science. Eventually, he developed the view that the different  kinds of knowledge – theoretical, practical and critical – take shape   within different frameworks, and serve different human interests.
Theoretical knowledge is based on the human interest in technical  control over nature; practical and moral knowledge is based on the  human interest in understanding one another; while critical social theory and psychoanalysis are based respectively on the collective  and individual interest in emancipation, in freedom from illusion, in autonomy (Mündigkeit), and the realization of the good life.

It leads to never ending debate about naturalists and their critics in philosophy of social science which I don’t have much knowledge about (see for a short summary http://www.iep.utm.edu/soc-sci/)

4. Zizek : I have only read his book first as tragedy, then as farce and few of his lectures. I think he repeats himself and repeats many of the examples. His main message his simple and original. he explains them using examples from popular culture which makes them accessible. His mix of technical jargon and popular culture is unconventional and sometimes I got the feeling that he got those insights first and then tried to fit them into technical jargon.

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