I know describing any Zizek book as "his most coherent" is like congratulating a Bob Dylan performance on being his "least nasal" but if one book can...moreI know describing any Zizek book as "his most coherent" is like congratulating a Bob Dylan performance on being his "least nasal" but if one book can be said to finally put lazy criticism of Zizek to rest then this should be it.
It's not perfect (even though I gave it 5 stars), but what book of philosophy is? Generally speaking, Zizek is trying to "do Hegel again" whilst filtering in Lacan and Marx, reinterpreting Meilassoux, Butler, Heidegger, Jameson and Freud, as well as exploring the Hegelian sides of speculative realism and quantum physics. In fact, this latter chapter is one of his strongest, showing a direct engagement with ideas above and beyond philosophy and psychoanalysis and refusing to descend into self-parody. This is perhaps the book's key strength: Zizek is less willing to simply repeat a bunch of now tired movie references and jokes from the old country. Instead he directly engages with a range of topics over a series of lengthy chapters with heavy theory and minimal nonsense (although fans of his meandering and tangents will not be disappointed in a few places).
The book is by no means "entry level". Many of the early chapters baffled me as I have no background or even the remotest hint of knowledge in German Idealism (I hoped this would teach me a bit about Hegel). While I know more about Hegel in his Zizekian form after reading this, I can certainly say that it was a hard slog. If you've read Zizek before then the sections on Lacan and Marx are not too taxing, and a little knowledge of Deleuze wouldn't go amiss either. However, if you're willing to pile through the stuff that's incredibly difficult, there are some absolute gems in there (like the previously mentioned chapter on quantum mechanics, his engagement with Badiou's theory of the event and his criticism of speculative realism). As a whole it is not perfectly formed, still having "interludes" that don't often stand out as obvious links between sections, but it reads as a lot more of a consistent piece than his other works. For this, it should be read as his masterpiece- the "go to" for those who wish to read Zizek at his best, his clearest and his most honest.(less)
Possibly my biggest problem with reading Badiou is the fact that once he hits the formal proofs of his concepts and principles I always get lost in a...morePossibly my biggest problem with reading Badiou is the fact that once he hits the formal proofs of his concepts and principles I always get lost in a mire of set theory and logic that my tiny mind can't handle. In which case, it was with great trepidation that I set about reading "Logics of Worlds", the follow-up to his intriguing/baffling "Being and Event". I changed my approach and didn't resign to my lack of understanding and painstakingly pursued each proof in laborious detail to make sure that every sentence was understood. In honesty this worked well until Book 6 when I put the book down and didn't come back to it for a fortnight. I was pretty much lost and had to rely upon my understanding of the phenomenological analyses and applications to thinkers to get me through.
That's just my personal experience of the book. My feelings on it are different. Far from being an impenetrable trawl, it was an enlightening, engaging and exciting work that makes you feel like you're really having a whole world opened up to you. It's exciting to read books that you may not agree with, but you feel pushing against you and challenging you to rethink everything. As usual, the writing sways from dense formalism to sheer lyricism with ease, both captivating and taxing at once.
Not recommended if you haven't read "Being and Event". If it's been a while since reading it, it's also worth revisiting "Theoretical Writings" or "Infinite Thought" as a refresher, then get stuck in. It's going to be a long journey, but worth it.(less)
I give 5 star reviews to anything I've read that made me seriously reflect on an issue rather than just being an interesting read. Good or bad, right...moreI give 5 star reviews to anything I've read that made me seriously reflect on an issue rather than just being an interesting read. Good or bad, right or wrong, Rorty made me do that with this book.
Part-analytic, part-continental, and attempting to dismiss those unhelpful titles in the process, Rorty dismantles the history of epistemology as the perceived backbone of modern thought. He not only tries to show how the particular concerns of our day have emerged from some specific moves in philosophical outlook from Plato through Locke and Descartes and off into Kant, but also that we don't need any of the resulting effects they have had. An attempt to create a final theory of justification, knowledge or metaphysics isn't just unnecessary, it's also insufficient in its practical application.
Rorty, like many others, is one of those great writers who are worth dipping into for the vast library of philosophy they own inside their minds, the clarity of their thought, and their daring to not just dismiss other theories but to show that they weren't even asking the right questions. Engaging and brilliant; a must for any fan of epistemology and metaphysics.(less)
One of those books I've been meaning to read for years but never got round to it. I am now utterly glad I did after my previous two reads being incred...moreOne of those books I've been meaning to read for years but never got round to it. I am now utterly glad I did after my previous two reads being incredibly intense.
MacIntyre takes us through a history of ethics and morality that shows us where it all went wrong and why we're now in a sort of deadlock over the whole sorry mess. The modern trend for "emotivism" (a word he detaches from it's link with Ayer and Stevenson, et al) emerges from the failure of the enlightenment project to find a final system of normative rules, all because of various changes in conceptual framework from Ancient Greece, through medieval Europe, to today. The book leaves no stone unturned and provides a compelling case for leaving the very talk of morality as it exists behind and trying to find a brand new approach. My rating doesn't reflect the level to which I agree with it, but the level to which I enjoyed it. (less)
A dense, difficult and possibly very beautiful piece of philosophy. No politics, no art, no lengthy discussions of poetry; just pure maths.
I can only...moreA dense, difficult and possibly very beautiful piece of philosophy. No politics, no art, no lengthy discussions of poetry; just pure maths.
I can only speak from my own experience. I found the first book to be incredibly difficult to follow, despite his typical claim that anyone with basic mathematical skills can navigate his work (French schools have a rigour that English ones don't). I picked up very little from it and found it hard to understand. However the second book was clear and, though not simple, certainly manageable for anyone with any training in logic. I found the exercises impossible to complete but could follow their explanations and the whole conceptual framework gradually fell together.
Probably one for die-hard Badiou fans or those who study his work. Not for those who fancy dipping in. (less)
The format is typical Zizek. 6 essays with some sort of thread between them, split into parts by theme and all quixotically hinged upon some sort of p...moreThe format is typical Zizek. 6 essays with some sort of thread between them, split into parts by theme and all quixotically hinged upon some sort of premise which is explained in the introduction. However, this one actually does what Zizek says it does. He does actually look at the topic he outlines. In this book Zizek explores the Lacanian concept of jouissance that he feels lies at the heart of ideology (nothing new there) but following through the notion of the cause as a political factor. This brings him onto the second division on women which draws us back to jouissance again.
This manages to be both old hat (if you've read him before) but refreshingly new. There's fewer meaningless delves into pop culture and some actual explanations of what Lacan means rather than expectations that we already know. Some of his chapters on women seem to be attempting to move beyond categories of phallocetric psychoanalysis without really managing it. There are better writers on female sexuality out there. However, his writing on Lynch is impeccable and there are some great reflections on desire which are worth reading.
There's also a self-interview in the appendix which is best read before you begin. Much of it seems to be a repetition of what is already discussed earlier but in less depth. It almost serves as a Rough Guide to Zizek which might make entry into his work easier (if you get some of the references already, as it really just irons out the idiosyncrasies in his readings rather than explaining the concepts he starts with). If you read it after the main body of the book then it is a little tedious. (less)
A deep rich work of pessimism, managing to fuse a Nietzschean style of writing with a Schopenhauerian line of thought. Unrelentingly bleak, only showi...moreA deep rich work of pessimism, managing to fuse a Nietzschean style of writing with a Schopenhauerian line of thought. Unrelentingly bleak, only showing promise when the optimism of suicide is raised, Cioran's pathos can depress and amuse in equal measure. There are some deliberately humourous moments ("the world is a receptacle for sobs") but largely this is the meandering of an insomniac and depressive realising that- when it comes down to it- the things that make life manageable are the things that make it unbearable. (less)
One of Foucault's less theoretical and more historical works. The book constructs a history of madness from the classical period up until Freud (brief...moreOne of Foucault's less theoretical and more historical works. The book constructs a history of madness from the classical period up until Freud (briefly at the end), showing the various ways in which madness has been framed and how the treatment of the insane has varied. While it definitely shows signs of what Foucault would go on to discuss in depth later on (panopticism, power, confinement) it doesn't really delve too far into his overall view and remains as a detailed history of the concept of madness itself. This is not a bad thing, it's just not as "Foucaulty" as some of his other works. Possibly a great entry level book for those wishing to start with him.(less)