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November 14, 2012

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My goodness....where to start? Here's the quote that I found interesting:

"The lesson to be learned is that freedom of choice only functions if a complex network of legal, educational, ethical, economic and other conditions is present as the invisible background to the exercise of our freedom."

So who are the real radicals?

This trivial difference indicates a profound ideological gap: Europeans are aware that, before counting starts – before decisions or choices are made – there has to be a ground of tradition, a zero level that is always already given and, as such, cannot be counted. While the US, a land with no proper historical tradition, presumes that one can begin directly with self-legislated freedom – the past is erased.


This really does sound like meaningless bullshit promulgated by pseudo-intellectuals trying to sound like they're conveying deep intellectual content without bothering to do any...thinking. It also reads a bit like the Sokal hoax.

I have at times wondered why some programming languages use 0-based indexing (like european buildings) and some use 1-based indexing, but the notion that this represents some deep ideological gap never occurred to me.

Žižek an interesting person, in the same niche as Feyerabend and Lakatos. Geoff Pullum captured it best when he said "to read Feyerabend is to experience the intellectual analog of what dogs seem to enjoy when they get a chance to roll on their backs in a patch of fresh, crisp grass. But make no mistake: reading Feyerabend without appreciating that he is sending the whole business up is like mistaking Monty Python for the 10 O'clock news.'

Still, I wouldn't have pegged him for carrying the torch for Obama.

A totally arbitrary choice, I'm with Turb on this. Might as well claim the European preference for starting with zero reflects a deeply engrained nihilism.

Universal agreement so far. What little I've read or heard from Zizek hasn't encouraged me to read more.

Never read any of these guys, but I'll give it a go.

So, if you overheard Zizek enlightening his girlfriend while standing in line for a movie, who would you pull by the shirtsleeve out from behind a potted plant to have a go at him?

The buildings I hate are the ones in my dreams that are 50 stories tall, but the stairways and elevators don't start until the third floor.

Yeah, yeah, I know.

1,2,3,4... : counts floors below you.

0,1,2,3... : counts ceilings below you.

So, if you overheard Zizek enlightening his girlfriend while standing in line for a movie, who would you pull by the shirtsleeve out from behind a potted plant to have a go at him?

Since I'm not sure, I'd just grab Woody Allen, so he could then grab whoever was needed. Who knows? Maybe Zizek talks out of his ass about Woody Allen a lot and Woody could just handle it himself.

Gee, Turbulence, Brett, Donald, and I are in agreement.

And consider:

Although [Obama's] healthcare reforms were mired in so many compromises they amounted to almost nothing,...

I wonder what world he lives in where ACA is "almost nothing."

I don't buy Trump as a holy fool.

I get what he says about Thatcher, although from the opposite political position. He's expressing a concept similar to the Overton Window. I think that Obama and the Democrats are finally shifting the discussion back toward sane principles. Who really believes tht tax cuts for rich people (esp. when their taxes are at an historic low) improves the economy? I;m not sure that even Boehner and McConnel atually believe that. So shifting the converstation so tht the undelying assumptions are the ones put forward by the Democrats will be a huge relief and a benefit to us all.

If that's what Zizeck meant.

Maybe you people never had to descibe the various American strains of thought and culture to a European girlfriend; I've had to -- twice.

Zizek's quote is a handy analogy for our "history begins today" ethos.

"I wonder what world he lives in where ACA is "almost nothing." "

Probably the present. Most of the ACA provisions don't kick in for a year or two yet, conveniently after the election. It doesn't start getting ugly until next year.

Some states have provisions where laws have to be enacted twice, once before an election, and once after, to take effect. It's a good way, I think, to keep legislators who want to do stuff the voters will hate from enacting these "time bomb" bills like the ACA.

Most of the ACA provisions don't kick in for a year or two yet, conveniently after the election. It doesn't start getting ugly until next year.

Most people understand that making large changes to a complex system takes careful planning and execution and is not the sort of thing you can just spin up overnight. Of course, if ACA implementation was done much faster, no doubt Brett would be screaming about how idiotic careless bureaucrats couldn't possibly implement a complex law this quickly.

Zizek loves to draw these little parallels. If it's not about number floors, it's about elevator buttons. One gets the impression that he spends a lot of time in large, Soviet-style flats.

One shouldn't take him seriously, though, and it's largely a waste of time to read him except to entertain yourself in a narcissistic, feeling smarter than everyone else way. He epitomizes the descent of continental philosophy into self-parody, and is really more of a hyperintelligent clown than a thinker. If he convinces you of something, it's only to laugh at you later.

I have at times wondered why some programming languages use 0-based indexing (like european buildings) and some use 1-based indexing

Offset vs. ordinality.

OK (or should that be 0K?)

more of a hyperintelligent clown than a thinker.

This is an awesome turn of phrase that I plan on stealing.

Offset vs. ordinality.

Interesting; that dovetails with some of my thinking. My first guess was that it made sense to K&R when making C since array indexing is just pointer arithmetic under the covers (which is why int[] x =...; 5[x] += 1; sort of works). But theory guys like Djikstra seem to have bought into 0-indexing long before for somewhat compelling reasons having to do with range-representation (half-open intervals are best and if you buy that, then 0 indexing allows you to represent ranges of length N with N as the end point rather than N+1).

See also: modulus.

Maybe not. Modulus maps better onto ring buffers, perhaps.

The *European* use of the word "storey", when compared to the American "story", indicates that the Americans see their buildings as part of their overall narrative. Their narrative is about building something, creating something.
Adding an "e" (or, refusing to remove one in the face of ontological necessity) indicates the European preference for drawing matters out longer than necessary- a penchant for bureaucracy, long cafe conversations, and waiting until the third date.

open intervals are best and if you buy that, then 0 indexing allows you to represent ranges of length N with N as the end point rather than N+1)

OK, that makes sense, too.

Modulus maps better onto ring buffers

Here be dragons. :)

See, when I read the Zizek piece, what I took away was:

Americans are attached to a particular understanding of "freedom of choice". So much so, that they don't even think to ask the question, "what does freedom of choice actually mean?" Or, what do we *want* freedom of choice to actually mean?

We start the discussion (by analogy) at the first floor, rather than backing up a step and questioning our assumptions about what good and useful understandings of "freedom" and "choice" might be.

Did anybody else get that out of it?

Maybe I'm a Lacanian and I didn't even know it.

I'm with Russell and karl. Concentrating so closely on the particulars of Žižek without taking in the larger argument is kind of missing the point. You can demand that points be made to you using only facts that have been poked and prodded and ascertained as true, and there is a danger when the whole edifice rests on the truth value of the fact, but for things that require a more or less complete change of viewpoint, where the camera spins 180 degrees to show you what is off the set, the incremental gathering of facts isn't likely to do much.

Carleton,

Well done.

Russell,

I thought he was trying to say that when discussing freedom of choice you have to first be aware of the constraints on choice - which ones are unavailable for various social, institutional, economic, or other reasons.

Though that can't be it, because if it were it wouldn't have taken that long to say.

As for the rest, there's a lot about "the debilitating crisis of western societies," and so on. It's unclear to me what he thinks that crisis is, or what he thinks ought to be done about it.

Though that can't be it, because if it were it wouldn't have taken that long to say.

Clearly, the man is a professional.

byomtov,
A good point. But if he were seriously proposing to start by examining the constraints, he'd have had to spoil his clever points by noticing that in terms of the actual constraints, ACA was a huge achievement, however pathetic it may look.

BTW, in what world does ACA look like nothing? In that of the other industrial democracies, all of which do a great deal better on any quantitative grounds like lifetimes and expense. We all know this, of course; but we also know the constraints under which the law was passed, and how little freedom there was to write it from scratch, which Zizek doesn't trouble with, as it would not support his thesis.

Although it seems unlikely, I'll be the first one here to take the pro-Zizek position, I guess.

I've read a bunch of Zizek (well, maybe 10 books; not near most of what he's written) and I think he's great. He's a very quick and broad thinker on a breathtaking range of topics. I don't always agree with him -- and I don't take him as gospel; as already pointed out, to do so would miss much of the point of Zizek -- but I enjoy him immensely. I have found entire semester-long courses explained in one (dense and difficult) paragraph.

In one way, I suppose, he's a post-modernist par excellence, with all the [positive and negative] that entails. Is reading him just I'm-so-smart-I-can-sort-of-understand-this self-gratification? Maybe, but people tell me the same thing about Joyce.

He's a Marxist [old school] and a neo-Lacanian [newish school]; his views are filtered through that. He can be exhilarating as well as frustrating, and if my mind wanders I'd best go back a few paragraphs or I'm done.

Anyway, this isn't that cogent an ad hoc defense, but it sure is easy to take his quotes out of context, which is I'm pretty sure just how he likes it, in a way.

If I've convinced anyone at all to take a second look, I'd recommend Looking Awry as a good starting point. It's short (but dense), and in it Zizek explains his understanding of Lacanian theory pretty much entirely through analyses of pop culture; sci-fi stories, Sherlock Holmes, Hollywood staples (his reading of "The Color of Money" is fncking unbelievable) and lots and lots of Hitchcock.

Brilliant, crazy, troublesome, deeply affecting, infuriating, obscene, and hilarious.

$.02

Turbulence: I have at times wondered why some programming languages use 0-based indexing (like european buildings) and some use 1-based indexing, but the notion that this represents some deep ideological gap never occurred to me.

The first computer language I learned (lo these many years ago) was Fortran where indexing begins at 1. I disliked C at first for various reasons, this being one.

I have to say, though, that indexing beginning at 0 is more natural because it's closer to the actual hardware: the address arithmetic is base address + index*size.

Of course, all higher-level languages are abstractions to some degree and it's partly a matter of personal taste. My style nowadays is to begin counting at 0.

On the other hand, "God created the natural numbers. All the rest [including 0] is the work of Man."

Counting from 0: not in music, though, which is a bit confusing!

ral:

"Counting from 0: not in music, though, which is a bit confusing!"

All atonal theory counts from 0; it's semi-arbitrary, but it makes some calculations easier. (The distance from any pitch to another pitch in semitones is easier to count/calculate if the beginning pitch is considered "0." Old-school purists, though, say C is always 0 - the equivalent of fixed-do solfege systems).

Oh dear, I think I've said too much.

b_i_b, thanks very much. The Zizek I've read has been through the internet, which has an interesting effect it can mislead or highlight the aspects of interest. From what I've read, the simple range of what he cites is phenomenal, and therefore, to me, rather interesting. I wonder if I was being unfair to be surprised at the title of the piece I linked to. Your thoughts?

I'll check out Looking Awry (I love the joke in the title!) but I've just gotten The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, so it might be awhile...

lj: I wonder if I was being unfair to be surprised at the title of the piece I linked to.

Try to think of it less as a facile, if pithy, remark - and more of Zizek thinking about symptoms.

He's grounded in Lacanian theory, which (in my limited understanding, gleaned mostly from reading Zizek) is a sort of poststructuralist neo-Freudian psychology.

It's neo-Freudian in the sense that for Freud the essential conflict is that in order to behave in society you have to suppress your desires, which leads to neuroses/psychoses or whatever. Similarly, for Lacan/Zizek, the reality than we "construct" for the purposes of coping with everyday ilfe ("reality") requires us to suppress/ignore the really thin line - the radically contingent conditions - under which we (both as individuals and as a society/species/planet) continue to tenuously exist ("the real").

Jeez, I haven't even had my tea. But maybe this helps? I dunno.

Does this fix the tag lj left open?

Ha, I bet that'd make a great Zizek joke, were I more awake.

fixed-do solfege

IMO, fixed-do solfege is just asking for pain.

Does the fact that I'm having a colonoscopy today add substantively to this thread?

Does the fact that I'm having a colonoscopy today add substantively to this thread?

Good luck.

Here's to a pristine colon, McKTX. Good luck.

Just before I went under (do go all the way under) for my colonoscopy, the doctor who did the procedure entered the room, leaned in, and said: "Good morning, Countme. My name is Dr. Rector."

I don't know how he knew my blogging alias. Perhaps somehow via Blackhawk's Internet data cache via San Francisco, I don't know.

IMO, fixed-do solfege is just asking for pain.

Absolutely. It's not even fun to torture students with. What's the point of teaching patterns if you don't drive home the point that the same pattern holds regardless of starting pitch?

Sheesh.

What's the point of teaching patterns if you don't drive home the point that the same pattern holds regardless of starting pitch?

We are of one mind.

Does the fact that I'm having a colonoscopy today add substantively to this thread?

Hope all went well McK.

I may be the only person in the world who found a colonoscopy entertaining.

I blame the Versed IV. That is one seriously nice benzo.

Better living through chemistry.

I'll have to wait 4 weeks for the opportunity to get the watching tube in the other end. Before this is seen as another data point in the discussion about the healthcare system: it's not an emergency, just a precautionary check that my current enduring stomach troubles are just caused by my old friend, the chronic gastritis, not one of her nastier camp followers (one of which will get me in the end. It's in the family on both sides). If I spat blood not just bile, I could get an appointment even during the weekend (which would cost me 10€ for bypassing the family doctor). I could also just have phoned more gastroenterologists and likely gotten an earlier date.

I may be the only person in the world who found a colonoscopy entertaining.

The colonoscopy itself is not too bad, IMO. It's the day before that's misery. The lower GI, OTOH, should probably be outlawed by the Geneva Convention.

I comforted myself with a nice thick Cuban (sandwich) and fries after the procedure ended.

Fortunately the last time it was only proctoscopy with no prior purging necessary. But it hinted that getting rid of the haemorrohoids would be in the not so far future.

Russell -- definitely not the only person who finds colonoscopies entertaining. I do, and it's a good thing, because I have them regularly. (This is what happens when your doctor finds something reeaally interesting the first time.)

To be fair, the first one followed years of my persistently saying "there's something wrong in my abdomen". After all other search techniques failed, my doctor scheduled the first of what has become a long series of colonoscopies. It was entertaining, because this was back in the day of the scope being mounted on a stick (they called it "the broomstick" -- no kidding), which was manipulated by hand, and from the outer end depended not one, but two eyepieces. The doctor gave me one of them.

Now, *that* was entertaining! More recently, a subsequent doctor gave me the video tape of a colonoscopy. At one point, you can hear a voice saying "There it is!" To which you will be tempted to reply "There what is?" But the doctor could see it, while to me, it looked like just another in a sea of pink bumps. That's why he gets the big bucks.

These days I can look forward to one incident every five years -- this is the approved schedule for someone who had a cancerous thing, but then didn't have any more for ten years of yearly 'scopes. Since these days I am entirely asleep (or very very relaxed) for the procedure, I look back on them as soon as I am through looking forward to them.

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