For the first time, I’m teaching one of Žižek’s more philosophical works rather than his more or less strict political interventions, or a work like Violence. That meant that I finally am finding the time to take a page-by-page look at Adrian Johnston’s Žižek’s Ontology (Northwester UP 2008). I previously dived in for some skim and read several chapters, but a friend was kind enough to get me a non-library copy for my birthday (yes, Adrian, your book is now a birthday gift—and I guess we should also call it a good stocking stuffer as well for those planning ahead), so now I can write in it and so on.
As is well known, Kant is both the closest figure to Hegel and the one that he can never mention except in the most scathing terms—what Žižek (I think) discusses somewhere in terms of the Freudian logic of the neighbor, which I think is about right. Now, I’ve never had the heart to read through Derrida’s writings early writings on Lacan (I guess I’ll lose that Derrida merit badge), though I guess I’ve hit all the later work on his reading of Lacan’s account of the human/animal distinction. But that said, I don’t see how the logic of Žižek is altogether so painfully foreign to Derrida such that Žižek makes much of his work of the mid-to-late 90s but an introduction to all that is wrong with deconstruction. It’s not as if Derrida presents the awfully simplistic version of Hegel that Žižek detests. And I don’t see in Derrida, frankly, the run-amok “all difference is good difference” that one does find in some of his readers. The point is not to defend Derrida, but again, I don’t see how Žižek’s critiques of ipseity reads altogether different from something you would find in Derrida. Surely, Žižek doesn’t take Derrida to be one of those who don’t read Descartes or Kant seriously (thus his claims about the specter of the subject haunting European philosophy), and I don’t see his claims for a reworked Kantianism all that different from paths one finds in Derrida’s readings. That’s not to say that one is but the other, but I think the (often funny) vitriol of Žižek on this count is more akin, say, to Hegel’s treatment of Kant than to Aristotle’s treatment of his Platonist “friends” (as he puts in the Second Book of the Ethics) whose system he attempts to radically undo. Or maybe this is a way of saying it’s better to have philosophical enemies than friends.