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A Conversation with Slavoj iek

February 26, 2014 The New Idealist talks with the philosopher Slavoj iek about love, life and his new book Event, the second of The en!uin hilosoph" in Transit series of four books# The book looks at some really fundamental questions such as the role that fate plays in shapin people!s lives" Continuin the transport theme #of the book$% do you think that people!s lives are structured like the &ondon 'nder round Tube map( with each destination defined by pre)determined steps alon the way* Thats a nice question that I would like to pursuena ely, to try to distin!uish and to reach so e cultural eanin! into it between di""erent tube networks# $ew %ork is totally di""erent to &ondon# The one bi! di""erence, ob'iously, is that in &ondon probably they were already countin! on war# (robably this is the ain reason that the under!round tunnels should also sur"ace) potential places to hide in the case o" bo bin! or war# This is why &ondons tube is so deep# $ew %ork is *ust i ediately beneath the !round, you can hear it and so on and so on# +ut what interests e ost, another line I wanted to pursue but it was !ettin! too uch , the book had a certain li it in how lon! it was allowed to be , would ha'e been -how. e'eryone who lo'es the tube, the under!round, knows that the !reatest ystery is to know about abandoned stations# $There are all these %"ths that %a"be so%e people live there in tunnels who never co%e up&' I read so ewhere, do you know that they think in $ew %ork in the sub/under!round o" 0anhattan its possible that in abandoned tube lines about 1,000 people li'e and they ha'e their own entire alternate co unity there2 They *ust co e up "ro ti e to ti e, so e o" the , to steal so e "ood, water, whate'er# +ut basically its a cra3y idea, you !et the idea o" an alternate co unity down there with their own rules and so on## This was one line I wanted to pursue but, a!ain, it would ha'e been too uchbecause you know the proble was that the book had to be written in a relati'ely popular way, +ell( it is a very concise book" ,or a philosophy book it is quite slender" It was "or y standards a 'ery short book, yeson the other hand, its interestin!# This is what "ascinated e, what I disco'ered throu!h writin! this book, -was. how, whate'er way we "ollow, whether in philosophy or si ply pursuin! "unda ental questions, we sooner or later stu ble upon so e notion o" 4e'ent# &ike, in continental philosophy 5eide!!er in quantu physics, its -the. +i! +an! as an e'ent, black hole

as an e'ent# In 6hristianity, 6hristianity is a reli!ion o" e'ent because it all hin!es on the e'ent o" incarnation and so on# 7o, this is what "ascinated e , all these di""erent "or s in which all letters philosophy, cine a e'en and so on, you stu ble upon the notion o" e'ent# Its absolutely crucial# +hat do you think about all the e-treme weather events that are happenin at the moment* That!s a ood e-ample of a .bi event!" $ot yet, it would ha'e been an e'ent i" it were really to chan!e the attitude o" how we relate nature and so on# +ut I think its not yet -an. e'ent# Its bad weather, we are shakin!, its horrible but I dont think we already accept it that so ethin! weird is happenin! in nature itsel"# The idea is a 'ery si ple one here# Traditional nature, in edie'al ti es and later, was considered a kind o" a re!ular repetiti'e syste # 8ur idea o" nature is in nature thin!s repeat the sel'es# %ou ha'e seasons, day9ni!ht and so on# $ature is a kind o" a circular order# $ow, its clear that at all le'els, in theory but also throu!h e:perience, we can less and less rely on such a stable notion o" nature# $ature is ore and ore in this sense denaturalised# +ut I dont think we already are at the e:tre e le'el# I think there are still worse surprises# $I a% !enerall" a pessi%ist but, "ou know wh", because I want to be happ"&' $ot in the sadist way I" you are a pessi ist then usually, hope"ully, thin!s do not turn out as bad as you e:pect so you always !et s all, nice surprises# 48h y ;od, e'erythin! is not a catastrophe you know# /ou talk about love as a key event in a person!s life and discuss the difference between the appearance and actuality of a person as seen throu h the eyes of both a cynic and a romantic" Are you sayin that a romantic idealist will project the same qualities onto others and therefore see positive qualities whenever they appear 0 however briefly 0 in a person* 8n the other hand, I think, that it is too si ple to *ust approach what I pro*ect onto a person what this person really is# Isnt it usually that the relationship is a ore co ple: and ysterious one# &ets say so ebody really lo'es e and ob'iously pro*ects so ethin!, e:pects so e !oodness, so e !reat act "ro e# +ut isnt it o"ten that, to beco e -the person. the other person pro*ected this into e, I ysel" chan!e) I try to li'e up to the le'el o" these e:pectations and so on# 7o its a uch ore ysterious 'icious cycle I think , 'icious cycle but in a !ood sense# $(ou know where so%ebod" projects so%ethin! into %e %a"be I reall" beco%e this&'

In this sense its 'ery ysterious# 8<, its not y reality but, in so e sense, it ay true# +eco in! aware o" what others pro*ect onto e, I realise that there were in e so e potentials, so e possibilities, that I wasnt aware o"# Its ore co ple:, but especially what akes lo'e so ysterious to e is how, when you are in lo'e you see e:actly the sa e person as be"ore but not in the sa e way# %ou cannot pinpoint it# %ou cannot say 4this or that is the reason why I lo'e that person because to see that you already ha'e to be in lo'e# /ou also contrast that( where a cynic would see only ne ative traits because that is what they are lookin for" %es, I think that cynicis is today ore and ore the real predo inant ideolo!y# The co on thin! is to say is nobody belie'es in any kind o" ideas and so on and so on# +ut I think cynics are basically 'ery na='e people# They underesti ate the power o" what "or the are weird illusions# I think that illusions can be e:tre ely stron!# For e:a ple 5enry <issin!er, 7ecretary o" 7tate "or >ichard $i:on, who was probably the ulti ate cynicist, but precisely because o" this he was so o"ten wron!# For e:a ple he thou!ht the 7o'iet ?nion was here to stay, cynically, 4lets ake a deal with the and so on and so on# This is what surprises e, how o"ten cynics, people who say 4there are no hi!her 'alues its *ustusually there are three thin!s@ 4power, se:, oney, it is really about how o"ten these people are wron!# +ecause they underesti ate the power o" illusions# Illusions are "or e an e:tre ely power"ul thin!# 1n the book you reference the .Spell of 1llusions! when discussin the concept of truth" +hat do you mean by that* Ahat I ean there is si ply how, and here o" course by truth I ean a 'ery speci"ic 4truth , truth in social space, always what surprises e is how, yes, you can distin!uish between truth and illusion but in order to arri'e at truth you ha'e to !o throu!h illusion# There is no shortcut# Bnd this I think is what basically 5e!els Cialectic speech is about, which I de'elop in the book# For e, 5e!el is the ulti ate philosopher o" the e'ent# %ou cannot directly !o at truth# In order to arri'e at truth, you ha'e to !o to the end throu!h the illusion# I think I do repeat y old *oke in the book its a wonder"ul *oke "ro y youth, when I -did. ilitary ser'ice, about a ilitary conscript# B !uy who -wanted. to !et rid o" ser'in! or doin! ilitary ser'ice, which was co pulsory at that point in e:/%u!osla'ia, "aked a stran!e sy pto -to see . cra3y, a certain co pulsi'e custo , whene'er he entered a roo with so e papers on the table, docu ents, he looked at all o" the and *ust repeated 4this is not that, this is not that, this is not that then o" course when he "ound hi sel" on "ront o" a edical co ittee he did the sa e# 5e looked at all o" the papers and repeated 4this is not that, this is not that, this is not that# Then doctors said 4this !uys ob'iously cra3y and !a'e hi the docu ent statin! that he is deli'ered "ro ilitary ser'ice# 5e looks at that and he says 4this is that# +ut this ob'iously is that#