Slavoj Zizek has been described as “the Elvis Presley of philosophy,” and I couldn’t agree more. While he isn’t wildly handsome like I believe Elvis was, he is indeed wild…and very talkative. What I adore about Zizek is that he has made being a philosopher interesting and worthy of rock star status (he has a supermodel wife afterall). Most of all he claims we have a responsibility to think. In fact, if there was anything that struck me the most about my time with him (I want to make it sound as if it were more intimate than it was) was his commitment to asking questions. My friend Jamie described this well in an email to my fellow classmates:
“Zizek mentions that, to him, the goal of the philosopher is to expose ideologies. To me, he is talking about awakening. He briefly mentions that he does not only mean “bad” ideologies, it is not in the pursuit of some ultimate truth that is obscured to us, but he seeks to make visible the invisible powers that regulate one’s relationships (to: others, the planet, one’s self, God, the psyche, etc.). The purpose is not to rid one’s self of ideologies, this is not possible, but to bring our awareness to them. Zizek wants to increase our vision and open spaces for people to THINK. This was the only solution he offered us that evening: that if there is something we should do, an ethical imperative, we need to think more. This openness and refusal to settle on an answer should not be interpreted as mere denial of reality or concession to the limits of thought. He is not saying “F*&% it. We’ll never know…” On the contrary, he is challenging us to attempt to think freely.”
I agree with Zizek (and Jamie’s description of what he said) and I also add that thinking isn’t how we necessarily find truth. As philosophers we seek truth and yet a part of the seeking has to also acknowledge that we can’t know. The moment we claim to know the answers to all, the reasons for existence, or a purpose — it seems in that moment we are no longer a philosopher and instead something else. With that being said, the man has so much amazing stuff to say that I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes of his, via videos and his talk at the Palace of Fine Arts (where I snapped this photo because I didn’t feel like waiting in line):
Seeing Zizek in person I immediately noticed his charisma and quick abrupt movements (my friend informed me later that he has a mild form of Tourettes). Zizek is a modern philosopher who makes philosophy cool again and I can’t help but think this was how ancient philosophers were revered…on the fringe, considered crazy by many, and yet quite sane.