“What is Not Forbidden is Mandatory”


The title is specifically not a philosophical or even a moral injunction, but a precept of modern physics.

Seven Essential Elements of Quantum Physics

Consider, then, the correlation to the following quote:

“The pre-Copernican image of the cosmos familiar to us from medieval maps pictures the “universe” opened by the fundamental fantasy, wherein guilt is interpreted as resulting from our transgression of a lawful order. Thus, such maps take the heterogeneity of the divine subject and give it a “place.” Indeed, “place” is vital here in a couple ways: on the one hand, the medieval cosmos suggests, in the Thomistic or Neo-Platonic “Chain of Being” theories, that every being “has a place ” within it. As Žižek puts it, the fundamental fantasy “provides a sense of ontological ‘safety’, of dwelling within a self-enclosed finite circle of meaning where things (natural phenomena) in a way ‘speak to us’, address us” (Žižek 1997, p. 160). On the other hand, of course, there is the divine place, the “Empyrean Heaven” which, appropriately, occupies the “highest” and outermost circle of being in medieval maps. This is, of course, the place of places; for it implies a position from which God can overview all of being, from which he can, in fact, constitute it as a whole.

Instead, nature itself is reconceived from an immanently totalizing perspective.  First, we conceive of all being as subsisting in a single plane, a plane of material causes. But then we add to that thesis a closure of the material dimension: all effects are already contained in their causes, so that the end of the universe is already implicit in the first events occurring within it. We are faced with a reductive causal determinism, a determinism without the possibility of freedom (See, Žižek 1999b, p. 26). Paraphrasing Hegel, Žižek writes “teleology is the truth of mechanical causality” (Žižek 2004, p. 113). Is not such totalization of nature the almost invariable accompaniment of all early-modern, all “mechanistic” science?

Here we can introduce the theological trope that emerged almost as soon as the perspectival metaphor established itself in the fifteenth century – the location of the divine at the confluence of all “viewpoints” constituting perspectival space. For, it turns out that modernity opens a second possible “position” from which reality may be constituted. Recall the philosophical view first articulated by Nicholas of Cusa, but reflected in Bruno, Leibniz and Newton. This argument starts in a radical de-centering of the medieval, cosmological, worldview. Space is projected as an infinite and homogeneous field amenable to purely quantitative understanding. Where in such a universe is God – still the “subject” for philosophy until Descartes? A universe without center can allow no places “nearer” or farther from him: nor (which is really the same thing) can it admit the image of a God out “beyond” space.  Cusanus’ solution is to conceive God as present at every point, every position, but only insofar as any such point is conceived as viewpoint. In Newton’s famous phrase, the universe is God’s “sensorium.” In other words, the subject is in every place qua viewpoint.  “Other space” of this fantasy, then, consists of the infinite (but complete) set of all points within objective space. It’s the same space in which we live but now conceived as a web of subject points. There is, and can be , no distinguishing characteristic of such a space, since it is the very same space as the one we inhabit, but it is, nonetheless, functionally distinct from objective space. Thus, we get a sense of uncanny “closeness” to us, typical of a paranoid psychical economy.

What happens when the “object,” the place of the superego, is occupied by the very “excess” of being that guilt intended to tame? This is in fact the strange condition controlling our reality today, the condition under which totality emerges as that strange, excessive thing, “life”: “Are we really living?” we ask. Have we really “given our all?” or “enjoyed ourselves?” These Romantic questions begin to haunt humanity, to provide, ironically, the nexus of guilt (“ I have not really lived, given my all, enjoyed, etc.” ), precisely at that moment, at the end of the Enlightenment , when the old institutions and specific demands of the Law fall. Less and less are persons tortured by guilt at moral transgression: at an ever accelerating pace our guilt now becomes performance-guilt about life, guilt that transforms life into a vague totality wielded by Lacan, Žižek and, Todd McGowan, “enjoyment.” McGowan has recently hypothesized that increasingly since the nineteenth century we have become a “society of enjoyment,” a society in which the commandment to “enjoy!” has largely displaced traditional moral imperatives. In other words, the society of enjoyment or, as McGowan specifies it, “the society of commanded enjoyment,” is the visible symptom of the paranoid fundamental fantasy, the way that the “belief” in the big Other continues when we consciously claim to disavow it.  Guilt and anxiety – the weapons of the superego – still operate, but they do so by torturing us for not enjoying ourselves, not being “really alive” in response to the direct enjoyment of the Other. And it is in this sense of a disavowed belief in the Other that we are justified in following Žižek’s lead in finding the predominant master signifier of our world in perversion.”

Brockelman, Thomas (2011-11-03). Zizek and Heidegger: The Question Concerning Techno-Capitalism (Continuum Studies in Continental Philosophy) Continuum UK. Kindle Edition.

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