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Democracy or your life: knowledge, ignorance and the politics of Atheism in Saramago's Blindness and Seeing

Aristodemou, Maria (2013) Democracy or your life: knowledge, ignorance and the politics of Atheism in Saramago's Blindness and Seeing. Law, Culture and the Humanities 9 (1), pp. 169-187. ISSN 1743-8721.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1743872111400680

Abstract

In western philosophy, the terms “gnosis” (knowledge) and “agnosia” (ignorance) are linked to seeing and to blindness: to see is to know while not to see is to be ignorant. In contrast to this genealogy, the anti-philosopher Lacan maintains that seeing does not guarantee knowledge, at least not knowledge of the “truth,” because there is always one point from which we can never see, that is, the blind spot. In a parallel way, however much we talk or write, we never manage to represent the whole truth or what Lacan terms the Real. The experience of analysis, the shattering impact of trauma, or, at times, a work of art, can enable us, however, to lift the veil covering truth. This article addresses Saramago’s twin dystopian fiction Blindness and Seeing and suggests that by pushing the limits of the possible and portraying the possibility of the impossible, Saramago enables us to catch a glimpse of the Real. The trauma depicted in Blindness leads to Saramago’s characters reassessing their relationship to knowledge and in particular their knowledge of the Big Other. Following this trauma, they cease making demands of the Other and in the process vanish him out of existence. The repercussions for our political system, and in particular for democracy, are fleshed out in the sequel Seeing where the State is impotent in the face of a silent protest by a sea of what I call atheist citizens; in other words, citizens who no longer believe in the city state. Saramago’s anti-politics, or politics of atheism, I suggest, are the natural companion to Lacan’s anti-philosophy and ethics of atheism.

Item Type: Article
Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Blindness, ignorance, seeing, knowledge, unconscious, gaze, Real, truth, democracy, representation, politics, ethics, atheism
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Law
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2011 14:05
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:21
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/3805

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