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    Excursions into philosophy

    Zizek, Slavoj (2009) Excursions into philosophy. ,

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    The opposition between Kant and Rorty with regard to the distinction of public and private is rarely noted, but nonetheless crucial: they both sharply distinguish between the two domains, but in the opposite sense. For Rorty, the great contemporary liberal if there ever was one, private is the space of our idiosyncrasies where creativity and wild imagination rule, and moral considerations are (almost) suspended, while public is the space of social interaction where we should obey the rules so that we do not hurt others; in other words, the private is the space of irony, while the public is the space of solidarity. For Kant, however, the public space of the “world-civil-society” designates the paradox of the universal singularity, of a singular subject who, in a kind of short-circuit, by-passing the mediation of the particular, directly participates in the Universal. This is what Kant, in the famous passage of his “What is Enlightenment?”, means by “public” as opposed to “private”: “private” is not individual as opposed to one’s communal ties, but the very communal-institutional order of one’s particular identification, while “public” is the trans-national universality of the exercise of one’s Reason. The paradox of the underlying formula “Think freely, but obey!” (which, of course, poses a series of problems of its own, since it also relies on the distinction between the “performative” level of social authority, and the level of free thinking whose performativity is suspended) is thus that one participates in the universal dimension of the “public” sphere precisely as singular individual extracted from or even opposed to one’s substantial communal identification—one is truly universal only as radically singular, in the interstices of communal identities. It is Kant who should be read here as the critic of Rorty: in his vision of the public space of the unconstrained free exercise of Reason, he asserts the dimension of emancipatory universality OUTSIDE the confines of one’s social identity, of one’s position within the order of (social) being—the dimension missing in Rorty.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Research Centres and Institutes: Humanities, Birkbeck Institute for the (BIH)
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 13 May 2011 08:05
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 16:52


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