A Shirtless Slavoj Žižek Explains the Purpose of Philosophy from the Comfort of His Bed

Non-philosophers sometimes charge philosophers with talking and writing voluminously to no particular end, getting nothing done, solving no problems. But Slavoj Žižek, clown prince of academic superstardom, has a response: "Philosophy does not solve problems," he claims in the clip above. "The duty of philosophy is not to solve problems, but to redefine problems, to show how what we experience as a problem is a false problem. If what we experience as a problem is a true problem, then you don't need philosophy." He uses the hypothetical examples of deadly comets and viruses from space. Against such clear, present, and direct threats, he argues, we have no use for philosophy, just "good science." Žižek continues the argument from his bed: "I don't think philosophers ever provided answers, but I think this was the greatness of philosophy."

To Žižek's mind, the pursuit of philosophy involves asking as many questions as possible, but not broad ones about absolute truths. "Philosophy is not what some people think," he says, gesticulating while propped up by pillows. "It just asks, when we use certain notions, when we do certain acts, and so on, what is the implicit horizon of understanding? It doesn't ask these stupid ideal questions: 'Is there truth?' The question is, 'What do you mean when you say this is true?'" He conceives of philosophy as a modest discipline, not a grand one. This clip comes by way of the invaluable Biblioklept.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los AngelesA Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

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  • Nathan B Weller says:

    Not to be crude but…was there someone else under those covers? The way they moved at the end looked a bit suspicious…

  • says:

    he usually moves like that though if you’ve seen his ex wife…

  • joan says:

    i don’t get it.
    his spitting, stuttering, and tugging make me cringe.
    tho he may be able to manipulate the intellectual hipsters in to thinking he has something of pragmatic value to say, i, seriously, don’t get it.

  • wfs says:

    If things you (seriously) don’t get = intellectual hipsterdom, there must be an awful lot of intellectual hipsters.

  • KLM says:

    Can somebody symbolize wfs comment in predicate logic? Someone can, I mean will you?

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