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.

Relat­ed con­tent:

After a Tour of Slavoj Žižek’s Pad, You’ll Nev­er See Inte­ri­or Design in the Same Way

Philoso­pher Slavoj Zizek Inter­prets Hitchcock’s Ver­ti­go in The Pervert’s Guide to Cin­e­ma (2006)

Bed Peace Revis­its John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Famous Anti-Viet­nam Protests

Slavoj Žižek Demys­ti­fies the Gang­nam Style Phe­nom­e­non

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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Comments (5)
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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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