Other Voices, v.2, n.3 (January 2005)
Copyright © 2005, Other Voices/Matthew Sharpe, all rights reserved. All images Copyright © 2002 DreamWorks LLC and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, all right reserved.
"How can it not know what it is?"
The philosophical critiques of the so-called modern or "Cartesian" subject are as well-known as they are finally self-confuting. The modern subject, it is said, is a small substantial piece of reality that has yet abrogated to itself the position of "the master and possessor" of Being. It takes the entirety of both external nature, and its own internal nature, to be in principle transparent to its knowledge and manipulation. Thus, in one moment of the critique, we are told (at least implicitly) that this subject is intrinsically unethical, because it closes itself off to otherness in a proto-paranoiac manner. Yet the second moment of the anti-Cartesian critiques is invariably that the modern subject's project is self-defeating. In the cruel dialectic of its enlightenment, what this subject represses returns. Western man comes to lament his own alienation from external nature; the social systems and technology he has built to master this nature in turn become his own master; and the drives he has supposedly liberated come to seem stale to the same extent that they are freed.
As always with intellectual doxa that become hegemonic, the supposed ontological falsity and/or ethical danger of defending any notion of subjectivity can become as debilitating as it is revealing. The object of the critique—"Cartesian subjectivity"—becomes at once an over-used and under-determined term. We are debarred from considering whether, within the philosophical discourse of modernity, there are competing conceptions of subjectivity, some of which may not be touched by the predominant critique, but could even be enlisted in its ranks. Since the notion in question is that of subjectivity, and people are entitled to ask who then is speaking and to whom?, adapting this doxa also leads us into notorious performative paradoxes.
In this paper, I want to clarify, and perhaps, exemplify what Slavoj Zizek means when he talks of subjectivity, the logics of its manifestation in the phenomenal field, and the "subjectivisation of substance." This profound philosophical position far out-reaches the straw subject that the post-structuralists (amongst others) erect. Presiding over the paper is Jacques Lacan's comment, concerning psychoanalytic transference, that the truth of the subject is the kind of thing that only emerges when we put a certain ignorance to work. In deference to Slavoj Zizek's methodology, my modus operandi is to establish my claims through a reading of the blockbuster Stephen Spielberg/Tom Cruise film: The Minority Report (2002).
The genre of science fiction, of which Minority Report is an example, is almost certainly the most philosophical of all the filmic genres. Its founding "suspension of disbelief" enables its creators to envisage almost any imaginable possibility for their characters. As such, the genre's best examples raise the most interesting questions about what types of creatures we human beings are; how we are situated in the universe; and what type of place this universe is. In this tradition, Minority Report is founded on an intriguing premise. In Washington, in 2048, the most astounding experiment in crime prevention has become possible. Through a medical experiment on the mentally disabled children of drug addicts that has mysteriously, but felicitously, failed, three children who are "pre-cognitive" have been discovered. They have the capacity, in dreams and trance-like visions, to accurately predict the future. More precisely, when they sleep, the only thing of which they dream are of murders yet to happen. According to the narrative of this mysterious occurrence, this is because the formulation of a murderous desire represents a kind of "cut" in the metaphysical fabric of the universe that the pre-cogs are somehow attuned. Through the advanced technology available by 2048, the authorities have become able to "scan" the dream-images of future murders that the pre-cogs generate in unison. Additionally, the procedure is able to ascertain the name of the person who is to commit the murder, together with the name of the victim. These are inscribed on to a wooden ball that is fed through to the so-called "pre-crime" unit of the D.C. Police Force, headed by John Anderton (Tom Cruise).
This film raises a host of questions for moral philosophers, not least amongst them the question of when precisely it is that culpability accrues to a criminal agent. Yet my concern in this paper is with a question that is philosophically prior to these concerns. This is a question closely akin to that which Immanuel Kant posed in the third antinomy of the "Transcendental Dialectic," in The Critique of Pure Reason. Put as simply as possible, it is the question of whether there is free will, or whether human beings are wholly determined. The metaphysical dilemma posed by a predictive anti-crime system is revealed the sharpest terms when the name that the pre-cogs dream as the next murderer is that of John Anderton himself—the very man who has hitherto been charged with prosecuting all "pre-criminals." As a result of this interpellation Anderton runs, immediately becoming a fugitive from the law. What the law acknowledges—and what Anderton also takes himself to be confronted with at this point—is what Zizek would call a "knowledge in the Real" concerning his own future: the exact kind of knowledge that Kant denied was possible for us in The Critique of Pure Reason. This knowledge of the chains of necessity already over-determining everything Anderton does, including his very protests against them.
The impetus of the film comes from how Anderton resists his interpellation by this supposed "knowledge in the Real." He flees the authorities, and seeks out the house of the mastermind of the failed experiment that had spawned the pre-cogs. There, he asks her, and himself: how can I be a murderer? All of his work over the last six years has been to prevent murder. All of it, moreover, has been motivated by the impassioned desire to prevent what had happened to his murdered son ever occurring again. The catch is that, in this visit to the enigmatic woman behind pre-cognition, a window of hope is seemingly opened up to Anderton—there might be what is called a "minority report" on him. A minority report we learn is the name given to a prediction produced by the single female pre-cog (outnumbered 2 to 1 by her brothers) that differs from that of her siblings, or that insists in the absence of any matching report from them. In the history of pre-crime, there has only been one such "minority report," John is told, although its existence is uncertain. If it does exist, it has been rigorously covered up so as not to jeopardise public faith in the pre-crime procedure.
As Anderton rightly understands, the fact that even one such minority report might have been produced is deeply significant. What it means for him, very practically, is that the pre-cogs' prediction that has now named him as a murderer might also be wrong, or questionable. The main action of Minority Report hence follows from his attempt to steal into the pre-crime unit to find evidence of either the original minority report or of his own, from either the system's vaults or from the "minority" pre-cog herself.
What is being played out philosophically here stems from the following consideration. In trying to ascertain his innocence through his search for a minority report, Anderton is manifestly trying to prove something else—that he can be innocent. At a metaphysical level Anderton is seeking to establish that he is a free subject, and—to paraphrase Kant—that a causality according to freedom is necessary to account for at least some phenomena in nature. If no minority report exists, and if the pre-cogs have infallibly predicted the future in the over 1000 cases they have envisaged, then it indeed begins to look—in the film at least—like there is no subjective freedom in this universe. The sense that subjects have of being free could accordingly be no more than that sense that Althusser attributes to all ideologically interpellated subjects. In complete contravention of Spinoza's doctrine that freedom is comprehended necessity, we would have to admit that our sense of freedom is actually no more than what insists when we have failed to comprehend the necessity that governs us.
The philosophical issue at stake, in the terms of what is set out by the premise of The Minority Report, discernibly boils down to this question:
Is the human inability to predict the future, which the pre-cogs in Minority Report are not subject to: 1) a merely epistemological failure, or is it: 2) ontologically revealing?
Concerning Possibility 1:
When I ask whether the human failure to predict the future is "epistemological," I mean simply: does our failure to predict what is to come equate to a failure to know something that is in principle knowable? If this supposition is true, the future is actually a thing already laid out fully formed in some "fourth" dimension, or is at least something all of whose necessary conditions are already fully laid out, so we are merely playing out roles that are constantly bringing it into fruition. The issue in either case is that we humans just do not happen to know this future, because of our lamentable epistemic limitation or "finitude." Beings who are not finite like us, however, like God, angels, or the pre-cogs in Minority Report, could conceivably have the epistemic equipment—or as Kant might say the "intellectual intuition"—to know it.
Concerning Possibility 2:
The second option raised is a more radical one. It is that our human failure to know the future is ontologically revealing. This failure is not something to be lamented, because it indicates something about the nature of the spatio-temporal universe. What it indicates, quite simply, is that the future is not the kind of thing any creature could ever know, and for the very best reason: namely, because it does not exist as a fully pre-formed set of actualities that could ever be known by anyone or anything.
How, then, does this question get played out in Minority Report?
As I have already commented, when the oracular ball rolls out of the pre-cognitive apparatus with John Anderton's name as the predicted murderer, Anderton discernibly presumes the first possibility I have raised. As an advocate of pre-crime, Anderton has all along been laboring under the supposition that the standard human failure to know the future is an "all-too-human" failure. It is because of our ignorance, not because the future itself does not exist as a knowable thing. The truth is out there. As I have commented, the fact that humans do not know the future is indeed apparently no longer a problem in the universe of Minority Report. Once the pre-cogs have been engendered, and the technology to scan their visions has been mastered, the future can apparently be known through exploiting the pre-cogs under controlled conditions. In this way, future murders can be prevented. In the film, there has not been one murder, at least that the public knows about, in Washington D.C. between 2048 and 2054.
When John Anderton and his estranged wife seek out the truth of the one "minority report" in the system's history, what they learn also seems to support this first contention—namely, that the future "already exists." The said minority report relates—as I shall comment on below—to an originary crime: an exception that made possible the subsequent rule and practice of pre-crime. It turns out that the mother of the three children who became the pre-cogs (Anne Lively) objected to her children being used by the government as a means to predict the future, albeit in the name of the public good. When the instituting director of the program (played by Max Von Sidow) discovered this, he sought to instrument her murder. In order to fool the pre-cogs, he accordingly set out an ingenious plan. The plan was to have Anne Lively drowned in the lake where she was wont to go walking. A hired assassin was sent in, who was of course apprehended by the pre-crime unit, using the prediction of the pre-cogs. While this "failed" murder was being prevented, the director waited in the wings. Then, when the pre-crime unit had dragged off the hired assassin, he himself carried out the murder in exactly the predicted manner, and wearing the same clothes as the man that he had hired. The reputed minority report arose, then, because this ingenious plan was enough to fool the two "less talented" male pre-cogs. The third, female, pre-cog however, predicted the successful murder as well as the one that had failed. It is just this second prediction was as it were not recognised by "the system," and the criminal was not apprehended. From the start of the film, its envisaging therefore returns to haunt her like a neurotic's symptom that has yet to be interpreted or worked through. After John has shown a representative of the Attorney-General around the facility, she lurches out of the womb-like pool in which she is kept sedated and asks him: "can you see?," while the vision of the director murdering her mother flashes in confused images across a screen on the ceiling above both of their heads.
At a first look, we can see that John Anderton's quest for the truth in Minority Report is apparently founded on a false supposition. He thinks that this one minority report might be enough to show that the pre-cogs can sometimes fail to predict the future, with all that this might imply. In fact, it turns out that this minority report was not the exception that he had hoped. The only really anomalous thing about the case was that the two male pre-cogs were duped by their evil, ingenious founder. The third pre-cog still accurately predicted the future. In doing this, she seemingly validated once more the opinion that Minority Report presents us with the filmic imagining of a universe in which the future is just one more kind of thing that could be known, if only we each had the happy facility of "pre-cognitives."
I want to argue, however, is that this is not the only chain of reasons or premises that Minority Report plays out concerning the freedom-necessity antinomy. The film is not simple. The key aspect of Minority Report that calls in to question the idea that the film is a prolonged meditation on humans' determination by fate is the following: In each of the over one thousand cases that the pre-crime unit has successfully prevented between 2048 and 2054 in the film, this unit itself has "changed the future." The pre-cogs have predicted a certain murder, complete with its time, place, victim and perpetrator. But, using this knowledge, the pre-crime unit has then "moved in," and prevented the crime. So a paradox emerges here. This is that where the pre-cogs have supposedly succeeded in predicting the future, because of the actions of the pre-crime unit, they have also effectively failed to predict the future. When we consider this, we might actually wonder that John Anderton in the film frets so much about whether one minority report exists. Every single crime he has himself prevented over the previous six years represents something like an exemplar of what he wants to establish by finding the supposed exception to the rule.
What is involved in this paradox of pre-crime can be rendered in the following diagram, where Case A represents what would have happened had not the pre-crime unit acted, Case B represents the case where the pre-crime unit did apprehend the pre-criminal before he or she could strike, the arrows represent the so-called "course of events," and the broken line between "Time 2" and "Time 3" a possible course of events that has failed to eventuate:
The acknowledgment of this evident paradox raises what is decisive in terms of our trying to decide the philosophical issue of freedom-necessity raised by the film, both within it and "for ourselves." It shows that each of the pre-cogs' predictions in Minority Report represents a phenomenon exactly akin to Bertrand Russell's famous paradoxical list. As you may know, this is a list that aspires to list all the lists that have ever existed that did not include themselves in what they inventoried. As Russell reasoned, when we try to think about such a list, and specifically about whether it might ever be completable, we soon run into an aporia.
It is in principle not impossible for someone to compile a list of all the other lists that have previously been compiled in history that did not list themselves. The problem is that, at this juncture, the project of the Russelian list remains incomplete. Why? Precisely because our new list itself is now also another list that does not include itself. The simplest thing to do at this point would accordingly seem to be to include the name of the list on the list. If we do this, though, the problem is that the list no longer represents a list of all the lists that do not contain themselves. And why is this? Because now it includes itself after all, and so cannot be allowed. We hence either fall short, or have overshot the mark.
What I mean to draw your attention to, by making this parallel between the pre-cogs' predictions and Russell's list, is simply that:
In Minority Report, the pre-cogs' predictions of future murders could only ever fully succeed precisely insofar as they were not predicted by the pre-cogs, or at least insofar as the fact that they have been so predicted was not noted by any pre-crime unit. Equally, if the pre-cogs in the film did include the effect of their own prediction in what it is that they predict, their prediction would have to be different.
In the film, the pre-cogs count their own prediction out of what it is that they predict. This is the necessary condition for the pre-crime unit to succeed. This unit acts on the pre-cogs' de-subjectivised or "first order" predictions, in order to render them false "before the fact." Yet, if the pre-cogs counted the fact of their own enunciation, and the intervention this enunciation makes in the fabric of events by way of the pre-crime unit, they would also have to predict the capture of the pre-criminal before she or he has (literally) had the time to perform the murder. Of course, the further paradox that arises here is that, given the premise of Minority Report that the pre-cogs can only predict murders that actually will happen, it also follows that, if the pre-cogs were to so "count themselves in" their predictions, they would predict nothing at all.
I do not only play on these paradoxes without purpose, however. When they are thought through in their possibility and impossibility, what I believe they show is the untenability of the first possibility I raised above: namely, that the human failure to predict the future is only a lamentable epistemological limitation. The decisive thing, I would argue, is that, if we take it that the future could be known in the present, the fact of this knowledge being held by [a] subject[s] is as it were one more, supplementary part of the present reality that precedes the anticipated future. And if this supposed foreknowledge is also part of the ontological picture, so long as we presume only the capacity of its bearers to reflect and act upon the basis of its consideration, what it claims to know about the future can be challenged and changed.
Such self-reflection minimally involves what could be termed a "doubling" in the knowing subject. In Minority Report, this "doubling" that I mean is externalised in the institutionalised pairing of the pre-cogs with the pre-crime unit, mediated by the technology that scans the pre-cogs' visions. The pre-cognitives know the future. Yet what they do not know is that they know. When John Anderton steals the female pre-cog away from the pre-crime operations centre, she thus asks him in complete confusion: "is this the present?" It is the pre-crime unit that knows that the pre-cogs know, and are so capable of acting upon their foreknowledge. My wider point is that, in self-reflection, by contrast, it is the same individual that has a knowledge that is capable of being enunciated, and also is capable of reflecting upon the fact that it has this knowledge. Because of this capacity, it can factor what this knowledge predicates about into its considerations, when it considers possible courses of action. This is, of course, why behaviourism fails as a procedure and an ontology of human-being. The problem is that, if subjects come to know that they are the subjects of "behavioural" experimentation, they will behave differently simply because they have this knowledge. The efficacy of placebos shows how individuals' trust in others can effect even how their biological bodies function and are experienced. In psychological experiments, it is well-known that subjects will typically try to anticipate what the experimenter wants, and some will then try to give the results that they think the experimenter desires. Others will do the right thing, and act exactly to upset the experimenters' perceived hypotheses.1
Minority Report allows us to clearly stake out that subjectivity is minimally to be equated with this capacity of an individual to self-reflect. Accordingly, what it must be conceived of is itself a kind of ontological "minority report": something of an irreducible exception in the established fabric of the universe that cannot be counted on in advance. In Slavoj Zizek's precise formulation:
Note, then, how this conception of subjectivity I am proposing through reading Minority Report is not a regression to the fully transparent subject reviled by post-structuralist theory. It involves a capacity to reflectively "count oneself in" the field of reality, in contrast to the pre-cogs in the film, who are not properly subjects. However this is not to suggest that this self-reflexivity corresponds to the capacity to know oneself as one can know other things in the field of phenomenal reality. Zizek puts it this way, talking of the famous ending of Kafka's Trial in Contingency, Hegemony, Universality:
Subjectivity is to be "included" in the field of reality as precisely something that stands out from its fabric. The modality of its "standing out" is precisely that a subject as such always maintains a minimal distance from the unchangeable presuppositions of its being-there, or from whatever being has been attributed to it by others. If it "is" anything, it is precisely a lack-of-being, as Lacan famously argued. What is lacking wherever there is subjectivity, as Minority Report precisely stages, is knowledge of what the subject is in the presupposed deepest reality or "Real" of its Being, or of what "sufficient reasons" would govern or support its spontaneity. To quote Zizek's criticism of Kant's famous definition of the subject in the "Transcendental Dialectic" as something that is only known "through the thoughts that are its predicates ...":
If any candidate for such an immediate "knowledge in the Real" emerges, it becomes one more mediated datum that the subject is able to reflect upon. In Minority Report, for example, John Anderton's search for the truth of whether there is a minority report leads him, with uncanny certainty, to the place where the pre-cogs had predicted that he would commit the murder. As his watch counts down to the appointed time of his crime, Tom stands holding the gun to the man whom he was to murder, exactly as the pre-cogs had foreseen. The female pre-cog, whom John has kidnapped from her womb-like station, is collapsed traumatised in the corner, begging him to leave. There is an uncanny moment, as the clock counts down to the moment of John's predicted transgression. John stands there, locked in indecision, but also discernibly waiting for the necessity he has always presupposed to take him up, and draw him to pull the trigger. But, of course, with his mind so directly fixed upon this imputed necessity, it fails to eventuate. This is why Minority Report, unlike, for example, Oedipus Rex, is not a tragedy. Sophocles' famous drama works insofar as, even though Oedipus knows the saying of the oracle in advance, he does not know that he has been separated from his real parents at birth. Hence, he can still unknowingly act out the oracle's prediction.2 Minority Report is a more modern drama. John knows every relevant fact about what it is that supposedly determines his fate. The result is exactly that he does not act, at least in the predicted way and at the predicted time.
In fact, what I would finally argue is that the conclusion of Minority Report, despite the contrary logics examined above, unequivocally supports what I have been arguing. That is, the film defends the notion that the lack of knowledge of the future is ontological, as well as the precondition for subjects experiencing anything like moral subjectivity.
As I commented above, the original minority report that gives John Anderton the hope of establishing his innocence in Minority Report concerned a founding and exceptional act on the part of pre-crime's director. In order to found pre-crime and hence prevent all future murders, the director murdered Anne Lively, the mother of the pre-cogs. This scenario, by itself, already recalls a central argument of Zizek's theorization of political subjectivity. Zizek argues that usually the exceptional status of subjectivity that I have argued for here is over-looked by us as we "go about our business." Mostly, we are like K in Kafka's Trial, pre-reflectively convinced that the Others get along just fine without us, that there is a "system" which organizes things, and that functions quite independently of anything we might happen to think or do about it. The freedom proper to subjectivity, accordingly, is something of a "vanishing mediator" in socio-political reality, Zizek argues. Its exceptional status is only evinced periodically, in the necessity—which Zizek thinks is a priori—that each rule-governed social formation can only have been engendered in an exceptional founding act which, if it was repeated today, would be deemed unlawful. The recollection of this act, Zizek suggests, would call to subjects' minds how their own commitment to the existing system is not as necessary as they might normally have supposed.
In this light, it is significant to consider that Minority Report finishes at the end of the six-year trial period of the pre-crime unit in Washington. The director of the program is being celebrated for its astounding success. The pre-crime program is now to become nationalized, after a popular referendum. However, unbeknownst to the director, the truth of his founding crime has been discovered by John Anderton and his estranged wife. As he is being congratulated after his acceptance speech, they play the images of his murderous action on a giant screen behind him. The footage serves as a massive testimony to the "repressed" truth of both his own history, and that of pre-crime. What it leads to—as the audience's shocked reaction testifies—is what Zizek would call a "traversal of the fantasy" of pre-crime's infallibility that had sustained it hitherto.
Seeing that the game is up, the director sidles through the crowd to make his escape. At this point, we are made aware that the pre-cogs have passed one more prediction. This is that the director will become the next murderer in Washington D.C., and that his victim will be none other than John Anderton. Anderton overtakes and confronts the director on the balcony of the center wherein the function celebrating "pre-crime," which is now in uproar, was being held. The director pulls a gun on John, and it looks momentarily as though the pre-cogs' prediction will once more (or for once) be fully accurate. He however hesitates long enough for John to deliver a speech that confronts him with the peculiar double bind of his situation. If he shoots Anderton, he will render the pre-cogs right again, and maintain what the public think is the 100% accuracy of pre-crime. However, the director will not be around to celebrate this wonder, as he will surely be put away as a murderer, both for his current crime, and for that which founded the system. If he does not shoot Anderton, the director would of course still be around to possibly celebrate the nationalisation of pre-crime. The only problem would be that the very fact that he will not have slain Anderton will have showed how the system was not 100% accurate after all, and that it had failed not once but twice.
What follows is that we hear a shot, and then the director collapses heavily, apologizing, in Anderton's arms. In the apparently closed either-or that Anderton presents to him, the director upsets the calculus, and literally turns the gun upon himself. If Anderton dies as predicted, it is only symbolically, in that now he is able to live freely again, and his ordeal has re-united him with his wife. The system of pre-crime is henceforth disbanded, with its all-too-human fallibility having been proven once more, and its origin in the excessive subjective gesture of its director exposed before everyone. The film ends with a long pan-out shot of a beatific country hut wherein the pre-cogs reside, finally freed from their enforced public service.
The philosophical analysis of film is not an uncontroversial practice. Nevertheless, it can function in the same way that counter-factuals function for some analytic philosophers. Like brains in vats, malicious demons, or someone living in an alternative universe who has all the visible features of Richard Nixon, films can be seen as staging philosophical ideas, or providing the occasion for their examination or working through.
In this paper, I have argued that Minority Report can certainly be seen in this way. Its scenario stages the constitutive paradoxes surrounding human subjectivity. Analysing this film allows us to re-situate our attempts to theorize subjectivity in a concrete way, outside of the problematics of any philosophy of history or large-scale "culture wars" (modernity versus post-modernity, etc). I want to stress how the hegemonic critiques of subjectivity—whether they spring from a Nietzschean-Heideggerian philosophy of history or the Habermasian attempt to overcome the dialectic of enlightenment—invariably situate the subject on the side of the totalizing knowledge systems that form their ultimate object. "Subject" names the central principle of organization of such totalizing world-views that subsequently reduce reality to a transparent, one-dimensional realm.
The question raised in a very direct way by Minority Report is: how are we then to account for the paradoxes involved in trying to predict the future, if we follow the post-structuralists in denying theoretical recourse to a conception of subjectivity? To wit: the central paradox that we encounter via the film is this:
There are some things that will only occur insofar as they are not known, and equally, there are some things that, if they are known about in advance, will because of this fact alone possibly not occur.
What this paradox insists upon is the theoretical unavoidablity of a conception of the subject qua reflexive bearer of knowledge-claims, capable of acting upon, or against, what these claims assert about the way the world is and will be. This paradox can not be explained unless we posit some part of reality for which or for whom knowledge of reality is capable of becoming an efficient condition for changing reality.
I want to conclude by suggesting is that this very concrete consideration radically calls into question the predominant critiques of subjectivity, all of which argue that the sense individuals have of self-reflexivity is either delusory (Althusser, Foucault), or at least the non-primordial effect of prior transcendental conditions (Derrida, differently Habermas). What it shares with them is the notion that the subject is the site of self-reflexivity. It differs in thinking that this capacity is not that which promises to subject the capacity to fully master the field of socio-political and natural reality. It is the capacity itself marks the subject as not wholly belonging in this field, and thus is called to responsibility for what its bearings will be in the world.
Considering Minority Report shows us that it is one thing for Foucault to argue that the modern liberal subject "that we are invited to free" is wholly the product of the evolution of disciplinary systems of power-knowledge; or for Derrida to assert that "the category of subjectivity": "... however it is conceived, ... will refer, by the entire thread of its history, to the substantiality of a presence unperturbed by accidents, or to the identity of the proper, self-same in the presence of self-relationship." (Derrida, 1976: 68-9) The problem for these "high level" theories is that self-reflexivity, as an irreducible datum in the becoming of socio-political reality, remains. And it "remains" not only as a datum of individuals' phenomenological self-experience that we could always argue was a merely delusory ideological self-misperception. In the paradoxes that insist when we come to consider whether the future is the type of thing that can be known, we see testimony to its insistence in the very fabric of phenomenal reality.
1. But we need only think of the paradoxes involved in having one's photo taken. The initial aim of bringing a camera along is to capture the spontaneity of special moments. Nevertheless, the instant a camera is brought out, this spontaneity is precisely interrupted, and we must try our best to look like we are spontaneously enjoying.
2. This is the paradox of Oedipus, that is often passed over, but which relates to the dialectics of subjectivity I am examining here. If the oracle had never been spoken, neither would it have come true.
Jacques Derrida, 1976 (trans. Gayatri Spivak). Of Grammatology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Slavoj Zizek, 1993. Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel and the Critique of Ideology. Durham: Duke Univ. Press.
Slavoj Zizek, Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau, 2000. Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left. New York: Verso Books.
Matthew Sharpe received this Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Slavoj Zizek: A Little Piece Of The Real (Ashgate, 2004), and most recently articles on psychoanalysis, politics and culture.