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Anxiety: Kierkegaard with Lacan

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Articles by Slavoj Žižek

One should bear in mind Lacan's lesson here: accepting guilt is a manoeuvre which delivers us of anxiety, and its presence signals that the subject compromised his desire. So when, in a move described by Kierkegaard, one withdraws from the dizziness of freedom by seeking a firm support in the order of finitude, this withdrawal itself is the true Fall. More precisely, this withdrawal is the very withdrawal into the constraints of the externally-imposed prohibitory Law, so that the freedom which then arises is the freedom to violate the Law, the freedom caught into the vicious cycle of Law and its transgression, where Law engenders the desire to "free oneself" by way of violating it, and "sin" is the temptation inherent to the Law-the ambiguity of attraction and repulsion which characterizes anxiety is now exerted not directly by freedom but by sin. The dialectic of Law and its transgression does not reside only in the fact that Law itself solicits its own transgression, that it generates the desire for its own violation; our obedience to the Law itself is not "natural," spontaneous, but always-already mediated by the (repression of the) desire to transgress it. When we obey the Law, we do it as part of a desperate strategy to fight against our desire to transgress it, so the more rigorously we OBEY the Law, the more we bear witness to the fact that, deep in ourselves, we fell the pressure of the desire to indulge in sin. The superego feeling of guilt is therefore right: the more we obey the Law, the more we are guilty, because this obedience effectively IS a defense against our sinful desire.

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