Parallax View

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The Tickling Object

The difference between subject and object can be rendered as the difference between the two corresponding verbs, to subject (submit) oneself and to object (to protest, oppose, make an obstacle).

The subject's elementary, founding, gesture is to subject itself - voluntarily, of course: as both Wagner and Nietzsche, the two great opponents, were well aware of, the highest act of freedom is the display of amor fati, the act of freely assuming what is otherwise necessary.

If, then, the subject's activity is, at its most fundamental, the activity of submitting oneself to the inevitable, the fundamental mode of object's passivity, of its passive presence, is that which moves, annoys, disturbs, traumatizes us (subjects): the object is at its most radical that which objects, that which disturbs the smooth run of things.

The paradox is thus that the roles are reversed (with regard to the standard notion of the active subject working on the passive object): the subject is defined by a fundamental passivity, and it is the object from which movement comes, i.e., which does the tickling.

The [[objet petit a, the object-cause of desire, can all of a sudden be "trans-substantiated" into the object of my desire: what is to you just an ordinary object is for me the focus of my libidinal investment, and this shift is caused by some unfathomable x, a je ne sais quoi in the object which cannot ever be pinned down to any of its particular properties. Objet a is therefore close to the Kantian transcendental object, since it stands for the unknown x, the noumenal core of the object beyond appearances, for what is "in you more than yourself." L'objet petit a can thus be defined as a pure parallax object: it is not only that its contours change with the shift of the subject; it only exists - its presence can only be discerned - when the landscape is viewed from a certain perspective. More precisely, the object a is the very CAUSE of the parallax gap, that unfathomable X which forever eludes the symbolic grasp and thus causes the multiplicity of symbolic perspectives. The paradox is here a very precise one: it is at the very point at which a pure difference emerges - a difference which is no longer a difference between two positively existing objects, but a minimal difference which divides one and the same object from itself - that this difference "as such" immediately coincides with an unfathomable object: in contrast to a mere difference between objects, the pure difference is itself an object. Another name for the parallax gap is therefore minimal difference, a "pure" difference which cannot be grounded in positive substantial properties.[1]


Žižek, Slavoj. The Parallax View. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2006.