I disagree with Žižek on the radical distinctness of human subjectivity. I think sapience is an elaborated capacity of sentience, which is itself a capacity emerging from organic dispositionality viz. the capacity for sensation. All wholly natural, ecologically evolved and material-energetic. Yeah for me, boo for the beard.
However, where I board the Slavoj-train (metaphorically speaking) is the way he talks about “the madness of the passage to the Symbolic itself, of imposing a symbolic order onto the chaos of the Real.” Human phantasy (imagination, subjectivity, etc) is generated via the delimiting neuronal specification of language. Dramatic, I know – but said another way, self-consciousness is the direct result the embodied brain’s ability to reference itself through symbolization (tokens). Mirror-neurons, pattern recognizers, blah blah blah. We create synthetic caricatures of experienced realities using symbolic tokens and language to manifest images and narratives about the Real. Thus, we enact a massive, near universally delusion epistemic cognitive detachment from the world with various and mixed results for survival and adaptation. Sometimes we use this detachment to contemplate and imagine and innovate, in other cases we project our fears and nightmares via a multitude of violent acts and collective insanities. At times symbolically achieved sapience has served individuals and collectives well, at other times it drives us off the brink of sustainability and appropriateness.
Here is Joseph Carew on Žižek’s framing of madness and consciousness:
“In short, the passage from darkness to light only occurs at the level of the Symbolic: in the Real, nothing changes, unruliness (our break from nature) is left untouched. It is this aspect of the intrinsic madness of culture, language, and phenomenal reality, its psychotic lack of contact with the world, that Žižek claims we forget, that we must necessarily forget, if the transcendental misrecognition of reality necessary to subjectification as a reaction formation is to be a successful “compensation.” All our discourses, all our “truths,” are nothing but the deluded ravings of the asylum unaware of their true origin within the founding gesture of subjectivity as a recoil spurred on by the brutal trauma of violently awakening up into a dismembering hemorrhaging of being, the ultimate ontological catastrophe. All the beauty of the world merely belies its true, unbearable horror: “[i]f we take into consideration the many terrible things in nature and the spiritual world and the great many other things that a benevolent hand seems to cover up from us, then we could not doubt that [the ego] sits enthroned over a world of terrors.” In this respect, “the true point of ‘madness’ […] is not the pure excess of the ‘night of the world,’ but the madness of the passage to the Symbolic itself, of imposing a symbolic order onto the chaos of the Real. If madness is constitutive, then every system of meaning is minimally paranoid, ‘mad.’” Paradoxically, the world can only become known to itself—being can only replicate itself within thought—if its medium of self-disclosure operates “with no external support of its truth,” without ever touching the Real.