In the introduction to Less Than Nothing, Slavoj Zizek distinguishes three kinds of stupidity.
There is the moron, who stupidly assumes the unquestionable truth of “common sense,” even when it is contradicted by his every experience. Zizek’s example of this is the sidekick of the classical detective, who is ready to assume the impossible happened rather than question his assumptions about how the world operates. I would suggest another example: the psychologist, who is blindly sure that any diagnosis listed in the DSM must be a universally experienced disorder with a “bio-psycho-social” cause, even when no actual person quite fits any such diagnosis, and many fit none at all. The moron is anyone who continues to try desperately to fit the world to the categories and rules of hegemonic discourses, ignoring or distorting whatever doesn’t seem to be accounted for.
Then there is the idiot, who too easily sees right through social conventions, takes every expression literally, and looks for some absolute ground to guide his actions. Zizek’s example here is the child in the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” pointing out the absurdity of social conventions. I would suggest that a better example would be the modern cult of reductionism, hoping desperately to find some biological determination for all human behavior, whether in the brain or in evolutionary biology, to avoid at all costs the possibility that human social practices are the reasons for much of what we do—that many of our behaviors might not be determined at all. The idiot is unable to grasp the reality of the social, to even begin to understand why it might be desirable.
But in between these is the imbecile, who sees that the common-sense version of reality is flawed and contradictory, but nonetheless sees its function, cannot escape recognizing the need for a social conventions, even while he sees that they are often at odds with reality. Like the idiot, the imbecile can see that there are real material causes at work in the world, but like the moron he knows that they are not enough. Zizek suggests Wittgenstein and Lacan as examples of imbeciles. I would suggest Socrates or Marx. But I would agree that being an imbecile is a goal worth striving for.
So my goal here will be to inhabit the role of the imbecile, unwilling to completely accept any socially constructed discourse, but also unable to pretend that there is any possibility that we can account for our existence without granting the realm of the social the status of reality, including real causal powers. Often, I would say, causal powers that can be greater than those of mere brains and evolved tendencies.
I’m going to do this in order to attempt to produce a tentative theory of interpellation.