An idiot is not necessarily stupid, s/he is just out of his/her depth. This can be an advantage when research becomes, like travel, a suspension of the binary signifier that opposes home to away and looks at the uncanny cross-contamination of the two terms. Vico advises us to look to the role of error in the development of human culture and mind. To do this we must take Lacan's idea of the dummy (le mort, the dead man) seriously. Idiocy is "between the two deaths," in suspension between the Symbolic and Real. Questions unaccountably involve sexuation and the radical role played by trans-sexuality as the (female) subject is given the (forced) choice of speaking or being. So this is love?

The idiot as private person does not seem initially to involve questions of sexuation, but a close look at Lacan's economical definition of sexuation suggests some interesting connections. The upper left quadrant defines the subject who would wish to call himself male in terms of the phallic law. There is one who is not subject to the phallic law (first line), in order that all others are subject. The phallic law is the condition of entry into the Symbolic, where castration means "castration by symbols," the necessity of being misrecognized in the process of being assigned a place within the network of symbolic relationships. The upper right quadrant defines all subjects who would wish to call themselves woman as being subject to the phallic law, no exceptions; but with the proviso that not-all of any woman is subject to the law.

Slavoj Žižek resolves the misunderstanding of Lacan's sexuation forumlas by restoring the fundamental relationship of sexuation to the Symbolic — namely discourse. Using the Master's Discourse as the S1 of the Symbolic (after all, symbolic castration is the essence of the struggle of the master for recognition and the ironic sublation of the servant — Hegel figures in here — along with subjectivity in general as "feminine), Žižek sees a new master signifier in the form of all discourses organized on the basis of the element in the position of AGENT (upper left). Just as the agency of master's discourse is the master signifier, S1, the agency of the university is S2 (roughly, "signifying chains"), while the hysteric's discourse has its agency in the barred subject, $, and the discourse of analysis is appropriately focused on the agency of the "lost object of desire," the basis of fantasies shielding the subject from the trauma of the Real.


To know oneself is a fantasy; to know that one's self-knowledge is destined to be fundamentally flawed makes one an idiot, but an idiot in the sexuated context of the sublation (occultation) of knowledge, as the feminine not-all. S2 as feminine is the singularity/privacy of the idiot, whose literal meaning is "a private person." Narcissus is the inevitable successor to Tiresias in that his defective self-knowledge again leads to the theme of immobility within a trans-gendered magnetism. Narcissus is the agent who constructs the frame and also the content of that frame (Hegel). The haunting response of Echo can now be understood. It is the metonymical return of time upon itself.

This graph reverses Žižek's 90º rotation to align the graph of sexuation with discourses, beginning with University Discourse in the upper left. A new relation to trans-gendering is evident by pulling out the relationship between Other and Production (the right-hand side of each discourse matheme), elements that also describe key graphic conditions within the calclus of metalepsis. For example, the relation of S2 to a in the Master's Discourse relates to the double frame, the principle that for every point of view (in this case), constructed in relation to the Symbolic's "ideal ego," , there is another "occulted" POV (Mastery is in relation to the approval of a woman) and corresponding frame, slightly offset, containing hidden/lost contents. Exception, the principle of the masculine, by which every Symbolic content is made transitive (coherent) thanks to an exception, shows through the S2-to-a relationship, how the phallic rule, ø, uses exception spatially and temporally, creating "sites of exception" that are inconsistent with the Symbolic order.


This general quadration/correlation reveals that all of the usual senses of the binary signifier, Masculine-Feminine, are fundamentally "trans," even when, as in Mm and Ff, a purely gendered condition seems to exclude exceptions. The Mm condition — leaving open how 'M' or 'f' might be embodied — shows a as the gap (cf. Chaos), the void at the center of the interpellated subject, the resistant feminine as "no." Ff is the radical non-exception of the hysteric. The Fm condition shifts to the acute angle connecting $, the barred subject, with the imagined projection of exception, , the S1 or master signifier stabilizing the Symbolic by obscuring its inconsistencies. This graph in no way could be read as a menu limiting the number of "trans" conditions. "Trans" is essentially a movement across the graph's lines and "within" the scale of quadrations-within-quadrations — multiple possible positions/varitions that prove the "femininity" of subjectivity and what Žižek has called "the existence of the non-relationship."

critical theory for idiots


When one begins a journey into unknown territory, one is perforce a fool but also a hero. As a fool, all knowledge is rendered null and void by the fact that, although some places to be visited will seem familiar, nothing has been encountered before. Certainly, the traveler has no official status. S/he is an invader, pure and simple. In the latter role, the hero, the ancient literal sense dominates: the traveler travels as if a s/he were dead, a shade in search of a shadow-soul that will permit a final resit — Lacan’s “between the two deaths.” In ancient Greek, the word "hero" originally meant, simply, "a dead man."


When an unfamiliar territory (Lacanian theory) is added to an equally if not more unfamiliar one (Vico), there can be no question of authoritative readings or conclusions. Error is unavoidable, misreading will be the norm not the exception. The traveler is idiotic through the literal etymology of idiot as “a private person,” one who will have no status among the official residents. But, for the traveler, what residents regard as ordinary the traveler will regard with wonder — most of this generated out of the simple fact that it has not been encountered before and is thus "viewed awry" — seen in anamorphic duplicity.


Moving against the weight and rule of authority, the traveler-as-idiot can hope only one thing: to use error directly and positively to discover that which is invisible to authority, namely exception. The traveler to any foreign land, it is well known, has an uncanny ability to put the finger on something that has been customarily suppressed because of its inconsistency, its refusal to abide within the chains of signifiers that define a culture. This ability of the fool to trump the insider expert should not be a point of pride. It is the talent of the idiot, but the idiot is still an idiot. The only difference is one of a certain Kantian innocense. Because masters have the freedom to chose between mastery and folly, it must be assumed that their choice was intentional or, if accidental, at least recognized retroactively as a slip, a fault, a wrong turn. The idiot, in contrast, has no such choice. Error may be realized as such, but it cannot be avoided. It is a product of the essential element of naïveté — hopefully corrected as was Kant, by a Hegelian Providence — that defines the traveler as such.


To elevate the idiot traveler into a principle of study is itself an idiotic action, but in cases where there is no other option necessity forms the rule. The situation is analogous to that of the fictional situation in Borges’ story, “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” (1939). Lacking a native knowledge of Castilian Spanish and ignorant of key cultural-historical details of 16–17c. Spain, a Frenchman applies himself to the impossible task of reconstructing Cervantes’ masterpiece word by word. Borges is of course parodying the brand of literary criticism that held that the meaning of a text lay in the head of the author, whose intentions were conveyed to the reader through the instrumentality of the text. Miraculously, Menard succeeds in producing a text that is, word for word, “identical” to Cervantes’ Don Quixote, but Borges points out that Menard’s Quixote is superior in every way. Because the Frenchman had to construct everything that Cervantes’ was able to accomplish out of his “knowledge of acquaintance,” his “chance to remain an idiot” was incomparably higher. The coincidence of Menard’s text with Cervantes’ then constituted a special kind of knowledge, a “knowledge of the idiot.”


The aspirations of this “method of idiocy” are much lower, but the principle is the same: if the idiot is able to come to conclusions that have been already determined through considerable intellectual care by those qualified to undertake the difficult task, despite the idiot’s numerous errors and misreadings, then then (1) the conclusion is “durable” in a higher sense because it is indifferent to the peculiarities of the authorities-as-all-too-human; but, more important, (2) the idiot has connected precisely with this durability, something that is by definition impossible for the master/authority.


The idiot is forbidden to take pride in this. The method of the idiot is a non-method, but — like the science of divination from which it is drawn — it grounds its “scientific” prediction in a “kenotic” reading of the past and, thus, is more science than science. The idiot does not think thoughts; rather, thoughts think themselves through the agency of the idiot. The idiot is the “dead man” (le mort), the puppet. If there is any pride in being dead, let me know about it.


The method of the idiots bears most directly on the question of sexuation. This makes sense in terms of the genesis of this method, its origins in the sciences of divination. The Cadmus family tells the story of this thanks to the connections between Tiresias, famous for his talent as a seer-prophet, and Narcissus, famous for his self-ignorance. There is the theme of “trans-gender” in both cousins, literally for Tiresias who is transformed into a woman, and only slightly less literally for Narcissus, whose self love opens up a “gender within a gender” thanks to his misrecognition. As subjects we are all misrecognized, so this possibility of opening up a gender within a gender is present for all. It is a part of the “not-all” of the feminine, and every subject’s Psyche is feminine.


The Delphic oracle praised Socrates above all men for his realization of the supremacy of self-ignorance as the basis of all wisdom. Misrecognition, regarded primarily as a defect of the Symbolic, is in Socrates raised to the status of a supreme achievement, but the Oracle’s point was probably that Socrates transferred the problem of misrecognition from the Symbolic to the Real, by means of an alliance with Diotima, his “master in all things pertaining to Eros.” We must realize in Socrates’ construction of dialogs framing the failure of the Symbolic to come to terms with its own founding terms, a certain “trans” element. And, in this folding of the standard templates of sexuation, we should also note that Socrates’ failure to know him/herself is precisely the element the Narcissus myth identifies.


Narcissus, like Tiresias, “sees that which should have remained concealed.” Tiresias comes across snakes coupling — the famed emblem of Asclepius, pharmakeius who could raise the dead with the blood of Medusa’s left side — while Narcissus sees him/herself as Other — he conceives of a union, or rather a non-union, a “non-relationship,” of masculine and feminine. This is no typical love story. Narcissus, in “stepping back” from sexuation by framing it through reflection, creates a double frame in whose inter-frame space he travels as a hero, a “dead man,” frozen to the image and paralyzed, like the victims of the Medusa, wandering “between the two deaths,” i.e. the Imaginary and the Symbolic. Narcissus is both creator of the frame (occulted) and the content of the frame (idiot).


This is what Žižek does when he places all of Lacan’s forms of discourse into the form of the discourse of the master, S1 as the discourse of the master (the master inside the master, so to speak), S2 as university discourse, a as the discourse of analysis, and $ as the hysteric. This is extimacy, the inside frame, the self-inscription of discourse within its own form. This is Narcissus, pure and simple. And, without the notion of “trans” added to the Lacanian theory of sexuation — often unfairly criticized for embodying the binary signifier of male and female — there is no sexuation to begin with. The binary is a product of the “trans” element, the occulted role of the maker, what Vico would call verum ipsum factum.


Vico teaches the would-be author how to disappear (aphanisis) — the goal articulated by Roland Barthes as “writing degree zero.” As Žižek says (citing Jameson, in Absolute Recoil, 354) in relation to Hemingway’s terse style, it wasn’t the case that the American author did not adopt the style to fit a certain type of subjectivity; rather he invented narrative content in order to be able to write in a certain style. Form is the point, as Vico makes clear with his “ideal eternal history,” which applies equally to the agency that creates the frame as well as to the contents within the frame. Extremity, the not-all position of the feminine with relation to the frame (inside and out at the same time, but never fully inside or outside at any time) shows that disappearance is the art of traveling, the ghost and host of the stranger as dummy, as idiot.


Idiocy of another — incurable — kind belongs to those who have translated verum ipsum factum without taking into account metonymy and the occultation of the signifying subject. The same might be said of those who miss the metonymical nature of Vico’s imaginative universal, or the clear citation of the “two Dianas” that Vico claims to be the center of his New Science and in fact places in the center. Oh well. Idiocy does not wish to master; rather, it renounces mastery and gives itself over to the emptiness of the zairja, the stochastic random walk, the occulted signification of metonymy (the gaze, the acousmatic voice). 


As Groucho Marx (in the voice of the super-ego) famously said, “These are my values; if you don’t like them, I have others.” Clearly, theory is on the "trans" side of the feminine–as–masculine.

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