The Nightshirt Sightings, Portents, Forebodings, Suspicions

The Parallax View

Reading Slavoj Zizek’s “magnum opus” The Parallax View. Mixed feelings, disappointment at its difficult philosophical tone, different from his more accessible early books. The main thing, though, is his “strategic decision” to use the term “parallax” to denote the discontinuity at the heart of being, the nonidentification of an object with itself (or a subject with him/herself). It’s a familiar Lacanian idea, but Zizek is now evidently centralizing it in his thought.

At first I was annoyed – it seemed wrong word choice. Parallax is just two different viewpoints on something, not a split in the thing itself. But I began to think of it more along the lines of W.J.T. Mitchell’s multistable images – like the duck/rabbit or the wife/mother-in-law. The point is, there is no “between” or neutral perspective on such an image (although Wittgenstein might disagree). It is either/or.

Plus, is it not the “split in oneself” (metaphorically, the fact that we see from two separate eyes, not one cyclopean eye mid-forehead) that gives rise to the “split in the world”?

That vertical line, that slash in either/or, is the impossible discontinuity in the world that Zizek has decided once and for all to erect his philosophical edifice on. It’s a good move. I just wish he’d go back to addressing a wider audience.

To be honest, I only got about 50 pages in and haven’t picked it up again.


I am a science writer and armchair Fortean based in Washington, DC. Write to me at eric.wargo [at]

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