Parallax and intentionality

I had been using the metaphor of parallax for a couple of years before Zizek’s Parallax View came out. The entire book turned out to be structured around the parallax metaphor and he used it essentially the same way. At that point in my life I was inclined to interpret that kind of coincidence as either an inevitable rediscovery of core esoteric truths or as some sort of synchronicity.

Once I learned about the connection between Hegel and Marxism, though, I realized parallax is one of the most univeral and obvious examples of the dialectic form (thesis-antithesis-synthesis). If the dialectic form is a pre-existing cultural entity – and not a minor or obscure one, either – it is possible that the “rediscovery” of it was a lot more guided than it seemed to me at the time. I may not have been taught it explicity, but it is not difficult to see how it could be absorbed passively.


The key to understanding passive cultural absorption is realizing objective conceptual thinking is only one of several forms of understanding a mind has available to it for interrelating and unifying the multifarious parts and aspects of its experience.

Naive thinkers are marked as such by their incapacity to distinguish the objective form of thought (which is ontological) from the objective being of a thing “thought about”. This observation is itself not “objective”: it exists as what I have been calling an intellectual move, or “the dance”. It’s the fundamental insight of late Wittgenstein and the Pragmatists.

Maybe I picked up the the Pragmatist dance from following along, trying to understand – trying to think-with a philosophical author, as opposed to thinking-about the apparent subject matter presented by the author in my own way, by my own pre-existing habitual moves. Maybe having been raised Unitarian-Universalist, which was a major tributary of Pragmatism, made me receptive to thinking in that way. Maybe there was a temperamental predisposition. At any rate, later, when I learned the counts and the names of the steps and the history of the dance’s invention and development, it was a factual consummation of something super-factual.

It gave objective form to a transmissible form of essentially subjective truth. It made it easier to share. Before, I’d have to demonstrate it, or indicate it with strange analogies.


I had this thought last week and forgot to write it down:

Can we learn essentially subjective (that is, existential) truths from other subjectivities, or are we limited to objectivity – learning objective facts about subjectivity from one another?

Are we subjectively inert, sealed inside our own temperaments, and our own experiences?

Another big question: If we can learn essentially subjective truths from one another, is that best achieved through talking about subjectivity – through psychologizing? A theme I’ve encountered repeatedly among thinkers working from the Pragmatist and the Phenomenological traditions is intentionality: that there is no such thing as thinking without an object of thought. Thinking divorced from intentionality is nonsense.

Perhaps sharing a problem with another subjectivity, a problem that involves coming to a deep understanding for the sake of being able to collaborate on solving the problem is a more direct route to subjective learning than psychologizing.

I’ve even wondered if psychologizing isn’t ultimately a defence against sharing psychology – a counterfeit intimacy used as a block against authentic intimacy with the other – a sterile mutual self-exploration where shared experience is founded on sameness. Otherness is distant, sealed on the far side of an experiential membrane – never pursued, never approached, never welcomed. The radical other is an object of fascination, or fear, or mystification to be contemplated or classified but never touched.


I see art as essentially bound up with subjective sharing.

Lesser art depends on recognition. It calls out to those who already know. Art decays into nostalgia and then pastiche.

Great art makes new knowers.

Philosophy is thought-art.

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