Slavoj Žižek Plague of Fantasies: The 7 Veils

29 Jul

The Plague of Fantasies is a popular book by Zizek that begins with a part called the 7 Veils of Fantasy. He states in this part basically that the veils disguise things from the way they really are causing some degree of problems for us. Each sub part of the 7 Veils is difficult for me to understand so I am deciding to make this a longer post documenting what each part says and what Zizek aims to state. Like Deleuze, Zizek is difficult for me to understand and hopefully through writing about it I can come to understand him. If I am lead to think wrongly about his philosophy, please @reply me on Twitter (About CosmosZ page) or comment below, or email me at  I am going to make this a longer post, because I want to write through this and hope to understand it as best as possible. Hopefully this will turn into a guide for the first part of the Plague of Fantasies.

The Truth is Out There

Zizek uses this slogan ‘the truth is out there’ used by the X Files, an old 90’s show, but by using it he really means something philosophically, and just in common observation of things. This part is a prelude to the 7 veils,  and is not a veil itself but is helpful to the succeeding 7 veils. By saying that the truth is out there he means that in every scenario, issue, or situation has its problems and dilemmas, but in all possible ways, the truth can possibly be found. Zizek uses numerous examples to show this, including the answer to Michael Jackson’s molestation cases, worldwide excretion, and the way females around the world shave the vagina. He uses Jackson as an example by explaining how people are so perplexed about whether or not Jackson molested a little boy, when Zizek says that the truth can easily be found from what is presented. Jackson has a ranch equal to an amusement park any boy would want. He has no evidence of ever having a true woman lover. He was found with a boy in his bed, et cetera. From these obvious things, Zizek says that the truth is out there because from these facts, it can be inferred that Jackson most likely molests young boys. The examples he uses about the human excrement removal, and the female shaving of the vagina are examples I wish not to talk about here, but from reading it, you get the idea of what Zizek tries to say. From any situation, the truth can be found. I totally agree with this, even when in all situations, the truth cannot be 100% inferred, but more like 99% because some observations can be made to convey the wrong image.

1st Veil: Fantasy’s Transcendental Schematism

This veil is seen in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, but Zizek applies it to how fantasy teaches us what to desire. The transcendental schematism is in fantasy and is what causes fantasy to create images that are directly parallel to what we want. The transcendental schematism (going to call it TS so I don’t have to type the whole thing) recognizes what we as people individually want, and fantasy uses it to create images of our wants. Regardless of whether or not the image constitutes the actual thing we get, fantasy creates the image to create the desire. This part of fantasy is a veil because the image created from the TS is way too far fetched from what we can actually get, and it distorts our desire away from desiring what we can actually get. This makes the TS a huge veil that fantasy uses. Zizek states that fantasy constitutes our desire. He exemplifies this by a Slovenian suntan lotion ad showing women in a certain way making women want to look a certain way along with other desires. By showing us things we are designed to want, we automatically want those things. I like that this is a veil because the images that make us want what we are designed to want are unreachable and often impossible, making us ‘screwed’ so to speak because we cannot get what we are told to want. If I understand this in the wrong way, again please say so.

2nd Veil: Intersubjectivity

Intersubjectivity is where something is experienced by more than one thing. In this case, the phenomena is desire. Transcendental schematism is a fantasy veil where we are tricked into wanting things for ourselves, but intersubjectivity is a veil where we are tricked into wanting things for other than ourselves. Zizek exemplifies this by a girl eating a strawberry cake, where she does not eat it mostly because she wants to, but because she gets the impression that her parents want to see her enjoying it. Therefore, she eats it and intentionally looks as happy as possible for their purposes. The catch for her dilemma is that it is not definite on whether or not her parents specifically have the desire to see her enjoying the cake. If it is the case that her parents do not care if she enjoys the cake, her purposes are null, and the fantasy veil has taken advantage of her. Its probably bad that I watch old sitcom show Three’s Company, but I watched it one time, and the episode was where Jack was crabby for some reason, and Janet and Terry got the impression he was tired and deserved some extra attention from the girls. The girls getting this impression, gave him some extra attention, leading him to think they wanted to have sex with him. Jack thinking this, he took both of them to his friend’s lake house, so he could give the girls what they wanted (also for his benefit, therefore Jack got bit by fantasy’s TS and the intersubjectivity). When he made the move, he figured out that sex was not what they wanted. Jack was made to look foolish because of the intersubjective fantasy veil. I may have mixed two Threes Company episodes together, but the scenario worked out. This fantasy makes us think that others want certain things, causing us to take foolish action, ending with dismal results.

3rd Veil: The Narrative Occlusion of Antagonism

This veil is difficult for me to understand why, and how, but I got down to the what. I understand now that occlusion means the blocking of something, so the narrative occludes antagonism. Zizek exemplifies the paradoxical narrative by using  the person who works hard, and who also is lazy and free spending. I have a hard time understanding this, but I get from this that there is a paradox with the narrative that conveys the image that little antagonism exists in a situation where there is an issue of it. If the narrative shows the protagonistic, it also shows antagonistic both together causing confused image. This confused image is because of the protagonistic being the only thing visible to the one tricked by fantasy. If both protagonism and antagonism pardoxically coincide, narrative fantasy causes the protagonistic to be all that is visible, occluding the antagonistic creating a fantasy image where there is little issue with antagonism. If no antagonistic issue is visible, one is lead to think there is no issue, causing one again to be ‘screwed’ so to speak because there is really an antagonistic aspect existing paradoxically with the protagonistic. This proves to be an issue with fantasy because of the narrative. Zizek putting this in perspective by saying “emergence coincides with loss” makes me think of Deleuze’s paradox of pure becoming in that, becoming one thing coincides not simultaneously with not becoming. With the narrative it is an issue because of how fantasy causes it and that one of them is the only one seen.  This was hard for me to even grasp, so if I understand this wrong, please say so, and be gentle given that I am a clear novice in Zizekian philosophy.

4th Veil: Problematic of the Fall

This is another one I had a hard time understanding. The first two were easy, but proceeding further is difficult. Basically what the fantasy does is makes the subject, subject to the fall. Zizek allows the reader to understand his point by talking about Adam and Eve (In Mill’s Paradise Lost) and how Adam was subject to the fall by doing something that he thought would give him what he wanted. This is best understood when one knows what ‘jouissance’ is being used as here: pleasure, happiness, often sexual. In this case, Zizek means jouissance as sexual pleasure being had and attempted to be maintained by Adam. Jouissance is here understood as sex between Adam and Eve as being infinitely better than sex is for everyone today, and Adam wanted to maintain that. In life, there are often things that lead to failure and falls that we are advised to avoid, but fantasy disguises these falls to look like good areas for us to pursue. Adam’s main concern was to keep Eve happy, and if he kept Eve happy, he keeps jouissance. When Eve was lead astray by the Serpent to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, she ate of it, and wanted Adam to eat of it too because she ate of it. Adam wanting to keep jouissance by keeping Eve happy, also eats of the tree, and loses jouissance because he broke God’s only rule, and by breaking that rule God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Being removed from the Garden of Eden removed jouissance along with other things. So Adam seeing the necessary opportunity to keep jouissance, and taking that opportunity because he was led to by fantasy, lost jouissance for doing just that.  Fantasy again leads man astray by disguising things that show us what we should do to maintain our good life situations. Fantasy made it look like eating of the tree would keep Eve happy and therefore keep jouissance, when really under the fantasy doing that thing makes things worse.

5th Veil: The Impossible Gaze

Zizek exemplifies this with an anti-abortion fairy tale, and Bosnia/Herzegovina war general efforts. Fantasy employs an impossible gaze when it shows an action or event (or another phenomenon I guess) to have a purpose or meaning as one thing, when it is really for another. The gaze is impossible because it can be seen both ways, even the way that fantasy tries to disguise it, but when finally seen both ways it is impossible to see it both ways. The gaze is impossible because the person/phenomena creating this gaze could not have possibly employed both purposes at all. The anti-abortion fairy tale shows aborted babies living in peace on an island together looking back on how their parents betrayed them, when at the same time they were aborted yet were born into a parallel universe on this island and again at the same time, they know about their parents and that they betrayed them. So the fairy tale is fantasy’s impossible gaze by employing two ideas: 1) the aborted babies are moved in a different universe to live in peace, and 2) the aborted babies are born (contradiction, I know) to the universe on the island and look back on their parents’ betrayal. The fairy tale was told to go against abortion, when at the same time it shows that aborted babies do not know what happened to them and cannot know of their parents’ betrayal. Zizek’s other example where General Michael Rose had a course of action to make peace and end war in Bosnia, and to convey a message that no one is to blame, and everyone can be at peace with each other in their living space of Bosnia. When really, at the same time Rose’s secret course of action was to place blame on the Croat ethnicity for the war in Bosnia. This another example of fantasy’s impossible gaze because one cannot possibly convey an image that no one is to blame for war in Bosnia and at the same time blame the Croats. In the impossible gaze, fantasy convey’s one image and covers another to prevent acknowledgement of paradox of the image. The image fantasy covers is yet able to be found creating the impossibility of the gaze.

6th Veil: The Inherent Transgression

This fantasy veil is seen directly in art, culture, and media, and because of this fact, it is obvious in many things. Again, the truth is out there. Zizek states that there exists an inherent transgression between “explicit symbolic texture and its phantasmic background.” By inherent transgression is meant that the phantasmic background is something that becomes incredibly different and misrepresented in the symbolic texture. Its like when a bunch of kids do the pass it on activity, where one kid says one thing and by the time its at the final kid, its totally different from where it started. Fantasy creates the veil with symbolic texture by making the symbolic texture totally different and misrepresentative from the truth. Zizek exemplifies this transgression with Edith Wharton’s story Beatrice Palmato where she describes father daughter incest with in depth descriptions. It is difficult here to know what is the symbolic texture and what is the phantasmic background. Either the symbolic texture is her voluntary participation in the incest, inspired by the phantasmic background of frightening involuntary rape of her by her father, or vice versa. It is thought that the symbolic texture is her voluntary participation in the incest, but inherent transgression makes the distinction incredibly unclear, and difficult to pick out. This shows inherent transgression because, if it were the case that the symbolic texture was her voluntary participation in the incest, and the phantasmic background the frightening rape by her father, the phantasmic background is entirely misrepresented and different from what is presented in the symbolic texture of her voluntary incest.  Regardless of what the symbolic texture and the phantasmic background are, the phantasmic background is changed when it goes across the void into becoming symbolic texture. This symbolic texture has the potential to be seen by many and the phantasmic background is seen by little. So this is the veil of fantasy because the community sees the version that is the veil and the version that misrepresents everything. So again, the person involved in this situation is ‘screwed’ so to speak when endorsing the symbolic texture.

7th veil: The Empty Gesture

This directly relates to the debate between free will and otherwise. The empty gesture is the notion that we all have the will to chose what we want with our lives, when most of the things we have to choose from are of the impossible. This correlates directly with the 6th veil in that there is a symbolic texture and a phantasmic background. The symbolic texture is that we have the freedom to choose what we do in this world, when this texture is transformed and misrepresented (transgressed within the void) that its true that the choices we have are of impossible things removing the purpose of free will. This is give to the title of the empty gesture. This is fantasy in that it is a veil that makes it look like we have the freedom to choose our life’s actions, but the fantasy removed leaves the empty gesture.

After Zizek explains the 7 veils he explains that there is always a drive towards the same desires and therefore the same fantasies. From these 7 veils it is easily understood that fantasy makes things look distorted and to create and be tailored to our desires. I agree that all of these veils are active in today’s society. I do not want to go in the many examples that occur and parallel these veils today, but these fantasy veils run rampant.

I would talk more about the veils and how they are current in all forms, but this is already long and detailed

Comment below on whether or not I am correct, and how you see these veils running rampant today.

Thanks for the support


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