Slavoj Žižek: Philosophy and Abstraction

Dr. Rinaldi's Horror Cabinet

…what, for Hegel, is the elementary move of philosophy with regard to abstraction? It is to abandon the common-sense empiricist notion of abstraction as a step away from the wealth of concrete empirical reality with its irreducible multiplicity of features: life is green, concepts are gray, they dissect, mortify, concrete reality. … Philosophical thought proper begins when we become aware of how such a process of “abstraction” is inherent to reality itself: the tension between empirical reality and its “abstract” notional determinations is immanent to reality, it is a feature of “Things themselves.” Therein lies the anti-nominalist accent of philosophical thinking—for example, the basic insight of Marx’s “critique of political economy” is that the abstraction of the value of a commodity is its “objective” constituent. It is life without theory which is gray, a flat stupid reality—it is only theory which makes it “green,” truly alive, bringing out the complex…

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