Žižek on Belief and Sean Carroll on Žižek

Via Sean Carroll at Cosmic Variance, an interesting clip from the movie Žižek!


Sean’s own response to the movie is worth reading.

The movie opens with a Žižek monologue on the origin of the universe and the meaning of life. We can talk all we like, he says, about love and meaning and so on, but that’s not what is real. The universe is “monstrous” (one of his favorite words), a mere accident. “It means something went terribly wrong,” as you can hear him say through a distinctive lisp in this clip from the movie. He even invokes quantum fluctuations, proclaiming that the universe arose as a “cosmic catastrophe” out of nothing.

I naturally cringed a little at the mention of quantum mechanics, but his description ultimately got it right. Our universe probably did originate as a quantum fluctuation, either “from nothing” or within a pre-existing background spacetime. Mostly, to be honest, I was just jealous. As a philosopher and cultural critic, Žižek gets not only to bandy about bits of quantum cosmology, but is permitted (even encouraged) to connect them to questions of love and meaning and so on. As professional physicists, we’re not allowed to talk about those questions — referees at the Physical Review would not approve. But it’s worth interrogating this intellectual leap, from the accidental birth of the universe to the richness of meaning we see around us. How did we get there from here, and why?