Each must try to establish his assertions by a transcendental deduction of the grounds of proof employed in his argument, and thus enable us to see in what way the claims of reason may be supported. If an opponent bases his assertions upon subjective grounds, he may be refuted with ease; not, however to the advantage of the dogmatist, who likewise depends upon subjective sources of cognition, and is in like manner driven into a corner by his opponent. But, if parties employ the direct method of procedure, they will soon discover the difficulty, nay, the impossibility of proving their assertions, and will be forced to appeal to prescription and precedence; or they will, by the help of criticism, discover with ease the dogmatical illusions by which they had been mocked, and compel reason to renounce its exaggerated pretensions to speculative insight, and to confine itself within the limits of its proper sphere—that of practical principles.Kant, Immanuel (1781) Critique of Pure Reason

This reference to (material) production is pivotal today, in the context of the ongoing digitalization of our lives. We live in the midst of an arduous revolution in the ‘forces of production’, whose much-publicized tangible effects (new and newer gadgets invading our lives) overshadow its much more far-reaching repercussions. The true question apropos of cyberspace and Virtual Reality is not ‘What happens to our experience of reality?’ but, rather:’How does the interposition of the World Wide Web affect the status of inter subjectivity?’ The true ‘horror’ of cyberspace is not that we are interacting with virtual entities as if they were human – treating virtual non-persons as real persons, but rather, the opposite: in our very interaction with ‘real’ persons, who are more and more accessible only through their stand-ins in cyberspace, we are treating ‘real’ persons are virtual entities that can be harassed and slaughtered with impunity, since we interact with them only in Virtual Reality.Žižek, Slavoj (2001) Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?

The mistake of melancholy, however, is not simply to assert that something resists symbolic ‘sublation’ but, rather, to locate this resistance in a positively existing, albeit lost, object. In Kant’s terms, the melancholic is guilt of committing a kind of ‘paralogism of the pure capacity to desire’, which lies in the confusion between loss and lack: in so far as the object-cause of desire is originally, in a constitutive way, lacking, melancholy interprets this lack as loss, as if the object lacking were once possessed and then lost. In short, what melancholy obfuscates is the fact that the object is lacking from the very beginning, that its emergence coincides with its lack, that this object is nothing but the positivization of a void/lack, a purely anamorphic entity which does not exist ‘in itself’. The paradox, of course, is that this deceitful translation of lack into loss enables us to assert our possession of the object: what we never possessed can also never be lost, so the melancholic, in his unconditional fixation on the lost object, in a way possesses it in its very loss.Žižek, Slavoj (2001) Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?, Verso, pg 143

Despair is the sickness unto death in another and still more definite sense. For there is not the remotest possibility of dying of this sickness in the straightforward sense, or of this sickness ending in physical death. On the contrary, the torment of despair is precisely the inability to die. Thus to be sick unto death is to be unable to die, yet not as though there were hope of life. No, the hopelessness is that even the last hope, death, is gone. When death is the greatest danger, one hopes for life. But when one learns to know the even more horrifying danger, one hopes for death. When the danger is so great that death has become the hope, then despair is the hopelessness of not even being able to die.Kierkegaard, Søren (1849) The Sickness Unto Death

If light be not given to the senses, we cannot represent to ourselves darkness, and if extended objects are not perceived, we cannot represent space. Neither the negation, nor the mere form of intuition can, without something real, be an object.


For truth or illusory appearance does not reside in the object, in so far as it is intuited, but in the judgement upon the object, in so far as it is thought. It is therefore quiet correct to say that the senses do not err, not because they always judge correctly, but because they do not judge at all. Hence truth and error, consequently also, illusory appearance as the cause of error, are only to be found in a judgement, that is, in the relation of an object to our understanding.Kant, Immanuel (1781) Critique of Pure Reason

Torture is a dangerous innovation; it would appear that it is an assay not of the truth but of a man’s endurance. The man who can endure it hides the truth: so does he who cannot. For why should pain make me confess what is true rather than force me to say what is not true? And on the contrary if a man who has not done what he is accused of is able to support such torment, why should a man who has done it be unable to support it, when so beautiful a reward as life itself is offered him?
I think that this innovation is founded on the importance of the power of conscience. It would seem that in the case of the guilty man it would weaken him and assist the torture in making him confess his fault, whereas it strengthens the innocent man against the torture. But to speak the truth, it is a method full of danger and uncertainty. What would you not say, what would you not do, to avoid such grievous pain?

Etiam innocentes cogit mentiri dolor.
[Pain compels even the innocent to lie.]

Montaigne, Michel de (1580) Of Conscience

And when feeling or understanding or will has become fantastic, then in the end the whole self can become that, whether in a more active form, where the person plunges headlong into the fantastic, or in a more passive form he is carried off into it, though he is responsible in both cases. […] But to become fantastic in this way, and therefore be in despair, although usually obvious, does not mean that a person may not continue living a fairly good life, to all appearances be someone, employed with temporal matters, get married, beget children, be honoured and esteemed – and one may fail to notice that in a deeper sense he lacks a self. Such things cause little stir in the world; for in the world a self is what one leasts asks after, and the thing it is more dangerous of all to show signs of having. The biggest danger, that of losing oneself, can pass off in the world as quietly as if it were nothing; every other loss, an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. is bound to be noticed.Kierkegaard, Søren (1849) The Sickness Unto Death