absentials

I was listening to a recent Zizek audio and came accross a new term which caught my attention: absential
Here is the audio where Zizek introduces it, the relevant section starts at 48.42 and runs for about 4 minutes.

The originator of the term is a Darwinian biologist – Terence Deacon: Incomplete Nature (2013). Zizek calls him an:

idealist materialist in the sense that in materialist terms he tries to account for the rise of ideality itself in nature. He introduces this beautiful dialectical term absentials, like abscence no? Something which is not there but determines the identity of what is there.
Zizek Audio: 233
I don’t really have anything more to say about it right now but it’s (a) pretty (,) unforgettable term and a really useful concept. The full extent of Deacon’s work is not something I’m aware of but the idea of absential feels really useful.

Effectively the material world is organised by things that aren’t there. For Zizek this is an obvious Hegelian position but regardless of that it’s also a way of understanding and of arguing against a formal positivism. The material world is organised by categories such as society, class, God, jealousy and so on ad infinitum, none of which are material categories but all of which are not there, invisible by their nature, only seen in examples.  Not there in the sense that they can’t actually be put in a box as can, for example, that particular keyboard I writing on, however they nevertheless organise material objects and the relationship between them including bodies, human or otherwise.

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