Zero Squared: A New Year’s Special

This special January 2nd, 2016 episode of Zero Squared explores why Critical Theorists deploy the word “problematic” and what they are REALLY saying when they talk about your fave.

Clips in this episode/collage include KMO from the C-Realm, John Berger, The Wireless Philosopher on the Problem of Perception, Michel Foucault Beyond Good and Evil (1993), music from the Truman Show, Laci Green, Tori the Queer, Evan Edinger, Noam Chomsky, Robin Williams, and clips the film A Day in the Afterlive of Philip K Dick.

Here’s an excerpt from the collage:

What’s problematic in today’s Critical Theory? That is, what is it that motivates the critical theorist to call something “problematic?”
According to the Philosophy dictionary online (that’s www.philosophy-dictionary dot org) something is a “problematic judgement” when it involves “the consciousness of the mere possibility” or, when it does not contain the consciousness of actuality or necessity.

To clarify, something is a problematic judgement, when it is subjective. In Hegel’s Science of Logic he labels the problematic as “assertoric.” This just means that it is an assertion given by a particular subject. Hegel’s logic is quite complicated, but the claim here is that when one asserts something, like “twerking is bad” one is asserting more than a particular fact about one’s own subjective experience. One is also making a claim about a universal notion.
To make this clearer still, something is problematic or problematized when it can seen to be self-generated and thereby self-interested rather than objective or necessary.
Again, the problem in the term “problematic” is the subjectivity of experience. A claim is problematic when its relationship to a universal notion or an objective fact has not been determined.
We might wonder then why it is that so many people use the term “problematic” a bit differently.

ha one of my pet peeves is when people use problematic to mean something is a problem for their own interests and want to sound authoritative/theoretically-informed.
usually a good sign to just politely walk away. For a more useful/interesting take see:
Dewey and Foucault: What’s the Problem?
Paul Rabinow


This article explicates a valuable but undernoticed point of contact between John Dewey and Michel Foucault. Both agreed that thinking arose in the context of problems such that the work of thought for both proceeds by way of working through and working over problems. Both affirmed that thinking arose in problematic situations; that it was about clarifying those situations, and that ultimately it was directed towards achieving a degree of resolution of what was problematic in the situation. Both agreed that thinking—or inquiry—was not fundamentally about the representations of a situation; either those produced by a contemporary thinker or as an exercise directed at historical materials. Both agreed that a history of ideas as autonomous entities, distorted not only the process of thinking as a practice, but also the reasons for which it had been engaged in, often with a certain seriousness and urgency, the first place: that is to say, such approaches covered over the stakes. Both agreed that the stakes involved something experiential and entailed a form of logic (or in Foucault’s later vocabulary a mode of ‘veridiction’), in which the thinker could not help but be involved.


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