Refusing and Defusing The Moral Bomb — Işık Barış Fidaner

James Bond defuses Goldfinger’s bomb

Ego is not a static entity but a dynamic process, but how? In Žižek’s distinction between morality and ethics, Ego is on the side of morality:

Morality is concerned with the symmetry of my relations to other humans; its zero-level rule is “do not do to me what you do not want me to do to you.” (Less Than Nothing)

The “symmetry” of the moral dynamic refers to a positive feedback loop: the Ego normalizes the normalization that it encounters in the other. This moral dynamic of the Ego, called “common sense”, is in fact a blind and explosive repetition of normalization.

The flipside of normalization is the abnormal. These two are equivalent; they are the two aspects of the same thing. But the abnormal is not a simple denial of the normal. To be consistent with itself, the abnormal must (subjectively) deny its (objective) denial of normality. Otherwise, it would be reduced to the normal. The abnormality must thereby be defined self-referentially as a “denial of denial”.

This means that the explosive dynamic of the normal is reflected to the other side, the abnormal: Normalizing the normalization is equivalent to denying the denial. One can indefinitely extend this formula: Normalizing the normalization of normalization is equivalent to denying the denial of denial, etc. This multiplication is initiated by the Master’s discourse and indefinitely extended by the University discourse.

The infinite sequence “denial of denial of denial of …” (the perverted flipside of the moral bomb of normalization of normalization of normalization of … ) actually amounts to a denial of castration. This should not be confused with the “negation of negation” which is the very intervention that breaks such a vicious cycle. Negation of negation is a negative feedback that cancels the negativity of such a blind positive feedback loop.

When an Ego moralizes the other, the Ego identifies with the normality (normalization of normalization) while projecting the abnormality (denial of denial) onto the other. This is how the subject divides into its conscious and unconscious aspects. This same division separates the “useful” from the “useless” [1].

If the other serves the Ego by actively assuming the denial of castration onto itself, it becomes the perverted flipside of the moral bomb (like Sade is to Kant). The denial of castration opens “the way to enjoyment”: a false image of freedom that actually leads to the loss of enjoyment as the inherent impasse of permissivity.

One can also refuse and/or defuse the moral bomb by signalling a negative feedback. This is the (immoral but) ethical way of desire. Lacan: “Castration means that enjoyment must be refused so that it can be reached on the inverted ladder of the Law of desire.” (Écrits)

This is why Žižek defines ethics beyond morality in terms of desire:

Ethics, in contrast [to morality], deals with my consistency in relation to myself, my fidelity to my own desire. (Less Than Nothing)

The hysterical questioning of a Master-Signifier refuses the moral bomb with a simple negation of the phallic signifier. It is a reformist solution that may help the Master innovate himself and come back with a stronger perversion. This is how capitalism handles the crises and critiques that it undergoes. Such a questioning may thus re-fuse the bomb.

The revolutionary solution is achieved by the negation of negation that truly defuses the moral bomb: the Analyst intervenes by an “uncommon sense” that cancels the negativity of the bomb in a partial (read “engaged”) manner.


Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] See “Spatial and Combinatorial” and “Decryption and Decipherment”


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