The Chimera — Işık Barış Fidaner


The Chimera is an embodiment, but what kind of embodiment? First of all, the Chimera is a monster, so it’s an unauthorized embodiment [1]. In mythology, the Chimera monster is slain by the Greek hero Bellerophon, who was sent to do this by the king of Lycia in southern Anatolia. Since the hero takes the authorization of the Phallus from the king, [2] it is significant that the Chimera is a female monster.

In a fight between an abstract authority like that of the hero Bellerophon and a concrete embodiment like that of the Chimera, the abstraction always defeats the concretion, because he has the home-field advantage over her in the symbolic battlefield of language, which mediates our knowledge of mythology. In face of the power of pure abstraction and logic, all concretions are reduced to imaginary chimeras. The hero wins in the myth only because the negativity embodied by the Chimera is reduced to a contradiction, and finally, a falsity. The phallus carries the flag of truth.

However, the hero’s victory over the monster is also his defeat, because the hero is defined by his struggle against her; his abstract authority is reduced to an empty shell without the challenge of her concrete embodiment. Bellerophon is unable to prove himself by slaying the Chimera; the king remains dissatisfied, and he sends Bellerophon to fight against a series of other foes, including the female Amazon warriors in the shores of the Black Sea.

The hero is forced to face the challenge of an unending multitude of chimeras in order to prove himself. The phallus, in order to raise the flag of truth, must feed on falsities. True falls through false [3]. This is the dependency of pure abstraction on the negativity embodied by concretions, the dependency of truth on fiction and falsity, the dependency of social reality on fantasies. When the abstract truth stops fighting the concrete falsity and admits his dependency on her, the reality of the Chimera becomes evident [4]. She is no longer a merely imaginary embodiment; she becomes a real embodiment.

Thus, the reality that the Chimera acquires makes her a concrete abstraction; in Marxist terms, a “real abstraction”. Real abstractions can constitute social systems. The best example is the commodity, which constitutes the capitalist system as just such a real chimera.

In the first edition of Capital Vol 1, Karl Marx uses a strange metaphor when describing money as the general equivalent (Slavoj Žižek quotes this in Less Than Nothing):

It is as if, alongside and external to lions, tigers, rabbits, and all other actual animals, which form when grouped together the various kinds, species, subspecies, families, etc. of the animal kingdom, there existed in addition “the animal,” the individual incarnation of the entire animal kingdom.

Composed of parts of a lion, a goat and a snake, the Chimera is just like Marx’s “the animal” that incarnates the entire animal kingdom. The Chimera is obviously a non-human creature, but she originates from the inhuman core of humanity itself.


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 “The disruption of fetishes produces gods and monsters”

[2] See “Beyond the Abstract Fetish of the Phallus”

[3] See “True Falls Through False”

[4] See “Proof is masculine, evidence is feminine”

The image: “Bellerophon and the Chimera” by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo


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