Symbolic World Membrane: Negation of Negation — Işık Barış Fidaner

A phospholipid molecule’s head is hydrophilic (it likes water) and its tail is hydrophobic (it flees water).

The cell membrane that separates the living cell’s inside from its outside is a double layer made of phospholipids. The hydrophilic heads are arranged on the membrane’s inside and outside surfaces and the hydrophobic tails are arranged in the double layer’s middle part:


If each phospholipid layer is like a negation (~), the double layered cell membrane that separates the cell’s inside from its outside becomes a negation of negation (~~).

If one applies this operation by plain logic, the cell’s inside becomes identical to its outside and the cell cannot remain alive [1]:

~~P = P

Dialectical logic conserves the qualitative difference between the cell’s inside/outside and the cell remains alive:

~~P = P’

So it’s a matter of life and death that one must guard the refined dialectical logic from the vulgarity of plain logic.

Just like the cell membrane, the limits of our symbolic world are drawn by negating negations. A few examples:
1) It won’t hurt me.
2) My friend won’t abandon me.
3) The enemy must be defeated.
Let’s examine these one by one.

1) It won’t hurt me: One can encounter many things in the world that threaten to negate one’s survival (“hurt”). In order to preserve inner peace one is compelled to draw limits to one’s world, to symbolically negate each of these negating elements that one has encountered (“won’t”). One actually draws this limit by intuition, by relying on knowability [2], so when this limit is questioned:
— it might be undermined: “What if it hurts me?”
— or it might be supported by producing knowledge for rationalization: “It won’t hurt me because…”
Although such questioning excuses itself in the name of “risk avoidance”, the very act of casting doubt (for the sake of seeking a “knowledge” that is not at hand) is dangerous insofar as it cancels the intuitive knowability at hand.

2) My friend won’t abandon me: One’s probability of losing one’s contacts with other people (“abandon”) threatens to negate one’s possibilities of survival. In order to preserve inner peace, one feels a need to symbolically negate those bothersome probabilities (“won’t”). Since this operation mainly relies on intuitive knowability, it might also be undermined when someone questions it, or it might be supported by producing knowledge for rationalization (“(S)he won’t abandon me because…”). Again, attempting to produce groundless “knowledge” for the sake of defending and proving one’s friendship is dangerous insofar as it cancels the valid knowabilities that are currently at hand. If we want to protect the membrane that keeps the cell alive, it’s sometimes more appropriate to ignore “unnecessary” inquiries.

3) The enemy must be defeated: In this case, one supposes that an element in the world (“enemy”) negates one’s survival. Since negating this element (“must be defeated”) amounts to starting a war (and thereby directly threatens one’s survival), unlike previous cases, there are very good reasons to question whether the attempted action is truly necessary. When such questioning does not revoke the enmity, it might sometimes result in the production of knowledge for rationalization: “It must be defeated because…” On other occasions, it might encourage one to process one’s anger/rage. If you can perceive your anger as intuitive knowability (if you can hear the verity in it [3]) you can process it (you can sublate it: Aufhebung).


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 “Düz Mantık ve Diyalektik Mantık: Yuva ve Semptom”

[2] See “Bilgi ve Bilebilgi: Bilen Bilemez Ancak Bilmeyen Bilebilir”, “Doğruyu Bilme İsteği ve Sahiyi Bilebilme Arzusu”, “Aklın Kurnazlığı: Aklın Kuru ve Aklın Nazı: Edilgileşim ve Etkileşim”

[3] See “Imposition, Criticism, Analysis: Loyalty, Fidelity, Precision”


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