1. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1962), 413. [return to text]

2. Heidegger’s concern for the problem of dwelling in modernity reaches its apogee in his essay “Building Dwelling Thinking.” There, Heidegger points out that the problem of a lack of houses for everyone—that is, homelessness—is really a synecdoche for the failure to dwell properly. See Martin Heidegger, Building Dwelling Thinking, in Poetry, Language, Thoughts, trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper and Row, 1975), 161.

3. What separates Hegel from Gilles Deleuze and other apostles of fluidity is that he views the rupture from place as the decisive event that must be preserved. The subject emerges out of this rupture and cannot exist without the negative reference to place that Deleuze disallows.

4. The fiction that the subject originates without any context and subsequently falls into space and time is what Heidegger attacks as the metaphysical fiction. His destruction of metaphysics is the destruction of this independent subject that has no basis in experience. Heidegger’s inability to see the performative power of the metaphysical fiction leaves his thought stuck in the unfreedom of place.

5. G. W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 23.

6. The conceit—solving the environmental crisis by finding a new environment—turns off many spectators from Nolan’s film right away. It seems to model the perfect consumerist view of the planet: when one commodity ceases to provide satisfaction, toss it aside and seek out another. But after watching Interstellar in its entirety, it becomes clear that the film shares little with the consumerist mindset. The film stresses the necessary absence of the object, whereas the consumer demands its presence. I am indebted to Richard Boothby (Loyola University Maryland) for pointing out this possible objection to me.

7. Jean-Paul Sartre points out that no situation is inherently revolutionary but always requires a revolutionary subject to activate it. But this claim doesn’t go far enough. One must see how the revolutionary desire of the subject actually creates the situation in which this desire can come to fruition. This is the lesson of Interstellar.

8. The fact that Plan A doesn’t exist and yet animates the desire of so many people in the film enables us to call it “Plan (objet) a,” after Jacques Lacan’s objet a. Like the objet a, Plan A structures desire through its absence rather than its presence. I owe this point to Jonathan Mulrooney (Holy Cross).

9. Hegel describes the absolute as the reconciliation of what ought to be with what is, so that we reconsider our striving as itself already a realization. Hegel says, “But the harmony between the ‘is’ and the ‘ought to be’ is not torpid and rigidly stationary. Good, the final end of the world, has being, only while it constantly produces itself.” G. W. F. Hegel, Logic, trans William Wallace (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 291. In this way, Hegel shows how the embrace of striving as its own accomplishment institutes the distortion of desire into the understanding of subjectivity.

10. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL becomes murderous because he alone knows the contradictory truth and must conceal information from the crew. One might make the same claim about Dr. Mann in Interstellar. It seems that the robots do not know that Plan A is a fiction and that only Professor Brand and Dr. Mann know. For a compelling analysis of HAL in 2001 that develops this reading, see Michael Berubé, Public Access: Literary Theory and American Cultural Politics (New York: Verso, 1994). [return to text]

11. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, in Practical Philosophy, trans. and ed. Mary J. Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 166.  

12. It is the subject’s necessary failure to accomplish its moral duty that leads Kant to posit the existence of an afterlife in which the subject can fulfill its infinite striving as morally necessary, even though Kant himself didn’t actually believe in personal immortality.

13. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 376.

14. In an age in which private space exploration has outstripped and clearly supplanted public endeavors, Interstellar represents a plea for funding NASA. It contends that space exploration works for everyone rather than for particular interests and thus must occur through the efforts of a public agency. At the same time, the film shows NASA now housed at NORAD, which is the current site of the command center for the American nuclear arsenal. The use of NORAD (along with that of former Marine robots like TARS and CASE) reveals the impurity of even the public agency. NASA is trying to save humanity, but doing so requires the utilization of particular instruments opposed to the universal.

15. Earlier in the film, Nolan has Zimmer’s score drown out Murph’s words after she learns that Plan A was a fake from Professor Brand. As she records a message to Cooper, we can barely make out portions of what she says. The excess of music here indicates that Murph’s anger toward Cooper completely shapes what she says.

16. Alenka Zupancic, Ethics of the Real: Kant, Lacan (New York: Verso, 2000), 92. Kant rejects the possibility that diabolical evil or evil for evil’s sake might exist because he implicitly understands that its structure mirrors that of morality.

17. In his defense at his trial in Jerusalem for his role in the Nazi genocide, Adolf Eichmann portrayed himself as obeying the Kantian categorical imperative when he followed orders and carried out the Final Solution. Obviously, this claim in no way transforms Eichmann into an argument against Kantian morality.

18. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 10.

19. In this way, Hegel anticipates Jacques Lacan’s well-known dictum that “the non-duped err.”

20. This is what Rebecca Comay makes clear in her account of Hegel where she notes that in his thought, “instead of determining the future, the past is freed to receive a new meaning from the future.” Rebecca Comay, Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011), 133.

21. Alain Badiou, The Communist Hypothesis, trans. David Macey and Steve Corcoran (London: Verso, 2010), 242-243. Though Badiou is for the most part an anti-Hegelian thinker, his conception of the event as transformative of the past that leads to it follows directly the orientation of Hegel’s philosophy, which conceives the past as the product of the distortion of the present.

22. The theory of the link between vaccines and autism offers a nice example of this attitude. Even after the Institute of Medicine published its definitive research debunking the link between vaccines and autism and even after the author of the original study discovering the link renounced his earlier claims, most opponents of vaccines were unconvinced. After I confronted him with these new revelations, a friend of mine simply commented, “It shows just how powerful the pharmaceutical companies are.” Because conspiracy theory offers the psychic reward of a substantial agent occupying the gap within knowledge, no refutation will ever be adequate. One must instead persuade the conspiracy theorist to question the psychic reward itself.

23. Given the link between the conspiracy theory about the moon landing and the idea of rootedness, one might imagine that Martin Heidegger, in the last years of his life, was skeptical about the images being transmitted by Apollo 11 from the surface of the moon.

24. For the contemporary followers of Gilles Deleuze (such as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri), movement itself is a revolutionary act. Capitalism exists only through the restraint of the movement that it unleashes, and the revolutionary struggle against capitalism consists in eliminating this restraint, what Deleuze would call “reterritorialization.”

25. Soren Kierkegaard conceives of indirect communication as the only possible means for transmitting Christian love. Direct communication—what the receiver would immediately understand—would have the effect of lowering love to the level of an everyday commonplace phenomenon and thereby stripping it of its transcendence.

26. I owe this point to Danny Cho (Otterbein University). [return to text]

27. G. W. F. Hegel, “Love,” in Early Theological Writings, trans. T. M, Knox (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1975), 305.

28. Though Leonard (Guy Pearce) clearly departs from his wife’s emphasis on repetition (her insistence on rereading the same book) by looking for a clear solution to her death and Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) decides to leave the dream world where Mal wants him to stay, the relation between Batman (Christian Bale) and the Joker is more ambiguous. At the conclusion of The Dark Knight, Batman adopts the fiction of criminality, which places him in proximity to the Joker.

29. The existence of the farm as a tribute to Cooper on Cooper Station has the effect of undermining the plaque that is also there. The plaque displays the words to the Dylan Thomas poem that Professor Brand repeats, but we should take it no more seriously than we do the farm decided to Cooper and his love of farming.

30. Stanley Rosen makes the point that Hegel’s emphasis on the whole is simultaneously an emphasis on contradiction. He writes, “It is a bit melodramatic and perhaps even misleading to say merely that for Hegel, the whole is contradiction. But this melodramatic assertion can be refined and developed into a sound description of the motor of Hegel’s logic.” Stanley Rosen, The Idea of Hegel’s “Science of Logic” (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 59.