Ray Brassier on Laruelle: Objects Thinking; or The Transcendental Cut

“Metaphysics conceived of the autonomy of the object in terms of the model of substance. But successive critiques of the hypostatization of substance from Kant to Heidegger have undermined the plausibility of metaphysical (substance based) realism, thereby securing the triumph of correlationism. Laruelle’s work challenges this correlationist consensus by proposing a version of transcendental realism wherein the object is no longer conceived of as a substance but rather as a discontinuous cut in the fabric of ontological synthesis. It is no longer thought that determines the object, whether through representation or intuition, but rather the object, that seizes thought and forces it to think it, or better, according to it. As we have seen, this objective determination takes the form of a unilateral duality whereby the object thinks through the subject.”

– Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment And Extinction


Also for those interested in François Laruelle’s project of non-philosophy Anthony Paul Smith will be talking in Dublin Wednesday 9 January 2013:

Faux amis?: François Laruelle and the Speculative Turn

Interest in François Laruelle’s project of non-philosophy continues to grow, in part because the seeming closeness of his project to that of speculative realism. In this talk Anthony Paul Smith aims to introduce the basic contours of Laruelle’s works in relation to those of speculative realism. While Laruelle has championed a form of thought that is in many ways more virulently non-correlationist than even Meillassoux, he attends to political and ethical questions in a way that appears to weave seamlessly this non-correlationism with a revised, non-standard humanism very different than the anti-humanism present amongst the speculative realists. Exploring this may show how Laruelle’s version of philosophy of science is amenable not with a cold world, but with a vision that simply isn’t worldly.

For more information about D.U.S.T please visit http://dublindust.wordpress.com/

George Santayana on Lucretius

“Better conceive of many atoms shared by many things, as letters are by words, than of a single thing not made of atoms.”

– Lucretius, On the Nature of Things

“Since Lucretius is thus identical for us with his poem, and is lost in his philosophy, the antecedents of Lucretius are simply the stages by which his conception of nature first shaped itself in the human mind. To retrace these stages is easy; some of them are only too familiar; yet the very triteness of the subject may blind us to the grandeur and audacity of the intellectual feat involved. A naturalistic conception of things is a great work of imagination,—greater, I think, than any dramatic or moral mythology: it is a conception fit to inspire great poetry, and in the end, perhaps, it will prove the only conception able to inspire it.”

“There are two maxims in Lucretius that suffice, even to this day, to distinguish a thinker who is a naturalist from one who is not. “Nothing,” he says, “arises in the body in order that we may use it, but what arises brings forth its use.” This is that discarding of final causes on which all progress in science depends. The other maxim runs:” One thing will grow plain when compared with another: and blind night shall not obliterate the path for thee, before thou hast thoroughly scanned the ultimate things of nature; so much will things throw light on things.” Nature is her own standard; and if she seems to us unnatural, there is no hope for our minds.”

“Materialism, like any system of natural philosophy, carries with it no commandments and no advice. It merely describes the world, including the aspirations and consciences of mortals, and refers all to a material ground. The materialist, being a man, will not fail to have preferences, and even a conscience, of his own; but his precepts and policy will express, not the logical implications of his science, but his human instincts, as inheritance and experience may have shaped them. Any system of ethics might accordingly coexist with materialism; for if materialism declares certain things (like immortality) to be impossible, it cannot declare them to be undesirable. Nevertheless, it is not likely that a man so constituted as to embrace materialism will be so constituted as to pursue things which he considers unattainable. There is therefore a psychological, though no logical, bond between materialism and a homely morality.”

“The materialist is primarily an observer; and he will probably be such in ethics also; that is, he will have no ethics, except the emotion produced upon him by the march of the world. If he is an esprit fort and really disinterested, he will love life; as we all love perfect vitality, or what strikes us as such, in gulls and porpoises. This, I think, is the ethical sentiment psychologically consonant with a vigorous materialism: sympathy with the movement of things, interest in the rising wave, delight at the foam it bursts into, before it sinks again. Nature does not distinguish the better from the worse, but the lover of nature does. He calls better what, being analogous to his own life, enhances his vitality and probably possesses some vitality of its own. This is the ethical feeling of Spinoza, the greatest of modern naturalists in philosophy; and we shall see how Lucretius, in spite of his fidelity to the ascetic Epicurus, is carried by his poetic ecstasy in the same direction.”

“Naturalism is a philosophy of observation, and of an imagination that extends the observable; all the sights and sounds of nature enter into it, and lend it their directness, pungency, and coercive stress. At the same time, naturalism is an intellectual philosophy; it divines substance behind appearance, continuity behind change, law behind fortune. It therefore attaches all those sights and sounds to a hidden background that connects and explains them. So understood, nature has depth as well as surface, force and necessity as well as sensuous variety. Before the sublimity of this insight, all forms of the pathetic fallacy seem cheap and artificial. Mythology, that to a childish mind is the only possible poetry, sounds like bad rhetoric in comparison. The naturalistic poet abandons fairy land, because he has discovered nature, history, the actual passions of man.”

– George Santayana,  Three Philosophical Poets Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe

Night of the Mind

This fright, this night of the mind, must be dispelled
not by the rays of the sun, nor day’s bright spears,
but by the face of nature and her laws.
And this is her first, from which we take our start:
nothing was ever by miracle made from nothing.
You see, all mortal men are gripped by fear
because they see so many things on earth
and in the sky, yet can’t discern their causes
and hence believe that they are acts of god.
But in all this, when we have learned that nothing
can come from nothing, then we shall see straight through
to what we seek: whence each thing is created
and in what manner made, without god’s help.

– Lucretius, On the Nature of Things


The word extinct comes from the Latin stinguere (to quench), which is the verb of choice for killing a flame. Because we live on a planet hospitable to fires, which consume but also heat, we are obsessed with the notion of fires within our own bodies. This is not just a metaphor that came in with the Industrial Age’s dynamos and furnaces; the ancients also wrote of fire in the flesh. When we say something is extinct, we mean literally that the flame in each and every cell has been doused. Yet we use extinct not as a verb but as an adjective attached to the verbs become and go. Even in our use of the word, we are confused about whether extinction happens to a species or is caused by that species. Subconsciously, we think of it as a supreme failure. We do not realize that extinction is normal. There have been huge die-offs in the past, when many species disappeared, discarded by evolution in a doodling with life-forms that may seem heartless, mindless, merciless, but is also unmalicious, intentionless, random. The high extinction rate at the moment is unique within our span of recorded time, so it surprises us; but mass extinctions are not extraordinary. What should unnerve us is that, in the past, large waves of extinction have always wiped out the culprits: when organisms were too abundant, dominating the earth and ruining the environment, they went extinct, with countless other animals. Then a new form of ooze or mouse started evolution all over again. So it’s not that large numbers of animals haven’t gone extinct before, or that nature cannot take care of itself. It’s that when nature does, things start off from scratch in a new line of evolution, and that line may not include beings like us. Humans could be among the fossils other life-forms speculate about one day (if they speculate), puzzling over our tragedy as we puzzle over the dinosaurs’.

– Diane Ackerman,  The Rarest of the Rare: Vanishing Animals, Timeless Worlds

Paul Churchland: The Framework of the Mind

“Orolo said that the more he knew of the complexity of the mind, and the cosmos with which it was inextricably and mysteriously bound up, the more inclined he was to see it as a kind of miracle— not in quite the same sense that our Deolaters use the term, for he considered it altogether natural. He meant rather that the evolution of our minds from bits of inanimate matter was more beautiful and more extraordinary than any of the miracles cataloged down through the ages by the religions of our world. And so he had an instinctive skepticism of any system of thought, religious or theorical, that pretended to encompass that miracle, and in so doing sought to draw limits around it.”

– Neal Stephenson,  Anathem

We can all agree that our inherited notions of matter and the material world as seen within classical notions of materialism have not been able to sustain the revolutionary developments of twentieth-century physics and biology. For centuries Isaac Newton’s idea of matter as consisting of ‘solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, and movable particles’ reigned in combination with a strong view of laws of nature that were supposed to prescribe exactly, on the basis of the present physical situation, what was going to happen in the future. This complex of scientific materialism and mechanism was easily amalgamated with common-sense assumptions of solid matter as the bedrock of all reality. In the world view of classical materialism, it was claimed that all physical systems are nothing but collections of inert particles slavishly complying with deterministic laws. Complex systems such as living organisms, societies, and human persons, could, according to this reductionist world view, ultimately be explained in terms of material components and their chemical interactions.

We’ve all heard it before that one of the specific tasks of a philosophy of science is to investigate the limits of even the best developed and most successful forms of contemporary scientific knowledge. It may be frustrating to acknowledge, but we are simply at the point in the history of human thought at which we find ourselves, and our successors will make discoveries and develop forms of understanding that will more than likely surpass our present understanding. Humans are addicted to the hope for a final reckoning, but intellectual humility requires that we resist the temptation to assume that tools of the kind we now have are in principle sufficient to understand the universe as a whole. Scientists are well aware of how much they don’t know, but this is a different kind of problem— not just of acknowledging the limits of what is actually understood but of trying to recognize what can and cannot in principle be understood by certain existing methods.

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Stanislaw Lem: Aura of the Real

I remember well my feelings when I read Mr. Sammler’s Planet, by Saul Bellow. Now, I thought that book very good— so good that I have read it several times. Indeed. But most of the things that Mr. Bellow attributed to his hero, Mr. Sammler, in recounting his experiences in a Poland occupied by the Germans, didn’t sound quite right to me. The skilled novelist must have done careful research before starting on the novel, and he made only one small mistake— giving a Polish maid a name that isn’t Polish. This error could have been corrected by a stroke of the pen. What didn’t seem right was the “aura”— the indescribable “something” that can be expressed in language perhaps only if one has experienced in person the specific situation that is to be described. The problem in the novel is not the unlikeliness of specific events. The most unlikely and incredible things did happen then. It is, rather, the total impression that evokes in me the feeling that Bellow learned of such event‹ from hearsay, and was in the situation of a researcher who receives the individual parts of a specimen packaged in separate crates and then tries to put them together. It is as if oxygen, nitrogen, and water vapor and the fragrance of flowers were to be mixed in such a way as to evoke and bring to life the specific mood of a certain part of a forest at a certain morning hour. I do not know whether something like this would be totally impossible, but it would surely be difficult as hell. There is something wrong in Mr. Sammler’s Planet; some tiny inaccuracy got mixed into the compound. Those days have pulverized and exploded all narrative conventions that had previously been used in literature. The unfathomable futility of human life under the sway of mass murder cannot be conveyed by literary techniques in which individuals or small groups of persons form the core of the narrative. It is, perhaps, as if somebody tried by providing the most exact description of the molecules of which the body of Marilyn Monroe was composed to convey a full impression of her. That would be impossible.

– Stanislaw Lem, Microworlds 

Machinic Life: The Replicants are (among) Us

“‘Organisms are resilient patterns in a turbulent flow— patterns in an energy flow.’

Carl Woese, Noble Prize winner

“I believe that I have somewhere said (but cannot find the passage) that the principle of continuity renders it probable that the principle of life will hereafter be shown to be part, or consequence, of some general law…”

– Charles Darwin in a Letter to George Wallich

“Pan-mechanism is not simply the claim that being is composed entirely of machines, but that all interactions are machinic interactions.”

– Levi R. Bryant (MOO)

For a long while there was a thin red line that divided inanimate matter from animate life forms, chemistry from biology, but in the last few years many scientists working within biophysics and molecular biology are blurring such distinctions and discovering new and surprising things about matter and its operational life. Take the ribosome for instance:

The ribosome is a tiny organelle present in all living cells in thousands of copies that manufactures the protein molecules on which all life is based. It effectively operates as a highly organized and intricate miniature factory, churning out those proteins— long chain-like molecules— by stitching together a hundred or more amino acid molecules in just the right order, and all within a few seconds. And this exquisitely efficient entity is contained within a complex chemical structure that is just some 20– 30 nanometres in diameter— that’s just 2– 3 millionths of a centimetre! Think about that— an entire factory, with all the elements you’d expect to find in any regular factory, but within a structure so tiny it is completely invisible to the naked eye.1

Another scientist, Peter M. Hoffmann, tells us in his work in molecular biology using the touch based rather than site based atomic force microscopy (AFM’s) he “discovered the fascinating science of molecular machines. I realized that life is the result of noise and chaos, filtered through the structures of highly sophisticated molecular machines that have evolved over billions of years. I realized, then, there can be no more fascinating goal than to understand how these machines work— how they turn chaos into life.”2

Attacks against reductionist or methodological naturalism have become a staple of the new turn toward religion in science. Religious philosophers like Alvin Plantinga (2011).’Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism’ would have us believe that there is a deep and serious conflict between naturalism and science:

“Taking naturalism to include materialism with respect to human beings, I argue  that it is improbable, given naturalism and evolution, that our cognitive  faculties are reliable. It is improbable that they provide us with a suitable  preponderance of true belief over false. But then a naturalist who accepts  current evolutionary theory has a defeater for the proposition that our faculties are reliable. Furthermore, if she has a defeater for the proposition that her cognitive faculties are reliable, she has a defeater for any belief she takes to be produced by her faculties. But of course all of her beliefs have been produced by her faculties—including, naturally enough, her belief in naturalism and evolution. That belief, therefore—the conjunction of naturalism and evolution—is one that she can’t rationally accept. Hence naturalism and evolution are in serious conflict: one can’t rationally accept them both.” (p.xiv)

Yet if we return to the beginning of this form of naturalist tradition in the seventeenth century, with the invention of the first microscopes, scientists searched for the secret of life at ever smaller scales. Biological cells were first described in Robert Hooke’s Micrographia in 1665 (Figure 0.1). It took until 1902 for chromosomes to be identified as carriers of inheritance. The structure of DNA was deciphered in 1953, and the first atomic-scale protein structure was obtained in 1959. Yet, even while scientists dissected life into smaller and smaller pieces, the mystery of life remained elusive.

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Bruno Latour: Chapter One of Catherine Porter’s new translation of Modes of Existence!

Just discovered through Adam Robbert’s site, Knowledge Ecologies (click here), that a provisional portion of Catherine Porter’s upcoming translation of Bruno Latour’s An Inquiry into Modes of Existence is now available: click here (pdf).

“Is there a way to bridge the distance between the scale of the phenomena we hear about and the tiny Umwelt inside which we witness, as if we were a fish inside its bowl, an ocean of catastrophes that are supposed to unfold? How are we to behave sensibly when there is no ground control station anywhere to which we could send the help message, “Houston, we have a problem”?”

– Bruno Latour, Waiting for Gaia

It appears that Bruno Latour is seeking a new epistemic-ontological account that revises our understanding of Science and Modernity, and “objectivity through trust in a scholarly institution” without leaving those who serve such institutions the sense that the sciences no longer serve the values for which they have been fighting. What he offers is a set of questions and investigations that ponder the need for a revaluation of the Concepts that have guided scientific inquiry during the modern era through a process of reformulations that revisions these within what geologists now term the “Anthropocene Era”; thereby, broadening the spectrum of possibilities that an all too too narrow framework of modernization no longer affords us, and extending an inquiry that seeks new conceptual tools to evaluate the truth and decisionary differences between facts and values of our present philosophical problematique.

The Modern Era has passed from us, the Anthropocene Era – a historical category that moves us beyond the Holocene, that situates itself in the historical trajectory we term the scientific and democratic, emancipatory age of the industrial revolutions to the present day is upon us. This anthropocene era measures us within a new vision of culture and nature by entangling the once divided realms into a meshwork of culturenature: a strange composite object that certain scientists resolve into a mythical and scientific appellation as “Gaia”. As he states it: “If I wanted to dramatize – perhaps overdramatize – the ambiance of my investigative project, I would say that it seeks to register the aftershocks of the modernization front just as this front is suddenly bumping up against Gaia.” With the arrival of this new era of the Anthropocene things have become more complicated, the past has been altered and the future shattered beyond any form of emancipatory visioning. “And what is worse: “we” no longer know who we are, nor of course where we are, we who had believed we were modern . . . End of modernization. End of story. Time to start over.”

But where are we going and who are we becoming? What brave new world lies before us…

Well to understand where we are heading Latour tells us we must first look backward and finally offer a realistic description of the modern adventure itself, one that will allow us to give “comparative anthropology a more credible basis for comparison”. Some will argue against such a conclusion, saying that the urgency of our moment, the moment of global transformation with all its entailing dilemnas is upon us: climate change, late capitalism and its failures, etc. Yet, Latour, tells us that because of the urgency of these issues it is in itself more urgent that we take the long look back, understand just what brought about this dark heritage, “reflect slowly” on its problematique before we can offer real solutions going forward. But to do this we must first instigate an inquiry that “will allow us to clarify, fairly systematically, for a large number of unexpected subjects,  CATEGORY MISTAKES bearing on what I have called the various MODES OF EXISTENCE”. This will be an inquiry into the “conflicts of values” –  the scientific versus religious, legal versus political, or scientific versus fictional that inhabit the tensions between various modes. As a part of this in depth inquiry we will need to accept a “pluralism of modes and thus the plurality of keys by means of which their truth or falsity is judged”.  Bruno Latour like a time traveling diplomat from the future moves between the dystopia of economics and the utopia of ecology formulating negotiations for a habital world that is always coming toward us as pure acceleration…

To discover more of Bruno Latour’s new work read the first chapter of An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: click here (pdf). Also on the AIME project site is a description of the 15 Modes of Existence: click here.

Lecture by François Laruelle

Lecture by François Laruelle
The Degrowth of Philosophy: Towards a Generic Ecology
Tuesday, November 20th, 7:30PM

Miguel Abreu Gallery, 36 Orchard Street, New York, NY

François Laruelle is one of the most creative and subversive French philosophers working today. He is the founder of ‘non-philosophy’ – or what he now calls ‘non-standard philosophy’ – and is the author of more than twenty books, including A Biography of the Ordinary Man, Theory of Strangers, Principles of Non-Philosophy, Introduction to Non-Marxism,Future Christ, The Concept of Non-Photography, Struggle and Utopia at the End Times of Philosophy, Anti-Badiou and Non-Standard Philosophy.

One of Laruelle’s fundamental claims is that all forms of philosophy (from ancient philosophy to analytic philosophy to deconstruction and so on) are structured around a prior decision, but that all forms of philosophy remain constitutively blind to this decision. The ‘decision’ that Laruelle is concerned with here is the dialectical splitting of the world in order to grasp the world philosophically. Laruelle believes that the decisional structure of philosophy can only be grasped non-philosophically. In this sense, non-standard philosophy is a science of philosophy.

Seating for this event is limited, and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Doors open at 7PM.
For more information please contact Sequence Press, located within:
Miguel Abreu Gallery 36 Orchard Street (between Canal & Hester), New York, NY 10002
Tel 212.995.1774 • post@sequencepress.com

Ray Brassier as Idealist?

“…I consider myself an idealist, opposed to a materialist, as I insist on the need to preserve the relative autonomy of thinking, and the cogency and the consistency of thinking, and of conceptual rationality, precisely in order to be able to adjudicate the relationship between thinking and reality, between theory and practice, and also it’s an enabling condition for practice. In other words, if you try to fuse thought into material reality indiscriminately, I think that leads to an impotent short-circuit. So I would insist on defending the representational structures that are simply attacked… it’s a caricature of representation that’s being attacked, it’s a straw man. Representation here, and theoretical representation in particular, is a straw man.

I want to defend the imperatives of conceptualization, and even a kind of dialectics, as although I agree with what Nick says about the way in which death is a marker for real identity of matter itself, the point is that you should never confuse the symbolic marker for the thing in itself. You need a much more careful and subtle articulation of those terms–actually, between zero, one, and two–to explain the autonomy of thought and rationality and of thinking. Not to put too fine a point on it, so that you can maintain and generate a locus of rational agency. In other words, keep a space of subjectivation open that provides a prism for practical incision, a point of insertion. And that has to be done, and I think this involves re-examining the legacy of Hegel, and of Hegelianism. In other words, to maintain a kind of conceptual rationality that necessitates transformation at the level of practical existence. It requires a lot of theoretical work to do this. I would insist on the need to preserve the autonomy of rationality as something that allows you to intervene, to cut, in the continuity.

– Ray Brassier, Accelerationism Backdoor Broadcasting

John McDowell: Neo-Hegelianism, Nature, and Idealism

“Many who attack the idea of the given seem to have thought that the central mistake embedded in this idea is exactly the idea that there are inner episodes, whether thoughts or so-called “immediate experiences,” to which each of us has privileged access. I shall argue that this is just not so, and that the Myth of the Given can be dispelled without resorting to the crude verificationisms or operationalisms characteristic of the more dogmatic forms of recent empiricism. Then there are those who, while they do not reject the idea of inner episodes, find the Myth of the Given to consist in the idea that knowledge of these episodes furnishes premises on which empirical knowledge rests as on a foundation. But while this idea has, indeed, been the most widespread form of the Myth, it is far from constituting its essence. Everything hinges on why these philosophers reject it.”

– Wilfred Sellers, Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind

As materialists it behooves us to engage those strains of thought within Idealism against which we forge our own links to theoretical praxis. We can start with a discussion of the observational language/theoretical language distinction.  Many empiricists or scientistic naturalists have been wedded to the Myth of the given, assuming that there is a privileged observation vocabulary, one that can be adequate to the task of describing reality.  The meanings of observation terms were determined by their relation to what is given and were thus unrevisable or incorrigible.  This vocabulary grounds the meaning of all empirical language.1 John McDowel in Mind and World (1994) was influenced by Sellars’s famous diagnosis of the “myth of the given” in traditional empiricism, in which Sellars argued that the blankly causal impingement of the external world on judgement failed to supply justification, as only something with a belief-like conceptual structure could engage with rational justification. McDowell tries to explain how one can accept that we are passive in our perceptual experience of the world while active in how we conceptualise it. McDowell develops an account of that which Kant called the “spontaneity” of our judgement in perceptual experience, while trying to avoid the suggestion that the resulting account has any connection with idealism.2

Jeremy Dunham, Iain Hamilton Grant, and Sean Watson in their Idealism The History of a Philosophy align McDowell not only with Idealism but with a neo-Hegelian variant of it.3 They argue that McDowell in Mind and World is faced with two idealist problems. One is to argue for the incommensurability between mind and world as well as our experience of reality without at the same time making that reality experience-dependent; and, second,  how to criticize scientistic naturalism without becoming in turn anti-naturalistic. (I, 259). His main focus is in presenting a case for a new form of Conceptuality, one that does not favor one side or the other of the divide between mind or world, but focuses instead on the bridge between them, the conceptual matrix that ties the the two together within the concept itself. The key is this: that scientific naturalism seeks to portray a world devoid of our interferring thoughts, while an absolute idealism argues for a completely mind-dependent reality. What McDowell seeks is to avoid the dilemnas of either scientistic naturalism or absolute idealism, and instead instigates a “second nature”, one that bridges the gap between mind and world without collapsing them into each other; instead, entangling them within the conceptual matrix itself.

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Ray Brassier: Quote of the Day!

“Is not part of the philosopher’s unease concerning scientific ‘reduction’ directly attributable to the unavowed wish that, as far as man is concerrned, there always be ‘something’ left over besides the material: some ineffable, unquantifiable metaphysical-residue, some irreducible transcendental remainder?”(AT, 15)

“If anyone is guilty of imperialistic reductionism as far as the extraordinary richness and complexity of the universe is concerned, it is the phenomenological idealist rather than the scientific materialist. Husserl’s idealism is as punitive as it is unmistakable: ‘The existence of Nature cannot be the condition for the existence of consciousness since Nature itself turns out to be a correlate of consciousness: Nature is only as being constituted in regular concatenations of consciousness.’” (AT, 17)

“The choice with which we are confronted is as clear as it is unavoidable: either Darwin or Husserl. To continue to persist on the course initiated by the latter is to plunge headlong into intellectual disaster and the ruin of philosophy as a credible theoretical enterprise. The future vouchsafed to philosophy by phenomenology is too dismal to contemplate: a terminally infantile, pathologically narcissistic anthropocentrism. The situation is too grave, the stakes too high to allow for equivocation or compromise.” (AT, 17)

– Ray Brassier, Alien Theory

Notes on the Theory of Forms: Plato, Aristotle, and…

Sometimes we need to spend time tracing down both the etymological and philosophical history of certain terms that have subtly ensconced themselves within our discourse. Our theoretical understanding of Forms is one such term. The Greek concept of form is represented by a number of words mainly having to do with vision: the sight or appearance of a thing. The main words, εἶδος (eidos) and ἰδέα (idea) come from the Indo-European root *weid-, “see”. Both words are already there in the works of Homer, the earliest Greek literature. Equally ancient is μορφή (morphē), “shape”, from an obscure root. The φαινόμενα (phainomena), “appearances”, from φαίνω (phainō), “shine”, Indo-European *bhā-, was a synonym.1

What’s interesting is that all these etymological derivations return us to perception, sight, vision, shape, shine, appearance. And that eidos and idea are rooted in seeing or sighting. Why should human perception of things come into play at all? Why is our study of natural processes always based on sight? Is the tyranny of all the eye what forces us to make such distinctions as form and content as if form (eidos, idea, etc.) is the active element and content (substance, matter, content, material, etc.) as passive?

We know that Plato was a realist of Ideas, that he formulated a theory of Forms or theory of Ideas which asserts that non-material abstract (but substantial) forms (or ideas) were the only real, and that the material world of change known to us through sensation was a shadow world of mimicry and play. For Plato the Forms are the only true objects of study, and they are the only source of all genuine knowledge. Most philosophers have disagreed with Plato’s assessment of Forms. Even Plato himself through his fictional young and older versions of Socrates plays with the dangerous notion of representationalism to account for the truth of universals and particulars, introducing the notions that particulars do not exist as such, that whatever they are, they “mime” the Forms, appearing to be particulars. This dualism of universals in particulars, appearance and reality is with us still.

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The City of Words

In 1940, sixteen years after Kafka’s death, Milena, the woman he had loved so dearly, was taken away by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. Suddenly life seemed to have become its reverse: not death, which is a conclusion, but a mad and meaningless state of brutal suffering, brought on through no discernable fault and serving no visible end. To attempt to survive this nightmare, a friend of Milena devised a method: she would resort to the books she had read long ago and unconsciously stored in her memory. Among the memorized texts was one by Maxim Gorki, “A Man Is Born.” The story tells how the narrator, a young boy, strolling one day somewhere along the shores of the Black Sea, comes upon a peasant woman shrieking in pain. The woman is pregnant; she has fled the famine of her birthplace and now, terrified and alone, she is about to give birth. In spite of her protests, the boy assists her. He bathes the newborn child in the sea, makes a fire, and prepares some tea. At the end of the story, the boy and the new mother follow a group of other peasants: with one arm, the boy supports the mother; in the other, he carries the baby. Gorki’s story became, for Milena’s friend, a sanctuary, a small safe place into which she could retreat from the daily horror. It did not lend meaning to her plight, it didn’t explain or justify it; it didn’t even offer her hope for the future. It simply existed as a point of balance, reminding her of light at a time of dark catastrophe, helping her to survive. Such, I believe, is the power of stories.

– Alberto Manguel, The City of Words

Gilles Deleuze: Transcendental Empiricism as Idealism?

“All men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for ever apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight… The reason is that this, most of all the sense, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things.”

– Aristotle, Metaphysics

“The west’s eye-intense pagan line begins in Egypt as does the hard persona of art and politics. Egypt created the distance between eye and object which is a hallmark of western philosophy and aesthetics. The distance is a charged force field, a dangerous temenos.”

– Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae

“As long as we stick to things and words we can believe that we are speaking of what we see, that we see what we are speaking of, and that the two are linked.”

– Gilles Deleuze, Foucault

The problems of representationalism are with us still. Deleuze’s philosophy might well be caught up in this fatal flaw, enmeshed within a tributary Idealism, an Idealism that investigates the central problem-idea that has plagued philosophy since Plato: how to overcome this linkage between things and words, mind and world, subject and object. This link or gap between, the dualism or duel between things and their generative forces, powers, and intensities.

Is sight the disease of all Idealisms?  In their new work Dunham, Grant, and Watson tell us that if “we put together our view that idealism is realist in respect to Ideas with the argument that the philosophy of nature forms a crucial component of it, we arrive at a conception not of the two-worlds idealism beloved of interpretations of Plato, but of a one-world inflationary idealism.”1  Between the abstract universal and the concrete universal, between Plato and Hegel, the rift that is history of Idealism plays itself out:

“The concrete universal, or the whole determined by the particulars it generates and that differentiate it in turn, is the Idea exactly as Platonism conceived it: as the cause of the approximations of becomings to particular forms, and as the ‘setting into order of the universe’ (Ti, 53a) from disorder (ataxia), as organization. When idealism is presented as realism concerning the Idea, this means: first, that the Idea is causal in terms of organization; second, that this is an organization that is not formal or abstract in the separable sense, but rather concretely relates part to whole as the whole; and third, therefore that such an idealism is a one-world idealism that must, accordingly, take nature seriously” (8).

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Bruno Latour: Biography of an Investigation

“In August of that year, stretched out in the sun on an island across from Gothenburg, in Sweden, I couldn’t stop running my fingers over the rough red surface of the rocks as if to find out whether Whitehead could have been right . . . Everything became clear, then: what I had discovered in Kenya, and what the principle of irreduction had hinted at obscurely. There exists a completely autonomous mode of existence that is very inadequately encompassed by the notions of nature, material world, exteriority, object. This world shares one crucial feature with all the others: the risk taken in order to keep on existing.”

“In the end, the mystery as to what these Moderns have been remains intact. What has happened to them? If it is not Nature that they have discovered through the fog of their cultures, if it is not Reason that has finally shined light into the darkness of representations, what has in fact happened? Of what are they the heirs? To answer these questions of philosophical anthropology, of regional ontology, we need a method that provides an adequate depiction of the situations to be described.”

– Bruno Latour: Biography of an Investigation (pdf)

Adam Robert has a timely essay on the Worldwatch Institute site:

UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff is completely unconcerned with sounding “unsophisticated” when he writes, in a recent blog: “Global warming is real, and it is here. It is causing —yes, causing—death, destruction, and vast economic loss.” But Lakoff, like Barrett, is fully aware of the problems associated with the word “cause” when thinking about climate change. Lakoff goes on: “Yes, global warming systemically caused Hurricane Sandy…. Let’s say it out loud, it was causation, systemic causation.”

“This phrase, “systemic causation,” should be repeated like a mantra in all forms of media—from mainstream news outlets to blogs, twitter accounts, and Facebook posts—until the phrase becomes part of our shared lexicon for thinking about ecological issues like human-caused climate change. Systemic causation requires that we, the concerned and ecologically knowledgeable, play our part in describing the complex nature of climate change so that we can move forward with policies that recognize the multivalent social, political, and material catastrophes that are heading our way.”

+1 Standard Model: Experiments Deliver a Death Blow to Supersymmetry?

Cambridge scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, near Geneva, have spotted one of the rarest particle decays ever seen in nature.

The result is very damaging to new theories like the extremely popular Supersymmetry.

Current knowledge about the most fundamental matter particles (quarks and leptons, such as an electron) and the forces between them is embedded in the so-called Standard Model. The particle masses are a consequence of their interactions with the Higgs field. Exciting the Higgs field in particle collisions at the LHC recently resulted in the discovery of the Higgs boson. (Science Daily, Nov. 13, 2012)

In particle physics, supersymmetry (often abbreviated SUSY) is a symmetry that relates elementary particles of one spin to other particles that differ by half a unit of spin and are known as superpartner. In a theory with unbroken supersymmetry, for every type of boson there exists a corresponding type of fermion with the same mass and internal quantum numbers (other than spin), and vice-versa.

There is no direct evidence for the existence of supersymmetry. It is motivated by possible solutions to several theoretical problems. Since the superpartners of the Standard Model particles have not been observed, supersymmetry must be a broken symmetry if it is a true symmetry of nature. This would allow the superparticles to be heavier than the corresponding Standard Model particles.

"Standard Model Lagrangian" mug from CERN.

Standard Model Lagrangian” mug from CERN.

The Standard Model of particle physics is a theory concerning the electromagnetic, weak, and strong nuclear interactions, which mediate the dynamics of the known subatomic particles. Developed throughout the mid to late 20th century, the Standard Model is truly “a tapestry woven by many hands”, sometimes driven forward by new experimental discoveries, sometimes by theoretical advances. It was a collaborative effort in the largest sense, spanning continents and decades. The current formulation was finalized in the mid 1970s upon experimental confirmation of the existence of quarks. Since then, discoveries of the bottom quark (1977), the top quark (1995), and the tau neutrino (2000) have given further credence to the Standard Model. More recently, (2011–2012) the apparent detection of the Higgs boson completes the set of predicted particles. Because of its success in explaining a wide variety of experimental results, the Standard Model is sometimes regarded as a “theory of almost everything”.

Read the article at Science Daily: click here…

Reading Karen Barad’s Interview in New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies

“Agential realism is not a manifesto, it does not take for granted that all is or will or can be made manifest. On the contrary, it is a call, a plea, a provocation, a cry, a passionate yearning for an appreciation of, attention to the tissue of ethicality that runs through the world.”

– Karen Barad, New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies

Karen Barad’s agential realism is not about agents or actors in the sense of a Latourian reading of that term. In her new work Meeting the Universe Halfway she describes her use of the term as “an epistemological-ontological-ethical framework that provides an understanding of the role of human and nonhuman, material and discursive, and natural and cultural factors in scientific and other social-material practices, thereby moving such considerations beyond the well-worn debates that pit constructivism against realism, agency against structure, and idealism against materialism” (26).1

In her interview she reiterates many of her basic themes of critical thinking over critique, diffractive methodology, intra-action, feminist theory, and the inseparability of epistemology, ontology, and ethics. “Ethics and justice are at the core of my concerns”:

“Agential realism is not a manifesto, it does not take for granted that all is or will or can be made manifest. On the contrary, it is a call, a plea, a provocation, a cry, a passionate yearning for an appreciation of, attention to the tissue of ethicality that runs through the world… for me, ethics is not a concern we add to the questions of matter, but rather is the very nature of what it means to matter.”

Critical Thinking over Critique

“Critique has been the tool of choice for so long, and our students find themselves so well-trained in critique that they can spit out a critique with the push of a button” (49).2

We can think of critique in the philosophical sense as an analysis that offers by way of the critique method either a rebuttal or a suggestion of further expansion upon the problems presented by the topic of that specific written or oral argumentation. Against this type of methodology Barad offers her own critical approach of the “practice of diffraction, of reading diffractively for patterns of differences that make a difference” (49). She specifies this approach as neither eliminativist in the sense of a subtractive methodology, but rather as a “creative and visionary” investigation or exploration.

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The Secret Life of Modernity: The Case of Spinoza – Introduction

“WHEN THE LORD, also known as god, realized that adam and eve, although perfect in every outward aspect, could not utter a word or make even the most primitive of sounds, he must have felt annoyed with himself, for there was no one else in the garden of eden whom he could blame for this grave oversight, after all, the other animals, who were, like the two humans, the product of his divine command, already had a voice of their own, be it a bellow, a roar, a croak, a chirp, a whistle or a cackle.”

 – Jose Saramago,  Cain

“No one can have lived in the world without observing that most people, when in prosperity, are so over-brimming with wisdom (however inexperienced they may be), that they take every offer of advice as a personal insult, whereas in adversity they know not where to turn, but beg and pray for counsel from every passer-by.”

– Baruch Spinoza


Johnathan Israel’s Radical Enlightenment series is provacative and spot on concerning his estimation of Spinoza and his influence on the thinkers of his age. As Ann Talbot in a recent exploration of Israel’s work tells us “Spinoza was part of an international ideological movement. It has become customary to view the Enlightenment from various national perspectives, so that we have the French Enlightenment, the German Enlightenment or the Scottish Enlightenment. In rejecting this approach Israel is standing out against the prevailing academic attitude to the Enlightenment in which each national tradition has its own source material, its own secondary sources and its own body of professional specialists. And in doing so he finds a coherence that the period often lacks in other more national oriented treatments. (Spinoza Reconsidered)”

This was the Age of the Enlightenment in which natural philosophers travelled across the boundaries of nation states and corresponded with each other in an international mileau and regarded themselves as part of a global Republic of Letters. For Israel it was Spinoza who first waved the banner of a new form of materialism. Spinoza rejected Descartes dualism between body and soul and instead regarded the whole of nature, including mankind, as consisting of a single substance. For Spinoza, man’s thinking, just as much as his bodily nature, is a property of substance and is not the activity of an immaterial soul that animates the body as it was for many of his contemporaries.

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On reading Manuel DeLanda interview in New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies

“Any materialist philosophy must take as its point of departure the existence of a material world that is independent of our minds.”

– Manuel DeLanda

In his interview recently published in New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies Manuel DeLanda related his own version of neo-materialism. He tells us that if we reject Aristotle’s substantive dualism based as it is on “essences” and “accidents”, which are the fundamental attributes of any entity or “substance” and make up its identity, then we need to replace such a conception with an alternative. The alternative he proposes is a developmental or historical approach: “all objective entities are products of a historical process, that is, their identity is synthesized or produced as part of cosmological, geological, biological, or social history” (39).1 This is not a new argument, we’ve seen the Idealist Alfred North Whitehead presenting his own version of this argument in Process and Reality.

DeLanda goes on to differentiate two forms of this developmental process: first, the Marixian, the dialectical materialist approach arising out of Hegel which provides a model of synthesis based on Hegel’s notion of a conflict of opposites or the negation of the negation. Next is that of Deleuze and Guattari, on the other hand, who replace the Marxian/Hegelian model of synthesis with what they call a “double articulation”: first, the raw materials that will make up a new entity must be selected and pre-processed; second, they must be consolidated into a whole with properties of its own (39).

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Ars Industrialis: Bernard Stiegler on Anamnesis and Hypomnesis

Discovered a site with a few online lectures and writings by Bernard Stiegler: Ars Industrialis… Only recently have I seen Stiegler’s name cropping up across the blogosphere. His focus on the intersection of power and technology and its implications for philosophy, along with the impact of control societies through such aspects as cognitive capitalism (Moulier Boutang) in such works as For a Critique of Political Economy are intriguing to say the least. I must admit that his early trilogy was a difficult and abstruse read, yet is was worth the effort even if I disagree with aspects of his project. Yet, some of his newer work dealing with memory and technology and the implications it has for the politics of global governance that seems to be arising within late capitalism should awaken us from our long sleep in false ideologies.  As knowlege economies seek control of us more and more using data mining and the externalization of memory technologies to broker its power relations, we need to develop better tools of critque as well as activist programs to confront such sleeper technologies in our midst.

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E.M. Cioran – The Irreparable Uniqueness Of Things

“Existence is legitimate and valuable only if we are capable of discerning, at whatever level, even that of the infinitesimal, the presence of the irreplaceable. If we fail, we reduce the spectacle of process to a series of equivalances and simulacra, to a play of appearances against a background of identity. We imagine ourselves clearsighted, and doubtless we are, but our perspicacity, by dint of making us waver between the futile and the funereal, ends by plunging us into fruitless ruminations, in the abuse of irony and the complacencies of denial. Despairing of ever being able to confer upon our imprecise animosities the density of venom, and, moreover, weary of laboring over the invalidation of Being, we turn to those who, engaged in the enterprise of praise, superior to the shadows, dare consent to everything, because for them everything counts, everything is irreparably unique.”

– E.M. Cioran

R. Scott Bakker: Disciple of the Dog; or, How a Cynic Bites his own Ass

“Cynicism is the only form in which base souls approach honesty.”
—Fredrich Nietzsche 

Existing is plagiarism.
—E.M. Cioran 

“Throughout my life I have always wanted to tell the truth even though I knew it was all a lie. In the end all that matters is the truth content of a lie.
—Thomas Bernhard, Gathering Evidence


That old ironhorse of comic relief communism, Slavoj Žižek, identifies our age as a profoundly cynical one, in which ideology’s ultimate triumph lies in a perverse revelation of its deepest secrets: “today, however, in the era of cynicism, ideology can afford to reveal the secret of its functioning (its constitutive idiocy, which traditional, pre-cynical ideology had to keep secret) without in the least affecting its efficiency.” Many of the so called critics of our age consider cynicism a toxic conundrum: as either the deathly fruit of an ancient lineage that has infiltrated our posthistorical underlife like viral machines rendering critique impotent; or as the zombie politics of a paralysed horrorfest or recidivism at the zero point of a posthuman transmigration into machinic existence devoid of even the dream of democracy.

Some would have us believe that our (post?)modern-cynicism leads individuals and nations to abandon all moral values and to drown in a fetid sea of intellectual and ethical moroseness and pessimism.” 1 Those followers of the tub man, the dog-man, Diogenes, have always been contemptuous in their rejection of social convention, their impudent shamelessness, and their reversal of the ordinary hierarchy that placed man above the animals, closer to the gods. The “dogs” willfully flouted customary norms in public, such as proscriptions against public sex, masturbation, or defecation, refusing to view “natural” actions as shameful. Most contemporaries condem such gainsayers as attention-seeking provocateurs, sacks of dog shit, windbaggers full of spittle, rabid devils forsaken of all human sympathy, werewolves bred in the darkest recesses of our nightmares.

Then we turn to noir, to the crime ridden singularity of unfathmable bloodworlds filled with the inhuman semblances of our former residences on earth; where our fragments, our memories, situate themselves side by side our constructed hells and our zombiefied lives of endless labour. Here broken creatures devoid of even zero degree blankness tremble on the edge between religious apocalypticism or cynical despair.

Creatures join hand in hand the living dead in excess of their unused lives.  Trumped by the neuropathic torpididity of a failed existence they spin out their ghoulish tales of dripping corpsespatter in speakeasy lisps that fall empty before the liquididity of the marled void. While twisted trogladytes splayed open on crosses rise above an anamolous theatre of the mind awakening strange thoughts and vampiric ectasies, filling the darkness with alien laughter, where beyond the farthest horizon a screech comes across silent skys and what reanimates a dead city lures the final thought of all being from its black lair… a thought beyond all sense of extropic redemption, which flutters in the voidic wind flickering out in the nothingness that is and the nothingness that is not…

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Libidinal Materialism: Nick Land’s Philosophy of Desire

“Libidinal materialism, or the theory of unconditional (non-teleological) desire, is nothing but a scorch-mark from the expository diagnosis of the physicalist prejudice.”

– Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation

To be rid of the theological underpinnings of a naturalism that subverts the physicalist project into dogmatism is at the core of the sun ridden theory of Nick Land’s libidinal materialism. Old school Naturalism is usually defined most briefly as the philosophical conclusion that the only reality is nature, as gradually discovered by our intelligence using the tools of experience, reason, and science. The basic premise for this older narrative within the prejudice of the sciences is that philosophical naturalism undertakes the responsibility for elaborating a comprehensive and coherent worldview based on experience, reason, and science, and for defending science’s exclusive right to explore and theorize about all of reality, without any interference from tradition, superstition, mysticism, religious dogmatism, or priestly authority.

At its barest minimum old school naturalism is a species of philosophical monism according to which whatever exists or happens is natural in the sense of being susceptible to explanation through methods which, although paradigmatically exemplified in the natural sciences, are continuous from domain to domain of objects and events. Hence, naturalism is polemically defined as repudiating the view that there exists or could exist any entities which lie, in principle, beyond the scope of scientific explanation. 1

In recent years this philosophical orientation has come under fire from many domains. But at the heart of it is the trend that attacks all forms of ‘reductionism’ no matter what domain of knowledge. As one critic of philosophical naturalism Alvin Plantinga commented:  “Naturalism is presumably not a religion. In one very important respect, however, it resembles religion: it can be said to perform the cognitive function of a religion. There is that range of deep human questions to which a religion typically provides an answer … Like a typical religion, naturalism gives a set of answers to these and similar questions.”

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Nick Land: On Scientific Pomposity; or a Beach-Comber’s Paradise

“One consequence of the Occidental obsession with transcendence… is a physics that is forever pompously asserting that it is on the verge of completion. The contempt for reality manifested by such pronouncements is unfathomable. What kind of libidinal catastrophe must have occurred in order for a physicist  to smile when he says that nature’s secrets are almost exhausted? If these comments were not such obvious examples of megalomaniac derangement, and thus themselves laughable, it would be impossible  to imagine a more gruesome vision than that of the cosmos stretched out beneath  the impertinently probing fingers of grinning apes. Yet if one looks for superficiality with sufficient brutal passion, when one is prepared  to pay enough to systematically isolate it, it is scarcely surprising that one will find a little. This is certainly an achievement of sorts; one has found a region of stupidity, one has manipulated it, but this is all. Unfortunately, the delicacy to acknowledge this – as Newton so eloquently did when he famously compared science to beach-combing on the shore of an immeasurable ocean requires a certain minimum of tast, of noblisse.”

– Nick Land, A Thirst for Annihilation (34)


That most scientists are not philosophers is to the detriment of philosophy. Yet we must not forget the success of science which philosophers seem to gloss over (except within the confines of the Philosophy of Science). As Land tells it the damage has been done, philosophy has even come to the point, the stage of obsolesence that “it has lost all confidence in its power to know … For at least a century, and perhaps for two, the major effort of the philosophers has simply been to keep the scientists out. How much defensiveness, pathetic mimicry, crude self-deception, crypto-theological obscurantism, and intellectual poverty is marked by the name of their recent and morbid offspring…” (35).


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Reza Negarestani, Florian Hecker, François Laruelle

Reza Negarestani & Florian Hecker
The Non-Trivial Goat and the Cliffs of the Universal: A Topological Fable on Navigation and Synthesis

Thursday, November 15th,  7:30PM Abrons’ Playhouse, 466 Grand Street, New York (at Pitt Street) Presented in collaboration with Urbanomic, Issue Project Room & Primary Information

Reza Negarestani and Florian Hecker come together in a live performance – less a collaboration, than a synthesis between philosophy and sound. In this experimental evening, recalling Artaud’s theatre of cruelty as much as Beckett’s minimalist narratives, the participating elements will be chimerized through their mutual immersion in the abyss of the universal.

Florian Hecker lives and works in Kissing, Germany and Vienna. Notable, recent work among his numerous exhibitions and performances are: Lumiar Cité, Lisbon; MD72, Berlin; dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany; and Nouveau Festival, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Hecker has an extensive discography with works released on labels such as Editions Mego, Pan, Presto?!, Rephlex, Warner Classics and Warp.

Reza Negarestani is an Iranian philosopher and novelist. His philosophical works have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. He is the author of Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials. Urbanomic/Sequence Press will publish his forthcoming book, The Mortiloquist, in 2013.

Doors open at 7PM. Seating is limited, and available on a first-come, first-served basis.


Lecture by Reza Negarestani

Abducting the Outside: Modernity and The Culture of Acceleration Sunday, November 18th,  7:30PM

Miguel Abreu Gallery, 36 Orchard Street, New York Reassessing modernity and modernism by reconstructing an ‘accelerative’ vector, this lecture examines the factors that impede the advent of a true modern philosophy, and reformulates accelerative culture in terms of the gestural and abductive reasoning.

Reza Negarestani is an Iranian philosopher and novelist. His philosophical works have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. He is the author of Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials. Urbanomic/Sequence Press will publish his forthcoming book, The Mortiloquist, in 2013.

Seating is limited, and available on a first-come, first-served basis.


Lecture by François Laruelle

The Degrowth of Philosophy, For a Generic Ecology
Tuesday, November 20th,  7:30PM
Miguel Abreu Gallery, 36 Orchard Street, New York

François Laruelle is one of the most creative and subversive French philosophers working today. He is the founder of ‘non-philosophy’ – or what he now calls ‘non-standard philosophy’ – and is the author of more than twenty books, including A Biography of the Ordinary Man, Theory of Strangers, Principles of Non-Philosophy, Introduction to Non-Marxism, Future Christ, The Concept of Non-Photography, Struggle and Utopia at the End Times of Philosophy, Anti-Badiou and Non-Standard Philosophy.

One of Laruelle’s fundamental claims is that all forms of philosophy (from ancient philosophy to analytic philosophy to deconstruction and so on) are structured around a prior decision, but that all forms of philosophy remain constitutively blind to this decision. The ‘decision’ that Laruelle is concerned with here is the dialectical splitting of the world in order to grasp the world philosophically. Laruelle believes that the decisional structure of philosophy can only be grasped non-philosophically. In this sense, non-standard philosophy is a science of philosophy.

Seating is limited, and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information please contact Sequence Press, located within:
Miguel Abreu Gallery 36 Orchard Street (between Canal & Hester), New York, NY 10002

Tel 212.995.1774 • post@sequencepress.com
hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 11:00 AM to 6:30 PM
Subway: F to East Broadway; B, D to Grand Street or J, M, Z to Delancey / Essex Street

We the dead…. thoughts on Nicola Masciandaro’s A Note on Cosmic Pessimism

We the dead live in the interstices between thought and being – gap divers,broken dolls, frozen monstrosities channeling desire in excess of its infinite task; spark manglers, walkers between worlds and levels of being, victims not so much of our own insufferable will to illusionary worlds, but of a gnosis that drives our ungrounded and unthinkable voids toward the impossible real: thought, a sorrow that sinks into liquid metal below the horizon that will never be breaks toward the flickering radiance of the outer abyss that is

– S.C. Hickman (2012)

Nicola Masciandaro, a Medievalist in the grand style, always has intriguing posts on his site, The Whim. Today I noticed one that spurred me a to the proem above. His A Note on Cosmic Pessimism (from SoB) wavers within a Lovecraftian, Cioranian, and Thackerian plenitude of negativity demarcating the immeasureable limits of this vastation that is our kenosis. Yet, against any religious reading of the kenotic we negate the obvious sacrificial stance and displace it toward a material resolution that no longer offers a withdrawal of our own luminosity within the self, but instead breaks us toward a self-emptying exterior of thought in the great outdoors of Being.

In a note almost Ligottian Nicola tells us the “cosmic pessimist is a peculiar kind of musical puppet whose ultimately meaningless movement hauntingly sounds the strings of the universal, foreclosed real.” I’ll let the reader jaunt over to read the rest of this excellent post, and visit more of his symphonic plenum. He also has some excellent poetry published and available, Event of Oneself, along with books on the dark side of music, Reza Negarestani, Dante, and even a unique work on Work, The Voice of the Hammer: The Meaning of Work in Middle English Literature.

A Note on Cosmic Pessimism is the labor of the negative caught in the meshes of a paradox. Between the two rivers of being-in-becoming and becoming-in-being we fall forward into an intensifying of “thought’s affect as its substance, by turning up the volume  on the feeling of thought to a level of indistinction with the idea”. Trapped in the interstial limits between these two forms we write our  “desiderata of affects” (Eugene Thacker) limning the dark and tributary philosophies that portend nothing so much as the agonistic strife of all things. In the mattering productivity of the void we populate our utopias, which fall toward us from some futurity of pure potentia. As Nicola relates it the “incommensurability of thought and being, the impossibility of their proper relation, is the sorrow-filled space of cosmic pessimism”.  At the heart of this disquieting labor is a truth that is an open secret: Cosmic pessimism is situated in the gap between “science and its event,  between knowing and the capacity to know… [within] an act of showing, outside the parameters of formal proof, the non-philosophizability of the universe”.