Malabou, Continentalism, and New Age Philosophy

A good discussion on Malabou on R. Scott Bakker’s site. I want add too much to the discussion other than a quick note.

I sometimes think what science will look like a hundred years from now. Philosophy like the other humanities (i.e., art, history, literature, etc.) will vanish, become a mere a museum piece in a dead and dying western civ. twilight. Science welded as it is to the living system of capitalism will continue because of its alliance with profit and innovation. I’m sure as Scott’s suggested philosophers may still wander around among us but they will in essence be living fossils that no longer hold sway in the actual cultural and civilizational process of that era. With advances in our current gaming systems into holographic and advanced displays combined with the emerging AI and Mediatainment empires both the University and Library as institutions will vanish, while new forms of learning and mentation will become tied to empirically driven tools that merge with our everyday lives – extensions of our surround, our physical and mental appendages. Humans will no longer use reflection, memory, and the hard won knowledge systems we accumulated during the Humanistic age of Books. In fact with advances in artificial intelligence I’ll assume our machines, which have become our externalized brains and storage systems, will do most of the advanced thinking for us; and, for the most part make the viable decisions for us as well, humans having relinquished this task due to the quantum empowerment of a new breed of thinking organisms surpassing our own capacity.

What will these humans become? For the most part they will become obsolete and slowly be upgraded into either robotic and artificial beings or become virtual citizens of advanced machinic assemblages; either losing our minds and physical bodies as part of the inhuman or extrahuman (some say, posthuman) robotic assemblage enclaves; thereby advancing into those inhuman zones of spacetime we as humans had little chance, being animal and organic, of ever moving into; or, we shall exit or historic existence and become a part of a quantum environment of virtual conclaves where our holographic assemblages will allow for strange and inventive paradises based on creative art and imagination.

Either way as Scott’s article has pointed out, and in many posts across the years, if science reduces our thought to Being (naturalism) we will in essence return to Parmenides (Idealist) originary fiction of the merger of thought and environment in a unified distribution of intelligence into its environmental complex (Being). The elimination of the gap separating thought and Being overcome we reenter the non-reflective mirror order of things. Humans in essence will disappear, disbursed into their environments, and not even realize this is what their doing, having transformed and externalized their minds through technological singularity long before.

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Of course I’ll add ironically that if we ever do eliminate the gap between the symbolic and the natural, thought and Being; erase the reflective organ of the brain, consciousness, we will in deed and if not in fact commit if not literal then figural suicide of the human, and once again enter the natural order of animals without reflection.

Is this really a step forward?

Once we resolve the void between thought and its object, eliminate the lack that drives reflection will we not forget thought altogether? Will we not become completely blind to thought and Being? Without that Narcissistic scar of which consciousness is the hyperbolic manifestation and metaphor for the self-reflecting nothingness we are (as Freud fictionalized ages ago: this lack, this agon of eros and thanatos, desire and its dark twin, driveness; Nietzsche’s will-to-power over life; the Romantic’s power-of-Mind over the universe of death, etc.), will we not reenter the mirror, become the mirror reflecting nothing more than what we see without the ability to reflect on that reflection? Second order reflection having vanished into this eliminative move?

What do we gain thereby? Or, do we lose everything?

If philosophy as Laruelle is at pains to reiterate repetitively the power to make ‘distinctions’, to insert that gap between thought and being, then in eliminating this gap will we not only give up philosophy but the sciences as well?  Since science etymologically speaking is this very ‘cut in being’:

mid-14c., “what is known, knowledge (of something) acquired by study; information;” also “assurance of knowledge, certitude, certainty,” from Old French science “knowledge, learning, application; corpus of human knowledge” (12c.), from Latin scientia “knowledge, a knowing; expertness,” from sciens (genitive scientis) “intelligent, skilled,” present participle of scire “to know,” probably originally “to separate one thing from another, to distinguish,” related to scindere “to cut, divide,” from PIE root *skei- “to cut, to split” (cognates: Greek skhizein “to split, rend, cleave,” Gothic skaidan, Old English sceadan “to divide, separate;”…

Is not science itself based on this very order of reflection that Scott seems to be eliminating as necessary? The ability to “cut,” “divide,” “split,” “rend,” “cleave,” “separate,” etc. are all aspects of that very process we term reflection-on-reflection, the separation of thought and being, the process of consciousness without which there is no knowledge. Shall we live amid non-knowledge, eliminate this ability to think?

Something seems very wrong in this approach to me. Without this self-division of thought and Being we become nothing more than cattle in the field of organic nature, unreflecting beings who have reentered the mindless mulch of existence. Is this what Scott is suggesting? What of all these prognosis of advanced AI’s, robotics, Quantum computers, etc.: – this advanced machinic civilization? Will it even be possible with such a non-reflective anti-mimetic system? Do we not after all require reflection to interoperate and work on things? Without reflection on reflection thinking itself is doomed to oblivion. I don’t think we’ll pass this way. Thinking and self-reflection are here to stay. Whatever else we may think of thought and Being eliminating reflection on thought will no be one of those paths we take any time soon.

Maybe instead what Scott is suggesting is a new type of reflection, a collective form rather than our current Victorian Age and Democratic/Atomistic – one might say, Emersonian Self-Reliance on the individual solitaire. What if instead we are merging into a larger collective agency spread across the whole planetary civilization, merging with our external storage and thinking systems and growing our collective capacity thereby? What if instead of a private closed off self-reflecting organism we are becoming turned inside-out or outside-in in which mind and nature as categories become eliminated through a merger of artificial and natural in which the gap between the two is eliminated. What if humans in the future become artificial and take on collective communication in which all thought is essentially public not private property. What happens then?

I remember studying the Aborigine peoples of Australia years ago and learning of their 60,000 years on that continent. How they developed songlines, externalizing their stories, myths, and information systems into the surrounding environment rather than internalizing thought in symbolic and memory systems within. This use of myth and symbol externalized in the surrounding environment (turning the mind inside out) was a survival mechanism as they migrated around their various tribal territories for gathering and foraging. I bring this up because our sense of an internal private or solitary self / subjectivity is very recent in human history. Some argue it began with such men as Augistine, the Church fathers (read Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism; or, Sources of Self). This internalization and invention of subjectivity as we know it was not always there, it is a recent invention of history.

What Scott is suggesting – which is oddly in line with such as Badiou and Zizek – is that our sense of solitude (our individual, atomistic sense of selfhood and identity), our sense of the Private Self may one day be eliminated for a more Generic Collective Subjectivity. A subjectiviation that Deleuze once described as dividual rather than individual, as more fluid and externalized in our external intelligence and storage systems, rather than as internalized systems of mind and memory. The point being that someday our Mind’s may be outside our bodies, outside what we’ve known as our selves; that the human may enter a new assemblage and externalized form of subjectivity and subjectivation external to our physical limitations.  One that is not based on some strange obscure mysticism, but rather on actual and factual scientific and mathematical, algorithmically adapted forms of generic thought and being in which we connect to this vast assemblage of communication and each other.

What the internet is today is but a shadow of this other and greater system of intelligent mode of being that will exist in the future. Some may fear this as a Borg-like hive-mind, but this is not what I’m saying. The Borg were slaves to a centralized program, victims of a centralized and reduced form of command and control, a tyranny of thought over matter. What I’m describing is a refined elimination of such conflictual relations between thought and matter (being), yet one that displaces our current privatized consciousness into a larger more expansive adaptation and transformation into a generic entity; or, mode of being and subjectivation without center or compass. This is not obscure bullshit, but rather a different form of being toward which both scientific and philosophical speculation has for a while now been describing but has not formulated and enframed in a new vision. It was a Christian Mystic, Meister Eckart, that once stated that ‘God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere. ‘ If one secularized this notion and replaced ‘God’ with the invention of a new generic subjectivation wherein we are all subjects whose center is everywhere and our circumference is nowhere, then you might almost have a visual metaphor and hyperbolic image of this new innovative form of Self we’re becoming. In this sense we are neither one-All (i.e., some totalized system of consciousness or entity), but rather we’ve become singular and generic citizens of a larger more communicative system of communication that no longer relies on the privatized and solitary egos of an outmoded mode of being based on shame and guilt. Without sin or retribution we finally eliminate the need for external law and justice, but all become part of the public openness of a civilization become completely transparent to itself. But like all such notions I’m sure we’ll go through a long labor of error and terror before such a mode of being comes about anytime soon.

This post is too long as is, but the history of this notion is something I’ll return to in future posts.

Three Pound Brain

Perhaps it’s an ex-smoker thing, the fact that I was a continentalist myself for so many years. Either way, I generally find continental philosophical forays into scientific environs little more than exercises in conceptual vanity (see “Reactionary Atheism: Hagglund, Derrida, and Nooconservatism“, “Zizek, Hollywood, and the Disenchantment of Continental Philosophy,” or “Life as Perpetual Motion Machine: Adrian Johnston and the Continental Credibility Crisis“). This is particularly true of Catherine Malabou, who, as far as I can tell, is primarily concerned with cherry-picking those findings that metaphorically resonate with certain canonical continental philosophical themes. For me, her accounts merely demonstrate the deepening conceptual poverty of the continental tradition, a poverty dressed up in increasingly hollow declarations of priority. This is true of “One Life Only: Biological Resistance, Political Resistance,” but with a crucial twist.

In this piece, she takes continentalism (or ‘philosophy,’ as she humbly…

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6 thoughts on “Malabou, Continentalism, and New Age Philosophy

  1. and i am sure john bells followers are working even to eliminate system / environment couple from physics so as to have an even more seamless parmenidean being (zurek singles this out as THE problem in quantum theory).

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    • Yea, being a quantum materialist myself (immaterialist regarding the quantum void and fluctuations that give rise of Being; materialist in regard to the processes that these fluctuations once created give rise to as our universe of mass and energy) I’m not sure if a return to Parmendian Idealism is where their actually heading: even in mathematics with the dialogue between set theorists and category theorists resuming I believe there will always be a dialectical interplay and oscillation rather than some smooth plane of existence/consistency in quantum theory. What their describing is more a return to Spinozistic ‘unicity of being’, which is a subset of Parmenides reduction of thought to Being. Looking at the history of Idealism one discovers three types: subjective (Kant, Berkeley), naturalist (Schelling), and objective (Hegel), and the variations among there progeny and ephebes.

      Same thing for materialism: the metaphysical form from Democritus through Epicurus/Lucretius up to and including the Rationalist/Empiricist debates; then the tidal change as this metaphysical empire of matter slowly came under scrutiny by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bataille, Deleuze, Land, De Landa, etc. Now materialism looks like a variation of a new immaterialist dialectic of matter and void, but one no longer metaphysical but based on quantum theory and mathematics, chaos theory and the strangeness of the neurosciences.

      Where many philosophers and scientists go wrong is assuming Being (i.e., our universe of things known and seen) is all; yet, we discovered this is not so, that something exists outside Being at the quantum level below the threshold that exists before Being. The Void is our mask and metaphor, our hyperbolic trope for this non-Being aspect of existence outside our knowledge of Being.

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  2. Some of my Spinozist/Marxist/Deleuzean virtual pen pals are quantum materialists. They love and play well. They are rigorous and lucid, creative and often exhibit novelty in every other move. Our pen pal letters brought great joy and transformation over time, but not without some destruction, error, and painful moments too. With all due respect, and as a philosopher type myself, might we not take into serious consideration in all this the other possibility not being discussed rigorously or with courage very often, that of mediumship and related which could very well be real? Is Dean Radin’s work to be so easily dismissed? How about Gary Swartzman or the recent autobiographies written by former U.S. military officials of high rank who discuss repeatedly their work with controlled remote viewing and the like? Are we so arrogant to dismiss it without doing our homework, without having or allowing ourselves to have the experience of being with a medium, of experimenting on a medium in a triple blind way so to ensure our scientific data is as unbiased as it can get? Check recent article in British psychiatry journal on just these types of experiments, mediumship, and credibility? What are professional academics and philosophers to do then when more and more scientific data and personal experiences start to add up in the direction of: we have singular, individual and real souls, they are connected to other spiritual planes of existence, and at the higher levels are all actually one (only individuated on the lower planes of existence)? What then? Just curious…

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    • It’s like people who mount evidence on UFO’s – all the hear-say is great, but where exactly in all this insurmountable data is an actual UFO?

      Speaking of telepathy, souls, etc. is like saying, “Oh, yea, magic is just misunderstood science.” (A bad paraphrase of Arthur C. Clarke.)

      When it comes down to filling the cracks and gaps of knowledge in with nice words it sounds great, but one has to remember it’s just that – unlike the law – it’s guilty till proven innocent. Physics relies on mathemes and models. But the moment you begin interpreting experience you enter that zone of the empirical where almost everything is error prone due to the animal limitations of our wiring. Can the soul be tested? Can a UFO be tested? It’s like asking a fire hydrant if it is a dog… if it barks at you, sounds like a dog, acts like a dog, it just might be dog and not a fire hydrant; but, we had something to begin with against which to test the case: an actual dog, and a fire hydrant. If the two suddenly become identical we’ll assume reality no longer holds to distinctions and differences, and that we’re in another realm of causality than our universe and mind once believed. And, of course everything comes down to belief doesn’t it? Even the truth is a belief we all agree upon (Nietzsche).

      As for Radin and remote viewing? One could argue till one is blue in the face, but it would be like that rabbi that dismissed Jesus for walking across the sea to save his ass. He’d just dismiss it as pure luck rather than an act of god or science. No one can prove the impossible. One points one’s fingers like a Zen Buddhist at the moon. Claps one’s hands in a silent forest. The irrational is still irrational so can never be explained rationally nor disproved. One can only turn away in disgust or horror. Better off reading a good Thomas Ligotti story and be done with it. Accepting such fictions as Radin puts forward is but the tissue of madness accepted as ultimate fact, when all it is as Freud pointed out long ago “wishful thinking”.

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      • I appreciate your response and get it, as a part of the disciplines of philosophy and psychology for two decades on and off. What Dean Radin and Gary Swartz work on, among many others, is credible science supported by many universities around the world. I have been to the physics laboratories at Cambridge, where they too study these phenomena legitimately, but you have already made up your mind and beliefs it seems so why would we argue about it? There’s a new biography on the market written by the commander of a U.S. military branch (second in charge after 911, high ranking), Suzanne Swartmann, on a young man who predicted his own death by lightning strike on the exact day, time, and location called ‘Wolf’s Message.’ We need to be discussing this work, as well as the hypnotherapy and past life regression therapy documented by Richard Martini and related. It seems until then the wishful thinking is that what these folks write about is not true, which is just as irresponsible as what you say about the UFOs. I am not talking about UFOs. I am talking about the marginal, legitimate science that so many philosopher types and related ignore, and aggressively so.

        The problem is that there is tons of scientific data on these experiences, triple blind experiments and all, Long Island Medium, you do the math. It’s there, but too many do not seriously evaluate it or read the research because they assume these phenomena are not possible, irrational, and, as you say, ‘wishful thinking.’ But even Freud writes in his work on the Ego and Id, (paraphrased)…that he only puts forth a hypothesis and “I have no proof to offer.” So you would believe Freud over actual marginal scientific data that does exist? We only have so much time, I get it, but it is there, it is legitimate, and I believe honest philosophers and the like should look into it without immediate bias, aggression, or resistance. Until then we can keep arguing about existential themes until we’re blue in the face indeed.

        I do enjoy reading your posts nonetheless, thank you.

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