Notes on Telos: A Short Critique of Transcendence

Western dialectic is a disease of the eye, a broken promise of transcendence. Open your mouth and taste reality; follow your snout into the world. “Telos lends itself to discourse, whilst even the silence of terminus is effaced. Death has no advocates.” (Land)

I gathered together a few notes from Nick Land’s The Thirst for Annihilation on telos for an essay, but decided the notes were worth a post:

“The telos or goal of all striving is something presupposed by activity, such that desire must already have received its potential for realization extrinsically, thus preserving the Platonic association between Eros and subordination. Both the Aristotelian and scholastic usage of teleology is dependent upon the thought of originary perfection or God, subordinating desire to the sufficiency of complete being. In other words, theological time is encompassed by perfection or absolute achievement, which enslaves becoming to a timeless potential of that which becomes. Such a potential is a design, archetype, or plan, existing ideally and eternally in the supreme intellect, and usurping all creativity from nature.” (Land, Thirst for Annihiltion: 99)

… “The potential of the theologians is smuggled into the Critique of Judgement as the possibility of a complete system of science, a regulative idea which derives from the originary perfection of reason. Even though teleology loses its right to dogmatic theorizing, it continues to guide the thought of nature in terms of the infinitely accomplished idea.” (ibid)

… “In order not to inhibit the development of the sciences Kant denaturalizes teleology, lodging its redoubt in his practical philosophy, and therefore in reason.” (ibid.)

… “Schopenhauer seeks to extricate the thought of finality from this theological framework…” (ibid.)

… Yet, it was in Nietzsche that the trope of Will to Power “… transcribed thought by the first stammerings of a positive ateleological syntax. … Nietzsche recasts this principle into a general tendency to assimilation which he names ‘equalization’ (Ausgleichung), and it is this that makes him the first post-Kantian philosopher of difference. In his notes he succinctly asserts: ‘the will to equality is the will to power’ [N III 500].” (ibid., 101)


1. Land, Nick. The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism. Routledge; 1 edition (November 1, 2002)

4 thoughts on “Notes on Telos: A Short Critique of Transcendence

  1. But what of an escaped Telos? A Telos wandering abstract and free from any system, or at least only vestigially attached. I was considering conceptual beings through which putative philosophers (and indeed other people) act as agents (not far removed also from the Land territory (no pun intended)) and thinking this conceptual autonomy would allow an infection from teleology itself (its accretion in my words). A kind of plug in that suggests the concept in its work is working towards something (this logical possibility) but of course is just empty spirit of teleology itself.

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    • An escaped telos would be no telos at all, rather an empty gesture of transcendence in the void; the perfection of a motioning void, a labyrinthine movement within a circle; the idealist gesture of Kant’s correlational circle maximalised… a telos without a cause would be a utilitarian’s nightmare in real time abstraction. And, who would conceive of such a ‘telos’? Even Zizek with his two voids would not be that mad… Maybe Fichte as a science fiction writer? 🙂 But, then again, are not the theory-fictions of Laurelle performing such a gesture?

      For Hegel it didn’t matter, he built his dialectical puzzle box to trap such wary wanderers… 😉

      It was Schelling’s inability to resolve telos in his Weltalter that failed that very project into so many re-beginnings… and, brought Heidegger back to poetry in the End… 🙂

      Maybe Jorge-Luis Borges in his ‘The Circular Ruins’ already accomplished that paradox? 🙂

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      • I don’t think you need to resolve it, indeed you can’t. The manifestation of purpose in no wise entails one. Yet would it be possible to remove this manifestation, to show its non-obtaining, sufficiently to exorcise it? I would doubt this.

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      • Below is Borges parable of telos escaping its cause… the dreamer escaping his dream of the end in the awakening to the dreamed one’s dream awakening.

        In the cosmogonies of the Gnostics, the demiurges knead up a red Adam who cannot manage to stand; as rude and inept and elementary as that Adam of dust was the Adam of dream wrought from the sorcerer’s nights. One afternoon, the man almost destroyed his creation, but he could not bring himself to do it. (He’d have been better off if he had.) After making vows to all the deities of the earth and the river, he threw himself at the feet of the idol that was perhaps a tiger or perhaps a colt, and he begged for its untried aid. That evening, at sunset, the statue filled his dreams. In the dream it was alive, and trembling—yet it was not the dread-inspiring hybrid form of horse and tiger it had been. It was, instead, those two vehement creatures plus bull, and rose, and tempest, too—and all that, simultaneously. The manifold god revealed to the man that its earthly name was Fire, and that in that circular temple (and others like it) men had made sacrifices and worshiped it, and that it would magically bring to life the phantasm the man had dreamed—so fully bring him to life that every creature, save Fire itself and the man who dreamed him, would take him for a man of flesh and blood. Fire ordered the dreamer to send the youth, once instructed in the rites, to that other ruined temple whose pyramids still stood downriver, so that a voice might glorify the god in that deserted place. In the dreaming man’s dream, the dreamed man awoke.

        Jorge Luis Borges; Andrew Hurley (1999-04-15T04:00:00+00:00). Collected Fictions (Kindle Locations 1693-1703). Penguin (UK). Kindle Edition.

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