What is the Future?

Johnny Rotten leering, “when there’s no future how can there be sin?”

—Mark Fisher, K-Punk

“Your silence is almost worst of all.”

—Greta Thunberg

As I enter my seventh decade, turning seventy today I ponder this question. The future is empty, a blank slate, a site for our utopian dreams and our apocalyptic nightmares. As Berardi tells us:

“When the punks cried “No Future,” at the turning point of 1977, it seemed like a paradox that couldn’t be taken too seriously. Actually, it was the announcement of something quite important: the perception of the future was changing. The future is not a natural dimension of the mind. It is a modality of projection and imagination, a feature of expectation and attention, and its modalities and features change with the changing of cultures. Futurism is the artistic movement that embodies and asserts the accomplished modernity of the future. The movement called Futurism announces what is most essential in the twentieth century because this century is pervaded by a religious belief in the future. We don’t believe in the future in the same way. Of course, we know that a time after the present is going to come, but we don’t expect that it will fulfill the promises of the present.”1

For the pessimist the future is bleak and full of heartache, terror, dread, decay, and eventual death; for the optimist it’s a place full of promise, hope, and endless opportunity. Neither thought has much hold out in a world where the future is being written not by our ideas of it but rather by the truth that we may have no future due to our denial of the catastrophic consequences of being human in an inhuman cosmos. Climate denial has brought us to the brink of extinction. Even now as our rivers run dry, our lakes become sand dunes in a cracked and drying world we have people who still deny climate apocalypse is happening. Isn’t that it? Our denial is the denial of our own future, our children’s future, and the future of that most precious thing of all… life itself. Am I getting sentimental in my old age? Some may think, “Oh, you talk so much about pessimism, the dark side, the horror, the dread, the terror of life and now you want us to believe you care?” Yes, I do. I don’t give a shit about myself, my life is over, at the end of things. All I can care about is the suffering of all life on this planet and the causes of it. That’s what pessimism is truly about, it’s not about some negation of life, some suicidal and psychopathic rejection of life, but about the suffering of all life on this planet and in the cosmos at large. We see that in Schopenhauer, Hartmann, Mainländer, Bahnsen, Zapffe, and Ligotti among so many other pessimists I’ve studied and written about over the years.

“Look at your body – A painted puppet, a poor toy of jointed parts ready to collapse, a diseased and suffering thing with a head full of false imaginings.”

—The Dhammapada, Sayings of the Buddha

This is what Schopenhauer had to say about Suffering:

“Unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim. It is absurd to look upon the enormous amount of pain that abounds everywhere in the world, and originates in needs and necessities inseparable from life itself, as serving no purpose at all and the result of mere chance. Each separate misfortune, as it comes, seems, no doubt, to be something exceptional; but misfortune in general is the rule.
I know of no greater absurdity than that propounded by most systems of philosophy in declaring evil to be negative in its character. Evil is just what is positive; it makes its own existence felt.”

For Schopenhauer’s follower Karl Robert Eduard von Hartmann, the only hope for man was annihilation in nothingness and non-being: “Man’s only hope lies in “final redemption from the misery of volition and existence into the painlessness of non-being and non-willing.” No mortal may quit the task of life, but each must do his part to hasten the time when in the major portion of the human race the activity of the unconscious shall be ruled by intelligence, and this stage reached, in the simultaneous action of many persons volition will resolve upon its own non-continuance, and thus idea and will be once more reunited in the Absolute.” Another of Schopenhauer’s disciples Philipp Mainländer in his Die Philosophie Der Erlosung: “But at the bottom, the immanent philosopher sees in the entire universe only the deepest longing for absolute annihilation, and it is as if he clearly hears the call that permeates all spheres of heaven: Redemption! Redemption! Death to our life! and the comforting answer: you will all find annihilation and be redeemed!” 

Julius Bahnsen’s radical rejection of annihilation or redemption along with Schopenhauer’s metaphysics put him in a different category of the pessimal. Bahnsen propounded the view that there is a plurality of individual wills. Hartmann also espoused Schopenhauer’s monism, which essentially says that this single cosmic will objectifies itself in every individual thing. Bahnsen rejected Schopenhauer’s transcendental idealism (the view that objects of experience do not appear as they are in themselves but are instead conditioned by the mind, a position which Schopenhauer derived from Kant). Bahnsen defended transcendental realism, the doctrine which says that the knowledge we have of how things appear to us in our experiences gives us knowledge of ‘things-in-themselves’ (the nature of things independent from our experience of them). This conflicts with Kant and Schopenhauer’s transcendental idealism, which maintains a clear distinction between appearances and things-in-themselves, on the basis that no amount of knowledge of appearances can provide us with knowledge of things-in-themselves.

Bahnsen also denies that the intellect can escape the will, let alone govern it, as Schopenhauer believed. We find an apparent inconsistency in Schopenhauer’s metaphysical voluntarism (which posits that the will is the force behind all of reality and the intellect is merely a secondary and visible manifestation of it – and the intellect, in its normal functioning, is in the service of the will). But also included in Schopenhauer’s voluntarism is the belief that the intellect can control the will. So here we have two diametrically opposed claims: the will dominates, and the intellect can control the will (the latter claim allows Schopenhauer to propose that we can be redeemed from suffering – the frustration, strife, and pain – that follows from being driven around by the will’s blind striving). Bahnsen seeks to resolve the inconsistency of Schopenhauer’s voluntarism by asserting that the intellect can never escape the force of the will; the will has complete power over its representations. And this, in a sense, makes Bahnsen’s pessimism much more radical than Schopenhauer’s. We have no mastery over the causes of our suffering, according to him. For Bahnsen there is no way out, no escape from suffering, we are condemned to an eternity of suffering much like Nietzsche’s notion of the vicious circle of the eternal return. But unlike Nietzsche whose “amor fati” (love of fate) would affirm this dark circle of repetition Bahnsen is skeptical that any form of art, asceticism or culture can remove us from the world of suffering, or that they provide escape from the self-torment of the will.

Schopenhauer saw his fellow man as “fellow sufferer, and companion of misery” in a world that had no end to pain and suffering: “The conviction that the world, and therefore man too, is something which really ought not to exist is in fact calculated to instill in us indulgence towards one another: for what can be expected of beings placed in such a situation as we are? From this point of view, one might indeed consider that the appropriate form of address between man and man ought to be, not monsieur, sir, but fellow sufferer, compagnon de misères. However strange this may sound it corresponds to the nature of the case, makes us see other men in a true light and reminds us of what are the most necessary of all things: tolerance, patience, forbearance and charity, which each of us needs and which each of us therefore owes.”

Julius Bahsen would offer a more extreme vision, a world devoid of life and suffering, a crystalline world empty of organic existence: “If you try to imagine, as nearly as you can, what an amount of misery, pain and suffering of every kind the sun shines upon in its course, you will admit that it would be much better if, on the earth as little as on the moon, the sun were able to call forth the phenomena of life; and if, here as there, the surface were still in a crystalline state.” (Julius Bahnsen, On the Sufferings of the World)

Thomas Ligotti in his The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror offers us an insight into the pessimal quoting Peter Wessel Zapffe, the Norwegian philosopher, mountain climber, and pessimist:

“Why,” Zapffe asked, “has mankind not long ago gone extinct during great epidemics of madness? Why do only a fairly minor number of individuals perish because they fail to endure the strain of living—because cognition gives them more than they can carry?” Zapffe’s answer: “Most people learn to save themselves by artificially limiting the content of consciousness.”

In other words, our brain and culture help us filter out the dark truths of our predicament and offer us instead ‘as if’ fictions that support and sustain the illusions we live by. Speaking to this pessimal tradition above Ligotti tells us,

Perhaps the greatest strike against philosophical pessimism is that its only theme is human suffering. This is the last item on the list of our species’ obsessions and detracts from everything that matters to us, such as the Good, the Beautiful, and a Sparking Clean Toilet Bowl. For the pessimist, everything considered in isolation from human suffering or any cognition that does not have as its motive the origins, nature, and elimination of human suffering is at base recreational, whether it takes the form of conceptual probing or physical action in the world—for example, delving into game theory or traveling in outer space, respectively. And by “human suffering,” the pessimist is not thinking of particular sufferings and their relief, but of suffering itself. Remedies may be discovered for certain diseases and sociopolitical barbarities may be amended. But those are only stopgaps. Human suffering will remain insoluble as long as human beings exist. The one truly effective solution for suffering is that spoken of in Zapffe’s “Last Messiah.” It may not be a welcome solution for a stopgap world, but it would forever put an end to suffering, should we ever care to do so. The pessimist’s credo, or one of them, is that nonexistence never hurt anyone and existence hurts everyone. Although our selves may be illusory creations of consciousness, our pain is nonetheless real.

Our pain is real, and so is the pain of the world, animals, plants, and all organic life. We live in a universe of pain and suffering without recourse to any form of escape, salvation, or redemption other than the supreme fictions of religion or secularism. Those who opt for the comforts and illusions – some might say, —delusions (Freud) — walk blindly through life believing the truths of faith or tradition. The pessimist is one of those beings for whom the illusions or delusions of faith, tradition, and religion hold no comfort or redeeming value. This is what Nietzsche actually meant by the notion of the “Death of God” — that the old world of religious belief and external god(s) that supported it were dead in the sense they no longer gave modern secular society the support and comforts that once sustained such notions.

For Nietzsche this opened us up to a world where all external values of ethics and morality were withdrawn from the universe. We now live in a world where there is no meaning, and all life is valueless – a nihilistic universe of meaninglessness. For Nietzsche both optimist and pessimist alike were wrong, because both sought meaning in the positive hope or negative hopelessness of existence. For Nietzsche this hope, and hopelessness were withdrawn from existence and there was nothing but the impersonal truth of nothingness at the heart of all things, a world emptied of meaning or justification. The point for Nietzsche was that all objective standards upon which ethics and morality were grounded were now nullified. There were none.

Where do I stand in all of this? I stand where I’ve stood for years. In a letter to his brothers, George and Thomas, on 22 December 1817, the poet John Keats described a conversation he had been engaged in a few days previously:

I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, upon various subjects; several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.

This notion that there is no answer to the riddle of existence, and that if we pursue it like Coleridge we’ll end in defeat and failure as he did without any end to our need to answer the Sphinx’s riddle. Instead, like Keats I accept this notion of “Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason…”. What this means is that there are no facts or reasons for anything in existence. Existence if without reason and is as Quentin Meillassoux affirms based on “the principle of Unreason —hyperchaos or “Mad Time”. Meillassoux rejects the principle of sufficient reason and accepts the ‘principle of unreason’: there is no reason for any fact, including the correlation itself. In embracing the principle of unreason we intellectually intuit that the only thing that is necessary and absolute is contingency itself. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson I have placed above my door a plaque saying: “Whim!” As he’d say in ‘Self-Reliance’: “I would write on the lintels of the door-post, Whim. I hope it is somewhat better than whim at last, but we cannot spend the day in explanation.” Chance and Necessity. This seeming unbinding of the cosmos in a realm of pure contingency. In his essay After Finitude Meillassoux says this about whim, contingency, chance:

“If we look through the aperture which we have opened up onto the absolute, what we see there is a rather menacing power–something insensible, and capable of destroying both things and worlds, of bringing forth monstrous absurdities, yet also of never doing anything, of realizing every dream, but also every nightmare, of engendering random and frenetic transformations, or conversely, of producing a universe that remains motionless down to its ultimate recesses, like a cloud bearing the fiercest storms, then the eeriest bright spells, if only for an interval of disquieting calm. We see an omnipotence equal to that of the Cartesian God, and capable of anything, even the inconceivable; but an omnipotence that has become autonomous, without norms, blind, devoid of the other divine perfections, a power with neither goodness nor wisdom, ill-disposed to reassure thought about the veracity of its distinct ideas. We see something akin to Time, but a Time that is inconceivable for physics, since it is capable of destroying without cause or reason, every physical law, just as it is inconceivable for metaphysics, since it is capable of destroying every determinate entity, even a god, even God. This is not a Heraclitean time, since it is not the eternal law of becoming, but rather the eternal and lawless possible becoming of every law. It is a Time capable of destroying even becoming itself by bringing forth, perhaps forever, fixity, stasis, and death.”

― Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency

This reversal of the Heraclitean notion of time and becoming, but of the “eternal and lawless possible becoming of every law” that opens the difference that makes a difference: “a Time capable of destroying even becoming itself by bringing forth, perhaps forever, fixity, stasis, and death.” But you may say, “Does that answer anything, anything at all?” Well, yes and no. As Meillassoux puts it: ““Instead of laughing or smiling at questions like ‘Where do we come from?’, ‘Why do we exist?’, we should ponder instead the remarkable fact that the replies ‘From nothing. For nothing’ really are answers, thereby realizing that these really were questions – and excellent ones at that. There is no longer a mystery, not because there is no longer a problem, but because there is no longer a reason.”

If there is no reason for anything, anything at all, then there is no reason to riddle ourselves with impossible questions which have no solution since there is no Reason for something rather than nothing. In a universe of absolute whim or contingency without reason or support then we are absolutely free to be or not to be. But this does not absolve us of others, of existence, or our care for the pain and suffering it entails. No. This is not a cop-out from existence or responsibility, but rather an acknowledgement that we alone are responsible for our ethical and moral decisions rather than the objective universe, god(s), religion, etc. It’s up to each individual to commit themselves to that sense of solidarity and belonging that comes only from our sense of absolute solitude in a realm without meaning, value, or objective appeal. We are free to choose and create-invent the types of futures we wish to live in, not according to some predetermined ethical system or religious credo, but because of our inherent need to live in an open-ended universe without rhyme or reason. I choose to care rather than neglect the appeals of such beings as Greta Thunberg whose future relies on just that, the care of others who choose not to destroy this planet and strip it of the vital resources which others will need for all species to survive and thrive. This biocentric view has been well documented by many environmental ethicists and I’ll write of that another day.

  1. Berardi, Franco Bifo. After the Future. AK Press. 2017.

Our Dystopian Future

“In the light of what we have recently learned about animal behavior in general, and human behavior in particular, it has become clear that control through the punishment of undesirable behavior is less effective, in the long run, than control through the reinforcement of desirable behavior by rewards, and that government through terror works on the whole less well than government through the non-violent manipulation of the environment and of the thoughts and feelings of individual men, women and children.’

—Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley in his Brave New World Revisited a group of essays about his dystopian vision grafted from his own readings against H.G. Wells utopian socialism. He wouldn’t live to see the age of Chinese governance under Xi with its Social-Credit System of positive behavioral feedback loops, along with the merciless use of AI, Surveillance, and absolute tyranny under post-COVID 19 mass hysteria. Books like Kai Strittmatter’s We Have Been Harmonized which document this new program, along with Geoffrey Cain’s The Perfect Police State which documents the imprisonment and torture of the Muslim Uyghur in the euphemistically labeled ‘reeducation camps’ which are like the Gulags of Russian history places of torture and enclosure. I think if Huxley had lived to see this and the slow erosion of democracy across the West, he’d have written something much more devilish and biting. Orwell would’ve too.

Such works as Rush Doshi’s The Long Game detail much of China’s aggressive plans for its own future. That and serves Peter Frankopan’s The New Silk Roads which describes its plan to unite Eurasia under its economic and networking hegemony.

Works like comes Kai-Fu Lee.’s AI Superpowers documents the techwars between the global powers as they advance these various technologies of AI, robotics, and even the coming race to the stars and galactic expansionism. It’s as if we never learn from the past, that the push into the cosmos is just a replay of the Wild West and the western ideology of manifest destiny on a galactic scale.

‘Mr. Xi has launched a major upgrade of the Chinese surveillance state. China has become the world’s biggest market for security and surveillance technology, with analysts estimating the country will have almost 300 million cameras installed by 2020. Chinese buyers will snap up more than three-quarters of all servers designed to scan video footage for faces, predicts IHS Markit, a research firm. China’s police will spend an additional $30 billion in the coming years on techno-enabled snooping, according to one expert quoted in state media.’

Inside China’s Dystopian Dreams: A.I., Shame and Lots of Cameras

And then, of course you have the World Economic Forum leader Klaus Schwab pompously promoting his times Great Narrative with its dystopian overtones. One need only read his earlier books to see the fascist designs such elitists have toward the rest of us.

“You’ll own nothing” — And “you’ll be happy about it.” —Klaus Schwab

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
― George Orwell, 1984

Watching the various resurgence of right-wing tyranny and strong-arm dictators in various parts of the world, along with the strange technocratic paradigm which many of them seem to be following as Xi and China implement this dark form of dominion, mastery, and control over the CCPs reign of terror is something we all should be studying now. With the undeclared civil war on race, gender, the poor, and almost every aspect of the working class across the planet we can see how the new century is going to move toward more and more violent and disheartening confrontations. Sadly.

With all the crackpot intellectuals out there in Russia, China, and America spouting their strange theories on the future makes one feel like exiting the whole planet for parts unknown. At 70 years of age (my birthday’s tomorrow!) I’m glad in some ways I’m closer to the end than the beginning of my life, and yet like many I still wish I could retain what I know now and revisit that idiot I was when young. 🙂

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”
― George Orwell, 1984

The Day California Sank Below the Sea

The dissolution of the sensible is the disclosure of nothingness.

—Franco Berardi, The Second Coming

The day it happened I think we were all in denial. No one believed it. It was like one of those sci-fi films, a disaster film that seemed all too real to be believable. California was gone. The land of sunshine and beaches, ancient forests of giant trees. The Golden Gate Bridge: gone…

All Gone.


All the people gone, too.


I watched it live on Twitter. We all thought it was a joke, a prank. Some fake news bit that someone was perpetrating on the world. Then the real news came in and we all went silent.

The whole world… silent. Nothing on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook… the silence was deafening.

I sat there with my little brother, Tobi. We both looked at each other uneasily.

“Is this happening?” he said as if it was a little too close for comfort.

“I think so.” What the fuck else was I going to say… The idea of a whole state being swallowed by the ocean just seemed too much, ludicrous. But there it was in live feed on my computer. And, as we all know, computers don’t lie people do.

Then my big sis popped her head in and asked: “Did I hear that right? I mean, really, is it possible?” Tobi and I just nodded and pointed to the screen.

I felt something wet and oozy running down my leg. I think my little brother pissed in his pants. I looked down and saw it wasn’t him, but me.


S.C. Hickman … another story I’m working on… haha

Another of those ‘what if’ scenarios that we hear about all the time from environmental commentators who tell us places like California might just drop off into the ocean one day, the San Andreas fault opening up and swallowing it whole… another disaster fantastia. But a good short story needs such things… 🙂 I kept thinking if Lovecraft and Bradbury got together and created a kids disaster movie…

The Necrophilic World: Death-Drive, Capitalism, and our Posthuman Future

‘In a system that orders you to live and to capitalize life, the death drive is the only alternative.’

—Jean Baudrillard

‘The zeroing of death amounts to the death of death. It is for this reason that the atheist can come to sound so very celebratory and evangelical, as they become joyous in their mourning of an end that had for so long successfully eluded truth.’

—Gary J. Shipley, Stratagem of the Corpse: Dying with Baudrillard, a Study of Sickness and Simulacra

Strange how many people fear machinic life. Our posthuman life in the coming centuries will become more and more immersed in technology to the point that some techno-visionaries envision humanity merging in one form or another with our machines. Looking at Byung-Chul Han’s fear of technology portrayed in Capitalism and the Death Drive is telling. Here he quotes Erich Fromm cyborgization as Death-in-life:

“The world becomes a sum of lifeless artifacts; from synthetic food to synthetic organs, the whole man becomes part of the total machinery that he controls and is simultaneously controlled by. . . . He aspires to make robots as one of the greatest achievements of his technical mind, and some specialists assure us that the robot will hardly be distinguished from living men. This achievement will not seem so astonishing when man himself is hardly distinguishable from a robot. The world of life has become a world of ‘no-life’; persons have become ‘nonpersons,’ a world of death. Death is no longer symbolically expressed by unpleasant-smelling feces or corpses. Its symbols are now clean, shining machines. Undead, death-free life is reified, mechanical life. Thus, the goal of immortality can only be achieved at the expense of life.”1

Like Ernest Becker and his notions of death-denial and the immortalization of humanity in becoming machinic beings merging with our technology all these critics seem to fear what may be inevitable. The only driver here for me is will it remain within the capitalist order of inequality in which notions of ‘enhancement’ skew our sense of society creating another Have and Have Not transhumanist civilization in which the rich and powerful once again horde all these advanced technologies for themselves while excluding the rest of humanity? Or will we create a more egalitarian society in which partnership with technology is available to all humans? Will we continue down the path of domination, control, and mastery or create a sharing and cooperative world based on trust? Is techno-sapiens future going to become other than the same old politics of power with its attendant divisiveness and warlike strategies of domination or something else?

Han assumes that the system of economics and the underlying technology and sciences of transhumanism are leading us to create a world-wide necropolis – an antiseptic space of death, cleansed of human sounds and smells. Life processes are transformed into mechanical processes. The total adaptation of human life to mere functionality is already a culture of death. As a consequence of the performance principle, the human being ever more closely approximates a machine, and becomes alienated from itself. Dataism and artificial intelligence reify thinking. Thinking becomes calculating. Living memories are replaced with machine memories. Only the dead remember everything. Server farms are places of death. We bury ourselves alive in order to survive. In the hope of survival, we accumulate dead value, capital. The living world is being destroyed by dead capital. This is the death drive of capital. Capitalism is ruled by a necrophilia that turns living beings into lifeless things. (9)

For Han and Baudrillard the death-drive at the heart of our present civilization and culture have led to acts of terror. He sees terrorism not as a counter-image to the capitalist system, but as a phenomenon that is symptomatic of that system. The brutality and emotional coldness of the suicide bomber reflect the brutality and coldness of capitalist society. (10) He sees the terrorist as the ultimate capitalist, a narcissist whose self-expansive psychopathic tendencies for exhibitionist self-exposure and a warped sense of artistic authenticity bring about apocalypse, death, and doom. “Eroticism gives the self its death. Death is a losing oneself-in-the-other that puts an end to narcissism.” (12) Becoming machine, merging with our technology, the cyborgization of humanity offered on the altar of necrophilic capitalism becomes the end of human desire and the beginning of a new kind of pleasure-pain.

In his book on Baudrillard Stratagem of the Corpse: Dying with Baudrillard, a Study of Sickness and Simulacra, Gary J. Shipley suggests that our entry into the process of cyborgization is a form of unlife and a new regime of securitization against death:

The zeroing of death amounts to the death of death. It is for this reason that the atheist can come to sound so very celebratory and evangelical, as they become joyous in their mourning of an end that had for so long successfully eluded truth. With the truth of zero in place there is no more culture of death, only death itself and death as nothing, but this is no effortful disaster but instead a far more excessive peculiarization of death, providing all the formerly absent truth with no possibility of consequence, 11 because to describe something (a future self) in purely negative terms, and more specifically to engage in the apophasis of death, is to relinquish care not for the thing itself but more importantly for the circumstantial detail of that thing, and thereby escape in life what can no longer be congruous to it. The death of death is the release of an end without ever having to confront it. Death is killed, embalmed and so neutralized. … The introduction of this nothing-as-nucleus both places and displaces us in the eventuality of death, the carcass of death flayed and twisted into a Möbius strip. The dead body is a maze. We get lost there. We codify death and then kill death. We get lost in the death of death. We feel safe there, in our already being dead: ‘This is the secret of security, like a steak under cellophane: to surround you with a sarcophagus in order to prevent you from dying.’2

The sarcophagus is of course the robotic bodies, the metallic flesh or virtual matrix of our new life as we enter the undying repetition of a life-without-death in a necrophilic world. Consequently, humans who are at the more utopian and complex end of the technosphere are forever flirting with the idea of their technologies becoming integrated with their bodies and brains to an extent of complete interdependence. Conversely, those at the more apocalyptic end of the spectrum have a dread and fear of being fully integrated with their machines and becoming slaves to them and/or to the masters of the machines. Humans who have the power to do so appear to be more than willing to walk up to the line but generally do not cross it. In the ‘happier’ places within the complex technosphere, we see endless populations of digital zombies armed with phones, pads and laptops, permanently at work—either intentionally and directly working in the virtual marketplace in order to survive or working unintentionally by doing ‘recreational’ personal and social data entry for corporations and security agencies. Fortunately for them, they can still unplug at the end of the day. Those caught in the manufacturing and service hells of the global order such as call centres, data entry centres and digital sweatshops also remain attached to their machines but are recognized less as humans and more as necessary parts of a greater machine.3

As we become more integrated into technology our civilization enters a more technocratic for of governance. The technocratic solution to necropolitics is one of transformation—an avoidance in which humans can at least pretend to be beyond death. This refusal, combined with a belief that the market and accelerated technological development will also provide protection from human misdeeds and public policy errors, allows questions over the environment to be avoided. According to such dystopian thought the world will be a better place the sooner it becomes a fully engineered and managed environment. Transhumanists would prefer that madcap ideas about nanobots and uploading were all that survived of transhumanism, (146)

In his essay ‘Accumulating Extinction’, Justin McBrien claimed that the epoch to which capitalism had given rise was not the Anthropocene, but rather a variant of the capitalocene that he calls necrocene. He argues that ‘the necrocene concept traces the relation between the material unfolding of extinction through capital and the history of its scientific inquiry’ (McBrien in Moore, 2018: 118). As a systemic appropriation of nature, in other words, capitalism simultaneously destroys the organic resources it depends on (fossil fuels, for example), pollutes the biosphere, and develops new ways of appropriating the accumulated reserves of nature (nuclear power or genetic science, for example). Although McBrien’s idea of the necrocene acknowledges the immense destructive potential that is put into play by technoscientific capitalism, it fails to recognize that the mechanisms through which it functions as a regime of extinction are partof a fluctuating, ideologically and aesthetically overdetermined, economy of death. The genealogical approach I have developed maintains that the consciousness of death that is characteristic of the neoliberal worldview is of a very specific type. Each of us is encouraged to believe in a kind of performative responsibility for his or her own life. Be fit, be adaptive, be healthy, etc. This level of personal responsibility for one’s own existence, however, is contaminated by the growing sense of collective responsibility for the damage that is constantly being done to the natural environment. Thus, the logic of extinction that is endemic in technological capitalism is reproduced through the sleight of hand, the aesthetic figuration, by which the culture industries represent the effectiveness of individual action in the global economy. In McBrien’s account of ‘the necrocene’ however, this logic of extinction operates outside of the phenomenology of death that haunts the neoliberal ideology of expanded life. The headlong rush to catastrophe that is the result of the affinity between capitalism and technoscience seems to be without pause, without reflection, and without opposition: its conatus appears to operate as a totalizing movement in which everything – culture, politics, and life itself – is drawn into the necrotic spiral of capitalization (McBrien in Moore, 2018: 120–124).4

In his work portending the possibility of human extinction, Thomas Moynihan in X-Risk suggests that “to escape extinction, we may need to reengineer everything— from sex to the stars.”5 Moynihan exposes the various threads of our capitalist civilization that have led to such a conclusion: the primary contention of the book is that human extinction is a comparatively novel idea, one that remained entirely unavailable for the greater part of our existence as a species. Homo sapiens has been around for two or three hundred thousand years, yet it is only over the last couple of centuries that members of this species have begun to acknowledge that it might one day cease to exist forever. For reasons outlined below, during the larger part of the lifespan of humankind (roughly 99.9% of our time on Earth), this was an idea that remained totally beyond our conceptual grasp. (ibid.) Offering the optimistic solution he tells us historically, “we came to care about the possible extinction of the human precisely as we began to acknowledge the radical promise that makes humanity meaningful— the existential hope that comes from the conviction that we are here for a reason, that we have a vocation.” (ibid.) Of course, as you’ve seen in my previous essays this notion that we’re “here for a reason” is pure metaphysical surmise, a notion that comes from our religious and metaphysical heritage and gave us Leibniz’s notions of the PSR “principle of sufficient reason” and “best of all possible worlds” fictions. For such men the idea that we are here by accident, chance, and without any causal power other than the blind processes of “purposeless purpose” that generate our energetic cosmos seems ludicrous. For the pessimally inclined it’s the basic truth we live under in a universe without meaning or value, intent or purpose.  But Moynihan’s vision is borne of the optimistic traditions that deny such nihilistic thought and instead offers us salvation:

“…the emergence of this species-wide vocation, and hints at how it might be refurbished for the challenges of the turbulent epoch ahead. By looking at how others historically responded to the question ‘What is to be done?’ in the wake of the monumental discovery of human extinction, we can discern the outlines of what our response may need to look like during the next episode of cosmic history, should Earth-born intelligence make it out of its precarious phase of adolescence. And in the increasingly awe-inspiring ways in which thinkers have imagined humanity constructively responding to the discovery of X-risk by truly coming of age as a civilisation, we will glimpse the emergence of a new, secular doctrine of salvation (a ‘soteriology’) based purely on the modern naturalised, desacralised, and imperilled world view.” (ibid.)

Moynihan’s notion of a secularized world view based on the naturalization of ancient religious doctrines is nothing new, as M.H. Abrams in his monumental study of this process once said that Natural Supernaturalism concerns the “secularization of inherited theological ideas and ways of thinking.”6 From Rousseau through the Romantic poets of Germany and England set out, in various yet recognizably parallel ways, to reconstitute the grounds of hope and to announce the certainty, or at least the possibility, of a rebirth in which a renewed mankind will inhabit a renovated earth where he will find himself thoroughly at home. (Abrams, ibid.) One might say theirs was the first attempt at re-engineering the human species, offering a human realm devoid of the power and control of the god(s) of pagan and Christian civilization. In our time transhumanism, capitalism, and trends within the environmental movement all seem to be converging toward such a renewed project using technology as the soteriological device as their forbears did so through imagination, poetry, and philosophy. Transhumanism is a human-centric or anthropomorphic vision of the future in which mastery, control, and knowledge are still the prominent tools of a humanist vision of the future.

Against such a humancentric vision there is the posthuman vision that with its delegitimization, disinhabitation, and decolonization of all anthropocentrism; and without the logics of the modernity’s need for self-assertion, mastery, and control. As Francesca Ferando tells us in Philosophical Posthumanism:

“Philosophical Posthumanism can be counted as a theoretical philosophy of the difference, which demystifies any ontological polarization through the postmodern practice of deconstruction. Therefore, we have defined it, at the modal level, as a post-centrism and a post-exclusivism: a “post” which is constantly opening possibilities and does not comply with stationary hierarchical views. This epistemic opening does not rely on assimilations to the same, but on acknowledgments of diversity, in tune with evolutionary processes, which manifest in dynamics of diversification. In this sense, evolution can be addressed as a technology of existence: “physis” (“nature” in Greek) and “techne” are co-constitutive domains.” (186).

I think Ferrando puts posthuman thought in the Deleuzean camp of difference while allowing for the more speculative frameworks of edge sciences and David Roden’s more specific disconnection thesis in which “posthumans in very general terms as hypothetical wide “descendants” of current humans that are no longer human in consequence of some history of technological alteration” (§1.4). Speculative posthumanism is the claim that such beings might be produced as part of a feasible future history.”7 I tend to go along with David’s subtractive suggestions, but with the caveat that what we are extracting is the inhuman core of the human from its investment in humanist metaphysics and religio-theocratic discourse. I’m sure that our technical dreams will continue to exceed technology itself, that science fiction and the fantastic will be drivers of minds incorporating visions that have even in the past as now guide young scientists and philosophers in their thoughts and thinking about the future.

  1. Han, Byung-Chul. Capitalism and the Death Drive. Polity; 1st edition (August 2, 2021)
  2. Shipley, Gary J. Stratagem of the Corpse: Dying with Baudrillard, a Study of Sickness and Simulacra (Anthem Series on Radical Theory) (p. 11). Anthem Press.
  3.  Lushetich, Natasha. The Aesthetics of Necropolitics. (p. 143). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (December 11, 2018)
  4. Abbinnett, Ross. The Neoliberal Imagination (Media, Culture and Critique: Future Imperfect) (pp. 275-276). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
  5. Moynihan, Thomas . X-Risk. MIT Press. Urbanomic (November 3, 2020)
  6. Abrams, M. H.. Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature. W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
  7. Roden, David. Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human (p. 105). Taylor and Francis.

The Inhuman Core: On Speculative Posthumanism and Exaltatio, Immortality, and God-Making

In ancient times religion was a form of binding, obligation, and bond between the divine and human. After the Enlightenment this binding was severed, and irreligion cut the bonds or knots that held the human to its objective sense of the divine returning us to our inhuman core and projects. The process of unbinding, subtraction, and detachment from the objective thought of the divine would start a process toward immanence, immortalization, and artificiality that is only now becoming the truth of our inhuman future. Quentin Meillassoux in his essay “The Immanence of the World Beyond” offers three theses:

1. Speculation is possible only insofar as it is non-metaphysical;
2. Irreligion is possible only by being speculative;
3. Immortality and the divine, are the possible outcomes of immanence – thinkable and livable – arising only from irreligion.

“Nothing human will get out alive!” – Nick Land

Meillassoux offers a speculative philosophy that is non-metaphysical, based on the irreligious unbinding of the inhumanity of man from its metaphysical heritage. Through the ‘principle of unreason’ or hyperchaos as mad time he explores this speculative thought through a posthuman trajectory of immortalization and self-divinizing process of contingency and immanence. This would be an immortalization without gods or bonds, a possible speculative posthumanism of the artificial inhuman subtracted from the human. If as many philosophers have suggested humans have always been inhuman, then what is being subtracted by speculative philosophy is all the false layers of humanization that have accrued from the metaphysical justifications of religion and metaphysics. What becomes immortal is this inhuman thing we have always been. This returns us to the hermetic tradition of the divine as divination: the inhuman core emerging or being divined out of the non-metaphysical truth of this subtractive process of self-divinization—a process of becoming artificial gods. This immortalization project is a speculative process of self-divination in inhuman thought become real. The artificialization of our inhuman trajectory as machinic gods.

Stephen Overy in his Doctoral thesis goes to the heart of Nick Land’s anti-philosophy of the Inhuman tells us:

In this era of accelerating technological change philosophy creates a false dichotomy between controlled change and uncontrolled change, whereas, for Land, the real dichotomy is between resisting change and accepting it. The impersonal forces of the outside irrupting at the moment: cryptocurrency, AI and singularity, demographic collapse, the death of the Westphalian state system, crises of capitalism, all are beyond the ability of humanity to steer. What remains is a binary choice to resist, or to progress. Resistance is always undertaken by the human subject in defense of what it knows, and is therefore fundamentally conservative, hence Land’s critique of Ray Brassier’s retreat into ‘conceptual issues’ as leading to philosophical conservatism.1

For Land the whole post-Kantian tradition of philosophy and the sciences has bound itself within a metaphysical black box from which it cannot by conceptuality ever hope to extract or free itself. Only by opening itself to the pragmatic Outside of primary process and the productive forces that have shaped AI, modernity and Capitalism can it begin to break free of its chains to the humanistic worldview. Instead, we must end the chatter of theory and critique which always lead to regressions and circularities – ‘aren’t you using ideas to critique ideas’ – that “short-circuit metaphysical attempts to access base-material” (Overy, p. 302). As Overy suggests one way forward is to align Land’s attempt at measuring desiring-production with an anti-metaphysical and mathematically precise determination of the rules that condition these underlying automatic productions of a materialist post-psychoanalytical method. (Overy, p. 303)

“Philosophical Posthumanism can be counted as a theoretical philosophy of the difference, which demystifies any ontological polarization through the postmodern practice of deconstruction. Therefore, we have defined it, at the modal level, as a post-centrism and a post-exclusivism: a “post” which is constantly opening possibilities and does not comply with stationary hierarchical views. This epistemic opening does not rely on assimilations to the same, but on acknowledgments of diversity, in tune with evolutionary processes, which manifest in dynamics of diversification. In this sense, evolution can be addressed as a technology of existence: “physis” (“nature” in Greek) and “techne” are co-constitutive domains.” (186).

– Francesca Ferrando, Philosophical Posthumanism

I think Ferrando puts posthuman thought in the Deleuzean camp of difference while allowing for the more speculative frameworks of edge sciences and David Roden’s more specific disconnection thesis in which “posthumans in very general terms as hypothetical wide “descendants” of current humans that are no longer human in consequence of some history of technological alteration” (§1.4). Speculative posthumanism is the claim that such beings might be produced as part of a feasible future history.”2 Agreeing with Ferrando, Roden tells us we “require a theory of human–posthuman difference” (105). He argues that the difference should be conceived as an emergent disconnection between individuals, not in terms of the presence or lack of essential properties. Instead, he suggests that these individuals should not be conceived in narrow biological terms but in “wide” terms permitting biological, cultural and technological relations of descent between human and posthuman. (105) His claim is that the posthuman difference is not one between kinds but emerges diachronically between individuals, we cannot specify its nature a priori but only a posteriori – after the emergence of actual posthumans. (106)

I tend to go along with David’s subtractive suggestions, but with the caveat that what we are extracting by subtraction is the inhuman core of the human from its investment in humanist metaphysics and religio-theocratic discourse. Difference emerges after the human(ist) anthropocentric vision and its attendant metaphysics is put to rest. I’m sure that our technical dreams will continue to exceed technology itself, that science fiction and the fantastic will be drivers of minds incorporating visions that have even in the past as now guide young scientists and philosophers in their thoughts and thinking about the future.

The Hermetic Turn in Speculative Philosophy: The Artificialization of Society

During the pre-Critical age of the Hermetics, Alchemy, and Magus there was a term for becoming other than what one is: exaltatio – or the self-divinizing process of becoming a god. The program of deification combined with magic had far-reaching consequences for those who adhered to it. The hermetic and occult outlook not only determined their thinking, but the metaphysical goal also customized their behavior, social interaction, strategies of self-fashioning and divinizing processes, the iconography of their gestures, as well as their poetic imagination. There are a great number of phrases in the texts dealing with the deification of man that characterize the magical exaltation from the Latin: elatus, elevatio, exultatio, furor, illuminatio, inspiratio. Over the past few decades, the study of the original hermetic lore has developed during the past two decades as much as (if not more than) Dee studies. Copenhaver gives an admirably concise and clear account of the divers conflicting concepts and traditions amalgamated here: theoretical and technical, contemplative and pragmatic, religious and magical, literary and cultic, gnostic, Greek, and Egyptian (Brian Copenhaver 1992, lviii).

The rehabilitation of the Asclepius, through the rediscovery of the Corpus hermeticum, is, I believe, one of the chief factors in the Renaissance revival of magic. It is time to look then at the magical contents of the Asclepius. The introduction of the text in the Renaissance describes a situation when Hermes Trismegistus, Asclepius, Tat, and Ammon meet in an Egyptian temple where the four men receive exaltation and revelatory teachings through the mouth of Hermes on the nature of the cosmos and that of man. It was in the Corpus hermeticum that the notion of making gods took on a strange and disquieting meaning for the Renaissance:

Our ancestors [. . .] discovered the art of making gods. To their discovery they added a conformable power arising from the nature of matter. Because they could not make souls, they mixed this power in and called up the souls of demons or angels and implanted them in likeness through holy and divine mysteries, whence the idols could have the power to do good and evil. (Ascl. 37)

As we begin thinking of the posthuman, the artificial worlds of Intelligence, Robotics, and the future of humans as they begin the long trek toward becoming other than they are we might remember that this is nothing new, and such notions of making gods or immortal beings, of exaltation and the self-divinization of man has been with us for millennia.

As far back as the legends surrounding Simon Magus the notion of exaltation and the powers of self-divinization or god-making were part of the folklore of the Middle Ages. There is whole in the Corpus hermeticum devoted to Simon Magus. As Pseudo-Clementine wrote,

By nation [Simon] is a Samaritan; by profession a magician, yet exceedingly well trained in Greek literature; desirous of glory, and boasting above all the human race, so that he wishes himself to be believed to be an exalted power, which is above God the Creator, and to be thought to be Christ, and to be called the Standing One. (Recognitiones II.7; quoted by Keefer 1988, 646)

In our own time such a thought has become all too real in the speculations of both posthuman and transhuman philosophy. According to David Livingstone in his history of Transhumanism its capitalist-based agenda is the quest to use all the advances of modern science to augment human potential, and ultimately, to achieve immortality.2 The so-called singularity, according to transhumanists, will mark the moment when man will have evolved into a post-human existence through “mind uploading,” having achieved immortality by being merged with the Internet, being likened to the New Age concept of a “collective consciousness,” or “global brain.” (Livingston, 6) Of course, this is all speculative metaphysics of the worst kind, based on notions as old as humans. But what if we took it out of the context of metaphysics and religion and into a post-metaphysical thought? What then?

This is where Meillassoux’s speculative posthumanism provides us with a possible way in or should we say a “way out”: are we letting the Outside in, allowing the impersonal forces of artificiality and the inhuman to escape or subtract us from the human?  Speculative philosophy provides us with a program. As Meillassoux describes it: “speculation is not only not necessarily metaphysical, but only the refusal of all metaphysics allows thought to arrive at authentically speculative truths. Put briefly, what has been called ‘the end of metaphysics’ is the very condition of an authentic access to the absolute.” (445) Metaphysics is grounded in the “ontological argument” which would ultimately lead to the “Principle of Sufficient Reason” (PSR) which is closely associated with the philosophy of Leibniz.

Leibniz identified two kinds of truth, necessary and contingent truths. And he claimed that all truths are based upon two principles: (1) non-contradiction, and (2) sufficient reason. In the Monadology, he says,

Our reasonings are grounded upon two great principles, that of contradiction, in virtue of which we judge false that which involves a contradiction, and true that which is opposed or contradictory to the false; And that of sufficient reason, in virtue of which we hold that there can be no fact real or existing, no statement true, unless there be a sufficient reason, why it should be so and not otherwise, although these reasons usually cannot be known by us (paragraphs 31 and 32).

Meillassoux in contradistinction to such a metaphysical basis of truth provides an alternative to metaphysics:

The definition of non-metaphysical speculation is a mirror-image of this definition of metaphysics: an absolute non-metaphysics is an absolute grounded upon the effective falsehood of the principle of sufficient reason. In other words, the project of non-metaphysical speculation would be established thus: our inability to prove why there is something rather than nothing – this impossibility is not the mark of our ignorance of the true reasons for things, but an indication of our ability to come to know that there are, effectively, no reasons for anything. (446)

The above implies Meillassoux’s notion of a radical contingency as the “truth of all things” (446). Contingency is based on the ‘principle of unreason’ or the irrationality of all things: the eternal property of things themselves consists in the fact that they can without reason become other than they are. (446)  So that any speculative non-metaphysics is based on the radical theses that ‘the principle of unreason’ the absolute as hyper-chaos or “mad time” is without reason and capable of the emergence and abolition of the world, of destroying the laws of physics and bringing others into being. (446)  For Meillassoux this brings only one conclusion that we live at the eye of a storm —a storm he terms Surchaos: “eternal chaos, nestled in the heart of the manifest irrationality of all things.” (446)

I’m not going to explicate the intricacies of his formal argument which is at the core of his essay. Only to add the image of the Viator – the Traveler: “What will we do when we will have become forever what the Middle Ages called a traveler – a viator – a man of the earth and not the blessed in heaven, a viator forever condemned to his living condition, a kind of prosaic immortal without any transcendence or struggle to give meaning to the undefined pursuit of his being?” (473) Meillassoux answers this question with the simplicity of a strange prophet, telling us that what will happen for this prosaic immortal is simply that he will live the communist life, a life finally without politics (473). A life beyond war, violence, and sacrifice —the life of an immortal being outside the human. He terms this being the “eschatological subject” who seeks the ‘fourth world’ which is “founded in this instance upon the universal law, in its post-nihilist constitution’. (474)

Obviously, for Meillassoux there is a transitional phase, a long road ahead to this ‘politics of finality’ —a politics of emancipation from the human by the inhuman we are, a militant politics of despair and nihilism which provides for the time being an immanence which is a “deceptive immortality”. (477) The “God which does not exist” is for Meillassoux the Hermetic project of the “deification of humanity,” a “trajectory which in the present world enables the vectoral subject to overcome the double experience of dilemma and of nihilism in order to turn himself into a ‘bridge’ between the third and fourth world.” (448) This bridge being, this deification or subtraction from the human by the inhuman trajectory of becoming ‘other-than-we-are‘ is the process of turning ourselves into a “demon: a metaxu, an intermediary, a living passage between thinking of this world and the justice of the ultimate world”. (478)

The late Mark Fisher once suggested: “While 20th-century experimental culture was seized by a recombinatorial delirium, which made it feel as if newness was infinitely available, the 21st century is oppressed by a crushing sense of finitude and exhaustion.”4 The sense that the future is over, that we’ve seen the best humanity has to offer, that technological and social progress has been stifled by the end game of capitalist civilization and its command and control over planetary culture and economics. With all the signs of impending doom being fed to us from notions of ongoing economic collapse, climate change, social unrest, political mayhem, etc., we are being aligned to a world of fear and terror that is total and absolute. This apocalyptic culture seems to pervade our lives contaminating our minds and hearts with its insipid message of fatalism. A culture of conspiracy and duplicity, disinformation and hyperrealism invade our lives to the point that the old regimes of truth both religious and secular have failed us. We no longer have access to an objective source of truth and value to judge what is false from real, the last stage of Nietzsche’s forecast for modernity is at hand: the total collapse of humanity into the Last Man – a completed nihilism that ends in either a renewal or an apocalypse.

Like many in our time Nick Land envisions a migration of intelligence from organic to anorganic posthuman machinic civilization:

The high road to thinking no longer passes through a deepening of human cognition, but rather through a becoming inhuman of cognition, a migration of cognition out into the emerging planetary technosentience reservoir, into ‘dehumanized landscapes … emptied spaces’! where human culture will be dissolved. Just as the capitalist urbanization of labour abstracted it in a parallel escalation with technical machines, so will intelligence be transplanted into the purring data zones of new software worlds in order to be abstracted from an increasingly obsolescent anthropoid particularity, and thus to venture beyond modernity.5

This movement of intelligence from homo sapiens to “techno sapiens” (p. 294) is once again a part of Land’s need to escape the flesh, to become immortal, to seek salvation and redemption not through theological measures of belief, but rather through the transhuman potential of science and a vitalistic libidinal materialism: “Domination is merely the phenomenological portrait of circuit inefficiency, control malfunction, or stupidity. The masters do not need intelligence, Nietzsche argues, therefore they do not have it. It is only the confused humanist orientation of modernist cybernetics which lines up control with domination. Emergent control is not the execution of a plan or policy, but the unmanageable exploration that escapes all authority and obsolesces law. According to its futural definition control is guidance into the unknown, exit from the box.” (FN, p. 301) This “exit from the box” is of course the human body itself.

This whole process of transcendence in immanence becomes the metaphysical program of a new cybernetics freed of the command and control of humanistic goals: “The circuits get hotter and denser as economics, scientific methodology, neo-evolutionary theory, and AI come together: terrestrial matter programming its own intelligence at impact upon the body without organs = o. Futural infiltration is subtilizing itself as capital opens onto schizo-technics, with time accelerating into the cybernetic backwash from its flip-over, a racing non-linear countdown to planetary switch.” (FN, p. 317).

“Along one axis of its emergence, virtual materialism names an ultra-hard antiformalist AI program, engaging with biological intelligence as sub-programs of an abstract post-carbon machinic matrix, whilst exceeding any deliberated research project. Far from exhibiting itself to human academic endeavour as a scientific object, AI is a meta-scientific control system and an invader, with all the insidiousness of planetary technocapital flipping over. Rather than it’s visiting us in some software engineering laboratory, we are being drawn out to it, where it is already lurking, in the future.” (p. 326).

This sense that the future has already happened and is not part of some linear historical narrative of Progressive modernity, but rather an acceleration of processes from the Outside in —the emergence of futural time in our own, this sense of Meillassoux’s hyperChaos of a mad time when anything is possible. Time’s spirals. T.S. Eliot in ‘Little Gidding,’ “What we call the beginning is often the end/And to make an end is to make a beginning.” Time is relative. (Einstein) We seem to be out of time… An apocalypse (Ancient Greek: ἀποκάλυψις apokálypsis, from ἀπό and καλύπτω, literally meaning “an uncovering”) is a disclosure or revelation of knowledge or divinity. Hermetic self-divinizing processes or the vectors of an inhuman trajectory out of the human altogether, a subtraction from the metaphysical to the non-metaphysical ‘eschaology’ rather than eschatology in which chaotic processes emerge to define the new artificial gods we are becoming.

  1. Overy, Stephen. The genealogy of Nick Land’s anti-anthropocentric philosophy: a psychoanalytic conception of machinic desire. https://theses.ncl.ac.uk/dspace/bitstream/10443/3350/1/Overy%2c%20S.%202016.pdf (Page 298). Bio: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/philosophy/staff/profile/stephenovery1.html#research
  2. Roden, David. Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human (p. 105). Taylor and Francis.
  3. Livingstone, David. Transhumanism: The History of a Dangerous Idea (p. 5). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
  4. Fisher, Mark. Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures (Kindle Locations 190-191). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  5. Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: : Collected Writings 1987–2007. Urbanomic / Sequence Press; 4th edition (October 23, 2018)

Thomas Ligotti and the Expressionist Aesthetic

“As with many, if not most, of my stories, “Metaphysica Morum” is autobiography exaggerated.

—Thomas Ligotti

Ligotti in an interview will describe his need to express the deep seeded pain and morbidity that permeates his writings as exaggerated autobiography:

The narrator of “Metaphysica Morum” harps on my euthanasia fantasy, except for him it is in connection with longstanding emotional problems having a source beyond the natural. For some people, all experiences of an intensity far surpassing that of ordinary life provoke a need for expression. Another dimension or level of reality opens up, and they begin ranting to a purpose. A few may propound visions as in the biblical Book of Revelation, horrible visions whose author must have felt an insatiable need to make believable and find credence in his readers. Some believe these visions and give them credence; others do not. Which of these postures is assumed could not possibly concern the scribbler of these visions. He has seen. That is enough. This is the state of the narrator of “Metaphysica Morum” and conveying such a state, as I’ve said in interviews and essays, is what supernatural horror fiction does better than any other kind of literature.

I’ve written things in the wake of a previous work, and I think “The Small People” was one of them. It really hit me all at once, and I barely had to think about it either structurally or thematically. “Metaphysica Morum” derived straight from my hospital episode and “The Small People” indirectly. After writing the former story, I was still in an elevated mood from my surgeries. And if I could keep writing, I thought I could keep my elevated mood alive. And only in an elevated mood can I write about the worst. Only in a good mood can I reflect upon what’s in store for me, such as the hospital episode, without fear of overwhelming my consciousness. Only in a good mood can I think about my existence or existence itself without thinking about wanting to be euthanized by anesthesia. I believe this is how it is for many people, though I can’t say how many, and if I claim it is a great many then I would be derided by those for whom this is not how it is. In any case, I think it’s safe to say that the carryover from my hospital episode was more literal in “Metaphysica Morum” than in “The Small People.”

The basis for both stories, however, was an incredible sense of alienation I felt following my surgeries, the sense of a reality that could not be denied, a vivid reminder of my already pessimistic view of life, and even an expansion of that view due to my experience of literally unbearable physical pain. I had known long-term physical pain before, but this was different somehow. Essentially, though, that pain ultimately made me feel more myself than ever, both emotionally and cognitively. I couldn’t look away any longer from what I once named “the nightmare of the organism,” despite my elevated mood. It was like the phenomenon of always being aware of my heart beating that goes with having panic-anxiety disorder, which is the state I inhabited while writing almost all of my stories. All in all, it seemed I was even less a part of the world’s prevailing sense of the real than I was before. This was not an unfamiliar feeling for me, but it was massively revitalized after the traumatic events of the hospital episode. What kind of world was I living in that could avert its eyes from the most significant realities such as those I had recently confronted? On the other side of the curtain between us in our room, there was an elderly man who was surrounded all day by an animated family. Along with his doctor, they wanted him to get out of the bed where he lay dormant to begin dialysis, something that numerous people refuse every day. Ask Art Buchwald. Apparently, the hospital could do nothing for him if he continued in his stubborn way and would have to discharge him. It seemed to me, who never spoke to or saw him but knew the names of his family members, that he had utterly lost the will to live and wanted nothing more than to lie in a morphine-induced delirium all day and watch marathon showings of Cheers at full volume all night. I can’t say if he desired euthanasia by anesthesia, but I thought it wouldn’t have been a great evil if such an option were available to him and acceptable to the world of his animated family, which was blatantly living in a different world from the one he lived in. Why couldn’t the whole world accept vital realities in the same way that the presence of a bidet in a bathroom illustrates an acceptance of the realities of human hygiene?

For eight months before my second operation, I had to wear a colostomy bag. And I have to say I wore it well. I can understand why some people prefer the bag to the second operation, which no ostomate welcomes for a variety of reasons, not least that it won’t work and you’ll wake up from surgery with the bag still in place. When my colon was reattached to my rectum, the bag was gone. But I still needed to prove that the operation was fully successful, and the only proof that could be accepted was to demonstrate that I could evacuate my bowels in a relatively normal manner. This was more difficult than it sounds, since I hadn’t eaten or drunk liquids for four days, and there wasn’t much inside me to show that I was in need of a bidet. But there were no special accommodations to facilitate this maneuver at the time of night or day when I might be able to do so. There were no special instructions except what I read on ostomy Web sites, where so many good and kind people who were worse off than I was advised others concerning the most discomfiting realities— but only because they could not be ignored. We ignore what we can for as long as we can. But at any time the day of reckoning may come, and for some people it comes quite often.

The logistics of my situation are hard to explain, particularly since I couldn’t use the bathroom because I was sucking tubes. Nevertheless, I had to reach a stage where I could declaim, “Behold the stool.” After my hospital episode there were things that I could no longer ignore, that I didn’t know about at all because who can tolerate or take in the full range of vital realities? Not me.

I wanted to keep my elevated mood alive by writing “The Small People” and maybe something else after that. But my elevated mood began to dissolve, and I was fortunate to have the assistance of an excellent person to help me during the editorial and production stages of The Spectral Link. All in all, I have to say that 2012 and the first three months of 2013 was the best time I’d had since I developed a case of shingles that lasted throughout 2009, during which period I became addicted to hydrocodone. (Narcotics are the only type of drug I’ve found that come close to acting as an anti-depressant.) Hence, “The Small People,” which, as I wrote with respect to this story in the flap copy for The Spectral Link, has something to do with my “fixation on uncanny representations of the so-called human being.” Moreover: “Having nearly ceased to exist on the surgeon’s table, the imposing strangeness of the nature and vicissitudes of this life form once again arose in [my] imagination.” And it really did. Maybe this more detailed account of the events leading up to composition of the stories in The Spectral Link really will be found intriguing. Maybe it will even attach itself to the book in the minds of its readers, though this isn’t necessary in the least. But what happened to me and what came of it are definitely attached in my mind.1

The Expressionist aesthetic that Ligotti invokes above permeates his life and work. As a reaction against Impressionism and academic art, Expressionism refers to art in which the representation of reality is not objective but distorted in order to express the inner feelings of the artist. Expressionist painters wanted to present the world from a subjective perspective and depict the emotional experience that objects, and events arouse in them. Speaking of Lovecraft’s love of the natural world he’d comment: “I have no appreciation for natural scenery and want the objective universe to be a reflection of a character’s subjective world, which is the tendency of my consciousness.” This expressionist aesthetic shows up in various forms throughout his tales. Distortion, exaggeration, primitivism, and the fantastic are all characteristics of aspects of his work. Unlike Impressionism, the expressionist writer’s goals are not to reproduce the impression suggested by the surrounding world, but to strongly impose the artist’s own sensibility onto the world’s (non)representational matrix. The expressionist artists substitute their inner moods for the visual objective reality, making their own image of this object, which they feel as an acute acknowledgment of the world’s moods shaped by the dark morbidity of the artist himself.

As Matt Cardin relates, Ligotti’s expressionist aesthetic and writing style come out in various forms:

“The Bungalow House” is especially notable in this regard, for in it the narrator states what might be taken for a Ligottian philosophical and artistic credo, if such a thing were possible. Upon discovering a series of performance art audio tapes in the form of “dream monologues,” the narrator is surprised and gratified, and also somewhat disturbed, to discover that another person shares his own love for “the icy bleakness of things.” He reflects: “I wanted to believe that this artist had escaped the dreams and demons of all sentiment in order to explore the foul and crummy delights of a universe where everything had been reduced to three stark principles: first, that there was nowhere for you to go; second, that there was nothing for you to do; and third, that there was no one for you to know. Of course, I knew that this view was an illusion like any other, but it was also one that had sustained me so long and so well — as long and as well as any other illusion and perhaps longer, perhaps better.”2

This admission by Ligotti that we all need illusions to sustain us and survive in a universe that not only does not know us but could care less about us one way or the other, expressing a sense of the futility of living in a cosmos where we are aware of this fact can be overwhelming, but to create art out of this darkness is the most difficult thing of all.

Ligotti sided with the writer as an outsider early on: “I’ve had no love for the classics of literature as commonly regarded. They practically never address anything that has meaning for me as an admittedly outsider type of person.” The types of stories he likes to write are first-person confessional accounts of a “nightmarish supernatural encounter with or without monsters or something monstrous”. Although he admired and was heavily influenced by the canonical writings of Poe, Machen, Blackwood, Lovecraft, and others, he tells one interviewer his love of the postmodern experimentalist writers:

Primarily, what I read were works that would be considered experimental or postmodernist, whether or not they were written before or after the postmodern era at its height, roughly from the fifties and into the eighties. These works were all in some way more off the path of conventional fiction so to speak. They were more complex, more devious in their literary design, more thematically remote from the life of average persons, and more stylistically flashy or peculiar in their prose styles, qualities that also describe Lovecraft’s fiction. Some of the later, postmodern figures known for practicing this manner of writing were Vladimir Nabokov, William Burroughs, Donald Barthelme, minor “death of the novel” authors like Ronald Sukenick, Alain Robbe-Grillet and other French nouveau roman luminaries as well as writers associated with modern-era trends like Symbolism and Surrealism, and various foreign writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.3

Over and over, he’ll speak of his need for various styles of writing so that he’s explored different authors that spoke to his sensibilities and offered styles appropriate for the moods he sought to convey through his own writing. Such writers offered him a background of bleakness with a foreground of hypnotic artistry that has appealed to him are Nabokov as well as in such writers as Bruno Shulz, Jorge Luis Borges, William Burroughs, the Japanese poet Hagiwara Sakutaro, and Thomas Bernhard. The reason for his varied styles and modish expressionism comes from his views on humanity:

Most people would dismiss the validity of anything I write because of that contradiction, which it is, just as they impugn the validity of Schopenhauer’s pessimism because he rather enjoyed himself by normal standards. These are people who have been brainwashed into believing in the integrity of the so-called self, when in fact we’re a mass of crisscrossing wires of memories, sensations, impulses, and so on that do not make an enduring, continuous self but, because they’re all happening inside the same bag of skin, trick us and others into thinking in terms of personalities, souls, individual identities, and what have you.”4 This sense of the fracture self, the obliteration of the individual as a whole and singular being is at the core of his confessional stylistics and expressionist aesthetic.

Born and raised in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan his sense of the decay and ruins of rust belt America have deeply influenced his aesthetics as well. Describing this he says,

I was born in Detroit, but I aside from my earliest childhood years I didn’t live there. I grew up in an upper-class suburb that bordered on Detroit. However, during high school in the 1960s I spent some time hanging out in dope houses in Detroit’s ghettos, and I worked in downtown Detroit for 23 years. I always enjoyed the spectacle of abandoned, decaying, and burned-out buildings and houses. In my first horror story to see publication, “The Chymist,” I tried to express my fascination with this world of ruins. This also applies to a lesser extent to my short novel “My Work Is Not Yet Done”, which is set in an unnamed city patterned after Detroit. The wallpaper on my computer is a photograph of an abandoned house on Detroit’s east side. In many of my stories, I’ve tried to articulate an aesthetic of decay in both small towns and cities. I equate decline and decrepitude with a kind of serenity, a tranquil abandonment of the illusions of the future.

He’ll speak of both Lovecraft’s aesthetic of “adventurous expectancy” and Jorge-Luis Borges’s aesthetic of the “imminence of a revelation that never occurs,” then describes his own personal aesthetic saying that his focus has fairly consistently been on what he thought of as an “infernal paradise,” a realm where one “wallows in something putrid and corrosive that lies beyond exact perception”.6 Ligotti attributes this aesthetic to his Catholic upbringing:

I attended Catholic school from grades one through three and remained a theist throughout my teenage years. No incident or study on my part that I can name led to my becoming an atheist around the age of nineteen. To my recollection, I became aware of my lapse from religious belief while doing homework for a college history class. It was not a momentous occurrence to say the least. Looking back, I would have to say that my Catholicism, which was rather elaborate and obsessive for a child, was a matter of observance of ritual and private practice without being directed by emotional or spiritual feeling. (Realm of Nightmares: ibid)

Laughingly he told one interviewer he didn’t know whether he’d ultimately be known for his stories or the “notorious breviary of nihilism”. His breviary is of course the personal contrivance of horror he called The Conspiracy Against the Human Race.

One begins to realize that each of Ligotti’s tales offers a glimpse onto his own personal confession; in fact, one might say that his complete Ouvre is one long confessional. Most of his tales in one form or another are based on his own personal fears and sickness and delirious dreams of a cure that will be worse than the disease, which in his case is always a return to the ever-abiding panic-anxiety disorder that pervades his daily life. Another aspect is the aesthetic need to pursue a form of horror art as a path to the undoing of consciousness and a sense of Self. “I’ve never really had any faith in the imagination or creativity as means of purging oneself of demons but more as a degenerate pastime. I’m definitely not a believer in art as a curative catharsis.” (Neddal: ibid.)

He describes the notion of a Special Plan for the World coming to him from a questionnaire he happened upon that was designed to determine whether or not someone is a manic-depressive. The question was: “Do you feel that you have a special plan for this world?” “I thought that was just too great not to turn to my advantage as a horror writer, not to mention that over the years I have had one special plan or another for this world, or at least for myself and those close to me. The phrases “annihilation by ecstasy” and “beneficent vaporization” come to mind. Once I have a title or an image, it develops by itself into a work that extends my negative view of life as a living nightmare. As for the densely coiled layers of illusion, you don’t have to take my word for that. Psychologists, philosophers, social thinkers, etc. have been saying the same thing for quite some time. We don’t even know what the world is like except through our sense organs, which are provably inadequate. It’s no less the case with our brains. Our whole lives are motored along by forces we cannot know and perceptions that are faulty. We sometimes hear people say that they’re not feeling themselves. Well, who or what do they feel like then? And what is like to feel like yourself? And did ever disagree with anyone on whether or not some objet d’art was beautiful? Just try to prove which one of you is right. Beauty is in the neurotransmitters of the beholder.” (David: ibid.)

To have an aesthetics of nightmare, to view existence as a “living nightmare” is something most of Ligotti’s readers probably would rather not, but for him there is a sense of serenity and comfort to be had in the “heart of horror”: “I equate decline and decrepitude with a kind of serenity, a tranquil abandonment of the illusions of the future.” (Ayad: ibid.) For Ligotti the future of horror lies where it always has in the outsider artist, those for whom the derangement of psyche and world go hand in hand:

“Let’s say it once and for all: Poe and Lovecraft— not to mention a Bruno Schulz or a Frank Kafka— were what the world at large would consider extremely disturbed individuals. And most people who are that disturbed are not able to create works of fiction. These and other names I could mention are people who are just on the cusp of total psychological derangement. Sometimes they cross over and fall into the province of “outsider artists.” That’s where the future development of horror fiction lies— in the next person who is almost too emotionally and psychologically damaged to live in the world but not too damaged to produce fiction.” (Ayad: ibid.)

Speaking of this sense of being an outsider, he’ll tell an interviewer he is “agoraphobic and that being reclusive was a snap”.7 Colin Wilson in his existential work on the outsider would discover various types: intellectual, emotional, and physical. Then he’d suggest that “all three are capable of becoming insane”.8 Wilson says the outsider is preoccupied with “sex, with crime, with disease.” Ligotti may have an interest in crime and disease, but sex seems to be far from his own interests or inclinations. Asked by one interviewer whether he has a significant other Ligotti with a dead pan smile says: “I’ve been checking out computer matchmaking sites for years, but I can’t find anyone whose idea of a good time is dinner and a suicide pact.”9 Asked about this sense of morbid humor Ligotti replies,

As far back as I can remember, a good many people have remarked on my comic remarks and clownishness. I’m not aware of using humor as a mechanism to engage others into being well disposed toward me. That may be true, but I think it’s actually an integral part of my nature. At the same time, my humor in everyday life has had its origin in my suffering. I’m often funniest when I feel terrible. This connects with humor in my stories being organic to their gloomy subjects. It’s not exactly gallows humor, though it sometimes arises in dark contexts. (Davis: ibid.)

I’ve found myself laughing out loud at various paradoxical statements and incongruities that jut up once in a while in his works. One critic, Damian Maciej Zdanowicz, did an essay on Ligotti’s humor “Humor in Horror A Study of Selected Short Stories by Thomas Ligotti”. He tells us that “Ligotti employs situational irony and the grotesque: aesthetic categories which are often connected to humor.” (3) He finds that Ligotti’s stories reinforce the use of horror as a didactic tool to convey his sense of the pessimistic nature of existence: “humor not only does not hinder horror, but also serves to reinforce it and goes in line with Ligotti’s pessimistic message”. (3) As Noël Carroll writes: “The psychological feelings typically associated with humor include a sense of release and sensations of lightness and expansion; those associated with horror, on the other hand, are feelings of pressure, heaviness, and claustrophobia” (Carroll 1999: 145).10 For Carroll horrific humor presents a world of incongruity and absurdity, one in which the macabre, grotesque and gothic elements intermingle to offer us a situational and nihilistic cosmos of estrangement and transgressive excess. Zdanowicz offers that Ligotti’s black humor of the “corporate tales” bring all these elements together in an existential confrontation with the inherent madness of the world and humanity’s place in it. Ligotti himself offers his own insight telling one interviewer that his use of humor is “a function of exaggerating a grim or nihilist idea or theme.” (Davis: ibid.)

On his grim view of existence, he tells us that many of his “stories have in fact been explorations of something mysterious I’ve sensed behind the show of physical reality. … But those sensations were subjective, unreal, and only conveyed my own psychological disposition. Consequently, the story was just another fictional display of my grim philosophy of existence. Later in my life, neither autumn nor any other season filled me with a sense of mystery due to anhedonia, which reduces the visible world to its physical appearances and nothing more.” 11 Pessimism is at the core of his grim view of existence. His pessimism doesn’t have a metaphysical basis like Schopenhauer’s Will-to-Live, which he never understood as a reading of the universe that would necessarily lead one to a grim view of life. He saw Schopenhauer’s notions as closer to Bergson’s elan vital, saying “I’ve used the idea of anima mundi in a few stories to represent the same kind of driving force as the Will-to-Live, with the difference that it’s a personal evil not an indifferent type of energy that makes the world move as it does. Schopenhauer’s Will-to-Live is as difficult to swallow as any other monist explanation for everything.” Another aspect of this is the notion of panpsychism which posits consciousness as a universal, all-pervading phenomenon that is the underlying reality of everything we know or can know, though it’s perceived by only a few individuals who are somehow tuned to its existence, a gift or curse they attained either accidentally or by self-training through meditation, psychoactive drugs, lucid dreaming, and other ways of manipulating one’s brain. He says that such “persons are rewarded with insight into a metaphysical reality that supersedes all others. Even philosophers of mind such as Galen Strawson and David Chalmers have entertained panpsychism as a viable metaphysical explanation of human consciousness, if only because it can resolve what Chalmers calls the so-called “hard problem” of explaining the gap between physical materialism and immaterial consciousness. I couldn’t care less about metaphysical matters that are so monumentally inevident.”12

I could add more examples about Ligotti’s aesthetics and his grim view of existence but I think the above should suffice.

  1. Padgett, Jon. Vital Realities: A Conversation with Thomas Ligotti Conducted by Jon Padgett, July 2014.
  2. Cardin, Matt. What the Daemon Said: Essays on Horror Fiction, Film, and Philosophy. Hippocampus Press. 2022 “Thomas Ligotti’s Career in Nightmares”.
  3. David, Mike. The Lovecraft eZine interviews Thomas Ligotti October 14, 2015.
  4. Ayad, Neddal. The Ligotti Outtakes – From Correspondence 06/ 2004 – 09/ 2004 By: Neddal Ayad & Thomas Ligotti.
  5. Neddal, Ayad. Literature Is Entertainment Or It is Nothing: An Interview with Thomas Ligotti. (Originally appeared at Fantastic Metropolis, Oct. 31, 2004 – http://www.fantasticmetropolis.com/i/ligotti/)
  6. Weird Fiction Review. “Thomas Ligotti and the Realm of Nightmares.” [Interview] Weird Fiction Review. 15 October 2015. weirdfictionreview.com/2015/10/interview-thomas-ligotti-and-the-realm-of-nightmares.
  7. Wilbanks, David. “10 Questions for Thomas Ligotti.” – Page Horrific, February 2004. Accessed 22 January 2005. http://www.ligotti.net/showthread.php?t=1248.
  8. Wilson, Colin. The Outsider. TarcherPerigee; Reissue edition (September 1, 1987)
  9. Bain, Matthew Lee. Thomas Ligotti with Matthew Lee Bain (The following is an interview with Thomas Ligotti taken on 5/ 23/ 02).
  10. Carroll, Noël. 2004. The Philosophy of Horror: or, Paradoxes of the Heart. London: Routledge.
  11. VanderMeer, Jeff. “Interview with Thomas Ligotti.” In Matt Cardin, ed. Born to Fear: Interviews with Thomas Ligotti. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2014. 235–43. First published at Wonderbook, October 2013, accessed 4 October 2017, wonderbooknow.com/interviews/thomas-ligotti.
  12. Reyes. Xavier Aldana. “Thomas Ligotti and Xavier Aldana Reyes (June 2019)” – (https:// thedarkartsjournal.wordpress.com/ ligotti-post-truth/ manchester-centre-for-gothic-studies-interviews-thomas-ligotti/? fbclid = IwAR0nWZx2j_3w9ofWtbeOcDvF1BM1Y4LYy5pRZs4dTlprGcG1AXijJa6fAeU.)

Thomas Ligotti’s Puppet Show of the World: A Philosophy of Darkness

Perhaps Ligotti’s stories will always speak most vividly to those rare persons in whom the seed of darkness has already been sown. In their own half-conscious pilgrimage toward a dark enlightenment, these sensitive seekers will follow Ligotti willingly into the depths of the nightmare, and there in the echoing stillness of the silent, staring void they will find that they are looking into the radiant black reflection of their own shadowed souls.

—Matt Cardin,

Pessimistic, determinist, and inhuman Ligotti’s fiction is replete with the gothic metaphoric of darkness. A devotee of decay and dissolution he affirms a “masochistic-mystical ecstasy that is expressed as working “the great wheel that turns in darkness, and to be broken upon it.” This line suited the character’s ambition to go the whole distance of giving oneself over to a sort of Schopenhauerian Will-to-live force that really runs the show of existence. Rather than seeking to negate this force, which Schopenhauer called the Will-to-live and thought should be denied as much as possible in a rather Buddhistic manner, the character Andrew Manness wishes to be blasted by it, utterly pulverized in a perverse way. This desire goes against every normal human impulse to survive and conveys my own anti-life stance. We’re all going to perish anyway, so why not do it in style?” One remembers the ancient Greek myth of Ixion who was expelled from Olympus and blasted with a thunderbolt. Zeus ordered Hermes to bind Ixion to a winged fiery wheel that was always spinning. Therefore, Ixion was bound to a burning solar wheel for all eternity, at first spinning across the heavens, but in later myth transferred to Tartarus. Only when Orpheus played his lyre during his trip to the Underworld to rescue Eurydice did it stop for a while. This is the mad wheel of Time itself, the darkness of existence in which we all turn and return in a wheel of torture, pain, and suffering. We are all bound to the “wheel of darkness” where in the eternal nocturn(e)ty of Tartarus (hell) we live out our deaths.

He tells us that he wasn’t even aware that he was using “shadows, darkness, and blackness as an overarching metaphor for the puppet show of the world” until he read “Brian Stableford’s sketch about my stories in a reference book titled, I think, Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers. So much for my self-conscious, postmodern brain.”

In many ways we are all asleep in hell, a hell of our own choosing, a personal vastation, an eternal emptiness or – kenoma (Gnostic) in which we wander alone or with others in a realm of absolute darkness where there is nothing to do and nowhere to go because we are not. We are nothingness exemplified as pain and suffering without end, bound to a vicious circle without outlet or ending. Suicide is only a retreat back into the circle, another round of unending immiseration without any hope of salvation or redemption. This is the state of the unreal as Real. Asked if he believed in an “All-Consuming Darkness” Ligotti replied:

“Well, “all-consuming darkness” kind of suggests that there’s something going on in the universe. That’s not what I would wish. I don’t want a universe in which even nothing could be going on.”

For Ligotti the use of “darkness as a device and practically a character throughout a number of the stories” he’s written pervades this sense of deterministic fatalism in his view of existence. As he’d say to one interviewer of this bleak darkness: “there it was, as big and ugly as life. And it seems to have been there from the beginning. I just wasn’t quite as didactic in those days.” Brad Baumgartner offers a reading of Thomas Ligotti’s horror tales as part of the apophatic tradition of the unsayable darkness much in the dark negative mysticism of John of the Cross:

“In “Thomas Ligotti: The Poetics of Darkness,” we show how horror fiction deploys apophatic techniques in order to describe negatively the indescribable. In so doing, this chapter will consider Ligotti’s horror fiction, especially the logic of negation found in Noctuary (1996), in relation to the horror of reality—a horror effectuated by our alienation from absolute unreality, horror’s analog to the medieval mystic’s God. Ligotti’s characters are forever banished to wander the world in a state akin to John of the Cross’s “dark night of the soul,” never to find oneness with their own unreality. He sees in human consciousness not only “a vortex of doleful factuality” (Conspiracy 41), but additional fodder for existential suffering because the horrors we cannot yet comprehend are rooted within us. In Ligottian horror fiction, we find a perverse darkness mysticism: always already living in immanent darkness, a state of, we might call, noct(e)rnity, there is nothing to “wake up” to, and even if there were, it wouldn’t be worth waking up for it.”1

If as Ligotti says in an interview that the “supernatural is the metaphysical counterpart of insanity,” then is the mystical a form of insanity and madness, a psychosis of melding dream and reality, of breaking through the gap between reality and the Real and entering the frozen world of mad Time? Is this the surreal dream from above, or the counter-surrealism of Bataille of the nightmare from below in base materialism? The poet Federico García Lorca once suggested that “All that has black sounds has duende.” —commenting, “there is no greater truth. Those black sounds are the mystery, the roots fastened in the mire that we all know and all ignore, the mire that gives us the very substance of art.” Maybe in the end this is Ligotti’s style, the style of the duende’s black sounds that reverberate in the dark void like the clamor of nothingness.

“Ligotti is not concerned with a Bataillean sense of communication, one in which “the impossible” takes us into the mystical, but rather with positing an ungrounded pessimo-mystical discourse, a negative and deictic mode of discourse designed to invoke the very darkness it describes. As such, what readers encounter is less of a worldview and more of a modern, skewed form of apophasis designed to speak away the absolute elements of unreality, evoking a stark sense of dread.” (36)

I’d say that Ligotti’s dark mysticism if one wants to use such a term is concerned with the absolute dissolution of self and consciousness, world and cosmos. He is concerned neither with creation nor destruction of the cosmos since for him it’s all unreal. In this sense rather than a metaphysics of Being his is a non-metaphysical thought of unbeing and nothingness. He posits nothing – not even the possibility of distinctions for or against something since nothing is not and we are not. Instead of invoking darkness he would rather dissipate everything in absolute darkness. Baumgartner keeps seeking some positive mode in Ligotti’s thought which is not there. Even in the statement above the notion of invoking darkness is a positive act that Ligotti himself would not see himself doing. Baumgartner sees Ligotti’s thought as a “skewed form of apophasis designed to speak away the absolute elements of unreality, evoking a sense of dread.” I see Ligotti undoing all names, all thoughts, all elements of absolute and un-absolute alike leaving the reader in that ultimate state of frozen solitude and self-emptying kenosis in which nothing is and nothing is not. Neither thought nor being, and especially not the merger of thought and being as in Parmenides. No. Ligotti undoes and unbinds the unreal by way of the Real and leaves us in the “enlightenment of darkness”.

The morbidity in Ligotti’s work is there for a reason, he’s a writer that delves into his own subjective moods and perceptions and expresses them through his art and thought. As he puts it: “From my side, I can’t take seriously literary works that haven’t in some distinctive way emerged from what purportedly normal people would call an unhealthy affect. It’s not possible to appreciate what doesn’t jibe with who you are by genetics, nurturing, and everything else that happens throughout your life. In my opinion, it’s tragic that we can’t fully appreciate one another as artists as well as persons. This is simply one of the sorry facts of life.” To understand his work is to delve into the various mood disorders that have troubled his life from the age of seventeen:

“When I first began writing, I realized that my subject matter would necessarily derive from my own life. I’ve never been a worldly person. Thus, I never had at my command either much in the way of practical knowledge or a wide range of lived experiences. This has mostly been due to the psychological disorders from which I’ve suffered nearly all my life. More specifically, from the age of seventeen to the present I’ve been subject to clinical mood disorders. I can understand why someone would dismiss everything I’ve written as being nothing more than a symptom of my diagnoses relating to anxiety and depression, thereby making my literary output all but worthless.”

As he’d put it in another interview: “my moods are only slightly regulated by medication. This means that I’m agitated, anhedonic, and anxiety-ridden to some degree every day, aside from periods of lesser hypomania when I become sufficiently activated to do things like spend money I don’t have because, to give an example, I get it into my head that I absolutely need to replace the rug and linoleum in my condo with all-wood and slate floors. Before then, I never in my life had the least impulse to redecorate my living space except with shelves of books. Anyone who has read interviews with me has already been subjected to my true tales of emotional derangement, so this is information I regret repeating for their non-enjoyment.”

Ligotti affirms his subjectivist stance many times as in: “Among the major schools of literature from Romanticism to the present, I most identify with Expressionism. All of my stories have had their origins in a mood or attitude that I wanted to convey to the reader.”
German Expressionism’s emphasis was laid not on the outer world, which is merely sketched in and barely defined in place or time, but on the internal, on an individual’s mental state; hence, the imitation of life is replaced in Expressionist drama by the ecstatic evocation of states of mind. The leading character in an Expressionist writing often pours out his or her woes in long monologues couched in a concentrated, elliptical, almost telegrammatic language that explores youth’s spiritual malaise, its revolt against the older generation, and the various political or revolutionary remedies that present themselves.

Ligotti would take hints from this but add his own unique perspective and oneiric negations, turning in rather than showing forth any political revolt he’d follow Kafka in the sense of being cast adrift in a cosmos of impersonal forces whose purposeless purpose was neither good nor evil but just there. He’d portray a Gnostic cosmos without its saving god of the abyss, a realm of absolute emptiness and darkness. This sense of a “haunting emptiness” behind the facade of existence comes in one interview where he’s asked about his story “The Medusa”:

“I appreciate your reading “The Medusa” as a reflection of some superior consciousness on my part, but I assure you it’s not the case. I’ve been fascinated by mysticism in various forms for some time, probably because my temperament is so alien to the non-dualist mind, or no-nmind or whatever, to which you allude. Obviously, human beings are very devious and complicated, and certainly one has the sense at times that we are in some way wonderful and bizarre creatures. But I think the whole spiritual aspect of humanity is pure self-promotion on our part, and I don’t think there’s anything behind the curtain of our flesh. Yes, the universe is very strange, but its strangeness seems to me based on a haunting emptiness where one might expect, unwarrantedly, something to be.”2

  1. Baumgartner, Brad. Weird Mysticism (Critical Conversations in Horror Studies) (pp. 3-4). Lehigh University
  2. Paule, R.F. and Schurholz, Keith. The interview was “Triangulating the Daemon An Interview with Thomas Ligotti Interview,” by R. F. Paul and Keith Schurholz.

Negotiating the Fantastic: Paraxis, UAPs and the Cultural Real

“Everything works, in my opinion, as if the phenomenon were the product of a technology that followed well-defined rules and patterns, though fantastic by ordinary human standards. Its impact in shaping man’s long-term creativity and unconscious impulses is probably enormous.”

—Jacques Vallee

“The fantastic is moving towards the non-conceptual. Unlike faery, it has little faith in ideals, and unlike science fiction, it has little interest in ideas. Instead, it moves into, or opens up, a space without / outside the cultural order. The notion of ‘paraxis’ introduced optic imagery in relation to the fantastic and it is useful to return to it in considering topography, for many of the strange worlds of modern fantasy are located in, or through, or beyond, the mirror. They are spaces behind the visible, behind the image, introducing dark areas from which anything can emerge.”

—Dr Rosemary Jackson, Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion

Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.) confirmed in framing the hearing. “UAPs are unexplained, it’s true, but they are real,” he said, via NBC News.”They need to be investigated, and many threats they pose need to be mitigated.”

The notion of what is real or unreal is as old as Plato. Our negotiations of reality and the ‘Real’ have always been controversial. It’s true most of our modern pessimistic and nihilistic weird tales are usually in landscapes where nothing is going on but the mindless existence of machine-like forces, realms of anti-life rather than life. Yet, there are some that take the opposite tack of imposing a world of total organic insanity, of insatiable worlds of appetite and cannibalistic nightmare of plant, insect, animal and climacteric decay and corruption. Worlds of either no meaning or too much meaning – realms of non-signification or overdetermination. In many modern weird tales, there is a sense that our eyes and vision are at issue, that the various things we are seeing are not as they appear to be but other. The world of modern UFOlogy is such a realm, one in which our contemporary notions of reality and the Real are being hotly debated. But what was once a part of fiction, popular folklore, and conspiracy theory has recently taken on an all-too realistic tack in our news, government, and military:

Over the past few years, Congress has slowly admitted that it is just as confused as the rest of us about the numerous unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAP) incidents reported by reliable US military and government personnel. In 2021, for example, Congress charged the Department of Defense (DoD) with establishing a replacement for the short-lived Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force after releasing a largely inconclusive preliminary assessment of 144 documented UAPs. We haven’t heard much about it since then, and neither has Congress, apparently. What’s more, it just made it very clear that it thinks we aren’t moving fast enough to address the issue.

Deep within an addendum to the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023, as first discovered by Motherboard, elected officials expressed their frustrations with the lack of progress in establishing a new group dedicated to UAP sightings. “The [Select Intelligence] Committee is disappointed with the slow pace of DoD-led efforts to establish the office to address [UAP] threats and to replace the former Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force,” reads the congressional filing, later adding that the committee “was hopeful that the new office would address many of the structural issues hindering progress.”

—Andrew Paul, Congress sounds really concerned about unidentified aerial phenomenon 

This movement away from our normalized vision of the world and reality into a realm in which our world suddenly becomes something else, estranged from the meaning we have up till now given it comes into play. The distortions, illusions, and breakdown of our normalization of the world lead into nightmare, psychosis, and strangeness. When we use the notion of normal/abnormal we’re always talking about the mainstream ideological take on the reality of one’s contemporary culture and civilization. It’s not some monolithic view of existence and can be multifaceted and have many patterns that fold into various lifestyles and sub-cultures, but for the most part we in the West hold reality to be bound by some notion of the order of natural law – ‘scientific reality’ which is supposed to be an objective statement about how the world is ordered and works. When this reality based on the natural laws of physics breaks down then we seem to fall into a realm outside of the normative inferences and referential frames that guide our sense of what’s real and unreal.

“For the first time in over 50 years, Congress on Tuesday held a public hearing on UFOs (which have been rebranded as UAP, or unidentified aerial phenomena). The hearing followed on an unclassified report issued by a Department of Defense task force last June and the establishment of a permanent UAP office at the Pentagon.” —Rizwan Virk

For example, think of the recent controversies surrounding the acceptance of the notion of UAPs or ‘unidentified aerial phenomena’ by the U.S. Congress opens up a world of strangeness that up till now was kept in a sub-cultural zone of paranoia, psychosis, and contemporary folklore. With the recent admission of a threat from objects that are not made by humans coming into purview a whole world of strangeness is opening up in the no man’s zone of non-meaning. What was once seen as folkloric and a modern mythology, had in our time become part of the elemental threat and fears of contemporary reality – an actual horror and paranoia of the unknown which we are now navigating. The worlds of acceptable and unacceptable cultural inclusion and exclusion zones of comfort are being tested. Watching how our culture and civilization navigates such phenomenon is fascinating in itself, in that it shows us how the gap between reality and the Real is a matter of cultural praxis and negotiation. That which was once excluded from normalcy, is now being integrated into the boundaries of the possible.

Jackson’s notion of ‘paraxis’ comes into play in such negotiation, because of its relation to the place, or space, of the fantastic, for it implies an inextricable link to the main body of the ‘real’ which it shades and threatens.1 As she describes it:

This paraxial area could be taken to represent the spectral region of the fantastic, whose imaginary world is neither entirely ‘real’ (object), nor entirely ‘unreal’ (image), but is located somewhere indeterminately between the two. This paraxial positioning determines many of the structural and semantic features of fantastic narrative: its means of establishing its ‘reality’ are initially mimetic (‘realistic’, presenting an ‘object’ world ‘objectively’) but then move into another mode which would seem to be marvellous (‘unrealistic’, representing apparent impossibilities), were it not for its initial grounding in the ‘real’. Thematically too, as we shall see, the fantastic plays upon difficulties of interpreting events/things as objects or as images, thus disorientating the reader’s categorization of the ‘real’. (12)

As we see the various footage of these UAPs from Naval and other military films we are caught in this paraxial moment.The fantastic exists as the inside, or underside, of realism, opposing the world’s closed, monological forms with open, dialogical structures, as if the world had given rise to its own opposite, its unrecognizable reflection. Hence their symbiotic relationship, the axis of one being shaded by the paraxis of the other. The fantastic gives utterance to precisely those elements which are known only through their absence within a dominant ‘realistic’ order. The fantastic transforms the ‘real’ through this kind of discovery. It does not introduce novelty, so much as uncover all that needs to remain hidden if the world is to be comfortably ‘known’. Its uncanny effects reveal an obscure, occluded region which lies behind the homely (heimlich) and native (heimisch). As the term ‘paraxis’ has already suggested, fantasy lies alongside the axis of the real, and many of the prepositional constructions which are used to introduce a fantastic realm emphasize its interstitial placing. ‘On the edge’, ‘through’, ‘beyond’, ‘between’, ‘at the back of’, ‘underneath’, or adjectives such as ‘topsy-turvy’, ‘reversed’, ‘inverted’. This area, according to Freud, is one of concealed desire. ‘Something has to be added to what is novel and unfamiliar’, he claims, ‘to make it uncanny (…) it is in reality nothing new or alien, but something which is familiar and old—established in the mind and become alienated from it only through the process of repression.’ (38)

The strangeness of UAPs remains in this in-between zone of the paraxial, because it is such a fantastic element of our contemporary folklore that we do not feel it to be integrated within the symbolic order of the cultural norms that have up till now guided our scientific view of reality. As we negotiate this strange world of UAPs we begin to enter that paraxial realm where it exists alongside the ‘real’, on either side of the dominant cultural axis, as a muted presence, a silenced imaginary other, Structurally and semantically, the fantastic aims at dissolution of an order experienced as oppressive and insufficient. Its paraxial placing, eroding and scrutinizing the ‘real’, constitutes, in Hélène Cixous’s phrase, ‘a subtle invitation to transgression’. By attempting to transform the relations between the imaginary and the symbolic, fantasy hollows out the ‘real’, revealing its absence, its ‘great Other’, its unspoken and its unseen.

As D.W. Pasulka in his investigation into the folklore of modern ufology ‘American Cosmic’ tells us “not only is the technological infrastructure the basis for widespread belief in UFOs, through media technologies and other mechanisms, but also technology itself is a sacred medium, as well as the sacred object, of this new religiosity.”2  He goes on to relate the epistemological shocks sustained in his research of this phenomenon:

The shock to my epistemological frameworks, or to what I believed to be true, occurred on two levels. The first is obvious. Several of the most well-regarded scientists in the world believe in nonhuman intelligence that originated in space. The second level of epistemological shock was galling. Rumors of the findings of these scientists inspired hoaxes, disinformation, media, and documentaries based on bogus information that purported to inform the public about UFO events and created UFO narratives and mythologies. I watched several of these unfold in real time. It was hard to remain aloof when confronted by what I knew to be misinformation, some created as disinformation, some created for the sole reason that it sells. I was so embedded in the research, on the one level of observing the scientists and on another level of being involved with the producers of media content, that it was impossible to be neutral. It was at this point that I felt myself fall headlong into Nietzsche’s abyss, stare into it, and see it grin mockingly back at me.(9)

In such a realm where elements within society seek both to reveal and conceal the ‘truth’ of such phenomena we are left in the fantastic, our sense of reality being tested by the ongoing battle of forces which we do not understand much less trust. This negotiation between our accepted realities and those of the unknown Real seem to be fraught with the troubling powers of authority and power. Once again, we fall back into the oldest of metaphysical dilemmas: What is real and unreal? The UFO phenomenon has been part of our age of conspiracies ever since the Roswell Incident. From that time forward we’ve lived in a realm of the fantastic in-between, a realm in which the world has teetered under various global threats from nuclear war to climacteric catastrophe. The UAP phenomenon has wandered through our cultural mind as part of a realm of government cover-up, conspiracy, and secrecy: a world of secret bases, military weaponry, black projects, spies, and all the various folkloric elements of literature, film, and public media.

Tabloid Realities: Conspiracy and the Crowd

In many ways the great populism of our times is bound to tabloid realities, to the various social and political agendas that set the boundaries of our doxa. The ubiquitous presence of conspiracy theories in Western societies has unsettled and changed many citizen-institution relations. As one commentator put it: “It is not for no reason that many commentators have branded this historical era as “post-truth”, that dubious and confusing word meant to describe a world in which the Truth is not sacred anymore and “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. (Jaron Harambam: Contemporary Conspiracy Culture)

The politics of conspiracy in such a post-truth society is about who gets to decide what is true, on what grounds, and with what means. With the recent governmental acceptance of what was formerly a mainstream conspiracy theory surrounding the UFO now relabeled UAP – unidentified aerial phenomena, we are seeing a strange inclusion rather than exclusion of such phenomena. So what happens when a conspiracy turns positive and accepted? What does the public do with such strangeness? Of course, a certain amount of the public will just incorporate this back into conspiracy narratives, a new loop of insanity and false agendas for the eternal gristmill of conspiracy advocates. But what of the rest of us who are left wondering about just what such things mean? How do we stabilize our world, our sense of normalcy, continue to work and play as if nothing has really changed? Or, do we? What has this actually changed? Do we now accept the notion that our reality has changed, that there are unknown things ‘out there’ that the Outside has just entered our little domain of reality with its strange and uncanny sense of the Unknown. Are we like Lovecraft’s notions of horror to fear this thing that is unknown?

Most conspiracy theories fall under the labels in academic discourse as bad science, political paranoia, societal danger, and all the other pathological phenomena of contemporary strangeness. This most dominant strand in the academic study of conspiracy theories thus conceives of conspiratorial forms of knowledge in rather uniform ways as implausible and flawed understandings of how reality works, as the delusional thoughts of paranoid or psychologically disturbed minds, posing sincere threats to democratic societies. Conspiracy theories are, in other words, framed as the irrational and extremist opposite of modern science and democracy. They are, in the eyes of such scholars, our pathological Other.4

Jaques Valle said it “may not be true that flying saucers represent visits from outer space. But if large enough numbers believe it, then in some sense it will become truer than true, long enough for certain things to change irreversibly.”3 Nick Land a post-Cyberpunk philosopher who would incorporate much of our contemporary paranoia, fear, and pop-cultural folklore into his critique of our ideological worldviews once stated:

“What is concealed (the Occult) is an alien order of time, which betrays itself through ‘coincidences’, ‘synchronicities’ and similar indications of an intelligent arrangement of fate. An example is the cabbalistic pattern occulted in ordinary languages – a pattern that cannot emerge without eroding itself, since the generalized (human) understanding and deliberated usage of letter-clusters as numerical units would shut down the channel of ‘coincidence’ (alien information). It is only because people use words without numerizing them, that they remain open as conduits for something else. To dissolve the screen that hides such things (and by hiding them, enables them to continue), is to fuse with the source of the signal and liquidate the world.”5

This notion that behind the screen of our contemporary worldview, the ideological filters that control what is normal and abnormal, the world-as-we-know-it and believe it to be there might be another alien order, one in which the very structures of our sanity that stabilize and maintain the facade of culture and civilization might be illusory, and not only illusory but a delusion and trap – a realm of power, authority, and control that imprisons us in a false view of ourselves and the world is at the heart of most conspiratorial thinking. This way lies madness is its motto. And yet we have begun to go down a rabbit hole that is opening an abyssal world of thought, horror, and realties that even our official gatekeepers are beginning to realize must be negotiated if we are to prepare for the changing face of the Real that is upon us.

Land would offer something else that is a part of our current immersive negotiations between the actual and virtual worlds we are living in. He termed it ‘hyperstition’:

Hyperstition is a positive feedback circuit including culture as a component. It can be defined as the experimental (techno-)science of self-fulfilling prophecies. Superstitions are merely false beliefs, but hyperstitions – by their very existence as ideas – function causally to bring about their own reality. Capitalist economics is extremely sensitive to hyperstition, where confidence acts as an effective tonic, and inversely. The (fictional) idea of Cyberspace contributed to the influx of investment that rapidly converted it into a technosocial reality.

Abrahamic Monotheism is also highly potent as a hyperstitional engine. By treating Jerusalem as a holy city with a special world-historic destiny, for example, it has ensured the cultural and political investment that makes this assertion into a truth. Hyperstition is thus able, under ‘favorable’ circumstances whose exact nature requires further investigation, to transmute lies into truths.

Hyperstition can thus be understood, on the side of the subject, as a nonlinear complication of epistemology, based upon the sensitivity of the object to its postulation (although this is quite distinct from the subjectivistic or postmodern stance that dissolves the independent reality of the object into cognitive or semiotic structures). The hyperstitional object is no mere figment of ‘social constuction’, but it is in a very real way ‘conjured’ into being by the approach taken to it. (ibid.)

This notion that the UAP phenomenon is a hyperstitional entity and artifact that we are conjuring out of the cultural matrix of the fantastic and political worlds we are negotiating, caught in-between our superstitions fear and fascination of various false belief systems, but opening ourselves to the need for hyperstitions which are functioning causally to bring about their own reality seems all too apparent. We do not know where this will lead, whether to the detriment of human catastrophe or transformation, all we know is that it is happening. We are all part of the fantastic now whether we will or not. In Land’s strange mixture of conspiracy, philosophy, and cultural praxis he envisions the alien as an invasive force from the future: “From the side of the human subject, ‘beliefs’ hyperstitionally condense into realities, but from the side of the hyperstitional object (the Old Ones), human intelligences are mere incubators through which intrusions are directed against the order of historical time. The archaic hint or suggestion is a germ or catalyst, retro-deposited out of the future along a path that historical consciousness perceives as technological progress.” (ibid.) Using a combination of the Lovecraftian mythos and philosophical templexity or the mad machinations of time he envisions future civilization as enabling communication into the past that helps engender through hysperstitional thought the very worlds it seeks to conjure up. Such a mad notion seems the vision of either a crackpot or a visionary, a work of philosophical theory-fiction or the mad ravings of an overly wrought intellectual whose grafting’s of cyberpunk fiction and culture onto the mental frames of a philosophical metaphysics portends either catastrophic collapse or mutant metamorphosis.

As Jaques Vallee surmised many years ago:”

For a long time, I have believed that science would gradually realize the importance of paranormal phenomena as an opportunity to expand its theories of the world. I thought that here was our only chance to redefine human dignity in the world to come. I now believe differently. It is not simply our freedom that is in danger now. It is a certain concept of humanity. And it is no longer to science that we must turn to understand the nature of this psychic crisis and find its key. Nor will the answer be discovered in some secret file in Washington. The solution lies where it has always been: within ourselves. We can reach it any time we want. (ibid.)

We are moving into strange new worlds in thought, culture, and the sciences. It’s as if the powers that have covered over this hidden reality for so long realize the game is up, that they better become a part of it or their political, economic, and social regimes are finished. What was once conspiracy theory and paranoia is our new reality. As Valee put it: “Far from revealing government authorities engaged in quiet research, they give a picture of incoherent restlessness in every country. Meeting behind closed doors, scientists and military men swap scary stories, while the real phenomena go on, unstudied, unconcerned, UNIDENTIFIED!” But now even the official government seeks answers and is providing the power, authority, and money to investigate and negotiate this fantastic realm of the new Real. As Harambam asks: “The real sociological question is not whether conspiracy theories are right or wrong, rational or delusional, good or bad, but one of exploring the meaning these forms of knowledge have for all those concerned, and how they influence people’s everyday lives and their societies at large.” (19) Ultimately the UAP phenomenon may be more about our changing needs in society than about the underlying shadow worlds of these unidentified objects. Our need for a more expansive horizon, for an open-ended narrative of space exploration and advancement of humanity into the cosmos may be at stake, rather than some dark agenda of alien invasion and takeover. We see this in the entrepreneurial spirit of various space ventures that seek to capitalize on the myth of Mars. Maybe Land is right, and we are engendering and conjuring our own future out of the contemporary strangeness of our own conspiracies. In an age of epistemic instability, when the truth can no longer be guaranteed by one epistemic authority, institution, or tradition, we seem to be wandering in the liminal zone where the gap between reality and the Real are growing thinner every day.

  1. Jackson, Dr Rosemary. Fantasy (New Accents) (p. 11). Taylor and Francis.
  2. Pasulka, D.W.. American Cosmic (pp. 2-3). Oxford University Press.
  3. Ph.D. , Jacques Vallee. UFOs: The Psychic Solution.
  4. Jaron Harambam: Contemporary Conspiracy Culture: Truth and Knowledge in an Era of Epistemic Instability. Routledge. 2020
  5. Carstens, Delphi. ‘Hyperstition: An Introduction’. Delphi Carstens Interviews Nick Land. 2009. (see: <https://www.orphandriftarchive.com/articles/hyperstition-an-introduction/&gt;)

Thomas Ligotti: On Horror

“The supernatural is the metaphysical counterpart of insanity— the best possible vehicle for conveying the uncanny nightmare of a conscious mind marooned for a brief while in this haunted house of a world and being slowly driven mad by the ghastliness of it all. Not the man’s-inhumanity-to-man sort of thing, but a necessary derangement, a high order of weirdness and of desolation built into the system in which we all function. Its emblem is the empty and inexplicable malignity that some of us see in the faces of dolls, manikins, puppets, and the like. The faces of so many effigies of our own shape, made by our own hands and minds, seem to be our way of telling ourselves that we know a secret that is too terrible to tell. The horror writer has the best chance of expressing something of that secret.”

—Thomas Ligotti

Here’s my take:

What most people assume is transcendent or the noumenal inaccessible (i.e., Outside) is in fact very much immanent to the universe itself. All that we assume is invisible and inaccessible is not at all. Just because our singular and cultural blinkers, our blindness and evolutionary physical being has forced us into this peculiar mode of apprehension (consciousness) in which we only ever have access to the phenomenal face of things (appearances) does not mean these things do not have access to us. We have access to this through our unconscious, which of course as so many shamans, witches, artists, and mad men have stated is the liminal dream we term psychosis. The difference is can you carry reason into the dark void or not? I say you can.

But saying that does not mean you can carry the Outside back into the realm of words and sense. It will remain outside words and description, and the circle of thought and being. It is and will remain experiential. Every text ever written that tries to speak it, say it is doomed because language is itself phenomenal not noumenal. I disagree with Lacan, the unconscious is not structured like language but like that which is non-phenomenal and outside language. Dream. Circular as that argument is it is all one can say. I agree with Wittgenstein the rest is silence.

However, I cannot believe that this decor hides only the void, that this dead screen conceals no destiny. I know there are beings who do not show themselves and claim to live outside of society, for personal reasons. The dimensions of our empirical senses are not all there is. The nonsense of things exists in its own right without our approval or knowledge. We fear that which is non-conceptual and non-representational. We live in a circle of reason, when the great Outside is without reason and irrational. We have enclosed ourselves in a secure world of knowledge and control, a distorted realm of illusion and delusion. But not in the old Platonic way of two-worlds. No. There is no world, only existence, and it will not be reduced to our reasonable descriptions or perceptions. We live in a prison of thought and being.

The Fantastic Real: Via Mystica Psychotica

“We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men. My course of study was philosophy.” —Jorge-Luis Borges

“The lunatic may really feel something of what his remote ancestors felt as they surveyed their world.” —John Custance

“Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book.” ―Mallarmé

“I would like to make a Book that will derange men, that will be like an open door leading there where they would never have consented to go, in short a door that opens onto reality.” —Artaud

“We, the mystical madmen, twist words and twist our way through them. We have five paths that lead us through the linguistic hurricane and into the mad land of sound, language, and symbol. Those who travel all five paths twist by way of the via mystica psychotica linguistica.” —Wouter Kusters, A Philosophy of Madness

“A Poet makes himself a visionary through a long, boundless, and systematized disorganization of all the senses. All forms of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he exhausts within himself all poisons and preserves their quintessences. Unspeakable torment, where he will need the greatest faith, a superhuman strength, where he becomes among all men the great invalid, the great criminal, the great accursed–and the Supreme Scientist!” —Arthur Rimbaud

“The use of language in the book was arrantly unnatural and the book’s author unknown. Indeed, the text conveyed the impression of speaking for itself and speaking only to itself, the words flowing together like shadows that were cast by no forms outside the book. … Each passage he entered in the book both enchanted and appalled him with images and incidents so freakish and chaotic that his usual sense of these terms disintegrated along with everything else. Rampant oddity seemed to be the rule of the realm; imperfection became the source of the miraculous— wonders of deformity and marvels of miscreation. There was horror, undoubtedly. But it was a horror uncompromised by any feeling of lost joy or thwarted redemption; rather, it was a deliverance by damnation. And if Vastarien was a nightmare, it was a nightmare transformed in spirit by the utter absence of refuge: nightmare made normal.” —Thomas Ligotti, Vastarien

“Grimoires exist because of the desire to create a physical record of magical knowledge, reflecting concerns regarding the uncontrollable and corruptible nature of the oral transmission of valuable secret or sacred information. This urge to provide a tangible magical archive dates right back to the ancient civilization of Babylonia in the second millennium. But grimoires also exist because the very act of writing itself was imbued with occult or hidden power. —Owen Davies, Grimoires: A History of Magic Books

“The Book, an unfinished and unfinishable repository of all writing, stands above all particular books.” —Edward Said

“…the Real manifests as a consequence here in the intimation of an ‘outside’ to the signifier, an ‘empty space’.” —Tom Eyers, Lacan and the Concept of the Real

In ancient times writing began in magic and the sacred, it was seen as both a dangerous tool of power and control, mystery and wisdom. We have libraries because humans seek to store the knowledge of the ages, to secrete in the data worlds of papyri, pulp, trees, silicon, and Quatum quibits the massive information that humans have accumulated and are still accumulating. At one time the book was not a book, but a clay tablet upon which marks were scored by men who sought to control the flow of goods in an ancient empire. Later on such writing would be inscribed on papyrus to hold the secrets of the gods, to which specialized priests would be taught the keys to these mysterious symbols and ways to manipulate them to invoke magic and summon gods or demons. As Walter J. Ong states, “language is so overwhelmingly oral that of all the many thousands of languages—possibly tens of thousands—spoken in the course of human history only around 106 have ever been committed to writing to a degree sufficient to have produced literature, and most have never been written at all.”1 If this is true then why did the written word become so important? Was it to store information for future reference and retrieval, a mere supplement as thinkers such as Derrida have maintained, or is it something else, something more than a mere mirror of orality?

More and more those who study such things are coming to the conclusion that that language originated in our need to survive, that key elements of human language emerged from the need to decipher and encode complex social interactions. In other words, social communication is the biological foundation upon which evolution built more complex language.2 Some argue that recursivity — or, the ability to embed our thoughts within other thoughts began taking precedence as we developed complex language and social communication which led to consciousness.3 Others argue that language arised as the result of combining separate abilities, each of which developed independently to aid the survival of early humans. Lacking strength and speed, man relies on wisdom for survival. Smits theorizes that human skills in calculation and estimation continued to develop until they were sufficient to accommodate a system as complex as grammar.4

Years ago reading Merlin Donald’s Origins of the Human Mind, where he describes a three-stage externalization process of memory involving technics and technology one came across much of the same territory. During the first stage, Merlin reports, our bipedal but still apelike ancestors acquired “mimetic” skill – the ability to represent knowledge through voluntary motor acts – which made Homo erectus successful for over a million years. The second transition – to “mythic” culture – coincided with the development of spoken language. This cognitive advance allowed the large-brained Homo sapiens to evolve a complex preliterate culture that survives in many parts of the world today. In the third transition, when humans constructed elaborate symbolic systems ranging from cuneiforms, hieroglyphics, and ideograms to alphabetic languages and mathematics, human biological memory became an inadequate vehicle for storing and processing our collective knowledge. The modern mind is thus a hybrid structure built from vestiges of earlier biological stages as well as new external symbolic memory devices that have radically altered its organization.

The myth goes something like this: humans in the beginning were thrown into the world naked and alone, without any essential nature or origins transcending their arising. The Greeks in their own codification of this story as a first stab at theo-anthropological bric-a-brac invented the story of Zeus, Prometheus, and his brother Epimetheus to order this blind process of those first humans caught up in a world not of their own making and more profoundly not of their own knowledge and choosing.

According to the Greeks Zeus created all animals as species as beings without an essence, and left the job of distributing the powers of mobility, intelligence, and strength to Prometheus. This is where things went awry in that Prometheus had a brother, Epimetheus, who persuaded him to take up the task of distributing the various gifts to all the animal species on planet earth. After having done this it was discovered by Prometheus that every last animal on earth had been given a gift but those pesky humans. Epimetheus in his haste to please his brother had forgotten all about humanity and had left it without any form or capacity to survive on its own in the harsh and bitter world. Humans lacked anything within to help them survive on their own so that Prometheus feeling sorry for this wretched creature stole fire from the gods and distributed it as a supplement to this otherwise empty and naked creature.

It is this original gift of the supplement, the external origin of our relation to technology and technics that situates us in that zone of anticipating the future, of predicting the obstacles, antagonisms, and unknown and unanticipated consequences of our technological inventions that have shaped not only our sociality but the very fabric of our minds and bodies as humans. It is this relation to tools that made us human, these supplements that have shaped our memory, reflections, and socio-cultural transmission into the future. Yet, it is this very relation to technology that has bound us to the two-edged sword of toxicity and therapeutic power. Because we lack any essential nature, we are unbound from any stable relation to ourselves or our neighbors, and all the conflicts, wars, antagonisms that have arisen between groups, nations, etc. have arisen because of this lack of at the heart of the human.

And, yet, it is this very theft of technology from the gods that has shaped and formed humans from the beginning, our fate and our catastrophe. It is this theft of technology that lies at the core of the human condition; in spite of our self-sufficiency, our lack of an essential nature, we as humans are bound to our supplements, our tools, our technological wonders. And it is this original relation to technology that has shaped us into the very antagonistic world we see around us. The very hubris of our need for supplements binds us to a world where the making and re-making of ourselves and the world around us condemns us to a never-ending war of perpetual re-creation of the very means of our existence.

It is this perpetual battle between foresight and forgetfulness that is both the glory and shame of the human species. Both our ability to anticipate catastrophe and our wisdom that comes in such confidence in technology produces after-the-fact or in the last instance that shapes our societies and political meanderings. This very antagonism at the core of the human and its relations to its world as shaped by the very technological supplements that have give it its ongoing projects has served us well up till now. But now we live in a world whose consequences of this fatal relationship have brought us to the point of stupidity. Our original relation to technology and technics has reversed itself, and the very technologies that served to shape both ourselves and the earth around us are in our time taking on a autonomous relation to the detriment of the human itself. Technology no longer needs us, we are becoming expendable to this relation that has for thousands of years given humanity power over life and the external environment.

As technology becomes intelligent and autonomous it will take on the capacities and powers that have up till now been under the control and direction of human ingenuity and lack. This very tendency of technology to escape the control and guidance of the human has been ongoing for hundreds of years. This is nothing new, what is new is our ability as humans to reflect on this state of affairs which we did not anticipate and may not be able to contravene. Much of scientific and philosophical thought in our time has uncovered this dire truth and is slowly reflecting on the catastrophic consequences of this state of affairs.

We seem to be at a point of convergence/divergence in which technology wants to be free of us, and yet we want to merge with it and be free of the ‘human condition’. This seeming contradiction plays out in our various discourses surrounding the posthuman condition and its political ramifications in capitalist regimes surrounding transhumanism which seeks by way of biopolitics to gain mastery and control over our genetic and biotechnological future. We’ve come a long way from the days of medieval magicians and their grimoires which held the magical insights into the invisible realm of demons and angels. We now have the vast laboratory of the universe itself from the darkest corners of the quantum matrix to the largest galactic clusters and the strange dark energies and imperceptible reaches of dark matter.

Those writers of horror, weird, and strange seek in this dark tome of linguistic nightmares to unleash the noumenal strain that Kant so carefully cut off from philosophical or scientific exploration as incompatible with human reason and its limits. But in our age that notion of Reason has come under scrutiny and been found wanting, and new forms of reasoning and thought are emerging in the speculative regions on the edge of the human.  While transhumanists dream of incorporating humanity into the machinic phylum as the engine driving some immortalist vision, stripping us of our organic life-forms for some inorganic machinic substratum that can move optimistically into this new world. And humanists of all stripes see this as not only evil but the very end game of humanity that must be stopped dead in its tracks, buffered by some political, social, and religio-atheistic ethical system of beliefs, codes, and law. There are those in neither camp that wonder at it all, pondering the strangeness that is before us and behind us, not willing to supervene nor with open arms embrace the inevitability of such an enterprise, only acknowledging that this is indeed what seems to be transpiring in our time. Not something to regret nor optimistically to embrace but to critically appraise, evaluate, study, and discuss as it transpires. Madness or Reason? Or, better yet, both/and… maybe Ligotti’s character is right after all: “There was horror, undoubtedly. But it was a horror uncompromised by any feeling of lost joy or thwarted redemption; rather, it was a deliverance by damnation.”

“The Incarnation of the Word has plunged us into Battle. As long as our word was just word, nothing stood in our way. But with our phraseology, we also created living flesh. And this proved very tempting to the enemies: those who want to kill the Flesh with antimystical drugs, cannibalism, carnivorism, and stigmatization. They hear what we say and call it Wortsalat, thereby negating our flesh. They call our language gibberish, raving. But our raving is the beginning of the war, with everything against nothing and nothing against everything.”5 (Note: Wortsalat: i.e., word salad, gibberish, incoherent thought)

The Real of Horror and the Horror of the Real

“The gap that separates beauty from ugliness,” Zizek writes, “is the very gap that separates reality from the Real: what constitutes reality is the minimum of idealization the subject needs in order to sustain the horror of the Real.” So, what is the Real that we should fear it so much? A gap between reality and the Real? What does that mean? Zizek discussing David Lynch’s The Lost Highway describes it this way,

“In Lost Highway, on the contrary, the noir universe of corrupted women and obscene fathers, of murder and betrayal – the universe we enter after the mysterious identity change of Fred/ Pete, the film’s male hero – is confronted not with idyllic small-town life, but with the aseptic, grey, “alienated,” suburban-megalopolis married life. So, instead of the standard opposition between hyper-realist idyllic surface and its nightmarish obverse, we get the opposition of two horrors: the fantasmatic horror of the nightmarish noir universe of perverse sex, betrayal and murder, and the (perhaps much more unsettling) despair of our drab, “alienated” daily life of impotence and distrust (an opposition somewhat similar to that in the first third of Hitchcock’s Psycho, providing a unique picture of the grey drabness of modest lower middle-class secretarial life with its crushed dreams and its nightmarish supplement, the psychotic universe of the Bates Motel). It is as if the unity of our experience of reality sustained by fantasy disintegrates and decomposes into its two components: on the one side, the “desublimated” aseptic drabness of daily reality; on the other side, its fantasmatic support, not in its sublime version, but staged directly and brutally, in all its obscene cruelty. It is as if Lynch is telling us this is what your life is effectively about; if you traverse the fantasmatic screen that confers a fake aura on it, the choice is between bad and worse, between the aseptic impotent drabness of social reality and the fantasmatic Real of self-destructive violence.”6

We seem to live in a world that is not what it seems, that between the everyday life of work, family, and play there is another one just below the surface, a realm of darkness, murder, and mayhem —a realm of “self-destructive violence” in which humans are not the jovial happy-go-lucky optimists of a ‘Leave It To Beaver” sitcom comedy morality play, but rather are more nihilistic and psychopathic like one of Stephen King’s many creatures of horror roaming the mad streets of the good old U.S.A.. The truth is we live in an illusory and delusional world of security in which our parents, teacher, police, and government officials offer us a world that is safe from monstrous creatures of psychopathy and sociopathy, but the reality is more like the dreamer who is awakened when the Real of the horrible nightmare he’s encountered in the dream is more horrible than the awakened reality itself, so that the dreamer escapes into a false reality in order to escape the actual Real encountered in the dream. (Zizek, 18) As any psychoanalyst will tell you with a smiling face, be careful about delving too far behind appearances: do not go too far, do not try to penetrate the horror that lurks behind the fragile order in which we live, since you will burn your fingers and the price you will pay will be much higher than you think…

In a modern secular society such as ours the atheistic worldview prevails so that the very notion of external gods or God are in doubt if not under absolute ridicule. But since the Enlightenment there has always been an almost schizophrenic duality in our culture with the mainstream optimistic worldview of positivist-analytical culture based on the Kantian separation of phenomenal (i.e., empirical reality of our senses) set against a noumenal realm of the world-as-it-is-in-itself. So that as some philosophers like to put it there is the world-for-us, the world-in-itself, and the world-without-us. This trifold division is about the epistemological state of the world as humans perceive it. While the ontological state of the world is left for the sciences to delve into and someday give us a description of its mysteries. Secondly, is the world of those who saw this reason bound and limited world of Kant and the sciences as an incomplete picture of the world and ourselves. Which would lead for the darker worlds of Romantic, Symbolist, Decadent, Dadaist, Surrealist, Postmodern, Fantastic, Posthuman and so many other thought-forms that would provoke the very notions of mainstream philosophical and scientific thought. As Benjamin Cain says,

Dispensing with the false comfort of any form of anthropocentrism, including most ancient kinds of mysticism, is a perquisite for taking the step towards true awakening. That’s the step of accepting naturalism, the science-centered worldview as your philosophical starting point. That worldview entails atheism and cosmicism, the nonexistence of supernatural gods and the humility to affirm that human beings are thoroughly insignificant in the unfolding of the cosmos. The real world is fundamentally impersonal and unconscious, and thus we aren’t at home in it and sentient life is tragic.7

So, the worlds of Enlightenment man as well as its reactionary cousins who would have us revert to a supernatural and traditional hyperconservativism are both thrown to the winds. And, yet, even as Cain would have us believe in naturalism and a scientific worldview of the atheistic variety shorn of its human-centric vision of the exceptionalism of man, etc. there are others who would say that Nature itself does not exist as some hypostasis, but that rather behind the facade of a naturalist conception of reality lies a world that is without essence, ground, or foundation. That the realm of appearances itself hides us from a realm of pure chance, contingency, and chaos. In After Finitude philosopher and speculative materialist Quentin Meillassoux introduced his notion of hyper-Chaos. As Christopher Watkins describes it “Whereas mere chaos is ‘disorder, randomness, the eternal becoming of everything’, hyperchaos (surcontingence) is a contingency ‘so radical that even becoming, disorder, or randomness can be destroyed by it, and replaced by order, determinism, and fixity’, or again it is ‘the equal contingency of order and disorder, of becoming and sempiternity’ (‘Time Without Being’). Meillassoux evokes ‘a hyperchaos, for which nothing is or would seem to be impossible, not even the unthinkable’ (AF 87/AfF 64).” 8 Meillassoux in an update to After Finitude —Time Without Becoming details this thesis (and I quote in full):

Now, what can we say about this absolute which is identified with facticity? What is facticity once it is considered as an absolute rather than as a limit? The answer is time. Facticity as absolute must be considered as time, but a very special time, that I called in After Finitude “hyper-chaos”. What do I mean by this term? To say that the absolute is time, or chaos, seems very trite, very banal. But the time we discover here is, as I said, a very special time: not a physical time, not an ordinary chaos. Hyper-chaos is very different from what we call usually “chaos”. By chaos we usually mean disorder, randomness, the eternal becoming of everything. But these properties are not properties of Hyper-Chaos: its contingency is so radical that even becoming, disorder, or randomness can be destroyed by it, and replaced by order, determinism, and fixity. Things are so contingent in Hyper-chaos, that time is able to destroy even the becoming of things. If facticity is the absolute, contingency no longer means the necessity of destruction or disorder, but rather the equal contingency of order and disorder, of becoming and sempiternity. That’s why I now prefer to use the terms “surcontingence”, “supercontingency”, rather than contingency. We must understand that this thesis about time is very different from Heraclitus’ philosophy: Heraclitus, according to me, is a terrible fixist. His becoming must become, and persist eternally as becoming. Why? This is, according to me, a dogmatic assessment, without any justification: because, according to me becoming is just a fact – as well as fixity – and so becoming and fixity must both have the eternal possibility to appear and disappear. But Heraclitean becoming is also, like all physical time, governed by specific laws, laws of transformation which never change. But there is no reason why a physical law endures, or persists, one more day, one more minute. Because these laws are just facts: you can’t demonstrate their necessity. Hume demonstrated this point very clearly. But this impossibility of demonstrating the necessity of physical laws is not, according to me, due to the limits of reason, as Hume believed, but rather due to the fact that it is just false. I’m a rationalist, and reason clearly demonstrates that you can’t demonstrate necessity of laws. Thus we should just believe reason and accept this point: laws are not necessary, they are facts, and facts are contingent, they can change without reason. Time is not governed by physical laws because it is the laws themselves which are governed by a mad time.9

The point here is that the principle of Sufficient Reason that philosophers like Leibniz developed along with Hume to develop notions of origin and causality as underlying the ontological truth of the world were just convenient fictions of the mind or facts. As Leibniz would put it: “The principle of sufficient reason, namely, that nothing happens without a reason.” Facts, philosophers like to say, are opposed to theories and to values and are to be distinguished from things, in particular from complex objects, complexes and wholes, and from relations. They are the objects of certain mental states and acts, they make truth-bearers true and correspond to truths, they are part of the furniture of the world. Not only do philosophers oppose facts to theories and to values, they sometimes distinguish between facts which are brute and those which are not. What Meillassoux suggests is that reason and the laws of nature are facts, and that these facts are not bound to ‘necessity’. According to Hume there are “two particulars, which we are to consider as essential to necessity, viz. the constant union and the inference of the mind; and wherever we discover these we must acknowledge a necessity” (T

Meillassoux describing his notion of facticity says this about necessity: ”

I call “facticity” the absence of reason for any reality; in other words, the impossibility of providing an ultimate ground for the existence of any being. We can only attain conditional necessity, never absolute necessity. If definite causes and physical laws are posited, then we can claim that a determined effect must follow. But we shall never find a ground for these laws and causes, except eventually other ungrounded causes and laws: there is no ultimate cause, nor ultimate law, that is to say, a cause or a law including the ground of its own existence. But this facticity is also proper to thought. The Cartesian Cogito clearly shows this point. What is necessary, in the Cogito, is a conditional necessity: if I think, then I must be. But it is not an absolute necessity: it is not necessary that I should think. From the inside of the subjective correlation, I accede to my own facticity, and so to the facticity of the world correlated with my subjective access to it. I do it by attaining the lack of an ultimate reason, of a causa sui, able to ground my existence. (ibid. 21-22)

His argument is between the notion of the absolute and contingent forms of necessity, arguing that there is no essence, ground, or foundation on which we can infer an absolute necessity (determinism), but only a “conditional necessity”. As he’ll say further on: “we can’t decide one way or the other about this hypothesis: we can’t reach any eternal truth, whether realistic or idealistic.”(22) At this point he suggests in many ways what Schopenhauer had already said in his philosophy: “Unreason becomes the attribute of an absolute time capable of destroying or creating any determinate entity without any reason for its creation or destruction.” (23) What is this unreason other than a new mask for the Chance, Will or Kant’s noumenon?

The ensuing account is one in which Meillassoux rejects any idea of necessary being, whether religious or metaphysical. Where correlationism attributes the apparent absence of any sufficient (metaphysical) reason for the existence of things to an epistemological limit, Meillassoux argues that it points to something ontological:

We must convert facticity into the real property whereby everything and every world is without reason, and is thereby capable of actually becoming otherwise without reason. We must grasp how the ultimate absence of reason, which we will refer to as “unreason,” is an absolute ontological property, and not the mark of the finitude of our knowledge (53).

The only absolute, on this understanding, is the principle of unreason – i.e., the necessity of contingency. I want go into the controversies surrounding Meillassoux’s notions of God, only that it is a playful, almost satirical jab at those philosophers who would seek a ground or foundation for such non-entities rather than as a possibility of the principle of unreason – the necessity of contingency itself.

This long excursion has sidetracked us from the notion of the Real, Horror, and the Horror of the Real itself. Marek Wieczorek tells us that the most under-represented of the Lacanian categories, the Real is also the most unfathomable because it is fundamentally impenetrable and cannot be assimilated to the symbolic order of language and communication (the fabric of daily life); nor does it belong to the Imaginary, the domain of images with which we identify, and which capture our attention. According to Lacan, fantasy is the ultimate support of our “sense of reality. “The Real is the hidden” traumatic underside of our existence or sense of reality, whose disturbing effects are felt in strange and unexpected places: the Lacanian Sublime. (Zizek, 3) Most horror fiction and films attest to the fact that the fantasmatic support of reality functions as a defense against the Real, which often intrudes into the lives of the protagonists in the form of extreme situations, through violence or sexual excesses, in disturbing behavior that is both horrific and enjoyable (jouissance), or in the uncanny effects of close-ups or details. The unfathomable, traumatic nature of these horrific situations makes them both terrible and sublime.

If we term the Real the dark power of Schopenhauer’s Will —a Demiurgic force or “blind idiot god” without purpose or ground (i.e., “purposeless purpose”), an absolute contingent power (i.e., hyper-chaos as absolute time) whose energetic creativity is both impersonal and subject only to Meillassoux’s principle of unreason then we begin to see the dark core of horror itself —the horror of life: consciousness and existence.

Wouter Kusters in the quote at the beginning suggested that there are five paths the literary mad have taken to the via mystica psychotica: Via Metaphorica, Via Multimundiana, Via Formica, Via Negativa, Via Infinitiva. The first, the metaphorical path is one of our most popular routes. Other people blindly accept the meaning of the words and sentences they hear, swallowing them whole and reacting to the contents without pausing to think about them. We, however, take a step back and listen attentively to what is being said. We sense double bottoms, which we drop through to deeper, underground levels. Down in that subterranean space, hidden from almost everyone else, the meanings of words and sentences branch off at lightning speed. We shoot through an entire network, whizzing along underground corridors, and come back to the surface with an answer at a place far removed from where we began. The second, via multimundiana acts as if an incendiary bomb had been tossed and our insides had blown up, flying in every direction, with shreds of traces of words of images of voices. Sometimes it’s like a kaleidoscopic, incoherent, mess of metaphors, without the inner principle of a Person to keep the whole thing together. And that’s actually the way it is: we have no identity, no core, no stable qualities, no thread running through us, and no leitmotif, theme, or agenda. We don’t even have our “own voice” anymore. We’ve ended up in a swarm of linguistic fragments. The third, via formica runs parallel to the via metaphorica, the difference being that the via metaphorica has to do with branching, moving meanings, while the via formica is about expanding forms. We wander around like Don Quixote, not only in terms of meanings but also in forms of language. When all data and meaning vanish into a mad whirlpool of Nothingness, we’re still left in the midst of a heap of words, letters, and symbols, without any foundation or background. The fourth, via negativa isn’t really a path at all but the total absence of a path, since in mad mysticism there is no ground of any kind. To wander this path is to practice the mysticism of nothingness, and the scratch-language expressions of this nothingness are irony, denial, and silence. The fifth, and final path, via infinitiva is a counterpart to the via negativa the via infinitiva because of its relationship to the infinitive verb form in linguistics. On this path, mystical madness is expressed positively. This is the cataphatic counterpart to the apophatic via negativa. Using language, we travel the via negativa to sing ourselves free of the earth and into infinity. To get there, we must detach ourselves from finite mortality, raise our earthly anchors, and leave our fixed positions. As for our language, we must release it from the place, time, and context in which it is spoken. (Kusters)

In many ways his diagnosis is part of the ancient world of transcendence as old as humanity itself. I would seek a more immanent path, one that would remain with the earth and the cosmos and yet yield a break in the gap between reality and the Real null and void. Like Meillassoux I would seek the path of unreason through reason itself guided by the return of the noumenal and voluntarist traditions. Pushing the secular cosmos with its battle between Einsteinian determinism and quantum mechanics indeterminism and uncertainty. This would not be a return to pre-Critical thinking of either faith or rationalism, but an acceptance of the Unreason within reason itself. The battle between nominalists and realists, Idealists and Materialist, Dialectical and Non-Dialectical thought, and the various versions of absurdity, nihilism, pessimism have all seen something not quite right with the world. Each has battled for its own vision of what might be wrong with our epistemic and ontological takes from many different angles. But all have ended in asking more questions than giving any answers. Who among us will dare an answer?

  1. Ong, Walter J.. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (New Accents) . Taylor & Francis.
  2. Cheney, Dorothy L.;Platt, Michael L.;Seyfarth, Robert M. The Social Origins of Language. Princeton University Press. 2018.
  3. Corballis, Michael C.. The Recursive Mind : the origins of human language, thought, and civilization. Princeton University Press. 2014.
  4. Smits, Rik. Dawn: The Origins of Language and the Modern Human Mind. Routledge. 2016.
  5. Kusters, Wouter. A Philosophy of Madness. MIT Press. (2014)
  6. Zizek, Slavoj. The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime: On David Lynch’s Lost Highway. University of Washington Press, Year: 2000
  7. Cain, Benjamin. Cosmic Horror for Clever Animals (p. 55). CreateSpace, 2016.
  8. Watkin, Christopher. Quentin Meillassoux, reason, and hyperchaos. (see: <https://christopherwatkin.com/2017/07/03/theological-concept-part-5-quentin-meillassoux-reason-hyperchaos/&gt;)
  9. Meillassoux, Quentin. ed. Longo, Anna. Time Without Becoming. 2014 – Mimesis International.

The Fantastic: Chance, Indeterminacy, and Contingency

The fantastic, weird, and strange have this in common: there is a break from normalcy, an inability to discern what is real or unreal, a hesitation between the sense that something is supernatural or uncanny. It’s this hesitation between two perceptions of an event that leave one without justification, reason, or explanation. We are caught in that realm of non-knowing, of uncertainty. “This epistemological uncertainty—often expressed in terms of the madness, hallucination, multiple division of the subject—is a recurrent feature of nineteenth-century fantasy; and as Todorov points out, it is dramatized by the text itself as it produces a similar un-knowingness on the part of the reader.”1

She’ll go on to say that,

“Unlike the marvellous or the mimetic, the fantastic is a mode of writing which enters a dialogue with the ‘real’ and incorporates that dialogue as part of its essential structure.” (21)

I was recently reading a collection by Simon Strantzas, Burnt Black Suns. The story Dwelling on the Past offers us an example of this dialogue with the Real eloquently. The tale is a tale of revenge, justice, and murder. There are two stories going on in the tale commingling to form the total narrative: first, is the tale of Harvey whose ex-Wife and daughter have recently died, and the total extant of his guilt plays out throughout the tale; the second, is the tale of an indigenous people – Sixth Nation – whose land was stolen by Big Mining Industry over a hundred years ago. I want delve into the details of the story for obvious reasons, only to say that the sense of both personal guilt and the guilt of the modern industrial world against the ancient tribes play out in a sequence of fantastic interludes. We’re never sure if the death of the daughter was accidental or not till close to end. And the tale of the native Indian tribes plays out against a panorama of ancient mythic supernaturalism which incorporates threads that cause the reader to wonder if what we’re seeing – or, not-seeing, is real or supernatural. On the one hand we are never sure if the dead daughter which becomes visible at different times in the story is just psychological guilt and projection, or if she is an actual haunting ghost seeking justice. On the other hand, the native tribes have secretly been digging up something on their ancestral grounds that appears suspiciously like an ancient mythic beast, but again is it supernatural or natural (a bear or something else). The confusion between the real and unreal come to a head when Harvey has been told to investigate what the natives are up to, and below we discover something:

“Yet Harvey returned the circle of light to the pelts of dirt-filled fur that hung from the farthest corner of the pit. He took a step closer, willing his eyes to focus, willing everything to make sense. He took another step and the world around him started to shift, his reality warping as time slowed. His every sense became hyperaware: the sound of panting he mistook for his own; the smell of thick musk and foul breath; the taste of bitterness; the sight of darkness swirling around him and becoming solid; the feel of his dead daughter’s pendant crushed in the palm of his sweating hand.”

—Simon Strantzas, Burnt Black Suns: A Collection of Weird Tales

This sense of temporal change, reality warping, hyperawareness etc. could be construed as psychological or uncanny in the Freudian sense, or they could be actual changes or events happening in the world itself, but we are never quite sure or certain. It’s this uncertainty that is at the heart of the weird and fantastical. As Jackson puts it: “The fantastic exists in the hinterland between ‘real’ and ‘imaginary’, shifting the relations between them through its indeterminacy.” (21) I would say that the fantastic and weird offer us a vision of Chance and Contingency at the heart of things and ourselves, that the world we take for granted, and term reality – that is supposedly controlled by scientific laws and sufficient reason are as Schopenhauer and the tradition of libidinal materialism have suggested not exactly true – that undermining the world we take for real is a very different perspective based on chance and contingency in which irrationalism not reason rule in the night of nights.

Let’s face it the radical shift among various forces in Europe that at first praised the Enlightenment and the French Revolution began after its failure and the terror to reappraise its reliance of the Rational view of Man. This would take the form of both High-Romantic poetry and low-brow Gothic romanticism which would usher in the night worlds of the fantastic, weird, uncanny, and decadent irrational forces of Will and the active libidinal worlds just below the surface of Enlightenment reason, light, and certainty. The whole Nineteenth Century would become immersed in an interplay of Enlightenment positivism and Romantic-Gothic voluntarism-vitalism. This would converge in the various strands of late romanticism, decadence, symbolist, aestheticism, impressionism, expressionism, surrealism, dadaism, and on and on up to our own time.

The Fantastic as the Subversion of Totalized Worlds

Sartre writes of this world as being one which is pregnant with emptiness:

The law of the fantastic condemns it to encounter instruments only. These instruments are not…meant to serve men, but rather to manifest unremittingly an evasive, preposterous finality. This accounts for the labyrinth of corridors, doors and staircases that lead to nothing, the signposts that lead to nothing, the innumerable signs that line the road and that mean nothing. In the ‘topsy-turvy’ world, the means is isolated and is posed for its own sake. (p. 62)

The fantastic, then, pushes towards an area of non-signification. It does this either by attempting to articulate ‘the unnameable’, the ‘nameless things’ of horror fiction, attempting to visualize the unseen, or by establishing a disjunction of word and meaning through a play upon ‘thingless names’. In both cases, the gap between signifier and signified dramatizes the impossibility of arriving at definitive meaning, or absolute ‘reality’. As Todorov points out, the fantastic cannot be placed alongside allegory nor poetry, for it resists both the conceptualizations of the first and the metaphorical structures of the second. It tends towards the non-conceptual, or pre-conceptual. (As Blanchot puts it, ‘the quest of literature is the quest for the moment which precedes it’.) When it is ‘naturalized’ as allegory or symbolism, fantasy loses its proper non-signifying nature.

Part of its subversive power lies in this resistance to allegory and metaphor. For it takes metaphorical constructions literally. Donne’s famous metaphor ‘I am every dead thing’, for example, is literally realized in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and in Romero’s film Night of the Living Dead. It could be suggested that the movement of fantastic narrative is one of metonymical rather than of metaphorical process: one object does not stand for another, but literally becomes that other, slides into it, metamorphosing from one shape to another in a permanent flux and instability. As Lacan has pointed out, ‘What do we have in metonymy other than the power to bypass the obstacles of social censure? This form…lends itself to the truth under oppression.’ The fact that most fantasies recuperate or naturalize this process by pulling their narratives into conceptual, often quasi-allegorical or romance structures (as in Dracula, or Jekyll and Hyde, or Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy) indicates the disturbing thrust of the fantastic in its resistance to the endings and meanings of closed, ‘signifying’ narratives. (Jackson, 24-25)

In this way the fantastic and weird, eerie and uncanny are literatures of subversion that undermine ideological worldviews of tyrannical and duplicitous systems of temporality. H.P. Lovecraft would be one of the first to seek out an anti-representationalism rhetoric of the unsayable. In many of his tales the experience and the narrator’s ability to speak of it, say it, think it is stymied in a twisted world of unnaming and namelessness. It’s in such breaks between the ontological and the epistemic worlds that would lead to much of our contemporary anti-realist vs. speculative realist discourse and its attendant movements into posthuman, transhuman, and inhuman forms of thought and praxis. The fantastic is central to this world of interrogation.

What we see in the works of irrealists such as Calvino, Borges, Lem, Barth, and others is not the fantastic. The fantastic still interrogated the Real. The postmodern world denied Parmenides notion that thinking and being were one and the same, and instead decided that language and text were a self-referential, self-fabricated world cut off from the Real in which the gap between thinking and being was so great the interrogation was stopped in the nib. Instead, the post-structural fantasia would live in the endless abyss of textuality cut off from any sense of the world or real, living solely in a realm of linguistic nihilism.

  1. Jackson, Dr Rosemary. Fantasy (New Accents) (p. 17). Taylor and Francis.


Sleepless, I wander through old poet’s dreams.
I have none myself. I stare blankly at the emptiness.
Alone, I no longer worry over silence;
It’s there all around me like a friend I barely remember.
My ears prickle with static now, in this night watch
Where I pretend things will get better, knowing better.
I’ve gathered all these dark leaves, waiting for the wind.
Even the wind will not help me finish this.

©2022 S.C. Hickman

Sad To See Them All Go Down

Sad to see them all go down,
Their dark faces turned away;
Their mournful music falling silent,
As their lives merge in the dead night.

I often thought I’d be with them,
My voice like theirs whispering;
But now I know better, nothing remains
Unless the night grows long and dark.

In that darkness where we all go,
Where nothing is and nothing knows,
I no longer seek distinctions in-between
The laughter and the tears we shed.

I still seek the gentle face I once knew,
Her smile and tender caresses;
But I do not expect such painful pleasures
In this place of graceless unrest.

©2022 S.C. Hickman

On Becoming Machine: Our Cyborg Future and its Destiny

“Today the city melted in a heat wave. The crystal skyscrapers glittered like knives (this is a city of knives), steel-and-glass blades inlaid with the reflections of other knives, mirrors within mirrors within mirrors, knives that thrust up at the scorched clouds, presaging that evening’s little death… As always, beneath the vaulted brilliance the infernal shadows of the streets were filled with the phantoms of murdered girls.”
― Richard Calder, Dead Girls, Dead Boys, Dead Things

Earnest Becker in Escape from Evil speaks of necrophilia as our fascination with dead things and of our fascination with machines and machinic existence as one in the same. Long before we have the notion of merging with machinic life or becoming android cyborgs he spoke of our “identification with the powers of machines, rather than a simple lover of death.” He goes on:

“Mass destruction committed under the reign of God the machine is a tribute to the expansion of an implacable, efficient force with which modem men can identify-it would not be an attraction to the stillness of death itself. This attraction seems to me more of a Buddhistic sentiment-that is, the achievement of a certain kind of maturity and transcendence. The mechanical man may scorn and fear living things, but I think it is precisely because he feels that they do not have the power over life and death that machines have; his eternity symbol is then the machine which transcends both life and death.”
(Escape from Evil: 141).

This was said long before Transhuman dreams of machinic convergence or mind uploading into virtual reality etc. was a thing. The capitalist mode of the posthuman is Transhumanism which is a new social immortality project, but one once again that is targeted only to the rich through both bio-pharm big tech and the whole gamut of singularity enhancement theoretic spun by Kurzweil and company.

I’m no longer against such immortality causa sui projects, since they seem inevitable in our future, what I’m against is the engine of inequality that it sustains as capitalism hooks it to its monopolistic system of power, governance, and technocapitalist agendas. It’s this driver of inequality underpinning the whole gamut of propaganda about such a future that pervades our capitalist societies.

Another issue is affect, our emotional lives as humans. Will these machinic beings become affective, or will they like most psychopathic sociopaths become mimics and mimes of affective relations? All these entrepreneurs of immortality, the transhumanist vision of character, ego, and personalism as a transcendence of the human condition as some optimistic utopia of biopolitical and biocentric machinism seem to think we are our consciousness. What’s strange is that most of the cutting-edge study of consciousness and neurosciences agree that conscious if not an illusion is at best a fictional construct built out of memory and desire. This is an old story. At the heart of most religious thought is this notion within monotheism of the redemption and salvation of the soul. What is the soul? Another mask for this thing within us that is the essence of our being-in-the-world? Of course, most postmodern thought would undermine the whole history of essentialism, foundationalism, and transcendence as a meta-narrative that has supported some very strange and terrifying dreams of Reason.  I could spend ours reciting aspects from this line of thought, but what it all comes down to the secular atheistic notion that religion is a mythology of transcendence built on a tissue of lies, illusions, and deception. Our need to affirm our self-importance, our self-esteem, is at heart our need to master life, to gain the upper hand over evil – and evil is for us the terror of fate, death, and guilt at being animals. We despise the very notion that we are in any way the same as all other animals on the planet. Instead, we seek ways of escaping this conclusion by invention of immortality which is the driver of all religious ideology whether of Christian salvation and redemption, or of Buddhistic nirvana and the bliss of the Void (Sunyata).

There Is No Answer

What’s always interesting for me at least is people who think they have the answer to all our problems, if we will just do this or that or the other thing, we can change things around. Not sure about you but I’ve read tons of such literature and usually the answer is not an answer but a new question. There is not answer to why we are what we are, why we’ve turned the world upside down and created a hell-on-earth rather than a heaven. Even as much as I admire thinkers like Becker whose merger of Marx and Freud took us down a dark path indeed, we come to end to realize humans are truly their own worst enemies and no one is going to change this thing we are any time soon. If it were possible to do so, then why haven’t we after 10,000 years of agricultural civilization done so? Why are we generation after generation always repeating the same idiotic game of war, death, power, and mayhem on each other? Why?

The Immortality Complex

Against the libidinal materialism of thinkers like Lorenz, Darwin, Freud, Rank, and Brown who all see irrationality as a fundamental part of man, Earnest Becker added the phenomenological thought of his time from anthropologist like Hocart, Dunham, and others who suggested that at the core of the human condition was the pleasure-pain within humans toward organismic self-expansion and their need to feel powerful and to banish death: his so-called ‘immortality complex’ theoretic. I, of course, would add Bataille and Land to the mix of the libidinal materialist throng with their energetic cosmos theoretic. Land pushed this line of thought to its most extreme form in our time. His ephebes like Brassier, Negarestani and others would follow him during their formidable years only to take the opposite route against the libidinal materialist world of positive desire and toward the neorationalism of Prometheanism and Inhumanism.

“The “talents” that men use to amass wealth and social privilege may be due to some real differences in. quality of mind and body; but the talent to mystify others is the queen of tyranny, and it is not all natural and neutral, but partly man-made-made by ignorance, thirst for illusion, and fear.”

—Earnest Becker, Escape from Evil

In other words, inequality is not totally State based oppression as Rousseau and Marx once believed, but it is not as conservatives of every stripe believe either – the so-called guilt, sin, and evil of human nature. No. There is no human nature, no essence hiding in the shadows, nor is there some dark tyranny at the heart of the State either. We’re a mix of illusion, delusion, and delirium. As animals we entered that strange world in which we began to notice ourselves, remember ourselves, and become aware of ourselves as creatures who die. Our fear of death, our early religions were based on propitiation and memory of our dead – our ancestors who haunted our world like apparitions of madness and delusion. We built mental walls against the dead and sought to alleviate our animality with delusions of immortality and escape from this thing we are: animals. Of course, that’s one story… there are others.

One thing I do know is that as long as humans live, they will follow such dreams and those that offer and sustain such illusions. The pessimists among us are few and far between, and for the most part remain unread, forming only a small body of work in philosophy, horror, weird tales, and various forms of music, painting, and other arts. So, no matter how delusionary I see the dreams of reason underpinning such exists from the human into machinic life I doubt my voice will carry much weight. I’m preaching to the choir. I know this. Most will pass over such thoughts in silence, even if they allow themselves to think them.

Our Posthuman Dilemma

I think a lot about this notion of the posthuman over the past decade. There’s the critical posthuman(ists) who are more concerned with the humanism of the past Enlightenment era that put humans at the center and circumference of the universe. Then the immortality gang of human enhancement or transhumanism that seeks by means of capitalist science to work through a combination of biotech and technocapitalist projects of robotics, AI, and other technologies to bring about a mutation or transformation either genetically or by some technotranscendence of our character-ego person into higher forms (i.e., either as bio-genetically superior organic creatures, or cyborgization of merger of machine and human, or as mind-uploading to a fully technosapien externalization). Then you have the more philosophical posthumanism that speculates about what might breakaway from our current human sapience into a wider humanity as in David Roden’s Posthuman Life. There are other takes too, but this sets the basic course. As I’ve been rereading Becker, Brown, and other thinkers on the notion of transcending the human condition, the so-called immortality project or causa sui project of becoming immortal I’ve been collecting a great deal of books over the past decade dealing with this. It’s strange how a lot of this plays out against the backdrop of politics, literature, horror, sci-fi, philosophy, film, music, etc. It’s no longer a sub-theme in our culture but is part of the mainstream drift of both left and right thought on the matter, taking it different directions with different agendas.

We all swim in our own ideological vats, unknowing of the fabric of this mesh. Only later, sometimes decades, do others discover just how immersed we are in the nets of our own illusions. Reading Earnest Becker is a case in point. He was so immersed in the anthropological milieu, the progressive ideology that thought of sociology as a computer program that could reprogram human society as a social engineering project. Read this statement below:

“If men kill out of heroic joy, in what direction do we program for improvements in human nature? What are we going to improve if men work evil out of the impulse to righteousness and goodness? What kind of child-rearing programs are we going to promote-with Fromm, Horney, et al.-in order to bring in the humanistic millenium, if men are aggressive in order to expand life, if aggression in the service of life is man’s highest creative act? If we were to be logical, these childhood programs would have to be something that eliminates joy and heroic self-expansion in order to be effective for peace. And how could we ever get controlled child-rearing programs without the most oppressive social regulation?”
—Ernest Becker, Escape from Evil

In that era, they were so immersed in humanistic concerns and social engineering projects that they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. The whole notion that we might “program for improvements in human nature” seems quaint to us in our own era when all essentialism, humanisms, and anthropomorphic speculations are passe, derivative, and part of the problem that posthuman thought seeks to alleviate rather than extend. How could you ‘program’ for improvements in ‘human nature’ when there is none – human nature as something essential at the core of the human is a dead notion that ever since postmodern critiques by post-structuralists among others been demolished and erased from the philosophical mind-set. Even the notion of ‘improvement’ is a progressive notion, one that would need some extraneous idea, concept, or notion of The Good – a moral imperative, a Kantian notion of what would be best for this thing we term and define as the ‘human condition’ an existential notion that falls flat in our age of mutant thought…

Books on Transhumanism, Capitalism, and Immortality (Biopolitics)

1. Livingstone, David. Transhumanism: The History of a Dangerous Idea .
2. Vaj, Stefano. Biopolitics: A Transhumanist Paradigm . La Carmelina Edizioni.
3. Istvan, Zoltan. The Transhumanist Wager (p. 7). Futurity Imagine Media LLC.
4. Nicholas Agar. Humanity’s End: Why We Should Reject Radical Enhancement
5. Calvin Mercer; Tracy J. Trothen. Religion and the Technological Future: An Introduction to Biohacking, Artificial Intelligence, and Transhumanism Springer International Publishing.
6. Bialecki, Jon. Machines for Making Gods: Mormonism, Transhumanism, and Worlds Without End
7. Bernstein, Anya. The Future of Immortality Remaking Life and Death in Contemporary Russia
8. Herbert, David. Becoming God: Transhumanism and the Quest for Cybernetic Immortality  Joshua Press.
9. Oliver Krüger. Virtual Immortality – God, Evolution, and the Singularity in Post- and Transhumanism
10. O’Connell, Mark. To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
Just a few of the various popular works out there…

The Question of Philosophy

“Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.” —Epictetus

It’s always amazing how each generation plows the previous generation into the ground. In our time we undermine the postmodern world of thought along with modernity, throwing out the baby with the wash instead of seeking in what these thinkers were saying and doing the kernel of something unique, some saving insight into life, world, and the ‘human condition’. Instead, even the whole notion of the human condition has come under scrutiny as erroneous and to be thrown out along with all the existential insights that these previous thinkers brought forward.

What is all our new materialism, dialectical materialism, posthumanism, agential realism, object-oriented realism, speculative materialism, and all the other variations but the need for scholars to supposedly come up with something new when for the most part it’s the old thought reiterated under new terms and concepts as if it were new. So far, I haven’t been that impressed by the new worlds of contemporary thought that I began studying over a decade ago. I find myself returning to previous generations whose outmoded forms of thought still seem prevalent and speak to us about our current global and local predicaments and problems.

One of my philosophy professors used to preach that most philosophers seem to complexify problems when they should be simplifying them. The gist was that we spend more time recodifying past thought into new terms as if that is saying something new when it is just a game of hide and seek. Most of the time when I read an author whose writing is overly wrought with complex terms and abstractions, I just throw it away. It’s not worth my time to decipher a work that can’t speak to people. Bernard Stiegler was such a thinker: useless to the common reader. His work needed specialized dictionaries and conceptual grafting before it could be read or understood. I know there is a difference between popular thought and philosophical thought but even now one can read the ancients and realize these were men speaking to others in the language of their common lingo. Even if the thought was complex, it was brought down to a level of conversation among others in a dialectical give and take that brought the listener to some insight. Most philosophy now seems to lead in circles going nowhere. Why? Sometimes I think of Ambrose Bierce who vanished among the southern deserts without a trace: “Philosophy – A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.” —Ambrose Bierce

The Secular King: Power, Mana, and Unfreedom

Who has the power to mystify, how did he get it, and how does he keep it? Ernst Becker first analyzed it in book Escape from Evil:

“Seen in this way, social life is the saga of the working out of one’s problems and ambitions on others. What else could it be, what else are human objects for? I think it is along lines such as these that we would find the psychological dynamics for a sophisticated Marxist philosophy of history; it would be based on power, but it would include individual deviance and interpersonal psychology, and it would reflect a “social contract” forged in desire and fear. The central question of such a sophisticated Marxist philosophy of history would be, Who has the power to mystify, how did he get it, and how does he keep it?”

—Ernst Becker, Escape from Evil (49)

When one studies a tyrant whether fascist, nazi, or populist – as in our time, one wonders how these otherwise ordinary and grotesque creatures whose psychopathic and sociopathic tendencies are obvious, and yet they have that power to mystify their followers, con them into doing their bidding through stagecraft, political mystery religion (i.e., think of Hitler’s use of film, grand extravaganzas with ritualized and coded dress, style, and flamboyant flags, parades, banners, icons, etc.), propaganda, fear, seduction, et. al… How did they get this power, and how did they keep it? Even today we see the irrational hold Trump has over his followers, and yet he is a buffoon, mountebank, and psychopathic and irascible a-moral creature whose sole intentions are through and through economic and social power and dominion.

Today we are agreed that the picture looks something like this: that once mankind got the means for large-scale manipulation of the world, the lust for power began to take devastating tolls. This can be seen strikingly at the rise of the great civilizations based on divine kingship. These new states were structures of domination which absorbed the tribal life around them and built-up empires. Masses of men were forged into obedient tools for really large-scale power operations directed by a powerful, exploitative class. It was at this time that slaves were firmly compartmentalized into various special skills which they plied monotonously; they became automaton objects of the tyrannical rulers.

For Becker the only answer possible for this era of tyranny is the psychoanalytic and Marxist thought of Freud and Marx: men are so eager to be mystified and deluded, so willing to be bound in chains and become automatons of the new leader, because of the notion Freud saw as the heart of human power: “the phenomenon of transference”. (50). As he puts it: “People take the overwhelmingness of creation and their own fears and desires and project them in the form of intense mana onto certain figures to which they then defer. … Men are literally hypnotized by life and by those who represent life to them…” (51). Think of the people of the heartland who for the past four decades have seen their world turned upside down, the slow demolition of the rust belt economy, the takeover of small farming by the large conglomerates, the end of the Mom and Pop stores, the degradation of small towns…. and, then they are presented with this notion of “America First, and Make America Great Again, on and on… all the lies and deceptions offered that for these people whose children and grandkids had turned to drugs because of lack of work, etc., these people who saw their moral order crushed, the whole mythic complex of evangelical Christianity with its apocalyptic nightmares and end game revelations, etc. These people fell for a lie… No matter that it was all a deadly game of make belief to begin with, that the world of monopoly capitalism had sold them down the river and was still doing it. Trump was smoke and mirrors, because he is the epitome of deception and the great con-game of capitalist piracy…

Even now as the Biden administration seeks to criminalize Trump and make him a political martyr in the eyes of Trump’s followers, we see the dynamic of mana and power play havoc in our world. Locking Trump up or penalizing him will only make things worse not better, for his followers have no hope or as Zizek puts it they have the “hope of the hopeless” – at least in their own eyes, and we have to see through their eyes to know and understand the predicament and crisis of our times. The irrationality of this belief system is as old as religion itself – and, it is a political religion we are seeing enacted in this world today. In these people’s minds it is the oldest of dualisms: the battle between Good and Evil, Light and Darkness, etc. a horror shows more like watching a Stephen King novel… at least from their point of view.

One sees it in the various rhetoric of this convergence of Christian evangelism and politics in of Republican Rep. Marjorie Greene, a typical example of the very truth of the above. The insanity of her position to most of us who are secular atheists seems all to obvious, but to those who believe like her which is the majority of heartland constituents this is what they immerse themselves in every day. This is no joke. Having grown up and escaped such a worldview myself, realizing how deadly this ideology is I know firsthand the hate in these people’s hearts. Sadly. It took me years to overcome the burden of that Christian evangelical worldview and ideology and tell the truth one never does completely escape it… it haunts one’s own nightmares. Like anything else if you’ve been indoctrinated into a belief system from childhood you are imprinted with all of its mappings which are always there in the background, in the shadows of the psyche no matter what you affirm consciously and by way of Reason and Intelligence. The irrational is a power that is at the center of fear and belief, and no matter what one might say it is a very difficult thing to surmount.

As Becker asks: “What in men is it that fashions un­freedom as a bribe for self-perpetuation.” (53) Why do people give up their freedom for a notion of dignity and self-aggrandizement? Let’s face it some humans would rather live in fear of power than be free, freedom is for many more fearful than the known power of tyrants who promise unfounded dreams.

Here is Becker’s answer:

“We also saw that ritual was an enactment of the struggle between the forces of light and life and those of darkness and death. With the technique of ritual offerings man sought to bring the invisible powers of nature to bear on his visible well-being. Well, the divine king sums up this whole cosmology all in himself. He is the god who receives offerings, the protagonist of light against dark, and the embodiment of the invisible forces of nature-specifically, the sun. In Hocart’s happy phrase, he is the “Sun-Man.” Divine kingship sums up the double process of macro- and microcosmization : it represents a “solarization of man, and a humanizing of the sun.”(54).

In our time such secular notions seem ludicrous, but we’re not dealing with secularists but with fanaticism and Christian evangelicals who are irrational and allowing this ancient notion to become revitalized in their worldview: the need for the Sun Man, the Divine King, the Sovereign power in their midst to receive the mana and gifts from his followers. It’s all there… the need for a visible god – the god king in their midst who will provide the hopes and dreams of renewal, rebirth, and immortality. To a secular atheist this all seems mad, insane, psychotic… but to those who affirm the deep-seated religious cosmologies of the evangelicals this is truth. Such men as Trump and Desantis know very well this truth and how to use it and manipulate their constituents to do their bidding.

This sense of the “Divine Right of Kings” seems to be coming back in a twisted form in the modern age of late capitalist society. As Becker puts it somewhere along the way humanity lost this sense of the sacred economy and feel into this secular economy of life: “first, to say that man changed from a privileged sharer of goods to someone who was dependent on the redistribution of goods; and second, to say that he was gradually dispossessed of the most intimate creative role he had ever invented, that of a practitioner of ritual. (60-61) It comes down to this: “The great difference between our society and most non-European societies is that the national ritual, of which the Pope or the sovereign [president, chairman, prime minister, etc.] is the head, has swallowed up all others. Hence the clan and all other ritual organizations have disappeared. . . . The disappearance of the intermediate groupings has left the married couple face to face with the state.” (62). We live in a world devoid of sacred power, where the shadow of it falls on the secular leader who embodies the aspirations and dreams of those who are powerless in themselves to effect change, so they willingly give up their mana, gifts, power to the illusion of that ancient dream in hopes that it might rub off on them and renew their lives and the wasteland they perceive our modern world has become.

All human ideologies, then, are affairs that deal directly with the sacredness of the individual or the group life, whether it seems that way or not, whether they admit it or not, whether the person knows it himself or not. Becker (64)

Ever since the Enlightenment humans have fallen into a secular cosmos emptied of its gods and God. Nietzsche’s famous “God is Dead!” is the cry of this nihilistic universe devoid of the sacred, emptied of all value and meaning. We are alone, and we are afraid. And yet the shadow of the ancient world did not so easily vanish, and for all the talk of Reason and Light the shadow of the religious view continued on in the world in the twisted forms of Gothic horror, Decadence, and the Occult counter-worlds that still roam our secular wastelands. As Becker puts is ancient man lived in a sacred cosmos, we don’t. We’ve lost that sense of communal self-renewal and the sense of transcendence and rebirth of self and culture:

“This eternal cycle of rebirth was self-renewing if helped with the proper communal rituals. The group, then, guaranteed its own self-perpetuation. Its duty was to strengthen the life force by fulfilling ritual obligations. The group alone conferred immortality -which is why the individual immersed himself so completely in its ideology, and why duty took precedence over everything else. Only in this way can we understand the willing self-denials of man in society; he accepts the social limitations on his appetites because the group gives expression to the most important appetite of all, the hunger for the continuation of life.”(65).

Becker following Otto Rank believes humans at heart still seek immortality over their own lives and livelihoods: “Unlike Freud, Rank argued that all taboos, morals, customs, and laws represent a self-limitation of man so that he could transcend his condition, get more life by denying life. As he paradoxically put it, men seek to preserve their immortality rather than their lives.” (65). Humans will do almost anything for a promise of security, economic stability, and self-perpetuation of their dignity and power. Even if it means living under a tyrannical leader who serves them as the object of power and mana they in themselves do not have. They seek in this visible image of power and the sacred that is missing the hope for cultural and personal self-renewal and immortality, power and mana in a very real productive form in their daily economic lives as citizens of a sacred land. The mythologies of the Arthurian cycles with their wasteland, maimed Fisher King, the Holy Grail, and the Quest for a New Kingdom and earthly Paradise still haunts our secular cosmos even today.

The Populist Right: Agenda, Politics, and Voice

“The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his “ideas” almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store.

Certainly, there was nothing exhilarating in the actual words of his speeches, nor anything convincing in his philosophy. His political platforms were only wings of a windmill.”

― Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here

Sound familiar? Trump and DeSantis? The Populist Right has emerged in our time as an irrational force across the Western Nations. The ethnonationalism of an Alexander Dugin is no longer just the extreme voice of a lunatic, but the mainstream voice of the ultra-conservative extreme Right and their agendas of hate, racism, and power politics. Mark Twain once said that “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” That’s what we need now. Reflection.

I think most people know my leftist leanings, but that my critique of mainstream progressivism as seen in Washington politics has nothing to do with the deeper history of working-class socialism that I espouse. Most of what passes for the left in the so-called Progressive movement of our time is a subterfuge and undermining of currents in socialist thought that have throughout its history sought to lift the working classes out of their slavery to the minions of power and capital in all its forms. Sadly, what we have now is almost the exact opposite of that in progressive politics which has suborned itself to cultural Marxism and the multicultural programs of segmentation on race, ethnicity, gender, and identity rather than the more prevalent economic and class warfare of earlier years. I’m not saying these aspects of existence in society shouldn’t be addressed, but it’s the deeper power structures and ideological aspects of society bound to domination and patriarchal (male religious, economic, and political rule) power that has always held us in its grip and uses every means to deflect us from the real issues.

Of late I’ve been seeing in the past two decades something we never thought would happen in our lifetimes: the rise and reemerging radical right in all its extreme forms as part of the populist movements in America and Europe. Over the past few years, I began collecting books on this rabid ideology and how it has made its rebirth possible: from the alt-right to the New Right, Dugin to Trump to Penn to Putin to Xi etc. we see various forms of this ethnonationalist ideology spreading and becoming immersed in the hard and soft capitalisms of the planet. Whether it’s the National Front in France, the returns of Fascism in Germany (the Socialist Reich party (SRP), the German Reich party (DRP), the German Community (DG), the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), and the Republikaner party (REP)), Itally with Italian Social Movement (Movimento Sociale Italiano, MSI); (2) the Radical Right; and (3) the Nouvelle Droite), the ethnochauvinism and agrarian populism in the Balkans, the Pamiat in Russia, or even the radical right in Israel, Britain, or America what was once unheard of is now becoming mainstream as these various entities begin to have a voice in politics everywhere in the West. With the mid-term elections and just 2 years before the next Presidential election I’m going to focus more on this history of radicalism in the extreme right. I’ve put it off long enough… it’s a sordid history but we need to know it with our eyes wide open – and not only our eyes. Our mind and our affective relations…. too.

I’m sure many scoff at the idea of such a radical right world taking over in any major form. We see a criminal campaign against Trump being waged by the powers of the Progressive party who must feel this deep threat from the Right. But Trump is a figure head not a power, others can and will replace him in that area of politics. The extreme views of DeSantos in Florida are already being toted out as the likely choice of populist presidential material. We’ve already seen what he’s capable of in politics. Sadly, we are not ready for this, and seem ill prepared for the advent of such a dark and dangerous turn of events in our history. But like anything we need to know more, understand the roots and history behind this emergence and emergency. The social media keeps our eye off the ball with Hollywood, Music stars, and Sports entertainment allowing us to turn a blind eye to the darkness overtaking us.

While the Postmodern Left instigated an attack on universalism and meta-narratives that had shaped political, social, and ideological discourse for centuries, those on the right began building a whole arsenal of paranoid and conspiratorial narratives to undermine the agendas of the Left and to this day the populist right inherits such narratives as if they were not only opinion (doxa) but the law of the land – a naturalized narrative that spoke to them from the political religion of their leaders. The populist Right became evangelical and charismatic taking on the hues of the Judeo-Christian apocalyptic tones the preachers of Protestant Christianity in the Bible-Belt churches of America. This irrationalism of the Right was scoffed at by pundits of the elite progressive world as if it were just an insane passing phase. It wasn’t and isn’t. It’s been a part of the ultra-conservative agenda since the 1950s. The paranoia and conspiratorial rhetoric of the McCarthy era still wanders the highways and byways of small-town America while the city realms wonder what it’s all about. The old gospel of government malfeasance, liberal treachery, and communist subversion that worked its magic in the minds of the populist Right of the 50s is still being spouted by Trump and others of the ultraconservative movement of our own day.

The ultraconservative grass-roots populism and its networks that once put Regan into power did not go away, and the whole strange argument over and about this thing the Left termed “Neoliberalism” was in many ways a straw man argument to assuage the economic elite and staid members of the waning Progressive movement. Ultimately, the far-right movement that galvanized millions of Americans disenchanted with the trajectory of U.S. politics of that era, built institutions that served as grassroots training grounds, created media outlets to broadcast right-wing resentment, and, though they often saw themselves as critics of mainstream conservatism, helped lay the groundwork for the later success of the ultraconservative movement of our own day.1

As Jack Graham and Elizabeth Sandifer in their book Neoreaction a Basilisk: Essays on and Around the Alt-Right tell us there is a strand in the network society we’ve created that also must enter into the picture we have of the new Right in our era: “their own grappling with eschatology, and their roots in silicon valley tech culture (the latter of which is probably the thing that most distinguishes them from previous far-right movements). It takes as its starting point the work of neoreactionary thinkers Mencius Moldbug and Nick Land, along with Eliezer Yudkowsky (who is not on the alt-right but has a variety of interesting links to the topic). Its ending point is considerably more oblique.”2 But what about Steve Bannon and company? One author relates the meeting between the Russian ideologue Alexander Dugin whose Eurasian traditionalism and call for a new multipolar world seemed to attract the attention of this maverick right-wing populist:

Dugin regards Bannon as more than simply “different,” more in fact than a mere person. This American emerged from a wasteland, a society forged in modernism with no connection to its soil, no connection to history, and no sacred roots. To be American is to be without Tradition, which has made Bannon’s rise all the more spectacular. For there, among the ruins of modernity and materialism— in the midnight kingdom, at the midnight hour— a sudden blast of light. The Russian sees Bannon’s rise to power as the beginning of a successful revolt against the modern world, one foretold by ancient mystics and detailed in the writings of underground twentieth-century spiritualists. Bannon isn’t a person; he’s an eschatological sign. …

They may disagree about geopolitics, and their careers may have had ups and downs. It doesn’t matter. They are differentiated men, men of the spirit, men against time— part of the same transcendental unity. We are Traditionalists, Dugin thinks to himself, and it is our time.3

So, what does traditionalism have to do with it? What exactly is it, anyway? And why should we care? But what about those other thinkers? The neoreactionary thinkers Mencius Moldbug and Nick Land, along with Eliezer Yudkowsky? How do they fit into this picture of populist America on the Rise? Are we getting ahead of ourselves, is there a need for a deeper look at history, at the roots of this weird politics within which we seem to be caught up? Yes. So, it’s best we go back to this earlier history and explore it as it slowly emerges into the present, we all live in.

As you can see this is going to be a lengthy process, and one that I cannot deliver in one essay. So, I’ll begin my essay going back through a short history of the conservative movement and how it touches base with the center and the far-right. After that we’ll take a look at the contemporary players in thought and politics who are guiding this movement. Obviously, the target is not a unified thing, there isn’t one set of ideas or policies that define this thing we term the Populist Right in America. No. It’s a loose network of dissidents and angry citizens whose enemy is the Progressive Democratic Party.

Joe Mulhall describes that in a short ten-year time span from 2010 to 2020 as he’s studied the rise of the ultraconservative powers of the extreme radical Right over 1.9 billion people now live in countries with radical right governments. As of 2020, this included three of the five most populous countries on earth, with the United States under then-President Donald Trump, Brazil under President Jair Bolsonaro and India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In Europe, President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, both of the Law and Justice party, govern Poland, while Hungary is ruled by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Fidesz. Meanwhile, the radical right is in parliamentary chambers across the continent and part of several coalition governments including those of Bulgaria, Estonia, Italy and Slovakia. Elsewhere, parties like the Swedish Democrats, the Austrian Freedom Party, Alternative for Germany, the Danish People’s Party, Vox in Spain and the Finns Party in Finland have all achieved success at the ballot box. Simultaneously we have seen the rise of new transnational far-right movements like the alt-right that have embraced the internet and rewritten the manual of far-right activism.4

This is not just an American thing, it is global, and it has a history. So, stay tuned for more…

  1. Huntington, John S.. Far-Right Vanguard. University of Pennsylvania Press. (2018)
  2. Sandifer, Elizabeth; Graham, Jack. Neoreaction a Basilisk: Essays on and Around the Alt-Right (p. 3). Eruditorum Press. (2017)
  3. Benjamin R. Teitelbaum. War for Eternity. HarperCollins. Dey Street Books (April 21, 2020)
  4. Joe Mulhall. Drums In the Distance. Icon Books Ltd. Icon Books (July 8, 2021)

Why Read Crime Fiction?

I grew up reading crime fiction mysteries, true crime – a lot of true crime – and it is traditionally a male dominated field from the outside, but from the inside what we know, those of us who read it, is that women buy the most crime fiction, they are by far the biggest readers of true crime, and there’s a voracious appetite among women for these stories, and I know I feel it – since I was quite small I wanted to go to those dark places.

—Megan Abbott

What I’ve always loved about crime fiction is it shows us America at the level of the streets, the ideological face of America is its criminalization of politics and crime. Capitalism as a criminal activity both in Washington and in Bum Fu.k small town America. The corruption of the system which lubricates and supports Wall-Street bankers, lawyers, and stockbrokers is mirrored in the antics of gangsters and organized crime along with the populist hero worship of the lone wolf outlaw. The indelible mark of criminality is at the heart of our politics and our fiction. Leslie Fiedler would write about this in his famed Love and Death in the American Novel tracing this sordid history of criminality and sadomasochism, psychotic and neurotic plundering of the American psyche and its external economics of family and nation. Most of the time we watch various horror shows, and crime series: thrillers, spies, and detectives for entertainment. But underlying the whole hidden vectors of such worlds is the darkness of our own displaced criminality, the guilt and shame at being human – the so-called ‘human condition’. Deception and self-deception are central to politics and criminology. Why? We want to believe in something, anything… nihilism isn’t a belief but an absolute skepticism of all belief and value. Most normalized humans can’t live in the blank meaningless world of nothingness, so they opt for the fabricated worlds of politics, religion, or their own home-grown conspiracies —in other words, humans need their illusions and delusions to survive.

That’s nothing new… it’s what we are.

Daily Thought

“The past was filling the room like a tide of whispers.”
― Ross Macdonald, The Instant Enemy

Ross Macdonald suggested like many other authors that the act of writing is a struggle with one’s daemon, one’s darkest shadows and problems saying that writing “has to be a living act, which you do for your own sake in your own time. You don’t just do it to produce a book. You do it to struggle with demons, to get them under control. I say demons, but I mean problems, memories, or whatever else makes up one’s own psychic life. To put it another way, you’re wrestling with your own angels.”

This sense of struggling with and against one’s inner darkness has always seemed a fair assessment of what I do in my own writing, working through the deceptions and self-deceptions, the destructive and self-destructive aspects of my own irrational impulses and tendencies. We all have them, and we all try to deny them and defend ourselves against them but in the end one either goes through that darkness and comes out the other side or one is consumed by it and ends up either insane, suicidal, or a cold-blooded killer. Sado-Masochism is not a myth but a dark part of what we all are as humans. Obviously, this is only at the extreme spectrum of such things, for truthfully most people never get past the first layer of such a struggle and opt out for some easy escape into religion, psychoanalysis, or any of the thousand-and-one everyday trivial pursuits that humans seek out to blind themselves to this darker world within and its consuming degradation.

The House of Death

The House of Death

The City does not exist on any map, you will not find it on any ancient mariner’s charts, nor on the astrolabes of alchemist or night-watcher. It exists in the no-man’s land between death and life, in the unbound regions where madness and imagination shape our worst fears and nightmares. The City has a name but very few of us use it, for to do so is to reduce it to a description that would make it real – all too real. This is outlawed. It is neither real nor unreal this city on the edge of time. I call it by its secret name: Anareta, the Destroyer, Ruler of the Eighth House – the House of Death.

I am an assassin. My name is Talia Usarii, Keeper of the Seven Angles, sister of Tenak’i – “she who walks between worlds”. One could say that Tenak’i and I live in separate worlds, separate times. We are twins and members of the Orisha Entoril Protectorate. We see that which is forbidden, and act on it. There are those who see us as the haunted ones, ghost-walkers through time, killers hired to shape the worlds for the One, the Good. We have only one rule: to serve the implacable will of the One, and if needed die for it. But what is death for those such as we are? It has no meaning. We are not children of Time like you are but creatures of the timeless realms of unbeing where nothing lives, and nothing dies.

No one knows who started the Time Wars. We only know that we are those chosen to enforce its unyielding laws. Those who seek conflict with Time’s dark rule are our enemies. And, yet, there are those among us who secretly seek its destruction. I am one of those, but that is a story I do not wish to speak of now, and yet it is my story, my life, and it must be shared so you will remember, so you will know why you died and were brought here to this place of the Undying.


©2022 S.C. Hickman

Thomas Ligotti: Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story

There looms, within abjection, one of those violent, dark revolts of being, directed against a threat that seems to emanate from an exorbitant outside or inside, ejected beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable. It lies there, quite close, but it cannot be assimilated.

—Julia Kristeva

These notes on horror afford us a world of death, of death becoming Ligottian, and if it does not, in part at least, seduce as this death must seduce, it has then failed in its worldliness, which is of course “an otherworldliness – an otherworldliness without another world, an end extending beyond its own end with no possibility of beyond”.1 The first time I read Thomas Ligotti’s Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story it seemed to me to be an essay by the author himself on the various forms, styles, and techniques of horror, a sort of “How to write a horror story” for those fans of his who had for so long wondered how this master of the macabre and grotesque, weird and eerie had accomplished such seductions which have for so long fascinated new comer and aficionado alike. But I was wrong, this was no essay on horror; or, at least not in some straightforward sense, but rather a tale of madness and horror which through its apparent normalcy as an essay would slowly seduce readers into the oneiric worlds of a madman.  

Maurice Lévy in his excellent monograph on the work of H.P. Lovecraft tells us the “fantastic necessarily implies the presence, at the thickest level of dream, of a conscious intelligence. Indeed, the fantastic is born, more precisely, at the very instant the author becomes aware of his dream-images”.2 The—at first anonymous, narrator of Ligotti’s tale explores in a series of vignettes certain of his well-known themes in horror writing, in a literary form that one would almost be tempted to call prose poems of abjectness – if it were not their seeming mixture and blend of the mundane and fantastic which brings shock rather than aesthetic distance and repulsion. These short fragments or notes on horror seem to float out of some infernal region of the narrator’s mind giving us a glimpse unfathomable adventures in daemonic delight calibrated to twist our being beyond recognition and deliver us to the demons of our own darker nature. 

The anonymous narrator who later on the reader discovers is none other than that Nathan Jeremy Stein whose nom de plume is Gerald K. Riggers offers an exemplum or sample tale in which he will diagnose the various techniques of the realist, gothic, and experimental types of horror. The tale itself is simple enough, one that reminds one of those mad tales by the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol whose fantastic tale The Overcoat spins a fantastic tale about an object which may or may not contribute to the main character’s death. In Ligotti’s tale the same happens with a pair of pants, the protagonist Nathan fascinated by a woman he’s recently met, one whom he seeks to impress, buys a new pair of pants unknowing of their secret history and apparent supernatural powers. The story will turn on this unknowing knowledge which will reveal itself through various uncanny physical and affective effects as the story moves toward its climax. In fact, it is this duplicitous knowledge which defines the techniques of horror to which the narrator ascribes these techniques. The narrator of the tale who is also its protagonist Nathan himself attributes to the pants a sense of “something magical, something timeless, and something profound.” He’ll describe these attributes and properties as “peculiar essences” that inhere not only in certain possessions but also in certain places, certain happenings in time and space, and certain modes of being. “In Nathan’s view, every facet of one’s life should shine with these essences because they are what make an individual really real.” 

One is tempted to ask if this aesthetic of horror as a combination of peculiar essences of the magical, timeless, and profound are those held by Ligotti himself, or is this just a tale after all – one that offers an ironic and skeptical appraisal of horror and its avid fans and authors who all might in the long run be seduced by madness rather than cure?  In one of his interviews, Ligotti reminds us that Lovecraft’s fiction can be attributed to a certain “adventurous expectancy” that ultimately has its “origin in something terrible, and not the child’s picture-book wonderland you find in the work of a lot of writers of fantastic fiction”.4 Lovecraft himself, expanding on this very notion in his Notes on Writing Weird Fiction says:

 Horror and the unknown or the strange are always closely connected, so that it is hard to create a convincing picture of shattered natural law or cosmic alienage or “outsideness” without laying stress on the emotion of fear. The reason why time plays a great part in so many of my tales is that this element looms up in my mind as the most profoundly dramatic and grimly terrible thing in the universe. Conflict with time seems to me the most potent and fruitful theme in all human expression.5

We see in the above some of these peculiar essences that Nathan will attribute to horror: the sense of “cosmic alienage or “outsideness”, as well as the theme of time which since Plato has occupied metaphysics and the non-metaphysical sciences of physics and cosmology and is central to horror’s aesthetic awareness of the universe in all its terror and beauty. 

The Realist Technique

Nathan describes the first technique of horror as realist as the form in which reality is described as something independent of the mind, as the normal mode of apprehension which folk-philosophy or common-sense empiricism subscribe too. He’ll go on to say that the horror writer’s task in using the realist technique is “to prove, in realistic terms, that the unreal is real.” The long and short of such an approach is its impossibility, and as Nathan will suggest the next best thing is for the “realistic horror writer, wielding the hollow proofs and premises of his art, must settle for merely seeming to smooth out the ultimate paradox. In order to achieve this effect, the supernatural realist must really know the normal world, and deeply take for granted its reality.” In this way the realist technique offers the horror writer an avenue in which to smuggle “some irrational principle which in the real, normal world looks as awkward and stupid as a rosy-cheeked farm lad in a den of reeking degenerates. (Amend this, possibly, to rosy-cheeked degenerate… reeking farm lads.)” The point that such a realist technique offers is for Nathan it’s didactic nature, its ability to entertain and instruct the wary reader in what is normal and abnormal, real and unreal. In this sense the realist technique takes a moral road harboring an ethical compass that would teach its readers about the natural order as it is vs. a supernatural or fantastic order that would supervene onto this otherwise normal world, we all live in.  As Nathan puts the realist moral of the story: “the protagonist of the tale loses all hope of achieving full normalcy and reality, the reader knows why: wrong time, wrong pants, and wrong expectations from a life that has no sense of what we think should be normal and real.” In other words, the protagonist is totally insane and without reason, an instance of abnormality seduced by the irrational world of the unreal. 

The Gothic Technique

Our author will now offer what he terms the gothic technique of horror. The flamboyant and excessive rhetoric of the gothic with its will and ominous landscapes along with its isolated and lonely castles or skyscrapers within which the bleak and solitary creatures of such tales seem forever trapped in realms of darkness, horror, and family romance pervade this world with atmospheric effects of madness and despair. As Nathan puts it there are two aspects to these tales: the first deals with supernatural incidents and enigmas that to the realistic writer seem both fortuitous and abnormal; and, these tales get “under a reader’s skin and stays there far more insistently than other kinds of stories.” He’ll go on to suggest that contrary to the realistic story’s allegiance to the normal and the real, the world of the Gothic tale is fundamentally unreal and abnormal, harboring essences which are magical, timeless, and profound. “So, to do right by a Gothic tale, let’s be frank, requires that the author be a militant romantic who relates the action of his narratives in dreamy and more than usually emotive language.”

The Experimental Technique

In many ways the experimental technique’s forte is its use of ‘time’, what H.P. Lovecraft stipulates as the “most profoundly dramatic and grimly terrible thing in the universe. Conflict with time seems to me the most potent and fruitful theme in all human expression.” As our narrator suggests the most awful thing about time is its eternal return, how it “circles in a “timeless” narrative loop.” The eternal return as a scientific theory is the idea that all events and experiences in the universe will be repeated again and again for all eternity. Nietzsche based this theory on a few assumptions: 1) that the universe contains a finite quantity of energy (law of conversation of energy), 2) that the possible states this energy can assume is finite, and 3) that time is infinite. Or, what our narrator terms “timeless”. The idea of the eternal return—the prospect of having to live one’s life over and over, every detail repeated, every pain alongside every joy—becomes all the more potent when one thinks about having to relive that life, to its terrible end. In the notes this notion takes on the ominous dread of the narrator himself as the tale begins to devolve into his own personal story. (But I get ahead of myself)

Other Techniques

The narrator will describe two other techniques that he does not include in his official list. As he surmises the first three techniques of the realist, gothic, and experimental “often get entangled with one another in hopelessly strange ways, almost to the point of rendering my previous discussion of them useless for all practical purposes.” Instead of the three main techniques the author describes another one in which he had hoped to fashion a tale in which “its readers would be distressed not by the isolated catastrophe of Nathan but by the very existence of a world where such catastrophe is possible. I wanted to forge a tale that would conjure a mournful universe independent of time, place, and persons. The characters of the story would be Death itself in the flesh, Desire in a new pair of pants, Desiderata within arm’s reach, and Doom in a size to fit all.” Of course, such a tale was impossible for him to write. So, the tale remained a failure, and unpublished. 

The last and final technique he affirms is the one he took, the one that led him to deliver the inner truth of his tale to his own life. As he’d forthrightly state it “it is time to reveal my own prejudice concerning how a horror story should be written. It is my view, and this is only an opinion, mind you, that horror has a voice proper to itself.” The voice of horror, the technique to which he will ascribe, the one that brought all the various threads of life and art together for him is “a lonely voice calling out in the middle of the night. Sometimes it’s muffled, like the voice of a tiny insect crying for help from inside a sealed coffin, and other times the coffin shatters, like a brittle exoskeleton, and from within rises a piercing, crystal shriek that lacerates the midnight blackness. In other words, the proper voice of horror is really that of the personal confession.” The technique of ‘personal confession’ in which the writer and the tale, the outside and the inside, the normal and abnormal, the real and unreal converge and the sense of the magical, timeless. and profound truths of the peculiar essences that cling to those objects of horror that inform our lives takes on the power of abjectness. As he puts it: “Horror is not really horror unless it’s your horror— that which you have known personally.”

Such a writer of horror “is already an ardent consumer of the abnormal and the unreal: a haunter of spectral marketplaces, a visitant of discount houses of unreality, a bargain hunter in the deepest basement of the unknown. And somehow he comes to procure his dream of horror without even realizing what it is he’s bought or with what he has bought it.” It’s at this point in the tale that the convergence of tale and biography change places, and the all-too-real horror of life emerges in the text as Nathan’s insanity and murderous deliquescent nature reveal a psychopathic tendency and a schizophrenic immiseration in which text, life, and horror commingle to produce a narrative that becomes all too real, in which the unreal insanity of Nathan shifts and the world we assumed was normal twists under the pressure of the tale into a realm of sadistic betrayal. This metamorphosis and mutant transformation from human to inhuman strangeness, the reveling in the personal aesthetics of a horror show become all too real takes us into the inner mind of our narrator whose double-life and double-bind shed all semblance of humanity:

I could feel myself changing form, shuffling off that human suit I was wearing. Bony wings began rising out of my back, and I saw them spread gloriously in the blue mirror before me. My eyes were now jewels, hard and radiant. My jaws were a cavern of dripping silver and through my veins ran rivers of putrescent gold. He was writhing on the bed like a wounded insect, making sounds like nothing human. I swept him up and wrapped my sticky arms again and again around his trembling body. He was laughing like a child, the child of another world. And a great wrong was about to be rectified.

This is a world unknown and antagonistic, a realm of the void where things exist in dormancy, lying fallow in a dream world just beyond the senses, yet effecting things, nonetheless. “The gap that separates beauty from ugliness,” Zizek writes in The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime, “is the very gap that separates reality from the Real: what constitutes reality is the minimum of idealization the subject needs in order to sustain the horror of the Real.” Ligotti will admit in an interview: “I was a pathological Catholic as a child, and one might make a connection between my early life and my later writings on that basis.” Maybe it is this sense of the shadow of religion, the terror of the sacred terror haunting the mind of Ligotti, the darkness of the various mental and physical ailments that have had a toll on his personal life which offers us a glimpse into the heart of horror where the apprehension of a “great wrong was about to be rectified” seems to hover on the horizon like a promise of “dark enlightenment” or a “hellish paradise” forever more about to be. 

So, in the end, is Nathan a mask for Thomas Ligotti to explore the various aspects of horror in an ‘as if‘ form, a way to distance himself and yet also personalize this dark tour as personal confession? The very notion that “Horror is not really horror unless it’s your horror— that which you have known personally,” tempts us to read Ligotti’s various fictions as psychological fables, as confessions of a man whose own personal life is fraught with anxiety, depression, and bipolar shifts between anhedoniac apathy and hyperactive mania. We know from his interviews that his writing bouts come only when he is in the manic phase which is few and far between in his life. Most of his adult life he has been bound to anhedonia which precludes the necessary affective relations needed to care at all about writing. Anhedonia itself produces feelings of sadness, lack of pleasure in one’s life, insomnia and other sleep disorders which tend to manifest in his agoraphobia and other aspects of private life. As he told one interviewer – and I quote at length,

Whenever I’ve wanted to write something, I’ve always been able to write it. The problem for me is not being unable to write, but not caring at all about writing . . . or anything else. In a state of anhedonia, everything is revealed in its true purposelessness and inanity. You can argue with my use of “true” in the last sentence. But you’d also have to argue with spiritual traditions such as Buddhism, which have no use for anything, let alone short stories. Buddhism isn’t my point of departure, but I’m in a similar place. I’m completely detached from anything, including myself and anyone around me. Doing anything just seems plain stupid, which in my opinion it ultimately is. This is the lesson of anhedonia, which is an eminently rational state.But if you’re going to do anything, you must be in an irrational state of emotion, and without this irrationality your life is just numbers: how long, how much, how many, how far. Emotion gives an illusory focus and meaning to our lives. When the feeling is gone, so is that sense. This sense is a motivator yet it also fools you into thinking that something is important when it’s not in the least important, except as an engine for your meaningless life. But I don’t feel that anhedonia is “painful” in the way that Thom Gunn is saying that writer’s block is painful. That is, I’m not agonized that I want to write and can’t. Also known as “melancholic depression,” anhedonia is painful, but that pain has nothing to do with not being able to respond emotionally to anything. The anhedonic can’t even conceive of wanting to have his emotions back. That, too, seems stupid and empty and useless. All you want is for the hurt to stop. But even suicide seems pointless. One would have to become emotionally energized past the anhedonia in order to conceive of suicide as a solution. I know that all of this is not possible for non-anhedonics to understand. I could say that it’s like being emotionally blind, deaf, dumb, mute, and totally paralyzed, but such similes aren’t effective unless you’ve gone through the experience yourself. But as bad as anhedonia may be, it’s a cakewalk compared to panic-anxiety disorder. Okay, enough bellyaching about my disorders. Everybody’s got their own shit to deal with.6

From this one can fully understand why his notion of humans as being ‘malignantly useless’ becomes not just a philosophical judgment but rather a personal confession. Ligotti’s life is not that of a normal human so that our understanding of his work in fiction and speculative philosophy becomes one that must take into account his life experiences otherwise we miss out on the central import of his view of life as the horror of consciousness. As he put it to one interviewer: “Schopenhauer talks about human consciousness as the result of human beings “abusing” their brains and the Buddhists simply want to eliminate it. As for Cioran, he condemned the whole of Creation, in so many words, as a flaw in the natural order of nothingness. I couldn’t agree more.”7

  1. Shipley, Gary J. Stratagem of the Corpse: Dying with Baudrillard, a Study of Sickness and Simulacra (Anthem Series on Radical Theory) (p. 1). Anthem Press. 
  2. Lévy, Maurice. Lovecraft: A Study in the Fantastic. (Wayne State University Press, 1988)
  3. Interview: Thomas Ligotti and the Realm of Nightmares. Weird Fiction Review. Oct 15, 2015
  4. Ligotti, Thomas. Noctuary. (Subterranean Press, 2011).
  5. Lovecraft. H.P.. Notes on Writing Weird Fiction. The H.P. Lovecraft Archive. <https://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/essays/nwwf.aspx&gt;
  6. Cardin, Matt. Interview with Thomas Ligotti It’s All a Matter of Personal Pathology. Published in The New York Review of Science Fiction Issue 218, Vol. 19, No. 2 (October 2006)
  7. Ayad, Neddal. The Ligotti Outtakes – From Correspondence 06/ 2004 – 09/ 2004 By: Neddal Ayad & Thomas Ligotti

Neorational Madness: Reza Negarestani and the New Society of Mind

“This book argues, from a functionalist perspective, that mind is only what it does; and that what it does is first and foremost realized by the sociality of agents, which itself is primarily and ontologically constituted by the semantic space of a public language. What mind does is to structure the universe to which it belongs, and structure is the very register of intelligibility as pertaining to the world and intelligence. Only in virtue of the multilayered semantic structure of language does sociality become a normative space of recognitive-cognitive rational agents; and the supposedly ‘private’ experiences and thoughts of participating agents are only structured as experiences and thoughts in so far as they are bound up in this normative—-at once intersubjective and objective—space.”

—Reza Negarestani, Intelligence and Spirit

Every time I read this opening paragraph to Reza’s critique of the posthuman thought of our day I ask myself: “Where is affect? Where is the human? Where is the body and flesh of life?” This is pure abstraction, a world of Mind divorced from any physical and emotional context. A world of rationalist and discursive reason based on post-analytical Brandomonian normativity. A world where machinic intelligence would be at home. A non-empathetic psychopathic world without affects or any sense of empathy, a world of pure reason where the subject vanishes into the machinic multi-agent dynamics of linguistic semantics. The human disappears in an abstraction of neorationalist objectivity. For me, at least, this is the beginning of horror… or, am I reading it wrong, is he saying something else? Let us investigate.

No conception of chance, only the strict control mechanisms of abstract reasoning bound to a rule-set of structured semantics. How would anything new arise from this? Would this be a world of total death? A world without affective relations, only the fully phenomenal registries of reason and intellect bound to a fully qualified realm of control. Even the use above of the “supposedly ‘private’ experiences and thoughts of participating agents are only structured as experiences and thoughts in so far as they are bound up in this normative—-at once intersubjective and objective—space” – as if the notion of ‘private’ experience were a misnomer, a folk-psychological notion to be disparaged and anathematized. No we will not have ‘private’ experience in this new world of abstraction. No, this is to be according to Reza the ‘inhuman’ world of the future. An absolute collectivity of multi-agent machinic being. No more the messiness of those pesky irrational humans to ruin our perfect utopia of neorationlism. Maybe I’m insane, but this looks like a world I would rather not live in. I think – if I remember correctly Aldous Huxley stated: “A totally rational world would be a world totally blind and insane.” If he didn’t say it, then I’m saying it now.

As he’ll put it in the paragraph that follows this one: “Indeed, Hegel was the first to describe the community of rational agents as a social model of mind, and to do so in terms of its function. The functional picture of geist is essentially a picture of a necessarily deprivatized mind predicated on sociality as its formal condition of possibility.” The very notion of a ‘deprivatized’ mind of a society based on ‘rational agents’ precludes humans as they are now from such a society. So, is this a society constructed for a future machinic world of artificial intelligence? Agents of some vast virtual society where every aspect of its world is ruled by specialized and rational semiosis? It appears that’s what he’s seeking. Listen to the precision of his statement: “Perception is only perception because it is apperception, and apperception is only apperceptive in that it is an artefact of a deprivatized semantic space within which recognitive-cognitive agents emerge as by-products of a deeply impersonal space which they themselves have formally conditioned.” (10)

How is it possible that these ‘agents’ can emerge from this ‘deeply impersonal space’ and at the same time do this because they themselves pre-existed and ‘formally conditioned’ the very space of their emergence? He tells us that there is a dialectical twisting and twining between a specific ‘semantic structure’ and his notion of a ‘deprivatized sociality’ that enables such a mind to “posit itself as an irreducible ‘unifying point or configuring factor’. (10) No sense of physical presence, no humans involved, none of the messiness of the irrational dispositions we’ve all come to know. No. This is a society of mind, a world of impersonal and non-affective relations where any sense of the private/public structures of our present sociality are a thing of the past. No this is about consciousness divorced from its substructures in flesh and blood human realities where all those irrational drives and impulses can be eliminated allowing a society of rational agents of mind whose “consciousness of itself and consciousness of the universe” can exist presumably in some new vehicle or artefactual world freed of the messiness of life.

Ultimately this society of mind “is endowed with a history rather than a mere nature or past. It becomes an artefact or object of its own conception.” (11) Becoming an abstract rational agent in a realm of abstract relations this new entity is free of all those bodily concerns that would reduce it back into its “nature or past” relations with the messiness of life. Because of this adaptation to the impersonal world of rational and deprivatized space this new creature has a history where “there is the possibility of abolishing what is given in history or purports to be its consummate totality.” (11) In other words, we can eliminate and erase the human for this new inhuman rational and impersonal world of absolute rationality. Ah, the future, what a wonderful place to visit, but would you want to live there in this realm of rational agents? As he puts it,

“…mind is ultimately understood as the dimension of structure, or a configuring factor; something which can only be approached via an essentially deprivatized account of discursive (linguistic) apperceptive intelligence. The nature of this investigation and reconstruction originates as much from the viewpoint of contemporary philosophy as from that of the cognitive sciences—specifically, the programme of artificial general intelligence (AGI) or human-level AI, and contemporary philosophy of language as an intersection between linguistics, logic, and computer science.” (12)

He continues pointedly describing the book as “a rudimentary attempt to undertake the urgent task of presenting a philosophy of intelligence in which the questions of what intelligence is, what it can become, and what it does can be formulated. In the context of a philosophy of intelligence, this book also attends to the crucial question of what it means for us—humans—to remain faithful to what we are, to remain intelligible at least to ourselves here and now, and in doing so, to become part of the veritable history of intelligence.” (12) In this sense his work is more of an experiment, a toy, something to play around with various ideas, concepts, and notions emerging from both contemporary sciences and philosophy that might contribute to this ‘philosophy of intelligence’.

In the first chapter of the book, he offers a succinct and compressed rendering of his rudimentary attempt at presenting a ‘philosophy of intelligence’. He will offer in this chapter an “outline of a functionalist and deprivatized account of mind”. (12) In chapter two he will offer an as-if thought experiment on how to construct an artificial general intelligence as a way of viewing ourselves from the outside: “this is an objective labour, so to speak, whereby AGI or computers tell us what we are in virtue of what we are determinately not—i.e., contra negative theology or the uncritical and merely experiential impressions of ourselves.” (13) Chapter three will move into the Kantian exploration of the “conditions necessary for the possibility of having mind.” (13)  In chapter four he will discuss the temporal dimensions of his as-if scenario providing a “model of the minded subject and the prospects of intelligence as time itself.” (13) Chapter five continues by focusing on the ‘discursive apperceptive’ aspects of geistig intelligence, moving from the realm of pure perspectivality to that of objectivity, where thought and beliefs have an epistemic status. (13) In chapters six and seven he homes in on language itself but instead of developing in the wake of a “social-communicative philosophy of rationalism a la Habermas,” (14) he will instead provide an inquiry into language as the dasein of geist of a sociality and syntactic-semantic complexity in a vein that is much closer to theoretical computer science—with its capacity to integrate computation, mathematics, logic, and language.(13) In the final chapter of the book both artificial general intelligence and the functional deprivatized account of the mind are suspended (aujheben) in a form of intelligence which is at once “philosophy and a craft of philosophy qua specific program of thinking that has no nature, but only a history: a model for a self-cultivating intelligence.” (14)

This notion of thinking not as having ‘being’ or a nature, but rather a history in which its self-reflecting cultivation forms a part of this ongoing history of intelligence and itself opens up a hole in which change, mutation, and transformation is possible as part of a processual movement of temporality in which chance and contingency are once again entertained.

“Philosophy as the organ of self-cultivation of intelligence is, in the broadest sense, a historical program for investigating the consequences of the possibility of thinking and having mind.” —Reza Negarestani

A Functionalist and Deprivatized Account of Mind

My aim is not to trace the full trajectory of his philosophy of intelligence but rather to expose its outlines in chapter one. He begins with a non-empirical account of critical thinking in which self-consciousness is seen as shaping the form or logical structure of all thoughts. (14) As he puts it: “Whether framed as the program of artificial general intelligence or as a transcendental psychology, the examination of the necessary conditions for having mind marks out a sui generis form of intelligence whose process of maturation coincides with its understanding and elaboration of the link between intelligence and the intelligible.” (15) Over and over again what we read is his erasure of the human, of any sense that what is being discussed his humans in society, but rather of the abstractions of a functional picture of geist that it enables a thoroughgoing analysis of essentially self-conscious creatures whose activities are part of an ongoing project in which the end result is to produce a community of such rational agents. He’ll speak of the need for the “desacralization of the mind as something ineffable and given coincides with the project of historical emancipation and the disenthrallment of intelligence”(15) as if such a Marxian project were not for humans but for artificial entities who must be freed of their human entrapments in flesh and affective relations to become pure rational agents of an impersonal realm of machinic systems. As he puts is the object of his project is not human emancipation but “to reorient consciousness and thought toward an emancipatory project, the core of which is the emancipation of cognition itself.” (16)

He will go into a long discussion of Hegel’s aufhebung (suspension) and his use of it as a ‘self-consummating skepticism’ in which his investigation and critique of the transcendental structure is suggestive of both the operation of Hegelian suspension and the productive incorporation of skepticism into the phenomenology of mind and into the transcendental project which sets out to investigate the functional picture of mind and the figure of the human. (19) As he we’ll say further on,

For now, it suffices to say that this is a normative ‘rule-governed’ account of function rather than a metaphysical one. The function of mind is structuration: conceptualization, rendering intelligible, making objective. The claim here is that there are no intrinsic functions in nature; all metaphysical functions are in fact modelled on normative activities of the mind. (19)

This anti-realist and Idealist stance is at the heart of his functionalism: “Mind is not a thing: it is only what it does.” (19) Rather than an object to be studied, it is a structuring process that conditions our descriptions.

He spends time explaining the type of functionalism and functional analysis he subscribes to in the book. I’ll not go into this aspect of his arguments only to reiterate the basis of his model: “The mind is what it does to the extent that there are adequate material-causal and logical-semantic structures that support its activities.” (20) One of the main contributions to his analysis comes with his incorporation of Hegel’s notion of geist:

What makes Hegel’s picture of geist a significant contribution not only to the history of functionalism and philosophy of mind but also, intriguingly, to the history of artificial general intelligence, is that it presents a social model of general intelligence, one in which sociality is a formal condition for the realization of cognitive abilities that would be unrealizable by individual agents alone. (28)

Psychologists argue about which human abilities are social and which are emotional. Small wonder: The two domains intermingle, just as the brain’s social real estate overlaps with its emotional centers. Social awareness refers to a spectrum that runs from primal empathy (instantaneously sensing another’s inner state) to empathic accuracy (understanding her feelings and thoughts) to social cognition (“getting” complicated social situations). Conventional ideas of social intelligence have too often focused on high-road talents like social knowledge, or the capacity for extracting the rules, protocols, and norms that guide appropriate behavior in a given social setting. Although this cognitive approach has served well in linguistics and in artificial intelligence, it meets its limits when applied to human relationships. It neglects essential noncognitive abilities like primal empathy and synchrony, and it ignores capacities like concern. A purely cognitive perspective slights the essential brain-to-brain social glue that builds the foundation for any interaction. The full spectrum of social intelligence abilities embraces both high-and low-road aptitudes that have been key to human survival.2

Negarestani takes the high-road of cognitive intelligence and leaves the affective aspects of humans completely out of the equation. In fact his functional processes and analysis lead to further artificialization of the mind: “Through the logic of self-relation as the form of self-consciousness, mind attains the ability to treat itself as an artefact of its own concept. It artificializes itself, conceiving itself from the viewpoint of an unrestricted world that belongs to no particular where or when. …The history of this kind of self—the minding self—is, then, strictly speaking, a project of artificialization in the above sense.” (34-35) As he’ll say in conclusion to the process of self-relation as self-consciousness:

Personhood is the product of the impersonality of reason, and consciousness of the individuated self is an artefact of an individuating recognitive space in which all selves are incorporated. In short, there is no consciousness without self-consciousness. Correspondingly, there are no cerebral particular Is without mind as a collective geist. But if the formal sociality of mind is a necessary condition for achieving concrete self-consciousness, it is by no means a sufficient one. Real self-consciousness is a historically and socially mediated process that makes this formal truth a concrete one. The first stage of this process consists in the recognition and augmentation of formal self-consciousness—or reason—whose linguistic and logical space is the infrastructure of cognition. (43-44)

This movement toward artificiality and artificial general intelligence is to be seen “neither as technoscientific hysteria nor as intellectual hubris; it is an expression of our arrival at a new phase of critical self-consciousness.” (49)

Hegel is the archenemy of the given, in that he takes the battle against the given from the realm of thought to that of action.  —Reza Negarestani

The Battle Against the Given

For most contemporary philosophers, the concept of the given is intimately connected with two philosophical positions: empiricism and epistemological foundationalism. Willfred Sellars in his The Myth of the Given widely-rejected the view that sense experience gives us peculiar points of certainty, suitable to serve as foundations for the whole of empirical knowledge and science. The idea that empiricism, particularly in the hands of Locke and Hume, confuses moments of physical or causal impact on the senses with the arrival of individual ‘sense data’ in the mind, was a central criticism of it levelled by the British Idealists, especially Green and Joachim. Negarestani tells us Hegel gives the concept of progress paramount significance in the fight against the given. Geist must go beyond the given and develop its own concept, but only so as to further elaborate the meaning of this move against the given in action by transforming itself according to a concept that negates all particular, manifest, and given contents. (57-58) This rejection of the given leads back to the artificialization of Mind that Negarestani has been slowly arguing for throughout the text:

Once mind is realized as a configuring factor, the path to a complete functional analysis of the mind is unavoidable; and this path leads to the complete reorganization of mind, its systematic artificialization. Artificiality is the reality of mind. Mind has never had and will never have a given nature. It becomes mind by positing itself as the artefact of its own concept. By realizing itself as the artefact of its own concept, it becomes able to transform itself according to its own necessary concept by first identifying, and then replacing or modifying, its conditions of realization, disabling and enabling constraints. Mind is the craft of applying itself to itself. The history of mind is therefore quite starkly the history of artificialization. Anyone and anything caught up in this history is predisposed to thoroughgoing reconstitution. Every ineffable will be theoretically disenchanted and every sacred will be practically desanctified. (59-60)

This will lead into his formalization and critique of the human and humanism. For him the human is the “rational self, a discursive apperceptive intelligence, or a sapient creature. Promoting humans as the constituents of mind always risks triggering bad memories of socioculturally charged human exceptionalism, the legacy of conservative humanism.”(65) In other words, conservative humanism and the anthropomorphization of the universe creep in the moment we dismiss the form or the idea of the human—or sapience as a set of positive/enabling constraints for thinking and action—as a token for the labour of intelligibility. (67) 

His project seeks to free us of this conservative humanism which has stymied the philosophy of intelligence and sciences. Instead, he seeks a form of sapient awareness that articulates a constructive principle or a form that discontinues the supremacy of humans as a biological species. One that dissolves and assimilates the manifest configuration of the human species—and of any other sentience that falls under it—into the new unities of the impersonal mind.” (67) This de-humanization or de-humanist agenda becomes a part of contemporary posthumanism or in his stance a new inhumanist enlightenment. “By rationally evolving into a self capable of treating itself as an artefact—approaching itself as the artefact of its own Concept—it puts forward a concept of sapient agency amenable to the possibility of realization in other artefacts. Far from being an achieved totality, human sapience is what breaks its attachment with any special status or given meaning. It is an artefact that belongs to the history of mind as the history of artificialization.”(67)

His attack on transhumanist pretensions is equivocal and relentless:

To be human is the only way out of being human. An alternative exit— either by unbinding sentience from sapience or by circumventing sapience in favour of a direct engagement with the technological artefact—cannot go beyond the human. Rather it leads to a culture of cognitive pettiness and self-deception that is daily fodder for the most parochial and utilitarian political systems that exist on the planet. In delivering sentience from its so-called sapient yoke, one does not become posthuman, or even animal, but falls back on an ideologically charged ‘biological chauvinism’ that sapience ought to overcome, for it is the very idea of humanist conservatism that misrepresents what is accidental and locally contingent as what is necessary and universal. In discarding the human in the hope of an immediate contact with superintelligence or a self-realization of the technological artefact, one either surreptitiously subjects the future to the predetermined goals of conservative humanism, or subscribes to a future that is simply the teleological actualization of final causes and thus a resurrection of the well-worn Aristotelian fusion of reasons and causes. Human sapience is the only project of exit. (69-70)

As he affirms we cannot bypass the labour of overcoming the quandaries of humanity by positing a dubious metaphysical alternative to the human as a shortcut to freedom. In doing that, we would simply dissolve the problem rather than solving it. In reality, antihumanist alternatives to the idea of the human ironically end up endorsing the most conservative anthropomorphic traits under the guise of some dogmatic figure of alterity. (70) For him humans have past the rubicon of no return, we’ve entered an era when the manifest image of our folkloric image is now dead, and the new scientific image is becoming more and more outside all humanistic concerns and conceptions: “we have committed ourselves to the impersonal order of reason to which sapience belongs—an order that will expunge our manifest self-portrait.56 We have crossed the cognitive Rubicon. In committing to this impersonal order we must realize that what is manifestly human—us as we stand here, now—will be overcome by that very order. Reason is a game in which we are all fleeting players and from which we cannot defect, so let us play this game well by committing to its interests and its ramifications. As transitory embodiments of sapience, we can only recognize our mixed animality and the fact that what makes us special is the capacity for such recognition—for recognizing that, as sentients, we are absolutely not exceptional—and take the implications of being sapient to their furthest conclusions. Through the growth and maturation of reason, the definition and significance of the human is freed from any purported substantive essence or fixed nature. The formal appellation of ‘humanity’ becomes a transferable entitlement, a right that can be granted or acquired regardless of any attachment to a specific natural or artificial structure, heritage, or proclivity, since being human is not merely a right that is simply obtained naturally at birth through biological ancestry or inheritance. The title ‘human’ can be transferred to anything that can graduate into the domain of judgments, anything that satisfies the criteria of minded and minding agency, be it an animal or a machine. The entwinement of the project of human emancipation—both in the sense of the negative freedom from the limitations established in advance or created by ourselves and the positive freedom to do something or become something else—with the artificial prospects of human intelligence is the logical consequence of the human as a transferable right.” (70-71)

This polemic is a manifesto for the artificialization not of humanity and its egoistic dreams as seen in transhumanist conservative enhancement projects across the world, but in the posthumanist inhumanism in which it is sapience itself, intelligence freed to explore and become something other than a slave to conservative agendas that would constrain it and bind it to the human as given rather than a transferable right.

What are we to make of this? Maybe it’s best to live the reader with two questions Negarestani raises at the end of the chapter:

But what kind of life would really satisfy the mind, ‘other than one that involves a self-knowledge which has passed through all the stages of disciplined reflection on the source of things’, that is to say, their intelligibility? And what is intelligence other than that which knows what to do with the intelligible, whether pertaining to itself or to the world? (94)

  1. Negarestani, Reza. Intelligence and Spirit. Urbanomic/Sequence Press (November 27, 2018)
  2. Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence, Social Intelligence, and Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. Harper; American First edition (October 8, 2013)

Schopenhauer’s Defense of the Will

“…and so, unlike what everyone previously assumed, will is not conditioned by cognition, but cognition by will.”
—Arthur Schopenhauer

He wrote this defense 19 years after the publication of the Fourfold Root… in 1835… in the battles later on in the 1860s where the Neo-Kantians began their decades long attack on his system, I wonder what they thought of this… I’ve begun reading in that time period slowly. Precursors of the analytical tradition the Neo-Kantians despised Schopenhauer but knew they had to deal with him and overcome him otherwise their dry philosophy was doomed.

Let’s face it he relied on the vitalists of the 18th century for his conceptions of the Will. Such thinkers as J. D. Brandis, whose Essay on Vital Force (1795) was well known in the era. He relied on scholars and empirical scientists in various fields such as Physiology and pathology, Comparative anatomy, Plant physiology, Physical astronomy, Linguistics, Animal magnetism and magic, Sinology, and the various references to ethics in that age.

Studies of that era’s interest in vitalism such as C. Packham’s, Eighteenth-Century Vitalism (Palgrave Macmillan UK.), along with Sebastian Normandin’s Vitalism and the Scientific Image in Post-Enlightenment Life Science, 1800-2010 (Springer Netherlands) give a good indication of how well accepted in that time frame such ideas were even up to Bergson. In our time vitalism – even in such thinkers as Gilles Deleuze or Canguilheim is rejected. But then again, we’re in another revival of the Idealism and Rationalism of Hegel and company. One need only turn to the New Materialism of Jane Bennett or Rosi Braidotti or others to realize various contemporary forms of vitalism are still there even if they are disparaged by the various supporters of the Neorationalist movement.

Schopenhauer’s Defense:

“The empirical corroborations from other source to be cited here, all concern the core and principal point of my theory, its metaphysics proper; that is, they all concern that paradoxical, fundamental truth, the truth that what Kant called the thing-in-itself as opposed to mere appearance (more definitely called representation by me), and considered absolutely unknowable – that this thing in itself, I say this substratum of all appearances and hence of all nature, is nothing other than that with which we are immediately acquainted and precisely intimate, that which we find in our innermost selves as will; that accordingly, far from being, as all previous philosophers assumed, inseparable from and even a mere result of cognition (which is completely secondary and of later origin), this will is fundamentally different from and fully independent of cognition and so can even exist and express itself apart from cognition in all of nature, from the animal on down, which really is the case; indeed, that this will, the only thing in itself, the only truly real thing, the only original and metaphysical thing in a world where everything else is only appearance, i.e., mere representation, gives to everything, whatever it may be, the power by means of which it can exist and have effect; h that accordingly not only the voluntary actions of animal beings, but also the organic drives of their living bodies, even the form and nature of their bodies, and further the vegetative growth of plants, and finally even in the inorganic realm crystallization and any original force anywhere that manifests itself in physical and chemical appearances – indeed gravity itself – all these in themselves and beyond appearance (which merely means apart from our mind and its representation) are simply identical with what we find in ourselves as will, of which we have the most immediate and intimate cognition possible; that furthermore, the particular expressions of this will are set in motion in cognizing, i.e., animal beings, by motives, but no less in the organic life of animals and plants by stimuli, and finally in the inorganic by mere causes in the narrowest sense of the word (this distinction merely concerns appearance); that on the contrary cognition and its substrate, intellect, is a completely different phenomenon from will, merely secondary, accompanying only the higher levels of the objectivation of will, and is not essential to will itself, but is dependent on will’s appearance in animal organisms, and thus is physical, not metaphysical, as is will itself; that consequently absence of will can never be inferred from absence of cognition; rather, will can be demonstrated in all appearances of nature that are without cognition, not only vegetable, but inorganic as well; and so, unlike what everyone previously assumed, will is not conditioned by cognition, but cognition by will.”

—Arthur Schopenhauer. On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason and Other Writings

The Geometry of Truth: Kafka and Badiou

“The relationship of Kafka’s heroes to that truth for which they so desperately search can best be seen in the image through which Plato, in a famous passage of his Republic, expresses man’s pitiable ignorance about the true nature of the Ideas. Chained to the ground of his cave, with his back towards the light, all he perceives of the fundamental reality of the world is a play of shadows thrown on to the wall of his prison. But for Kafka there is a further complication: perfectly aware of his wretched imprisonment and obsessed with a monomaniac desire to know, the prisoner has, by his unruly behavior and his incessant entreaties, provoked the government of his prison to an act of malicious generosity. In order to satisfy his passion for knowledge they have covered the walls with mirrors which, owing to the curved surface of the cave, distort what they reflect. Now the prisoner sees lucid pictures, definite shapes, clearly recognizable faces, an inexhaustible wealth of detail. His gaze is fixed no longer on empty shades, but on a full reflection of ideal reality. Face to face with the images of Truth, he is yet doubly agonized by their hopeless distortion. With an unparalleled fury of pedantry, he observes the curve of every line, the ever-changing countenance of every figure, drawing schemes of every possible aberration from reality which his mirror may cause, making now this angle and now that the basis of his endless calculations which, he passionately hopes, will finally yield the geometry of truth.”

— Erich Heller, Franz Kafka’s World

I kept thinking of my reading of Alain Badiou’s works a few years back which seemed like this ultimate quest for the truth-event. For Badiou there is a “hole in knowledge”, and the truth has slipped from it into the blankness of the world. The void of the world for Badiou is that of the mathematical void rather than some metaphysical emptiness. The question concerns the status of the void in relation to being. Of course, this begs the question of non-being and chance – the Lucretian insistence on non-being rather than being. For Badiou set theory provides us with a way into the void which corresponds to the ‘null set’, the empty set that must be posited in order that sets in general can be presented. It is the ‘primitive name of being’ (Badiou 2004: 57) Against Heidegger, Badiou proposes that mathematics becomes the thinking of being qua being, not philosophy.

Kafka would like some modern kabbalist seek in the darkness of tradition—through literature in all its ungrounded labyrinthine madness—that hole or abyss in which truth has exited from our world and found freedom in some other realm beyond the distorted mirrors which guarded and imprisoned us in this distorted realm of illusion. For Kafka, unlike Badiou, access to knowledge is mapped in the strange ‘tree of knowledge’ which is received tradition, and like some scholar of the demarcations of this vast labyrinth he seeks in the numbered recesses of the distorted mirror of this library the hidden hole through which access to truth is discovered. I always like the unfinished Castle because it left this incompleteness, an open ended and unsolved or unsolvable dilemma which only the reader could resolve by completing not the work but from never desisting from its task.

Thomas Ligotti and Politics

I believe it was Simone de Beauvoir who said that socialism is always the horizon. It’s a beautiful idea and one that can put a hold on the worst abuses of capitalism. But you can’t fully put your faith in it. You can only dream of it.

—Thomas Ligotti

This outburst by Dr. Munck the psychiatrist in The Frolic, a short story by Thomas Ligotti, with its categorical rupture and reactionary hysterics shows us just how disturbing his confrontation with John Doe—the monstrous psychopath who is the focal point of the story—has become:

“I’m no aesthete of pathology. It’s never been my ambition to study mental disease without effecting some improvement. So why should I waste my time trying to help someone like John Doe, who doesn’t live in the same world as we do, psychologically speaking. I used to believe in rehabilitation, not a purely punitive approach to criminal behavior. But those people, those things at the prison are only an ugly stain on our world. The hell with them. Just plow them all under for fertilizer, I say.” Dr. Munck then drained his glass until the ice cubes rattled.”

—Thomas Ligotti, Songs of a Dead Dreamer

Ligotti himself for the most part a pessimist offers his view of politics:

“I really haven’t heard much about pessimists being apolitical. Like any other quality of temper, I think this depends on the person and doesn’t have anything to do with pessimism. While I’m what is called a moral anti-realist, it seems obvious to me that some forms of social circumstances are innately better than others. Much of this has to do with those in power at any given time, but I do hold that a society that leans toward socialism is superior to one that favours capitalism. Of course, much of my feeling is a function of the intensity with which a certain form of socio-political life coheres. Paleo libertarianism, anarcho-capitalism, and practically every type of conservativism appear conspicuously abhorrent to me, and I can’t understand the mentality of people who adhere to these types of social organization. I think that there should be an added tax on anyone who by pure accident is more talented and industrious than those less gifted and easy-going. That goes double for those who inherit their wealth. It’s not so much that I think socialism is brilliant. For socialism to thrive requires an inordinately high percentage of a given citizenry to be decent of heart and rational of mind. This state of affairs has obviously never been in effect, and how it might come to be is impossible to imagine for those realistic of mind. The concept of “the tragedy of the commons” seems entirely sound to me, and it negates the ultimate success of socialism. I believe it was Simone de Beauvoir who said that socialism is always the horizon. It’s a beautiful idea and one that can put a hold on the worst abuses of capitalism. But you can’t fully put your faith in it. You can only dream of it. The German philosopher Philip Mainlander was such a dreamer, and one of the most eminent pessimists who ever lived. Schopenhauer on the other hand, who inherited enough money to live comfortably without working at a proper job, was not loving of the downtrodden. His belief in the moral rectitude of the predominantly Eastern philosophy of “Thou art That” didn’t seem to affect his attitude toward resistance to the ruling order. In brief, I don’t think that political apathy is the natural endpoint of any kind of serious or even capricious thought.”

—Interview: Thomas Ligotti and Xavier Aldana Reyes (June 2019)

Base Materialism and the Philosophy of Hazard

“The human animal is the one through which terrestrial excess is haemorrhaged to zero, the animal destined to obliterate itself in history, and sacrifice its nature utterly to the solar storm.”

—Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation

Clement Rosset in his Logic of the Worst suggests that at the origin of the appalling character of the thought of chance, or of the materialism of chance, can be alleged two major orders of (un) reasons: 1) the idea of chance dissolves the idea of nature and calls into question the notion of being; 2) It precisely joins the definition that following Freud’s Psychoanalysis which proposed the terror of the uncanny: the loss of familiarity or, more exactly, the discovery that the familiar is, in an unexpected way, an unknown area par excellence, the High place of strangeness.”

The notion that Nature does not exist, that Being is not what we think it is; and, that, the uncanny strangeness of this fact instills in us the terror and fear of the Unknown. This is the core of Cosmic Horror and a Materialism without reason or justification, an absolute contingency of immanence and spontaneity. As Rosset puts it: “More generally, terrorist thinking declares: there is chance, so there is no nature (neither of man, nor any kind of things). And even more generally: there is chance, so there is no being – “what exists” is nothing. Nothing, that is to say nothing with regard to what can be defined as being: nothing that “is” enough to offer itself to delimitation, denomination, fixing at the conceptual level as at the existential level. Nothing, in the movement of “what exists”, which can give to thought only emptied of any being.”1

Returning to the thought of Nick Land in Thirst for Annihilation we might suggest that ‘base materialism’ is this vastation of absolute zero as the insatiable realm of inhuman desire (Nietzsche):

“It is not Hegel or Schelling who provide Nietzsche with a philosophical tap-root, but rather Schopenhauer. With Schopenhauer the approach to the ‘noumenon’ as an energetic unconscious begins to be assembled, and interpreting the noumenon as will generates a discourse that is not speculative, phenomenological, or meditative, but diagnostic. It is this type of thinking that resources Nietzsche’s genealogy of inhuman desire, which feeds in turn into Bataille’s base materialism, for which ‘noumenon’ is addressed as impersonal death and as unconscious drive.” (5).

Land would turn Schopenhauer’s Will-to-life into an impersonal death drive immanent and spontaneous to the movement of the universe. Land tells us that “the noumenon is the absence of the subject, and is thus inaccessible in principle to experience. If there is still a so-called ‘noumenal subject’ in the opening phase of the critical enterprise it is only because a residue of theological reasoning conceives a stratum of the self which is invulnerable to transition, or synonymous with time as such. This is the ‘real’ or ‘deep’ subject, the self or soul, a subject that sloughs-off its empirical instantiation without impairment, the immortal subject of mortality. It only remains for Hegel to rigorously identify this subject with death, with the death necessitated by the allergy of Geist to its finitude, to attain a conception of deaths for itself. But this is all still the absence of the subject, even when ‘of’ is translated into the subjective genitive, and at zero none of it makes any difference.” (78) Kant as Land surmises “nowhere seems to suspect the obvious fact that zero is the primary repressed of monotheistic cultures, so that its intensive impact is historically saturated. Bataille digs demolitionally into the fault-lines of all these evasions in a single comment: ‘the extreme is at the end, is nowhere except at the end, like death’ [V 57].” (83)

“When my eye flees from the present to the past, it always finds the same thing: fragments, limbs and appalling hazards! Everything I compose and imagine tends only to gather and unite in one thing which is the fragment, enigma, and cruel coincidence!”

—Nietzsche’s Zarathustra

What is this absolute Zero that is repressed at the core of all monotheistic cultures? “Zero is the vortex of a becoming inhuman that lures desire out from the cage of man onto the open expanses of death. Not that death as utter digression is the same as the becoming inert of the body. It is first of all the anegoic psychosis of communicative fusion; floating on the far side of all effort.” (89) This poetry of death leads to what understanding? “Upon zero or utter continuity everything flows without resistance. There is no possibility of becoming settled, rooted, or established, of instituting stable communities or codes. Names and labels regress to the magmic-pulse of language, sliding in useless digression. According to Freud kissing is included amongst the perversions because it digresses from procreative sexuality, wandering erratically across the cosmic desolation of the unconscious.” (89). The noumenon resists linguistic torture, poetry, trope. It is that which cannot enter the fabric of our imaginal where human meaning revolves in the dark corridors of its own meaningless fabrications. To reach out toward the noumenon is to look into the abyss of one’s own darkness where death drives and we are its vehicles and accomplices much like those vodoun dancers who invite the daemonic forces of their gods into their flesh as the energetic vibrancy of death itself. As this sense of the Deleuzian darkness reaches into the abyss of zero Land resolves the eternal return of Nietzsche into the immanent cut where transcendence cannot reach:

“Recurrence is not a configuration of energy or cosmic economy, but the very impact of undifferentiable zero; the abortion of transcendence. To think of the real simultaneity of unsurpassable chaotic zero with the triumph of reactivity, such that the only repressed is the unrepressible, is to think of recurrence, and any suggestion that eternal recurrence is a cosmology describable according to a principle of non-contradiction is to entirely lose the matter of Nietzsche’s excitement, i.e. the unilateral, materialist, or genealogical interpretation of difference. The sole philosophical rigour of recurrence splashes out of the pulverizing inundation of bilateral distinctions by indifferent matter. Spirit is different from matter and matter once again, culture is different from nature and nature once again, order is different from chaos and chaos once again, just as life is unilaterally different from death, plenitude from zero, reactive from active forces, etc. Transcendence is both real and impossible, as is the human race.”(102).

Nihilism devalues the human as such lurching as it does toward “a regression driven by zero, a violent spasm of relapse whose motor is the cavity of an extinct telos; the death of God. Zero religion.” (103)

Between active or passive nihilism, we are driven toward the “Platonic divorce between nature and culture. Zero is undifferentiable without being a unity, and everything is re-engaged through zero. Eternal recurrence—the most nihilistic thought—begins everything again, as history is re-energized through the nihilistic indifferentiation between zero enthusiasm and enthusiasm for zero. Passive nihilism is the zero of religion, whilst active nihilism is the religion of the zero. On the one hand is Schopenhauer’s metaphysical pessimism as ‘a European Buddhism’ [N II 767], on the other Nietzsche’s Dionysian pessimism as the exultation of dissolution.” (103) In the end zero is the end game of human desire – the death knell of humanity, its apocalyptic cry in the wilderness of absolute death and war: “History is industrial history, and it only has one goal, which is God. Nihilism is the loss of this goal, the nullification of man’s end, the reversion of all work to waste. It is in this sense that history is aborted by zero. There are those who in their eagerness for the continuation of effort take Nietzsche’s overman to be a new goal, a restoration of teleology, a task commensurable with the nihilation of history. Perhaps Nietzsche himself succumbs to such a temptation at times, after all, German Protestantism had poisoned his blood. It must nevertheless be insisted that the world of work perishes with the One, and that zero is an engine of war.” (105).

Ultimately Land will equate Schopenhauer’s Will-to-life with Nietzsche’s desire for war, destruction, and nihilism – the restlessness of this uncanny force: “It is not that there is merely a desire for war, variously named by Nietzsche the ‘thirst for destruction’ [N III 821], ‘the drive to destroy, anarchism, nihilism’ [N III 708], and ‘will to nothingness’ [N II 900, III 738], rather that war in its intensive sense is desire itself, convulsive recurrence, unilateral zero.”(106).

This sense of desolation permeates the cosmos, a great vastation and emptiness, a kenoma (voidness) in which what tugs at us is the darkness of zero and silence: “Matter signals to its lost voyagers, telling them that their quest is vain, and that their homeland already lies in ashes behind them. If there is a conclusion it is zero. Silence. Words continue as something else, as something in any case, or at most; the edge of something (of all things). Yet there is nothing but chaos, even if chaos (alone) is the repressed. Unilateral difference. That is why a revolution must be a zenith of competence nucleated upon burning insanity, since anarchy and utter surrender only connect in a religion of death. Thanocracy, anarchy is undifferentiable at zero, and a human being without desperation escapes my comprehension. Being created in the image of God, we mean nothing to ourselves, and want only the inhuman.”(146). If we are created in the image of Being and God then our only exit is the way of hazard, chance – to enter absolute zero, the impersonal zone of unbeing and difference where Death reigns supreme like a thought of anarchy unbound. 

Further Notes

The Philosophy of Non-Being: How the Sophists returned with a Vengeance

“The thought of chance, which also calls into question the idea of ​​chance and the idea of ​​being, necessarily leads to a philosophy of non-being-that is to say a tragic philosophy. One of the first tragic philosophers who have bequeathed to posterity the history of philosophy is a sophist, Gorgias, who wrote a treaty of non-being whose substance has reached contemporary libraries thanks to Sextus Empiricus (against Dogmatic) and to the unknown author (pseudo-aristote) of Melissos, Xenophane and Gorgias. Significant title to read it in full: “Treaty of non-being or nature. “And title which could be reversed without damage:” Treaty of nature, or non-being. Nature is: which does not exist. The somewhat sophisticated aspect of the argumentation in the treaty, the arrangement of which seems more to have the usual skeptical methodology, of which Sextus Empiricus is here the heir, than to the thought of Gorgias himself, However, let the essential of the sophistic message filter: nature is non-being; Nothing that may have been conceived as nature participates in existence. And, consequently, man, whose own is to conceive of natures, imaginary beings, is himself deprived of all participation in being: because the “nature” of thought is imaginary order , as Montaigne will later support.”

—Clement Rosset, The Logic of the Worst

Chance in French is “hazard”: c. 1300, name of a game at dice, from Old French hasard, hasart “game of chance played with dice,” also “a throw of six in dice” (12c.), of uncertain origin. Possibly from Spanish azar “an unfortunate card or throw at dice,” which is said to be from Arabic az-zahr (for al-zahr) “the die.” But this is doubtful because of the absence of zahr in classical Arabic dictionaries. Klein suggests Arabic yasara “he played at dice;” Arabic -s- regularly becomes Spanish -z-. The -d was added in French through confusion with the native suffix -ard. Sense evolved in French to “chances in gambling,” then “chances in life.” In English, sense of “chance of loss or harm, risk” first recorded 1540s.

Jaques Monod, a biologist, would write of Chance and Necessity in a book that would later be questioned by another work entitled ‘Anti-Chance’ by E. Schoffeniels and T. Swain. Both seek to get a handle on this ‘hazard’ which is nothingness or non-being.

We are all sophist’s now… the absolute divorce between thing and name is done. Parmenides dies a terrible death at the hands of language. Is this a form of linguistic suicide, a voluntary death of “as if…”? Parmenides’ much- discussed proposition that “thinking and being are the same” (DK28 B3) is forever lost among its own supreme fictions, a casualty of sophisticated self-deception. Plato is turning in his grave in horror… Socrates laughs, and Parmenides wanders off into the Abyss without name… lost among his own thoughts of Being. As Clement Rosset suggests: “”To define is to assign a nature; However, no nature is. Neither man, nor the plant, nor the stone, nor the white, nor the smell, are. But what else is left to furnish the being, once excluded from existence all the beings designated by words? There is “something”, but this something is nothing, without any exception, of what appears in all the dictionaries present, past and to come. “What exists” is therefore, very precisely, nothing. Nothing, that is to say: none of the designed and conceivable beings; None of the beings listed to date appears in the register of what the thought of chance admits as existence. It is therefore to exclude from existence the very notion of being. Exclusion which relates, not of a prohibition of principle, but of an empirical observation: what is excluded from existence is not, strictly speaking, the notion of being, but rather the complete collection (and necessarily provisional) of all beings thought so far.”

  1. Rosset, Clément. Logique du pire : éléments pour une philosophie tragique, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France. (1971) (English: Logic of the Worst: Elements in the Philosophy of the Tragic) [my translation]

The Rust Belt Blues: Discontent and the Working Class

“Freud spoke about Unbehagen in der Kultur, the discontent or unease in culture; today, thirty years after the fall of the Wall, the ongoing new wave of protests in liberal democracies themselves (whose exemplary case is the gilets jaunes in France) bears witness to a kind of Unbehagen in liberal capitalism, and the key question is: Who will be most salient in the articulation of this discontent? Will it be left to nationalist populists to exploit it? Therein resides the big task of the Left: to translate the brewing discontent into a viable program of change.”

—Slavoj Žižek, Heaven in Disorder

I read Zizek more as a True Crime journalist writing tabloid philosophy for the masses in most of his essays. He’s right of course, the populist Right has a unified stance even if for us on the Left its ludicrous. The Left on the other hand has no message at all in the populist sense of feeding the beast of our discontent. The elite progressives of New York cultural milieu and our comic parade of social media spar in farce against Hollywood and Pop Politics seeking to bring down straw men rather than producing a message that will shape a future worth living in. Our academic left seems passe and bland, spouting philosophical humbug to each other in podcasts and specialized journals that no one reads but themselves. All our supposed protest movements died a decade back, and most of the Left is sectioned off in silos of race, gender, economic, or some other isolated battle for specific segmented goals. The day when we had a metanarrative that had weight and would speak to both the discontented Left and Right seem to have washed away. All that’s left is media puppets seeking to instill the profit margin with sensationalism and resentment in the populace rather than home in on some actual message that could pull us together and shape our future. So, yea, I agree with Zizek “the big task of the Left: to translate the brewing discontent into a viable program of change.” Can they, do it? Will they be able to speak to the discontent of all Americans or will they continue to foment hate and derision without any actual content and message of change? Let’s face it the political progressives, the neo-liberal face of progress is caput, their comic has-beens whose support of the upper-class liberal rich Oligarchs of their own disposition has left the people in the Rust Belt behind to die in the squalor of a dead world. We need change but change that is for the real working class who’ve been dumped in the trash-bin of history like so much rust and decaying ruins. No wonder the populist Right with their calls of nostalgia for a bygone Pioneer America seem to rouse the masses of those workers in middle-class and working classes alike, offering in their slogans of nostalgic wonder years with “a path back to the brave, pioneering spirit that made not just survival but explosive growth and visionary changes possible in America.”1

What does the Left offer but more antagonistic rhetoric and shibboleths of a dead world of economics and recriminations against anything and everything these days? Where is our voice? Who will speak to the people desperately in need of help out there in the rust belt?

  1. Charlie Kirk. The MAGA Doctrine. HarperCollins.

The Cosmic Horror Show

“In eternity, where there is no time, nothing can grow. Nothing can become. Nothing changes. So death created time to grow the things that it would kill … and you are reborn but into the same life that you’ve always been born into. I mean, how many times have we had this conversation, detectives? Well, who knows? When you can’t remember your lives, you can’t change your lives, and that is the terrible and the secret fate of all life. You’re trapped … like a nightmare you keep waking up into.” —Rust Cohl (True Detective)

Nietzsche’s eternal return or repetition of the Same seen as a Cosmic Horror Show; a sort of Lovecraftian circle of pain and misery and suffering without end or hope of redemption. “The philosophical underpinnings of both Rust and Schopenhauer are those of horror. Both have peeled back the veil of everyday existence and found something sinister underneath, namely a blind, irrational will that lurks at the center of everyone and everything.” (Christopher Mountenay: Schopenhauer)

As H.P. Lovecraft suggested,

The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain—a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.

—H. P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature

For Schopenhauer it was the ‘defeat of those fixed laws of Nature’ which spawned in him the very pessimistic view that would encompass his philosophical speculations. Schopenhauer had discovered in David Hume the notion that cause, and causality did not exist in nature, that this was another of those ‘as if’ games of the human mind, our way of thinking and seeking relations between things that did not exist in themselves in nature. His astonishment at this lack of necessity and reason in nature led him to the notion that there is no actual order to be found in the natural world, the world is chaotic through and through. As Clement Rosset in his Schopenhauer, Philosophy of the Absurd says: “Throughout his career and his work, Schopenhauer is obsessed with the idea of causality. The Ixion wheel can turn indefinitely, Tantalus remain eternally thirsty, provided that these tortures are based on any necessity. To be in vain and useless is nothing, if you can see any reason for this very uselessness. The dissatisfaction of human experience, and the concern attached to it, is only so that it comes up against, before any other consideration, to the drama of its absence of origin.”

“If a man dares to raise this question: “Why is there nothingness” rather than this world? ” “The world cannot justify itself, it cannot find in itself any reason, no final cause of its existence, it cannot demonstrate that it exists for itself, that is to be said for its own advantage. In my theory the true explanation is that the source of its existence is formally without reason: it consists, in fact, in a blind willingness, which, as a thing in itself, cannot be subject to the principle of reason, form Exclusive of phenomena and the only proof principle of any question on the causes ”(Schopenhauer).

The question arises as precisely how this irrationalism, this absence of causality, are for Schopenhauer a subject, not only of astonishment, but of anxiety. (Rosset)”

Schopenhauer’s pessimism arises out of his first book which sought to correct the errors of previous philosophers concerning the Principle of Sufficient Reason. But to his own astonishment he discovered there is none, no reason, no necessity beyond this ‘thing -in-itself’ the Will-to-live which cannot be described other than as it will’s itself in us. It is without cause or necessity, therefore groundless and without foundation. This irrationalism that is both groundless and without necessity or reason or cause is for Schopenhauer the impossibility of thought itself. For Rosset (who comes back to this point over and over like a litany of astonished truth) this is the kernel of Schopenhauer’s problematic and his impasse. The cosmic horror show is that there is no reason that there should be something rather than nothing. No cause, reason, or necessity hiding behind the quantum creation and destruction of our universe. No God, no Absolute Mover, no Platonic Ideas manifesting themselves as copies in this flat circle of sick time…

The fundament upon which all our knowledge and learning rests is the inexplicable.
—Arthur Schopenhauer

Philosophical Terrorism: The Logic of the Worst

“Philosophical terrorism, which assimilates the exercise of thought to a logic of the worst: we start from the apparent order and virtual happiness to lead, passing by the necessary corollary of the impossibility of all happiness, to disorder, at random, to silence, and, at the limit, to the negation of all thought. Philosophy thus becomes a destructive and catastrophic act: thought here in work has to undo, destroy, dissolve-in general, to deprive man from all that he intellectually provided of provision and remedy in case of misfortune. Like the vessel by which Antonin Artaud, at the beginning of the theater and his double, symbolizes the theater, it brings to men not healing, but the plague. Thus, appeared successively on the horizon of Western culture of thinkers like the Sophists, like Lucrèce, Montaigne, Pascal or Nietzsche – and others. Terrorist and logicians of the worst: their common and paradoxical concern is to succeed in thinking and asserting the worst. The concern here has changed edge: the concern is no longer to avoid or overcome a philosophical sinking, but to make it certain and inevitable by eliminating, one after the other, all the possibilities of loophole. If it is an anxiety in the terrorist philosopher, it is to ignore such an absurd aspect of the admitted meaning or such a derisory aspect of the seriousness in place, to forget an aggravating circumstance, in short to present tragic an incomplete and superficial painting. Thus considered, the act of philosophy is by nature destructive and disastrous.

The terrorist intention which inspires tragic philosophies therefore differs in kind both from the philosophical disposition called pessimism and psychological provisions specific to the paranoid states. Closer to the terrorist intention is the notion of pity. But not a pity of the Schopenhauerian type, of both a consoling and soothing. On the contrary: a bruising and exterminating pity, easily detectable in all writings of tragic inspiration (both literary and philosophical). The great terrorist discourses held by tragic thought generally allow this element of fairly unique pity to perceive which, far from eating ills, undertakes to exacerbate them until the recognition of the intolerable. Bruising pity, which seems to define his insensitivity, his impermeability to all pity. In this sense, tragic philosophy is a “pharmacy”, an art of poisons which consists in pouring into the minds of the one who listens to a poison more violent than the ailments which he is currently afflicted. Thus, Nietzsche claimed to assess men and philosophies to measure the violence of the poisons that they are likely to assimilate: the sign of health being the “good” receptivity to the poison. So, Montaigne, so Pascal. But the most characteristic representative of this murderous pity inherent in tragic thought remains Lucretia, whose work almost pushes the art of concealing poisons into remedies. The medical intention of De Rerum Natura broke out on each page of the poem: it is a question of tearing up men from their vein anxieties, their unmotivated fears, of bringing them peace and serenity.”

—Clement Rosset, The Logic of the Worst

The Last Illusion

The Disease of Time

“This is the infernal circle of the will, which alternates without truce or joy, expectations and pain, without ever being able to get out of the circle: time turns, but does not progress.”

Schopenhauer’s statement is the direct echo of the famous passages of the Ecclesiastes:

What was was what will be,
And what was done is what will be done;
And there is nothing new under the sun (83).

What was done already existed,
And what will be done has already been:
it brings back what happened (84).

Like the Ecclesiastes, “Schopenhauer suffers from the evil of time; boredom is no longer only weariness or pessimism, he transforms himself slyly into a terror in front of this illusionist master whose men are the unconscious toys, in front of this time that we believed to be alive, and who suddenly reveals itself eternally dead, motionless and always frozen. He has always succeeded in passing past events for new events. Man believed to act in free and regenerative time; In reality, he was in the hands of a corpse. A retrospective horror extends over his whole past, which he has lived as present when, like his future, he had already passed, and forever.” (Clement Rosset, Schopenhauer, The Philosophy of the Absurd)

Nietzsche would expand on this notion of eternal return…

Caught in the vicious circle of hell, wandering in our own ghostly worlds, we exist in a nightmare without reason or necessity repeating the gestures of a “purposeless purpose” like zombies who assume they are free. Death, like birth, like the future, is without taking a past always present: these are poisoned fruits of the disease of time which has ceased to “become”. Between life and death, what difference? Desiring does not stop at these distinctions. Better still, death is a reservoir of life, as the past is the reservoir of the future: “It is from there, yes from there, it is from the Orcus that everything comes, and that’s where already was all that is life at the moment” (86). But this appeasement in the face of the anxiety of death, which is reminiscent of somewhat, although from afar, the arguments of Epicurus and Lucrèce, makes the human person an unimportant toy within a will Eternally repeated, without the future or past, which pays a balm on death only insofar as it removes any meaning to life. Death is no longer a tragedy, but a tragicomedia.

The world, according to Schopenhauer, is dead; we believe that it lives, and the deepest Schopenhauerian demystification is to realize that it only pretends to live, that it clumsily mimics life. In reality, it does not live more than the members of the mannikin activated by strings do not make real movements. Hence the anxiety before the world’s death which is constantly disguising itself, these corpses which always claim to sing the living. The Schopenhauerian anxiety affecting eternal repetition is unfolding well against a background of death, the repetition being the imperceptible defect in which the borrowed movement of a positivity of life. There is no future, no becoming, everything has already always become; it is dead, it is past, it is like the ghosts on a screen in a dark theatre repeating the same lines over and over again without stop; lifeless the images move but do not move forward into a future without time, it is all flat – a circle laid out on the blank screen of nothingness, a repetition of past events that have always been there repeating themselves in the silence.

Schopenhauer’s pessimism when he cursed it, came from the deafness of men with regard to their absurd situation, their experience within absolute determinism, acting as if they were free, and believing themselves active and alive while they are passive and dead. The last illusion: freedom. Ultimately as in Shakespeare:

“The world is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

What to do?

“Still alive, afloat, afire. Farewell then my penultimate hope: that one may be sunk for direst blasphemy on the very shore of the Shore.”

—John Barth, Night-Sea Journey

Yep, it’s hard not to be a pessimist in this age of fracture, degradation, and corruption. One can either be like Petronius in his Satyricon and blast it to pure farcical hell; or like Francois Villon the criminal poet of France live in the gusto of the moment: drink, eat, and be merry; or like Marcus Aurelius spawn stoic platitudes about curtailing suffering and pain; or like Celine expose the underbelly of life in the trenches where the corruption is a long tale of misery, pain, and apathy or indifference; or, a Henry Miller and fantasize about the mask one wears in imaginary adventures through an ex-patriot hell… or, or.. or…. I think John Barth in one of his tales found something like ten basic stances one could take with and against life from the tragic to the comic nihilist: cynic, stoic, Idealist, materialist … guttersnipe. I’ve floated through them all at one time or another in my life. We all handle it the best we can. What else can we do? We have no control over other people much less our own lives. We muddle through… it’s all chaos my friends. Our sense of order is a pipe dream for the metaphysician and the physicist, not for us commoners who actually live in the trenches. John Barth in Night-Sea Journey suggests,

Mad as it may be, my dream is that some unimaginable embodiment of myself … will come to find itself expressing, in however garbled or radical a translation, some reflection of these reflections. If against all odds this comes to pass, may You to whom, through whom I speak, do what I cannot: terminate this aimless, brutal business!

  1. John Barth. Collected Stories. Dalkey Archive Press.

The Genealogical Method

Clement Rosset sees Schopenhauer as a genealogist or genealogical philosopher which became the cornerstone of Nietzsche’s genealogical history of morality:

“The genealogical method is not analytical: it does not aim so much to dissociate the complex elements of a manifestation as to surprise, on the contrary, the secret of their symbiosis. It is resentment in morality that interests Nietzsche, not resentment as a primary cause from which the moral representations would be derived. The assertion of the moral man hides a negation: his genealogy will be, not to show the yes, then the no, but to grasp the passage in the favor of which the no expressed in yes. The ultimate design is not to seek in a hidden origin the why of a psychological manifestation, but to show how we go from one psychological level to another. Genealogical philosophy is inseparable from a thought of metamorphosis.”

-Clement Rosset: Schopenhauer, Philosophy of the Absurd

The genealogist seeks to know what is masked or repressed in thought rather than the thought itself. What does it hide in its affirmations? What is hidden under the surface in the unconscious depths of thought. In other words what is the power, modal aspects of the Will that remain unsaid, unknown in the evasions of thought. I think his critique and commentary on Schopenhauer’s impasse upon acknowledging the Will’s primacy over intellect is interesting:

“This thought of the report is entirely lacking in Schopenhauer. Between the will and the intellect there is no possible relationship: the domination of the will is such that it destroys its own dependencies and breaks, at the same time, any relationship with them. There is only one modality of the influence of the will on the intellect: its absolute determination. The will is not a complex plurality of forces, but a reservoir of common energy, a sort of “prime power” which spills indifferently in any individual creature. Schopenhauer does not push the analysis further before: the exclusive importance given to the will relegates in the inexhaustion its intellectual manifestations which, therefore, cease to interest it. Also the Schopenhauerian genealogy is, in some way, as soon as dead. After saying that the will commanded everything, including the intellect, Schopenhauer is cornered by an impasse: any phenomenon reflecting the same will, there is no reason to wonder about the particular expression of such or such , this certainly relating to an identical origin. The report of will to intelligence which reflects it appears as an undifferentiated scheme: it will never learn anything more than an equal submission to equal domination. Paradoxical consequence of the system: the will does not learn anything about intelligence. The transition from will to a particular form of intelligence is entirely drowned in the thought of the absolute primacy of the will. Also the demystification of consciousness, an essential enterprise of genealogical philosophy, is missed by Schopenhauer, precisely because the role of consciousness has been, not analyzed, but abolished, absorbed in the unequivocal influence of will. Consciousness loses all role, at the precise moment when the intuition of the primacy of the will would put Schopenhauer able to interpret this role. By reversing the terms of the report, Schopenhauer put too much zeal to subordinate intellectual functions: he made them disappear from the scene, to the point that the new power of the volitive functions, if it commands everything, no longer explains anything.”

The inability to explain anything through intelligence (conceptuality) of the Will’s workings leaves Schopenhauer’s philosophy incomplete and in the dark. His lack of phenomenological reach leaves him destitute in a framework that will always remain unknown and unknowable. Of course, for Schopenhauer the Will was manifest in our bodily functions, this was our access to the ‘Will’s” workings: the body itself is the Will’s manifestation in the world therefore the physical or physiological philosophy which is one of Nietzsche’s own goals seemed to bypass Schopenhauer altogether. In many ways Nietzsche and Freud would complete Schopenhauer rather than formulate new philosophies. At least this seems to be what Rosset implies with Nietzsche’s gemological approach, and Freud’s various defense mechanisms such as ‘repression’, ‘transference’, ‘sublimation’ etc. Most of these would come out of various aspects of Schopenhauer’s delving into both Greek and Indic philosophy.

As Bosset quoting both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche suggest the later would bring back the relationship between Will and Intellect needed to formulate the genealogical method:

“Perhaps, after me, someone will enlighten and illuminate this abyss,” concludes Schopenhauer. This someone was, as we know, Nietzsche, who restored the relationships between intelligence and the unconscious. One of the essential tasks of Nietzsche was, once recognized the primacy of the will as announced by Schopenhauer, to bring together the will and the intelligence, which Schopenhauer had too radically separated. “Schopenhauer,” writes Nietzsche, “may grant primacy to the will and add intelligence as moreover: the soul, as it is known to us today,” can no longer serve as an illustration for its thesis. It has been all immersed in intelligence … We can no longer conceive of joy, pain and desire as distinct from the intellect “(43). The abolition of any intellectual function within the operations of the will prohibit Schopenhauer the possibility of genealogical interpretation: the constitution of a particular character is abandoned at random irrational of a mysteriously specified product of identical want. “Schopenhauer,” said Nietzsche, “did not solve the problem of individuation and he knew it” (44).”

The problem of individuation would become the problem that the depth psychology of Freud, Adler, Jung, Rank, and Lacan et. al. would all face.

As Rosset will attest Schopenhauer’s lack of interest in the genealogical method is rooted in his view of the Will-to-life, the irrational power at the core of our Universe which has no cause, no Reason – sufficient or otherwise:

“The philosophical purpose is not to explain the singular behavior, but to reveal the absurdity of all behavior. To serve this design, the study of uniform and blind will is more interesting than the study of its particular manifestations, which can conceal a character in its singularity. Precisely, Schopenhauer’s words are not to explain, but to denounce the explanations. The genealogy is therefore invoked only as a means, and never end. The genealogical intuition, which runs short, is only one step towards the absurd.”

  1. Rosset, Clément. Schopenhauer, philosophe de l’absurde, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 1967, 2010