There is no question of ‘error’, ‘weakness in reasoning’, or ‘mistaken judgment’ when addressing the authoritative discourses on truth in the western tradition, those cathedrals of theological concept building that ground our ‘common sense’; no, here one can only speak of a deeply rooted and fanatical discipline of lying.
– Nick Land, Shamanic Nietzsche
Nick Land in this series of essays gathered together by Ray Brassier in Fanged Noumena opens us to an atheistic reading of western metaphysics. As he tells us in a central essay, Shamanic Nietzsche, the radical investigations of such atheistic philosophers such as Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Bataille go against the grain of all those ‘high-bourgeois apologetic-epistemological’ problematiques of philosophy by asking for the first time: “where do the lies stop?” (206). 1
Land would have us neither accept nor reject the whole gamut of western metaphysics and its onto-theological heritage, instead he proposes that the problematique itself be done away with: “the glory and also the indignity of philosophy is to have sought the end of knowing, and no more” (207). The whole point of this is that philosophy relies on certain beliefs, and that these beliefs can neither be held nor discarded. Why? “We know nothing of course, but we do not remotely know even this, and mere assertion in no way ameliorates our destitution” (207). So for Socrates knowledge started by way of an acknowledgement of our ignorance not its justification. As Land reiterates: “Belief is not a possession but a prison, and we continue to believe in achieved knowledge even after denying it with intellectual comprehensiveness” (207).
It was Bataille who gave us the figure of Nietzsche as Shaman: “Bataille’s Nietzsche is not a locus of secular reason but a shamanic religion; a writer who escapes philosophical conceptuality in the direction of ulterior zones, and dispenses with the thing in itself because it is an item of intelligible representation with no consequence as a vector of becoming (of travel)” (210). The truth of this shamanic traveler between the worlds is that he discovered a open secret, the whole problematique of phenomena/noumena split or dichotomy was a false one. Why? Because things do not exists: “There are no things-in-themselves because there are no things: ‘thingness has only been invented by us owing to the requirements of logic’ (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, section 558)” (210). Or as Land eloquently suggests: “Materialism is not a doctrine but an expedition, an Alpine break-out from socially policed conviction” (211).
In a prelude to an almost Deleuzian reading Land tells us this form of materialism and acategorical reading of matter “navigates thought as chance and matter as turbulence ‘beyond all regulation’ (Bataille, Oeuvres Completes, vol. 1, 220). It yields no propositions to judge, but only paths to explore” (211). Instead of epistemic knowledge we wander in the interzones of being like psychonauts of ontic awareness in which neither positive nor negative knowledge can be resolved into a propositional lie as truth. As a final touchstone I quote at length this central passage:
This is a Nietzsche as a fanged poet at war with the philosophers (with the new priests), a thinker who seeks to make life more problematic. Bataille locks onto a desire that resonates with the reality that confounds us, and not with a ‘rationality’ that would extricate us from the labyrinth. Nietzsche is the great exemplar of complicating thought, exploiting knowledge in the interest of interrogations… Complicating thought strengthens the impetus of an active or energetic confusion – delirium – against the reactive forces whose obsessive tendency is to resolve or conclude. Rebelling against the fundamental drift of philosophical reasoning, it sides with thought against knowledge, against the tranquillizing prescriptions of the ‘will to truth’. (211- 212)
1. Nick Land. Fanged Noumena Collected Writings 1987-2007. Edited by Robin Mckay and Ray Brassier. (Urbannomic 2011)