Anti-Oedipus: The Black Book of Riddles

Desiring machines make us an organism; but at the very heart of this production, the body suffers from being organized in this way, from not having some other sort of organization, or no organization at all.

– Gilles Deleuze/Fritz Guattari, Anti-Oedipus

There comes a moment in their dreamwork (for that is what we must call this black book of riddles) when D&G – in an almost gnostic litany of negativity from one of the drifting echoes of Artaud (“No mouth. No tongue. No teeth. No larynx. No esophagus. No belly. No anus”) expose the body of death to the onslaught of expressive delineation: “The automata stop dead and set free the unorganized mass they once served to articulate.(8) It’s as if the nanobots of our own late era had already infiltrated the discourse of this early dreamwork, as if the viral memes of our late capitalism had suddenly exited the stage, freed of their host to suddenly invigorate the dark contours of a deadly truth. But what is this body of death? “The full body without organs is the unproductive, the sterile, the unengendered, the unconsumable (8)”. This is the dead body of capital after its robotic zombies have wandered free of its broken world. Without form and void: capital as the body of death, the body without organs as frozen labor, frozen time. Pure death instinct: “that is its name, and death is not without a model. For desire desires death also, because the full body of death is its motor, just as it desires life, because the organs of life are the working machine.(8)”

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Are we in the midst of a Conceptual Revolution?

Having at last escaped from the torture-palace of authoritarian love we shuffle about, numb and confused, flinching from the twisted septic wound of our past… It is painfully evident that post-Christian humanity is a pack of broken dogs.

– Nick Land, Shamanic Nietzsche

Having escaped the dark shadows of the supernatural, having overcome the fear of death, opened up our lives to the sciences of the Enlightenment, are we so quickly ready to fall back under the black hand of this bleak religious vision. Or is there an alternative? Is the Hermetic Revival the dark secret of materialism? Even that great materialist and mathematician Sir Isaak Newton spent his late nights mastering the hermetic worlds of alchemy.  Sir Arthur Eddington says: “The science in which Newton seems to have been chiefly  interested, and on which he spent most of his time was alchemy. He read widely and made innumerable experiments, entirely without fruit so far as we know.” One of his servants records: “He very rarely went to bed until two or three of the clock,  sometimes not till five or six, lying about four or five hours, especially at springtime  or autumn, at which time he used to employ about six weeks in his laboratory, the fire  scarce going out night or day. What his aim might be I was unable to penetrate into.”    The answer is that Newton’s experiments were concerned with nothing more or less than  alchemy.

Why at the summit of the Enlightenment did a counter-reaction arise in the power of the Romantic movement and a return to myth, magic, mysticism, and the gothic nightmare worlds of vampires, werewolves, and other metamorphic creatures come about? In the midst of Reason, the old supernatural worlds repressed and hidden found other outlets other forms. Is it possible that these returns are not supernatural at all, that the dark worlds of this resurgence is rather a return of the repressed Parmedian traditions, and that in Germanic Naturphilosophe – in the four greats of Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, with their involvement in a subjectalist turn,  rather than in the inner dynamism of an immanent revolution, philosophy had forgotten its material roots and resolved itself into a reemergence of the World Soul? The metaphysical thesis of the (proportional) correlation of existence and cognition seems to have started even with Plato’s conception of the World Soul whose function is to come to know, and make (conjectural or categorical) judgments of the identity and difference of every finite thing it comes across in its circular movement in and around the world.1

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Bryant, Spinoza, Negri: The Foundations of Materialist Thought

Materialism and collectivism are  fundamental aspects of constitutive thought. Ontological constitution can be  given only as the appropriation and accumulation of material elements, both  physical and social. … The reconstruction of the world is thus the very  process of the continual physical composition and recomposition of things — and,  with absolute constitutive mechanisms of historical, practical, and  ethico-political nature.

– Antonio Negri, The Savage Anomaly

William Forsythe’s Synchronous Objects.

After listening to a lecture online by William Forsythe (World renowned choreographer) and Alva Noë, author of Out of Our  Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness provided to me by dmfant from Anthem: video conversation. I began thinking about something Levi R. Bryant said along with my interest in Spinoza and Antonio Negri.

Flat Ontology and Spinoza: The Foundations of Materialist Thought

Levi R. Bryant once stated his views on Flat Ontology this ways:

Someone might remark that because a text has multiple layers there can be no flat ontology of the text.  In other words, it is here asserted that where there is a logic of depths and surfaces there is necessarily a vertical ontology.  However, this is precisely what flat ontology rejects.  If we take seriously that texts are composed of multiple layers, then only a flat ontology can properly preserve the layered nature of a text.  The claim that the text is flat is the claim that each of these layers is absolutely autonomy and irreducible to the others or that all of these layers are on equal ontological footing.  That is, flat ontology refuses a logic of expression that would reduce one thread, series, or layer of the text to another.  Instead, flat ontology would defend the dignity of each of these layers as a distinct multiplicity.  What is hereby refused is the reduction of anything to anything else.

– Levi R. Bryant (Larval Subjects) A Quick Remark on Flat Ontology

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What is and What is not: Parmenides, Negation, and the Limits of Thought

“…materialism … is the view that every real concrete phenomenon is physical in every respect … a little more needs to be said; for experiential phenomenon … are the only real, concrete phenomenon that we can know with certainty to exist, and as it stands this definition of materialism doesn’t even rule out idealism … from qualifying as a form of materialism!”

– Galen Strawson, Real Materialism and Other Essays

Like a magnet that has two poles, one positive, one negative, and as Shakespeare once said “Never twain shall meet,” we could see that Idealism and Materialism are those poles; yet, what does this tell us about these two strange perspectives on reality? Within both Idealism and Materialism we have further mystifications: there are the twin poles of subjective and objective idealism and materialism. In physicalist science this is played out by mundane world of common sense folk psychology of modern macro-physics of all that is extensive and phenomenal; as against the quantum physics of all those immaterial particles that can only be inferred through mathematics and specialized instruments that test the effects of sub-atomic particles on our visible universe (i.e., particle accelerators, wave-particle duality, etc.).

Have we always been fighting over the positive and negative poles of certain paradoxical and theoretical illusions, rather than looking at what these separate philosophical principles were a part of all along. I know that the analogy of the magnet is not justified, that it is a misuse of a certain type of fallacy, yet it is instructive of how we can never overcome our prejudices and see that there may be more to the eye than the simple dichotomies that our philosophical visions allow us to think.

From Parmenides to Spinoza and Hegel and beyond the monism of the identification of Mind and Being, or Cognition and its Object has fought itself out in the struggles of philosophical speculation. Are the wars over? No. Can there ever be an end to these wars? Probably not. There are those that reduce Mind to Being, and others that reduce Being to Mind; and, still others that say to reduce things to either side of the equation is erroneous, that what must be done with such illusions once and for all is to make decisive division: that we must make a cut, divide the two from each other with only the neutral conceptual bridge to bind them, thereby separating thought from being forever. Yet, if they are be conquered and divided with only the concept to bridge the gap between them, then on which side of the divide will this belated neutrality trump: the ontological or epistemological, Mind or Being? Or, maybe we are asking the wrong questions about thinking and being.

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Meillassoux, Brassier, Laruelle and Gnosticism?

In a previous post on Quentin Meillassoux’s Berlin Lecture David Milliern whose blog milliern is well worth spending some time on brought up a some interesting thoughts which I quote at the bottom of this post. David tells us that his concerns about Meillassoux centered on his use of “kenotype”:

 I have this concern ever since reading Harman’s “Philosophy in the Making,” that Meillassoux is nonchalantly dancing along a precipice with his materialism that seems to threaten collapsing to idealism at any moment.  Much of my concern was assuaged, after reading Bergson’s “Matter and Memory” and Meillassoux’s article on that book, “Subtraction and Contraction,” pushing the notion (for lack of a better term) “givenness” into the same court as Bergson’s notion of image.  My concerns arose again in the Berlin lecture, because I can’t pin down why a “kenotype” is different from a concept.

I’ll begin my post with a brief introduction regarding “kenotype” itself, what place does it have in philosophical speculation and specifically in regards to Meillassoux’s use of that term in his own thought.

“Kenotype” (from ancient Greek, kainow, “new”) differs from archetype in that it offers a figurative, or generalized schematic eidos, of a historically new phenomenon, such as Meillassoux’s God of the Divine Inexistence:

A kenotype may be defined as a cognitive, creative structure, reflecting a new crystallization of some broadly human experience, occuring in concrete historical circumstances, but not reducible to them, and appearing as the first embodiment of a potential or future development. If in the case of the Platonic archetypes, the general precedes the concrete, as a pre-established form precedes materialization, and if in a type the two coexist, then in the case of a kenotype, the general is a final perspective of the concrete, which arises from history only to outgrow it, touching the borders of eternity. So that everything that can come into being has it metaimage in the future, since it prophesies or gives warning about something. This storehouse of metaimages is far richer than the strongbox of first images, where the ancient unconscious is contained (a sort of Pandora’s box). The openness of history is given to humankind as a birthplace for supra-historical content, where the permanent can obtain its “surplus value” and where its image can not only be preserved, but grow in time.1

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Meillassoux’s Problematique: Factial Speculation

Adam Kosko from An und fur sich has an interesting post on Zizek’s reading of Quentin Meillassoux in his new book Less Than Nothing. It’s not the critique by Zizek that I’m interested in as much as the comments by several bloggers in response to Adam’s post. There are so many differing stances regarding the work of Meillassoux one wonders just what it is he is describing in his Factial Speculative Philosophy.

I mean listen to the sentence that Adam quotes from Zizek: “The critical implication with regard to Meillassoux is that the true problem is not to think pre-subjective reality, but to think how something like a subject could have emerged within it; without this (properly Hegelian) gesture…”. One would wonder if Zizek is truly talking about Meillassoux here at all, much rather Zizek is carrying on a monologue with Zizek about his arguments with Hegel rather than with Meillassoux. In other words Zizek does not so much portray Meillassoux’s work as use it as a sounding board for his own internal debate with Hegelian thought.

Even in his Berlin Lecture (read here: pdf!) Meillassoux tries once again to clarify his position. He tells us that for years now his main thrust in philosophy has been speculations about the “capacities of thought”, the discovery of what thought can do rather than what it is. Thought as active happening, as something productive and capable. Capable of even producing something like ‘eternal truths’. His path was toward developing an absolutizing  capacity for thought, and that to do this he needed first to invent its opposite, its critique, a model of anti-absolutizing thought: the correlationist circle – correlationism or correlational facticity.

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Nick Land: Smeared Ash and Flame

“No ontology of time is possible, and yet ontology remains the sole foundation for discursive practices. There are only the shattered spars and the parodies of philosophy, as ruinous time pounds thought into the embers of an unwitting sacrifice, wreathed in a laughter as cold and nakedly joyous as the void.”

– Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation

The poetry of the void should be our battle cry, instead it has become our burial tomb. We live in caves of self-immolation, frightened by the very powers, the forces of existence below us that – if we would only allow them into our lives – might give us an existence worth living, rather than the embers of a consumptive nightmare. Nick Land saw time as mattering, as power and flow; not as a mode of being, nor a category of the mind’s perceptive faculties. Land ties his battle against Augustine and the scholastics, and especially their premier philosopher Saint Thomas Aquinas when he says:

“Time is the suicidal jealousy of God, to which each being – even the highest – must fall victim. It is thus the ultimate ocean of immanence, from which nothing can separate itself, and in which everything loses itself irremediably. The black mass of jealous rage swells like a cancer  at the core of the universe, or like a volcanic ulceration in the guts of God, and its catastrophic eruption consumes all established things in the acidic lava of impersonality” (95).1

For Land Time is the Great Destroyer: the entropic impulse at the heart of reality. And, as we all learned in school, the second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system never decreases, because isolated systems spontaneously evolve towards thermodynamic equilibrium — the state of maximum entropy. This is what the physicists all mean by the heat-death of the universe. It’s all winding down. According to the second law, the entropy of any isolated system, such as the entire universe, never decreases. If the entropy of the universe has no maximum upper bound then eventually the universe will have no thermodynamic free energy to sustain motion or life, that is, the heat death is reached. Of course we could debate this, and many physicists now argue for alternative visions of our universe. Current debates not withstanding what is important is not entropy itself but the order that is produced within an entropic system.

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A Foreign Country

Before the baroque it was, however, still possible to say whether the artistic approach of an age was fundamentally naturalistic or anti-naturalistic, making for unity or differentiation, classicistic or anti-classicistic—but now art no longer has a uniform stylistic character in this strict sense, it is naturalistic and classicistic, analytical and synthetic at the same time. We are the witnesses of the simultaneous blossoming of absolutely opposite tendencies…

– Arnold Hauser, The Social History of Art

The baroque is a foreign country. They do things differently there.

– John Law, Assembling the Baroque

In the Neo-Baroque on the other hand we see another tendency: the hidden dance of material and idealist discourses, ontological and epistemic, anti-representational and representational, realist and anti-realist worlds all enmeshed in modes of being and becoming that are neither one nor the other but both at the same time, and sometimes within the same person, thing, or object. We all feel that the Age of Self is over, the great battles of the inner-life of humans is at an end. We all feel that something new is emerging, wandering round us in tentative measures of silence, muteness, and the patter of both philosophical and nonphilosophical discourse and nondiscourse. In fact that is the key: no one will speak what this thing is, no one will ‘name’ it, reduce it to some simple sign or significant figure or form, tie it to something that will not waver and vanish before our very eyes in the moment of its appearance.

Beware of philosophers baring gifts, my friends, those gifts may be bombs… Deleuze tells us that psychosocial “types are historical, but conceptual personae are events” (110, What is Philosophy?). History is death, but the event escapes history. So goes the myth. The Event is an ‘experiment in thinking’ (111). Events are the new, remarkable, and “replace the appearance of truth and are more demanding than it is” (111). History is devoid of experimentation, it holds within its dark negativity the conditions for the possibility of freedom, for the “experimentation of something that escapes history” (111). The Event and Experimentation together comprise the philosophical gesture. The Cheshire’s smile withdraws in the moment we recognize it for what it is: it is this aftering that philosophy philosophizes. Death is inherent in this enterprise. Laruelle tells us that it is the “World and History that are imaginary and have a terrible materiality…” (18, Struggle and Utopia).

I will say that Deleuze belongs to the tribe of Spinozists, but with a difference: he came to correct the master not to live in his shadow. He believed that the master had not gone far enough. As he tells us:

All that Spinozoism needed to do for the univocal to become an object of pure affirmation was to make substance turn around the modes – in other words, to realize univocity in the form of repetition in the eternal return” (304).

This pure affirmation is the state of excess of the multitude where the singular ‘clamour of Being’ for all beings steps beyond itself unveiling those traces of identity that for so long have displaced and disguised the difference that is the kernel of this singularity. In the moment of this unveiling, on the “mobile cusp” they begin to turn, to return again, to dance the dance that never ends:

“…the eternal return is indeed Similar, repetition in the eternal return is indeed the Identical – but precisely the resemblance and the identity do not pre-exist the return of that which returns” (300).

That in one dark insight is the crux of Deleuze’s freedom. The metalepsis or turning that is a return is one that is not founded on a pre-existing representation or identity, but of a breaking of representation; neither mirror nor lamp, but a turning that is a “complete reversal of the world of representation, and of the sense of the ‘identical’ and ‘similar’ had in that world” (301). Meaning is what escapes representation. The philosophy of difference is a baroque turn, what Ocatavio Paz once called the “transgression of the art of the metamorphosis of the object” (53, Sor Juana or, The Traps of Faith). He goes on to say that the baroque is intellectual and active, in the baroque transgressions lead to the appearance of an unheard-of-object; in fact, the subject vanishes into the baroque object (53, ibid). Paz also concluded that poetry reveals a world within our world, the other world that is this world. We seem to be in a time when that world is pulling and tugging at us, letting us know that it has things to say if we will only listen and see what it is offering both within its world and in the other world of this world. Matter and Idea may never merge into an identity, just like thinking and being will never be one either. For if they ever did come together, merge into a unity of thinking/being where would difference be found? Maybe the ‘Concept’? Maybe in that bridge between two worlds: those worlds of thinking and being no longer bound to their respective domains, but caught in the net of the concept, riven of their blankness, a fusion of otherwise disparate worlds. Maybe in this strange heterotopia of philosophy the world begins to know itself… let the agon begin! A war of worlds that can never fuse, but are always in movement-through-concept between a past that is forever dead and a future that is always coming toward us out of that nonphilosophical horizon of chaos.

1. Hauser, Arnold (2007-04-16). The Social History of Art: Volume 2 – Renaissance, Mannersim, Baroque, (Kindle Locations 3909-3913). Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition.

John McDowell: Neo-Hegelianism, Nature, and Idealism

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

– Wilfred Sellers, Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind

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

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

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Gilles Deleuze: Transcendental Empiricism as Idealism?

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

– Aristotle, Metaphysics

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

– Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae

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

– Gilles Deleuze, Foucault

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

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

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

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

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

– Manuel DeLanda

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

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

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Meillassoux on Alain Badiou’s Being and Event

“I will thus attempt to explain a nodal and seemingly paradoxical thesis of Badiou’s: that there is only a history of the eternal, because only the eternal proceeds from the event. In other words: there is only a history of truths insofar as all truth is strictly eternal and impossible to reduce to any relativism.”
– Quentin Meillassoux, History and Event in Alain Badiou

Quentin Meillassoux in this essay tells us that Alain Badiou in Being and Event (BE) maintains that there are eternal truths, but that they are not unifiable in a metaphysical system, because they are distributed among four truth procedures: science, art, politics, and love—philosophy itself not having the capacity to produce truths. The idea that the production of truth occurs only within science, art, politics and love, but not in philosophy might seem counter to most philosophical discourse as we’ve come to know it, yet this is exactly what Badiou affirms. Furthermore these truths do not situate themselves in some perfect heavenly world of Ideas (Plato), instead they arise out of an undecidable event and from a fideltiy of subjects that attempt to investigate their world in light of it Meillassoux also relates that Logic of World (LW) reveals to us that all processes lacking truth are not historical in the true sense, but have been reduced to a simple temporal modification without the capacity for truth and the subjects who adhere to it.

He tells us that the three principle terms of BE are history, event, eternity but that to understand them we will need to understand the two “constitutive theses” of Badiouian philosphy:

1. Mathematics is ontology

His ontology is based on set-theory and reveals that any mathematical entity is multiple. To be is to be a set: pure multiplicity.As Meillassoux explicates: “Being is not therefore a multiplicity composed of stable and ultimate unities, but a multiplicity that is in turn composed of multiplicities. Indeed, mathematical sets have for their elements not unities but other sets, and so on indefinitely. When a set is not empty, it is composed of multiple sets.” That he admits to a Platonized world, it is not a unity of the One, but of mulitplicity where being, far from being a stable foundation for a phenomena that would be perishable in relation to it, is “pure dissemination, withdrawn from our immediate experience of reality, where we discover on the contrary, in daily life, consistent multiplicities”.

No longer being concerned with what is the philosopher can now concentrate on “being’s exception” – the event: a “multiple belonging to itself” – something, Meillassoux tells us, is forbidden for set theory and referred to by mathematicians as  extraordinary. This strange multiple emerges from within art, science, politics, and love which for Badiou are “truth procedures” – the “four fields of thought where genuine events can be produced, and as a result—eternal truths”. One of the best explications of Badiou’s term event is described in detail by Meillassoux:

“The political example is, as it often is with Badiou, the most immediately accessible. What exactly do we mean, when we say that “May 68” was an event? In this expression, we are not merely designating the set of facts that have punctuated this collective sequence (student demonstrations, the occupation of the Sorbonne, massive strikes, etc.). Such facts, even when joined together in an exhaustive way, do not allow us to say that something like an event took place, rather than a mere conjunction of facts without any particular significance. If “May 68” was an event, it is precisely because it earned its name: that is to say that May 68, produced not only a number of facts, but also produced May 68. In May 68, a site, in addition to its own elements (demonstrations, strikes, etc.), presented itself.”

The key to the event is “precisely that an event is the taking place of a pure rupture that nothing in the situation allows us to classify under a list of facts.” He formulates it as this: “the event is that multiple which, presenting itself, exhibits the inconsistency underlying all situations, and in a flash throws into a panic, their constituted classifications. The novelty of an event is expressed in the fact that it interrupts the normal regime of the description of knowledge, that always rests on the classification of the well known, and imposes another kind of procedure on whomever admits that, right here in this place, something hitherto unnamed really and truly occurred.” Speaking of the French Revolution he tells us that to call “a Revolution the Revolution, is thus to affirm the sense in which one remains faithful to a hypothesis: the hypothesis, the wager, that something fundamental is being produced in the political field that is worth being faithful to, while trying to draw out that which, at the heart of the situation, upholds an emancipatory truth in the process of elaboration, and which opposes all the forces of the old world”.

2. All truth is post-evental

This is how all truth is post-evental: “we understand in what way a truth, being the patient result of a series of local inquiries under a wagered hypothesis of an undecidable event, cannot exist outside the concrete history of subjects. But how is it that such truths can be at once eternal, and yet the bearers of history, the only genuine history? It is because a truth is the bearer, by right, of an infinite number of consequences: a set of inquiries therefore, by right, inexhaustible, and capable of being extended to historical moments in profoundly different contexts. In other words, a truth is the bearer of theoretical movements that form among themselves a historicity both profound and discontinuous”.

He tells us that truths are eternal and historical, eternal because they are historical: they insist in history, tying together temporal segments across the centuries, always unfolding more profoundly the infinity of their potential consequences, through captivated subjects, separated sometimes by distant epochs, but all equally transfixed by the urgent eventality that illuminates their present. They “give birth to history itself through their reactivation, making their inexhaustible potential for novelty intervene in the monotonous train of daily work, ordinary oppressions, and current opinions”.

1. Quentin Meillassoux. HISTORY AND EVENT IN ALAIN BADIOU, translated by Thomas Nail (PARRHESIA NUMBER 12 • 2011 • 1 – 11) – (warning: pdf)

On Re-reading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux- Part VII

“What fundamental change did Galileo bring about in our understanding of the link that ties mathematics to the world? … Galileo… conceives of movement itself in mathematical terms, and particularly the movement which appears to be the most changeable of all: the terrestrial bodies. In doing so, he uncovered, beyond the variations of position and speed, the mathematical invariant of movement – that is to say, acceleration.”
– Quentin Meillassoux

(Note: this series of essays was written back in 2009-2010… and, do not reflect changes in science or philosophy since that time.)

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Ptolemy’s Revenge

With Galileo’s discovery of mathematical laws that could describe the motion of heavenly bodies came a unique realization: that the world in which we live is autonomous, a world that is “indifferent to everything in it that corresponds to the concrete, organic connection that we forge with it – it is this glacial world that is revealed to the moderns, a world in which there is no longer any up or down, centre or periphery, nor anything else that might make of it a world designed for humans” (AF: 184-185).

Meillassoux reminds us that what is important is not so much the decentering of the earth from its theological framework within scientific knowledge that makes the Copernican revolution so interesting. Instead it is the disquieting paradox residing in this view, which is the “unveiling of thought’s capacity to think what there is whether thought exists or not” (AF: 186). And, this, and this alone brings us to that “sense of desolation” that Meillassoux speaks of saying: “it consists in the thought of thought’s contingency for the world, and the recognition that thought has become able to think a world that can dispense with thought, a world that is essentially unaffected by whether or not anyone thinks it” (AF: 187).

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On Re-reading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux – Part VI

“When we look about us towards external objects, and consider the operation of causes, we are never able, in a single instance, to discover any power or necessary connexion; any quality, which binds the effect to the cause, and renders the one an infallible consequence of the other. There is required a medium, which may enable the mind to draw such an inference, if indeed it be drawn by reasoning and argument.”
– David Hume, 1737

“…the fact of the stability of the laws of nature seems sufficient to refute the very idea of their possible contingency… But it is precisely this claim about the real contingency of physical laws that we propose to defend in all seriousness.”
– Quentin Meillassoux

*    *    *

Quentin Meillassoux proposes Hume’s problem as follows: is it possible to demonstrate that the same effects will always follow from the same causes ceteris paribus, i.e. all other things being equal? In other words, can one establish that in identical circumstances, future successions of phenomena will always be identical to previous successions? The question raised by Hume concerns our capacity to demonstrate the necessity of the causal connection. (AF: 137) He goes on to up the ante by rooting out the difference between Hume’s deterministic physics and our own conception based as it is on quantum mechanics and the Special Relativity theory of an indeterministic science of probabilities saying that we should not conflate Hume’s problem with his deterministic framework, but define it as a more “general problem concerning all laws of nature, irrespective of their eventual specificity” (AF: 140). Which leads to the problem of whether we can have “any guarantee that physics as such … will continue to be possible in the future” (AF: 140). Instead he reformulates Hume’s question saying: “can we demonstrate that the experimental science which is possible today will still still be possible tomorrow?” (AF: 140).

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New Materialism Wiki Site

Just came across a New Materialism Wiki Site:

Organized by Katie Stephenson.

Looks like it is a good start. Some of the basic categories:

 Activist Materialism,  Aleatory Materialism,  Base Materialism,  Continental Materialism,  Corporeal Materialism,  Cultural Materialism,  Dark Materialism,  Democratic Materialism,  Digital Materialism,  Discursive Materialism,  Eliminative Materialism,  Incorporeal Materialism,  Material Feminisms,  Materialist Thinking,  Naturalist Materialism,  New Materialism  Neo Materialism,  Numerical Materialism,  Rhetorical Materialism,  Trans-Corporeal Materialism,  Transcendental Materialism,  Vital Materialism

On Re-reading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux: – Part V

“…we know by the principle of unreason why non-contradiction is an absolute ontological truth: because it is necessary that what is be determined in such a way as to be capable of becoming, and of being subsequently determined in some other way. …Accordingly, it becomes apparent that the ontological meaning of the principle of noncontradiction, far from designating any sort of fixed essence, is that of the necessity of contingency, or in other words, of the omnipotence of chaos.”
            – Quentin Meillassoux

(Note: this series of essays was written back in 2009-2010… and, do not reflect changes in science or philosophy since that time.)

Our knowledge of the principle of unreason has its lineages too. This counter-reason, this philosophical undertow to the power of metaphysical rationality, spawned by the great Leibniz, and his two principles: that of non-contradiction and sufficient reason; and, the spark that brought Hegel to his absolutization of the the principle of sufficient reason requiring the devaluation of the principle of non-contradiction; then by way Wittgenstein and Heidegger a strong correlationism that consisted in adamantly deabsolutizing both principles, we finally come to Meillassoux for whom the principle of unreason “teaches us that it is because the principle of reason is absolutely false that the principle of non-contradiction is absolutely true” (AF: 116).

Next he tackles the Leibnizian question of ‘why is there something rather than nothing?’ He tells us that we must discover a way to overcome the correlationist argument of the ‘for-us’ self-world axis and prove that the world would exist even if all life were dissolved in nothing this moment. The world does not need us to exist: even with the annihilation of all life the world in-itself would “subsist despite the abolition of every relation-to-the-world” (AF: 117).  But the proof must be non-metaphysical, there will be no deus-ex-machina called out of the closet of the metaphysicans trickery, no Prime Mover or Supreme Being “which would provide the reason for the fact that there is anything at all” (AF: 117). It must be both non-theological and non-fidiest: for it is not the atheist, but the believer who “insists that Leibniz’s question has no rational meaning, and thereby who falls back on the fideist miracology that “marvels at the fact that there is something rather than nothing because he believes that there is no reason for it, and that being is a pure gift, which might never have occurred” (AF: 117). For Meillassoux it must be a deflationary solution: one that says that the only “proper solution to the problem should be the sobering effect induced in the reader when she understands the solution, and says to herself, ‘so that’s what it was…” (AF: 118).

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On Re-reading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux – Part IV (Interlude)

“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.”
– Quentin Meillassoux

(Note: this series of essays was written back in 2009-2010… and, do not reflect changes in science or philosophy since that time.)

“One other move of Darkness in the grand struggle must be mentioned: the ordaining of heimarmene, the Archon’s diabolic invention. … The Archons collectively rule over the world, and each individually in his sphere is a warder of the cosmic prison. Their tyrannical world rule is called heimarmene, universal Fate, a concept taken over from astrology but now tinged with the gnostic anti-cosmic spirit.”
– Han Jonas

(Interlude: Meillassoux’s ‘power akin to Time’)

Quentin Meillassoux seems to be entering a dangerous realm of the weird with his concept of hyper-Chaos and the principle of unreason. The disturbance of this ‘power’ he sees as he peers, gazes, or looks through the ‘aperture’ (from L. apertura “an opening,” from apertus) he has opened onto the absolute (the principle of unreason, hyper-Chaos) reminds him of “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” (AF: 105-106). Then inexplicably he compares this to a ‘power’ 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” (AF: 106).

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On rereading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux: Part III

“What we seek then is a non-metaphysical absolute, capable of slipping through the meshes…”
– Quentin Meillassoux

(Note: this series of essays was written back in 2009-2010… and, do not reflect changes in science or philosophy since that time.)

Etymology of mesh:

1530s, “open space in a net,” perhaps from some dial. survival of O.E. max “net,” or from its cognates, M.Du. maessce, Du. maas, from P.Gmc. *mask- (cf. O.N. möskvi, Dan. maske, Swed. maska, O.H.G. masca, Ger. masche “mesh”), from PIE base *mezg- “to knit, plait, twist” (cf. Lith. mezgu “to knit,” mazgas “knot”). The verb is first recorded 1530s, in the figurative sense of “to entangle.”

The correlational cogito resigned as it is to the facticity or finitude of human experience, devoid of all reference to the absolute is ensnared in the mesh of a knitted, plaited, twisted non-event. Entangled and corrupted by its own delirious self-sufficiency, bound to illusory forms of the unreal, forged in the interstitial margins of a minimalistic purity,  and guided by a religiosity that dismisses the real as a terror and an impossibility; cut off as it is from the outside, the great outdoors, which is for it a feckless dream, a wandering thought amid shadowy fogs of a distempered mind, for whom the fabled dreamland of the absolute has become the graveyard for philosophical dogmatists: atheist and Christian and subjective idealist. Now this correlational cogito seeks only the solace of the linguistic turn that offers within its interminable textuality a salvation in traces, a voidic alchemy of thought and being, self and world correlated in the twisted knot of a communitarian consensus.

But to instigate a counter-offensive against this encircled community of the correlational cogito we must go by the path that absolutizes “the very principle that allows correlationism to disqualify absolutizing thought” (AF: 86). Doing this we follow those first explorers who “acknowledged correlationism’s discovery of a fundamental constraint… that we only have access to the for-us, not the in-itself – but instead of concluding from this that the in-itself is unknowable, they concluded that the correlation is the only veritable in-itself. In so doing, they grasped the ontological truth hidden beneath the sceptical argumentation – they converted radical ignorance into knowledge of a being finally unveiled in its true absoluteness’ (AF: 86-87). But these mighty explorers foundered upon the shoals of “the essential facticity of the correlation” (AF: 87). Instead of denying this facticity we new voyagers in quest of the absolute must “discover an ontological truth hidden beneath the facticity; if we can succeed in grasping why the very source which lends its power to the strategy of de-absolutization through fact also furnishes the means of access to an absolute being; then we will have gained access to a truth that is invulnerable to correlationist scepticism” (AF: 87). Striding across the bleached bones of our compatriots who have fallen by the wayside, each of us must pick up the clues they’ve left behind continuing down that dark path we “must grasp in facticity not the inaccessibility of the absolute but the unveiling of the in-itself and the eternal property of what is…” (AF: 87). For it is “not the correlation but the facticity of the correlation that constitutes the absolute” (AF: 87).

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Books of Interest

Just discovered three books of interest.

1. Theory After ‘Theory’. Editors Elliott, Jane; Attridge, Derek. Taylor & Francis. Routledge (2011)

This volume has essays by Brian Massumi, Ray Brassier, Peter Hallward, Eugene Thacker, Bernard Stiegler and others. The editors speking of the late demise of theory tell us that “for some, ‘Theory’ was already passing with the end of the 1970s, whereas for others, the 1980s and early 1990s represent the height of ‘Theory’, in which feminist, postcolonial, queer and critical race theorists made their most significant contributions. Since the mid-1990s, the story goes, theory has continued to diversify, drawing on the work of a range of new figures and examining a host of new archives and arenas, but its newer incarnations offer at most a kind of afterlife of the once vital object that was ‘Theory’, a diluted form lacking in both intellectual substance and institutional prominence. As a result, conversations regarding the status of theory have become akin to an ongoing wake, in which participants debate the merits of the deceased and consider the possibilities for a resurrection desired by some and feared by others.”

Brian Massumi offers a political ensemble: “The present tense where memory and perception come disjunctively together is the time of the event that is like a lost between of the towers and their ruins, an interval in which life was suspended for an instantaneous duration that was more like a stilled eternity than a passing present, comprehending reflection gone AWOL.”

Ray Brassier tells us that “the question ‘What is real?’ stands at the crossroads of metaphysics and epistemology. More exactly, it marks the juncture of metaphysics and epistemology with the seal of conceptual representation.”

Peter Hallward seeks a politics of movement and mobilization: “Recent examples of the sort of popular will that I have in mind include the determination, assembled by South Africa’s United Democratic Front, to overthrow an apartheid based on culture and race, or the mobilization of Haiti’s Lavalas to confront an apartheid based on privilege and class. Conditioned by the specific strategic constraints that structure a particular situation, such mobilizations test the truth expressed in the old cliché, ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’. Or to adapt Antonio Machado’s less prosaic phrase, taken up as a motto by Paulo Freire: the partisans of such mobilizations assume that ‘there is no way, we make the way by walking it’ (Machado 1978).”

Eugene Thacker delves into the debates within the biopolitical spectrum:  “Today, in an era of biopolitics, it seems that life is everywhere at stake, and yet it is nowhere the same. The question of how and whether to value life is at the core of contemporary debates over bare life and the state of exception.”

2. F. Vander Valk.Essays on Neuroscience and Political Theory: Thinking the Body Politic. Taylor & Francis. Routledge (2012)

There is an interesting essay by Adrian Johnston author of several excellent works, especially his work on Zizek and Badiou: Žižek’s Ontology: A Transcendental Materialist Theory of  Subjectivity (2008), and Badiou, Žižek, and Political Transformations: The Cadence of Change (2009). His essay in this book, Toward a Grand Neuropolitics – or, Why I am Not an Immanent Naturalist or Vital Materialist, which delves into the philosophy of “immanent naturalism” as typified by William Connelly who’s stance within his books Neuropolitics and A World of Becoming offers him grist for the mill. Johnston mentions Jane Bennett’s new work as well Vibrant Matter as well. I’ve only been able to do a cursory scan this and other essays wihtin this excellent volume of essays, but am intrigued by the subject already.

As Frank Vander Valk says in the introduction to the volume: “One of the consequences of the claims about the revolutionary nature of neuroscience has been that established concepts, ideas, and texts from political theory have not been sufficiently integrated into the emerging discussion of social (and political) neuroscience. This collection addresses that problem by explicitly connecting neuroscience research to major figures in the history of political theory (e.g. Aristotle, Hobbes) and specific issues in the field (e.g. deliberative democracy, gender, subjectivity). These are important first steps, not only in working through what neuroscience means (and does not mean!) for political theory, but also for providing examples of the contribution that political theorists can make to understanding the richness of biocultural entities.

3. A Leftist Ontology: Beyond Relativism and Identity Politics. Editor Carsten Strathausen. (2009)

William Connelly whom we met in the prevous volume tells us int the introduction to this grouping of philosophical discussions by George Kateb, Charles Taylor, and Judith Butler among others tells us that although each of them may differ over critical stances within leftist political and philosophical traditions, yet they all converge on three important aspects of the ontological dimension:

First, each embraces a positive ontological orientation, as when Taylor focuses on the complexity of human embodiment, supports a fugitive philosophy of transcendence, seeks to become more closely attuned to a final moral source that cannot be known in a classical epistemic way, and defines ethical life in terms of a plastic set of intrinsic purposes to be pursued rather than a set of universal laws to be obeyed. Each of the others takes different stances on the same issues. Second, each theorist discerns a loose set of relations between the ontology adopted, the ethical-political priorities endorsed, and specific dangers and possibilities to be identified. None suggests that an ontology determines a political stance, but all contend that it filters into politics, so that it would be a mistake to say that ontology has no influence on politics. Taylor’s faith in the grace of a loving God, for instance, enters into his politics, even if the element of mystery he discerns in divinity means that he does not delineate the tight set of moral commands presented by Pope Benedict XVI and a large section of the evangelical movement in America. Third, each figure acknowledges the ontology he or she embraces to be susceptible to reflective and comparative defense; but most conclude that it is unlikely to be established either by such airtight arguments or universal recognition that it rules every other possibility out of court. Each party-though perhaps to different degrees-is thus a pluralist, seeking to bring their onto-orientation into the public realm while recoiling back on tensions and uncertainties in it enough to invite open-textured negotiations with others. Each advances a bicameral orientation to citizenship, seeking to give his or her own orientation public presence while conceding a place to others. Discernible in the differences between them is the common appreciation of a paradoxical element in politics.”

Joshua Simon on Neo-Materialism

“…a new set of sensibilities has been introduced in critical contemporary art, dealing with the ways in which the commodity and its surrounding economy activate us.”

        – Johsua Simon

Joshua Simon has a three-part series on at e-flux journal Neo-Materialism, Part I: The Commodity and the Exhibition. He brings up Sven Lütticken’s essay “Art and Thingness” that  examines the art object as a transient object subjected to commodification through a series of processes. What simon points out is the neglect within Lütticken’s otherwise interesting essay is an examination of “commodity as an entity prior to the art object, , as the thing that precedes any object, including art objects.” His essay focuses on “on contemporary art objects within the framework of the exhibition—a form of seeing that allows an encounter with the art object as commodity. Even when artists, curators, critics, and spectators opt for an intimate, narrative, symbolic, critical, or any other understanding of objects, in an exhibition objects nevertheless converse in the language of commodities. While formalistic analysis reveals that this non-literal language involves materials, colors, shapes, scale, and composition, what is it exactly that the objects say?”

Materialism and World Politics – 20-22 October, 2012

Journal of International Studies

Annual Conference

Materialism and World Politics – 20-22 October, 2012

Old Building, London School of Economics

(Click Here For More Information)

Scheduled Speakers:

Keynote: The ontology of global politics
William Connolly (Johns Hopkins University)

Opening Panel: The materiality of geopolitics
Daniel Deudney (Johns Hopkins University)
John Protevi (Louisiana State University)

Closing Panel: Agency and structure in a complex world
Colin Wight (University of Sydney)
Erika Cudworth (University of East London)
Stephen Hobden (University of East London)
Diana Coole (Birkbeck, University of London)

ANT/STS Workshop keynote:
Andrew Barry (University of Oxford)


The annual conference for volume 41 of Millennium: Journal of International Studies will take place on 20-22 October, 2012 at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This includes 2 days of panels and keynotes on the weekend, and a special Monday workshop on actor-network theory (ANT), science and technology studies (STS), and alternative methodologies. Participation in the workshop on Monday is unfortunately limited though, and registration for it is now closed. We will however be publishing snippets of the workshop in future publications.

The theme of this year’s conference is on the topic of materialism in world politics. In contrast to the dominant discourses of neorealism, neoliberalism and constructivism, the materialist position asks critical questions about rational actors, agency in a physical world, the role of affect in decision-making, the biopolitical shaping of bodies, the perils and promises of material technology, the resurgence of historical materialism, and the looming environmental catastrophe. A large number of critical writers in International Relations have been discussing these topics for some time, yet the common materialist basis to them has gone unacknowledged. The purpose of this conference will be to solidify this important shift and to push its critical edges further. Against the disembodied understanding of International Relations put forth by mainstream theories, this conference will recognize the significance of material factors for world politics.


On rereading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux: Part II

“To think ancestrality is to think a world without thought – a world without the giveness of the world.”
– Quentin Meillassoux

(Note: this series of essays was written back in 2009-2010… and, do not reflect changes in science or philosophy since that time.)

The radicalization of scientific thought in its quest to discover the “source of its own absoluteness” is the key to Quentin Meillassoux’s second essay in After Finitude. Philosophy must “take up once more the injunction to know the absolute, and break with the transcendental tradition that rules out its possibility” (50). This is not a withdrawal into either metaphysics or dogmatism, instead we must move beyond the inadequacy of  the Cartesian project just as much as we move beyond the Kantian idealism of the correlationists by seeking another “relation to the absolute” (50).

He argues that Descartes proof of God, or the ‘ontological proof’, which infers God’s existence from his perfect nature/being: since he is perfect, and since existence is a perfection, God cannot but exist (50). Meillassoux shows two ways in which a correlationist might refute this ontological argument: a ‘weak’ model, which is that of Kant, and a ‘strong’ model, which seems to be dominant today (50). The weak argument against the ontological proof comes down to the simple basis of the circularity of the correlation that “because absolute necessity is always absolute necessity for us, necessity is never absolute, but only ever for us (53).

Kant chooses another path, he maintains that it is a logical contradiction to assert the non-existence of God as much as it is to assert his existence. Harman tells us this is because for Kant the thing-in-itself is unknowable, yet he “maintains that it is thinkable” (54). Kant asserts that we can know a priori that logical contradiction is absolutely impossible. Graham Harman tells us that “this is why it is imperative for Kant that Descartes’ thesis be refuted – for if it was contradictory for God not to exist, then by Kant’s own premises, it would also be absolutely necessary … that God exist. Consequently, it would become possible to obtain positive knowledge of the thing-in-itself through the use of a logical principle alone (54-55). Ultimately Kant chooses to follow Hume in arguing that there “is no contradiction involved in conceiving of a determinate entity as existing or not existing (55).

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On re-reading Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude: Part I

“Empirical science is today capable of producing statements about events anterior to the advent of life as well as consciousness.”
– Quentin Meillassoux

(Note: this series of essays was written back in 2009-2010… and, do not reflect changes in science or philosophy since that time.)

On re-reading Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude, the first thing I’m struck by is the lucidity and clarity of his mind: it flows from one argument to the next, taking in the panorama of the dark alien landscape of the great outdoors of thought and being, which is not so much in need of a new mathematical vocabulary of the real – as it is yearning for a mind free of its own self-invested plenitude, hoping against hope that it will step outside itself and its own correlational prison and gaze upon that which is: the in-itself, divested of all human contact and experience, yet  brightened by that inexplicable figuration of pure astonishment. Like an agonist in some ultimate glass-bead game of truth he weaves the myriad threads of philosophical discourse, unravelling the knotted aporia at the center of our black modernity, marshaling from one text to the next thoughts that will explicate a speculative solution to our current philosophical quagmire. Yet, unlike Magister Knecht in Herman Hesse’s classic novel, Magister Ludi, Meillassoux is not just some forlorn aesthete of the final thought, instead he is confronting nothing less than the truth of what is, then asking the oldest of questions: What can I know? What shall I do? What can I hope? .. and, perhaps, What is to be done?

Out of this amalgam comes a formidable and yet brilliant set of new problems, issues and concerns relating to our views of self, society, and the universe. He begins stipulating that the difference between objective and subjective representation is shaped by two types of subjective representation: those that can be universalized, and are thus by right capable of being experienced by everyone, and hence ‘scientific’, and those that cannot be universalized, and hence cannot belong to scientific discourse. [1: 12-13] Then he makes an interesting point:

“From this point on, intersubjectivity, the consensus of a community, supplants the adequation between the representations of a solitary subject and the thing itself as the veritable criterion of objectivity, and of scientific objectivity more particularly. Scientific truth is no longer what conforms to an in itself supposedly indifferent to the way in which it is given to the subject, but rather what is susceptible of being given as shared by a scientific community” (ibid. p. 13).

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Rosi Braidotti: The Feminist Turn in New Materialism

A prophetic or visionary dimension is necessary in order to secure an affirmative hold over the present, as the launching pad for sustainable becoming or qualitative transformations. The future is the virtual unfolding of the affirmative aspect of the present, which honours our obligations to the generations to come.”

                  from an Interview with Rosi Braidotti in New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies

Rosi Braidotti is a feminist philosopher whose works span the generation from Althusser to Deleuze and beyond. Her principle works are Patterns of Dissonance, Nomadic Subjects, Metamorphosis, Transpositions. For her “neo-materialism” emerges as a method, a conceptual frame and a political stand, which refuses the linguistic paradigm, stressing instead the concrete yet complex materiality of bodies immersed in social relations of power (NM 21). She relates that from the time of Simone de Beauvoir on feminist thought combined phenomenological theory of embodiment with Marxist—and later on poststructuralist—re-elaborations of the complex intersection between bodies and power (NM 21). And because of this there are two theoretical consequences: first, that feminist philosophy goes even further than mainstream continental philosophy in rejecting dualistic partitions of minds from bodies or nature from culture; and, second, is the emergence of a specific brand of materialism that combines oppositional consciousness of critique with creativity, in a double edged vision that does not stop at critical deconstruction but moves on to the active production of alternatives (NM 21).

She sees a critical need at the moment in our philosophical struggles for a systematic meta-discursive approach to the interdisciplinary methods of feminist philosophy. This is among the top priorities for philosophy today as well as women’s, gender and feminist studies as an established discipline (NM 25). Most of the feminist frameworks are based upon what she terms after Haraway as “situated epistemology”, along with Adrienne Rich’s “philosophy of location”. Out of this rich mix of methodological innovation emerged an embodied and embedded brand of feminist materialist philosophy of the subject introduces a break from both universalism and dualism (NM 22). The key concept in feminist materialism is the sexualized nature and the radical immanence of power relations and their effects upon the world (NM 22). She sees post-feminist thought negotiating a new course between post-humanism on the one hand and post-anthropocentric theories on the other (NM 25).

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The New Materialsm

“In the language of physical science, the change from materialism to ‘organic realism’— as the new outlook may be termed— is the displacement of the notion of static stuff by the notion of fluent energy. Such energy has its structure of action and flow, and is inconceivable apart from such structure.”

                                –  Alfred North Whitehead,  Process and Reality

To many people materialism is still under the shadow of Descartes. Many of our ideas about materiality in fact remain indebted to Descartes, who defined matter in the seventeenth century as corporeal substance constituted of length, breadth, and thickness; as extended, uniform, and inert. This provided the basis for modern ideas of nature as quantifiable and measurable and hence for Euclidian geometry and Newtonian physics. According to this model, material objects are identifiably discrete; they move only upon an encounter with an external force or agent, and they do so according to a linear logic of cause and effect. It seems intuitively congruent with what common sense tells us is the “real” material world of solid, bounded objects that occupy space and whose movements or behaviors are predictable, controllable, and replicable because they obey fundamental and invariable laws of motion. One might term this the extensive worldview of dead matter.

That philosophy has been conditioned and informed by non-philosophical domains is a truism, as Alain Badiou tells us: “I am perfectly in agreement with the statement that philosophy depends on certain nonphilosophical domains, which I have proposed to call the ‘conditions’ of philosophy” (PM 212 KL*).1 For Badiou there are four such condtions or non-philosophical domains: science, art, politics, and love. This essay deals with science in our own era and the indicative aspects of how it is informing philosophical speculations. Alfred North Whitehead was one of the first philosophers of the twientieth-century to observe the birth of a new approach to physics and cosmology within the work of Albert Einstein (Relativity) and Max Born (Quantum Physics). Along with it came a new sense of what matter is and this changed everything. The worldview of the Cartesian cogito and Newtonian physics was overturned. After this even the work of such materialists visions as Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud put forward within a Newtonian-Cartesian framework suddenly came into question, as well as many of the followers of the supposed Kantian Copernican Revolution in philosophy. Since that time new views on mind, thought, and matter have vied for a place in the sun.

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Ray Brassier: On Transcendental Realism

” I endorse a ‘transcendental realism’ according to which science knows the real but the nature of this ‘real’ is not strictly speaking objectifiable. The basic idea is that we know the real through objects, but that the real itself is not an object.”
– Ray Brassier, Interview With Ray Brassier – Against an Aesthetics of Noise

That Ray Brassier moves us beyond any naturalist reduction of scientific objectivity to a humanist perspective is the starting point of his unique blend of anti-humanism and speculative realism, which is centered on a ‘transcendental realism’, a perspective that asks us “how does human experience fit into the world described by science?”[1] He tells us that his view of science is shaped by the idea that “we can attain an objective perspective on our own subjectivity” (ibid.)” If we accept this dictum he tells us then “my conviction is that the sources and structures of human experience can and will be understood scientifically, but this integration of experience into the scientific worldview will entail a profound transformation in our understanding of what it means to be human—one as difficult for us to comprehend from within the purview of our current experience as the latter would have been for our hominid ancestors” (ibid.).

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Subjectivity and Void

“In a determinate Notion, universality and particularity immediately coexist; that is, the notion’s universality immediately “passes” into its particular determination. The problem here is not how to reconcile or “synthesize” the opposites (the universal and the particular aspects of a Notion), but, on the contrary, how to pull them apart, how to separate universality from its “otherness,” from its particular determinations. The absolute contradiction between universality and particularity can only be resolved, their immediate overlapping can only be mediated, when the Notion’s universality is asserted or posited (or appears) as such, in opposition to its otherness, to every particular determination. In such a move, the Notion returns “out of its determinateness into itself,” it reinstates itself “as self-identical, but in the determination of absolute negativity”— absolutely negating all and every positive content, all and every particular determination. The pure I (the Cartesian cogito, or Kantian transcendental apperception) is just such an absolute negation of all determinate content: it is the void of radical abstraction from all determinations, the form of “I think” emptied of all determinate thoughts. What happens here is what Hegel himself refers to as a “miracle”: this pure universality emptied of all content is simultaneously the pure singularity of the “I”; it refers to myself as the unique evanescent point which excludes all others, which cannot be replaced by any others— my self is, by definition, only me and nothing else. The I is, in this sense, the coincidence of pure universality with pure singularity, of radical abstraction with absolute singularity.  And this is also what Hegel aims at when he says that in “I” the Notion as such comes to exist: the universal Notion exists in the form of the I in which absolute singularity (it is me, only me) overlaps with radical abstraction (as pure I, I am totally indistinguishable from all other I’s).  In Paragraphs 1343 and 1344 of the Science of Logic, he then adds the “bad news” that accompanies the “good news” of the Notion’s return-to-itself from its otherness: “Individuality is not only the return of the Notion into itself; but immediately its loss”; that is, in the guise of an individual I, the Notion not only returns to itself (to its radical universality), freeing itself from the otherness of all particular determinations; it simultaneously emerges as an actually existing “this,” a contingent empirical individual immediately aware of itself, a “being-for-self”:

Through individuality, where the Notion is internal to itself, it becomes external to itself and enters into actuality … The individual, therefore, as self-related negativity, is immediate identity of the negative with itself; it is a being-for-self. Or it is the abstraction that determines the Notion, according to its ideal moment of being, as an immediate. In this way, the individual is a qualitative one or this. [Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, p. 621]

We find here already the allegedly “illegitimate” move from notional determinations to actual existence whose best-known version occurs at the end of the Logic, when the Idea releases itself into Nature as its externality. Let us avoid the standard idealist misunderstanding: of course, this speculative move does not “create” the flesh-and-blood individual, but it “creates” the “I,” the self-relating empty point of reference that the individual experiences as “itself,” as the void at the core of its being.”

       – Zizek, Slavoj. Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. (Verso; 1 edition (May 22, 2012)

On Belief – Zizek’s Atheism of the Void

“To be strange is to be foreign, alien – a stranger is a person whose home is elsewhere. …But I cannot explain the mystery.”
– V. S. Naipaul

What always fascinates me about Slavoj Zizek is that he is always digging deeper and deeper into that darkness beyond the human, seeking if not answers then disturbing the darkness that is looking for traces of its excess.  In his little book On Belief there is an essay Gnosticism? No Thanks!  he offers a window onto heresies of all types, political or religious, and how they are actually outgrowths of orthodoxy itself: these “strange” beliefs which seemed so shocking to the orthodoxy were precisely those that had the appearance of stemming logically from orthodox contemporary doctrines. That is why they were considered so dangerous”. * What is important here is that any orthodoxy, religious or political, has to confound or compromise its founding radical doctrines, its essential message; and, heretics are only those who reject this compromise by reinstituting the inherent intent of its original message.

He tells us that an understanding of Heidegger’s concept of Geworfenheit, of “being-thrown” into a concrete historical situation can help us understand heresy. He tells us that Geworfenheit is antithetical to both humanism and gnosticism: in the “humanist vision, a human being belongs to this earth: he should be fully at home on its surface, able to realize his potential through the active, productive exhange with it; for the gnostic, on the other hand, “the human Self is not created, it is a preexisting Soul (spark) thrown into a foreign inhospitable environment.”

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Slavoj Zizek: Living in the End Times

“Black will always have something melancholy in it…”
– Edmund Burke

“We feel free because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom.”
– Slavoj Zizek

Welcome to the Apocalypse. Is the global capitalist system reaching an apocalyptic zero-point? Are the new riders of the purple sage, the four horseman of a new apocalypse rising in our midst, and if so who are they? Slavoj Zizek in his latest work Living in the End Times tells us they are comprised by the ecological crisis, the consequences of the bio-genetic revolution, imbalances within the system itself (intellectual property rights, resource wars over food, water, and materials), and the explosive growth of social divisions and exclusions. [1]

Are we living in fetishistic disavowal of the ultimate threat, that of some rogue nation rising up out of the hinterlands of unreason with a new mass weapon of destruction? He tells us this is already happening and no amount of pre-emptive strikes by the US and its allies to stop each new threat will succeed because they rely on an erroneous fantasmatic vision. (xi) We are all living under the sign of doom, a terminal condition that has no cure.

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The Abyss of Freedom

“”This is the sadness which adheres to all finite life…From it comes the veil of sadness which is spread over the whole of nature, the deep indestructible melancholy of all life.”
F.W.J. Schelling

“Schelling is one of the first philosophers seriously to begin the destruction of the model of metaphysics based on the idea of true representation, a destruction which can be seen as one of the key aspects of modern philosophy from Heidegger to the later Wittgenstein and beyond. He is, at the same time, unlike some of his successors, committed to an account of human reason which does not assume that reason’s incapacity to ground itself should lead to an abandonment of rationality.”
– Andrew Bowie, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling

What is this sadness that adheres to all finite life, and what must this indestructible melancholy be to have forced Schelling into so dark a turn in his philosophical thinking?

Andrew Bowie, speaking of Schelling, tells us that “we cannot, he maintains, make sense of the manifest world by beginning with reason, but must instead begin with the contingency of being and try to make sense of it with the reason which is only one aspect of it and which cannot be explained in terms of its being a representation of the true nature of being.”[1] He goes on to say that Schelling contends that the identity of thought and being cannot be articulated within thought, because thought must presuppose that they are identical in a way which thought, as one side of a relation, cannot comprehend.(ibid.) Schelling tells us:

“Activated selfhood is necessary for life’s intensity; without there would be complete death, goodness slumbering; for where there is no battle there is no life. The will of the depths is therefore only the awakening of life, not evil immediately and for itself….Whoever has no material or force for evil in himself is also impotent for good…..The time of merely historical faith is past, as soon as the possibility of immediate knowledge is given.” [2]

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Abyss radiance: Toward a Dark Realism

Nihil est sine ratione….nothing is without a reason.”
– Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

“We have to allow the reality of force in physics.”
from the Theodicy, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

In his Theodicy Leibniz comes to a theory of finitude saying, “A fuller power to represent the universe is necessarily combined with dominance over an organized troop of members; for the mind knows the universe only in so far as the universe is expressed in its body. That is what the finitude of the mind means.”[1] He sees the objective universe of brute matter as devoid of mind, and “representation, in the required sense, is a mental act; brute matter can represent nothing, only mind can represent.” [ibid. p. 23]

His theory of representation is seen as atomistic and in that sense based upon a correlation of all objects as bodies: “Each monad, if it is to be anything at all, must be a continuing finite representation of the universe, and to be that it must have a body, that is to say, it must have other monads in a permanent relation of mutual correspondence with it.”[ ibid. p. 23] In some ways he was moving toward a fractal monadology: “The wonders revealed by that new miracle, the microscope, suggested what the intrinsic divisibility of space itself suggests—whatever organization is broken up, there will still be a minute organization within each of the fragments which remains unbroken—and so ad infinitum.” Then he moves into the realm of a weird realism, a strangeness in which “the truth of things” is revealed in such a way that “each monad is simply its own mental life, its own world-view, its own thoughts and desires. To know things as they are would be simultaneously to live over, as though from within and by a miracle of sympathy, the biographies of an infinite number of distinct monads.”[ibid. p. 25]

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The Poem of the Sea: Speculative Materialism and Realism

“Art makes things. There are… no objects in nature, only the grueling erosion of natural force, flecking, dilapidating, grinding down, reducing all matter to fluid, the thick primal soup from which new forms, bob, gasping for life.”
Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae

“The rupture with the idealist tradition in the field of philosophic study is of great necessity today.”
Alain Badiou

“And this brings me to the great underlying problem: the status of the subject. Meillassoux’s claim is to achieve the breakthrough into independent ‘objective’ reality. For me as a Hegelian, there is a third option: the true problem that arises after we perform the basic speculative gesture of Meillassoux… is not so much what more can we say about reality-in-itself, but how does our subjective standpoint, and subjectivity itself, fit into reality. … we need a theory of subject which is neither that of transcendental subjectivity nor that of reducing the subject to a part of objective reality. This theory is, as far as I can see, still lacking in speculative realism.”
– Slavoj Zizek 

Timothy Morton on his blog Ecology without Nature mentioned the music of Sun0))) and Boris, which was weird because I was listening to their album Altar at the moment I saw his article on them… a Jungian synchronicity? – or, just another speculative event among like minded connoisseurs of the transcendent real. Anyway Alter is a performative music in which one enters an arena of the erotics of the technological subject, a subject that is no longer bound by our concepts of the human: or, as Slavoj Zizek has so eloquently put it – the “subject as the Void, the Nothingness of self-relating negativity”. [1]

As we enter the Age of the Real when the Dionysian fluidity of the chthonian, a radical contingency in which – as Quentin Meillasoux brilliantly states it: “…not only are there no laws which hold with necessity, every law is in itself contingent, it can be overturned at any moment” (ibid. 215), vies with the Apollonian formalism of science, we discover the terminal phase of postmodern culture in an electrical gaze between masks that forms a new object: an erotic, molten dance of sensual objects and thought out of which emerges the “notion of virtuality, supported by the rationality of the Cantorian decision of intotalising the thinkable, makes of irruption ex nihilo the central concept of an immanent, non-metaphysical rationality.” [2]

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