Quentin Meillassoux’s Science Fiction and Extro-Science Fiction out there now from Univocal

Univocal Publishing
ISBN/Code: 9781937561482

Science Fiction and Extro-Science Fiction
by Quentin Meillassoux
Imagining a fiction where science is impossible.

“In Science Fiction and Extro-Science Fiction, Quentin Meillassoux addresses the problem of chaos and of the constancy of natural laws in the context of literature. With his usual argumentative rigor, he elucidates the distinction between science fiction, a genre in which science remains possible in spite of all the upheavals that may attend the world in which the tale takes place, and fiction outside-science, the literary concept he fashions in this book, a fiction in which science becomes impossible. With its investigations of the philosophies of Hume, Kant, and Popper, Science Fiction and Extro-Science Fiction broadens the inquiry that Meillassoux began in After Finitude, thinking through the concrete possibilities and consequences of a chaotic world in which human beings can no longer resort to science to ground their existence. It is a significant milestone in the work of an emerging philosopher, which will appeal to readers of both philosophy and literature. The text is followed by Isaac Asimov’s essay The Billiard Ball.”


Speculative Realism/OOO Workshop (Cyprus, 2012)

Apropos the recent call for panel participants our proposal has been accepted for The 13th International Conference of the International Society for the Study of European Ideas. The SR/OOO panel will be included under Section V: Religion, Philosophy, Anthropology, Psychology, Language. You can see the abstract and call for further participants here. So far we have 8 pledges, but more are welcome especially since the conference takes place in July 2012 and spots may open up again.

via ahb

That’s Weird (Hypertiling Fabio on Miéville, Lovecraft, and Meillassoux)

Yesterday I’ve listened to the recording of China Miéville‘s talk at Kingston University on ‘The Weird’ in fiction and politics (by the way, I’m not sure who runs the Backdoor Broadcasting Company, but they have my deepest respect for what they do). Given my sceptical stance towards the porting of weird tropes and language from fiction to non-fiction (including politics and philosophy) I was somewhat prejudiced, and was expecting, from Miéville, an all-round defense of all things weird. I was wrong.

Read More

via Hyper tiling

Transcendental Realism (Audio via Deontologistics)

Greetings to all. It’s a bit late for an update, but, as others have already noted (here and here), the Transcendental Realism Workshop that happened last week went very well. I was most pleased with the way the various papers fitted together. A number of important issues recurred throughout the whole day: the relation between metaphysics and science, the nature and importance of rationality, the structure of concept revision, the interface between the natural and the normative, the role of the social in the structure of knowledge, and the significance of Kant’s philosophy.… Read More

via Deontologistics

The Weird: a discussion of fiction and politics with China Miéville

Event Date: 2 March 2011

Kingston University

JG0002, John Galsworthy Building

Penrhyn Road Campus

Kingston KT1 2EE

At the start of the twentieth century, H. P . Lovecraft summed up the encounter between horror and strangeness as ‘pictures of shattered natural laws’ and encounters with ‘cosmic outsideness’. At the start of the 21st century, the weird has alerted us, once again, to the persistence of this ‘mood or feeling’. The new weird – generically indeterminate as it is – offers a potent trope linking pasts and presents and opening new terrains for writing creatively and differently even though its political, philosphical and cultural ramifications may be less easy to fathom.This talk with China Miéville and the Faculty of Kingston’s London Graduate School and School of Humanities seeks to revisit the idea of the weird in fiction and politics. The session will betake the form of an open discussion where contributions from faculty and audience will consider the relevance of the idea of the weird to various fields of study in the humanities.


intro . 




via BdBC

Speculations II as a PDF (via Public Praxis)

Download Speculations II as a PDF.


Tractatus Mathematico-Politicus – Christopher Norris

The Philosopher, the Sophist, the Undercurrent and Alain Badiou – Marianna Papastefanou

On the Reality and Construction of Hyperobjects with reference to Class – Levi Bryant

Structure, Sense, and Territory – Michael Austin

The Anxiousness of Objects – Robert Jackson

The Cubist Object – Hilan Bensusan

On the possibility of ignorance in Meillassoux – Josef Moshe

Sublime Objects – Tim Morton

Unknowing Animals – Nicola Masciandaro

Positions Papers and Interview

Networkologies II – Christopher Vitale

‘Girls Welcome!!!’ – Michael O’Rourke

‘Science and Philosophy’ Interview with Sean Carroll – Fabio Gironi

Book Reviews

Review of Eugene Thacker’s After Life – Anthony Paul Smith

Review of Jussi Parikka’s Insect Media – Beatrice Marovich

Review of Graham Harman’s Towards Speculative Realism – Fintan Neylan

Laruellian/Lacanian Clones (via Naught Thought)

Of the various terms that Francois Laruelle utilizes in his non-philosophy, none is odder than cloning. Non-philosophical cloning is the performative method by which and from which, the stranger (or alien-subject) utilizes the transcendental material which comprises the world in order to foster new decisions and break current philosophical horizons. Where all philosophical thought according to Laruelle is founded upon a decision where a datum and factum (such as actual/virtual) are auto-posited as reciprocally constituting and given, non-philosophical cloning operates by distinguishing the Real term from the ideal term thereby turning the loop into a one way street. That is, the alien subject liberates immanence (the Real as absolute cause) from the transcendent (as occasional cause). Instead of transcendence functioning as a position of evaluation, transcendence becomes the result of loosing immanence as such from its correlationist trap thereby passing through the transcendental material (as a kind of accelerant) pointing a meteor towards the world from which the subject was cloned from… (Ben Woodard) Read More

via Naught Thought

Graham Harman interviewed (via Dialogica Fantastica)

Graham Harman

Image via Wikipedia

Intro: We welcome Graham Harman of the American University of Cairo, the most well known protagonist of ‘Object Oriented Philosophy’ – a system of thought which takes ‘things’ to be central to existence, and which classes humans as just one of those things. Harman cut his teeth reading Heidegger in his teens, and it was his new approach to this often misunderstood philosopher that gained Harman recognition with his books Tool-Being and Guerrilla Metaphysics. … Read More

via Dialogica Fantastica

Ray Brassier interviewed by Marcin Rychter: “I am a nihilist because I still believe in truth.”

KRONOS: ‘Nihilism‘ is one of the most ambiguous philosophical concepts. What is your idea of it? Would you consider yourself a nihilist? Does nihilism totally exclude religion? What about Meillassoux’s nihilistic faith fuelled by the inexistence of God?

RB: Very simply, nihilism is a crisis of meaning. This crisis is historically conditioned, because what we understand by ‘meaning’ is historically conditioned. We’ve moved from a situation in which the phenomenon of ‘meaning’ was self-evident to one in which it has become an enigma, and a primary focus of philosophical investigation. The attempt to explain what ‘meaning’ is entails a profound transformation in our understanding of it; one that I think will turn out to be as far-reaching as the changes in our understanding of space, time, causality, and life provoked by physics and biology.

The pre-modern worldview that lasted several millennia and spanned the transition from poly- to monotheism, is one in which the world and human existence are intrinsically meaningful. (I say “is” rather than “was” because this worldview continues to persist today, even among educated people.) In this worldview, there is a natural order, and that order is comprehensible to human beings in its broad outline, if not in every single one of its details. Religion in general, but monotheism in particular, offers the key required to decipher this natural order by explaining most (though not all) of God’s intent in creating the world: God is good, he created us in his image, so that we might strive to achieve goodness, and thereby be rewarded with eternal happiness if we succeed, or punished with eternal suffering if we fail. God is the ultimate source and guarantor of this meaningful order, through which human beings are able to make sense of their lives in terms of a struggle between sin and redemption, the conflict between good and evil, etc.

The emergence of modern mathematized natural science around the 16th Century marks the point at which this way of making sense of ourselves and our world begins to unravel. It does not collapse all at once, but it begins to lose its official theoretical sanction in the discourse of theology once the new science starts chipping away at the latter’s basic conceptual underpinnings. Over the course of a few centuries, the longstanding assumption that everything exists for a reason, that things are intrinsically purposeful and have been designed in accordance with a divine plan, is slowly but systematically dismantled, first in physics, then in chemistry, and eventually in biology, where it had held out longest. Curved space-time, the periodic table, natural selection: none of these are comprehensible in narrative terms. Galaxies, molecules, and organisms are not for anything. Try as we might, it becomes increasingly difficult to construct a rationally plausible narrative about the world that satisfies our psychological need for stories that unfold from beginning, through crisis, to ultimate resolution.

Of course, ‘nihilism’ in its broadest sense, understood as the predicament in which human life and existence more generally are condemned as ‘meaningless’ (i.e. ‘purposeless’), certainly predates the development of modern science (think of Ecclesiastes). But the emergence of modern science lends it a cognitive import it did not previously enjoy, because where pre-modern nihilism was a consequence of a failure of understanding – “We cannot understand God, therefore there is no meaning available to creatures of limited understanding such as we” – modern nihilism follows from its unprecedented success – “We understand nature better than we did, but this understanding no longer requires the postulate of an underlying meaning”. What has happened in this shift is that intelligibility has become detached from meaning: with modern science, conceptual rationality weans itself from the narrative structures that continue to prevail in theology and theologically inflected metaphysics. This marks a decisive step forward in the slow process through which human rationality has gradually abandoned mythology, which is basically the interpretation of reality in narrative terms. The world has no author and there is no story enciphered in the structure of reality. No narrative is unfolding in nature, certainly not the traditional monotheistic narrative in which the human drama of sin and redemption occupied centre stage, and humanity was a mirror for God.

All this may sound platitudinous: surely existentialists had already realized this? But the difference is that existentialists thought it was still possible for human consciousness to provide the meaning that was absent from nature: existence may be meaningless, but man’s task is to provide it with a meaning. My contention is that this solution is no longer credible, because a project is now underway to understand and explain human consciousness in terms that are compatible with the natural sciences, such that the meanings generated by consciousness can themselves be understood and explained as the products of purposeless but perfectly intelligible processes, which are at once neurobiological and sociohistorical. My claim is not that science has succeeded in explaining consciousness, but only that considerable progress has been made, and that the burden of proof lies with those who insist on denying such progress and who presume to dismiss the attempt as impossible in principle. There have been plenty of such attempts, and doubtless there will be more, but I find none of them remotely persuasive, and neither should those scientists actually engaged in trying to understand and explain the human mind.

Of course, many thinkers, including some scientists, persist in trying to wrest some sort of psychologically satisfying narrative from elements of the modern scientific worldview. But this effort is doomed because it is the very category of narrative that has been rendered cognitively redundant by modern science. Science does not need to deny the significance of our evident psychological need for narrative; it just demotes it from its previously foundational metaphysical status to that of an epistemically derivative ‘useful fiction’.

Some might object that there is a latent contradiction between my denial of the metaphysical reality of narrative order in nature and my appeal to a narrative of cognitive progress in intellectual history. But there is no contradiction: it is perfectly possible to track explanatory progress in the conceptual realm without invoking some dubious metaphysical narrative about the ineluctable forward march of Spirit. I think Robert Brandom’s reconstructive reading of Hegel does just this—it frees the normative ideal of explanatory progress from its metaphysical, and ultimately mythological, inflation into the universal history of Spirit.

Like Nietzsche, I think nihilism is a consequence of the ‘will to truth’. But unlike Nietzsche, I do not think nihilism culminates in the claim that there is no truth. Nietzsche conflated truth with meaning, and concluded that since the latter is always a result of human artifice, the former is nothing but a matter of convention. However, once truth is dismissed, all that remains is the difference between empowering and disempowering fictions, where ‘life’ is the fundamental source of empowerment and the ultimate arbiter of the difference between life-enhancing and life-depreciating fictions. Since the abandonment of truth undermines the reason for relinquishing illusion, it ends up licensing the concoction of further fictional narratives, the only requirement for which is that they prove to be ‘life-enhancing’.

I consider myself a nihilist precisely to the extent that I refuse this Nietzschean solution and continue to believe in the difference between truth and falsity, reality and appearance. In other words, I am a nihilist precisely because I still believe in truth, unlike those whose triumph over nihilism is won at the cost of sacrificing truth. I think that it is possible to understand the meaninglessness of existence, and that this capacity to understand meaning as a regional or bounded phenomenon marks a fundamental progress in cognition.

As for nihilism and religion: well, religion’s rational credibility can be rebuked without evoking modern science or nihilism: Democritus and Epicurus did so over two thousand years ago, using arguments that are still valid today, even if theists prefer to ignore them. But of course, the irrationality of religious belief has never impeded its flourishing; indeed, it is precisely what immunizes it against rational refutation, since religion is designed to satisfy psychological needs, not rational requirements. Marx was right: religion will never be eradicated until the need for it evaporates. Obviously, this evaporation will have to be accomplished practically as well as cognitively.

I have not read Meillassoux’s L’inexistence divine so do not know what sorts of arguments he adduces to legitimate the hypothesis of an inexistent ‘God-to-come’. I am sure they will be exceptionally ingenious. But I remain skeptical, since I see no need for any such hypothesis. Indeed, I view this continuing philosophical fascination with monotheism as deeply pernicious and think a moratorium ought to be declared to prevent any further ‘God talk’ by philosophers. I do not think it mere coincidence that the critique of scientific rationality in much 20th century philosophy goes hand in hand with a revival of theological themes. Religion obviously satisfies deep-seated human needs, but it has been a cognitive catastrophe that has continually impeded epistemic progress—contrary to the pernicious revisionism that claims monotheism was always on the side of science and truth. Human knowledge has progressed in spite of religion, never because of it. Philosophers should simply have no truck with it.

KRONOS: Is your career as a noise musician an act of nihilism? Why did you choose the noise genre? What are your noise music preferences? Or maybe you don’t even listen to noise, just produce it? Should noise music be perceived also as a political statement?

RB: I have no such career. But there is a connection between my philosophical interests and my collaborations with musicians. I don’t set much store by labels, but if one is to be used, these collaborations are better described as attempts at ‘non-idiomatic improvisation’ than as ‘noise’. My musical preferences are irrelevant to these experiments. There was a time when I listened to a lot of ‘noise’, but no longer. The issues of ‘noise’’s political and ideological ramifications are too complicated to go into here, but an attempt at addressing them is made in the texts ‘Idioms and Idiots’ and ‘Metal Machine Theory’ (available at http://www.mattin.org/essays/essays.html), produced in collaboration with Mattin, Jean-Luc Guionnet, and Seijiro Murayama.

KRONOS: Does art have any epistemological value? Can it possibly have any?

RB: Yes. See above.

KRONOS: How would you describe your ‘love-affair’ with the speculative realists movement?

RB: The ‘speculative realist movement’ exists only in the imaginations of a group of bloggers promoting an agenda for which I have no sympathy whatsoever: actor-network theory spiced with pan-psychist metaphysics and morsels of process philosophy. I don’t believe the internet is an appropriate medium for serious philosophical debate; nor do I believe it is acceptable to try to concoct a philosophical movement online by using blogs to exploit the misguided enthusiasm of impressionable graduate students. I agree with Deleuze’s remark that ultimately the most basic task of philosophy is to impede stupidity, so I see little philosophical merit in a ‘movement’ whose most signal achievement thus far is to have generated an online orgy of stupidity.

KRONOS: Is there still a need for metaphysics or will science alone do to describe reality?

RB: Science harbours metaphysical presuppositions whether it wants to or not. Far better for it to be aware of them so that it is able to tell which of its metaphysical assumptions are empirically fertile, and which are obstructive and redundant. The only credible metaphysic is one that is sensitive to the philosophical implications of the natural sciences, as exemplified by the way in which physics has reconfigured our intuitive notions of space, time, and causality; or biology has forced us to revise (if not abandon) our intuitive understanding of species and essence. The idea of a purely a priori, armchair metaphysics, presuming to legislate about the structure of reality while blithely ignoring the findings of our best sciences, strikes me as indefensible. This is not to say that there is no room for a priori argument and pure conceptual construction in metaphysics, but that it is illegitimate to infer substantive conclusions about what exists from arguments about relations between concepts. This is obviously a Kantian injunction, but one that I believe remains valid today, however much one might want to contest Kant’s own transcendental idealism, as I do.

Science and metaphysics are indissociable: just as empirical science can be impeded by unavowed metaphysical assumptions, metaphysics becomes mired in anthropomorphic parochialism if it fails to attend to the way in which speculative intuition is subtly constrained and influenced by empirical and historical factors. Peter Wolfendale has provided the most perspicuous account of the relation between metaphysics and the natural sciences in his ‘Essay on Transcendental realism’, which I cannot recommend too highly (available at http://deontologistics.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/essay-on-transcendental-realism.pdf.)

KRONOS: What is your attitude towards common-sense philosophy?

Belief in a monolithic pre-philosophical ‘common-sense’ risks becoming part of philosophers’ own unquestioned common-sense. Unquestioning deference to ‘common-sense’, of the kind exemplified by 1950s ‘ordinary language’ philosophy, is as debilitating for philosophy as the cultivation of heterodox or counter-intuitive claims for their own sake, which at its worst culminates in the attempt to turn a word like ‘weird’ into a term of philosophical approbation—a move as vacuous as it is idiotic. No doubt, there is much blind prejudice and ignorant doxa in ‘common-sense’, but there are also the sorts of hard-won, empirically robust generalizations that provide the indispensable starting point for scientific enquiry. The relation between common and uncommon-sense is dialectical: empirical science sets out from a stock of commonsensical assumptions but attains increasingly counter-intuitive results that often challenge the manifest image of reality from which it started. Conversely, idealist philosophers who make a great fuss about the need to suspend ‘the natural attitude’ or set aside the prejudices of common-sense often end up ratifying the inviolable authority of a brand of a priori or speculative common-sense, usually about the incorrigibility of ‘originary intuitions’ or the indubitable reality of the qualities of lived experience. I find it significant that empirical science has generated far greater imaginative challenges to our ‘manifest image’ of reality than anything conjured through purely a priori philosophical speculation. ‘Common-sense’ is more heterogeneous, and ultimately stranger and more surprising than the caricature which provides the convenient foil for the reveries of idealism. Where empirical commonsense leads to the science whose counter-intuitive results challenge the limits of human imagination, idealist disdain for commonsense often ends up ratifying a more rarefied, more insidious orthodoxy in which ‘failures of imagination are mistaken for insights into necessity’ (Dennett).

KRONOS: Living in Lebanon how do you feel about the February 2011 Middle East situation?

RB: Like most people, I am very heartened by the revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, and Lybia, and have nothing but admiration for the courage of the protestors who have risked life and limb in the attempt to transform a situation that had become intolerable. I find the attempt to characterize these revolts as manifestations of the desire for Western-style capitalist democracy, and thereby enlist them as ideological victories for neo-liberalism, rather preposterous, and I hope that whatever mode of government comes to supplant those of the toppled dictatorships, it will not simply be the brand of corrupt oligarchic ‘democracy’ that the US and Europe so cynically promote. But it remains too early to tell what will ultimately come of these rebellions, so I am wary of any overly optimistic prognoses: there are too many powerful vested interests ready to do whatever it takes to ensure the preservation of their privileges, amply assisted by their US and European sponsors needless to say. There are no guarantees of victory for genuine popular democracy—indeed the remaining obstacles stacked against the protestors are daunting, if not insuperable—so I remain skeptical of some the more sanguine forecasts about the future. But overall, I welcome what I hope will prove to be the first but not the last rebuke to US and European perfidy in the Middle-East. In particular, I hope this signals the beginning of the end of Israel’s impunity in perpetrating its crimes against the Palestinian people.

February 2011


Speculations II: Table of Contents Ready (via Hyper tiling)


Tractatus Mathematico-Politicus – Christopher Norris

The Philosopher, the Sophist, the Undercurrent and Alain Badiou – Marianna Papastefanou

On the Reality and Construction of Hyperobjects with reference to Class – Levi Bryant

Structure, Sense, and Territory – Michael Austin

The Anxiousness of Objects – Robert Jackson

The Cubist Object – Hilan Bensusan

On the possibility of ignorance in Meillassoux – Josef Moshe

Sublime Objects – Tim Morton

Unknowing Animals – Nicola Masciandaro

Positions Papers and Interview

Networkologies II – Christopher Vitale

‘Girls Welcome!!!’ – Michael O’Rourke

‘Science and Philosophy’ Interview with Sean Carroll – Fabio Gironi

Book Reviews

Review of Eugene Thacker’s After Life – Anthony Paul Smith

Review of Jussi Parikka’s Insect Media – Beatrice Marovich

Review of Graham Harman’s Towards Speculative Realism – Fintan Neylan

We can finally release the provisional ToC of the forthcoming, second volume of Speculations, hopefully available to you all in the next few weeks. There’s a lot to look forward too… Read More

via Hyper tiling

Cinema and Fetishism, or, The Commercial Value of Shit

Even shit has a commercial value, depending of course, on whose shit it is. While in the case of human shit you have to pay to get rid of it, in the case of animal shit it is said to be a very efficient and sufficient fertilizer for one who has learned to use it, rather than seeing it as something worthless because it cannot be eaten. “Inversely, it is this very terror that is projected on to the spectacle of the mother’s body, and invites the reading of an absence where anatomy sees a different conformation.”[1]

Since even the instincts are produced by the superpanoptic projection-introjection mechanism in which the subject finds himself/herself, giving free rein to the unconscious to express itself only produces projections of the evil within onto the without. For Freud the death drive is the effect of a striving for infinity, nothingness, and death. I would say it is also the cause of it.

Commodity fetishism is equal to will to nothingness in that it is the desire for the inorganic objects to stand in for nothingness, the Real of the subject’s desire. Capitalism replaces the use value of the objects with two-dimensional commercial value, so the subject desires to be desired, and he/she can only do that by adapting to the two dimensional sphere of commodity fetishism; by becoming a fetish object himself. If we recall Marcuse complaining that the one-dimensional is absorbing the two-dimensional  and also keep in mind that Marcuse’s two-dimensional culture has become the pre-dominant culture of today, we can see why the solution is to say, “I don’t see myself as you see me,” to the big Other in whatever form it appears in our lives.

In our opinion fetishism only occurs in sadism in a secondary and distorted sense. It is divested of its essential relation to disavowal and suspense and passes into the totally different context of negativity and negation, where it becomes an agent in the sadistic process of condensation.[2]

So the death drive produces new objects of desire by splitting the already existing objects. The subject as death drive, by splitting the symbolic, opens up spaces for the emergence of new objects of desire to stand in for nothingness and death.

The good object has moved to the side of knowledge and the cinema becomes a bad object (a dual displacement which makes it easy for ‘science’ to stand back). The cinema is ‘persecuted’, but this persistence is also a reparation (the knowing posture is both aggressive and depressive), reparation of a specific kind, peculiar to the semiologist: the restoration to the theoretical body of what has been taken from the institution, from the code which is being ‘studied.’[3]

Writing about cinema is essentially a criticism of the symbolic order, for both writing and cinematic production are themselves symbolic social activities. Since cinema exploits the life drive by satisfying the desire for something covering nothing, writing about cinema is essentially governed by the death drive which tries to expose the nothingness behind the symbolic. That which a film veils is nothing other than nothing; and exposing this nothingness behind the film introduces a split between the subject and the signifier. When looked at like that psychotherapy becomes critical of the existing social order, for by criticizing the film the critic heals the film industry hence having a healing effect on the spectator.

It is clear that fetishism, in the cinema as elsewhere, is closely linked to the good object. The function of the fetish is to restore the latter, threatened in its ‘goodness’ (in Melanie Klein’s sense) by the terrifying discovery of the lack. Thanks to the fetish, which covers the wound and itself becomes erotogenic, the object as a whole can become desirable again without excessive fear.[4]

According to Metz cinema is a fetish object. Films stand in for an object that is absent. The reflection of images on the screen veil the nothingness behind them without which they would not have been seen. “The fetish is the cinema in its physical state. A fetish is always material: insofar as one can make up for it by the power of the symbolic alone one is precisely no longer a fetishist.”[5]

Cinema produces unattainable objects of desire. By filling in a gap they render the nothingness more unattainable. They give the impression that there is something they are hiding and that way they produce the desire for nothingness. Cinema’s power of exploiting the will to nothingness, however, is the only tool one has at hand to criticize the cinematic apparatus as a form of ideology.

Sublimation of the objects of desire takes place through cinema and television. The more they are rendered unattainable the more sublime they become. What cinema does is to create the illusion of presence. Cinema shows an absent object through presenting an object to substitute for the nothingness. So it is the presence of an absence that we see on the screen. To enjoy cinema the subject has to know that what he/she is watching is only a presence covering an absence, that it is that which stands in for the Real of the subject’s desire. So Metz can say, “the fetish is the cinema in its physical sense.”[6] Looked at that way fetish is that which is produced to stand in for the Real object of desire, which is nothingness, and is therefore produced to satisfy the will to nothingness.

Cinematic narrative doesn’t show events in their real sequence. There are cuts, gaps, spaces between the scenes. All those, cuts, gaps, spaces between the scenes are openings to an external reality; they give the impression that there is something external to that which is actually being shown. The spectator is made to believe that there is something he/she doesn’t know as to what’s really going on in the film. This curiosity for that which is unknown inherent in every human is that which cinema exploits. By making the spectator simultaneously believe and not-believe what he/she is seeing on the screen, cinema creates an ambiguous relationship with itself and the spectator.

 By leaving gaps within the narrative, cinema invites projective identification. The spectator projects what he has inside him onto the absence within the filmic text. He fills those gaps with his internal partial objects and imposes a unity and continuity on the split narrative of the film.

The death drive involves splitting and introjection. The subject as death drive splits given unities and continuities. It is impossible for a spectator governed by the death drive to identify with the characters in the film. On the contrary, he desires nothing, identifies with nothing, without which he knows there can be no meaning. Rather than filling in the gaps within the narrative death drive puts them into the spotlight, it shows that those gaps are interior to the narrative itself. The incompleteness of the narrative is the condition of possibility for its meaning.

We can differentiate these two different types of spectatorship, one governed by the life drive and the other by the death drive, as associationism and dissociationsim.

In associationism the subject immerses himself/herself in the medium of the imaginary and identifies with the characters in the movie. In dissociationsim the subject introduces new splits between the internal and the external objects and hence renders identification impossible for himself/herself.

The life drive is the will to become one with the world, it is the force behind mimicry and associationsim. It is wrong to associate the death drive with mimicry and associationism. The subject as death drive dissociates and splits given unities and continuities. In horror movies the absence of the knowledge of truth for the spectator, that is, not being given the role of the omniscient eye, the spectator becomes curious and to understand what’s really going on in the movie he/she identifies with the characters. In the face of the abundance of gaps to be filled in the process of watching the film the life drive grows less and less strong for doing all the job throughout the watching process, while the death drive is oppressed and because of this very oppression it grows more and more strong. Eventually the life drive collapses and the death drive overflows the auditorium.

cropped-artwork_images_185199_333751_hiroshi-sugimoto.jpgAlthough it is itself a product of the death drive, horror film exploits the life drive, that is, the spectator’s will to form unities, bind the action, desire to get rid of all gaps and inconsistencies within the narrative. The death drive negates negation and reaches the highest possible degree of affirmation. Thanatos wills nothing, whereas Eros wills nothingness. We can see that the Thanatos case is the reverse of what Nietzsche says, “man would much rather will nothingness than not will.” Eros wants to want nothing; and strives to form such unities that everything will fit in its place; the system will lack nothing, so Eros will want nothing. Thanatos introduces splits, and tries to reach the nothingness behind the symbolic. Thanatos wants nothing rather than nothingness. He wants nothing to show the nothingness in the midst of everything, that there is nothing behind all that there is.

While Eros wants to lack nothing, wants the lack of lack, Thanatos affirms life as it is and wants lack, wants something to lack, wants that lack to remain after all is said and done, so that he can desire the nothingness which that lack presents. Thanatos doesn’t want something to replace nothing, but rather wants the lack in everything. By negating negation the death drive affirms life as it is, that is, in its incompleteness, and with nothingness and death in its midst.

[1]Christian Metz, The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and Cinema, trans. Celia Britton, Annwyl Williams, Ben Brewster and Alfred Guzetti (London: Macmillan, 1982), 69

[2] Gilles Deleuze, Coldness and Cruelty, trans. Jean McNeil (New York: Zone, 1989), 32

[3] Metz, 80

[4] Metz, 75

[5] Metz, 75

[6] Metz, 75

Daniel Levitin presenting some musical Speculative Realism! (via Conatus)

Daniel Levitin presenting some musical Speculative Realism! Well, not exactly. But there is plenty of anti-correlationism and anti-anthropocentrism going down in this passage from Daniel Levitin's pretty good book This Is Your Brain On Music (Because I don't really do philosophy anymore the following will probably be quite unclear, but bear with me): "One could imagine an alien species that does not have ears, or that doesn't have the same internal experience of hearing that we do. But it would be difficu … Read More

via Conatus

Bataille and the Surrealists: Is Pineal Eye an Organ Without a Body?



The pineal eye is not the organ that turns two different perspectives into one. It rather attempts to turn the reality inside out so that the objects, instead of becoming visible through reflecting light, themselves overflow their objectivities and generate light. The Surrealists aimed at precisely this kind of a process through automatic writing. They aimed at replacing the objective reality with another subjectivity that would go beyond the polar opposition between the subject and the object. Surrealism tries to attain inorganicity through becoming inorganic. It desires nothing, rather than willing nothingness. It is a movement governed by the death drive rather than being the governor of the death drive.

Bataille at first looked at the Surrealists with sympathy, but before long he came to understand that it was nothing other than a false pretentiousness. Bataille says,

If we were to identify under the heading of materialism a crude liberation of human life from the imprisonment and masked pathology of ethics, an appeal to all that is offensive, indestructible, and even despicable, to all that overthrows, perverts, and ridicules spirit, we could at the same time identify surrealism as a childhood disease of this base materialism: it is through this latter identification that the current prerequisites for a consistent development may be specified forcefully and in such a manner as to preclude any return to pretentious idealistic aberrations.[1]

To understand why Bataille is so angry with the Surrealists, and especially with Dali, we have to go back to the roots of this distress caused by the attempt to show that the subject and the object are one. Bataille compares the prefix Sur at the beginning of Surrealism and Nietzsche’s Surhomme. For Bataille, what is common to both Nietzsche and the Surrealists is that they both in vain strive for a higher world, and yet since Nietzsche at least inverts his attitude and attempts to revalue all values including his own. Whereas Surrealism is a hopeless case in that all they do is to devalue everything valuable. For Bataille, the Surrealists are merely a group of people making themselves ridiculous and being the objects of nervous laughter.

Bataille doesn’t agree with the Surrealists’ understanding of beauty and meaning in art and literature. It is true, both the Surrealists and Bataille are obsessed with turning things upside down, turning the low into high and the high into the low. The difference between the Surrealists and Bataille is not only aesthetic but also ethical, a stance linked to Bataille’s concept of transgression as he puts it in parenthesis in his critique of Salvador Dali’s Lugubrious Game.

(If violent movements manage to rescue a being from profound boredom, it is because they can lead—through some obscure error—to a ghastly satiating ugliness. It must be said, moreover, that ugliness can be hateful without any recourse and, as it were, through misfortune, but nothing is more common than the equivocal ugliness that gives, in a provocative way, the illusion of the opposite. As for irrevocable ugliness, it is exactly as detestable as certain beauties: the beauty that conceals nothing, the beauty that is not the mask of ruined immodesty, the beauty that never contradicts itself and remains eternally at attention like a coward.)[2]

For Bataille what the Surrealists do is to provoke the pre-dominant authority in such a way that can only be considered as the manifestation of ill-will. Bataille, consciously or unconsciously, uses Nietzsche against the Surrealists although he seems to be putting them in the same category for their aspirations to higher Ideals. Although Bataille sees idealisation both in Surrealism and Nietzsche, he nevertheless underlines the different means they employ to attain those higher Ideals. In both Nietzsche and the Surrealists the unconscious is filled with archaic images of Ancient Greek Mythology, but in Nietzsche these are adjusted to the demands of the present, whereas even in Breton’s writings we see sheer rage manifesting itself through exploitation of the death-drive in that the process of slashing myth and language into pieces aims at attracting punishment.

What Bataille does in his Critique of Surrealism and Nietzsche is to turn the human subject upside down and instead of idealizing higher realms he, in a way, idealizes the lower realms. Bataille situates himself in a realm lower than the realm of the law.

By excavating the fetid ditch of bourgeois culture, perhaps we will see open up in the depths of the earth immense and even sinister caves where force and human liberty will establish themselves, sheltered from the call to order of a heaven that today demands the most imbecilic elevation of any man’s spirit.[3]

Bataille’s main target is the Icarian flight which he sees both in Nietzsche and the Surrealists. As we know, Icarus didn’t obey his father’s No, and tried to fly and touch the sun. Eventually he burnt himself up. The Icarian conception of imagination as flight from reality leads to an idealization of the bourgeois values disguised as the proletarian values, and the real lower world is pushed further down. For Bataille, the reason why people see the foot as inferior to the head is their habit of attributing a higher status to the vertical forms of thought. Man should fall on his four legs, otherwise he will never be able to write himself out not only as the writer but also as the written, not only as the seer but also as the seen.

Bataille’s attitude reminds Lacan’s theory of the passage from the imaginary to the symbolic. For Lacan the Symbolic law, the Name of the Father who says No to the desiring child plays a dominant role in participation in the symbolic order and eventually becoming a sexed subject who is able to distinguish between the me and the not me. In Lacanian terms, Nietzsche and the Surrealists are locked in the mirror stage where Descartes is a respected inmate. As Breton says, “There, the atmosphere and light begin to stir in all purity the proud uprising of unformed thoughts. Man, restored to his original sovereignty and serenity, preaches there his own eternal truths, they say, for himself alone.”[4]

[1] Georges Bataille, Visions of Excess, “The ‘Old Mole’ and the Prefix Sur in the Words Surhomme and Surrealist,” ed. and trans. Allan Stoekl (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1994), 32

[2] Bataille, 27

[3] Bataille, 43

[4] André Breton, What is Surrealism?, ed. trans. Franklin Rosemont (London: Pluto, 1978), 28

S.C. Hickman aka Dark Chemistry on The Nietzschean Subject; or, the Prison-House of Delirium

“In a world full of violence, destruction and death, or “madness in every direction,” as Kerouac would have said, the subject becomes nothing but a projector of the evil within society.”

Cengiz Erdem

The Nihil Solipsist: a being that knows neither its own nothingness nor the dark self-cannibalizing force of all those others within; trapped within the introjected prison-house of an impure fear, bound to the cross of a symbolic gesture, tormented by the thought of its own paranoid-schizoid position this Nietzschean subject relishes the hunt as a repetition of the life-death drives it seeks to unleash at the hands of all those non-others within its own panopticon of deliriums. Cengiz Erdem in his essay The Nietzschean Subject tells us that the “paradoxical nature of the contemporary Nietzschean subject is a result of the turning of self into the other within in the process of becoming. The self of the present has not only become a prison-house of the others within itself but also it itself has become a self-contained monad with no relation to the outside and no awareness of the external world populated by the others’ selves.”

Erdem tells us that today everything has been reduced to the pure or impure exchange value of Capital; even the invention of subjectivity, which no longer touches the oldest of criteria: use value. Instead we have always already become a cog in the machine, a machinic subject, a zombified cogito serving the greater good of Capital itself. Like somnambulists in a dream matrix we have become the illusory beneficiaries of an inhuman thought:

“With societies based on exchange value the relationship between the subject and the object is confined in the paranoid-schizoid position. There remains no gap between the subject and the object when in fact there should be. Everything becomes a substitute for another thing and everything is substitutable. With the advance of global capitalism the subject itself becomes an object. The subject begins to act itself out as an object for the desire and consumption of the other. The subject becomes a substitute of itself.  With global capitalism the subject starts to feel itself as a machine; it becomes inorganic for itself when in fact it is essentially organic. In other words organs start to operate like non-organs, all organicity is replaced by inorganicity, life with death, and in this kind of a society everyone is always already dead.”

Consuming machines that we are we have been reduced to eating our own… shall I say it: shit! Instead of difference we have all become entrepreneurs of the self-same identity of Capital: trending our way to the avant-garde in our latest designer outfits we speak the local lingo like the good netizens we are, forging identities in a spurious masqueradism of conformity to the latest fashion boutique or philosophical blog, hip-hopping or rapping along to life’s happy nihilism like black metal fetishists apotropaically defending ourselves against the encrustations of an artificial slime world where the gods of filth and dionysian ecstasy infuse us with the abyss of the inhuman. Or, as Erdem defines it: “With the advance of global capitalism this herd-instinct can be said to have become nothing but a result of the exploitation of the life and death drives to reduce life to a struggle for and against life/death. The subject no longer has to carry the burden of being different. In this light and in this time we can see global capitalism creating not only the conditions of possibility for the subject to forget itself but also the conditions of impossibility for a remembrance of self, producing the non-knowledge of self as the counter-knowledge.”

Nietzsche‘s Ecce Homo has become for the new trend setters the glorious cookbook for ‘healthy living’, and all those pesky little ghosts of our forbears otherness has suddenly surprised us as the unmasking of our daily selves in the present. Erdem in a final colloquy relates that “the the non-reason inherent in reason has become the reason itself, and yet the questions remain:

1. What can be learned from Nietzsche’s failure, which caused and continues to cause many other failures?

2. What are the conditions of possibility for a non-antagonistic and yet non-illusory relationship between the self and the other and how can they be sustained?

Those two questions could and should fill volumes, but being a small blog report upon the workings of such a fine mind we can only hope that Cengiz Erdem will be answering these either fully or partially in his upcoming book?

Addendum: Cengiz published another essay just after the previous one, Barbaric Regress and Civilised Progress contra Deconstruction and Affirmative Recreation, which offers some further reflection on the above topic.

via Dark Chemistry