Deathly Puppeteer

Posted by | Chris | 17.8.10 | 1 Comment

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to read Brassier’s Nihil Unbound after the first chapter. It had a very analytic neuro-philosophical style and it wasn’t a lot of fun (I fully admit that “fun” is a terrible criteria for evaluating philosophy, it is also incredibly subjective since I have recently been reading Hegel for fun). Chapter two is very different and now I’m really excited about the rest of the book.

Brassier presents a reading of Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment: that the disenchantment of nature by reason and logic is a continuation of mythic sacrifice which in the modern era has reached terrible proportions in technology and totalitarianism. In the exhilarating second half of the chapter Brassier turns Adorno and Horkheimer on their heads, criticizing their diagnosis for remembrance as a nostalgia which maintains a divide between human and world. Brassier is also critical of enlightenment rationality for the way it maintains this human/world division (it “dismembers the vital unity of being” (45) – this is an all to brief but incredibly intriguing reference to a positive metaphysics that I hope Brassier expands).

Finally Brassier turns the divisions of human/world, nature/reason, life/death, inside out by attributing to nature itself precisely the deathly corruption which Adorno and Horkheimer bemoan:

Civilizations embrace of lifelessness in the service of self-preservation, its compulsive mimicry of organic compulsion in the repression of compulsion, reiterates the originary compulsion of the inorganic. Thus, if “[t]he reason that represses mimesis is not merely its opposite [but] is itself mimesis: of death” (Adorno and Horkheimer 2002: 44), this is because science’s repression of mimesis not only mimes death, inorganic compulsion – it is death, the inorganic, that mimes reason. Mimesis is of death and by death. Life was only ever mimed by death, the animate a mask of the inanimate. The technological automation of intelligence which marks the consummation of self-destructive reason for Adorno and Horkheimer is nothing but the return of the repressed, not merely in thinking, but as thinking itself. (47)

Any vital materialism or panpsychism may be criticized for projecting into being only the respected virtues of life and humanity. Brassier claims to be doing the opposite; reading life as the projection of a deathly inorganic compulsion of nature. The positivist bias of eternal progress and maximal creativity in the universe are cut down as the nostalgic day dreams of insignificant beings.

[H]uman reason is revealed to have been an insects waking dream. This negative consummation of the enlightenment signals the end of the dream of reason as codified in Hegeliansim (48).

A vital metaphysics that is as concerned with the compulsion of the inorganic as it is with the corruptions of life sounds like an incredibly exciting prospect to me.

Oh, and thinking about the destruction and death puppeteering in life I remembered Pearl Jam’s Do the Evolution.


One Response to “Deathly Puppeteer”

  1. peter
    26/8/10 03:24

    never seen that video before - pretty dark

    i've got worries about vitalistic materialism and panpsychism but i think it is all about how you define the terms. having chatted to a few people i've realised what my gut reaction was to these two. they've got connotations and i think we shud address these in the paper.

    i.e. we need some defintions that make these ideas as sensible as we think they are and also we need to distance these definitions from undesireable forms of these arguments that are a product of the split between man/world, mind/body, culture/nature, etc.

Leave a Reply