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.

Thought and Nature

Posted by | Zachariah | 16.8.10 | No Comments

Looking at the previous post by Chris reminded me of this new journal called Thinking Nature, which is related to the Speculative Realism movement / Speculative Heresy blogosphere. I came across it a while ago, before they had a website up properly.


They haven't published the first issue yet, although I don't know if there is a current CFP.

They describe the aim of the journal thusly:

Thinking Nature sets out to excavate the concept of nature as it has been nearly obliterated by a virulent combination of misrepresentation, abandonment, and over-valorization. In a time not only of heightened ecological concern, but a new engagement between the sciences and continental philosophy, Thinking Nature seeks out papers which attempt to grasp nature (either in micro or macro) as a useful entity/process/concept or other process/object for thought.

Science and Metaphysics

Posted by | Chris | 15.8.10 | 1 Comment




Science and Metaphysics

We are caught at the nexus of two different historical trends. First, we accept that with regard to certain questions, empirical science is the arbiter of truth. This is not to say that science is a unitary body of knowledge, but that the only standpoint from which to challenge the authority of scientific theories is from within science itself. Secondly, we accept the bankruptcy of positivism. There is more truth than that over which empirical science has dominion. Metaphysics is something other than science. Nonetheless, we cannot admit that metaphysics is completely beyond science’s authority. We cannot do this without also denying that in some sense, they have the same object – reality as it is in itself. We must thus acknowledge that there is a relation between science and metaphysics, wherein the one must somehow constrain the other, even if this constraint is somehow mutual. The question is then what exactly is this relation, and what are these constraints?

We invite submissions of 1500-2500 words on this general topic. Issues that could be addressed are:

- The methodological constraints science places on metaphysics.

- The metaphysical implications of specific aspects of modern science.

- The positive contribution of metaphysics to scientific inquiry (both in general and in particular).

- The nature of naturalism (e.g., methodological vs. substantive naturalism).

- The nature of materialism (e.g., materialism vs. physicalism).

- The necessity of concepts such as nature and matter.

- The viability of mathematical ontology (e.g., Badiou, Meillassoux, etc.) and the relation between mathematical and empirical science.

- The role of the philosophy of science in general and its relation to both scientific practice and metaphysical inquiry.