Nothing has ever been alive.

In The Speculative Turn: Continental Realism and Materialism, Martin Hägglund writes an essay, Radical Atheist Materialism: A Critique of Meillassoux, in which he addresses Meillassoux’s articulation of a ‘virtual power’ of time that allows for the possibility of resurrection of the dead:

‘Contingency presupposes succession and there is no succession without destruction.  If the moment were not destroyed in being succeeded by another moment, their relation would not be one of succession but of co-existence.  Thus, to assert the necessity of contingency is to assert the necessity of destruction’

Following this argument, which eliminates the possibility of the ontological redemption of the dead, Hägglund invokes a form of philosophical Darwinism to devitalize life, rather than vitalizing matter.  Here, he differentiates between survival and being ‘alive,’ ‘for example, the isotope that has a radioactive decay across billions of years is surviving – since it remains and disintegrates over time but it is not alive.’

We would, of course, want to know, then, what is the difference between surviving and being alive?  For Hägglund, that difference consists of care-for-survival, “A living being, on the other hand, cannot be indifferent to its own survival.”

What this suggests is that living and dead are categories under which lies a continuum, or gradient, of varying degrees of care-for-survival.  A human cares for its survival in more ways than a fly, which cares for its survival in more ways than a radioactive isotope.

The problem of life is then exposed as presupposing some vital life-factor which must emerge in evolutionary development.  What we have, instead, is a development of increasing degrees of self-relation, increasing degrees of care-for survival.

Nothing has ever been alive.

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On Concepts

Jeremy Trombley on Struggle Forever comments on the “ontological turn” in anthropology, and provides some insight on concepts:

 A concept is not a frame for understanding – something that brings a picture into (or out of focus). Concepts are tools and pieces of an assemblage of knowledge. They don’t help us see better, but they attach to things and reassemble them in novel ways – like legos where attaching one piece to another suddenly makes possible a whole new arrangement of attachments. In that sense, a concept or conceptual assemblage – ontology, feminism, queer theory, post-colonial theory, etc. – enables us to understand differently, and in understanding differently, it enables us to also be differently

 A concept is a not a frame for understanding.  It is not a Procrustean lens with which we scan our worlds, lopping off the elements that don’t fit, or twisting them to accommodate its mold, although this seems to be one way it may operate, particularly in the hands of a Hedgehog, as Isaiah Berlin put it.

The way Trombley describes it, “they [concepts] attach to things and reassemble them in novel ways,” incites a novel concept of concepts.  Concepts as enzymes, as catalysts.  A novel concept is a catalyst that binds to current knowledge and transforms it, allowing us “to understand differently, and in understanding differently, it enables us to also be differently.”

A novel concept is unearthed by the Imaginary digging in the Real, excavating artifacts to return to the Symbolic.

A concept of evolution over time is unearthed by Darwin digging in the Galapagos, setting the stage for a novel thought trajectory, conceiving (who is the father?) entire disciplines of evolutionary psychology, biology, anthropology.

Concepts catalyze concepts.

The Revolution concept catalyzes the concept of God in the minds of Liberation Theologists.

The Network concept catalyzes the concept of Mind in the minds of cyberneticians.

The Text concept catalyzes the concept of Culture in the minds of cultural anthropologists.

Concepts connect two or more prior concepts (revolution/God, network/mind, text/culture) to catalyze new thought and, thus, new realities.

What are the concepts of our time that appear flattened and dulled through overuse?  God? Love? The End (of thought, life)?

Perhaps what may come in handy is more free association.  Free association of apparently disparate concepts.

What about a community of gods?

A process of objects?

Free association of concepts, following the principles of biology.  The concepts that form operative, catalytic functions will persist, catalyzing thought until they are worn, returned to the manure of conceptual raw material.

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Re-enchant the skeleton.

Current trends in post-modern philosophy and psychology address the issue of the re-enchantment of the world.  The recurring theme being that modern scientific rationalism has extracted all intrinsic meaning from the world, and the human organism now lies in darkness, empty and alone.  The task, then, is to re-enchant the cytoskeleton of a world which has been sucked dry – to conjure up a new brew of world-making elixir. 

Recent efforts along these lines include those of cultural historian Richard Tarnas, who has worked within the fields of depth psychology and psychedelic therapy to construct a new archetypal astrology.  As he writes in Cosmos and Psyche: 

“Above all, we must awaken to and overcome the great hidden anthropocentric projection that has virtually defined the modern mind: the pervasive projection of soullessness onto the cosmos by the modern self’s own will to power.

This quote clearly expresses the centrality of the active agents who must “awaken to and overcome” in order to breath life back into a cosmos onto which has been projected the soullessness of blind mechanism, wiping the lens clean to reveal the depths, complexity and grandeur of the cosmos.

The issue then becomes one of the fissure between a cosmos full of complexity and mystery, and a cosmos empty and devoid of purpose, meaning, or coherence. 

Ray Brassier in Nihil Unbound argues against this position, instead suggesting that nihilism should be celebrated as an act of intellectual maturity.  A rite of passage.  Written in this way, the task of re-enchanting the world becomes a distraction.  The world is not ours to re-enchant.

What if the drive to re-enchant the world is concealing a deeper issue, namely, the issue of the agent who would carry out this monumental task.

Modern science has expanded the tentacles of man to the greatest distances of astronomical blackness and the most invisible minutiae of quantum nothingness.  What it has found is precisely nothing.  If you go far enough to either end, you come out on the other side. 

The Universe is a vast desert.  A barren wasteland.  A skeleton.

The endeavor to re-enchant the world continues to uphold the rational faculty to the highest standard.  But the universe is not rational. 

天地不仁以万物为刍狗

Universe, indifferent, treats all entities as straw dogs.

The entire collectivity of human organisms are nothing but straw dogs in Universe.  Motes of dust to be swept away with impunity.  The prognosis is grim.  We will all die, but one issue has been left lurking in the shadows of academic and post-academic seminars, Burning Man orgies and meditation circles.  The issue of the death of thought.  The death of the organism.  If the task is to re-enchant the world, then it can only be accomplished by passing through the question of the death of the organism as something which has already occurred. 

And somewhere between the gnarled branches of willow overhanging moss-eaten gravestones, among the crumbled remains of our funeral pyre, there lay a child laughing. 

 

 

 

 

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The Abyss of Freedom

Zizek, discussing virtual reality and the body, writes:

“…our bodily self-experience is itself always-already “virtual,” symbolically mediated,this body to which we are forced to return is not the constituted body of the full self-experience, of “true reality,” but the formless remainder, the horror of the Real.”

V. Ramachandran’s neuroscience work clearly supports this statement, with individuals experiencing virtual arms and failing to recognize the faces of their own family members. Thus, our embodiedness is always-already virtual. Encoded.

The fact of experiencing a virtual arm concretizes the brain-processed virtual image center (mind) and body distinction.

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Flay thyself.

In the interest of general sanity and health, let us abandon the notion of belief, as Kevin Sempler suggests. Let us move on to the notion of heuristic devices. What would formerly have been take an as a belief, can now be worn as a heuristic device. Worn as a raggedy pair of jeans. And just as easily shed.

May you shed personalities as snakes shed skin.

Posthumility is skinlessness.

We are the skinless ones!

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Posthumility

Posthumous men are not humble.

Posthumous men acknowledge the fact that their place in Universe-at-large is utterly insignificant, but do not strive for humility.

The posthumous man has passed through humility.

Humility is the background from which the posthumous man sets off.

Nietzsche was the most humble philosopher that has ever lived.

 

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I am not a man. I am dynamite.

The above words encapsulate Nietzsche’s Dionysian thrust. A self-propelled launch into the flames of self-criticism and a roll in the ashes from which the Phoenix is born.

Come, let us self-destroy our way to a new beginning! We are the posthumous ones!

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