Deep Thoughts

I’ll have a review of Ray Brassier’s Nihil Unbound in Polygraph‘s double issue on, fittingly enough, the contemporary importance of St. Augustine.

Basically I read it as a series of critiques of contemporary philosophers with a single MO — determine the philosopher’s version of “anthropocentrism,” draw out its implications for his system, repeat.

Each time a kernel of something is extracted, and by the last chapter each of these fragments is allowed to hang there uncoalesced, outlining a position deferred (at the earliest) to the book’s sequel. The key points are these: anti-anthropocentrism trumps pomo antihumanism, and the only ground remaining is the object, emptied of all metaphysical ‘substance.’ Consequently, objects are not equivalent to their formulation in discourse or even in thought. Philosophical reflection, constantly struggling to approximate itself to the objects that cause it, undermines its own efforts by trying to reverse or at least obscure that causal relation. As Foucault’s “anonymous thinking,” science effectively sidesteps consciousness’s repetitive attempts to situate itself. There’s a footnote (13) where Brassier gives a nod to Lenin’s Materialism and Empirico-Criticism , but it’s hard to tell what his new version of anti-idealism really adds aside from some very sophisticated critiques of continental philosophers. He pretty soundly nails the contemporary heirs of Kant and Hegel, but what about Marx’s reversal of the assumptions of idealism? What is gained by favoring realism over materialism?

Nihilism of the intellect, fundamentalism of the object…Brassier’s denial of the self carries a certain penitential element. Our errant consciousness is restricted to a diet of bread and water and forty lashes a day, permitted to lay claim to nothing as punishment for formerly laying claim to everything. “Everything is dead already,” Brassier asserts against idealism’s endless variations on the subject of “what will have been.” Consciousness demands an encounter with the Real as the guarantee of truth. But if consciousness is literally an afterthought, then all the great themes of philosophy — ‘reality’ as an ontological state, the Real as the trauma of finitude/extinction, and speculation — become meaningless. Only objects are. Since thought is always thought of objects, the commonplace idealist move of granting thought itself a positive role (defended on many a theory blog) is denied in advance.

What I don’t understand about this book’s reception is the widespread feeling that it opens new doors for philosophy. Fredric Jameson argues somewhere that the major problem for culture (and by extension, philosophy) in the era of ‘postmodernism’ is innovation, how to create something new. That ‘new’ for Jameson is something with the potential to build a new society. I could very well be missing the point, but it seems to me Brassier (unlike the other ‘speculative realists,’ especially Harman) radically limits the possibility of strictly philosophical innovation. Once it is established that objects cause thought (and that the real is the suicide of consciousness from within ontology), ‘concept creation’ becomes an entirely superfluous exercise unless it has to do with different instantiations of those objects in different contexts (or, in the case of consciousness, different ways of approaching the fact of its nonexistence).

But again, Lenin already cleared this whole thing up:

This theory of the necessity of “mentally projecting” the human mind to every object and to nature prior to man is given by me in the first paragraph in the words of the “recent positivist,” R. Avenarius, and in the second, in the words of the subjective idealist, J. G. Fichte. The sophistry of this theory is so manifest that it is embarrassing to analyse it. If we “mentally project” ourselves, our presence will be imaginary—but the existence of the earth prior to man is real. Man could not in practice be an observer, for instance, of the earth in an incandescent state, and to “imagine” his being present at the time is obscurantism, exactly as though I were to endeavour to prove the existence of hell by the argument that if I “mentally projected” myself thither as an observer I could observe hell. The “reconciliation” of empirio-criticism and natural science amounts to this, that Avenarius graciously consents to “mentally project” something the possibility of admitting which is excluded by natural science. No man at all educated or sound-minded doubts that the earth existed at a time when there could not have been any life on it, any sensation or any “central term,” and consequently the whole theory of Mach and Avenarius, from which it follows that the earth is a complex of sensations (“bodies are complexes of sensations”) or “complexes of elements in which the psychical and physical are identical,” or “a counter-term of which the central term can never be equal to zero,” is philosophical obscurantism, the carrying of subjective idealism to absurdity.

And later:

Bogdanov, pretending to argue only against Beltov and cravenly ignoring Engels, is indignant at such definitions, which, don’t you see, “prove to be simple repetitions” (Empirio-Monism, Bk. III, p. xvi) of the “formula” (of Engels, our “Marxist” forgets to add) that for one trend in philosophy matter is primary and spirit secondary, while for the other trend the reverse is the case. All the Russian Machians exultantly echo Bogdanov’s “refutation”! But the slightest reflection could have shown these people that it is impossible, in the very nature of the case, to give any definition of these two ultimate concepts of epistemology save one that indicates which of them is taken as primary. What is meant by giving a “definition”? It means essentially to bring a given concept within a more comprehensive concept. For example, when I give the definition “an ass is an animal,” I am bringing the concept “ass” within a more comprehensive concept. The question then is, are there more comprehensive concepts, with which the theory of knowledge could operate, than those of being and thinking, matter and sensation, physical and mental? No. These are the ultimate concepts, the most comprehensive concepts which epistemology has in point of fact so far not surpassed (apart from changes in nomenclature, which are always possible). One must be a charlatan or an utter blockhead to demand a “definition” of these two “series” of concepts of ultimate comprehensiveness which would not be a “mere repetition”: one or the other must be taken as the primary. Take the three afore-mentioned arguments on matter. What do they all amount to? To this, that these philosophers proceed from the mental or the self, to the physical, or environment, as from the central term to the counter-term—or from sensation to matter, or from sense-perception to matter. Could Avenarius, Mach and Pearson in fact have given any other “definition” of these fundamental concepts, save by pointing to the trend of their philosophical line? Could they have defined in any other way, in any specific way, what the self is, what sensation is, what sense-perception is? One has only to formulate the question clearly to realise what utter non-sense the Machians are talking when they demand that the materialists give a definition of matter which would not amount to a repetition of the proposition that matter, nature, being, the physical—is primary, and spirit, consciousness, sensation, the psychical—is secondary. One expression of the genius of Marx and Engels was that they despised pedantic playing with new words, erudite terms, and subtle “isms,” and said simply and plainly: there is a materialist line and an idealist line in philosophy, and between them there are various shades of agnosticism. The painful quest for a “new” point of view in philosophy betrays the same poverty of mind that is revealed in the painful effort to create a “new” theory of value, or a “new” theory of rent, and so forth.

So when philosophers pronounce with great urgency that “we need a new concept for x,” or “a new way to think x,” we should immediately prepare ourselves for some heavily aestheticized armchair political theorizing. Rethinking the use-value of a given reification can give us little else. For what Lenin dismisses as “pedantic playing with new words” is not innocent unless our analysis is restricted to the psychology of the individual theorist (and often not even then). Rather, it represents the initial fumbling efforts at revising ideology to fit changing circumstances.

With the problem of reification, however, we assume the possibility of thought becoming an object in language. The idea of linguistic strings as second-order objects is mostly left out of Brassier’s book, also typical of the rest of his colleagues — indeed, this is usually what’s considered liberating about their work. Language has fallen back into the realm of frivolity and excessive risk, when for a while it occupied that of tragedy. Jarring that the idea of an ontologically or epistemologically constitutive power of language is more or less dropped rather than refuted, in favor of returning language to its secondary status. This bold move gives speculative realism its rhetorical power. Even though I’m not sure anyone ever explicitly made the hard constructivist argument about language in the first place (of course assertions presupposing that argument abounded). Change — it must have been in the air.

My lightly educated view of the function of consciousness and subjectification is basically evolutionary: something like the social exploitation of trauma. This would likely include animal warning cries, political speeches, orientalism, crying babies, post facto rationalization, love, etc. Brassier’s scorched-earth eliminativism has a utopian austerity that I confess I find appealing. Thought indifferent to the subject, and though not explicitly stated as such, an intellectual ethics of truth rather than desire. The dialectic of being and becoming trumped by the active opening of being-nothing:

“Extinction is real yet not empirical, since it is not of the order of experience. It is transcendental yet not ideal, since it coincides with the external objectification of thought unfolding at a specific historical juncture when the resources of intelligibility, and hence the lexicon of ideality, are being renegotiated. In this regard, it is precisely the extinction of meaning that clears the way for the intelligibility of extinction. Senselessness and purposelessness are not merely privative; they represent a gain in intelligibility. The cancellation of sense, purpose, and possibility marks the point at which the ‘horror’ concomitant with the impossibility of either being or not-being becomes intelligible. Thus, if everything is dead already, this is not only because extinction disables those possibilities which were taken to be constitutive of life and existence, but also because the will to know is driven by the traumatic reality of extinction, and strives to become equal to the trauma of the in-itself whose trace it bears. In becoming equal to it, philosophy achieves a binding of extinction, through which the will to know is finally rendered commensurate with the in-itself. This binding coincides with the objectification of thinking understood as the adequation without correspondence between the objective reality of extinction and the subjective knowledge of the trauma to which it gives rise. It is this adequation that constitutes the truth of extinction. But to acknowledge this truth, the subject of philosophy must also recognize that he or she is already dead, and that philosophy is neither a medium of affirmation nor a source of justification, but rather the organon of extinction.”

But the activity from which this program emerged could only have involved a great deal of solitary confinement, a praxis of (ecstatic?) self-flagellation, possibly accompanied and enhanced by CNN’s bad dreams, and carried out on the therapist’s empty couch…

Advertisements

93 Responses to “Deep Thoughts”

  1. traxus4420 Says:

    it’s sort of odd that gender difference maintains even up to the point of total subjective destitution — “must recognize that he or she is already dead”

  2. I’m wondering if you found anything in here you hadn’t already considered.

    this is curious:

    “Senselessness and purposelessness are not merely privative; they represent a gain in intelligibility. The cancellation of sense, purpose, and possibility marks the point at which the ‘horror’ concomitant with the impossibility of either being or not-being becomes intelligible. Thus, if everything is dead already, this is not only because extinction disables those possibilities which were taken to be constitutive of life and existence, but also because the will to know is driven by the traumatic reality of extinction, and strives to become equal to the trauma of the in-itself whose trace it bears.”

    the (by now standardly) given “senselessness” and “purposelessness”, the “gain in intelligibility” of secularisation, are ornamented with the extreme subjective experiences central to literature, cinema and other non philosophical fields – horror, trauma. So to “What is gained by favoring realism over materialism?” maybe the impulse here is literary too. The aesthetic advantages. Your thumbs up is on these grounds: “Brassier’s scorched-earth eliminativism has a utopian austerity that I confess I find appealing.” All this seems to me, all together, to exhibit something happening in genres, under the sway of image&sound. If what badiou called “the french moment” saw theory born of philosophy’s literary aspirations (modelled in certain aspects on the french enlightenment, but not a replay), then now maybe the consequences are elaborating themselves. Like this: “Jarring that the idea of an ontologically or epistemologically constitutive power of language is more or less dropped rather than refuted, in favor of returning language to its secondary status” because it’s at this point simply imitating video and sound; its just standing in for video and recorded sound, so certain features of written text can be ignored.

  3. for example, “if everything is dead already” – a)recorded, b)fictitious capital.

  4. “This binding coincides with the objectification of thinking understood as the adequation without correspondence between the objective reality of extinction and the subjective knowledge of the trauma to which it gives rise. It is this adequation that constitutes the truth of extinction. But to acknowledge this truth, the subject of philosophy must also recognize that he or she is already dead, and that philosophy is neither a medium of affirmation nor a source of justification, but rather the organon of extinction.”

    the subject of horror and philosophy immobile and facing a pretty cinematised extinction with a simple critical machine furnished by the object itself, its hard to distinguish this from ordinary subjective idealism but then if you notice that the reality fo extinction is so cinematised it makes a kind of sense since that’s where then the creative subjectivity in commonplace ordinary everyday understanding is usually assumed located and the spectator is assumed basically passive.

  5. “Fredric Jameson argues somewhere that the major problem for culture (and by extension, philosophy) in the era of ‘postmodernism’ is innovation, how to create something new.”

    and, this is interesting; its the critics that really want something new and so its a problem. the art producers show this visible tendency to prefer things not so new. It’s just assumed, by the critics, that this impulse on the part of the artists is somehow false, a sign of failure or decrepitude or whatever; suddenly artists are no longer artists, those marvellous antennae or whatever. But suppose this impulse for the not so new, this boredom with the ever new, this lack of interest in the innovation, contained just the sort of intuitions usually attributed to artists – that is some insight that the innovative and the new is just not all that interesting, that the interest in it is questionable, ideological, reactionary. I’m not suggesting its so, but the absolute certainty that innovation is both positive and revolutionary, the unquestioned status of this value of innovation, is pretty suspicious. For one thing, it assumes that our “circumstances” really are changing, a lot; maybe this isn’t so true; maybe that’s overrated; not a new marylin just a new dress maybe. the hegelian conviction and whig history, etc…

  6. (which thought is brought to you by Joyce, and structuralism, these monuments and models of formal innovation about how there is no such thing as.)

  7. but there’s also the commodification and sales pitch here, no? you can’t make any thought on your own, at home; but there’s institutionally produced philosophy you can acquire. you don’t have any home made subjectivity but you can acquire a subjectivity – this philosophy – as an accessory to the televised reality, plug them together and truth comes out.

  8. “‘concept creation’ becomes an entirely superfluous exercise unless it has to do with different instantiations of those objects in different contexts (or, in the case of consciousness, different ways of approaching the fact of its nonexistence).”

    that’s a rather belated registering of securitization. no point in dwelling on an apparent incommensurability between oil, condos, search engine hits and weather based property damage in 2018; in this sense ‘anthropocentric’ subjectivity is a distraction obscuring capitalcentric subjectivity.

  9. traxus4420 Says:

    “I’m wondering if you found anything in here you hadn’t already considered.”

    i think i’m just hypnotized, is all. the selective vision of the reader this text tries to produce is just too fascinating. that you are not to notice its rhetoric even though it’s so deliriously over the top. that and the camp references to lovecraft and cronenberg and whatnot in some of the other versions, you’re to treat them as sets of conceptual grammar, this is how they are best enjoyed, with a ‘straight face.’ and the reception, all very schoolboy-ish so far (as is my review in polygraph), but you can see the whole apparatus working and shifting attention nevertheless. i get vertigo and don’t quite know how to respond.

    the aestheticization, cinematization of extinction — right but not all there is i think. it’s a figure for finitude, which really exists, and the philosophy brassier critiques really does have a problem comprehending. you can read this as an important intervention or as academic philosophy’s preemptive immune response to outside threat. it’s supposed to mark a transition, so creates an opening (‘break’) that it then attempts to subsume into rejiggered versions of the old machinery. i wouldn’t call that a ‘good’ thing necessarily, just about the best that can be hoped for under the circumstances.

    i would also hesitate to follow you in reading all this revivification of the enlightenment as basically an allegory for wall street, but i’m in general agreement with what you’re saying about innovation and the critical POV. i think i said somewhere before that the object is postmodernism but the critics are all modernists. ties between post-enlightenment theories of possibility/probability, finance, and colonialism is something i’ve been gathering notes on for a project on fantasy somewhere down the road.

  10. “not to notice its rhetoric even though it’s so deliriously over the top”

    bcause maybe its a strong persona and a facsimile of oratory. So you attribute it to the quirky personality of the speaker, with the customary implied crowd forming the something-else-content-referent we know is not so embellished. If style is very personal it sort of marginalises itself. In Alien Theory everything is simultaneous, present tense, Kant is right there in the room making his case, Heidegger shouting interruptions.

  11. traxus4420 Says:

    oh, and realism vs. materialism — 1) marxist materialism is probably too ‘anthropocentric’ for brassier, who wants to distance himself as far as possible from the ‘marxian’ structuralist/poststructuralist traditions and 2) materialism isn’t really commensurable with the essentially observational, passive relationship to ‘objects’ being assumed here.

  12. traxus4420 Says:

    p.s. that smiley face was totally unintentional

  13. “materialism isn’t really commensurable with the essentially observational, passive relationship to ‘objects’ being assumed here.

    nor could he “do it” without getting a different degree (history or econ). in philosophy as a marxist you could only teach and be a critic of previous.

  14. “cinematization of extinction — right but not all there is i think. it’s a figure for finitude, which really exists’

    okay i misread then. but isn’t “philosophy the organon” of the “subjective knowledge of the trauma” – which is a bibliography basically? – to which the “objective reality of extinction” gives rise? because if philosophy is the organon of extinction (finitude) then extinction itself has to be a certain kind of thing (the kind of thing that could have an organon), which is just what he’s arguing it isn’t. No? perhaps i’m missing something.

  15. (i need a greimas square here!)

  16. oh and, but is enlightenment an allegory for wall street…not an allegory, and not necessarily for everyone, but i’m not imposing it on brassier; i thought this is what he’s talking about:

    in the first Nihil Unbound he writes how badiou shows how

    “Capital…unbinds nihil from the fetters of Presence, pulverising the domain of phenomenological sensefulness and exposing the insignificant neutrality of the multiple as ground of presentation.”

    it finishes:

    “If Capital functions as the real conditions through which philosophy simultaneously identifies the void of being, abjures its ontological pretensions, and becomes the harbinger of truths, might its automated randomness not also function as that unnameable Thing which Badiou’s philosophy cannot acknowledge ; the unthinkable determinant for its own identification of being as void ?

    …Perhaps the condition for Badiou’s subtractive ontology is a thought of Capital, or more precisely, an acknowledgement that capitalism – blind, monstrous, acephalic polymorph – thinks. What if it were precisely the thought that this Thing thinks that was still unthinkable for this philosophy?”

    Nihil Unbound: Remarks on Subtractive Ontology and Thinking Capitalism

  17. traxus4420 Says:

    re: extinction as a figure — ok, a better way of putting it is that extinction falls under the category of finitude, and brassier pushes on extinction specifically because he’s arguing it’s the most troubling/traumatic limit for philosophy, the one philosophy systematically represses or sublimates into a body of theory in order to reconcile consciousness and experience with the world — that they’re somehow ‘co-related.’ extinction isn’t a thing, exactly. it’s a real limit to consciousness (because there’s no way it can be experienced) and its trace is the spur to philosophy’s will to know. philosophy’s “binding” of extinction justifies the traumatic split between organic and inorganic, making consciousness an exception to the world of objects as elucidated by modern mathematical science. so thought and consciousness don’t cause objects, but neither are they objects in a relation of equivalence with other objects (that’s the correlation in action) — they’re epiphenomena determined by objects. the determinate-ness of objective finitude, of all kinds, is suppressed by suppressing extinction.

    “…it is not so much that extinction will terminate the correlation, but that it has already retroactively terminated it…Extinction has a transcendental efficacy precisely insofar as it tokens an annihilation which is neither a possibility towards which actual existence could orient itself, nor a given datum from which future existence could proceed. It retroactively disables projection, just as it pre-emptively abolishes retention. In this regard, extinction unfolds in an ‘anterior posteriority’ which usurps the ‘future anteriority’ of human existence” (230).

  18. traxus4420 Says:

    re: Capital —

    well this is the curious thing — i read that article, and some of the dissertation, and he goes from posing capitalism as the biggest problem for philosophy to not mentioning it even once in the new book. i don’t know what happened.

    to be honest i find the takedown of badiou on the grounds that no, he really is an idealist more convincing than the intimation that his thought is determined by hypostasized Capital. the latter is more thrilling, but only because so many steps are missing from it.

  19. ” to not mentioning it even once in the new book. i don’t know what happened.”

    maybe it’s given a euphemism.

    “not so much that extinction will terminate the correlation, but that it has already retroactively terminated it”

    remember man that you are dust. it’s very compelling.

    Calvino, Six Memos:

    From what I have said so far, I think the concept of lightness is beginning to take shape. Above all I hope to have shown that there is such a thing as a lightness of thoughtfulness, just as we all know there is a lightness of frivolity. In fact, thoughtful lightness can make frivolity seem dull and heavy.I could not illustrate this notion better than by using a story from the Decameron (VI.9), in which the Florentine poet Guido Cavalcanti appears. Boccaccio presents Cavalcanti as an austere philosopher, walking meditatively among marble tombs near a church. The jeunesse dorée ofFlorence is riding through the city in a group, on the way from one party to another, always looking for a chance to enlarge its round of invitations. Cavalcanti is not popular with them because, although wealthy and elegant, he has refused to join in their revels—and also because his mysterious philosophy is suspected of impiety. One day, Guido left Orto San Michele and walked along the Corso degli Admiari, which was often his route, as far as San Giovanni. Great marble tombs, no in Santa Reparata, were then scattered about San Giovanni. As he was standing between the porphyry columns of the church and these tombs, with the door of the church shut fast behind him, Messer Betto and his company came riding along the Piazza di Santa Reparata. Catching sight of Guido among the tombs, they said, “Let’s go and pick a quarrel.” Spurring their horses, they came down upon him in a play, like a charging squad, before he was aware of them. They began:“Guido, you refuse to be of our company; but look, when you have proved that there is no God, what will you have accomplished?” Guido, seeing himself surrounded by them, answered quickly, “Gentlemen, you may say anything you wish to me in your own home.” Then, resting his hand on one of the great tombs and being very nimble, he leaped over it and, landing on the other side, made off and rid himself of them.

  20. (I think I don’t follow how a characteristic of some philosophy – the correlation – suggests something about consciousness. it seems that its laruelle’s “decision” given a psychoanalytic twist, repression, implying Philosophy has a psyche, then its sort of slipping from that metaphoric consciousness to the consciousness that delivers all the evidence against it – the one supplying all the “objective reality”.)

  21. traxus4420 Says:

    methinks brassier would reverse the decameron vignette to put himself and his impious philosophy in the role of guido’s would-be tormentors. he’d definitely use a little more forethought to make sure the poet couldn’t escape so easily!

    the correlation suggests mind and world frame each other. so there is at least an implicit claim about actual consciousness being made — either that we can say nothing about the ‘in itself’ or that it just doesn’t exist. he takes laruelle’s decision and reduces the universal claims of L’s argument to apply only to correlationism and dialectics, not the whole of philosophy (which permits b’s critique to expand beyond philosophy). he also rejects L’s identification of the Real with some preexisting name of ‘the human.’

    the basic operation is to take the formal techniques of all these theories and replace their ‘anthropocentric’ explanations with his object-centric one. so psychoanalysis is used for critique but the whole structure of the unconscious is argued to be itself caused by actually existing objects (he favors the wannabe-biologist freud over structuralist lacan). you don’t think about objects, you think according to them. again, the role of language, culture, ideology, or ‘objective mediations,’ in all this isn’t really examined (just rejected out of hand).

  22. traxus4420 Says:

    “maybe it’s given a euphemism.”

    i looked, i really did. he tends to stick very close to the vocabulary of the philosophers he’s critiquing, not really launching out on his own until the last section of the last chapter.

  23. “he tends to stick very close to the vocabulary of the philosophers he’s critiquing”

    but this is a euphemistic vocabulary isn’t it? even if you inherit it unwittingly; phenomenology from husserl is not too mysterious; you couldn’t treat it as too mysterious after reading badiou.

    “would reverse the decameron vignette to put himself and his impious philosophy in the role of guido’s would-be tormentors” yes exactly – its christianity, finally.

    hard to know if brassier and meillassoux are doing art or really believe thi stuff, but say for a moment they really believe. it’s a measure, i think, of how bad everybody feels, how hungry for consolation, so even senseless and extinction is worked up into comfort, a teddy bear to cling to.

    “the correlation suggests mind and world frame each other.” i dunno; really “the correlation” doesn’t suggest that world is framed by mind, but the human knowledge of the world is mental; the correlation is kind of a banality really; drawing out different implications and elaborating, as do genres of philosophy, is another thing, but i wouldn’t think trauma, horror and repression an especially anti anthropo way of thinking of the generic operations. in general, “common sense” probably incorporates a little gnosticism into the acceptance of correlation. this seems pretty adequate – philosophy may have trouble with “objective reality” but philosophers off the job don’t. its pretty clear its not that a problem in philosophers’ consciousness is beng imported into philosophy.

    “actually existing objects ” like madonna videos? or is the eternal infant caveman implied?

  24. no, i take it back, “framed”, okay, mind frames the world, does the correlation suggest the world frames mind? does the same thing to mind that mind does to world? it doesn’t seem “the correlation” – this common feature of diverse propositions – implies that the same verb would be appropriate for both sides of subject-object mutuality. isn’t brassier just moving subjectivity whole – an inherited subjectivity – to this Thing that thinks?

  25. ” their ‘anthropocentric’ explanations with his object-centric one. so psychoanalysis is used for critique but the whole structure of the unconscious is argued to be itself caused by actually existing objects ”

    yeah, the parts that i’ve read and the other stuff has this quality – everything is the same, but there is a different remote origin. its a kind of title dispute, right? do “objects”, this Thing, create people or do people create this Thing? What’s important, “centered”? We don’t live in an anthropocentric world actually – everything is justified for the good of this Thing, or “the economy”; all the human and inhuman resources are marshalled to the benefit of the Thing; dominant interpretations of the world are offered from the point of view of the Thing that thinks and indeed feels, thrives or suffers. So its not like there’s no context for the belated discovery that “anthropocentrism” is an obsolete superstition.

  26. ” so there is at least an implicit claim about actual consciousness being made — either that we can say nothing about the ‘in itself’ or that it just doesn’t exist”

    there’s this claim that “the correlation” is making, that is, brassier says Philosophy is making a (erroneous) claim about consciousness, an array of takes on solipsism;

    there is Brassier’s claim that consciousness – human consciousness of the objective reality of extinction – has traumatised philosophy, and that this trauma explains why philosophy makes this claim;

    then, there is the claim that the human consciousness, the consciousnes of individual philosophers or philosophy consumers, whose easy access to the objective reality of extinction has caused this trauma to Philosophy, is also traumatised and has also repressed the objective reality: the cure is like hitchcockian freudianism, marnie has to remember: “But to acknowledge this truth, the subject of philosophy must also recognize that he or she is already dead,”

    but if the subject of philosophy did not already recognise that “she is already dead”, that is, if the subject of philosophy, human consciousness; and not just Philosophy, is in denial of objective reality, then the original trauma suffered by the genre of Philosophy is sort of without anything to repress. the source of Philosophy’s trauma is given and then whisked away.

    (it seems.)

  27. traxus4420 Says:

    i think that to the extent brassier is really saying anything outside of developing a new language with which to criticize philosophy, the argument stands or falls based on the first chapter, on neuroscience. that’s where he bases his critique of cognitive science and analytic philosophy that theorizes it as bad metaphysics, basically, either too reliant on empiricism, pragmatism, or a neo-kantian model of consciousness. he accepts some basic tenets of churchland’s eliminativism — that common sense constitutes a theory of reality which can be falsified (and improved), the anti-substantialism — but not his model.

    good point about the consolation of extinction. this ties in with your comment about the emulation of video/sound and genre. it comforts in a way i think consciously similar to black metal or noise.

    about capital being anthropocentric — it makes sense insofar as the justification for the market is human interest. i mean justification usually stops with the market but if questioned further this is the response. again, only a minority of fools believe it, yadda yadda, but it’s permitted regardless. philosophy is like this too. take derrida, which occurs to me after reading praxis’s post. his philosophy prevents him from treating intentionality as anything other than a mystery, regardless of whether he experiences it, thinks it exists, whatever. on the job as a philosopher he can’t let that refute his theory, same as an economist, same as a politician, etc.

    you could say (and brassier does in that essay on badiou) that financialized capitalism determines the problems of philosophy, push a little harder and you can say it determines a lot more than that. my intuition is this is one direction brassier wants to go with ‘correlationism.’

  28. traxus4420 Says:

    “easy access to the objective reality of extinction has caused this trauma to Philosophy, is also traumatised and has also repressed the objective reality: the cure is like hitchcockian freudianism, marnie has to remember: “But to acknowledge this truth, the subject of philosophy must also recognize that he or she is already dead,”

    the argument as i understand it is that the unconscious intuition of extinction is philosophy’s founding trauma.

    i’m not sure i get what you’re saying.

    i do agree that the use of psychoanalysis is probably the oddest and maybe least consistent part of the book. it’s the one theoretical apparatus he doesn’t preface with a critique of its founder, also its heavy use marks the moment where he departs from sticking with correlativist/dialectic-based philosophy to make grandiose claims about the whole endeavor.

  29. “that the unconscious intuition of extinction is philosophy’s founding trauma”

    right but whose unconscious intuition? it seems it’s Philosophy’s unconscious – for people extinction is a conscious preoccupation time out of mind. So human consciousness becomes Philosophy’s unconscious (in brassier’s story). But then the two are conflated.

  30. ” i mean justification usually stops with the market but if questioned further this is the response.”

    i think this was true until about twenty five years ago; its really not the case anymore. really obvious human suffering is hailed as the wellbeing of abstractions – that’s the very dominant thing.

  31. speculative opportunities.

    Philosophy would do well to desist from issuing any further injunctions about the need to re-establish the meaningfulness of existence, the purposefulness of life, or mend the shattered concord between man and nature. It should strive to be more than a sop to the pathetic twinge of human self-esteem. Nihilism is not an existential quandary but a speculative opportunity.

    seize it! that’s is how you get to be one of the smartest guys in the room. woof. grr.

  32. traxus4420 Says:

    “for people extinction is a conscious preoccupation time out of mind.”

    there’s a distinction between individual death and the demise of the entire species. brassier’s argument is just that certain forms of argument are inconsistent with our increasing understanding of the latter even as it has always been the impetus for philosophy. the second part of that argument is pretty impressionistic (though also pretty common — human endeavor as a response to some form of death) and maybe illegitimately lays on the psychoanalysis.

    “really obvious human suffering is hailed as the wellbeing of abstractions”

    ah, c’mon! – how often are moral arguments one size fits all? winners and losers, right? the winners win more while the losers lose less?

    adam smith still appears in the business op-eds:
    http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2007/0212/027.html

    and they’ve got the facts to back it up:
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,65278,00.html

    and if you’re still not convinced, there’s always this stuff:

    http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10533974

    http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/exec/billg/speeches/2008/01-24WEFDavos.mspx

  33. “really obvious human suffering is hailed as the wellbeing of abstractions”

    did you read that economist article? its a perfect example of what i’m saying.

    corporate benevolence benefits “the planet” and “society as a whole” and “the public interest”. “philanthropy” is described as “fair trading” and “carbon neutralising”.

    Profits are not good, goes the logic of much CSR; hence the attraction of turning companies into instruments of social policy. In fact, the opposite is true. The main contribution of companies to society comes precisely from those profits (and the products, services, salaries and ideas that competitive capitalism creates). If the business of business stops being business, we all lose.

    there is nothing like “the greatest good for the greatest number”. in fact, our interests are identical to profits – if the business stops being a business “we lose” – what do we lose? simply, that business’ profitability; that is our interest, capital’s profits.

    i mean sheesh – the planet. like the ice cares if it melts. human interests if mentioned at all are are “public problems”: “Most of the disasters have come from politicians seeking to offload public problems onto business: American health care is one sad example.”

    there’s a distinction between individual death and the demise of the entire species.

    yes but the demise of the species is an old story. something people have thought about for thousands of years. pondered even before there were reasons to consider it inevitable. somethig brassier need not explain to his readers – all he has to do is write “extinction” and everyone will understand what’s meant. isn’t his case that philosophy is special for this repression? he’s not claiming that art or hollywood movies or lots of other things people make, like science, have this problem. he’s not claiming to have discovered himself that extinction is inevitable and is announcing it to the world.

  34. everyone who reads the economist knows that the welfare of “society as a whole” is measured by how many billionaires there are and “economc growth”. it’s not an abstraction that connotes political and economic equality, maximal leisure time, etc at all. It is literally understood to mean booming capitalism with a happy bourgeoisie fully in control of labour. “rising US wages threaten the prosperity of americans”.

  35. i mean yes of course the cliché “if that business fails we all lose” is an echo, a vestige of an argument that once could be and was made. but the point is this argument cannot be made anymore and is never made. the logic that once said “capitalism is good because it provides the greatest good to the great number” gave rise to all this dogma but it is no longer actually put forward. the basis in the commonweal has clearly largely been dropped, the conclusion only remaining, now simply dogma, to the point where the business press routinely talks about how “pampered” workers have to give up their cushy lifestyles for “economic growth”.

    in the late seventies, the fed chairman said unashamedly to a congress demanding loosening: “the standard of living of the average american worker has to decline, I don’t think you can get around that”. The policy was not to raise standards of living, but to secure profits. And this is what is understood.

    even that article “is capitalism moral” – no mention whatever of standard of living or equality. capitalism “works”: it “delivers the goods”.

    Still, moneygrubbing–a.k.a. the search for profit–has its purpose. Money (profit) is a tool. It is capital. Without capital there is no capitalism. Innovation starves. Prosperity weakens. Societies stagnate. God-given gifts wither.

    innovation. prosperity. social vitality. individual potentials.

    you might as well as “democracy” and “human rights” and “security” and “the universe”

  36. Okay the foxnews nonsense – of course, for the hoi polloi – is an exception, but you notice its a piece written against “antiglobalisation” protests, so its bound by what its responding to. More typical of fox news is like bill o’reilly after Katrina saying well the lesson here people is better work harder and get some money or you’re going to be swept away. you’ve got a responsibility to yourself to make that money so you can take care of yourself and don’t drown when the cities flood.

  37. I mean it’s circular; the economist will tell you sweden has to start putting real pressure on its “pampered” workers. why? for competitiveness. and why is competitiveness good? you need it in capitalism. and why is capitalism good if you need to drive down standard of living for competitiveness? you can’t say, “because capitalism raises standard of living,” because you just said it lowers it. so you just don’t say why capitalism is good. its just dogma. or if pressed, you remind people how horrible stalin was.

  38. some of the most ancient written narratives concern a few people narrowly escaping the destruction of the entire species in a flood.

  39. here’s a good one, from WAPO Pinochet obit:

    As victims emerged from secret prisons, we learned what that verb really meant: fingernails pulled out, electric shocks applied to genitals, mock-rape by dogs. To this day, I remember the faces and the voices of weeping men, ashamed to confide the terrible things that had been done to them.
    An equally tragic legacy of Pinochet’s rule was that it exacerbated the divisions that had split Chilean society during the presidency of socialist Salvador Allende, whose revolutionary ideals inspired the young and poor — and horrified the old and wealthy.
    Instead of healing those wounds, Pinochet rubbed them raw. Instead of restoring civilian rule after overthowing Allende in 1973, he shut down Chile’s democratic institutions. Military rule created a nation of sycophants and cowards, where neighbors did not speak for years, where office workers looked away as people were dragged into unmarked cars, where elegant housewives held pro-military parades and teenage slum-dwellers were tear-gassed.
    While researching a book about Pinochet’s rule, I interviewed hundreds of people. Many were ordinary civilians whose dignity had been stolen by a combination of economic and political oppression: the black-listed carpenter who had to sell his family wedding rings, the bookkeeper whose father’s library of history and philosophy books was burned by a squad of soldiers.
    In addition to wiping out communism in his country, Pinochet implemented radical free-market economic reforms that threw tens of thousands of people out of work but eventually put Chile on a path of growth that is the envy of Latin America today.

  40. traxus4420 Says:

    ok, uncle!

    the Thing is how capitalism is pitched to the petty bourgeois, people like brassier, k-punk, me, you (?) — the sci-fi horror aesthetic i read as a tool of covert identification with, say, chileans, haitians, the people capitalism is physically rather than just psychologically and emotionally destituting.

    but you acknowledge two other POVs on this beast. the elite (who materially benefit the most from it, it’s “understood”) and the “hoi polloi” for whom, when pressed, the ideologists have to deliver the older song-and-dance.

    so there are positions, maybe (i’d like to see one of those happiness quizzes given to the oligarchy), from which capitalism does not appear as an abstract demon but as the product of human activity, in the interest of (some) humans. and i read this CSR ethical capitalism thing (zizek’s liberal communism), as does the economist writer, as a response to a real demand for moral justification, when the older version can no longer satisfy educated people.

    “destruction of the entire species in a flood”

    initiated by God, yes…who then promised to hold off until judgment day

  41. traxus4420 Says:

    those smiley faces are pissing me off.

    anyway, anthropocentrism doesn’t imply ‘for the good of the species,’ it implies values expressed in terms either of ‘the human’ or of human experience. ‘prosperity,’ etc. may lack material referents, but they are reified human ‘values.’ this may in part be what brassier is responding to. actual human needs have some verifiable reality, ‘values’ don’t, though they can obscure/cancel the former.

  42. “destruction of the entire species in a flood”

    initiated by God, yes…who then promised to hold off until judgment day

    that’s in the torah, but there are other deluges too.

    you can’t confuse consciousness of the issue with the creative literary solutions! (which differ) clearly extinction of the species is very present to human consciousness, and becomes a topic of literature etc. That’s its a possibility is obvious, and then people ponder and narrate this is a variety of ways. “Judgement Day” is a testimony to the assumption of human extinction; then a way of thinking about that, with some consolations, is offered. Not universally accepted of course.

    brassier’s whole point demands this no? he says basically- there is a primal scene of “speculation”. That is, we see death, individual death, universal individual death, we get to species exitinction. (its in Genesis, before philosophy). Speculation’s “first product”, or virtually, is the idea of species extinction. Then later, philosophy is this discourse which represses this, he says. It’s a neurotic symptom. But this is not to say that philosophers share the neurosis of the discourse; that its philosophers neurosis which just becomes Philosophy. Philosophical discourse is neurotic – philosophers not necessarily. Philosophy is “we’re all dead” repeated in the form of denial in a discourse with a “high figurality rate”. The psychoanalytic metaphor requries the objective reality of extinction to be repressed, that is, the extinction that everybody knows about, that’s just there for everyone to see. And he’s pretty clear he thinks philosophy is “the last to know”. That’s the problem – the human species and all its products know something philosophy doesn’t want to know and is built not to know, is the nonacknowledgement of. So he’s demanding reform in the form of updating.

    But then, after setting this case out, there’s a confusion, and the neurosis of individual philosophers – he and she – is perpetuating the neurosis that is Philosophy, so now its not clear that extinction is “objective reality”, it is transformed into a kind of secret, an intuition of brassier’s (implicitly).

  43. “it implies values expressed in terms either of ‘the human’ or of human experience.”

    I think you can see that about 25 years ago the dominant discourse achieved a decisive shift to expressing values as non human, and indeed to explcitly contrasting them to human based values, and to indeed concealing the interests of a human minority behind the interests of the non-human – “capitalism” for example, “free markets”, “democracy” “freedom” “growth” “innovation”. The bad terms as well “evil” and “terror”. The geneology can be traced still of course, but the shift is really glaring and qualitative. Bolsheviks to communists to communism to the evil empire to evil.

  44. yeah, different languages, but you can see which dominates in the articles you cite – like the one that basically says “capitalism is good and brings prosperity precisely because it can’t ‘solve public problems’ like the provision of bare necessities like healthcare to people.” how is this intelligible unless prosperity is decoupled from the human? (and over and over we know it is measured by the stock market and economic growth) the decoupling from the human disguises a minority interest; its not anthropocentric, its not saying “rich people benefit from capitalism” its saying “economic growth is achieved by capitalism”. capitalism brings prosperity which means people living in it should not expect to be able to satisfy their most basic needs. But that doesn’t attach “prosperity” to the rich either. Its a thing above mankind, a higher thing, like god and the nation and the now popular “the planet”.

  45. (i don’t mean “judgement day” is in the torah. just God’s role in the deluge)

  46. and:
    ok, uncle!

    (sorry, don’t mean to badger really)

  47. traxus4420 Says:

    ok, now i get what you’re saying about brassier — yes, there are several sneaky attempts to suggest things about non-philosophical consciousness while remaining almost myopically fixed on the discourse of philosophers. to hint at a positive argument in the midst of the negative, critical one. there’s the agnosticism over the specifics of dennett/churchland/metzinger’s arguments on the inadequacy of common sense and ‘qualia,’ the separation of correlationism from philosophy tout court, this psychoanalytic argument. i assume this will develop into something more concrete in his forthcoming work.

    just speculating, i would say that theology fits quite nicely within ‘correlationism,’ that in Western traditions nowhere other than science do we find the possibility of imagining the universe free of human interpretive schema. he doesn’t address religion too much, but it seems clear to me that what he approves of in philosophy are its attempts to break down theological assumptions, that what’s wrong with it are the same superstitions that plague all non-scientific modes of understanding the world, not just philosophy

  48. traxus4420 Says:

    the construction of elaborate abstractions to justify whatever (usually minority interest) isn’t limited to contemporary capitalism — you could substitute certain uses of christianity, or humanism, to that form of argument. when does a discourse stop being anthropocentric? what standards does it have to meet? (honest question, basically brassier’s guiding question)

    “you can’t confuse consciousness of the issue with the creative literary solutions!”

    i would need to see a culturally dominant formulation of the issue that wasn’t a creative literary (or oral, mythical, magical) solution first.

  49. when does a discourse stop being anthropocentric? what standards does it have to meet? (honest question, basically brassier’s guiding question)

    in the broadest sense there presumably can be no non anthropocentric discourse, since discourse is human. but it seems that brassier is suggesting there are both anthropocentric and non anthropocentric discourses, so its about subject matter, emphasis or the surface level of metaphors. I suppose higher mathematics is the model of the non anthropocentric.

    “you can’t confuse consciousness of the issue with the creative literary solutions!”

    i would need to see a culturally dominant formulation of the issue that wasn’t a creative literary (or oral, mythical, magical) solution first.

    science and common sense. (where is? it’s an “objective reality”)

    if you want to look for common sense on the topic, how people assume the human species could become extinct, one glaring example of widespread thought is during the black death; people did expect and contemplate human extinction and it was not largely attributed it to the divine – miasmas was the dominant diagnosis; and there were plenty of agnostics not hoping for heaven too.

    but brassier’s extinction is not just acknowledged as objective reality, nor is it free of creative literary solutions, is it? its Meaning. all the meaning there is, condensed. extinction is inevitable so life is a dream – this is very familiar. it is presented as a creative solution to another – repressed? – objective reality, that of human life and consciousness and conditions, or “non exitinction” , the objective reality that the living are not already dead. in fact.

    “that what’s wrong with it are the same superstitions that plague all non-scientific modes of understanding the world,”

    but the scientific mode of understanding the world is dominant, and anyone practising philosophy can always refer to it. it won’t confirm, though, that “we’re all already dead”. for that one needs theology, yes?

  50. other examples of common sense would be anything people say about nuclear war or accident trigged extinction. this is a not exactly small bibliography on that topic!

  51. “the construction of elaborate abstractions to justify whatever (usually minority interest) isn’t limited to contemporary capitalism ”

    okay – which would give us the original -humanist – distinction between humanism and abstractionism/godism, or anthropocentrism and its opposite/absence. then, you get a function for philosophy, it appears, out of theology into the period of the split with natural science, where philosophy takes on this role of making the illusory plane to which problems of th secular or anthropocentric plane are referred in, “figuratively”, order to avoid the obvious. extinction – for example. its a real problem of the social secular plane; but in doing philosophy, brassier refers it to this other plane – now its spectacle, absorbed by, but perhaps always was – where its solved, becoes a hollywood happy ending. So there is a real problem we are confronting – extinction, partial or total – and there’s a fairyland solution (its good news! speculative opportunity!. Problem? Solution.) A real problem on the secular plane – unending violence of capitalists. Solution; on the plane of philosophy, its simple – stop thinking about it! dead already anyhow. Normally its more elaborate, sly, entertaining – in brassier’s case its kind of desperate, finger poking your breastbone, perhaps this is why the rhetoric is like that, saving the world, high stakes, crisis, rushed rushed, the textured, abundant verbality which is that pomo facsimilie of content.

  52. “just speculating, i would say that theology fits quite nicely within ‘correlationism,’ just speculating, i would say that theology fits quite nicely within ‘correlationism,’”

    with the contingency of human intelligence on divine intelligence there seem to be alternatives – if the divine is immanent it’s like the correllation, if transcendant, though, it isn’t.

    ” in Western traditions nowhere other than science do we find the possibility of imagining the universe free of human interpretive schema”

    imagining without imagining- we don’t have that. if one really strives for nonanthropocentism, probably human thought and especially human language should be the first thing to avoid. so why pick a 100% human language genre for this representation, and turbocharge it with highly personal style? wouldn’t it be better to just try to collect a lot of film?

  53. “i would need to see a culturally dominant formulation of the issue that wasn’t a creative literary (or oral, mythical, magical) solution first.”

    oh – here’s one.

  54. traxus4420 Says:

    “I suppose higher mathematics is the model of the non anthropocentric.”

    as long as it refers, yes.

    “science and common sense. (where is? it’s an “objective reality” ;)”

    this combination is relatively recent — i thought we were talking about premodern notions, floods, etc. anyway brassier actually attacks churchland’s critique of common sense, on the grounds that it’s idealizing while contradictorily relying on an adaptationist paradigm. there’s nothing in there that suggests common, non-professional ways of thinking (and elaborate systems based on them) are a priori false, just that they aren’t necessarily accurate, in fact often misleading — that, again, their intuitions are falsifiable. the eliminativist argument against ‘folk psychology’ includes a critique of philosophy, insofar as philosophy is just a different, more elaborate interpretation of common sense.

    what you say here:

    “That’s the problem – the human species and all its products know something philosophy doesn’t want to know and is built not to know, is the nonacknowledgement of. So he’s demanding reform in the form of updating.”

    would be right if you qualify ‘human species’ with ‘most’ and ‘all its products’ with ‘many, by now’ (obviously it can’t be ‘all its products’ if philosophy is one of them). that image of the planet earth is a perfect example of a commonly-accepted truth, product of scientific progress, that philosophy hasn’t assimilated.

  55. traxus4420 Says:

    re: the black death — i’m not going to pretend to be well-read on that topic, but every reference i’ve ever come across has had something about millenarianism in it. rejection of the church, not of religious thought. miasma as cause, sure, practically dominant, but that didn’t stop people from thinking about what it all means, didn’t turn everyone into john stuart mill.

  56. traxus4420 Says:

    “A real problem on the secular plane – unending violence of capitalists. Solution; on the plane of philosophy, its simple – stop thinking about it! dead already anyhow.”

    i think this fits as a criticism so far, but these implicit/impressionistic suspicions about everyday consciousness only constitute half an argument at this point. the direct target of ‘everything dead already’ is vitalism, which is far more likely to imbue suffering with meaning.

  57. traxus4420 Says:

    “objective reality that the living are not already dead. in fact.”

    yes, but what does that mean? it means everything, in anything except the discourse of ‘objective reality.’

  58. “but that didn’t stop people from thinking about what it all means, didn’t turn everyone into john stuart mill.”

    surely brassier is not suggesting stopping thinking about what it all means, but complaining that nobody is thinking about what it means, just treating is as meaningless objective reality: he’s insisting on thinking it means everything, is the Cause of “the will to know”, of consciousness and thought, etc..

    “yes, but what does that mean?”

    Its that given from which we derive our knowledge of the objective reality of extinction, obviously! You can’t treat extinction as obvious and factual (derived from accumulated observation and experiement based knowledge) and mere conjecture or gnostic intuition at the same time!

    Meaninglessness: Human extinction, the universe’s extinction, there’s no “will to know” so it can’t be “driven” by anything. That’s the given. What brassier is trying to do is establish a meaning to all this – to inevitable human extinction. But there isn’t any, and – we all know this, it’s factual, because we all know this.

  59. “but that didn’t stop people from thinking about what it all means, didn’t turn everyone into john stuart mill”

    no, but some; i’m not arguing that human beings have always been nihilists or are today all nihilists. I’m challenging this notion that the fully conscious consciousness of human extinction has not been a preoccupation time out of mind. its one thing to say people don’t all give it the meaning, brassier insist on, and another to say therefore its unthought, repressed. what people think about it is varied. Wikipedia! brassier is insisting human exitinction means something; that its the meaning of meaning, the hidden “driver” of all thought. At least in philosophy, but he hints also out of philosophy.

    “the direct target of ‘everything dead already’ is vitalism, which is far more likely to imbue suffering with meaning.”

    okay then it’s a game. harmless. brassier against deleuzians. none are making any policy. if it doesn’t matter wheter everything really is dead already, if its a move in a discursive joust, that’s cool. but the air of urgency then is kind of asking to be the focus of any assessment, if you think its worth assessing who took this round.

  60. i mean, vitalism, today, what is it? a handful of people writing articles, the occasional book? If one really seriously thought this somehow threatening, dangerous, the matter urgent, desperate, high stakes, the thing would be to stop feeding them. But it’s clear the purpose of brassier – and meillassoux – is emphatically not to put an end to this catastrophe they denounce but to keep production of it going, not to stamp out vitalism or the correlation but to keep the whole thing going. collegial challenges! I don’t believe its because they secretly want to ennoble suffering, or harm anybody, or justify the status quo; its a job, they have no choice really, but one can conclude they really don’t think this stuff has any effect on people; its actually a very interesting kind of doublethink on display. And with brassier playing this shell game with philosophy’s neurosis, and the scientifically established fact/ objective reality that in the next sentence is an arcane secret, mysterious, unmentionable, you can see some of the gears and levers working.

  61. traxus4420 Says:

    “surely brassier is not suggesting stopping thinking about what it all means, but complaining that nobody is thinking about what it means, just treating is as meaningless objective reality”

    i don’t think this type of reversal works here. there’s a proposal: the meaning of life is refuted by the fact of its inevitable extinction. those who hold or imply (a) that life means and (b) that extinction is meaningless contradict themselves. because extinction is both meaningless and inevitable, arguments about the meaningfulness of life or those assuming the meaningfulness of life are illegitimate. culture in general is implicitly treated as containing a set of refutable arguments.

    “I’m challenging this notion that the fully conscious consciousness of human extinction has not been a preoccupation time out of mind.”

    but this is why he uses psychoanalysis, he wants to say that philosophy hasn’t worked out the consequences of the objective fact of extinction. it may be consciously acknowledged, but is nevertheless disavowed within philosophical discourse. if the implication is that this shortcoming applies to most people at most periods in history, then i think that’s accurate IF you accept that a) extinction didn’t become verifiably probable until after geology and paleontology, inevitable until after modern cosmology and b) most people have taken and continue to take the meaning of life to be something worth assuming, discussing, being inspired by, acting on, etc..

    “i mean, vitalism, today, what is it? a handful of people writing articles, the occasional book?”

    depends on how precise you want to be with the definition. theories of emergence and self-organization are controversial but well-known in a number of fields – biology, economics, physics, you name it. and the idea that life is exceptional in some metaphysical way is surely not limited to intellectuals in the humanities. i mean i would say it’s the basis of most common notions of morality (though not for instance badiou’s). for the audience receptive to it, this is precisely how the ‘save the planet’ discourse works.

  62. traxus4420 Says:

    “emphatically not to put an end to this catastrophe they denounce but to keep production of it going, not to stamp out vitalism or the correlation but to keep the whole thing going.”

    well, i would argue they think one must stamp out vitalism and the correlation in order to keep the whole thing going. i think what speculative realists are after is a meaningless philosophy, just like the post-hermeneuts but ‘for reals’ this time.

    “none are making any policy.”

    no, but i bet they’d like to. there is nothing more meaningless than policy, which insultingly remains many times more effective than philosophy monographs.

  63. “he wants to say that philosophy hasn’t worked out the consequences of the objective fact of extinction. it may be consciously acknowledged, but is nevertheless disavowed within philosophical discourse”

    yeah exactly – this is what I said; but then, its “he and she”, some individuals, who are somehow creating this problem for philosophy. But the problem is kind of in the structure; philosophy IS this denial or repression; consciousness of extinction “drives” “the will to know”.

    “there’s a proposal: the meaning of life is refuted by the fact of its inevitable extinction”

    but he argues that the origin for the search for the “meaning of life” – a meaningless phrase but it’s conventional in his genre – is nothing other than consciousness of extinction. So actually the “meaning of life” – this construction – is Caused by consciousness of extinction.

    This is all beside the point because it is meaningless life that we have to live, and “meaningless” life is no different, objectively, than “meaningful” life.

    “depends on how precise you want to be with the definition. ”

    to include that which “imbues suffering with meaning”, presumably.

    “and the idea that life is exceptional in some metaphysical way is surely not limited to intellectuals in the humanities”

    no. but the self interest of human life is not dependent on the assumption that the cosmos considers human life important; you don’t live, labour, reproduce etc because you think the stars are worshipping and depending on you.

    i think it would be hard – impossible – to establish that human extinction is actually an especially traumatic thought; people obviously generally find it comforting, as does brassier evidently and he’s betting his readers will as well. Perhaps its consoling and distracting from really traumatic thoughts, because it enacts equality and solidarity, promises an end to suffering, anxiety, involves no injustice (which really enrages people) etc.. And unlike many consoling ideas, its not just a fantasy, or not entirely, though it might as well be, really.

  64. “there’s a proposal: the meaning of life is refuted by the fact of its inevitable extinction”

    but he argues that the origin for the search for the “meaning of life”

    i mean, isn’t his case that the notion that there is -must be, however arcane – such a thing as “meaning” in stuff, life, cosmos, is a symptom of a neurosis caused by the traumatic awareness of finitude.

  65. it not a simple proposal – people think life has meaning because they think the universe and everything in it as we percieve it now is eternal, including human beings. But since that’s not true, life has no “meaning”. It’s a more complex relation between the neurotic endowing of “life” with “meaning” and a trauma that something or someone endured related to thinking, to the accomplishment of a rudimentary generalisation from observable death to the probable impermanence of everything.

  66. ” i think what speculative realists are after is a meaningless philosophy, just like the post-hermeneuts but ‘for reals’ this time.”

    World War V: The War on Whatever.

  67. I know I’m being a bad sport. I get that its “elevated”. Ultimately there is a vision that the extinction of humanity, like a sacrifice, like the Christ really, rescues the solar system from death. Life is already dead but the sun and moon burn and glow still. Their escape from their inevitable fate is somehow assured by the human apocalypse. The willingness with which we make the sacrifice can be shown in our anti-anthropocentrism and will be uplifting, noble. (I suspect he may be a Rosecrucian).

  68. traxus4420 Says:

    “but he argues that the origin for the search for the “meaning of life””

    yes, the argument is basically the problem of life’s meaning is shown to be false by an analysis of its material cause.

    what’s actually supposed to be important about this is the idea that objective reality can refute meaning, that meaning is caused by human perception of objective reality, which in turn is caused by that reality (and not an active subject). meaning presupposes x, x is false, therefore meaning is meaningless (not-x). it’s beside the point (for brassier anyway) if not-x is just as comforting as x (the problem for him is self-esteem).

    it’s ‘proof’ that extinction causes meaning by way of arguing presupposition. so it depends on the assumption that a certain critical heuristic cultivated by philosophy applies to all utterances. that all statements presuppose others in an implicit theoretical system. even if no one ‘really believes’ x, all available statements presuppose x. so i feel like i keep needing to reiterate, still by and for philosophers at this point.

    “self interest of human life”

    i don’t think he’s against self-interest — at least he doesn’t come out and say so. in some circles, insisting life is meaningless and that we should recognize it as such (burning the idols, etc.) is actually in human self-interest. radical atheism being the most popular example.

    what’s directly at stake in all of this is the status of the enlightenment for philosophy.

    “you don’t live, labour, reproduce etc because you think the stars are worshipping and depending on you.”

    no, but still you (most yous in history) believe the stars do all those things.

    this is where the philosophy assumptions come in — the idea that belief = epistemological conviction seems unshakable from the discipline, whether or not it’s true in all cases. ‘the subject,’ individual consciousness, still seems to carry that conviction even for atheists, hence it is the target.

    “I know I’m being a bad sport.”

    you’re always a bad sport when it comes to philosophy. but that’s why i like talking about it with you. i so rarely get to play the straight man!

    i have some other ideas about what’s comforting about nihilism that i’ll post on in a few.

  69. “yes, the argument is basically the problem of life’s meaning is shown to be false by an analysis of its material cause.”

    Okay so

    it’s material cause is the trauma experienced by the universe of things. The universe of things has a mind and a psyche. This is reflected in what people experience as consciousness, but there are no human psyches, only these reflections of the psyche of the universe of things.

    (“objective reality can refute meaning, that meaning is caused by human perception of objective reality, which in turn is caused by that reality (and not an active subject). “)

    The universe of things is traumatised by its grief for humankind, which is impermanent like everything else. This trauma is imprinted on Philosophy, an institution, like an image on film.

    Though without psyches, individual human beings possess will. Will is a mysterious force.

    (“it’s sort of odd that gender difference maintains even up to the point of total subjective destitution” – it’s odd but predictable)

    Through heroic acts of individual will, you, you and yes you my dear! can cure the institutional problem of Philosophy, this reflected stain of the trauma of the universal psyche.

    Self esteem is the root and origin of all evil. Lucifer’s own sin – the reason for the expulsion from Paradise. Cultivate humility and awe through exercise of individual will. This penitential abjection will cure the trauma of the universal mind, and that cure will in due course be imprinted on Philosophy.

  70. There’s only one thing being advanced here. That trauma and repression have taken place and this explains the content of philosophical texts. The trauma and repression are metaphors, borrowed from the description a pseudo-science offers of an active human psyche concieved as a hydraulic mechanism. That such a psychic mechanism exists is presupposed by Brassier. But its location is transferred – it is not a product of the human species’ consciousness, which is not productive, only reflective.

    It’s not that strange; the conception of human intelligence as dependent on divine intelligence is developed and there’s lots to borrow from for models. But this may be why there is all this evasion and incoherence at the heart – because he doesn’t really want to say there is a universal mind or a divine intelligence, yet it is presupposed. Human consciousness is contingent, it is dependent on “objects”; subjective products like trauma and repression which unavoidably suggest active subjectivity have to be transposed to “objects”; once such psychic features are attributed to “objects”, what “objects” are standing in for becomes clearer.

  71. “the will to know is driven by the traumatic reality of extinction, and strives to become equal to the trauma of the in-itself whose trace it bears.”

    what’s that sound like? an unaccounted for “will to know” striving – an âme, just compelled, yearning, struggling toward, reaching out and up for, straining to “become equal” to the trauma of the in itself whose trace it bears, the original trauma?

  72. the poster Collapse is emailing around for some party this week in London shows a line drawing of the head of a kind of sandra dee girl, ponytail, big eyes, tiny little button nose, face pitched coquettishly down so eyes look slightly up with victorian sweetness; she wears a regal, stiff high collar set away from her and open in front; her mouth is either surrounded by blood and gook or possibly bearded and mustachioed; between her teeth she holds an eye.

    which is to say, there’s tradition here!

  73. “coruscating potency of reason” (eponym of Apollo):

    CHORUS LEADER
    You plead to set him free. But think of this— 830
    will this man, who shed his mother’s blood,
    who spilled it on the ground, return back home,
    to live in Argos in his father’s house?
    Where are the public altars he can use,
    the family cleansing rites he can attend?

    APOLLO
    I’ll speak to that, as well. Make sure you note
    how right my answer is. That word mother—
    we give it to the one who bears the child.
    However, she’s no parent, just a nurse
    to that new life embedded in her. 840
    The parent is the one who plants the seed,
    the father. Like a stranger for a stranger, [660]
    she preserves the growing life, unless
    god injures it. And I can offer proof
    for what I say—a man can have a child
    without a mother. Here’s our witness,
    here—Athena, child of Olympian Zeus.

    [Apollo points to Athena]

    No dark womb nursed her

  74. (the conceit castration/extinction, the ‘horrifying’ universe of virtual partial “objects” reeking of death, consoled by impotent speculation repeatedly invoked as Potency, corrosive potency of instrumental rationality, coruscating potency of bourgeois enlightenment Reason ahistorically assimilated to classical logos, and finally the resort to the heroic individual initiative of belle lettrism. A full circle beginning and ending with lifesaving benefit of clergy.)

  75. traxus4420 Says:

    i think you’re assuming a contentlessness to this stuff that’s not really justified, in order to make brassier et al the passive expression of dead tradition. what derrida would call him, basically.

    whereas what brassier wants to be, directly in opposition to the above, is the actively self-negating expression of reality conceived in terms of realist ontology. sort of like adorno with an extra dose of negativity.

    “It’s not that strange; the conception of human intelligence as dependent on divine intelligence is developed and there’s lots to borrow from for models.”

    it appears strange if you don’t simply discount all his arguments against the various philosophical versions of universal intelligence. because the easy assumption would be that if he denies the legitimacy of active consciousness for the individual he must be reserving it for a universal category. but actually he’s saying the universe is dumb, the individual is the only possessor of consciousness. the problem is that consciousness is a byproduct of dumb, objective processes within that dumb universe. to treat consciousness as original or causal in any way is incoherent. but at the same time, we, or at least philosophers, seem reflexively drawn away from assimilating this fact into practice. so, intimations of a critical ethics: consciousness must now be treated as a source of endless illusions which only a realist stance toward objects can correct.

    “material cause is the trauma experienced by the universe of things”

    and it stops being strange again when you realize that this is just what cosmology and neuroscience tells us is the case (i think you can’t substitute ‘common sense’ for this like you’ve been trying to, it’s common sense dominated by science) — there is no free will, machines and statistics with good data can tell you what you’re going to do before you know you’re going to do it, the universe is slowly falling apart, brassier is just trying to translate this popular science position into idealist philosophy. in order to make it a good fit he has to eliminate all the formulas for ‘mediation’ from the philosophical apparatus, keep anything that would allow for communication, the social, intersubjectivity, work, etc. from entering the magic circle. there is just totally solitary consciousness, trying to feel power in the face of its complete expropriation.

  76. traxus4420 Says:

    “A full circle beginning and ending with lifesaving benefit of clergy.)”

    this is why i think the psychoanalysis comes up, a myth to enable this circuit with philosophers as priest-mediators. but NOT to the divine (not even the divine Real), just to the aesthetic and attitude that they’re all selling. it’s the part of the book with the least backing it up on the level of argument.

  77. traxus4420 Says:

    i’m forcing this point because i want to maintain that there is a common problem linking brassier and lenin, the same problem running through the whole history of debates over the epistemology/ontology of materialism (which i’m just getting into).

    “reflections of the psyche of the universe of things”

    see this is what a hegelian would assume, but what seemed to piss readers of lenin’s ad hoc reconstruction of marx’s ontology off is that his ‘reflection theory’ of consciousness mimicked dumb matter too directly, without the proper hegelian mediations. if you’re going to say or insinuate that human action is conscious action, not determined by ‘bourgeois knowledge,’ you have to figure out a way to do it that doesn’t fall back into idealism. this is the problem restated but not solved by timpanaro in that essay you posted a while ago.

  78. traxus4420 Says:

    “coruscating potency of bourgeois enlightenment Reason ahistorically assimilated to classical logos”

    the potence he grants enlightenment reason is strictly negative. the negation he argues adorno and horkheimer tried to doubly negate by, actually, assimilating (scientific) enlightenment reason into classical.

  79. “the potence he grants enlightenment reason is strictly negative”

    is it? i haven’t read the whole book – just parts, but it seemed to me that subjective reason or scientific rationality is strictly negative.

    “the negation he argues adorno and horkheimer tried to doubly negate by, actually, assimilating (scientific) enlightenment reason into classical”

    I”m sure it’s brassier who confuses the objective Reason of the Enlightenment with modern scientific rationality or subjective reason associated with the subjective character of “logos”; H and A don’t make that errror, the distinction is central to their case; its Brassier’s shell game, isn’t it?

  80. “but actually he’s saying the universe is dumb, the individual is the only possessor of consciousness. the problem is that consciousness is a byproduct of dumb, objective processes within that dumb universe”

    okay but when he has to put this – and this is common sense, it is the dominant notion, it is what everyone assumes at bottom – to work, in his project of philosophising, what comes out is psychoanalysis – pseudo-science, modernist myth. It has to be placed under the umbrella of this fable and recuperated. Because the project is incoherent; there is not other way to tell this vision and do philosophising. Thus this dumb universe is declared dumb yet has a predictable mechanism expressed through the conceit of castration. Which puts in place its whole narrative, includng the identities of the “objects”, the traditional source of this supposed “horror” etc etc.

  81. “if you’re going to say or insinuate that human action is conscious action….you have to figure out a way to do it that doesn’t fall back into idealism.”

    only in philosophy would this be both required and tricky! its a problem with the genre, not with the perception.

  82. “this is why i think the psychoanalysis comes up, a myth to enable this circuit with philosophers as priest-mediators. but NOT to the divine (not even the divine Real), just to the aesthetic and attitude that they’re all selling.”

    but it’s also necessary because the basics of his scheme leaves no explanation for stupidity and no way to distinguish between stupidity and weilding the organon of extinction. he has to explain why all this philosophy is what it is, narcissism, pantywaist scardicatitude, denial; he has to explain self esteem and how it could be so relentlessly self serving as to subjugate scientific rationality; he has to explain all these patterns without recourse to the notion of ideology; without any concept of institutions or social relations; the only remaining options are sin or psychic malady.

  83. “the whole history of debates over the epistemology/ontology of materialism (which i’m just getting into).”

    here’s a fun index card for your file:

    In the idealist line, Liebig, who was fond of setting aside his inductive science to indulge speculative digressions, wrote the following: “Force cannot be seen; we can’t seize it in our hands; to know it in its essence and in its particularity, we have to study its effects.” To this the materialist responds, “Matter is force, force is matter; no matter without force, no force without matter.” But, manifestly, neither one nor the other can define this relation except in a purely negative fashion. On the fairground stages, Arlequin’s master asks him, “Arlequin, where are you?” – “With my companions.” – “And where are they?” – “With me.” In this case, we have two responses with one single content; in the other case, we have two camps which argue with different words over something that is not contested; and the more the quarrel is taken seriously, the more risible it becomes! When one distinguishes matter from force, his intention is not to deny that the real phenomena of force is indissolubly tied to matter. And when the materialist affirms that there is no matter without force nor force without matter, his intention is not to deny that which his adversary affirms, that is, the difference between force and matter.

    The controversy has nonetheless its subject, its real reason, but this subject doesn’t appear in the course of the dispute. The two parties dissimulate instinctively in order to avoid being obliged to confess their reciprocal ignorance. Each attempts to prove to the other that his explications are not sufficient, proofs which are administered abundantly on both sides. In the conclusion of his book Force and Matter, Bücher recognised that the empirical givens are not sufficient to provide a precise response to metaphysical questions, to give positive replies to them; on the other hand, he says further, “they are perfectly sufficient to provide a negative solution and to reject the conjectures.” In other words, this means; the materialist’s wisdom suffices to prove that his adversary knows nothing.

    The spiritualist or the idealist believes in a spiritual essence of force; spiritual, that is to say phantomatic, inexplicable. The man of materialist science is an unbeliever. Nowhere does a scientific justification exist either for belief or unbelief. Materialism has the advantage that it is not seeking the transcendental, the essence, the cause, the force behind phenomena nor that beyond matter. But when he misconstrues the distinction between force and matter, when he denies the existence of the whole problem, he merely slips around behind idealism. The materialist asserts the real indivisibility of matter and force and to explain their seperation, gives value solely to “an exterior reason, born of the need for systemisation of our consciousness.”

    — Joseph Dietzgen, The Essence of Human Intellectual Labour, Explained by a Manual Labourer (1869)

  84. “all his arguments against the various philosophical versions of universal intelligence. because the easy assumption would be that if he denies the legitimacy of active consciousness for the individual he must be reserving it for a universal category. ”

    ah ah but. i mean to say not this. its not that revising the individual, depriving it of agency, he then gives agency to the anthropomorphised universe. this is to misunderstand how the model works as model. the universe of Reason goes with the individual of reason. they complement one another.

    the (post-)lacanian psychoanalytic subject goes with Brassier’s universal psyche. The point is not that he has taken an old outmoded subject and made it his model of the universe, but that he has updated the anthropomorphised universe to go with the new updated subject. What kind of universal mind would the new subject depend on were it dependent (which it is)?

  85. “but what seemed to piss readers of lenin’s ad hoc reconstruction of marx’s ontology off is that his ‘reflection theory’ of consciousness mimicked dumb matter too directly, without the proper hegelian mediations”

    i dunno what pisses people off, but Lenin is dismissing the tool, the organon of extinction, that is, the decision to split the object into the “for us”, the concrete thing we know, and the “in itself”, its (by definition) unknowable soul. That decision is a bad one; it can produce nothing but nonsense. Brassier – and Meillassoux, but differently – operate by simple redefinition, the “for us” – the objective object, the object of empirical sciences – being redefined as “illusion”, the “thing in itself” redefined as the “for us” for the question part and the pre-split thing that the decision split in two, reconstituted, in the answer part. Neither of them believe in the unknowable soul of the thing, but both for some reason want to discuss how many of them can dance on a pinhead. It’s an institutional problem.

  86. […] anti-’anthropomorphism’ and expansive definition of subjective idealism presented by Brassier and (some of) his speculative realist pals, it should be noted, apply to all of the above, […]

  87. “lenin’s ad hoc reconstruction of marx’s ontology off is that his ‘reflection theory’ of consciousness mimicked dumb matter too directly”

    this kind of thing is what Laruelle is trying to get at . Engel’s “mirror” is a metaphor; philosophy posits its scission of fictions, its hypostatized forces (matter, mind), with their special made-to-order-for-philosophising interdependent antagonism, and cleaves to them blindly. The pair is a little engine of philosophy product. So that if the pair are rejected, the “thought” produced by the little engine cannot cope; everything has to be interpreted with them and through them. The frank rejection of the split becoming a nonsensical mechanical unphilosophical relation between the terms (mind simply reflects matter, is an imprint). That’s not what engels or lenin are advancing obviously; but it’s impossible for someone wedded to the fairy pairs of idealist philosophy, mind and matter, for us/ in itself, to escape them once they’ve been conjured.

  88. traxus4420 Says:

    “brassier who confuses the objective Reason of the Enlightenment with modern scientific rationality or subjective reason associated with the subjective character of “logos””

    he definitely doesn’t confuse objective reason with subjective logos – the relationship between the former and scientific rationality is at the heart of the problem he’s trying to solve. what is the metaphysics appropriate to scientific rationality. subjective logos is the object of his easter egg hunt, to be stamped out as just so much phenomenology. the enlightenment “dispossesses the subject of thought.” brassier affirms what a & h abhor: “the inorganic miming of organic reason” more or less on the grounds that the latter is a product of and is (in the last instance) ‘mediated’ by the former.

    “this is common sense, it is the dominant notion — it is what everyone assumes at bottom – ”

    i still don’t get how you say universal meaninglessness is ‘just common sense’ when the whole history of culture, of myth, religion, philosophy, a good chunk of literature, would seem to say the exact opposite, unless you’re suggesting that at bottom no one takes any of it ‘seriously.’ if it’s a hunch of yours, it’s a counterintuitive hunch.

    “to work, in his project of philosophising, what comes out is psychoanalysis – pseudo-science, modernist myth”

    “he has to explain all these patterns without recourse to the notion of ideology”

    yes, the second bit answers the first i think —

    “the universe of Reason goes with the individual of reason. they complement one another.”

    but the whole argument is that that’s correlationism — this is the model he’s attacking, the one he says is refuted by science. the ‘universe of Reason’ is a covert subjectivism attached to what should be a properly object-centered reason. the universe has no identity, it’s also not pure form or information processor as per the lacanian model. the being of the universe is nothing, a projection of the subject which is also nothing. he’s not out to subjectivate the cause of trauma, but to refashion a philosophical subject adequate to the objective reality prior to the lacanian object-cause (extinction trauma, will to truth).

    “only in philosophy would this be both required and tricky! its a problem with the genre, not with the perception.”

    you make this argument a lot, i’ve thought about it, find it useful in many situations, but ultimately this is where we’ll have to agree to disagree. it’s a problem in the genre because perception is itself taken to be a problem. this fundamental suspicion is shared by the sciences, demonstrated by its practice, and i think maintained by lots of ordinary people all the time. i’m with you that

    “So that if the pair are rejected, the “thought” produced by the little engine cannot cope; everything has to be interpreted with them and through them.”

    but then you seem to suggest that philosophy is only a neurosis with made-up problems totally alien to ordinary healthy people, that we can just leave it alone, which is too close to its narcissistic self-image for me to accept.

  89. traxus4420 Says:

    i should probably declare a cease-fire for this comment thread. if you (or anyone else) want to say more things, let’s use the most recent post on lukacs and auerbach.

  90. traxus4420 Says:

    thanks, by the way — you’re out of my league, but it’s still fun to get in the mix with you about these various forms of nonsense.

  91. It’s genuinely very difficult in this busy life to listen news on Television, therefore I just use web for that purpose, and take the most recent news.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: