Skip navigation

Category Archives: immortality

Somebody dying under the MRI.  

The Immortal Subject Beyond The Life Drive

In our daily lives we create little worlds of our own and invest them with various meanings. These worlds have their own logics, orders repetitively staged every day; this gives us a sense of continuity in time and hence a sense of security. Objects and subjects surrounding us, everything fits in its proper place in this microcosmic self-consciousness of ours.

The thought of being a tiny spot in the middle of nowhere, however, or somewhere in the vast universe is too unbearable to be thought through for many people because it reminds us of death. If one thinks this thought for too long all meaning collapses and life falls apart, the established symbolic order of object relations become disorganized. This is when the journey of the subject towards nothingness begins. If the subject manages to maintain integrity throughout the passage from self-consciousness to an impersonal consciousness reconciliation of self with life and the world takes place. With the advance of this macrocosmic impersonal consciousness in time everything symbolic loses meaning and credibility only to lead to an opening up of a space for the emergence of a new meaning. The new is not independent from the old. But is that which had hitherto been unseen, unrealised, unthought as a new possibility of a progressive movement.

Authentic fidelity is the fidelity to the void itself—to the very act of loss, of abandoning or erasing the object. Why should the dead be the object of attachment in the first place? The name for this fidelity is death drive. In the terms of dealing with the dead, one should, perhaps, against the work of mourning as well as against the melancholic attachment to the dead who return as ghosts, assert the Christian motto “let the dead bury their dead.” The obvious reproach to this motto is, What are we to do when, precisely, the dead do not accept to stay dead, but continue to live in us, haunting us by their spectral presence? One is tempted here to claim that the most radical dimension of the Freudian death drive provides the key to how we are to read the Christian “let the dead bury their dead”: what death drive tries to obliterate is not the biological life but the very afterlife—it endeavours to kill the lost object the second time, not in the sense of mourning (accepting the loss through symbolization) but in a more radical sense of obliterating the very symbolic texture, the letter in which the spirit of the dead survives.[1]

So, neither the work of mourning nor melancholia are progressive. It is the work of death drive to kill death, to cause a loss of loss, to destroy the symbolic texture causing death to take place; death drive is the only weapon against death in life. Rather than symbolizing and then accepting death, the subject as death drive contemplates death as nothingness and fills the space of death within the symbolic with nothing. Zizek points out that there is a great difference between willing nothing and willing nothingness.

What we are implicitly referring to here is, of course, Nietzsche’s classic opposition between ‘wanting nothing’ (in the sense of ‘I don’t want anything’) and the nihilistic stance of actively wanting Nothingness itself; following Nietzsche’s path, Lacan emphasized how in anorexia, the subject does not simply ‘eat nothing’ – rather, she or he actively wants to eat the Nothingness (the Void) that is itself the ultimate object-cause of desire. (The same goes for Ernst Kris’s famous patient who felt guilty of theft, although he did not actually steal anything: what he did steal, again, was the Nothingness itself.) So – along the same lines, in the case of caffeine-free diet Coke, we drink the Nothingness itself, the pure semblance of a property that is in effect merely an envelope of a void.[2]

The object that takes the place of the Real is what Lacan calls the objet petit a. The objet petit a is that which the master-signifier causes to be signified. There is nothing to signify the objet petit a, it is that signifier itself. The master-signifier signifies the objet petit a as its own signifier. Without the objet petit a the nothingness behind the master-signifier would become manifest. Master signifier generates signs that signify their own autonomous existence. That is, they hide the latent content of the master-signifier which is nothingness.  By manufacturing the illusion of its own non-being the master-signifier signifies itself as the transcendental signified. It does this through signifying the objet petit a as the transcendental sign, (signifier and signified at once). The sublime object which stands in for nothingness behind it is the object of desire of masses who fantasize that they are drinking something good, when in reality they are drinking the void and their own life/death.

One simply cannot conceal from oneself what all the willing that has received its direction from the ascetic ideal actually expresses: this hatred of the human, still more of the animal, still more of the material, this abhorrence of the senses, of reason itself, this fear of happiness and of beauty, this longing away from all appearance, change, becoming, death, wish, longing itself—all of this means—let us grasp this—a will to nothingness, an aversion to life, a rebellion against the most fundamental presuppositions of life; but it is and remains a will!… And, to say again at the end what I said at the beginning: man would much rather will nothingness than not will… [3]

In The Fragile Absolute, Slavoj Zizek gives the example of Diet-Coke as a symptom of will to nothingness inherent in contemporary society.

So, when, some years ago, the advertising slogan for Coke was ‘Coke is it!’, we should note its thorough ambiguity: ‘that’s it’ precisely in so far as that’s never actually it, precisely in so far as every satisfaction opens up a gap of ‘I want more!’. The paradox, therefore, is that Coke is not an ordinary commodity whereby its-use value is transubstantiated into an expression of (or supplemented with) the auratic dimension of pure (exchange) Value, but a commodity whose very peculiar use-value is itself already a direct embodiment of the suprasensible aura of the ineffable spiritual surplus, a commodity whose very material properties are already those of a commodity. This process is brought to its conclusion in the case of caffeine-free diet Coke – why? We drink Coke – or any drink – for two reasons: for its thirst-quenching or nutritional value, and for its taste. In the case of caffeine-free diet Coke, nutritional value is suspended and the caffeine, as the key ingredient of its taste, is also taken away – all that remains is a pure semblance, an artificial promise of a substance which never materialized. Is it not true that in this sense, in the case of caffeine-free diet Coke, we almost literally ‘drink nothing in the guise of something’?[4]

By drinking Diet-Coke, the subject, rather than being really healthy, is being merely less ill, since Diet or not, Coke is itself unhealthy.  Coke as we know it is miles away from its medicinal uses for which it was invented in the first place. The measure of health is not Coke without caffeine and sugar. So the Diet-Coke cannot be a sign of healthy living. Worse than being unhealthy, it is death disguised as an object of desire, that object of desire being healthy living. So we can see the process through which the Real of the subject’s desire, which is the death-drive, is turned into desire for healthy living. As the subject thinks he/she is moving towards greater health, he/she is in reality moving towards death. We have to be clear about where exactly the life-drive and the death-drive become separated from themselves and hence their roles are reversed, turning them into their opposites. It is precisely at this point of separation- unification of the life-drive and the death-drive that the conflict-event takes the place of the place itself.

This place is a playground on which this conflict-event between the life-drive and the death-drive is played out as a confrontation between the therapeutic society and critical theory. If the aim of psychotherapy is to adapt the subject to the environment, then it is by definition a normalizing practice. But asks critical theory, what is the definition of health? On which grounds are we talking about health? What are the values that make health? All these questions may lead down to the big question of ontology: “What is the meaning of life?” There is no meaning of life. It is my actions and words that invest my life with a particular meaning. What determines the meaning of objects surrounding me is the use I put them into. In this context, progress in therapeutic procedure is signified by an increase in the subject’s ability to use the objects surrounding him/her.

But critical theory says: you are confusing use-value and exchange-value. You are forgetting the need to remember that in your world the exchange-value preceeds the use-value. You are always already born into the world of objects with their values attached to them, how can you say that you are healing these people by telling lies to them concerning the cause of their desire and the Real of the objects they choose to put to use. Isn’t their choice already determined by the pre-dominant symbolic order?[5]

Critical theory agrees with psychotherapy that it is the use value of the object that is important. But what critical theory wants to say is that what psychotherapy presents the subject with, as the use-value, is already the exchange-value, so psychotherapy is presenting the subject with death disguised as life. It is there that there has been a shift in the gears, where Nietzsche conceived of himself as the stage of confrontation between Christ and Dionysus, as the conflict-event that shifted the gears at a certain moment in history. At this precise moment in time negation and affirmation change roles for the very reason that negating the symbolic order becomes the same as affirming the Real. One creates a fantasy which negates the symbolic and affirms the Real as it is, that is, with all its inconsistencies, internal conflicts, imperfections, and incompleteness. Something in the symbolic order is caused to fail by these interventions of the affirmative subject. Here a question awaits us: Does that mean that for creation to take place destruction is necessary? The answer to this question is a yes and a no at the same time. Because destruction causes a split in the order and yet this split’s consequence depends on the future of the response to it. Destruction is not essential to creation but is an inescapable result of it. [6]  So there may or may not be cases where there is something in the process of being created without anything being destroyed. For when one thinks about it, creation is not a subtraction from nature, but quite the contrary, an addition to it. For subtraction to become creative it should be a subtraction from culture, that is, from knowledge, or from the already existing symbolic order. Badiou’s subtraction opens a void within the already existing symbolic order and through this void a new truth flows. It is only in so far as the mortal human animal chooses fidelity to this truth-event that it becomes a subject, that is, an immortal indifferent to death.

André Kertész     Window, paris     1928

The Immortal Subject Beyond The Death Drive

The creature called human can cease being a passive non-being and become an active being only insofar as it produces love against the negative power of the already existing capitalist law. As we all know, the laws’ negative impositions give birth to the vicious cycle of the life and death drives, which is in turn exploited in the way of more money.

With the domination of nihilist global capitalism all over the world social life has become a masquerade. The silence diminishes and noise pollutes the lives of all. This noise is what Nietzsche calls “the noise of the marketplace.” The subject neither questions its being in itself nor its being for itself. The system provides the subject with innumerable facilities to keep boredom at bay so as to sustain the conditions for the possibility of the non-being of thought to take place. The subject simply does not feel the need to think and in time the subject loses the ability not only to think but also to act consciously. It all becomes an empty and meaningless spectacle to live. Every subject takes on a role, or an identity in accordance with the demands of the show business and hides behind this role turning into a solipsistic monad acting itself out in the way of satisfying the big Other. Just like Judge Schreber who had to endure inordinate measures of suffering to satisfy the demands of those cruel gods he populated himself with… And Schreber, satisfied as he was with the mere pleasure of sharing the high profile mission of satisfying cruel and invisible gods, becomes a madman when in fact he was a woman enduring privation.[7]

In the banality of ordinary social reality the subject forgets to think of its death as its own. Absence of the thought of death brings with it the presence of the thought of being, which means that the subject has lost his/her sense of self/other distinction, and is governed by his/her unconscious drives. This leads to the subject’s ignorance of an external world, or perhaps an unintentional neglect of an external reality other than the one it imagines, for it has itself become exterior to itself.

When death is thought about, this thought never takes place in terms of the death of the self. It is always through the death of the other that the subject thinks of death. It is always a “they” who die. Death is conceived as a symbolic incident. The reason of that reductive attitude towards death is the will to preserve the banality of ordinary reality and sustain the conditions for the possibility of an illusory sense of oneness with the world. All this, of course, is done to keep the Real of the external world at bay.

Global capitalism produces subjects who cannot stand the thought of the outside; they cannot conceive the absence of an external world within them. The fear of death is so strong that with the force of its negativity it totally negates death in life, erases the slash in life/death, and vainly erects statues to attain immortality.

It is a strange subject, however, with no fixed identity, wandering about over the body without organs, but always remaining peripheral to the desiring-machines, being defined by the share of the product it takes for itself, garnering here, there, and everywhere a reward in the form of a becoming an avatar, being born of the states that it consumes and being reborn with each new state. “It’s me, and so it’s mine…” Even suffering, as Marx says, is a form of self-enjoyment.[8]

Today the purpose of life has become keeping the subject busy for the sake of the business of not thinking death. The subject is bombarded by objects of introjection to such extent that it has no time for feeling anxious about its own death. The objects form a transparent sheet between the subject and its death. As inorganic substances the objects fill the space of death within life. What we witness in this time is life turned into a project aiming at erasing the silence necessary for thought; and not only erasing but also replacing it with an unceasing noise causing nausea.

The infinite, then, is within finitude, so in order to think the infinite we have to think the finite, that is, the thought of death. Although the thought of death has a high price which the subject pays by a loss of mental and physical health, it is nevertheless useful in opening up the way to limit experiences. The death drive devastates the predominant conceptualisations of the “good” of civilized progress and the “bad” of barbaric regress. The subject of the death drive situates itself as the traitor on the opposite pole of belief and faith in immortality. In the place of statues representing immortality, it erects nothing. That way it confronts the promised land of total security and harmony with a world governed by the anxiety of the feeling of being surrounded by nothingness. In this world there remains no ground beneath the symbolic order. Death is in the midst of life; it is life that surrounds death.

How would our lives change if we were to become capable of imagining ourselves as immortal beings? If we keep in mind that we are always already locked within the vicious cycle of the life and death drives governed by the law of capital, it becomes easier to understand why we need to break this vicious cycle of Capitalism and its governor, liberal-democracy, based on unjust representations, in order to create, produce or present the realm of love beyond the rotary motion of drives. But it must also be kept in mind that when we say beyond, we are talking about a beyond which is always already within the pre-dominant symbolic order and yet not within the reach of mortal beings. It is a beyond only from the perspective of the present state. In our scenario, immortality is not something to be attained, rather, it is a virtual potential or an actual capacity within every mortal being, awaiting to be realised. The realisation of the immortality within us, or the realisation of the infinite potential that life contains, depends on our proper use of our powers of imagination. Let us imagine ourselves as immortal beings then, which we already are, but cannot enact because of the finitude imposed upon us by the already existing symbolic order. Would we need to get out of this order to become immortal? Yes and no. Yes, because the within which we said infinity resides is a within which is exterior only from the point of view of the already existing order. No, because only from within the already existing order can we present an outside of this order, “an outside” in Deleuze’s words apropos of Foucault and Blanchot, “which is closer than any interiority and further away than any exteriority.”

 In his Theoretical Writings Alain Badiou attempts to separate himself from the Romantic understanding of infinity, and the pursuit of immortality. According to Badiou, contemporary mathematics broke with the Romantic idea of infinity by dissolving the Romantic concept of finitude. For Badiou, as it is for mathematics, the infinite is nothing but indifferent multiplicity, whereas for the Romantics it was nothing more than a “historical envelopment of finitude.” Behind all this, of course, is Badiou’s strong opposition to historicism and temporalization of the concept. It is in this context that Badiou can say, “Romantic philosophy localizes the infinite in the temporalization of the concept as a historical envelopment of finitude.”[9]

Mathematics now treats the finite as a special case whose concept is derived from that of the infinite. The infinite is no longer that sacred exception co-ordinating an excess over the finite, or a negation, a sublation of finitude. For contemporary mathematics, it is the infinite that admits of a simple, positive definition, since it represents the ordinary form of multiplicities, while it is the finite that is deduced from the infinite by means of negation or limitation. If one places philosophy under the condition such a mathematics, it becomes impossible to maintain the discourse of the pathos of finitude. ‘We’ are infinite, like every multiple-situation, and the finite is a lacunal abstraction. Death itself merely inscribes us within the natural form of infinite being-multiple, that of the limit ordinal, which punctuates the recapitulation of our infinity in a pure, external ‘dying.’[10]

The political implications of the move from Romantic infinity to mathematical infinity can be observed in Badiou’s Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil. In this little book Badiou criticizes the hypocrisy of human rights for reducing being-human to being a mortal animal. Of course Badiou admits that what is called human is indeed a mortal animal, but what he objects to is the exploitation of this state of being. Against this deprecative attitude, Badiou pits the immortal subject, or rather, the subject who is capable of realising his/her immortality.[11]

Badiou says that “being is inconsistent multiplicity.” As an advocate of immanence, unlike Heidegger, he doesn’t think that there is an ontological difference between Being and beings. As a matter of fact, he altogether refuses that there is such a thing as Being transcending the multiple beings, or beings as inconsistent multiplicities. To understand where Badiou is coming from we only need to look at his critique of Heidegger’s equation of being in the world and being towards death. For Badiou there is no such thing as being in the world, because for him there is not one world but multiple worlds and consequently being in the world as being towards death is a rather impoverished idea doomed to result in the mistaken assumption that consciousness of human finitude is self-consciousness. And I agree with Badiou that consciousness of human finitude merely serves to justify a life driven by death.

 I therefore propose a consciousness of infinitude rather than of finitude for a sustenance of the conditions of possibility for an ethical life and for an ethical death. For when you think about it, if we were immortal, that is, if our lives were eternal, we wouldn’t be so destructive of the environment, not so harsh on nature and one another, because no one would want to live in such a hell eternally. Since it is obvious that as humans we have been turning the world into a hell in the name of progress for a while now, and since death has been the end from which we have come to think we have been striving to escape in this progressive process, it is obvious that a forgetting of death, or rather, a remembering to forget our mortality would make us fear an eternal life in hell, rather than a finite life in an illusory heaven.

If we keep in mind that the global capitalist system, as we have tried to explicate, takes its governing force from its exploitation of life and death drives, that it is based on our fear of death and consciousness of finitude, it becomes clearer why a subtraction of death from life not only shakes, but also annihilates the foundations of capitalism.

To What End Last Words? To What End Suffering…

Throughout this article I have tried to develop a mode of critique in and through which nothing is excluded and/or determined. This reflective mode of critique itself enabled me to situate myself in the middle of the reflective and the determinative modes of judgment. The critical mode employed in this article is still context-bound to a certain extent, and yet it tries to restrictively dissociate itself from the predetermined context, rather than freely associate within it. A new field is opened, the conditions are created for the possibility of a decision beyond the Law of Militarist Capitalism and the Welfare State driven by and driving the exploitation of mortality on a massive scale.

There is this transcendental field that requires a non-mortal mode of being in the world, neither for nor against it, but engagingly indifferent to it in such a way as to turn its own alienation from mortality into its driving force in its attempt to demolish the faculty of finite judgment and create the conditions of possibility out of the conditions of impossibility for an infinite judgment to take place beyond the subject/object of a Law that is mortal, all too mortal.

A truth comes into being through those subjects who maintain a resilient fidelity to the consequences of an event that took place in a situation but not of it. Fidelity, the commitment to truth, amounts to something like a disinterested enthusiasm, absorption in a compelling task or cause, a sense of elation, of being caught up in something that transcends all petty, private or material concerns.[12]

The immortal subject within and without the pre-dominant symbolic order is not only the cause, but also the effect of its own alienation from mortal life. This regulatory idea of immortality, which is also a constitutive illusion, is inspired by the post-structuralist theme of becoming non-identical as we see in Deleuze and Derrida. If one could become non-identical, why would one not also become non-mortal? If one could become alienated from one’s identity, why would one not also become alienated from one’s mortality?  Why not become immortal so as to become capable of criticizing the exploitations of this mortal, all too mortal life? But what motivated me to take immortality as a virtual mode of being was Badiou’s theory of infinity which aimed at secularizing the concept of truth. Badiou’s technique of secularizing the truth is inspired by the 19th century mathematician Georg Cantor’s technique of secularizing the infinite. As Badiou claims, the secularization of infinity started with Cantor who stated that there was not one, but many infinities varying in size and intensity. From then onwards it became possible to link Deleuze’s concepts of impersonal consciousness and transcendental empiricism with Badiou’s theory of infinity and Kant’s assertion that for reflective judgement to take place and turn the object into a subject a transcendental ground is necessary.  Now I can say that for me a transcendental ground is necessary only to the extent that it enables the subject to shake the foundation of its own mode of being and opens a field for immanent critique to take place. In other words, the untimely indifference of immortality is required in order to actively engage in an exposition of the exploitation of mortality in this time.

I don’t know if it is worth mentioning that in this time we are all slaves and yet some slaves dominate the others. Where time goes no one knows. There are necessary illusions in this life, some for life, some not. Both the extreme belief in civilized progress and barbaric regress are good for nothing. These two are now in the process of being left behind. A third possibility of developmental process is emerging in the form of a becoming-reconciled which is based on the recognition of the otherness of the other as it is, that is, prior to the additions and the subtractions imposed upon the self and the other, nature and culture, life and death. For a non-normative and progressive work it is necessary for the participants to become capable of making distinctions between their natures and cultures, their cliniques and critiques. It is a matter of realizing that theory and practice are always already reconciled and yet the only way to actualise this reconciliation passes through carrying it out and across by introducing a split between the subject of statement (the enunciated) and the subject of enunciation.

It is indeed true that sometimes it takes a long journey to get there, where one eventually got to, and realise that one is other than one thinks itself to be. Apparently the numbers indeed start with zero and continue with two, but it takes time to realise this actuality and become capable of actualising this reality. Perhaps we should indeed know that absolute reconciliation is impossible and yet still strive to reconcile ourselves as much as we can to all the living and the dead.

Memory Void-Fallen Leaves By Yellowbagman

lawgiverz posted this


[1] Slavoj Zizek, Organs Without Bodies (London: Routledge, 2004), 13

[2] Slavoj Zizek, The Fragile Absolute (London: Verso, 2000), 23

[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morality, transl. Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998), 118

[4] Zizek, The Fragile Absolute, 22

[5] Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in Advanced Industrial Society (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964)

[6] Alain Badiou, InfiniteThought, trans. and ed. Oliver Feltham and Justin Clemens (London: Continuum, 2005), 132

[7] Sigmund Freud, Psycho-analytic Notes On An Autobiogrophical Account Of A Case Of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoids), trans. Strachey J. (London: Hogarth Press, 1986)

[8] Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia I, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane (New York: The Viking Press, 1977), 16

[9] Alain Badiou, Theoretical Writings, trans. Ray Brassier and Alberto Toscano, (London: Continuum, 2006), 38

[10] Badiou, 38

[11] Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, trans. Peter Hallward (London: Verso, 2001), 41

[12] Peter Hallward, “Introduction” in Alain Badiou, Ethics (London: Verso, 2002), x

 

According to Melanie Klein we all oscillate between the paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position throughout our lives. This means that none is normal since the world is a place in which all kinds of abnormalities take place all the time and nobody can be a normal person independently of all these abnormalities. One may choose withdrawal and indifference in a Stoic fashion, but who can claim that this is normal? The only thing that is normal is that nothing is normal.

Klein used the word ‘position’ as she was creating her concepts to designate moods which one finds oneself in throughout life. It is necessary to underline the word ‘position’ because the word ‘position’ is especially chosen to signify psychic conditions rather than stages of a linear course of development. The paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position are complementary situations  of the subject in a non-linear course of development which attaches to the death drive, as much important a role as it does to the life drive in the course of development. It is obvious that for Klein the relationship between regress and progress is not in the form of a symmetrical binary opposition.[1]

If we keep in mind that creativity means creating a meaning out of the meaningless chaos we can see how Klein’s theory can be used in the service of a critical theory aiming at destroying the static unities and recreating non-static formations. Influenced by Klein, Wilfred Bion developed a theory of thinking concentrating on what Keats called negative capability. Negative capability is the ability to remain intact in the face of not-knowing throughout the thinking process. While Klein emphasized the negative aspects of the paranoid-schizoid position and gave a more important role to the depressive position in the developmental process, Bion argued that fragmentation of previous theories is as important as the reintegration process for the emergence of new thought. For Bion the subject’s oscillation between the paranoid-schizoid position(splitting) and the depressive position(synthesizing) is necessary for a healthy creative process to take place giving birth to new thought.[2]

Counter to the reparative and reconciliatory tendencies towards reconstructing the pre-dominant symbolic order, the poststructuralist subject of the death drive aims at explicating the problems inherent in the structure of the existing symbolic order. It is a response to the loss of an imagined future and involves a negation of the existing order which is based on negation and in which the subject finds/loses itself. The subject as the death drive is simultaneously the effect and the cause of splitting. The subject as the death drive occupies the other pole of faith. Its domain begins where belief ends. Its domain is a realm where silence and non-being confront the daily banalities of symbolic societies. In this realm nothingness and substance confront each other.

As the subject’s intensity of self-consciousness increases, so does its pain and anxiety in the face of death. This causes hopelessness and despair which may or may not lead to a total devastation of the project of inverting and putting into the spotlight the nothingness at the centre of the subject. Heidegger repeatedly puts all this down in Being and Time when he says that “being-towards-death is angst.” One cure for expelling anxiety has been to believe in god, any other metaphysical construct, or in some cases it has even taken the form of a materialist system of thought; in all these cases, however, an escape is seen as a solution when in fact it is the problem itself. For our concerns, an escapist attitude, and especially one that tries to go beyond the physical, does not work at all, for what we are looking for is a way of learning to make use of the reality of the death drive as an interior exteriority constitutive of the subject as a creative agent. 

The self-conscious subject questions itself. With the thought of death the subject gets in touch with the death drive and pushes itself further towards the periphery of the symbolic order and becomes its own persecutor in the service of a critique of the status quo. The subject of the death drive shakes the foundations upon which is built its own mode of being. Its mode of being becomes its movement towards non-being. It is the perceiver and the perceived of its own, the subject and the object of its actions, the persecutor and the persecuted at the same time. Through the death drive one can go beyond one’s symbolic role and become conscious of its time and place in the world. The use of the death drive requires recognition of death as the absolute master. That way one can become reconciled to life as it is. 

In critical theory we usually have to read the text at hand in an unorthodox way so as to create a new meaning out of it. The critical theorist breaks-down the meaning of the text and out of the pieces recreates a new meaning, which is to say that creativity bears within itself destructivity and inversely. It may not be necessary to destroy something intentionally to create something new, but to have destroyed something is usually a consequence of having created something new.  Jacques Derrida’s reading strategy called deconstruction exposes how a text writes and unwrites itself against its dominant meaning and in contrast to common sense perception. I see Derrida’s corpus as an intense meditation on the meaning of meaning itself. First Derrida shows the dominant meaning of the text as perceived by the majority and then he exposes the other within of the text, the minor meaning which contradicts the major meaning. By doing this Derrida makes not only the absolute meaning of the text collapse in on itself but also causes the concept of absolute meaning itself to explode from within. In Kleinian terms what Derrida does is to start from the depressive position and then move to the paranoid-schizoid position and there apply the splitting process peculiar to the paranoid-schizoid position to the text. It can be said that in a way Derrida exposes the paranoid-schizoid position within the depressive position. By doing this Derrida shows that the life drive and the death drive are within and without one another at the same time. This means that for Derrida creation and destruction are one. It is for this reason that I find deconstruction insufficient for effective critique to take place. For without the affirmative recreation of the destroyed text there remains nothing outside the ruins of the past. But that the new is inconceivable from within the pre-dominant context does not mean that it is impossible. What Derrida’s deconstructive practice lacks is the active intervention in the predominant order which would create the conditions of possibility for change, out of the conditions of impossibility. Derrida remains paralyzed in the face of the infinity of possibilities for change by declaring that the chain of signifiers is infinite and therefore nothing is outside the text when in fact nothing is this infinity itself since when there is infinity then everything disappears and nothing conceivable remains within the text. It is true that deconstruction dissolves the transcendental signified but the question remains: What is the price paid when the transcendental signified is deconstructed rather than affirmatively recreated and turned into an immanent sign here and now. In Derrida there is the waiting for the new to arrive but no action is taken in the way of making this arrival possible now. We shall ask why not recreate oneself as the new, why not do it now and give birth to the new here and now, why not be the new in action? In a fashion similar to Hamlet, Derrida perpetually postpones the action by playing with language and ends up locking himself up in an endlessly deferred self-perpetuating, self-consuming, and self-reflexive endgame with no beginning and no end, making it impossible for conscious desire to engage in effective action.


[1] Melanie Klein, Our adult world and other essays (London: Heinemann, 1975)

[2]Wilfred Bion. “A Theory of Thinking,” Second Thoughts: Selected Papers on Psychoanalysis (London: Karnac, 1967)

Derridagate

  

 Reza has a wonderul discussion of decay in relation to space and triadic formulation of time.  One sentence in particular stuck out to me: “vital time introduces nightmares of the cosmic time into the phenomena of life.”  In a sense this defines the project of a dark phenomenology – of tempering the jubilant comportment as well as the ontological limits of sense as defined in most phenomenology.  Furthermore, Reza’s concluding remark: “We can say that in decay space is perforated by time: Although time hollows out space, it is space that gives time a twist that abnegates the privilege of time over space and expresses the irrepressible contingencies of the absolute time through material and formal means.”… Read More

via Naught Thought

Descartes

Life and Death in a Raving New World (excerpt from The Life Death Drives)

The influence of Nietzsche’s concepts of the will to nothingness and eternal return are pervasive in Freud’s later work. Freud’s turn towards metapsychology and his consequent creation of the concept of the death drive is rooted in his need for something to fill in the gaps in his scientific and empirically observable theories owing much to Darwin. Freud was uneasy with the concept of the death drive on account of its non-scientific nature, but nevertheless he had to conceptualize the death drive as the counterpart of the life drive in order to be able to go beyond the pleasure principle. Educated as a neuroscientist Freud was aware that he was contradicting himself and perhaps even turning against his earlier attitude towards the human psyche by showing that at the beginning was the death drive and that the life drive was only an outcome, a kind of defense against the death drive… Read More

via senselogic

Being Without Thought: The Unconscious and the Critique of Correlationism

Being Without Thought: The Unconscious and the Critique of Correlationism I have decided to make available a short draft version of a larger work, what could probably be called my greater “project” that I am actively working on. As has been pointed out by both Nick and Ben in their recent interviews with Paul Ennis, I am part of a small group of speculative realists (a name I gladly wear) that not only defends, but attempts to expand on the tradition of psychoanalysis, or more specifically, the metaphysics of psychoanalysis… Read More

via Complete Lies.

Creatureliness and Immortality (via Speculative Humbug)

 [I now think the opinions expressed here are massively too hasty – this issue of meaning and finitude requires a lot more thought – but I’ll leave the original post up anyway.] I’ve just watched the first episode of this interview with Simon Critchley, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to note a key disagreement I have with Critchley’s position while the thoughts are still fresh. Critchley makes the point – with which I agree – that our soci … Read More

via Speculative Humbug

Excerpt from Cengiz Erdem’s Ph.D. thesis

In his Critique of Judgement, Kant distinguishes between the determinative and the reflective modes of judgement. If we keep in mind that the reflective mode of judgement reflects on particulars in such a way as to produce universals to which they can be subjected, and that the determinative mode of judgement determines a particular by subjecting it to a universal, it becomes understandable why among these two I shall be using the reflective mode which splits as it unites the subject of enunciation and the enunciated subject. But it must be kept in mind that the subject of enunciation which refers to the universal is itself a constitutive illusion, or a regulatory idea necessary for the emergence of the immortal subject as the enunciated content.

It is only in and through a position of non-mortality within and without mortal life at the same time that the exploitation of mortality can be brought into the spotlight. A critique of the exploitation of mortality inherent in particularly exemplary cultural products will be achieved through putting them in a perspective that analyzes the life death drives in such a way as to expose the exploitation of the fear of death as the driving force inherent in them. The point is that it is indeed necessary to fantasize being what one is not, in our case being non-mortal, to be able to become self-conscious of one’s self-reflexivity in the way of creating an order of signification not caught up in the rotary motion of drives locked in Klein’s projection-introjection mechanism, but rather one which breaks this vicious cycle and at least attempts to subtract death from life in a counter-act to the post-structuralist idea of life as a process of dying and death as an absent presence in the midst of life. It is only through such a subtraction of the absent presence of death within life that the productive interaction between Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism, Foucault’s bio-politics, Badiou’s theory of infinity, and Kant’s reflective mode of judgement give birth to the immortal subject as the womb of a new thought, a new life, and a new mode of being, free of the exploitation of mortality and engagingly indifferent to this mortal, all too mortal life.

The immortal subject within and without the pre-dominant symbolic order is not only the cause, but also the effect of its own alienation from mortal life. This regulatory idea of immortality, which is also a constitutive illusion, is inspired by the post-structuralist theme of becoming non-identical as we see in Deleuze and Derrida. If one could become non-identical, why would one not also become non-mortal? If one could become alienated from one’s identity, why would one not also become alienated from one’s mortality?  Why not become immortal so as to become capable of criticizing the exploitations of this mortal, all too mortal life? But what motivated me to take immortality as a virtual mode of being was Badiou’s theory of infinity which aimed at secularizing the concept of truth. Badiou’s technique of secularizing the truth is inspired by the 19th century mathematician Georg Cantor’s technique of secularizing the infinite. As Badio claims, the secularization of infinity started with Cantor who stated that there was not one, but many infinities varying in size and intensity. From then onwards it became possible to link Deleuze’s concepts of impersonal consciousness and transcendental empiricism with Badiou’s theory of infinity and Kant’s assertion that for reflective judgement to take place and turn the object into a subject a transcendental ground is necessary.  Now I can say that for me a transcendental ground is necessary only to the extent that it enables the subject to shake the foundation of its own mode of being and opens a field for immanent critique to take place. In other words, the untimely indifference of immortality is required in order to actively engage in an exposition of the exploitation of mortality in this time.

Nesnelerin sadece birbirleriyle bağlantıları bağlamında bir anlam kazanmasının şart olmadığını, bilâkis bunun son derece teasadüfi ve tarihsel süreç tarafından koşullandırılmış felsefi bir varsayım olduğunu anladığımda, kendinde-şey’in, yani varlığı hiçbir şeyle ilişki içerisinde olmasına bağlı olmayan, varlığını çevresinden bağımsız ve çevresine kayıtsız bir biçimde sürdürebilen nesnelerin var olabileceğini de anlamış oldum. Zira herhangi bir nesne insandan bağımsız olarak düşünülebiliyorsa, insan da nesnelerden bağımsız olarak düşünülebilir demekti, demektir. İnsanın ölümlü bir varlık olduğu, söylenmesi bile gerekmeyen bariz bir durumdur. Ölümlü bir varlık olan insan, olmadığı bir şeye, yani bir ölümsüze dönüşmeye heveslidir. Çeşitli devirlerde çeşitli şekiller alan söz konusu ölümsüzlük hevesinin doruğa çıktığı Romantizm dönemi günümüzde kapitalizm tarafından yeniden diriltilmeye çalışılmakta ve bu yolda çeşitli gıda ürünleri ve hap formuna sokulmuş bitkiler piyasaya sürülmektedir. Zararı herkes tarafından bilinen alkollü içeceklerin üzerinde bile “hayat güzeldir,” “hayata içelim,” şeklinde ibareler görmek mümkün hale gelmiştir. Slavoj Zizek’in Nietzsche’nin “insan hiçbir şey istememektense, hiçliğin kendisini ister,” sözünden hareketle verdiği Diet-Cola ve kafeinsiz kahve örnekleri insanın hiçlik istencini, olmayana duyduğu arzuyu gayet net şekilde deşifre eder niteliktedir. İçi boşaltılmış, varlık sebebinden arındırılmış ürünler sağlıklı yaşama giden yolu asfaltlama çalışmalarında kullanılmaktadır. Lâkin akılda tutulmalıdır ki ister şekerli, ister şekersiz olsun, kola son derece zararlı bir üründür ve sadece şekerden ve kafeinden arındırlmış olması onun sağlıklı bir içecek olduğu manasını taşımaz. Tüm bunların ölümsüzlük konusuyla ilgisi ise şudur ey kara bahtlı okur: Ölümsüzlük bir ölümlü için olmayan bir şeydir. Ölümsüzlük ölümden arındırılmış yaşamdır. Gelinen noktada kapitalizm insanlara ölümsüz yaşam vaad etmektedir. Matematiksel adı sonsuzluk olan ölümsüzlük ölümlülüğün bittiği yerde, yani ölünen noktada başlar. Sonsuzluk kavramının başı sonu olmayan bir süreçten ziyade, başı sonu olmayan bir durumu anlattığını akılda tutarsak diyebiliriz ki ölümsüzlük ancak sonsuz boyuttaki bir çelişkinin dünyamıza yansımasıyla zuhur edebilir. Sonsuzluk veya ölümsüzlük birer süreç olmaktan ziyade birer durumdur, çünkü süreçler başı sonu olan sürerdurumlarken, durumlar durağan ve zaman dışı olgulardır. Zamandan ve uzamdan bağımsız bir varoluşsal durum olan ölümsüzlük felsefe tarihi boyunca ölümlü insan bilincinin tamamen dışında konumlanmış bir kendinde-şey olarak düşünülmüştür. Oysa biz biliyoruz ki aslında ölümsüzlük insanı çevreleyen değil, bilakis insanın çevrelediği bir boşluktur. Şu anda ölümsüzlüğü düşünmekte olduğumuza ve/fakat bu söylediklerimizin doğruluğunu kanıtlayacak hiçbir dayanağımız olmadığına göre demek ki ölümsüzlüğün düşüncemizin kendisini sürdürebilmek için kendi içinde yarattığı bir boşluk olduğunu teslim etmeliyiz. Boşluklar olmayan varlıkların yokluğunu doldurduğuna göre diyebiliriz ki düşünmek ölüme ara vermek, yaşamda boşluklar yaratmaktır. Ölümlü ne demektir? Bir gün ölecek olan, yani ölümden kurtulmuş olmayan. Peki ölümsüz ne demektir? Artık ölmesi mümkün olmayan, zira hâlihazırda ölmüş olan, bu vesileyle de işte ölümden arınmış olan.

Sonsuzluk özne ile nesne, amaç ile araç, neden ile sonuç arasındaki ilişkinin anlamsızlaşarak ortadan kalktığı, böylece de işte varlıkları birbirleriyle ilişkilerine bağımlı olan bu kavramların bizzat kendilerinin yok olduğu, zaman ile uzam içindeki bir boşluk formunda zuhur eden o malûm içkin dışsallıktır. Özneye içkin aşkınsal bir kavram olan sonsuzluk mevcut-egemen varoluş biçiminde kısa-devre yaratarak mevcut-egemen düzenden bir kopma yaratır. İşte Alain Badiou’nun Varlık ve Olay adlı kitabında boş-küme olarak nitelendirdiği söz konusu sonsuzluk bizim O adını verdiğimiz ölümsüz öznedir. O, Gilles Deleuze’ün deyimiyle bu kitabın yazarının kavramsal personası, Fernando Pessoa’nın anlam dünyası bağlamında ise söz konusu yazarın heteronomik kişiliği, yani dış-kimliğidir. Olmayan bir şey olarak var olan O bu kitabın yazarına içkin bir dışarıda konumlanmıştır. Bu kitabın yazarının içindeki bir dışarı, veya işte bir şey olduğunu zanneden bir hiçin içindeki hiçbir şey olan O, kitabın aynı zamanda hem nesnesi, hem de öznesidir denebilir, ki nitekim işte denmiştir de zaten.

Bu yazılar şu anda okunmakta olduğuna göre demek ki bu yazıları yazan, belirli bir zamanda ve belirli bir uzamda konumlanmış bir özne söz konusu olmuştur. Söz konusu öznenin kendini anlatmaktan ziyade O diye adlandırdığı bir hiçliği anlatıyor oluşu ise ancak yazının öznesinin kendini nesneleştirerek olmayan bir özneye dönüştürmek çabası içerisinde olduğunu gösterir. Peki ama söz konusu özneyi içinde bulunduğu çabadan ayıran nedir? Öznenin kendisi olmadan içinde olunabilecek bir çaba da olamayacağına göre, neden bu özne kendisinden bağımsız bir çaba olabilirmiş gibi kendisini çabanın nesnesi olarak göstermek ihtiyacı içerisindedir? Belli ki bu kitabın yazarının, yani O’nun derdi, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Deleuze, Derrida, Badiou ve Zizek gibi düşünürlere de dert olmuş olan aşkınlık(transcendence) ve içkinlik(immanence) arasındaki ilişkidir. Bir nesne olarak yazarın kendisi üzerine ahkâm kesebilmek için kendisini aşan bir özneye dönüşmesi gerektiğini dile getiren Kant ve bir nesne olarak yazarın kendisi üzerine ahkâm kesebilmek için kendisini aşan bir özneye dönüşmesi gerekmediğini, zira kendisini bir nesne olarak dile getiren söz konusu yazarın kendisini aşan o özneyi zaten hâlihazırda içinde barındırdığını kaleme alan Hegel’in felsefeleri üzerine bir takım spekülatif(kurgul) düşünceler üretmeye niyetlenen ve bu yolda Kant ile Hegel’in karşılaştırmalı bir okumasına girişmesi gerektiği aşikâr olan O’nun dünyasına giriyoruz şimdi hep birlikte: Ben, Sen, O, Biz, Siz, Onlar…

Kant’ın aşkınsal(transcendental) idealizmini Hegel’in spekülatif idealizminden ayıran fark, Kant’ın kendinde-şey’i tarif edebileceğimizi, Hegel’inse kendinde-şey’den ancak neticeler çıkarabileceğimizi dile getirmesinden kaynaklanan bir farktır. Kendi anlam dünyamız bağlamında yeniden yazacak olursak diyebiliriz ki Kant bizim birer ölümlü olarak ölümsüzlüğü tarif edebileceğimizi söylerken, Hegel ölümsüzlük düşüncesinden ancak ölümlülüğümüzün anlamı hakkında çıkarımlar yapabiliriz demektedir. Zira Kant’a göre ölümsüzlük ölümlülüğü çevreleyen bir durumken, Hegel için ölümsüzlük ölümlülüğün içindeki bir boşluktur. Bir başka deyişle Kant için ölümsüzlük özneyi aşkınken, Hegel için ölümsüzlük özneye içkindir. Ne aşkınsal idealizmi, ne de spekülatif idealizmi tasvip eden O henüz adlandıramadığı, fakat tanımlayabildiği yeni bir spekülasyon biçiminin şemasını çizmeye yeltenmekten başka çaresi olmadığını çok geçmeden idrak edecektir. O’nun tasavvur edebildiği kadarıyla söz konusu spekülasyon biçimi Kant’ın ve Hegel’in idealizmlerinden radikal bir kopuş gerçekleştirerek kendinde-şey’in düşünceden ve bilgiden bağımsız olarak var olabileceğini kuramsallaştırmaya yönelik olacaktır. Aşkınsal olmayan bir dışarı ve içkin olmayan bir içeri, şeklinde özetleyebileceğimiz kendinde-şey’in konumunun zamanın ve uzamın birleştiği yer olduğunu söylemeye ise bilmiyoruz gerek var mı, ama gene de söylüyoruz işte, belki vardır diye. 

Kendinde-şey olarak O kendini ifade edebilecek ve kendinden farkını dile getirebilecek bir spekülasyon biçimini hayata geçirebilmek için kaçınılmaz olarak Kant ile Hegel arasında, Deleuze’ün deyimiyle bir ayırıcı-sentez(disjunctive-synthesis) işlemi gerçekleştirmek zorundadır. Zira bir ölümlünün kendini bir ölümsüz olarak tasvir edebilmesi ancak Kant’ın düşünümsel yargı(reflective judgement) ve Hegel’in spekülatif diyalektik stratejilerinin materyalist bir felsefe anlayışı içerisinde bölünüp aşkınsal ve idealist yanlarından arındırıldıktan sonra spekülatif ve materyalist yanlarının yeniden birleştirilmesiyle mümkün kılınabilir. Zamanın ve uzamın birbirine dönüşerek tarih-dışı bir var oluşun, yani bir ölümsüzün, zuhur etmesini mümkün kılacak alanı yaratması elbette ki yalnızca teoride mümkündür. Lâkin zaten biz de burada ölümsüzlüğü kuramsallaştırmaktan başka bir şey yapmakta olduğumuzu iddia etmiyoruz. Söz konusu ölümsüzlük teorisinin pratikte ne işe yarayacağına ve/yani böyle bir kuramsallaştırma girişiminin politik arenada ne anlama geleceğine ise spekülasyonlarımızın ilerleyen aşamalarında değineceğimizi şimdiden belirtelim; belirtelim ki sabırsız okuyucularımız sabretmeyi öğrenmek yolunda adımlar atmaya şimdiden başlasın. Hatta değinmekle de kalmayacak, liberal-demokratik-militarist-kapitalizm içerisinde yaşayan bir ölümlünün, içinde yaşadığı sistemi değiştirebilmek için kendini neden ölümlü bir nesne olarak görmekten ve göstermekten vazgeçerek, ölümsüz bir özne olarak görmeye ve göstermeye başlaması gerektiğini Alain Badiou’nun hakikat teorisi dolayımıyla açıklamaya çalışacağımızı da sözlerimize ekleyelim; ekleyelim ki hayata geçirmeye cüret ve teşebbüs ettiğimiz olayın boyutları bir nebze olsun açıklığa kavuşsun. Ama tüm bunlardan önce yapmamız gereken daha başka şeyler var; meselâ az önce net bir şekilde adlandırmaktan kaçındığımız spekülasyon türünün adlandırılması gibi… Öncelikle bu adlandırma işlemini bizden önce gerçekleştirmiş olanlar olduğunu teslim etmeliyiz. Quentin Meillassoux bahse konu spekülasyon biçimine Spekülatif Maddecilik demeyi seçerken, Ray Brassier benzer bir spekülasyon türüne Spekülatif Gerçekçilik demeyi seçmiştir. İkisinde de aynı kalan sözcüğün Spekülatif sözcüğü olduğu gözden kaçacak gibi değil. Belki de işte bu yüzden biz de az önce spekülasyon terimini kendimizden emin bir biçimde zikretmiş olmamıza rağmen bunun ne tür bir spekülasyon olacağını dillendirmemeyi seçmişizdir, kim bilir.

2007 yılında Londra’daki Goldsmiths Üniversitesi’nde Ray Brassier, Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, ve Iain Hamilton Grant’ın konuşmacı olarak katılımıyla düzenlenen bir konferansta Brassier tarafından ortaya atılan spekülatif gerçekçilik kavramı insan aklından, düşüncesinden, bilincinden bağımsız gerçeklikler ve insandan bağımsız kendinde-şeyler olduğunu ortaya koyan felsefi bir akımdır. Gerek Kıta Felsfesi’nden, gerekse de Analitik Felsefe’den radikal bir kopuş gerçekleştirerek Kant ve Hegel’in uzantısı olan tüm felsefi yaklaşımların, Meillassoux’un Sonluluktan Sonra(After Finitude) adlı kitabında ortaya koyduğu deyimle bağlılaşımcılık(correlationism) dünyadan bağımsız bir insan veya insandan bağımsız bir dünya tasavvur etmekten aciz olduğunu iddia eden spekülatif gerçekçilik hem yeni bir düşünce alanı, hem de yeni biri düşünme biçimi yaratması bağlamında önem arz etmektedir. İnsan bilincinden bağımsız kendinde-şeyler’in var olduğu noktasında birleşen Brassier, Meillassoux, Grant ve Harman’ın felsefeleri arasında pek çok fark da mevcuttur aslında. Ama biz şimdilik birleştikleri bu ortak nokta üzerinden tartışacağız spekülatif gerçekçileri, özellikle de Meillassoux ve Brassier’i. Meillassoux’nun Sonluluğun Sonu’ndan bir yıl sonra yayımladığı Hiçliğin Çözülüşü(Nihil Unbound) adlı kitabında Brassier, Heidegger ve Deleuze’ün zaman ve ölüm okumalarının eleştirisi ve Lyotard’ın Güneş Felaketi(Solar Catastrophe) makalesinin bir yeniden okuması üzerinden güneşin 4.5 milyar yıl içerisinde patlayarak dünyadaki yaşamı sona erdireceği gerçeğinin insan bilincinden ve düşüncesinden bağımsız bir gerçeklik olarak görülmesi gerektiğini ve bunun da hepimizin hâlihazırda yaşayan birer ölü olduğumuz anlamına geldiğini öne sürmektedir. Her iki yazarda da karşımıza çıkan ortak özellik kendinde-şey olarak mutlağın(Meillassoux) ve hakikatin(Brassier) var olabileceği iddiasını taşıyor oluşlarıdır. Benim için önemli olansa kendinde-şey olarak ölümsüzlüğün veya sonsuzluğun, ölümlü ve sonlu bir varlık olan insandan bağımsızlaşan kimliksiz ve kişiliksiz bir bilincin a-nihilistik spekülasyonları dolayımıyla politik bir amaç için kullanıma sokulabileceği, sokulması gerektiği gerçeğidir. Badiou’nun hakikat ve olay teorisinden hareketle, bir ölümsüzün gözüyle ve bilinciyle tasvir edilen ölümlülerin dünyası, mevcut-yapı içerisinde gedikler açmak suretiyle yeni hakikatlerin zuhur etmesini sağlayacaktır kanaatindeyim. Ölümlülüğü sömürmek suretiyle gücüne güç katan liberal-demokratik-militarist-kapitalizmin ölümün ortadan kalkmasıyla kendi içine dönük bir patlamaya(contraction), içe doğru çökmeye maruz kalacağından hareketle diyebiliriz ki yaşamı olumsuzlamaktan ziyade olduğu gibi olumlayan materyalist bir gerçekçiliğe, yani aşkınsallığa öykünen, ölüm dürtüsü ve yaşam dürtüsünün tahakkümü altındaki kapitalist-gerçekçilikten, kendinde-şey olarak Öteki’nin, yani ölümsüzlüğün veya sonsuzluğun içkin olduğu komünist-gerçekçiliğe doğru bir yönelim hem mümkündür, hem de gerekli.

Fritz Kahn (1888-1968) (author), Stuttgart,1926. Relief halftone.

When the speculations concerning the extinction of all life on earth as a consequence of an explosion of the sun in 4.5 years hit the headlines for the first time, Dr. Lawgiverz was in a deep meditation, meditating the possible reasons of and the forces behind the sudden whitening of all the television screens in the world about a year ago. Needless to say, the news had come as a shock, not only to Dr. Lawgiverz whose flow of thought was interrupted, but also to the ordinary citizens of the world, who were mostly thinking nothing at all, on the verge of psychosis perhaps, as a result of their deprivation from visual images for almost a year. Dr. Lawgiverz himself didn’t mind living in the lack of visual images, because for him, to use a phrase from the famous French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, the brain itself was a screen. As the attentive reader might have easily recognized, Dr. Lawgiverz was a man of contemplation, although we preferred to use the word meditation to describe his activity on that particular morning a few sentences ago. He contemplated everything from death to life and back. He even contemplated the existence of thought after there was no one left to think. There are many more things to say about Dr. Lawgiverz, but for the time being let us be content with merely saying that we who are not one have decided to leave these to the later parts of our narrative. For we are sure that all shall reveal itself as it is, to you, to us and to all the other mortals who are lucky enough to be witnessing all these speculations, as our narrative unfolds.

Dr. Lawgiverz considered himself a realistic speculator belonging to the group of speculative realists who considered themselves to have initiated a new philosophical movement which they called Speculative Realism. Even though some of them were extremely unhappy with this designation – Ray Brassier, for instance, had recently articulated his doubts about the term speculative realism, which he himself had coined – since there is no other alternative to replace it with, we have decided to stick to that problematic term. Need we say that just like us and Dr. Lawgiverz, the speculative realists too, nevertheless submitted to the naming for the sake of being something and not willing nothingness rather than not willing something, the opossite of which the famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would have said if only he was alive. Let us do not hesitate to resurrect all the living and the dead.                                                                             

Quentin Meillassoux, Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant and Graham Harman were the forerunners of this new philosophical movement as far as Dr. Lawgiverz was concerned, although Meillassoux preferred the phrase Speculative Materialism as he had put it in his book After Finitude. Perhaps now is the time we should talk about another term coined by Meillassoux a little bit, in the way of opening up new passages in and through which our narrative can flow. Correlationism, which is the term coined by Meillassoux as we have already pointed out without naming it in the previous sentence, means simply this: incapability to conceieve of a world independent of human reality, and incapability to conceive of a human reality independent of the world. “Does a reality of the world in itself exist independent of human perception?” is the question Meillassoux asks and answers: yes it does, but we as humans are as yet to speculate on that. We don’t know if it is worth mentioning that our speculations must be realistic, rather than in the form of the ravings of a lunatic, as is probably the curious case of Dr. Lawgiverz. What we mean when we say real is the Lacanian Real. As those of our readers delved into psychoanalysis know, the Real is that which is outside consciousness, and it is here that the term speculation becomes relevant. For how can one talk about that which is outside one’s consciousness unless one speculates on nothing. What is required is analogical thinking, rather than a logical sequence of thoughts, to be a speculative realist who acts out nihilistic speculations. For Dr. Lawgiverz, the Real and the Unbound Nihil are the same side of two different coins.

As for Ray Brassier, it was he who coined the term Speculative Realism at the Goldsmiths conference which had taken place in London in 2007. In his book Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction, Brassier had made a very efficient use of Laruelle’s non-philosophy, Nietzsche’s “willl to nothingness” and Lyotard’s essay Solar Catastrophe. Although all these are extremely useful for the development of our narrative, as the reader keen on paying attention to detail might have and should possibly have realised, Lyotard’s Solar Catastrophe is the one that is of exceptional importance for our purposes which are yet to be calarified.

            When Brassier, following Lyotard,  asks towards the end of his Nihil Unbound, how  thought can think the death of thought, he is clearly, just like Meillassoux, questioning whether a mortal can conceive of a being in the world as not being towards death, but rather as being outside the world and already dead. Against Kant and Heidegger, Meillassoux and Brassier propose an idea of life inclusive of death, that is, a life that doesn’t require the absence of death for its being. The post-structuralist conception of death as an absent presence in the midst of life derives from Kantian and Heideggerian forms of correlationism. In both Heidegger and Kant infinity and death surround life, they are external limits to life. But for Meillassoux and Brassier, death and infinity constitute an internal limit to life, in other words the life of thought is a life driven by death. This must be it, ends Dr. Lawgiverz his flow of thought. 

In his After Finitude, Meillassoux argues that “it is incumbent upon us to break with the ontological requisite of the moderns, according to which to be is to be a correlate.[1] Meillassoux’s aim, as he says in the following sentence, is to break with the correlationist philosophy and become capable of understanding “how thought is able to access the uncorrelated.”[2] This reminds Dr. Lawgiverz Heidegger’s equation of being in the world with being towards death. Needless to say, for Heidegger, being dead is not being in the world, for being of being requires the non-being of non-being, thinks Dr. Lawgiverz. The question is whether death is something uncorrelated or nothing at all.                                  

Noticing that we have unconsciously shifted from the past tense to the simple present tense, a wave of depression engulfed us. But since we don’t want to bore you with our personal problems and the reasons of this engulfment, we would now like to get back to the past tense as if nothing happened, or rather as if something didn’t go wrong. As we were saying earlier on, the news had come suddenly, as it generally does. Dr. Lawgiverz heard it on the radio, as probably many others did, due to the lack of televisons and their screens. The reporter was reading the headlines from the newspapers in the morning news program with a very excited voice which was and remains the voice interrupting Dr. Lawgiverz’s flow of thought: “According to the spokesman of The World Scientific Research Institude, who was an eminent astrogeologist, the sun will explode in 4.5 years, extinguishing all life on earth. The spokesman said, ‘we are convinced that this solar catastrophe will take place in 4.5 years and we regret to inform you that there is nothing that can be done to prevent it and save the human kind from extinction.”

So once again, thought Dr. Lawgiverz, nothing to be done, Beckett was right after all, disaster after disaster, from bad to worse, when will it all end? This question was pointless as it was obvious that it would all end in 4.5 years, but perhaps out of shock, perhaps not, Dr. Lawgiverz had asked it anyway.

(c) Cengiz Erdem. Mortal, All Too Mortal. Cyprus, January 2010.


[1] Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude, trans. Ray Brassier (Continuum: London, 2008), 28

[2] Meillassoux, 28

This interview was conducted by Bram Ieven to accompany the Dutch translation of Ray Brassier’s essay ‘Genre is Obsolete’. It was published in the printed edition of nY # 2, as part of a feature on Noise (2009). 

 Bram Ieven – Your work has a fairly unique position within the field of contemporary philosophy. On the one hand you are critical of much of recent philosophy, which you reproach for its hostility toward major developments in contemporary cognitive sciences that demonstrate how consciousness can be explained as a natural phenomenon triggered by neurological processes. In Alien Theory (2001) you describe this philosophical hostility to neurosciences as a form of ‘reactionary philosophical protectionism’ and you urge philosophy to ‘emphasize – rather than minimize – the corrosive power of scientific reductionism.’ (21) On the other hand, specifically in your more recent work, you are equally critical of certain forms of reductive naturalism. Such a naturalism you argue in Nihil Unbound (2007), risks being ‘impoverished metaphysics’ (25). Instead you propose a speculative realism that avoids both these pitfalls. Could you elaborate on this philosophical stance a bit? ✎ 0

Ray Brassier – My stance is not particularly original: it’s indebted to the work of several more genuinely original philosophers. The confluence of their influence in my thinking represents my attempt to address what I see as the fundamental issue facing contemporary philosophy: how does human experience fit into the world described by science? Contemporary philosophers can be sorted into two basic camps: in the first, there are those who want to explain science in terms of human experience; in the second, there are those who want to explain human experience in terms of science. The former argue that science cannot explain human experience because there’s something about it that will always resist scientific explanation. The latter maintain that the explanation of experience will require us to revise both our understanding of it and our relationship to it. As I see it, this dispute about what ‘human experience’ is and our relationship to it lies at the heart of contemporary philosophy. I side with those in the second camp who insist that we can attain an objective perspective on our own subjectivity. Philosophers in the first camp dispute this on the grounds that to explain experience objectively would be a contradiction in terms which would only ‘explain consciousness away’ and ultimately alienate us from the subjective core of our own humanity. Some philosophers in the second camp try to defuse such worries by insisting that it’s perfectly possible for us to reconcile our humanity with science’s objectification of experience. My own view is that despite its fundamentally reactionary tenor, the objection above registers a genuine difficulty, and that it is unrealistic and a little panglossian to insist that we will remain ‘human’ much as we are now even after the explanatory ‘reduction’ of experience. My conviction is that the sources and structures of human experience can and will be understood scientifically, but this integration of experience into the scientific worldview will entail a profound transformation in our understanding of what it means to be human—one as difficult for us to comprehend from within the purview of our current experience as the latter would have been for our hominid ancestors. However, while I remain fundamentally committed to a naturalistic perspective which defers to science’s ultimate epistemic authority, I think it’s a mistake to hypostatize the entities and processes invoked by current science as though they were immutable metaphysical realities. We know that scientific theories constantly supplant and replace one another, and that if the history of science is anything to go by, even our best current theories will probably turn out to be fundamentally mistaken or deficient in some regard, much as their predecessors did. Some cite this as a reason not to invest science with any fundamental epistemic authority. I think this is an overreaction. The fact that our best current science will probably turn out be only partly true does not license the conclusion that it is all wrong and that it has no authority whatsoever. There is a world of difference between something’s being partly true and its being all wrong. (The fact that science has allowed crafty apes with opposable thumbs to grasp even a tiny part of the truth about reality is astonishing—indeed, the more we learn about ourselves from science, the more astonishing our capacity for science becomes.) As I see it, science is slowly and painstakingly excavating the deep structure of a reality whose fundamental features may turn out to bear little resemblance to the kinds of entities and processes with which we are currently familiar. Consequently, it would be a mistake to let current science dictate our account of the ultimate structure of reality. That’s why naturalism as a metaphysical doctrine which states that whatever is real must fall within the ambit of actually existing scientific theory strikes me as mistaken. I would like to maintain a commitment to science’s ultimate epistemic authority while resisting the dogmatic temptation to enthrone the entities, mechanisms and structures postulated by contemporary science as ultimate realities. ✎ 0 This is not to say that we cannot draw ontological consequences from science: on the contrary, we can and we should. But the relationship between science and metaphysics is complicated: science says nothing about how to tell the difference between what is and what is not ultimately ‘real’. It becomes difficult to let science dictate metaphysics once we acknowledge that what science says is real continues to undergo fundamental revisions. That’s why I endorse a ‘transcendental realism’ according to which science knows the real but the nature of this ‘real’ is not strictly speaking objectifiable. The basic idea is that we know the real through objects, but that the real itself is not an object. ✎ 0

Bram – You were the driving force behind the Speculative Realism conference (London 2007), which brought together you, Graham Harman, Iain Hamilton Grant, and Quentin Meillassoux. The name ‘speculative realism’ was quickly picked up to designate a supposedly new wave in philosophy, but you quickly became more critical of it. Why is that? ✎ 0

Ray – The term ‘speculative realism’ was only ever a useful umbrella term, chosen precisely because it was vague enough to encompass a variety of fundamentally heterogeneous philosophical research programmes. But people have started to pick up on it as though it was the name for a new philosophical doctrine or movement, like ‘logical positivism’, ‘existentialism’, ‘structuralism’, or ‘deconstruction’. In this context, the vagueness which was initially useful is beginning to generate more confusion than clarity. There is no ‘speculative realist’ doctrine common to the four of us: the only thing that unites us is antipathy to what Quentin Meillassoux calls ‘correlationism’—the doctrine, especially prevalent among ‘Continental’ philosophers, that humans and world cannot be conceived in isolation from one other—a ‘correlationist’ is any philosopher who insists that the human-world correlate is philosophy’s sole legitimate concern. Anti-correlationism is by no means a negligible unifying factor—but our alternatives to correlationism are fundamentally divergent and even incompatible in several regards. The first problem is that the word ‘speculative’ actually means something quite specific in the context of post-Kantian Idealism: it refers to a type of philosophy (of which Hegel is perhaps the supreme exemplar) that proceeds on the basis of the ‘speculative’ identification of thinking and being, or mind and reality, thereby repudiating both empiricist naturalism and Kant’s Critical philosophy. My naturalist proclivities make me quite uncomfortable with these associations, unlike Meillassoux or Grant, both of whom explicitly avow this post-Kantian speculative paradigm, even if only to lend it a singular ‘materialist’ twist. Harman’s stance is not strictly speaking ‘speculative’ either in this regard, fusing as it does the influences of phenomenology and Bruno Latour. Yet nor is it in any sense ‘materialist’, a tendency he abjures on the grounds that it entails privileging one allegedly fundamental stratum of reality over all others. ✎ 0 The term ‘realist’ is no less in need of disambiguation. We’re all realists about quite different things. Harman espouses a Latour-inspired ‘democracy of objects’ according to which science has no particular cognitive authority when it comes to discriminating between reality and appearance and no object can be said to be any more or less real than any other. Grant and Meillassoux retain versions of the appearance-reality distinction, but in very different philosophical contexts. For Grant it could be construed in terms of the difference between natura naturans and natura naturata, while for Meillassoux it is indexed by the difference between phenomenal and mathematical properties. I think it safe to say that neither Grant, nor Harman, nor Meillassoux shares my commitment to epistemological naturalism, or my sympathy for ‘reductionist’ accounts of subjective experience. I think they would view it as a mistake to begin philosophizing from the contrast between the ‘manifest’ and ‘scientific’ images of reality as I do, and as result their realism tends to be more catholic and ecumenical than mine, especially where subjective experience is concerned. By way of contrast, my sceptical stance towards phenomenology leads me to endorse a more austere, revisionary brand of realism that tends to undermine the reality of subjective experience, at least as ordinarily construed. Thus, given that we don’t agree that philosophy must be ‘speculative’ or about what ‘realism’ entails, the expression ‘speculative realism’ has become singularly unhelpful. ✎ 0

 Bram – What would you propose as an alternative? ✎ 0

Ray – Nothing: the label has done its work in terms of signalling possible alternatives to correlationist orthodoxy. Grant, Harman, and Meillassoux have each coined terms to describe their respective projects. My own could be characterized in terms of a new compact between metaphysics and epistemology: transcendental realism in the former and revisionary naturalism in the latter. There is a reality that transcends the bounds of possible human experience set out by Kant, but we are learning that it is populated by ‘things’ about which it is proving increasingly difficult to say ‘what’ they are using the resources of sense currently available to us. We will have to forge new vocabularies to be able to say what these things are. Admittedly, this still has a ‘speculative’ ring, but I would like to insist that metaphysical speculation be constrained by scientific knowledge. ✎ 0

Bram – The kind of realism that you defend, while certainly not hostile to reductionism, always insists on the fact that reality is far more complex than we surmise. An essential point you keep returning to when it comes to the deep structure of reality is ‘that there’s much more going on, and that it turns out to be more complicated’ (324), as you remarked during the Speculative Realism conference in London. You seem to be interested in a surplus of complexity. This also appears to be the main point in your essay on noise: instead of understanding noise as a lack of information or structure, you take noise to be a surplus of structure and complexity, as an ongoing superimposition of incompossibles. ✎ 0

Ray – Yes: I agree that there is a link and what I find particularly interesting about ‘noise’ is its informational density. In this sense, I think it prefigures (in a sense yet to be determined) the sort of challenge to intelligibility which will accrue with the gradual objectification of experience. Just as noise makes you work to decipher information by overriding familiar cognitive-classificatory sluice-gates, the objectification of experience will force us to make sense of ourselves in a quite unfamiliar and even fundamentally foreign conceptual register. Basically, I think that people who accuse science of reducing and attenuating what they consider to be life’s richness and complexity are completely mistaken: it’s quite the opposite: our conception of reality has been immeasurably enriched by scientific understanding and it’s rather our subjective experience of the world that is reductive and impoverished in comparison. But the point is not just that science enriches and amplifies our understanding of reality, but that it uncovers the truth. Noise has no such epistemic valence—it does not yield the sort of cognitive information that provides the basis for true or false judgements; but there is something of fundamental epistemological interest about the way in which it interferes with default cognitive schemas and perceptual Gestalts—epistemological in the sense that it challenges the way in which we relate to experience, rather than operating at the level of the content of experience. ✎ 0

Bram – In some of your essays (including ‘Genre is obsolete’) your ideas on philosophy and neurosciences are intricately related to the dynamics of contemporary capitalism. In an essay on subtractive ontology and capitalism you write: ‘Integrated global capitalism is constitutively dysfunctional: it works by breaking down. It is fuelled by random undecidabilities, excessive inconsistencies, aleatory interruptions, which it continuously reappropriates, axiomatizing empirical contingency. It turns catastrophe into a resource, ruin into an opportunity, harnessing the uncomputible.’ (57) It strikes me that this definition of capitalism is somehow connected to what you write on noise in your essay ‘Genre is obsolete.’ Do you see a similarity between capitalism’s stochastic dynamic and ‘noise’ – or would you rather say that noise and capitalism are each other’s opposites? What is the relation between noise and capitalism? ✎ 0

Ray – This is a difficult question. The suggestion that capitalism is somehow ‘like’ noise could easily be construed as some sort of dubiously Romantic aestheticization: capitalism as sublime, unintelligible phenomenon, etc. The passage you cite is problematic because it lends itself to such an interpretation. Basically, I do not think it at all illuminating or useful to construe capitalism as some sort of sublimely turbulent natural phenomenon. It’s important to bear in mind how, for all its seemingly unfathomable, impersonal complexity, global capitalism continues to supervene on the banal personal and psychological traits of the dealers, brokers, traders, executives, managers, workers, and shoppers, who are not just its dispensable machine parts but its indispensable support system, without which it would simply not be able to function. ✎ 0 There’s a temptation to hypostatize capital as though it were an impersonal, wholly autonomous agent subsisting quite independently of the myriad of little human subjects who compose it. This strikes me as a mistake. Here I think a sober appreciation of the mechanical banality of the processes through which capital reproduces itself might obviate this tendency to mystification: this seemingly fantastic, supra-personal complexity is not due to some mysterious self-moving cause or superhuman agent but an effect generated by the myriads of micro-processes that compose it: it is neither more nor less mysterious in its operations than any other complex, multi-layered emergent phenomenon. This kind of emergence and complexity are banal and ubiquitous. ✎ 0 I think there is an important dis-analogy between noise and capitalism in that noise as I understand it is precisely not complex in the way in which capitalism is alleged to be: the sort of emergent complexity exemplified by self-organizing systems is relatively uninteresting. The fetishizing of complexity in the sense of self-organization, along with emergence and irreducibility, etc., is part and parcel of the neo-vitalist tendency to prefer mystification to explanation, so prevalent today. What I consider to be interesting about noise is its dis-organizing potency: the incompressibility of a signal interfering with the redundancy in the structure of the receiver. Not transduction but schizduction: noise scrambles the capacity for self-organization. ✎ 0

Bram – What, if anything, could be the role of an aesthetics of noise in your work on neurosciences and capitalism? ✎ 

 Ray – I am very wary of ‘aesthetics’: the term is contaminated by notions of ‘experience’ that I find deeply problematic. I have no philosophy of art worth speaking of. This is not to dismiss art’s relevance for philosophy—far from it—but merely to express reservations about the kind of philosophical aestheticism which seems to want to hold up ‘aesthetic experience’ as a new sort of cognitive paradigm wherein the Modern (post-Cartesian) ‘rift’ between knowing and feeling would be overcome. In this regard, I would say that there can be no ‘aesthetics of noise’, because noise as I understand it would be the destitution of the aesthetic, specifically in its post-Kantian, transcendental register. Noise exacerbates the rift between knowing and feeling by splitting experience, forcing conception against sensation. Some recent philosophers have evinced an interest in subjectless experiences; I am rather more interested in experience-less subjects. Another name for this would be ‘nemocentrism’ (a term coined by neurophilosopher Thomas Metzinger): the objectification of experience would generate self-less subjects that understand themselves to be no-one and no-where. This casts an interesting new light on the possibility of a ‘communist’ subjectivity.

References

Ray Brassier, Alien Theory. The Decline of Materialism in the Name of Matter. 2001.

Ray Brassier, “Nihil unbound: remarks on subtractive ontology and thinking capitalism.” In Peter Hallward (ed.). Think Again. Alain Badiou and the Future of Philosophy. Continuum: London 2004, 50-58.

Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound. Enlightenment and Extinction. Palgrave Macmillan: London 2007.

Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, Graham Harman, Quentin Meillassoux, “Speculative Realism,” Collapse III. Urbanomic: Falmouth 2007, pp. 307-451.

(c) http://www.ny-web.be/transitzone/against-aesthetics-noise.html

%d bloggers like this: