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Tag Archives: Quentin Meillassoux

Excision Ethos: Flat Ontology and the Posthuman Object/Subject.

“Adrian Johnston’s newest book, Zizek’s Ontology, is an impressive attempt at systematizing Zizek’s notoriously hyperactive writing style. Focused on developing a “transcendental materialist theory of subjectivity” – i.e. an ontology capable of accounting for how subjectivity can emerge from an asubjective realm of matter – Johnston places Zizek’s work squarely in line with the contemporary materialists. As we will see, this perhaps raises some issues about whether Johnston/Zizek can meet the requirements of a truly materialist ontology set out by Ray Brassier (via appropriations of Francois Laruelle and Quentin Meillassoux), but regardless, Johnston’s work presents a huge rejoinder to both naive cultural studies proponents of Zizek and overly simply critics of Zizek. Cutting through the myriad of pop culture references and political interventions, Johnston aims at the heart of Zizek’s philosophical project – a re-reading of German idealism (specifically, Kant, Schelling & Hegel) through Lacanian psychoanalysis.”

the accursed share: Zizek and Materialism.

Several points in the post are indebted to discussions here and here. Derrida’s notion of language play and the purported death of the transcendental signifier seems to have anchored narratology, as it is understood in cultural studies and many veins of literary studies, in the swamp of post-structuralism. Furthermore, the phenomenological and post-Kantian articulation of experience as existence can, as Ray Brassier indirectly argues, can be cons … Read More

via Naught Thought

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

 

There is something fitting about the fact that this post is being written in an internet cafe (a couple of hours before I hit the cinema), with a sense of urgency which – although I've always viewed it as essential to my project here – has thus far been absent from the plodding style of my first few posts. In fact, one of the reasons I started this blog was because few people interested in speculative realism were trying to develop a consistent t … Read More

via Psychoanalysis and Speculative Realism

Here is another nice post from Dark Chemistry on Graham Harman as smasher of objects, which he opens with a fine quote from one of my articles on Artaud, Deleuze, will to nothingness and literature.

The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism

Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman (editors)

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Description

Continental philosophy has entered a new period of ferment. The long deconstructionist era was followed with a period dominated by Deleuze, which has in turn evolved into a new situation still difficult to define. However, one common thread running through the new brand of continental positions is a renewed attention to materialist and realist options in philosophy. Among the current giants of this generation, this new focus takes numerous different and opposed forms. It might be hard to find many shared positions in the writings of Badiou, DeLanda, Laruelle, Latour, Stengers, and Zizek, but what is missing from their positions is an obsession with the critique of written texts. All of them elaborate a positive ontology, despite the incompatibility of their results. Meanwhile, the new generation of continental thinkers is pushing these trends still further, as seen in currents ranging from transcendental materialism to the London-based speculative realism movement to new revivals of Derrida. As indicated by the title The Speculative Turn, the new currents of continental philosophy depart from the text-centered hermeneutic models of the past and engage in daring speculations about the nature of reality itself. This anthology assembles authors, of several generations and numerous nationalities, who will be at the center of debate in continental philosophy for decades to come.

Contents

Essays from:
Alain Badiou
Ray Brassier 
Nathan Brown
Levi Bryant 
Gabriel Catren
Manuel DeLanda 
Iain Hamilton Grant
Martin Hägglund 
Peter Hallward 
Graham Harman
Adrian Johnston
Francois Laruelle
Bruno Latour 
Quentin Meillassoux
Reza Negarestani
John Protevi
Steven Shaviro  
Nick Srnicek
Isabelle Stengers
Alberto Toscano 
Slavoj Žižek

 Authors, editors and contributors

Levi R. Bryant is a Professor of Philosophy at Collin College in Frisco, Texas.  He is the author of Difference and Givenness: Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence as well as a number of articles on Deleuze, Badiou, and Lacanian psychoanalysis.

Graham Harman is Associate Provost for Research Administration at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. He has published the following books: Tool-Being (2002), Guerrilla Metaphysics (2005), Heidegger Explained (2007), Prince of Networks (2009), Towards Speculative Realism (2010), L’Objet quadruple (2010), and Circus Philosophicus (2010)

Nick Srnicek is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the London School of Economics. He is currently working towards a dissertation on the general dynamics of global political change, specifically focusing on the relations between contentious social movements, civil society organizations and international institutions. He has also published work in Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy and Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy.

A very interesting conversation between Quentin Meillassoux, Robin McKay and Florian Hecker is available in pdf on the Urbanomic website (where, among other things, an interesting-looking forthcoming book on the philosophy of mathematics is announced).

There is a lot of interesting material in it: many topics will sound familiar to those well acquainted with Meillassoux’s work, but the conversation format leads the discussion also towards some unexpected terrain. I really just read it very quickly, and I’ll have to come back to it, but there is a section (indeed, the concluding section) which rather pleased me. Here is a selection from it:

When all your signs are meaningful, you are in deconstruction. Now why can’t Derrida’s deconstruction say anything about mathematics, why can’t it deconstruct mathematics? Because Derrida needs a sort of meaningful repetition, a sign that is meaningful that, if you repeat it, you have differential effects, by the repetition itself.

But if you take mathematics, you have signs without meaning, and you just operate on these signs. So if there are signs without any meaning, all deconstruction, all hermeneutics, goes out the window. Because there is a hole of meaning – no meaning at all. If these signs have no meaning at all, they just iterate, and this iteration can create the possibility of what I call a reiteration: one sign, two signs, three, four, etc.

So mathematics for me are the continent of what deconstruction cannot deconstruct, because it is grounded on meaninglessness. It is grounded on a sign without meaning. Now how can a sign without meaning can be infinite, can be it be general, generally the same? Here, there is something that is eternal but not ideal. Idealism thinks that it’s always meaning or essence that is eternal. For me what is eternal is just that any sign is a fact. When you see the facticity before the reality of a fact, then you don’t look at this teapot as an object that is factual, but you look at it as being the support of its facticity; and the support of its facticity as facticity is the same for the teapot as for this cup or this table … So you can iterate infinitely, that’s why you can iterate it.

In fact, for me, the facticity, the object as a  support quelconque of facticity, you can iterate it, without any meaning. And that’s why you can operate with it, you can create a world without deconstruction and hermeneutics. And this is grounded on pure facticity of things, and also of thinking. It is not correlated. After that, you can take some pieces of what you can construct from iteration to construct mathematics, and abstractly apply that to some pieces of world, indifferent to thinking, that’s what I try to demonstrate.

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via Hyper tiling

Word from Urbanomic that Volume III of Collapse has sold out and is now available for free online. It includes the much-cited original Speculative Realism conference. Find it here.

via Speculative Heresy

Collapse III contains explorations of the work of Gilles Deleuze by pioneering thinkers in the fields of philosophy, aesthetics, music and architecture. In addition, we publish in this volume two previously untranslated texts by Deleuze himself, along with a fascinating piece of vintage science fiction from one of his more obscure influences. Finally, as an annex to Collapse Volume II, we also include a full transcription of the conference on ‘Speculative Realism’ held in London in 2007.

The contributors to this volume aim to clarify, from a variety of perspectives, Deleuze’s contribution to philosophy: in what does his philosophical originality lie; what does he appropriate from other philosophers and how does he transform it? And how can the apparently disparate threads of his work to be ‘integrated’ – what is the precise nature of the constellation of the aesthetic, the conceptual and the political proposed by Gilles Deleuze, and what are the overarching problems in which the numerous philosophical concepts ‘signed Deleuze’ converge?

Contents

ROBIN MACKAY
Editorial Introduction [PDF]
THOMAS DUZER
In Memoriam: Gilles Deleuze 1925-1995 [PDF]
GILLES DELEUZE
Responses to a Series of Questions [PDF]
ARNAUD VILLANI
“I Feel I Am A Pure Metaphysician”: The Consequences of Deleuze’s Remark [PDF]
QUENTIN MEILLASSOUX
Subtraction and Contraction: Deleuze, Immanence and Matter and Memory [PDF]
HASWELL & HECKER
Blackest Ever Black [PDF]
GILLES DELEUZE
Mathesis, Science and Philosophy [PDF]
INCOGNITUM
Malfatti's Decade [[PDF]
JOHN SELLARS
Chronos and Aion: Deleuze and the Stoic Theory of Time [PDF]
ÉRIC ALLIEZ & JEAN-CLAUDE BONNE
Matisse-Thought and the Strict Ordering of Fauvism [PDF]
MEHRDAD IRAVANIAN
Unknown Deleuze [PDF]
J.-H. ROSNY THE ELDER
Another World [PDF]
RAY BRASSIER, IAIN HAMILTON GRANT, GRAHAM HARMAN, QUENTIN MEILLASSOUX
Speculative Realism [PDF]

“Those who are already familiar with Meillassoux’s writings may prefer to start with the interview and then the excerpts from L’Inexistence divine, which is a much weirder book than you might expect. Who actually predicted Meillassoux would say that justice can come about only through an omniscient and omnipotent Christ-like mediator who then abandons all this power voluntarily once the world of justice is achieved? Religion is attacked not for naivete, but for idolatry and blasphemy. There are a number of such surprises in the book, and watch for the mention of Lucifer late in the day. (He could also have named Captain Ahab in that particular passage.)

The child is also a key concept in the book, though I’ll let you wait until Fall 2011 to read about that.

So is beauty, though in a modified Kantian fashion that I personally wouldn’t accept.

Whether you like or dislike The Divine Inexistence, after reading the 27,000 words I translated, you will have to admit it: Meillassoux has guts. Who expected a new French philosopher, born in the 1960′s and coming from a deeply leftist-materialist background, to come out in favor of a (temporarily) omnipotent Messiah paving the way for a God who suddenly comes into existence for no reason whatsoever?” Graham Harman.

I’m now putting the finishing touches on the manuscript, which means trying to make the writing as clear and interesting as possible. With this project I’ve followed my now near-religious custom of banging out a quick first draft, then revising incessantly. It was my failure to do this that made the dissertation take longer than it should have, and I have a visceral horror of that graduate school era of procrastination and alibis, a night from wh … Read More

via Object-Oriented Philosophy

As I’m finishing up this book, I think the biggest mystery in Meillassoux (not the point I disagree with most, which is his defense of the strength of the correlationist argument) is why he has any concept of laws at all. Hyper-chaos, of course, means that anything can happen at any time without reason. The downfall of the principle of sufficient reason should mean that everything is autonomous and disconnected, not linked in any way with anythin

anything else that happens.But that’s not what Meillassoux says. It is only laws that have no sufficient reason. It is at the level of worlds that the transfinite considerations of Cantor make it impossible to call things probable or improbable.

In the intra-worldly sphere, laws do exist. It is true that these laws can change at any moment for no reason, but they are laws nonetheless, however transient and unreliable. If I pull my keys from my pocket and they turn into a dove and fly from the room, this is certainly possible for Meillassoux. But the more I look at his writings, this sort of ‘chaotic’ event can’t happen directly. What must happen is that the laws of nature governing such things must change– which can happen, of course… Read More

via Object-Oriented Philosophy

Drawing from 18 November 2006 "Truth proc...

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This is a ways off yet, but it should be a terrific event:

Call for Papers: International Conference of the Association for Continental Philosophy of Religion

Thinking the Absolute: Speculation, Philosophy and the End of Religion

June 29th – July 1st 2012 Liverpool Hope University, UK

Keynote Speakers to include Catherine Malabou, Iain Hamilton Grant and Levi Bryant

‘The contemporary end of metaphysics is an end which, being sceptical, could only

be a religious end of metaphysics.’
Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude. An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (London: Continuum, 2008), p.

Meillassoux identifies the ‘turn to religion’ in contemporary continental philosophy with a failure of thinking. The Kantian refusal to think the absolute leads to scepticism about reality in itself. Ironically, this lends itself to ‘fideism’, the decision to project religious meaning on to the unknowable beyond. According to Meillassoux, a philosophy obsessed with mystery becomes the accomplice of irrational faith. The solution is to find ways of once more thinking the absolute in its reality, severed from its dependence upon a knowing subject, or upon language and social norms. At the same time, new possibilities for thinking religion (exemplified by Meillassoux’s own Divine Inexistence) are emerging.
This conference invites proposals which critically consider this speculative turn in philosophy and its implications for thinking about religion. To what ‘end’ is speculation leading? Does it simply announce the closure of religion and its subordination to a philosophy of the absolute, nature or the ‘All’? Can it open new lines for a philosophy of religion which is not wedded to the Kantian horizon? Is speculation itself open to Kierkegaardian critique as yet another move to position and reduce ethical and religious claims, sacrificing the future on the altar of abstract possibility? Does renewed attention to the canon of speculative idealism offer a way beyond the impasse between relativism and dogmatism?
The organisers welcome proposals which examine the roots and extensity of recent speculative thinking, and which critically consider its impact – direct and indirect – on philosophy of religion. Relevant thinkers and themes might include Quentin Meillassoux on God and the absolute, Alain Badiou’s ontology, Catherine Malabou on Hegel and plasticity, Francois Laruelle’s ‘future Christ’, Iain Hamilton Grant on Schelling’s Naturphilosophie and the thinking of the All, Ray Brassier’s nihilism, the impact of object-oriented ontologies on theology and metaphysics. However, we are particularly looking for contributions which creatively use or depart from the speculative turn to offer original insights into the nature and content of the field.

Abstracts of 300 words for 20 minute papers to shakess@hope.ac.uk or haynesp@hope.ac.uk by end of February 2012.

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via Larval Subjects .

Contingency, Necessity and the Final Absolute: Expanding on my summary of Ray Brassier‘s  Remarks on Subtractive Ontology and Thinking Capital here are some further related observations on aleatory rationalism, drawing on Elie Ayache’s account of how the option ‘science’ of the derivatives trading comes to  hypostasize the market as an absolute relation that is not thought-independent: Brassier’s critique of aleatory rationality shares the epistemological concerns of Quinten Meillassoux… Read More

via Total Assault On Culture

"Where would I go, if I could go, who would I be, if I could be, what would I say, if I had a voice, who says this saying it’s me?" (Beckett - 2)

Expulsion of the Negative and Affirmation of Life are Mutually Exclusive

Purgatory, purification, extraction of the positive, expulsion of the negative, projection, introjection… Throughout his discursive life Deleuze conceived of purification of the self as the goal of literature. He believed that through an exposition of the evil within one was healing the society. But this theory can only produce otherness as negativity and that is almost exactly the opposite of what affirmative critique ought to be. Nietzsche’s project of “the expulsion of the negative” is a recurrent theme in Deleuze’s writings. Like Nietzsche he thought that it is only through regression that one could be purified and get outside the confines of the Cartesian cogito. Deleuze’s attempts at escaping from the Cartesian dualism, however, can only cause an interruption of the splitting process and slides towards overcoming the split to attain oneness. Giving a voice to the other creates the conditions of impossibility for the other’s finding his/her own voice.

With Deleuze it is always one dies rather than I die, or as the Cynic saying goes, “when there is death I am not, when I am there is no death.” Instead of accepting the state of being wounded as a perpetually renewed actuality, instead of affirming death within life, the other within the self, Deleuze climbs over the walls of his wound, and looking down on the others, he loses the ground beneath his feet, and eventually falls into the split he was trying to get rid of.

Affirming the mutual inclusiveness of introversion and intersubjectivity means preferring an a-sociality, what Blanchot calls “being in a non-relation,” to the symbolic order. Blanchot’s attitude is exactly the opposite of the symbolic market society that dissolves the most fundamental questions of being human in a pot of common sense. The subject of the market society is continually in pursuit of increased strength and self-confidence. And for that reason governed by what Nietzsche called the herd instinct, the will to nothingness, this subject becomes a reactive and adaptive subject. The symbolic order loses the ground beneath itself when and if the majority starts to see living with the thought of death not only as a natural necessity, but also as something to be affirmed.

 Do not seek to have events happen as you want them to, but instead want them to happen as they do happen, and your life will go well.[16] 

We continually have to work on turning everything that happens to us in this life into “for the good.” For everything good or bad to become for the good we have to affirm that which has happened to us. But how are we going to affirm something so terrible that nails us to a painful existence indefinitely? First of all, we have to accept that, that which has happened is not changeable, it has already taken place and we cannot go back there to unlive it.  But at the same time the meaning, value, and significance of what has happened is never fully established. Only death accomplishes the event’s significance, only through death is established the truth of what has happened to us.

For the Stoics one has to have a perfect understanding of the workings of cosmos and nature to be able to live in harmony with the world surrounding one. It is such that everything is a cause and an effect at the same time and everything is linked to one another. Everything that happens causes other things to happen. To a certain extent what happens to us is not in our control but at the same time if we know what the consequence of a certain action would be we could choose what to do, and so what happens to us, to a certain extent, becomes our own doing. We have to figure out how to act, which words to use in the way of affecting the external world so as to maintain ourselves as an active agent in any circumstance.[17]

Let us imagine an example. If we have done something so terribly wrong that it is causing us great distress, before drowning in our sadness we have to find a way of reading it in such a way as to turn it into something that was necessary for our present and future happiness. If we let ourselves go after a disappointing incident, if we let things happen to us and not do something to change the course of events we might as well find ourselves in an irresolvable situation at the end, which would lead to madness and death.

At every moment throughout our lives we are confronted with obstacles that keep us from accomplishing certain desired ends. And yet there is also always a certain potential of accomplishing something even better because of the very obstacle that caused the desired end to become unattainable. The Stoic solution to this problem is simple and yet sophisticated.

What we have here is not a total negation of desire but a rejection of certain objects of desire that one must know from past experience are bad for us to desire. If we want something to happen to us, something that would satisfy a certain desire, and if the desired event cannot be accomplished through our actions then there is no point in striving for the attainment of an unattainable object of desire. Instead one should make the best of what is at hand and accomplish other events that render possible the attainment of objects of desire that are within reach. If we don’t know what and how to work for, we get nothing out of life, find ourselves locked in a room on the door of which death continually knocks.

Paintings by Andy DenzlerTitle: Bertolt Brecht People remain what they are even if their faces fall apart - but does it float

Painting by Andy Denzler
Title: Bertolt Brecht

Epictetus’ philosophy is a very practical one. In it we find ways of coping with the difficulties of life. And it is adaptable to the present state of the human condition in which we find ourselves face to face with the exploitation of the life drive and the death drive through a manipulation of the mutual dependence of these two based on the ambiguous, because a-symetrical, conflict inherent in the relationship between them.

If we know not how to choose what to desire, if we allow the objects of our desire to be shaped by the capable hands of the big Other represented by the global capitalists, we also let the ways in which we desire be determined by a source other than ourselves, hence become puppets trying to satisfy an external force rather than ourselves and our lovers. We have to know what to desire and how to make it happen, otherwise nothing happens and where there is nothing happening there can be neither creativity nor communication; for what is one to create or communicate if there is nothing to create and communicate.

Once it is realized that there is nothing other than nothing to be struggled against, it becomes clearer how it would be possible to detach oneself from external circumstances and act in the way of maintaining an impersonal vision of what happens around us. One dissociates not the events themselves, but dissociates oneself from the events surrounding one. The Stoic indifference requires a subject in the form of an impersonal consciousness who maintains its dissociating function at all times. For this dissociation to take place, however, the subject has to know how to associate events that have led to the present, that is, one has to immerse oneself in the plurality of the past events, and extract from this multiplicity a combination of events so as to enable oneself to constitute oneself as an autonomous, free agent. This attitude emphasizes the importance of each instant. At every instant we have to act in such a way as to make the future better than the past. And this brings us to Nietzsche’s eternal return. According to Nietzsche, we have to act at every present moment in such a way that we will regret nothing in the future. Every present is an eternal moment in-itself and it is at times in our control to turn the present into for-itself, and at times it is not.

So, at every present we have to consider the possibilities from different angles and decide which way to go and which way not to go as if we were immortal. What Epictetus seems to be suggesting is that once a choice is made the only way to make it work for us is to push it to its limit where it either turns against us or against itself and creates another possibility of choice. Epictetus is not in favour of an individuality that would be constituted through moderation, but in a subject that would be indifferent to lack or excess. In Epictetus’ world there is no lack or excess; what there is lacks nothing and nothing in what there is is excessive. If one is satisfied by what there is with its lacks and excesses one needs no moderation of one’s actions, for there is nothing lacking or excessive to be moderated in one’s actions. Lack or excess can only be determined by a whole external to the already existing. But there is only that which is, which never lacks anything in relation to something outside itself. The concepts of lack and excess belong to the world of metaphysics which exists only in imagination.

So I eventually arrive where I could possibly have arrived; the end of this voyage, which is at the same time the beginning of another one. And here I find out that the more affirmative one’s attitude towards life gets the more fragile the contact with the other becomes. But as the contact becomes more fragile and affirmation more difficult, maintaining the conditions for the possibility of a perpetually recreated affirmative cont(r)act becomes more essential to the continuation of healthy life of self in touch not only with its own death but also with the death of the other.

Sometimes the only way to keep affirming is to affirm the fragility of the affirmative cont(r)act itself. It is only by affirming a broken and irregularly beating heart in its broken irregularity that one can relate to it. But to affirm this heart one must detach oneself from it, not identify with it, not become broken and irregularly beating itself, so that one can find in oneself the strength to undertake repairing the broken heart. Affirmation of life as it is, I think, is only the beginning of a fragile and yet beautiful friendship… Read More

 via senselogic

la mort - death

The Pre-Socratics: A Case Study

The fate of the pre-Socratics has often taken two routes, that of either complete dismissal due to inescapable primitivism or as purveyors of deep esoteric truths completely lost to our time. As is often the case however the truth lies somewhere in tension between the two. For examination of these founders of philosophy can provide two illuminating roles. Firstly we can conceive the ideas of these pioneers in the context of their ultimate evolution… Read More via An Excavation of Ideas


Related Articles

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.

• Philosophy as Biography •
• Alain Badiou •

“Nietzsche wrote that a philosophy is always the biography of the philosopher. Maybe a biography of the philosopher by the philosopher himself is a piece of philosophy. So I shall tell you nine stories taken of my private life, with their philosophical morality… The first story is the story of the father and the mother.
My father was an alumnus of the École Normale Superieure and agrégé of mathematics: my mother an alumna of the École Normale Supérieure and agrégée of French literature. I am an alumnus of the École Normale Supérieure and agrégé, but agrege of what, of philosophy, that is to say, probably, the only possible way to assume the double filiation and circulate freely between the literary maternity and the mathematical paternity. This is a lesson for philosophy itself : the language of philosophy always constructs its own space between the matheme and the poem, between the mother and the father, after all.” Read More

• VIDEO Version •

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/Aan1MAI%5D
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AaqtLQI%5D

Postfelsefe nasıl hadım eder, ya da neden XI. tez tersine çevrilmeli üzerine

Postfelsefe nasıl hadım eder ya da neden XI. tez tersine çevirilmeli üzerine Benim felsefeye ilgim materyalizm ve onun eleştirel işlevi sayesindedir: bilimsel bilgiyi onun mistifiye edilmiş tüm ideolojik bilgiselliğinin karşısına almaktır. Ahlaki temelde bir mit ya da yalan karşıtlığından değil, onların akılcıl ve sistematik eleştirisinden bahsediyorum. – Louis Althusser [kaynak]

Burada bır zamandır okumaya çalıştığım bir felsefi metinden kısaca sözetmek istiyorum. Zira şu ana dek metnin sadece 2 bölümünü yani 50 sayfasını okuyabildim. Bu da kitabın sadece 3′te 1′ine tekabül ediyor. Şunu itiraf etmek zorundayım: Bu 50 sayfayı okumak bana 500 sayfa okumak gibi geldi. Bunun nedenlerinin başlıcaları arasında benim “felsefeci” olmadığım gerçeği yatıyorsa da, bundan öte metnin Kant sonrası felsefeye, modernist felsefeye olan özgün eleştirisinin ince noktaları ve ziyadesiyle yoğunluğu okunuşunu zorlaştırdığını eklemek gerekiyor. Halbuki metnin son yılların felsefi metinleri içerisinde en yalın, en tutarlı, en takip edilebilir bir dille yazıldığını düşünmeme rağmen, bu böyle oldu. Yazar: Quentin Meillassoux, Kitap: After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity on Contingency (Sonluluk Sonrası : Vukuu Belli Olmamanın Gerekliği Üzerine Bir Deneme)… Read More

via Mutlak Töz

“Absence: Stubborn heaven of the neutral”

Image by DerrickT via Flickr

Zamanın Sonu ve Sonsuzluğun Başlangıcı [1] 

Güneşin 4.5 yıl içerisinde sönmesi neticesinde dünyamızdaki yaşamın son bulacağı yönündeki spekülasyonların son dakika haberi olarak manşetlere taşındığı o mübarek gecede Dr. Lawgiverz bir yıl önce dünyadaki tüm televizyon ekranlarının bilinmeyen bir sebepten ötürü beyazlara bürünmesinin olası sebepleri üzerine derin düşüncelere dalmıştı. Hatırlanacağı üzere bir kitap önce televizyonları takiben bir hafta gibi kısa bir zaman zarfında daha başka ekran mekanizmaları da beyazlara bürünmüş ve haberi gazetelerden okuyan bedbaht insanları tedirginliğe maruz bırakmıştı. Söylemeye bile gerek yok belki ama güneşin 4.5 yıl içerisinde söneceğine dair haberler de tıpkı televizyon ekranlarının beyazlaşması gibi, sadece düşünce treni şeffaf bir duvara çarparak raydan çıkan Dr. Lawgiverz’de değil, haberi radyolarından duyan ve o sırada hiçbir şey düşünmekte olmayan, hatta belki de bir yıldır görsel imgelerden mahrum kaldıkları için psikozun eşiğinde olan sıradan insanlarda da muazzam bir şok etkisi yaratmıştı. Dr. Lawgiverz’in kendisi görsel imgelerden yoksun yaşamayı umursamıyordu, zira ne de olsa onun için, ünlü Fransız filozof Gilles Deleuze’ün sözleriyle ifade edecek olursak, beynin kendisi bir ekrandı.

fmhs

                                                                               fmhs

Dr. Lawgiverz “söz uçar, yazı kalır,” sözünü hatırladı. Bu sözün 4.5 yıl içerisinde anlamını yiterecek olması, onu sarfedilmiş diğer tüm sözlerin de anlamını yitireceği düşüncesine sevketti. Ne de olsa güneşin sönmesi neticesinde dünya ve hatta evren dev bir buz kütlesine dönecek ve dünyadaki her şeyle birlikte kitaplar da yok olacaktı. Yazarların ve sanatçıların eserleriyle ölümsüzlüğe kavuştuğu düşüncesinin ne derece saçma olduğu bir kez daha kanıtlanmış olacaktı böylece. Ölümle yazı arasındaki ilişki elbette ki eski çağlardan beri yazarların ve düşünürlerin kafasını kurcalamış bir ilişkiydi. Maurice Blanchot “ölmemek için yazıyorum,” dediğinde büyük ihtimalle kendisini bir Şehrazat olarak duyumsamıştı. Yazılarımız boşluktan gelir ve boşluğa giderdi. İnsanın ölüm karşısındaki aczi teknoloji vasıtasıyla aşılmaya çalışılmış ve bazı bilim adamları teknoloji sayesinde insanın ölümsüz bir varlığa dönüşebileceğini iddia etmekle kalmamış, bunu kanıtlamıştı da. İnsan ezelden beridir yaşamı ölüme karşı bir direniş olarak görmüş, ölümü altetmek için çeşitli icatlar yapmıştı. Örneğin Dr. Lawgiverz’in yakın bir dostu olan ve Recep Sezgili adını taşıyan bir yazar-bilimadamı, insan beyinlerinin küvezlere yerleştirilerek, bedenin geri kalan tüm kısımları yaşamsal fomksiyonlarını yitirse bile beynin kendisinin hayatta tutulabileceğine ve daha sonra yapay bir bedene (avatar-robot?) yerleştirilerek sosyal yaşama dahil edilmek suretiyle yaşamın deneyimsel yönüne kavuşturulması neticesinde ölümsüzlüğün hayata geçirilebileceğine gönülden inanmış ve yııllardır bu yöndeki çalışmalarını hayvanlar üzerinde yaptığı deneylerle neredeyse kanıtlamıştı. Güneşin söneceğine dair spekülasyonlar şimdi işte onun da tüm bu çabalarını anlamsız kılmış, ölümsüzlük hayalini imkânsızlıklar arenasına dahil etmişti. Dr. Lawgiverz işte bu arkadışını telefonla arayıp güneşin söneceği yönündeki iddiaların gerçekliğini sorgulamaya karar verir. Dr. Lawgiverz’in pek fazla arkadaşı yoktu, o yüzden de kadim dostunun telefon numarasını ezbere biliyordu. Antika kategorisine gireli yıllar olmuş eski model siyah telefonun ahizesini kaldırıp numarayı çevirdi ve karşıdan gelecek, Alo, sesini beklemeye koyuldu. Söz konusu ses çok geçmeden gelecekti.

Telefonun sesini duyduğunda Recep Sezgili endişe içerisinde sigara içiyor ve bir yandan da kahvesini yudumluyordu.

Alo?

Kadim dostum selamlar.

Law?, (belli ki dostları Dr. Lawgiverz’e kısaca Law derdi).

Evet, benim. Haberleri duydun mu?

Duymaz olur muyum hiç; sağır sultan bile duydu haberleri.

Ne diyorsun peki, aslı astarı var mıdır bu iddiaların?

Bilmiyorum, bekleyip göreceğiz.

Ne demek bekleyip göreceğiz, güneş gerçekten sönerse ne bunu görecek insan kalacak, ne de görülecek bir şey. Tüm özneler ve tüm nesneler ebediyete intikâl edecek zira.

Ebediyete mi? Ölümden sonra yaşama inandığını bilmiyordum.

İnanmıyorum zaten. Ebediyetin tecrübe edilebilecek bir şey olduğuna inanmıyorum, biliyorsun ben Kantçı’yım.

Yaptığım çalışmalarla ölümsüzlüğün mümkün olduğunu kanıtladığımı göz ardı ediyorsun.

Sanırım henüz acı gerçeği kabullenemedin. Güneş sönerse çalışmalarının anlamını yitireceğinin farkında değil misin?

Üstüme gelme lütfen. Sen de takdir edersin ki insanın tüm yaşamını bir anda sıfırla çarpması pek kolay değil. Şimdi kapatmalıyım, benim de birkaç yeri arayıp bu sönme mevzuunda bazı teferruatlar hakkında bilgi almam gerek. Umarım sadece asılsız bir iddiadan ibarettir bu spekülasyonlar.

Beni de bilgilendir lütfen.

Tamam.

Bay bay.

Bay bay.

Görüldüğü kadarıyla güneşin sönecek olmasından henüz duygusal olarak pek etkilenmemiştir kurbanlarımız. Belki de bunun sebebi henüz olayın ciddiyetini ve gerçekleğini idrak edememiş olmalarındandır. Olaya gayet soğuk bir biçimde bu denli bilimsel yaklaşmaları ancak bunun göstergesi olabilir.

Her neyse, Dr. Lawgiverz’in mahremine geri dönecek olursak görürüz ki her zaman oturduğu o eski model koltukta oturmuş boş gözlerle karşısındaki beyaz duvara bakmaktadır. O duvar Dr. Lawgiverz’in hayallerini yansıttığı bir ekrandır. Ama bu ekranın ebediyete intikâl etmiş ekranlardan farkı sinema dilinde beyaz perde tabir edilen ve/yani dışa görüntü yansıtmaktan ziyade görüntünün üzerine yansıtıldığı, insanın ekran demeye dilinin varmadığı ama işte kelime kıtlığından dolayı kendisini demek durumunda bulduğu ekranlardan olmasıdır. Dr. Lawgiverz şu anda bir şey hayal etmemekte olduğu için söz konusu duvarda hiçbir şey görmemektedir. Ama tabii bu Dr. Lawgiverz’in beyninin içinde bulunulan zaman diliminde tamamen boş olduğu manasını taşımamalıdır, ki nitekim taşımamaktadır da zaten. Zira Dr. Lawgiverz’in beyninde şu anda düşünce tabir edilen olgular dolanmaktadır. Kendimizi bu olguların akışına bırakmadan önce düşünce kavramının doğasına ilişkin birtakım spekülasyonlar yapmayı uygun bulduğumuzu ve müsaadenizle şimdi bu meşakkatli işe girişeceğimizi bilgilerinize sunmak istiyoruz.

Ünlü Portekizli yazar José Saramago, Lizbon Kuşatmasının Tarihi adlı kitabında, Raimundo Silva’nın çalıştığı yayınevindeki düzeltmenlerden sorumlu editörü Dr. Maria Sara’yı görmeye giderken asansörde aklından geçenleri okuyucularına aktardıktan hemen sonra düşünce üzerine şunları söyler:

“Düşünen kişi yalnızca ne düşündüğünü bilir, niye bunu düşündüğünü bilmez, sanırım, doğduğumuz andan başlayarak düşünürüz, ama ilk düşüncemizin, bütün daha sonrakileri doğuran düşüncenin ne olabileceğini bilmeyiz, düşünceler ırmağından yukarıya, ilk kaynağa doğru gittiğimizde, her birimizin en kesin yaşamöyküsü ortaya çıkar ve bunların akışını izleyebilsek, birden yeni bir düşünceye kapılıp bunun peşine takılarak içinde bulunduğumuz güne varabilsek, başka bir yaşamı seçerek bunu kısaltmadığımız ve söz konusu yaşam bir düzeltmeninki olmadığı sürece, herhalde yaşamımızı değiştirebilirdik, o zaman başka bir asansörde, belki de Dr. Maria Sara’dan başka birisiyle görüşmeye gidiyor olurduk.”[2]

Olurdunuz tabii, neden olmayasınız ki? Lâkin ne yazık ki hayat bir roman olmaktan ziyade rastlantıların gerekliliğinden başka mutlak tanımayan paradoksal bir olaylar serisidir. Elbette ki romanlar da görünüşte rastlantıların gerekliliğini yansıtmaya çalışan bir dizi paradoksal hadisenin zuhruyla vücut bulan oluşumlardır. Fakat akılda tutulmalıdır ki romanlardaki rastlantısallıklar sarmalı bir yazar tarafından kaleme alınmış sanal gerçeklikler olduğu için söz konusu rastlantısallıklar yapay banalliklerden başka bir şey değildir. Yazı doğası gereği yalan söylemek durumundadır; hakikatler ancak yazılanlardaki anlam boşluklarından sızan sonsuzluklar olabilir. Her ne kadar Saramago’nun “düşünen kişi yalnızca ne düşündüğünü bilir, niye bunu düşündüğünü bilmez,” sözüne katılsak da düşüncemizde geriye doğru gidebilmemizin gerçek hayatta da geriye gitmemizi mümkün kılmayacağı söylemeye gerek bile bırakmayacak derecede aşikârdır. Roman yazmanın en iyi yanı da işte gerçek hayatta gerçekleşmesi namümkün hadiselerin dil vasıtasıyla mümkün kılınabilmesine zemin hazırlamasıdır. İşte bu gerçekten hareketle biz de şimdi kurbanımız Dr. Lawgiverz’i zamanda yolculuk yapmış ve olmayan bir gelecekten, romanımızın geçtiği zamana gelmiş bir ölümsüz olarak yeniden kurgulamaya karar verdik. Bu senaryoya göre Dr. Lawgiverz romanımızın geçtiği zamandan, yani güneşin 4.5 yıl içerisinde patlayacağını duyuran ve kimilerinin radyodan duyduğu, kimlerinin ertesi gün gazetelerde okuduğu, kimilerininse halk arasında dolanan söylentiler dolayımıyla bilgi sahibi olduğu o mübarek iddianın ortaya çıktığı günden 5 yıl sonrasından gelmiş bir kişidir. Kendisinin bu durumu O’nu bir ölümsüz kılmaktadır, çünkü güneş hakikaten de sönmüş ve hiçliği tüm evrene olmasa bile güneş sistemine hâkim kılmıştır. Dr. Lawgiverz de tüm canlılar gibi bedenen yok olmuş, fakat her ne hikmetse, bizim de bilmediğimiz ve dolayısıyla da açıklayamayacağımız bir sebepten ötürü salt bilinçten ibaret bir varlık olarak (ruh?) şimdiki zamana gelerek bedenini aramaya koyulmuştur. Dr. Lawgiverz henüz bir ölümsüz olduğunu bilmemekle birlikte, yukarıda zikrettiğimiz sebeplerden ötürü kendisi bilse de bilmese de hâlihazırda bir ölümsüz olması hasebiyle bir ölümlü gibi davranmaya devam etmektedir. Zavallı Dr. Lawgiverz…

Life After Apocalypse - Vladimir Manyuhin

Hatırlanacağı üzere düşünce üzerine spekülasyonlarımıza başlamadan önce Deleuze’ün beyni bir ekran olarak nitlendirdiğini söylemiş ve anlatıda bir sapma gerçekleştirmek suretiyle bir ekran olarak beynimizde zuhur eden hadiseleri, Dr. Lawgiverz’in bilimadamı dostunu araması gibi, siz okuyucularımızın beğenisine sunmuştuk. Takdir edersiniz ki araya giren inanılmaz gerçekler anlatımızın artık asla eskisi gibi olamayacağının göstergesidir. İnsan olan her fâninin aklına durgunluk vermesi kuvvetle muhtemel söz konusu gerçekler biz istesek de istemesek de gerçektirler. Biz ölümlülerin bilincinden bağımsız bir hakikat olduğunu hiç kuşku duymaksızın dile getirebilmemize zemin hazırlayan bu gerçekler, hâliyle anlatımızı oluşturan olayların seyrini değiştirerek, bizimle beraber sizi de yeni mecralara ve maceralara doğru sürükleyecektir. Ne mutlu bizlere ve tabii ki sizlere, ki bu akıl almaz hadiselere tanıklık etmek ayrıcalığına sahibiz. Ne güzeldir hayat, ne anlamlıdır tüm bu kelimeler… 

Ölüm düşüncesiyle yatıp ölümsüzlük düşüncesiyle kalkan, yani bir sabah uyandığında kendini bir ölümsüz olarak bulan Dr. Lawgiverz, az önce de belirttiğimiz gibi, gelecekten geldiğinin farkında değildi önceleri. Lâkin sonraları, bilinmeyen bir sebepten ötürü idrak kabiliyetinde yaşanan muazzam bir patlama neticesinde farkına varacaktı bu hakikatin. Gelecekten gelmiş olduğunun idrakiyle önce paniğe, sonra ise sırasıyla telâş, endişe ve son olarak da sevince, neşeye kapılan Dr. Lawgiverz, kendini içinde bulduğu durumdan, yani şimdiki zamanda var olan bir geleceklilik durumundan bir an evvel çıkması gerekeceğinden habersizdi anlatımızın bu aşamasında. Aslında hem önemli ve saygın bir bilimadamı, hem de bilim-kurgu-gerilim romanlarının ölmeden ölümsüzleşen meşhur yazarı Recep Sezgili’in yazdığı bir bilim-kurgu-gerilim romanının başkahramanı olan Dr. Lawgiverz, şimdiki zamanda var olduğu süre içerisinde bitmek bilmez bir deja-vu’nun aynı anda hem öznesi, hem de nesnesi olarak duyumsayacaktı kendini.

Hepimizin takdir edeceği üzere, roman kahramanlarının ete kemiğe bürünüp şimdiki veya gelecek zamanda var olması ne görülmüş bir şeydi, ne de duyulmuş. Lâkin akılda tutulmalıdır ki şu anda bizler de bir romanın içerisindeyiz ve söylemeye gerek bile yoktur ki romanların zamanı gerçek zamandan farklıdır. Romanlar sanal zamanlarda vuku bulan sanal hadiselerden meydana gelen oluşumlar olduğu için elbette ki gerçek zamanlarda gerçekleşen hadiselerden farklı hadiseler ihtiva edecek ve netice itibarı ile de gerçek hayattakinden farklı mantık kurallarının işlerlik kazandığı oluşumlar olacaklardır. Edebiyat ve hayat arasındaki fark konusunda kestiğimiz bu ahkâmlara anlatımızın ilerleyen bölümlerinde yeniden yer vermek üzere şimdilik ara verip Dr. Lawgiverz ile Recep Sezgili arasındaki ilişkinin ayrıntılarına geçecek olursak diyebiliriz ki bu ikisi birbirlerinin ruh ikizi olmaktan ziyade, aynı madeni paranın iki farklı yüzüdürler. Zira Recep Sezgili, Dr. Lawgiverz’i olmak istediği ve/fakat asla olamayacağını bildiği bir karakter olarak kurgulamıştır. Denebilir ki bu ikisi arasındaki ilişki Fight Club(Dövüş Kulübü) filmindeki Tyler Durden ve Anlatıcı(Jack) arasındaki ilişki gibidir. Hatırlayacaksınız orada kendine Jack diye hitap eden Anlatıcı hayatından hiç memnun olmayan, bunalımlı, bastırılmış ve ezik bir tip olarak sürdürdüğü yaşamdan bıkıp usanmış ve olmak istediği fakat olamadığı agresif, kendine güvenen, özgürlükçü, maskülin bir tip olan Tyler Durden’ı yaratmıştı. Tyler Durden, Jack’in alter-ego’su olarak Jack’in ego’sunu yerden yere vuran kapitalist sisteme karşı baş kaldıran ve hatta bununla da kalmayıp adeta savaş açan anarşist kuvvet formunda zuhur ediyordu. Her neyse, işte Dr. Lawgiverz de tıpkı Tyler Durden gibi, Recep Sezgili’nin bastırılmış ve/fakat bendini sığmayıp taşan bir dere gibi şimdiki zamanla gelecek zaman arasındaki duvarı yıkarak Recep Sezgili’nin hayatına nüfuz eden kural tanımaz, yıkıcı kuvetti. İflah olmaz bir nihilist olan Dr. Lawgiverz bir dizi spekülasyonla Recep Sezgili’nin gerçeklik algısını alt-üst edecek ve yıllardır kendisini tüketen kapitalizme karşı savaş açmasını mümkün kılacaktı.

O Ölümsüz Özne

Dikkatli okuyucularımızın gözünden kaçmamış olduğuna yürekten inandığımız üzere Dr. Lawgiverz sık sık derin düşüncelere dalan bir düşün adamıydı. Adı kurgu açısından gereksiz bir üniversitenin felsefe bölümünde ontoloji (varlıkbilim) dersleri veren ve/fakat son zamanlarda “şiddetli ruhsal çalkantılar” geçirmekte olduğu gerekçesiyle askıya alınan bir felsefe doktoruydu. Sonsuzlukla karşı karşıya kalan beynin derin bir sarsıntı geçirmesinin kaçınılmaz olduğunu Kant’tan beri hepimiz biliyoruz. Hatırlanacağı üzere Kant sonsuzluğun sınırına vardığında geri adım atmış ve yazmaya on yıl ara vermişti. Dr. Lawgiverz de tıpkı işte Kant gibi yaşamdan ölüme, kendinde-şey’den sonsuzluğa, ve hatta düşünecek bir özne olmadığı takdirde düşüncenin var olup olamayacağına kadar her şeyi düşünürdü. O’nun hakkında söylenebilecek daha pek çok şey var aslında, ama biz şimdilik tüm bunları bir tarafa bırakıp Dr. Lawgiverz’in kendini hangi felsefi akıma ait hissettiği konusuna yönelteceğiz dikkatimizi.

Dr. Lawgiverz kendini gerçekçi bir spekülatör olarak görüyor ve Spekülatif Gerçekçilik (Speculative Realism) adlı yeni bir felsefi akıma öncülük eden spekülatif gerçekçilerin grubuna ait hissediyordu sevgili okur. Her ne kadar bahse konu spekülatif gerçekçilerin bazıları özellikle adlandırmanın gerçekçilik kısmından pek hoşnut olmasalar da tıpkı bizim gibi onlar da gerçekçilik kelimesini ikâme edecek bir başka sözcüğün yokluğu sebebiyle bu sorunlu adlandırmaya boyun eğmek zorundaydılar. Meselâ Ray Brassier, terimi icat eden kendisi olmasına rağmen son zamanlarda kendisiyle yapılan bir röportajda gerçekçilik (Realism) kelimesinden duyduğu hoşnutsuzluğu açıkça dile getirmiştir.

Anlatımızın bu noktasında etnik kökeni, dini, dili ne olursa olsun bazı okuyucularımızın şu tür sorular sorması kuvvetle muhtemeldir: “Peki ama bir ölümsüz sabah uyanınca ne yapar? Ölümlüler gibi dişlerini fırçalayıp yüzünü mü yıkar? İşeme ve dışkılama işlemlerini gerçekleştirir mi? Yoksa ölümsüzlerin bu tür ihtiyaçları olmaz mı?” Sanırız bu tür sorular sormakta hiçbir sakınca görmeyen meraklı ruhlar bizim ölümsüz diye nitelendirdiğimiz varlığın ne mene bir şey olduğunu idrak etmekte sorun yaşayan okuyucularımıza ait ruhlardır. Sayfalardır anlatmaya çalıştığımız üzere bizim ölümsüzlerimiz fiziksel olarak değil, zihinsel olarak ölümsüz şahsiyetlerdir. Denebilir ki biz bahse konu şahsiyetleri birer ölümsüz olarak nitelendirirken Kant’ın ortaya attığı  kurucu bir yanılsamaya başvurmaktayızdır. Belli ki ölümsüz derken bizim kastettiğimiz varlıkların ortak özelliği, var oluşlarını kurucu bir yanılsama üzerine inşa etmiş olmalarıdır. Ölümlülerin dünyasına birer ölümsüzün gözleriyle bakabilmek için aşkıncı düşünümü bir yaşam biçimi haline getirmiş olan ölümsüzlerin yemek yemeden, su içmeden, uyumadan, işemeden, sıçmadan var olabilmeleri mümkün değildir. Yeri gelmişken belirtmeliyiz ki ölümsüzler fiziksel olarak ölümlülerden farksız olsalar da, bilinç düzeyinde ölümlülerle en ufak bir benzerlikleri yoktur. Tıpkı ölümlüler gibi ölümsüzler de fiziksel olarak yorulurlar, lâkin ölümlülerden farklı olarak ölümsüzlerde zihinsel yorgunluk asla mümkün değildir.

Benim için de muamma olan bir sebepten ötürü bu noktada birinci tekil şahısa geri dönmenin yerinde olacağına kanaat getirdim. Bununla beraber şunu da itiraf etmeliyim ki az önce yanıtlamaya çalıştığım bu basit soruların varlığı ve onları yanıtlamanın zorluğu beni böyle bir roman yazmaya girişmekle son derece çılgınca, gerçekleşmesi neredeyse imkânsız bir işe kalkıştığım düşüncesine sevk ediyor sevgili lânetlenmiş okur. Ama yazmalıyım, yapmalıyım bunu, zira ben Spinoza, Nietzsche, Bergson, Deleuze, Badiou gibi düşünürlerin insanötesi varlık koşulları yaratmak yolunda çıktıkları o meşakkatli ve/fakat bir o kadar da zevkli yolculuğu her ne pahasına olursa olsun sürdürmeye vakfetmiş bir insanım kendimi. Kant’ı aşma çabalarının bir ürünü olan ölümsüzlük teorilerini mercek altına almak suretiyle ölümlülüğün ötesindeki bir varoluş biçiminin hayata geçirilmesi sürecinde son dönemlerde öne çıkan Spekülatif Gerçekçilik adlı felsefi akımın baş aktörleriyle el ele, hatta kol kola yürümeliyim nereye varacağı bilinmeyen, engellerle dolu bu engebeli yolda. Tehlikelerle dolu bu garip yolculuğun bir dizi gerçekçi spekülasyon vasıtasıyla gerçekleşeceğini ise bilmiyorum söylemeye gerek var mı, ama gene de söylüyorum işte, belki vardır diye.   

Bu arada Dr. Lawgiverz ise son derece gerilmiştir. Elbette ki bu gerginliğin sebebi sadece acıkmış olması değildi. Tüm insanların 4.5 yıl içerisinde aynı anda ölecek olmasıydı bahse konu gerginliğin sebebi. Bu noktada belirtmemiz gereken bir başka önemli husus da sadece Dr. Lawgiverz’in değil, dünyadaki tüm insanların son derece gerilmiş olduğu gerçeğidir. İnsanlık o kadar gerilmiştir ki adeta işte evrenin âhengi bozulmuş, kâinata sonsuz bir gerginlik hâkim olmuştur. Astronomlar Samanyolu’nun hareketlerinde bir gariplik sezinlemekte, dünyanın çevresinde yıllardır dönmekte olan ve işlevlerini bir süreden beridir yitirmiş bulunan uydular anlamsız rota değişimleri sergilemektedir. Ünlü filozof Platon’un âleme ibret olsun diye hakikati gökteki yıldızlar arasında ararken önündeki çukuru görmeyip içine düşen düşünürden söz ettiği o anlamlı ankedotu hatırlayarak bakış ve düşüncelerimizi uzaydan dünyaya yöneltecek olursak görürüz ki bir anda gelen bu güneş patlaması haberi insanların büyük bir kısmında tarifi imkânsız bir akıl yitimine, yani çıldırışa, bir başka deyişle delirme tabir edilen ruhsal duruma sebep olmuştur. Nasıl olsa 4.5 yıl içerisinde öleceklerinin idrakiyle insanlar, “ha bugün öldüm, ha yarın,” düşüncesiyle tüm tabuları yıkma ve ahlâki kuralları hiçe sayma, ve tüm normlardan sapma eğilimi içerisine girmiştir. 4.5 yıl içerisinde ölecek olmaları gerçeğine tamamen tezat oluşturacak bir biçimde adeta birer ölümsüz gibi yaşamaya başlayan insanlar aralarındaki tüm ideolojik ve siyasi ayrımları bir çırpıda silip atmış, nihilizmi bir yaşam biçimi olarak benimsemiş ve anarşizmin bayrağını yaşamlarının gönderine çekmiştir. Kaos, karmaşa, anlamsızlık ve sebepsiz şiddet her yerdedir. Bunlara ilâveten, birbirini daha önce hiç görmemiş onlarca insanın bir araya gelerek düzenlediği çılgınca seks partileri günün normu hâline gelmiştir. Tüm bunlar yetmezmiş gibi toplu intiharı bir kurtuluş olarak gören ve bunu kitlelere zorla benimsetmeye çalışan gruplar da türemiştir. Dahası, devletler de bu gidişe bir dur demek için ne bir sebep görmekte, ne de bu yönde bir istek duymaktadır. Bilâkis, devlet adamları da ölümlülüklerinin idrakiyle ayakları yere basan insanlar hâline gelmiş ve herkes gibi birer insan olduklarını hatırlayarak az önce sözünü ettiğimiz seks partilerinde başrollerde yer almaya başlamıştır. Hatta bahse konu seks partileri bazı ülkelerde devlet eliyle düzenlenmeye bile başlanmıştır. Bu acı gerçekten para tabir ettiğimiz illet de nasibini almış ve ölümlülük karşısında önemini yitirerek har vurulup harman savrulmaya başlanmıştır. Sanırız bu noktada kapitalizmin ölümle ilişkisini mercek altına almak yolunda keseceğimiz bazı ahkâmlar konuya açıklık getirecektir. Her ne kadar bazı okuyucularımız, değinmek zorunda olduğumuz bu teorik konuları sıkıcı bulacak olsa da, bizler birtakım siyasi mesajlar vermek kaygısı taşıdığımızı açıkça dile getirmekten çekinmiyoruz. Didaktik olmakla itham edilmek pahasına, kimin söylediği meçhul “gerektiğinde didaktik de olunmalıdır” sözünden hareketle ölümün kapitalizmle ilişkisi konulu bir konferansa yönlendiriyoruz şimdi anlatımızı.

Adı kurgu açısından gereksiz bir üniversitenin devasa kongre merkezinde toplanan ve güneşin sönmek suretiyle insanlığı, hayvanlığı, bitkiliği, nesneliği, hatta işte güneş sistemindeki tüm varlığı yok edeceği yönündeki  iddiayı bir grup kapitalistin kapitalizmin gücüne güç katmak ve eğlence sektörüne ivme kazandırmak maksadıyla ortalığa yaydığına inanan ve dünyadaki bu kaygı verici gidişata kayıtsız kalmamayı seçen bir grup komünistin düzenlediği “Ölüm ve Kapitalizm” adlı konferansın ilk konuşmacısı, akıl ihsan olunmuş her fâninin aklına durgunluk vermesi kuvvetle muhtemel olsa da Dr. Lawgiverz’di ey üstündeki lâneti yazgısı belleyen şaşkın okur. Akla zarar hakikatlerin birbiri ardına zuhruyla kasılan bilinçlerin daha fazla kasılmasına gönlümüz razı olmadığından, Dr. Lawgiverz’in konuşmasının anlatımızın kurgusu açısından önem arz etmeyen yanlarını budayıp, sadece hayati ehemmiyeti haiz bazı noktaları iktibas etmenin yerinde olacağını düşündük. Eminiz ki pek çok okuyucumuz bu kararımızı sevinçle karşılamış, içlerine dolan salakça sevinçle ne yapacaklarını bilmez bir vaziyette taklalar atmaya başlamıştır. Kararımızdan hoşnut olmayan okuyucularımıza ise elimizden herkesi tatmin etmenin mümkün olmadığı gerçeğini bir an olsun akıllarından çıkarmamalarını salık vermekten başka bir şey gelmediğini üzüntüyle belirtmek isteriz. Kendilerine burada sizlerin huzurunda söz veririz ki bir dahaki sefere de şimdi sevinç çığlıkları ve taklalar atan okuyucularımıza vereceğiz aynı salığı. Böylece her iki gruptaki okuyucularımızı da eşit derecede ihya etmiş olacağız sanırız. Her neyse, kendini hangi gruba dahil hissederse hissetsin, hiçbir okuyucumuzu sanrılarımızla meşgul etmek istemediğimiz için lâfı fazla uzatmadan Dr. Lawgiverz’in konferansta sarfettiği ibret verici sözlere geçelim isterseniz şimdi hep birlikte.

Dr. Lawgiverz’den Nihilistik Spekülasyonlar

“Değerli konuklar, saygıdeğer yoldaşlar ve sevgili çocuklar,

Konuşmama başlamadan önce hepinize hoş geldiniz demek istiyorum: Hoşgeldiniz! (Yoğun alkış dalgası….Alkışlar…..Alkış yoğunluğunda azalma…. Tek tük alkış….. Sessizlik). Bildiğiniz gibi bugün burada çok önemli bir konuyu mercek altına almak için toplandık. Düşmanın maskesini düşürmek ve dünyamızda oynanan bu çirkin oyunu sonlandırmak gayesini taşıdığımızı bilmiyorum söylemeye gerek var mı. Ama aranızda aramıza yeni katılmış kişilerin de olabileceğini göz önünde bulundurarak, gene de söylüyorum işte, belki vardır diye.

mad birds (deli kuşlar)  böyle küçük bir karenin içine insan dahil hangi hayvanı hapsetseler delirirdi zaten… benim anlamadığım neden akıl ihsan olunmuş bir fâninin, yani bir insanın, böyle bir gif yapmak ihtiyacı duyduğudur… belki de biz bunları yazıp bu iletişimi kuralım diye yapmıştır, kim bilir… aslında anlamsız görünen her şey biz hakkında konuşmaya başladığımız anda anlam kazanır, her ne kadar o şey hakkında son derece anlamsız lâflar sarfetsek de… belki de bir şeyin anlam kazanabilmesinin temel koşulu o şeyin maddi veya manevi dünyada bir etki yaratmasıdır, yarattığı etki hiçbir amaca hizmet etmese de… bildğimiz kadarıyla her etki bir amaca hizmet eder ama, hizmet edilen amacın ne olduğunu biz ölümlüler bilsek de bilmesek de… kendinde-şey (in-itself) olarak bir nesnenin anlamlı olması mümkün müdür acaba? meselâ yazılmış ve/fakat bir yayınevinin deposunda veya bir kütüphanenin ambarında tozlanıp pirelere, güvelere yem olmaya mahkûm olmuş bir kitap, yani hiç kimsenin okuması mümkün olmayan bir kitap kendi içinde, yani dış dünyadan bağımsız bir anlam ihtiva eder mi? hakkında konuşulmayan şeyler var mıdırlar? elbette ki vardırlar, ama bu varlık anlamlı mıdır? anlamlıysa bu anlamın kaynağı nedir? anlamın kaynağı var mıdır? varsa bu kaynak dil midir? yoksa bu kaynak yok mudur? yoksa bu kaynak dil midir? dilse bu kaynak sanal mıdır? sanalsa bu kaynak var mıdır? varsa bu kaynak sanal mıdır? sanalsa bu kaynak sonsuzluğun ta kendisi midir? öyleyse sonsuzluk hiçlikle aynı şey midir? aynı şeyse hiçlik varlık mıdır? varlıksa hiçlik yok mudur? yoksa hiçlik var mıdır? varsa hiçlik yok mudur? varsa da hiçlik yoksa da hiçlik etc…etc… bu gif ve bu kuşlar hakkında bilmiyorum başka ne söylenebilir, söylenebilirse eğer bir şey…  (via lucyphermann, sinatrablue)       

Her neyse, nesnelerin sadece birbirleriyle bağlantıları bağlamında bir anlam kazanmasının şart olmadığını, bilâkis bunun son derece tesadüfi 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. Zamanın ve uzamın birbirine dönüşerek tarih-dışı bir var oluşun, yani bir ölümsüzün, zuhur etmesini mümkün kılacak alanı yaratması ise 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 Felsefesi’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 bağlılaşımcılığın(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 sönerek 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.

İnsanın ölümlü bir varlık olduğu ise, 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: 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.

Ölümlülüğü sömürmek suretiyle gücüne güç katan liberal-demokratik-militarist-kapitalizmin ölümün ortadan kalkmasıyla kendi içine dönük bir patlamaya, çökmeye(contraction) 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 içkin olduğu komünist-gerçekçiliğe doğru bir yönelim hem mümkündür, hem de gerekli.”  

Yokluk Olarak Varlık

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? İşte bu soruyu yanıtlamak maksadıyla, 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 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…

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, çünkü O bir ironisttir. 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. Belli ki bu kitabın ironist yazarının kavramsal personasının, 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. Öncelikle Kant ve Hegel’in felsefeleri arasındaki benzerliklerden ziyade farklılıklara değinmek istiyor O. Daha sonra ise konuyu güneşin 4.5 yıl içerisinde söneceği yönündeki spekülasyonlara bağlamaya çalışacak büyük ihtimalle. O, lâfı fazla uzatmadan diyebilir ki 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.

Her ne kadar ölümsüzlük düşüncesini hayata geçirebilmek sinir ve damar sisteminin bozguna uğratılmasını gerektirir gibi gözükse de, işin aslı hiç de öyle değildir. Zira az önce de belirtildiği üzere ölümsüz şahsiyetin ölümsüzlüğü fiziksel anlamda sonsuz olmak anlamına gelmekten ziyade, ruhsal veya şuursal anlamda sonsuzluğu idrak edebilecek bilinç düzeyine ulaşmış olmak demektir. Fâni bir bedende, fâni olmayan bir düşünceyi barındırabilecek kudrete erişmek olarak da nitelendirebileceğimiz bu var oluş tarzı özellikle 20. Yüzyıl sonu ve 21. Yüzyıl başında Deleuze ve Badiou gibi düşünürlerin kafasını kurcalamış spekülatif bir teoriler demetinin ürünüdür. Benim, olmayan şeyleri varmış gibi gösterme eğilimi içinde oluşumun sebebi ise söz konusu olmayan şeylerin var olduğunu düşünmemdir. Dikkat ederseniz cümlemi “olmayan şeylerin var olduğunu bilmemdir,” yerine “olmayan şeylerin var olduğunu düşünmemdir,” diyerek noktaladım. Zira ben bilmek ve düşünmek mastarları arasında dipsiz bir uçurum olduğu kanaatindeyim. Dipsiz bir uçurumun varlığından söz etmiş olmamın maksadı, siz de takdir edersiniz ki, olmayan bir şeyin var olmasının ne anlama geldiğini bir metafor aracılığıyla göstermek arzusunu taşıyor oluşumdur. Elbette ki benim sözünü ettiğim her şey salt benim tarafımdan söz konusu edildikleri için kanıtları kendilerinden menkûl hakikatler değildir. Bir metafor olarak “dipsiz uçurum” olgusu boşlukla dolu bir varlığı ifade eder. Fakat şu da bir gerçek ki dünyada dipsiz uçurumlar namevcuttur. Dünyada olmayan olguların varlığından söz edebilmemiz bile fiziksel dünya koşullarında var olması imkânsız olan pek çok olgunun düşünsel düzlemde mümkün olabileceğinin göstergesidir. Zira düşünce doğası gereği metafiziksel bir olaydır ve vazifesi maddi bir olgu olan dil vasıtasıyla fiziksel dünyada boşluklar oluşturmaktır. Tabii burada dil vasıtasıyla derken sakın dili ve aklı araçsallaştırdığımızı sanmayın. Aklıda tutun ki burada bahse konu düşüncenin fiziksel dünyada dil vasıtasıyla yarattığı şey boşluktan başka bir şey değildir. Boşluk yaratmaksa bizim projemiz bağlamında bir amaç olmaktan ziyade bir araçtır. Yani buradaki amaç dilin araçsallaştırılmasına karşı dili boşluk yaratmakta kullanılan bir araca dönüştürmek suretiyle amaçla aracın rollerini değiştirerek kendilerinin ötekisine, yani birbirlerine dönüşmelerini sağlamaktır. Birbirlerine dönüşen amaç ile aracın birbirlerini yok etmesinin kaçınılmaz olduğunu söylemeye ise bilmiyoruz gerek var mı. Varılmak istenen nokta şudur: 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.

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. Bunu da ancak bir ironist, aynı zamanda hem kendini aşan, hem de kendine içkin anlam dünyalarına kapılar aralayan ironisiyle yapabilir, ki nitekim işte yapmıştır da zaten.

the door of perception (via lucyphermann)

Notlar

[1] Bu metin henüz yazım aşamasında olan yeni kitabımın ilk hâlidir. Büyük ihtimalle 2-3 yıllık bir süreç içerisinde dallanıp budaklanacak, serpilip açılan bir halı gibi yayılacaktır önümüze. Söylemeye gerek var mı bilmiyorum ama adı bile henüz belli olmayan yeni kitabın bir özeti niteliğini taşıyan söz konusu metin son derece yoğun, sıkıştırılmış bir taslaktan öteye gitmemektedir. Okuyucudan ricam metni bitmiş bir ürün olarak değil, inşası süren bir yapıt olarak gören gözlerle okumasıdır. C.E.

[2] José Saramago, Lizbon Kuşatmasının Tarihi, çev. İpek Babacan (İş Bankası Kültür: İstanbul, 1989), 178.

Is Deleuze a Speculative Realist?

At first it might seem he is. If Bruno Latour is on the right track with respect to speculative realism, as Graham Harman and others would argue, then it might seem that Deleuze is on the right track as well for there are a number of areas where their philosophies converge in significant ways – especially concerning events, multiplicity, and their embrace of an ontological monism. I cover much of this in Deleuze’s Hume. It would also seem that De… Read More

via Aberrant Monism

Mark Fisher has been writing an acclaimed blog as k-punk for some years now. Focussing on culture, especially music and literature, and politics. His writing also appears in the New Statesman, Frieze, The Wire, Sight and Sound and FACT. A founder member of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, he now teaches at Goldsmiths University and the City Literary Institute in London.

In November last year he published his first book Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, and also edited a collection of texts on the death of Michael Jackson, The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson, both published with Zer0 Books.

Rowan Wilson: Your blog, k-punk, is one of the leading blogs for cultural analysis. When did you first start writing it and why did you start?

Mark Fisher: Thank you. I started it in 2003. At the time, I was working as a Philosophy lecturer in a Further Education college in Kent – I reflect on some of my experiences there in Capitalist Realism. I was then quite badly depressed – not because of teaching, which I enjoyed, but for a whole series of long-term reasons – and I started blogging as a way of getting back into writing after the traumatic experience of doing a PhD. PhD work bullies one into the idea that you can’t say anything about any subject until you’ve read every possible authority on it. But blogging seemed a more informal space, without that kind of pressure. Blogging was a way of tricking myself back into doing serious writing. I was able to con myself, thinking, “it doesn’t matter, it’s only a blog post, it’s not an academic paper”. But now I take the blog rather more seriously than writing academic papers. I was actually only aware of blogs for a short while before I started mine. But I could quite quickly see that the blog network around Simon Reynolds’ blog [see the RSB interview with Reynolds] – which was the first network I started to read – fulfilled many of the functions that the music press used to. But it wasn’t just replicating the old music press; there were also sorts of strange, idiosyncratic blogs which couldn’t have existed in any other medium. I saw that – contrary to all the clichés – blogs didn’t have to be online diaries: they were a blank space in which writers could pursue their own lines of interest (something that it‘s increasingly difficult for writers to do in print media, for a number of reasons).

RW: You’re almost one of the elder statespeople of blogging now. How has it changed since you started?

MF: Blogging networks shift all the time; new blogs enter the network, older ones fall away; new networks constitute themselves. One of the most significant developments was the introduction of comments; a largely unfortunate change in my view. In the early days of blogs, if you wanted to respond to a post, you had to reply on your own blog, and if you didn’t have a blog, you had to create one. Comments tend to reduce things to banal sociality, with all its many drawbacks.

Yet blogs continue to do things that can’t be done anywhere else: look at the way that Speculative Realism has propagated through blogs. Originally coined as term of convenience for the work of the philosophers Ray Brassier, Graham Harman, Iain Hamilton Grant and Quentin Meillassoux, Speculative Realism now has an online unlife of its own. This isn’t just commentary on existing philosophical positions; it’s a philosophy that is actually happening on the web. Graham has his own blog, Object-Oriented Philosophy, but there are a whole range of Speculative Realism-related blogs, including Speculative Heresy and Planomenology. Reid Kane of Plamomenology has gone so far as to argue that Speculative Realism is “the first avatar of distributed cognition”, that, in other words, there is a natural fit between SR and the online medium.

RW: You were one of the co-founders of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU), described by Simon Reynolds as the academic equivalent of Apocalypse Now’s Colonel Kurtz. Who did you form it with and what was its purpose?

MF: The main driving forces behind it were Sadie Plant and Nick Land. But Sadie Plant left quite quickly so the CCRU as it developed was much more shaped by Nick Land. Nick’s 1990s texts – which are to be issued in a collected edition this year, by Urbanomic, who publish the Collapse journal – are incredible. Far from the dry databasing of much academic writing or the pompous solemnity of so much continental philosophy, Nick’s texts were astonishing theory-fictions. They weren’t distanced readings of French theory so much as cybergothic remixes which put Deleuze and Guattari on the same plane as films such as Apocalypse Now and fictions such as Gibson’s Neuromancer.

Jungle was crucial to the Ccru. What the Ccru was about was capturing, (and extrapolating) this specifically British take on cyberculture, in which music was central. Ccru was trying to do with writing what Jungle, with its samples from such as Predator, Terminator and Blade Runner, was doing in sound: “text at sample velocity”, as Kodwo Eshun put it.

RW: The writing of the Ccru seems very different to your current style. Are you still involved with the Ccru – and indeed is it still operating?

MF: It was never formally disbanded but then again it was never formally constituted. It’s odd because, it’s only a decade on that the stuff is starting to get published in book form. As I said, Nick’s texts are just about to be published. Steve Goodman (aka Kode9) has just had his book Sonic Warfarepublished on MIT Press. As for the change of style, I suppose a number of things happened. One was the slowing of the UK cyberculture that had inspired the Ccru throughout the 90s. Gradually, the exorbitant hypotheses of the Ccru seemed to have less purchase on a culture that increasingly seemed to correspond more with Jameson’s ideas of retrospection and pastiche. In the 90s, it was possible to oppose a vibrant cyberculture to the malaise which Jameson identified. But in the 00s, the blight of postmodernism spread everywhere.

Also, I found that, as I started teaching regularly, and as I got used to writing for an audience – and there’s no form of writing that makes you as aware of having an audience as blogging; print publications just don’t compare – I rediscovered rhetoric, argument and engagement. The exhilaration of the Ccru-style was its uncompromising blizzard of jargon, text as a tattoo of intensities to which you just had to submit. But it’s hard to maintain that kind of speed-intensity for longer writing projects; and I found that I enjoyed producing writing that was expositorier and which tried to engage the reader rather than blitz them. I like Zizek’s line that the idiot he is trying to explain philosophy to is himself; I feel the same. Much of my writing now is me trying to explain things to/for myself.

There were also political schisms. The Ccru defined itself against the sclerotic stranglehold that a certain moralizing Old Left had on the Humanities academy. There was a kind of exuberant anti-politics, a ‘technihilo’ celebration of the irrelevance of human agency, partly inspired by the pro-markets, anti-capitalism line developed by Manuel DeLanda out of Braudel, and from the section of Anti-Oedipus that talks about marketization as the “revolutionary path”. This was a version of what Alex Williams has called “accelerationism”, but it has never been properly articulated as a political position; the tendency is to fall back into a standard binary, with capitalism and libertarianism on one side and the state and centralization on the other.

But working in the public sector in Blairite Britain made me see that neoliberal capitalism didn’t fit with the accelerationist model; on the contrary, pseudo-marketization was producing the pervasive, decentralized bureaucracy I describe in Capitalist Realism. My experiences as a teacher and as trade union activist combined with a belated encounter with Zizek – who was using some of the same conceptual materials as Ccru (the Freudian death drive; pulp culture, technology), but giving them a leftist spin – to push me towards a different political position. I guess what I’m interested in now is in synthesizing some of the interests and methods of the Ccru with a new leftism. Speculative Realism has returned to some of the areas that the Ccru was interested in. What I’m hoping will happen in the next decade is that a new kind of theory will develop that emerges from people who have been deep-cooked in post-Fordist capitalism, who take cyberspace for granted and who lack nostalgia for the exhausted paradigms of the old left.

RW: One of the most exciting things to happen in publishing last year was the development of the Zer0 Books imprint. Can you explain how that came about and the purpose of the project?

MF: The imprint was set up by the novelist Tariq Godard. He asked Nina Power and me if we’d like to do books, and we suggested a range of other people. What we wanted was to produce the kind of books we’d want to read ourselves, but which weren’t being published anywhere. In mainstream media, the space that had drawn Tariq and myself towards theory in the first place – the music press, areas of the broadcast media – had disappeared. Effectively, that kind of discourse had been driven into exile online. So part of what Zer0 was about was harvesting the work that has been developed on the blog networks. Zer0 is about establishing a para-space, between theory and popular culture, between cyberspace and the university. The Zer0 books are a reminder of what ought to be obvious, but which the imbecilic reductionism of neoliberal media would like us to forget: serious writing doesn’t have to be opaque and incomprehensible, and popular writing doesn’t have to be facile.

RW: Your first book, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, was published by Zer0 in November. Why do you think that capitalism, even in the wake of the financial crisis, has such a grip on our consciousness?

MF: I’m not sure that it has a grip on our consciousness so much as on our unconscious. It shapes the limits of what we can imagine. It does so because it has enjoyed 20 years of unchallenged domination, blitzing our nervous systems with its intoxicants, paralysing thought. Put at its simplest, capitalist realism is the widespread idea that capitalism is the only “realistic” political economic system. The response to the financial crisis only reinforced this belief – it was (on every level) unthinkable that the banks could be allowed to crash. The problem is imagining an alternative that anyone believes could be actually attained. Which isn’t to say that an alternative can’t ever come about; in fact, after the financial crisis, we’re in the bizarre situation at the moment where everything – very much including the continuation of the status quo – looks impossible.  But this is already an improvement from how things seemed only two years ago. The financial crisis forced capitalist realism to change its form. The old neoliberal story was no longer viable. But Capital has not yet cobbled together much of a new narrative, or come up with any economic solution to the problems that led to the crash in the first place. It’s as if capitalism has suffered its own version of shock therapy.

RW: How is your argument different from that put forward by Fredric Jameson in his work on the culture of postmodernism?

MF: Well, as I say in the book, in many ways what I’m calling “capitalist realism” can be contained under the rubric of Jameson’s theorization of postmodernism. Yet the very persistence and ubiquity of the processes that Jameson identifies – the destruction of a sense of history, the supersession of novelty by pastiche – meant that they have changed in kind. Postmodernism is now no longer a tendency in culture; it has subsumed practically all culture. Capitalist realism, you might say, is what happens when postmodernism is naturalized. After all, we’ve now got a generation of young adults who have known nothing but global capitalism and who are accustomed to culture being pastiche and recapitulation.

RW: In the book you move from describing the problems of capitalist society to how it is making us mentally ill. What do you think are the central lasting effects of neoliberalism on our psyches and, with its collapse, how do you see these unravelling?

MF: Neoliberalism installs a perpetual anxiety – there is no security; your position and status are under constant review. It’s no wonder that, as Oliver James shows in The Selfish Capitalist, depression is so prevalent in neoliberalized countries. Widespread mental illness is one of the hidden costs of neoliberal capitalism; stress has been privatized. If you’re depressed because of overwork, that’s between you and your brain chemistry!

I do think that the financial crisis killed neoliberalism as a political project – but it doesn’t need to be alive in order to continue to dominate our minds, work and culture. Even though neoliberalism now lacks any forward momentum, it still controls things by default. So, sadly, I don’t see the deleterious psychic effects of neoliberalism waning any time in the immediate future.

RW:You identify the madness of managerial bureaucracy, the incessant and pointless ‘auditing culture’, in contemporary public services, specifically education. You discuss how this auditing culture is now, along with capitalism’s PR network, a new big Other, a replacement for God. It’s the ideological matrix that we all cynically dismiss (not just privately – this cynicism is now the accepted public language; see the Guardian’s G2 section for daily examples) but nonetheless remains the binding authority. Why are we not simply able to shrug it off?

MF: PR is not limited any more to specific promotional activities – as I say in the book, under capitalism, all that is solid melts into PR. In so-called “immaterial” labour, the effect of auditing is not to improve actual performance but to generate a representation of better performance. It’s a familiar effect that anyone subject to New Labour’s targets will know all too well.

Neoliberalism reproduces itself through cynicism, through people doing things they “don’t really believe”. It’s a question of power. People go along with auditing culture and what I call “business ontology” not necessarily because they agree with it, but because that is the ruling order, “that’s just how things are now, and we can’t do anything about it”. That kind of sentiment is what I mean by capitalist realism. And it isn’t merely queitsm; it’s true that almost no-one working in public services is likely to be sacked if they get a poor performance review (they will just be subject to endless retraining); but they might well be sacked if they start questioning the performance review system itself or refusing to co-operate with it.

RW: So now we move from the critique to the positive proposals. In an interview with Matthew Fuller for Mute you tentatively suggest that the left needs to come up with a new big Other, one that is more representative of Rousseau’s ‘general will’. How is this to be distinguished from the capitalist big Other and how would it be prevented from becoming reified, a new system of mystical dominance?

RW: Reification isn’t a problem per se; in fact, it’s something we should hope for. Evan Calder Williams, whose book Combined and Uneven Apocalypse is coming out on Zer0, talks of an “anti-capitalist reification”, and I think that’s what we need to develop. It’s capitalism that poses as being anti-reification; it’s capitalism that presents itself as having dissolved all illusions and exposed the underlying reality of things. Part of what I’m arguing in Capitalist Realism is that this is an ideological sleight of hand; it’s precisely neoliberal capitalism’s ostensible demystifications (its reduction of everything to the supposedly self-evident category of the free individual) that allow all kinds of strange, quasi-theological entities to rule our lives. But I don’t think the aim should be to replace capitalism’s fake anti-reification with a “real” anti-reification. Reification can’t be entirely eliminated. I take this to be one of the important lessons that Lacanian psychoanalysis has to teach. Being a speaking subject at all involves a minimal reification; the big Other is coterminous with language itself. But this is very far from being a problem for the left. It’s the left that needs to insist on the reality of something in excess of individuals, whether you call it the “general will”, the “public interest”, or something else. When Mrs Thatcher famously denied the existence of society, she was echoing Max Stirner’s claim that all such abstractions are “spooks”. But we can’t ever rid ourselves of these incorporeal entities – neoliberalism certainly hasn’t. As I argue in Capitalist Realism, neoliberalism hasn’t killed the big Other – for who is the consumer of PR (which no actual empirical individual believes) if not the big Other? The point now – and I would affirm this forcefully, not tentatively – is to invent a leftist big Other. This doesn’t mean reviving authoritarianism; there is no necessary relation between the big Other and a strong leader. On the contrary, in fact, authoritarianism happens when there is a confusion between the big Other (as virtuality) and an empirical individual. What we need are institutions and agents that will stand in for – but cannot be equated with – a leftist big Other.

RW: You talk about the re-formatting of memory that is a symptom of capitalist realism, where history can be altered almost instantly (as in a Philip K. Dick novel) as we stand agog before the supposed ceaseless innovation of capitalism. You were also one of those to start using the concept ‘hauntology’, the idea that there was a cultural meme that acknowledged the collapse of a moment and picks through the remains for the lost futures buried within (it’s probably fair to say that Owen Hatherley’s Militant Modernism, the first Zer0 Book, is operating within this terrain). Similarly, we are in a political landscape littered with ‘ideological rubble’ (as you quote Alex Williams). My suspicion is that for you the ‘moment’ that has collapsed is the politics of ’68, one that was perhaps guilty of the re-formatting of history and memory in its own way, before many of its ideas were taken up by a post-Fordist capitalism. So what is the detritus that you are picking through? What of the discarded remnants of left politics would you dust off? And is it possible to give old ideas new momentum?

MF: I would say that, in many ways, the politics of ’68 haven’t collapsed enough. ’68 is a spectre which still hangs over theory. Yet the forces which ’68 railed against no longer exist; there is no Stalinist Party or State that we need to blow apart with a Cultural Revolution. Which isn’t to say that we should want to return to Stalinist authoritarianism, or that it is possible to do so; the oscillation between these two options is the sign of a failure of political imagination. It’s necessary to go all the way through post-Fordism, to keep looking ahead, especially at times when there seems to be nothing ahead of us. Part of the importance of the concept of hauntology is the idea of lost futures, of things which never happened but which could have. On one level, late capitalism is indeed all about ceaseless reinvention, nothing is solid, everything is mutable; but on another level, it is about recapitulation, homogeneity, minimally different commodities. Some of Jameson’s best passages are about this strange antinomy. Deleuze and Guattari, too, emphasize the way in which capitalism is a bizarre mix of the ultra-modern and the archaic. The failure of the future haunts capitalism: after 1989, capitalism’s victory has not consisted in it confidently claiming the future, but in denying that the future is possible.  All we can expect, we have been led to believe, is more of the same – but on higher resolution screens with faster connections. Hauntology, I think, expresses dissatisfaction with this foreclosure of the future.

So it’s not now a question of giving old ideas new momentum, it’s a matter of fighting over the meaning of the words “new” and “modern”. Neoliberalism has made it seem self-evident that “modernization” means managerialism, increased exploitation of workers, outsourcing etc. But of course this isn’t self-evident: the neoliberals fought a long campaign on many fronts in order to impose that definition. And now neoliberalism itself is a discredited relic – albeit, as I argued above, one that still dominates our lives, but only by default now. Part of the battle now will be to ensure that neoliberalism is perceived to be defunct. I think that’s already happening. There is a change in the cultural atmosphere, small at the moment, but it will increase. What Jim McGuigan calls “cool capitalism”, the culture of swaggering business and conspicuous consumption that dominated the last decade, already looks as if it belongs to a world that is dead and gone. After the financial crisis, all those television programmes about selling property and the like became out of date overnight. These things aren’t trivial; they have provided the background noise which capitalist realism needed in order to naturalise itself. The financial crisis has weakened the corporate elite – not materially so much as ideologically. And, by the same token, it has given confidence to those opposed to the ruling order. I’m sure that the university occupations are the signs of a growing militancy. We need to take advantage of this new mood. There’s nothing old fashioned about the idea of rational organisation of resources, or that public space is important. (The failure to rationally organise natural resources is now evident to everyone; and the consequences of letting the concept of public space decline are equally obvious to anyone living in Britain, with its violent crime and drunkenness, both of which are symptoms of a kind of despair that is as unacknowledged under capitalist realism as it is ubiquitous). Similarly, what is intrinsically “modern” about putting workers under intolerable stress? The pseudonymous postal worker Roy Mayall put this very well in his LRB blog:

We used to be told that there were three elements to the postal trade: the business, the customers and the staff, and that all were equally important. These days we are clearly being told that only the business matters. So now the ‘modernisers’ are moving in. They are young, thrusting, in-your-face and they think they know all the answers. According to them, the future is the application of new technology within the discipline of the market. But the market doesn’t tell us what to do: people tell us what to do. The ‘market’ is essentially a ploy by which one group of people’s interests are imposed on the rest of us. The postal trade is at the front line of a battle between people’s needs and the demands of corporations to make ever increasing profits. That’s what they mean by ‘modernisation’, and it’s not ‘nostalgia’ to remind ourselves that things used to be different.

But the fight will only be won when we can say with confidence, not only that things used to be different in the past, but that they can be different in the future too. I’m hoping that, before long, the neoliberal era will be seen for what it was: a barbarous anti-Enlightenment atavism, a temporary interruption of a process of egalitarian modernization.

RW: At the end of last year you edited a collection of essays, The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson, brought out almost at the speed of John Blake Publishing! What was so important about Michael Jackson’s death that made you put such energy into this project?

MF: Yes, it’s rapid-response theory! There’s no doubt that Jackson’s death arrived at a punctual moment. A whole thirty year reality system had just collapsed with the bank bail-outs. Obama had been elected. There was no-one who personified that thirty year period more than Michael Jackson. In the few days after Jackson died, I found myself watching his videos over and over again. I surprised myself by moved from a position of detached cynicism to feeling increasingly sad. There was something in those videos – particularly the Off The Wall clips – which afterwards disappeared from Jackson personally and from the culture in general. So I listened to Off The Wall and “Billie Jean” obsessively. I probably listened to “Billie Jean” forty times, but it was like listening to it for the first time; there were depths to it I’d never got to before. I wrote a post on my blog which elicited some positive responses; and it struck me that the network around Zer0 – which includes many of the world’s music writers as well as theorists – was in an ideal position to produce a book that could deal with MJ as a symptom. Which isn’t to say that the book is some desiccated analysis that doesn’t engage with the sensuous qualities of Jackson’s music – there are some wonderful descriptions of the tracks and Jackson’s dancing. The book was put together very quickly, but I’m extremely pleased with the results. It was heartening to see what music writers can do when you give them space and let them pursue their interests. There are some pieces in the book – such as Chris Roberts’ and Ian Penman’s – that are so sui generis that it is difficult to imagine them appearing anywhere else.

RW: You’ve had a busy year, what with the blog, teaching, finishing a stint as reviews editor at The Wire, conference papers, marriage, Zer0 and the publication of two books – is it time for a rest now or will 2010 be just as busy?

MF: This is not the time for a rest. On a personal level, a rest is impossible. Most of what I do doesn’t make me much money, so I have to keep working at a furious rate to keep my head above water. On a wider cultural and political level, this is a highly exciting time, not a moment to be convalescing. This year, in addition to the teaching, blogging, freelancing and editing for Zer0, I will be putting out Ghosts Of My Life, which will bring together my writings on hauntology and lost futures; in some ways, it’s the other half of Capitalist Realism. There’s another big project that I’m involved with which I have high hopes for, but we’re not ready to go public on that yet.

RW: And finally, I hope it’s not too late to ask what were your favourite books of last year?

MF: Apart from the Zer0 books – and I’ve almost certainly forgotten something really important – they would be:

Fredric Jameson, Valences Of The Dialectic. A genuinely monumental work that I expect to be referring to for many years.
Graham Harman, Prince Of Networks. A stunning reinterpretation of Bruno Latour’s work that is also Graham’s most lucid account yet of his object-oriented philosophy
Jodi Dean, Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics. Jodi’s sharp analysis of the impasses of the left is also a kind of requiem for much the 2.0 bluster of the last decade.
Slavoj Zizek, First As Tragedy, Then As Farce. Much more focused than some of Zizek’s recent books, this was a reminder of his supreme relevance to the current conjuncture.

RW: Thanks Mark.

Rowan Wilson (22/02/2010)
RSB-ROBOT
Copyright © 2002-2010 http://www.readysteadybook.com.

Speculations I

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Table of Contents

Editorial – Paul Ennis

Articles

Science-Laden Theory: Outlines of an Unsettled Alliance – Fabio Gironi
Thinking Against Nature: Nature, Ideation, and Realism between Lovecraft and Schelling – Ben Woodard
To Exist Is To Change: A Friendly Disagreement With Graham Harman On Why Things Happen – Michael Austin
Interviews with Graham Harman, Jane Bennett, Tim Morton, Ian Bogost, Levi Bryant and Paul Ennis – Petter Gratton

Position Papers

Nomological Disputation: Alain Badiou and Graham Harman on Objects – Nathan Coombs
Response to Nathan Coombs – Graham Harman
Networkologies: A Manifesto, Section I – Christopher Vitale

Book Reviews

Deleuze/Guattari & Ecology edited by Bernd Herzogenrath – Adrian Ivakhiv
The Ecological Thought by Tim Morton – Petter Gratton with a response by Tim Morton
After the Postsecular and the Postmodern: New Essays in Continental Philosophy of Religion edited by Anthony Paul Smith and Daniel Whistler – Austin Smidt

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

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…A remark on Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude (after Colletti)

This paper seeks to explore a very stark and simple question elicited by Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude: are materialism and speculation compatible? In order to outline a response I will take what might initially seem a somewhat arbitrary detour through a seemingly disparate line of thought, namely that of the Italian anti-Hegelian Marxist Lucio Colletti, focussing in particular on his 1969 Marxism and Hegel – a book which in its time had a remarkable impact on the discussion of historical and dialectical materialism. By means of this theoretical contrast, I will try to elucidate what appear to me as some of the stakes of Meillassoux’s powerful book. In this regard my guiding question will open onto some subsidiary ones, two of them being of particular significance: ‘Is non-metaphysical speculation possible?’ and ‘What is the difference between realism and materialism (and indeed between these two and naturalism)?’ In the background of these questions lies the issue of demarcation – especially the three-way demarcation between science, philosophy and ideology. The contrast with a line of inquiry within twentieth-century Marxism which bears a number of affinities with Meillassoux’s proposal is also significant, to my mind, because it allows us to address one of the strong rhetorical gestures that lends this short book its polemical, and one might even say political character, to the extent that can speak of a politics immanent to philosophy as a Kampfplatz, a battlefield, a Kantian image dear to Althusser. This gesture involves enlisting a speculative materialism against the pernicious extra-philosophical effects of correlationism, encapsulated by the notion of fideism. When it comes to these arguments, principally rehearsed in Chapter 2 of After Finitude, I think it is fair to say, in terms of the aforementioned issue of demarcation, that Meillassoux is engaging in an ideological struggle founded on the specific demarcation between philosophy and science, as the two relate to the questions of necessity and belief. Speculative materialism is here also an ideological operation, aimed at terminating correlationism’s collusion with irrationalism (‘Dialectical Materialism and Irrationalism’, incidentally, was the subtitle of Colletti’s book).

Meillassoux brings his investigation into explicitly contact with the issue of ideology when he characterizes speculative materialism as an approach that does away with any ‘dogmatic metaphysics’, as a rejection of real necessity and sufficient reason grounded in the following operation: ‘to reject dogmatic metaphysics means to reject all real necessity, and a fortiori to reject the principle of sufficient reason, as well as the ontological argument, which is the keystone that allows the system of real necessity to close in upon itself’. He goes on to declare that ‘such a refusal of dogmatism furnishes the minimal condition for every critique of ideology, insofar as an ideology cannot be identified with just any variety of deceptive representation, but is rather any form of pseudo-rationality whose aim is to establish that what exists as a matter of fact exists necessarily’ (33-4). At bottom, Meillassoux wishes to combine and revitalise two aspects of the Enlightenment critique of metaphysics and religion. On the one hand, a speculative materialism is aimed at undermining the dogmatism of necessary entities, the dogmatism of classical metaphysics, rationalism included. On the other, speculative materialism is targeted against the way in which correlationism makes any belief equally legitimate by rejecting the absoluteness of reality (i.e. by making the archi-fossil unthinkable). But this entails that the critique of metaphysics not be a deflationary, relativist or conventionalist critique, in other words that it not be a correlationist critique. The brilliance (but as I will suggest also the problematic character) of Meillassoux’s enterprise stems from the manner in which he articulates the two seemingly antinomic requirements of anti-dogmatism and speculation. Accordingly, as he writes ‘we must uncover an absolute necessity that does not reinstate any form of absolute necessary entity’, thus demarcating absolutising from absolutist thought, and speculation from metaphysics. This requires resisting what Meillassoux calls the ‘de-absolutizing implication’, which posits that ‘if metaphysics is obsolete, so is the absolute’ (34). Kantianism, or, in Meillassoux’s vocabulary ‘weak correlationism’, is partially responsible for this, though the fact that it maintains an uncorrelated non-contradictory real as thinkable entails that it does not harbour the same irrationalist consequences as strong correlationism, especially in the latter’s Heideggerian or Wittgensteinian varieties. It is in discussing strong correlationism that Meillassoux attempt to infuse speculative materialism with the polemical spirit of the radical Enlightenment is particularly in evidence, leading to the formulation of what we could call an absolute Enlightenment. Meillassoux’s indictment of strong correlationism as a new obscurantism, as a kind of carte blanche for any and all superstitions centres on the category of facticity. The latter designates those structural invariants or transcendental parameters which govern a given world or domain of correlation without themselves being open to rational explanation, deduction or derivation. In this respect, facticity is a form of reflexive ignorance. In Meillassoux’s words, it ‘consists in not knowing why the correlational structure has to be thus’ (39). Facticity is here synonymous with finitude and with a form of anti-foundationalism whose converse, as Meillassoux writes, ‘is that nothing can be said to be absolutely impossible, not even the unthinkable’. Strong correlationism generates a form of philosophically-vouchsafed permissiveness, which makes it impossible to establish the very criteria that might make it possible to ‘disqualify’ irrational discourses. As he notes, while weak correlationism had done away with naïve realism, strong correlationism further undoes a notion of the absolute by pitting the facticity of the correlation against any speculative idealism.

It is the complicity of strong correlationism with a return of religiosity that lends Meillassoux’s speculative denunciation its ideological urgency. Its ‘contemporary predominance’, he writes, is ‘intimately connected to the immunity from the constraints of conceptual rationality which religious belief currently seems to enjoy’ (43). According to After Finitude, we live in a time where the ideological hegemony of strong correlationist philosophies, with their assertion of a facticity beyond explanation, their dumb wonderment at things as they are, has revoked any of the rational instruments available for refuting or dismissing irrational beliefs. Intriguingly, and I’ll return to this when I move to Colletti, for Meillassoux correlationist irrationalism is founded on its termination of the Parmenidean identity of being and thought, the consequence that it draws from facticity that ‘being and thinking must be thought as capable of being wholly other’ (44). From such a vantage point, is impossible to rule out the radical incommensurability between the in-itself and thought. What is the consequence of this? That thought’s claim to think the absolute is drastically withdrawn but irrational absolutes remain, indeed proliferate. Hence the basically unchallenged contemporary sway of a sceptically permissive and pluralistic ‘fideism of any belief whatsoever’. It is not clear whether Meillassoux actually thinks that correlationism has played a causal part in abetting the current return of the religious, but he does draw out very neatly the manner in which it implies it. In his own words:

The end of metaphysics, understood as the ‘de-absolutization of thought’, is thereby seen to consist in the rational legitimation of any and every variety of religious (or ‘poetico-religious’) belief in the absolute, so long as the latter invokes no authority beside itself. To put it in other words: by forbidding reason any claim to the absolute, the end of metaphysics has taken the form of an exacerbated return to the religious. (45)

On the basis of this argument, Meillassoux frames his own project in the classical terms of the French lumières, especially of Voltaire, as a struggle against fanaticism (characteristically, Meillassoux does not use the Kantian definition of fanaticism, or Schwärmerei, which for Kant involves the hyper-rationalist delusion of ‘seeing the infinite’, against which the critical philosophy erects its iconoclastic proscriptions). The relation between fideism and fanaticism is somewhat fuzzy, but it is intriguing, and one might argue somewhat worrying, that Meillassoux flirts with the conservative thesis that a relativistic proliferation of beliefs, beyond any horizon of legitimacy, is a form of de-Christianization, the obverse of his equally questionable conviction that critical Western rationality is a ‘progressive rationalization of Judeo-Christianity under the influence of Greek philosophy’ (47). In pure Enlightenment style, Meillassoux wants to argue that strong correlationism, in colluding with the religionization of reason, has left us powerless to argue rationally – rather than on ad hoc moral grounds – against all varieties of fanaticism, including, in an odd allusion, those which may deal out ‘the worst forms of violence’, whose claim to access an irrational absolute correlationist fideism cannot allow itself to disqualify. At the end of Chapter 2 of After Finitude, Meillassoux even goes so far as to claim that contemporary ‘fanaticism’ is the effect of critical rationality, a by-product of the latter’s effectively emancipatory attack on dogmatism, which has in removed any fetter on the claims of ‘blind faith’. Without dwelling on the under-determined and exceedingly allusive references to contemporary fanaticism which lend Meillassoux’s claims their charge of urgency, as well as on the rather dubious claims made about the relation between Christianity and Western reason, in the rest of this presentation I want to challenge the plausibility of Meillassoux’s Enlightenment reloaded, as I mentioned by a detour through Colletti’s Marxism and Hegel. I want to put forward two inter-related arguments. First, that attending to the distinction between Kant and Hegel as formulated by Colletti, allows us to cast doubt on the very possibility of a speculative materialism, and provides a qualified Marxian defence for weak Kantian correlationism as a component of a genuine materialist thinking. Second, and much more briefly, that Colletti’s related discussion of hypostasis and ‘real abstraction’ demonstrates the weakness of Meillassoux’s attempt to revitalise the Enlightenment attack on fanaticism. Behind these two claims lies the conviction that, despite its undeniable subtlety, Meillassoux’s attack on the idealist parameters of correlationism is ultimately idealist in form, a problem which also affects it attempt to ideologically intervene, through a recasting of the Enlightenment fight against fanaticism, in the contemporary ‘return to the religious’.

The reasons that govern the contrast I will propose with Colletti are several. To begin with, I want to use this disjunctive exercise to begin to think through the relationship between Meillassoux’s speculative materialism and the kinds of materialisms of practice or history that refer back to Marx. The choice of Colletti is dictated by the very nature of his intervention in Marxism and Hegel and related pieces: it was designed to counter the obfuscatory idealism and rejection of science which he saw as the Hegelian legacy within Western Marxism. In this respect its spirit, if not its specific targets, is not so distant from Meillassoux. What’s more, Colletti bears a more specific affinity with Meillassoux (1). Both regard scientific thought as inextricable from an affirmation of the principle of non-contradiction. Meillassoux argues, towards the end of chapter 3 of After Finitude that: ‘Dialectics and paraconsistent logics would be shown to be studies of the ways in which the contradictions of thought produce effects in thought, rather than studies of the supposedly ontological contradictions which thought discovers in the surrounding world’ (79). The distinction between contradictions in thought and in reality is so central to Colletti’s work that it eventually led to his abandonment of Marxism, guilty in his eyes of maintaining the possibility of contradictions in the real. But the different ways of arguing against contradictions in reality in Colletti and Meillassoux are already indicative of the broader differences in their philosophical defences of science against idealism. Colletti turns to Kant’s 1763 essay on negative magnitudes to argue that:

The fundamental principle of materialism and of science … is the principle of non-contradiction. Reality cannot contain dialectical contradictions but only real oppositions, conflicts between forces, relations of contrariety. The latter are ohne Widerspruch, i.e. non-contradictory oppositions, and not dialectical contradictions. These assertions must be sustained, because they constitute the principle of science itself. Now science is the only means of apprehending reality, the only means of gaining knowledge of the world. There cannot be two (qualitatively different) forms of knowledge. A philosophy which claims a status for itself superior to that of science, is an edifying philosophy – that is, a scarcely disguised religion. (‘Marxism and the Dialectic’, 28–9).

Rather than relying on a notion of material reality for the argument against dialectical contradiction, Meillassoux’s argument regarding non-contradiction is wholly intra-speculative. Non-contradiction must be respected to ward off the metaphysical spectre of an absolutely necessary entity that forfeiting this principle would involve. Thus, contrary to the customary link between dialectical contradiction and an ontology of flux or process, for Meillassoux a contradictory entity ‘could never become other than it is because there would be no alterity for it in which to become’ (69). In other words, and I’ll try to develop this point, while Colletti takes a materialist critique of the dialectic to imply the extra-logical character of reality, the fact that deriving the dynamics of the real from the logical is illegitimate and idealist, for Meillassoux the denial of real contradiction takes place on intra-logical grounds. But to develop this point further, it is worth looking further at the rationale behind Colletti’s anti-Hegelian revision of Marxism.

Let’s begin where the contrast appears greatest: Colletti’s plea for a pro-scientific materialism takes the form of a defence of the finite. At the very start of his book, he isolates the crux of idealism in Hegel’s statement from the Science of Logic according to which: ‘The idealism of philosophy consists in nothing else than in recognizing that the finite has no veritable being’ (7). Consequently, ‘the finite is ideal’, in two senses: it is a mere abstraction, a fleeting isolation from the concrete universality of the Whole, and, conversely, it is only granted its true being when comprised as a moment of the ideal. In Hegel’s formulation, from the Encyclopaedia: ‘The truth of the finite is … its ideality. … This ideality of the finite is the chief maxim of philosophy’ (14). The labour of speculative reason (Vernunft), as opposed to the intellect or understanding (Verstand), is to traverse the various configurations of the finite and to undo its separateness. Colletti will diagnose this contempt towards the isolated thing and the thought which thinks it (mere intellect as opposed to reason) as a constant within idealist philosophy, including that of dialectical materialism – the polemical object of his book. For Colletti, sympathy towards the Hegelian critique of the intellect and of the Kantian restrictions placed on reason – which he encounters in a motley host of thinkers, from Rickert to Marcuse, from Bergson to Lukacs – is a sign of an abdication of materialism and of a position towards science which, in according philosophy the sovereign right to legislate about reality, turns the former it into a ‘scarcely disguised religion’. What’s more, to the extent that science is seen to isolate entities and treat them as both finite and external to the mind it is paradigmatically a product of the intellect, and is consequently viewed as a merely abstract and incomplete form of thinking – a feature most evident in Bergsonism, but present, as Colletti demonstrates, in a broad range of nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy. For Colletti, speculation, conceived as the pretension of philosophical thought to logically encompass being, is fundamentally incompatible with materialism. Indeed, he insists on Hegel’s conviction that he was returning to rationalism, but stripping it of its reliance on a materialist, or scientific form of argument. In passing, we could note that Meillassoux’s return to rationalism, and to Descartes in particular, takes the inverse approach: maintaining the materialist form of rationalism, and stripping it of its idealist or theological content.

Thus, it is the repudiation of the finite as separate and self-standing, and the attempt to overcome finitude, understood as the inability for thought or logic to determine being, which for Colletti marks idealism’s hostility to scientific materialism. In other words, it is because of a denial of finitude, and not because of its assertion, that for idealism ‘an independent material world no longer exists’ (19). The idea of real opposition, Kant’s Realrepugnanz, is significant because it is only by upholding the principle of non-contradiction and the idea of real exteriority in the material world that materialism can avert being enveloped by an idealism for which the material world is merely an incarnation of a fundamentally inclusive and unlimited reason. As Colletti remarks, ‘since Hegel transforms the logical inclusion of opposites that is reason into the very principle of idealism (reason is the sole reality, there is nothing outside it), he excludes precisely that exclusion of opposites (the externality of being in relation to thought) that is the very principle of materialism)’ (34).

In Marxism and Hegel, idealism qua speculation is identified with ‘the negation of any extralogical existence’ (49). This is also why materialism is always to some extent an Unphilosophie, an anti-philosophy, based on the idea of an externality of thought to being, and on a related irreducibility of scientific epistemology to speculative logic. While, in Colletti’s formulation, ‘Kant constantly remarks that if one wants to have knowledge, one must refer thought back to that which is other than itself’ (202), Meillassoux’s attempt to break out of a correlationist circle of Kantian provenance into what he calls ‘the great outdoors’ involves generating a new figure, under the aegis of a necessary and radical contingency, of thought’s Parmenidean identity with being, or, as he very lucidly outlines, inventing a novel type of non-metaphysical speculation.

Let’s sum up the results of this contrast. In Meillassoux’s work, a speculative materialism counters correlationism by undermining the thesis of finitude (or rather, via the passage from facticity to factuality, by turning correlationist finitude against itself), and by engaging in a non-metaphysical deployment of a ‘logos of contingency’ relying on the intra-logical principle of non-contradiction and the ultimate identity of being and thought. In Colletti, on the contrary, a critical materialism depends on asserting the extra-logical character of reality, and the related and irreducible distinction between logical contradiction and real opposition. What’s more, for Colletti it is precisely by turning the finite into an ideality, which is in turn encompassed by logical thinking, that speculation – which form him can only be idealist – transforms the world into an ‘ephemeral’ entity, something which Meillassoux’s logos of contingency would seem to do as well. It is worth quoting here at length from Colletti’s exposition of his critical materialism:

Dogmatism is metaphysics; critical thought is materialism. The antithesis, with respect to Hegel, could not be more pronounced. Metaphysics is the identity of thought and being; its contents are ‘already’ within thought, they are independent of experience, i.e. supersensible. Ergo, form and content are forever united, knowledge is already formed, and it is impossible to pose the problem of the origin of the knowledge that we possess. Critical thought, contrariwise, identifies itself with the position that presupposes the heterogeneity, i.e. a real and not formal (or purely ‘logical’) difference, between being and thought. Thereby one can pose the ‘critical’ problem of the origin of our knowledge, inasmuch as knowledge itself is not already given. Which in turn presupposes, in a word, that the sources of knowledge are two: the spontaneity of the mind and whatever data are given to the receptivity of our senses. (91)

In Colletti, the scientific content of Kantian finitude – severed from its moral dimension – is to prohibit the self-sufficient of thought, i.e. speculation. In his words: ‘If one denies that there exist premises in reality for thought, then one is forced to take up knowledge itself as a presupposed and given reality’ (89). Accordingly, it is imperative that epistemology, understood as the study of thought’s relation to being as relates to the scientific enterprise, not be reduced to logic, the theory of thought’s coherent relation to itself.

Among the issues at stake in this contrast is the standing of the absolute. Colletti and Meillassoux seem to converge on the notion of the absolute as something which is separate from what the latter would refer to as a correlationist circle. As is stated at the beginning of Chapter 2 of After Finitude, the task of speculative materialism ‘consists in trying to understand how thought is able to access the uncorrelated, which is to say, a world capable of subsisting without being given. But to say this is just to day that we must grasp how thought is able to access an absolute, i.e. a being whose severance (the original meaning of absolutus) and whose separateness from thought is such that it presents itself to us as non-relative to us, and hence as capable of existing whether we exist or not’ (28). In Colletti’s account it is precisely this absoluteness of extra-logical reality which is the nemesis of idealism. As he notes: ‘For Hegel, the ‘“intellect” is dogmatic because it makes the finite absolute. The meaning of this term is the same as its etymology: solutus ab…, freed from limitations, existing on its own, and therefore unrestricted and independent’ (82). But, and this is the important point, Meillassoux does not limit himself to the severance of extra-logical reality, precisely because his refutation of correlationism is a logical, or speculative one.

Looking through the prism of Colletti’s critique of Hegelianism, we can recognise two sense of the absolute in After Finitude: on the one hand, the absoluteness of the archi-fossil, an absoluteness that fits quite well with Colletti’s defence of the finite against its idealist sublations; on the other, the absoluteness of a reason or logic which is assumed to be congruent with being, and which can legislate about modality and change with no reference to anything extrinsic to it, be it experience or matter. The uniqueness of Meillassoux’s account lies of course in the dextrous and fascinating manner in which he seems to need the second absolute, the absolute of speculation (or what we might call the absolute absolute) to shore up the second (the relative or negative absolute, the absolute from thought) and defeat correlationism. Viewed from the vantage point of Colletti’s argument, Meillassoux poses the ontological presuppositions of correlationist epistemology, but resolves it by logical means, thus obviating his own materialist aims, and creating something like a detotalised and contingent ‘logical mysticism’, to employ Marx’s characterisation of Hegel’s system. We could thus articulate this contrast in terms of the distinction between a materialism of the intellect and a materialism of reason, or a realism of the intellect and a realism of reason. From the vantage point of Colletti’s defence of intellect against reason, After Finitude’s attempt at defending the expansive and speculative uses of a ‘totally a-subjective’ reason by getting rid of fideism throw out with it the criticism, revision and scientificity that marks the extra-logical character of reality in a Kant-inspired materialist epistemology.

But is a restatement of Kantian epistemology as a materialist precursor all that there is to Colletti’s position? No. Crucial to Marxism and Hegel is the highlighting of Marx’s theory of real abstraction, to wit the idea that the excesses of speculation and the hypostases of idealism are not merely cognitive problems, but are deeply entangled with abstractions that have a real existence in what, following Hegel, Marx was wont to call an upside-down world. Thus the State, and its philosophical expression in Hegel, and Capital, and its theoretical capture in the political economy of Smith and Ricardo, are not simply thought-forms that could be dispelled by some enlightened emendation of the intellect, or a valiant combat against superstitions. As Colletti writes: ‘For Marx, in fact, metaphysics is the realism of universals; it is a logical totality which posits itself as self-subsisting, transforms itself into the subject, and which (since it must be self-subsisting) identifies and confuses itself acritically with the particular, turning the latter – i.e. the actual subject of reality – into its own predicate or manifestation’ (198). Again, this is not a merely logical but a real process. To return to the earlier remarks on Meillassoux’s attempt to revive the Enlightenment war on fanaticism within his broader critique of correlationist fideism, what Marx’s notion of real abstraction permits us to think – and the reason why it is an important advance with respect to the idea of ideology as a merely cognitive matter – is that ideologies, including those of correlationism, fideism and fanaticism, are social facts.

In trying to maintain the speculative sovereignty of philosophical reason, albeit advocating a principle of unreason and breaking correlationist self-sufficiency, Meillassoux can be seen to reintroduce idealism at the level of form at the same time as he valiantly seeks to defeat it at the level of content. In two senses. First, by presuming the possibility of drawing ontological conclusions from logical intuitions – something which can be registered in the inconsistent use of the notion of the absolute: as the absolute absolute of the logos of contingency, and as the relative absolute of the entity severed from correlation. The former, logical absolute leads to a variant of Hegel’s transubstantiation of material or effective causality into a moment within ideal causality – though of course in Meillassoux this is explicitly an acausality, stripped of teleology. Second, by presuming that a speculative philosophy in conjunction with a mathematised science can struggle against abstractions that are perceived as mere errors of the intellect, and not as abstractions that have any basis in a social, material and extra-logical reality. Logical form undermines materialist content, the struggle against finitude reproduces the ideality of the finite, the intellectualist defence of the Enlightenment conceals the reality of abstractions. The antidote to a post-Kantian catastrophe threatens to be a neo-Hegelian reverie.

1. There is a further convergence in these two attempts to recast materialism. As their discussions of non-contradictions suggest, both rely on a preliminary ‘atomization’ of things, objects and laws. In the case of Meillassoux one could perhaps critically refer to Anton Pannekoek’s critique of Materialism and Empirio-Criticism in Lenin as Philosopher: ‘for Lenin “nature” consists not only in matter but also in natural laws directing its behaviour, floating somehow in the world as commanders who must be obeyed by the things.’ In order for Meillassoux’s reasoning to operate, is there not a need to pre-emptively reduce the real to a domain of entities rather than relations, such that arguments based on the principle of non-contradiction can have their purchase? And is there not a parallel weakness in Colletti’s refusal to consider the point that a materialist ontology may be concerned with processes, not things?

Alberto Toscano

via Nina Power’s infinite thought

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