Mad Speculation

06May09

Amidst the errata of Badiou’s Logics of Worlds is this interesting note on Kant:

“Kant is the one author for whom I cannot feel any kinship. Everything in him exasperates me, above all his legalism – always asking Quid Juris? Or ‘Haven’t you crossed the limit?’ – combined, as in today’s United States, with a religiosity that is all the more dismal in that it is both omnipresent and vague. The critical machinery he set up has enduringly poisoned philosophy, while giving great succour to the academy, which loves nothing more than to rap the knuckles of the overambitious [...] That is how I understand the truth of Monique David-Menard’s reflections on the properly psychotic origins of Kantianism (La Folie dans la raison pure). I am persuaded that the whole of the critical enterprise is set up to to shield against the tempting symptom represented by the seer Swedenborg, or against ‘diseases of the head’, as Kant puts it” p. 535-536.

I am immediately reminded of Nick Land’s comment that “Kant’s critical philosophy is the most elaborate fit of panic in the history of the Earth.”  Kant’s philosophy as a response to madness is grounded by his humanizing of madness itself.  As Adrian Johnston points out in the early pages of Time Driven pre-Kantian madness meant humans were seized by demonic or angelic forces whereas Kantian madness became one of being too human.

Taking Kant as the great shared enemy of Speculative Realism, speculation then becomes an emanation of the human capable of escaping human sensorial bounds requiring a certain allegiance to madness – which, we should take as a madness towards the human from the human or, following the graphic novel Arkham Asylum, a madness which (as with the Joker) is a super sanity, of seeing too much of the chaos of reality.

Lovecraft exits from Arkham Asylum – a master of insanity and speculation focusing on not the super natural but the super normal as Joshi puts it.  Lovecraft is, incidently, a favorite of all the Speculative Realists which points to the  geneology of SR in relation to the CCRU.  The CCRU’s dark readings of Deleuze and Guattari’s work remains a strange generative creature – most apparent in Reza Negarestani’s focus on tellurian insurgencies, all invoking the spirit (brainless matter) of the Cthullu.

Speculation, as a particularly useful form of madness, might fall close to Deleuze and Guattari’s shaping of philosophy into a concept producing machine but is perhaps different in that it is potentially self destructive – less reliant on the stability of its own concepts and more adherent to exposing a particular horrifying swath of reality.

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3 Responses to “Mad Speculation”

  1. 1 Alex

    Great to see a Land reference here, both as a brilliantly poetic (and accurate) assessment of the Kantian project and as the obvious precursory figure to contemporary Speculative Realism. In spite of the erasure of Land from the history books of Anglophone Continental philosophy (like some dark obscenity which cannot be spoken of, some Lovecraftian Thing that must be actively forgotten) his influence especially on Brassier and Negarestani is immediately apparent.

  2. 2 Alex

    Also: This is a very clear way of linking reason to absolute inhumanism- to something either corruptive or destructive to the human form- which is another linking point between Land’s “massively irresponsible” antihumanism and Ray’s dark enlightenment- which is only possible once thought is freed from its imprisonment within correlative law… but this is not necessarily horrific, it is instead of the order of the weird- unsettling but fascinating in terms of its affects.


  1. 1 speculative madness « Complete Lies.

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