I recently read two reviews of recent books on German Idealism. The first was a review by Dean Moyar of Brady Bowman’s fascinating sounding Hegel and the Metaphysics of Absolute Negativity while the second was Sebastian Gardner’s review of Markus Gabriel’s Transcendental Ontology (which has been out for a while but only recently released in paper back). Both of these reviews start, as many do, with a grand overview of German Idealism. Moyar notes the metaphysical vs non-metaphysical interpretations of Hegel (presumably within the analytic tradition only) where Pippin’s Hegel’s Idealism (1989) begins the non-metaphysical strand where more recent texts (such as Bownman’s) represent a metaphysical counter-attack. Describing Pippin’s book Moyar writes:

“On this reading Hegel largely accepted Kant’s critique of rationalist metaphysics, and thus couldn’t possibly be a traditional metaphysician himself. Pippin showed how Hegel’s project of constituting the world through logic could be read as an attempt to demonstrate that the conditions of the possibility of our thinking of objects are the conditions of the possibility of the objects themselves.”

This rather innocuous sounding passage struck me as an example of analytic and continental philosophers passing one another without communication like ships in the night, Isn’t it taken for granted that what German Idealism was (viewed as a continental philosopher whatever that means) exactly metaphysics after Kant, of accepting Kant’s critiques yet pursuing monism due to dissatisfaction with Kantian dualism (whether methodological or otherwise construed). This is not a controversial claim as it has been argued both that German Idealism was just Kantian philosophy inflated or Kantian philosophy broken (having run through the door that Kant wanted to only peak through as the saying goes). But given this missed communication, what are we to make of a revived interest in Hegel in both analytic and continental camps given that the former is due, at least in part, to a Strawson/McDowell fueled socialization of structural non-givenness on the one hand, and a Zizek/Badiou inspired return to metaphysics in the name of stalled Marxist politics on the other.

Continue reading ‘The Trajectories of German Idealism or The Necessity of Stratified Abstraction (1)’


Jon Cogburn has posted a nice things to look for kind of post (but more thoughtful than that really) in regards to continental philosophy. The texts that he links to confirm some broader issues that I (and others) have been circling around recently:

1 – The legacy of Hegel as something more than a theory of the subject or as lofty idealist. Part of this involves pushing past Zizek (I think) and looking at Hegel’s uptake in analytic thought as it relates to the political use of Hegel via the Philosophy of Right in continental circles. German Idealism and the neurosciences is something I hear more and more about from grad students as well.

2 – What in the hell does idealism mean? I think Iain Grant and Markus Gabriel’s work will continue to make interesting inroads in this direction and show how the construal of idealism as ‘naive’ is a dead horse that Marxists and Deleuzians have been beating for too long. As Cogburn points out this means addressing closely the British Idealists and the transition from German Idealism to neo-Kantianism as well.

3 – As a corollary to the idealism issue I think what exactly Platonism is (especially in relation to idealism) is something that Badiou has kicked up that Brassier and Grant and others have addressed. That Platonism has a stake in ‘what is not’ (as Markus Gabriel has discussed as well) gives a critical edge to it that disturbs the long-held characterizations of Plato and of philosophies of negativity.

4 – Lastly I think interesting work will happen addressing the difference between ‘weak ontologies’ (such as Badiou, Meillassoux, and Tristan Garcia) and epistemology. There’s quite a bit of interesting cross overs between French thought and analytic thought which will continue to move in interesting ways.

So a few things in the pipeline that I thought folks may be interested in:

January: Three short texts I’m working on should appear soon. This first is my response to a three person review of On an Ungrounded Earth by Kai Bosworth, Harlan Morehouse, and Rory Rowan. The review is to appear in Society and Space. The second text is a short piece on medieval theories of motion as they relate to design for the journal TAG. I am also writing and afterword for a collection coming out from Punctum on Capitalism and the Earth.

February: I’ll be presenting at the conference Animacies in Milwaukee as part of the 2014 MIGC. My talk is going to be on Schelling and motion broadly as it relates to thought and animal movement.

March: I’m presenting at the ACLA in NYC on a panel titled Alien Capital. My paper will be on Schelling’s Prometheanism as it relates to mining and geophilosophy. Following the conference I am organizing a one-day event with Ed Keller on Post-Planetary Capital. Several interesting speakers for that event! I am also hoping to attend an event in Vancouver…details forthcoming!

April: I will be back in Milwaukee for the C21 annual conference on Anthropocene Feminisms.

A few publications will be coming out during these months as well but the timeline for those is pretty uncertain at the moment. Prismatic Ecologies was just released and I have essays in a Deleuze collection as well as a Lacan and Posthumanism collection.


One of things that troubles me about the prometheanism of accelarationism is the relation between one’s materials and the possibility ( to say nothing of the trajectory) of escape. Is it mainly a means of efficent breach – of leaving the ruinous mold of the earth behind after we’ve paid our due, or is it a question of responsibility to maintaining the possible generacity of those grounds in other directions and, if so, to what extent? Is this the tension of gravity, of escaping the traphole of the Earth, with the distributive tension of the surface materials? The future is out there and/or the future is already here but unevenly distributed.

It would seem to be a betrayal on all sides is necessary to escape the gravity well of the near-exhausted earth. Ben Singleton’s recent talk about Maximum Jailbreak at the CTM points out there is now a strange alliance between asteroid miners and radical ecologists in that resource limitation because a local concern that can be overcome by escaping to Mars or other locations for instance taking Krafft Ehricke‘s extraterrestrial imperative ie that there are not limits to growth or, by connection to human creativity. The infinitude of creativity is the assertive upswing of X’s essay on the importance of philosophy for artificial intelligence – that creativity is a central enigma. Yet we have this recent essay on the business of creativity, of creativity swallowed up by the businessification of creativity in the guru figure.

So with Prometheus we also have Kubernetes the navigator, a navigator who is perhaps a ‘bad navigator’ because he never tries to go back (or cannot find his way back). Thinking is nature’s way of optimizing itself through maximal self-modeling by perforating nature with thought. But what does this mean for thought and nature taking the proliferation of technologies as the killing floor of concepts?

This past weekend I attended several keynotes and panels at the Apps and Affect conference organized by my friend Svitlana Matviyekno as well as Nandita Biswas-Mellamphy, Nick Dyer-Witherford, and others. It is not surprising that based on the topic that many discussions centered around technological determinism, gamification, and ubiquitous computing as tool for capitalist domination. Discussions of gamification and work seemed to be dividable by the concept of navigation – as navigation is not as brainless as both competitors. Ed Keller, much to my manic glee, stated that artificial design tells us more and more about the weirdness of nature and that there is, in the end, no separating intelligence (or humanity as reasoners) from nature. Patricia Clough (following Luciana Parisi) called for an end to the crude opposition of quantities and qualities (echoing some of the theme’s of Reza’s talk here back in March in reference to magnitudes). In a related vein, Alexander Galloway called for a better understanding of compression and a tactics of withdrawal given the seemingly inseparable mess of Deleuzian networks and capital.

If it is time to stop broadly bemoaning the ‘enframing’ or otherwise frightening aspects of technology for the sake of it, then as I mentioned before the task is one of picking a good fiction – a good fiction for collective action whether geo-engineering or the colonization of Mars is needed. But the collective fictions are doomed to be post-ideological capital – we know what we are doing but we do it anyway, or just doomed (ecological collapse, post-apocalyptic porn etc). This is punctuated by the assertion that we are all only collective in an alone together sense – we collective act to advertise that we are alone, or unique, or what have you. On the one hand I’d like to think (too optimistically) that so called ‘being alone together’ could train us to do labor in isolation – to be on long treks through space or in strange work environments for the sake of geo-engineering: being along-together as the prerequisite for distributed collectivity. What is the way to evacuate the narratives and find a pragmatic tool-based collectivization that is not merely us distracted by the tools themselves?


Nigel Cooke

Philosophy…the very world bears a halo so tarnished with the fingernail scratches of a desperate hold that its meaning is as dim as it is persistent.

Philosophy begins in wonder, in disappointment, with anything except instantaneous experience (according to Laruelle). So say the philosophers. Though few comments have seemed as honest as Lyotard’s – that philosophy is at best graffiti on the ruins of the world. But such post-modern self-effacement quickly becomes a PR spin on the shaking claws of the philosopher holding onto the halo of the discipline. Even Zizek, tormentor of the post-modern that he claims to be, reiterates philosophy’s modesty. But the modesty of the philosopher who has purportedly run from the scorching sun of truth into the cooler ruins (maybe of a bombed-out Kantian arche-techtonic) seems to be a false one, an authority that is claiming it is anything but. Then there is Badiou’s philosopher as Wormtongue – as whispering into the ears of truth seekers. Badiou is not the modest figure, he chastises Lyotard’s graffiti artist and rewrote The Republic. Though Badiou grants conditions their autonomy from the philosopher as truth-event manager. This is to say nothing of the theorist who eats at the table of the philosopher but who leaves before the bill arrives. There is also too much to be said about the conceptual engineer figure of philosophy according to Deleuze – the false modesty of ‘just being a brick layer’ but Deleuze does not think he is just a brick layer. He thinks the philosopher can fold the unknown outside into thought. That’s a power beyond brick handling.

Philosophy is the increasingly elaborate (and veiled) betrayal of the modesty of thought.


In the following I want to connect my concerns from the last post to the week of seminars Iain Hamilton Grant gave a few weeks ago at the Schelling Summerschool at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. This post only touches on my notes from Day 1.

In his recent essays and in the talks given, Grant has shifted his focus to the later Schelling (particularly from 1815 onward) and paid close attention to what seems to be, in a broad sense, Schelling’s turn towards Aristotle. In the Darstellung lectures and elsewhere Schelling turns towards concerns of embodiment, dimensionality, philosophy as a practice, animality, and other topics which seem far from his earlier purportedly more abstract concerns. However, this does not, I would argue, violate the Grant’s continuity thesis (that Schelling’s thought is naturphilosophie through and through) but is Schelling’s attempt to philosophize his concerns about philosophy (concerns which he had at a very young age).

Before addressing the later work Grant focused on the Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature, the First Outline, and the Freedom Essay. Grant sees the freedom essay as a hinge between the more transcendental account of nature in the first outline and the more realist account in the Ideas. The relation of realism/idealism often manifests itself, according to Grant, in the two sciences of physics and history. Furthermore, these two sciences index the problem of bodies and powers and establishing their relation.

Continue reading ‘Schelling’s Spaces (pt 2)’


[The following is a post based on my paper for the German Idealism Workshop (which was just rejected...c'est la vie!) and in many ways foregrounds issues that Iain Grant discussed this past week in Pittsburgh. I will follow this post with a discussion of Grant's lectures]

There is a fairly well known saying that the German Idealists (primarily Fichte, Schelling, Hegel) ran through the door which Kant had only wished to peak through. This means, among other things, that the cautious uncertainty where Kant stood was ‘ruined’ by the German Idealists who wanted to talk more about ‘things in themselves’ or to, in various ways, get rid of the things in themselves all together and expand that shaky ground outwards. Whereas Zizek has argued that Hegel effectively ontologizes that which Kant had recognized without really recognizing (that the subject comes to be substance through a kind of indirect self-recognition) the Pittsburgh Hegelians, insofar as I grasp them, take both Fichte and Hegel’s idealism to be one that grounds the stability of the starting subject position on the efficacy of the normative which is sui generis and separate from what McDowell calls, following Sellars, the logical space of nature.

In essence, the problem of how mind and world (or reason and nature) interact is based upon a self-sustaining space of reasons, where we have learned via linguistic structures to be able to self-test that the world is thus and so in relation to us saying that the world is thus and so. This capacity cannot, following Brandom and McDowell, be anchored in naturalistic processes (to do so would be to fall into the naturalistic fallacy as Sellars called it) because the set of rules governing conceptual behavior are different in kind from those laws which govern the logical space of nature. However, I believe that the way in which the logical space of nature is described immediately fixes the game in a way that any kind of naturalism other than as empirical explanation, cannot but fail to appease the force of second nature (the space of reasons). That is, I believe that Schelling’s naturalism is not a bald naturalism as McDowell would put it, but, given its speculative nature, questions the descriptive ground put in place by the Pittsburgh Hegelians.

Put otherwise, if naturalism is that which fundamentally describes laws and their empirical ambit, this presupposes the efficacy of description, already grounded, as the boundary of the space of nature. Such a formulation outrightly dismisses speculative physics, whether in Hegel, Schelling, or in comtemporary thought, Gabriel Catren. Catren’s speculative physics asserts an a priori (but non-transcendental in the Kantian sense) structure of laws which determine the limitations of the empirical. As Dan Sacilotto has discussed succintly here, Catren’s speculative physics runs against Meillassoux’s assertion that the laws of nature cannot be contingent. In this sense, and as I have argued previously in talks, whereas Meillassoux asserts the necessity of contingency and Hegel the contingency of necessity, Schelling asserts the necessity of necessity however speculatively determined. This means the necessity of nature however (something is impossible if its conditions cannot be given in nature) and not the necessity of necessity removed from nature and placed in the logical space of reasons. Markus Gabriel’s move is to push this logical space of reasons ‘backwards’ and equate it with Schelling’s concept of das unvordenkliche (the un-pre-thinkable). But what this means for the separability of nature and logic in Gabriel appears somewhat uncertain.

Continue reading ‘Schelling’s Spaces’


At the Speculative Aesthetics conference back in March, Ray Brassier connected ‘the new accelerationism’ (that which functions in a epistemological-political register rather than, in Land, an ontological-political register) to what he dubbed a Prometheanism. This Prometheanism, following in the wake of Lenin and the Cosmists, puts forth the axiom that revolutionary politics requires rigorous post-capitalist planing via technological and more broad scientific exploration and not, we might say, the lightfooted doctrine of neo-liberal development. Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek develop this is their recently posted Accerlerationist Manifesto available here.

The piece is great.  McKenzie Wark has written an interesting response here. I have always been a accelerationst sympathesizer but was perhaps never admitted to the ranks for one reason or another (possibly because I am not a political thinker). One on level, I am not sure how to connect my own Schellingian sympathies to such a project as Schelling appears as a reactionary and non-radical character in the literature (though he has a kind of anarchic character in some ways, something I wrote an essay that will come out here.) That is, while there are certainly ties to Schelling via Peirce and Chatelet (in terms of physics, intuition, and systematicity) technology (and esp any kind of technologically infused politics) is a bit of a stretch.

One way, of trying to explore a ground here is Schelling’s complex relation to the myth of Prometheus (which I concluded this talk briefly with). While several notions of Prometheus swirl around Schelling (particularly in relation to Goethe’s  famous ode) the concept that the Promethean thought as a primordial thought is particularly interesting. For Schelling, the Gods were brought forth in order to move beyond them hence Schelling’s tautegorical concept of myth; the assertion that myth is not fundamentally allegorical but expresses objectivity in more or less clear language. Myth has a kind of redundant utility. Myth becomes myth (rather than say fiction) to the degree which it successfully obfuscates its temporality (myth contains in it the very beginning of time as Cassier discusses). This is related to Schelling’s view of the relation between science and philosophy – that the latter should judge and reconstruct the fictions that guide the practices of the former (and not the practices themselves).

Continue reading ‘Prometheus on the Frontier: Acceleration and Myth (pt 1)’



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