Absolute Oblivion


Marcus Aurelius, 2nd Meditation:

“Of human life the time is a point, and the substance is in a flux, and the perception dull, and the composition of the whole body subject to putrefaction, and the soul a whirl, and fortune hard to divine, and fame a thing devoid of judgement. And, to say all in a word, everything which belongs to the body is a stream, and what belongs to the soul is a dream and vapour, and life is a warfare and a stranger’s sojourn, and after-fame is oblivion. What then is that which is able to conduct a man? One thing and only one, philosophy. But this consists in keeping the daemon within a man free from violence and unharmed, superior to pains and pleasures, doing nothing without purpose, nor yet falsely and with hypocrisy, not feeling the need of another man’s doing or not doing anything; and besides, accepting all that happens, and all that is allotted, as coming from thence, wherever it is, from whence he himself came; and, finally, waiting for death with a cheerful mind, as being nothing else than a dissolution of the elements of which every living being is compounded. But if there is no harm to the elements themselves in each continually changing into another, why should a man have any apprehension about the change and dissolution of all the elements? For it is according to nature, and nothing is evil which is according to nature. ”

The material dynamism of Stoic physics and cosmology, stripped of the universes Divine Life, approaches a darkly vitalistic composition of existence. Divine reason designs the operative tension of force and matter according to the pneuma and space, time and nothingness appeared as terrible thoughts. To sufficiently darken the cosmos of the Stoics, time must replace the airy pneuma and the obstacles/forms of space and nothingness are the closest thing to reason – the three conjoining to function as the spinning threads of fate.

The question becomes, as usual, the ontological weight of the One, the emanation, the force of forces – here codified here as fate.  Fate functions as a soft determinism and as a softening determinism.  As Reza’s recent post argues in regards to Brassier’s unbinding of eliminativism and Alex Williams zero thought,a  ‘precursor exteriority’  functions as a departure point of a cosmological Freudian death drive which not only softens objects but via the detour of life (or what we could call freedom in the subject) only delaying the rot of all life’s potentialities.

A Dark Vitalism names, somewhat along the lines of Eugene Thacker’s use of the term ‘Life’, the horizon of thought in relation to life and that there is a force working upon life and that there is a blending of the interior and the exterior.  That is, Identity (in the Laruelleian sense) is an exteriority pointing towards a Real unbound from the concept while the certanity of the interiority of the object is read (following Catren) by its surface effects.  As Merleau-Ponty points out in regards to Schelling – nature must be thought but cannot be explained.

One Response to “Absolute Oblivion”

  1. The link between stoicism and vitalism becomes obvious when you focus in on the history of medicine (all you youngins’ talking ’bout this stuff au moment seem to be philosophers/theologians — my apologies for only being a humble historian of medicine…). Stoic philosophy was the intellectual foundation for Galenic medicine (c.f. the pneuma) and thus became embedded into vitalism through this channel. All this talk of “dark” vitalism seems unnecessarily ominous and Schopenhauerian (is that a word?). Regardless of its ramifications for “outcome”, what it often ends up as is a kind of eclecticism and “messiness”. Maybe for philosophers, that’s just too epistemologically unsatisfying. Doctors, on the other hand, never seem very troubled when they get blood on theirs. It’s a part of life and death…

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