Nihilismus Autodidactus


One of the most unfortunate constants of science fiction is its humanistic optimism whether secular or mythic. The unification of planets, of empires and rebellions asserts a communitarian harmony as well as a ubiquity of civilized life. The post-apocalyptic and the dying earth subgenres offer some hope of desolation and pessimism but often relapse into pointless optimism.

Leaving the Earth and Sun behind means being open to the cosmos , beyond the possibility of being baked by the red and bloated sun as in Lovecraft’s and [so and so] Till all the Seas. From the end:

“And now at last the Earth was dead. The final pitiful survivor had perished. All the teeming billions; the slow aeons; the empires and civilizations of mankind were summed up in this poor twisted form–and how titanically meaningless it had all been! Now indeed had come and end and climax to all the efforts of humanity–how monstrous and incredible a climax in the eyes of those poor complacent fools in the prosperous days! Not ever again would the planet know the thunderous tramping of human millions–or even the crawling of lizards and the buzz of insects, for they, too, had gone. Now was come the reign of sapless branches and endless fields of tough grasses. Earth, like its cold, imperturbable moon, was given over to silence and blackness forever.

The stars whirled on; the whole careless plan would continue for infinities unknown. This trivial end of a negligible episode mattered not to distant nebulae or to suns new-born, flourishing, and dying. The race of man, too puny and momentary to have a real function or purpose, was as if it had never existed. To such a conclusion the aeons of its farcically toilsome evolution had led.”

Beyond the nihilism of Houllebecq’s The Possibility of an Island where humanity’s replacement functions plant-like under the sun, the sun must be left behind.

As Reza named it in comments on the previous post in response to my suggestion of a nihilistic sci-fi – we must cultivate a search for a new earth that ends in repeated failure but in a sense that does not re-transcendentalize the original earth.  Where the distress call leads to dead and empty vessels, where signs of life turn out to be no more then deadly microbes.  A tale that ends only in the gradual thinning of the self-conscious biomass called humanity.

3 Responses to “Nihilismus Autodidactus”

  1. 1 Reza

    >>> Beyond the nihilism of Houllebecq’s The Possibility of an Island where humanity’s replacement functions plant-like under the sun, the sun must be left behind. Your judgement regarding Houllebecq’s book is spot on. Despite my enthusiasm for his works, this is something that bothers me about him: an undercurrent trace of pseudo-nihilist utopianism whose coldness seems to have a rather emotive effect which occasionally culminates in a bizarre cultural sappiness (this is especially evident in some of his poems in Collapse iv). Guyotat is the one who adeptly circumvents some of these flaws in his texts.

    Yes instead of desperately foot-tapping in underground labs for the most cryptic extraterrestrial life signals, responding to distress calls from dead vessels and planets: this can be reformulated as an outline for a great geophilosophical project. If capitalism and terrestrial thought incorporate earth as their axiomatic ground (i.e. the indubitable model of topology, economy and dynamism), then beginning the journey with an axiomatically perishable earth and pursuing it along other dead earths is equal to drawing a vector of thought that shifts from ‘What course in life shall I follow?’ (Descartes) to ‘What way out shall I take?’. It is clear that the first question finds its answer in Capitalism’s vitalist hysteria whose fixation is on generating more and more courses of life (life-styles, life-oriented liberations, etc.) so as to conceal its inherent quantitative and qualitative limitations in regard to modes of inflecting upon death and binding exteriority (radical openness). It is, however, the second question that adumbrates a model of emancipation and an ethics of radical openness by shifting from the economical model of ‘pluralism in life / monism in death’ to ‘freedom of alternatives in regard to death and exteriority’. Anyway, these are great ingredients for an excellent philosophical novel.

    By the way, Lovecraft’s text strangely reminds me of the first track in Coil’s Musick to play in the dark vol. 1 (highly recommended).

    • 2 Ben Woodard

      I feel exactly the same about Houellebecq – a little something slips out now and then that is a bit too warm hearted in a generic way though many of his general descriptions of humanity are great – sadly I have not read Guyotat as he has been on my mental reading list for some time.

      The two questions are interesting and the loss of capitalism might be possible given the species being of humanity given immanent extinction or it might be exacerbated in the drug, sex and rock roll sense as even more short term generation of a pseudo-celebratory nihilism

      The choice of leaving the isolated space bulk (as canned humanity) for a planetoid of mutation by alien life.

      Also, I meant to ask before, about the mortiloquist – is the brazen head concept a big part of it, it didnt strike me as relevant till recently.

  2. 3 Reza

    >>> Also, I meant to ask before, about the mortiloquist – is the brazen head concept a big part of it, it didnt strike me as relevant till recently.

    You mean the talking medieval brass head? Yes, both the prophetic brazen head and danse macabre puppetism play major roles. I have put the announcement on the blog.

    Will try to prepare a response to your One / Zero discussion.

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