I am starting to think that it may be possible to combine the various academic pursuits into something resembling a coherent body of thought. Though weird fiction, naturephilosophie/ecology, weird fiction, and pessimistic thought may seem too disparate, it seems that a methodology shifting between theory-fiction and standard metaphysical texts (whatever that means) is useful in construction a philosophical system that is part epistemology, part metaphysics and part phenomenology. My recent post for the Science and Metaphysics events (and the resulting comments) is a clear example of the difficulty in parsing out the borders between the three.
In particular, I am wrestling with the ontological-epistemological gap (which, I believe, is a primary concern of Brassier’s forthcoming work) and the validity of intrinsic horror. In my last post, I ended my discussion of Ligotti with his mention of horror-as-real. This intellectual judgement of course presupposes the emergence of thought since horribleness is a seemingly epistemological-phenomenological category unless it can be argued that malignancy can exist without thinking. In my own thinking of horribleness, horror has always been a horror for-us and that horror cannot exist without thinking beings. Though how metaphysical Ligotti is being is questionable, as it may be simply that horror is the proper a priori mode of thinking and hence the conspiracy (which works against the human race) is optimism.
This onto-epistemological indistinction is dark in this fatalistic sense (whether or not this darkness is ontological or epistemological) as well as dark in that we don’t know the lines which separate ontological and epistemological limits in our epistemology. Thus we see our representation darkly and this representation is a murky flesh on the fanged noumena. So, what came up in the aforementioned comments was what is the proper way of epistemologically/phenomenologically navigating through this In the comments Ducan states the following:
“What leads to the ‘(human = nature) = horror’ line, imo, is a prior and overriding commitment to a set of really problematic ideas – a confidence, most often, that rational human thought can only exist if human thought is in some sense separable from the physical/biological […] Is the fact that humans are natural creatures so intrinsically horrifying that anyone who accepts it should go mad? Or is this latter idea itself a highly culturally and psychologically specific one, which can legitimately and indeed easily be rejected? A lot of the rhetoric advancing this set of ideas in the speculative realist theoretical space is based on the idea that virtually everyone else in the whole world is failing fully to understand what it means for humans to be natural creatures, for time and space to extend beyond the limits of human experience, etc.: that speculative realism is the only philosophical position to wrestle with these intrinsically horrifying facts. And that we can tell that speculative realism is the only philosophical position wrestling with these horrifying facts, because so many other people are apparently accepting the facts without feeling their intrinsic horror.
My claim is that these facts aren’t intrinsically horrifying. That they only seem so from a specific, in some ways quite idiosyncratic, social/psychological perspective, and that it’s actually this perspective that pieces like the original post above are promoting/advocating.”
There is a missing element here, and I am tempted to call it the fetish. The assertion is not that humans are either happy without the knowledge of scientific naturalism or miserable/insane with it, but that very few incorporate this knowledge fully into their thinking. This is the thrust of the novel Neuropath – that a neuroscientist tortures, murders, and kidnaps in order to show the meaninglessness of the illusions of morality. This is also why Ligotti sees giving birth to other humans as reckless.
If there is something intrinsically horrible about reality it is the inability to determine the boundary between representation and non-representation – where this indistinction can be positivized (as it arguably is in Zizek) this indistinction is a redoubling of the onto-epistemological indistinction as the blur between the two is taken up by thought:
Regime of Thought—Regime of Being
So what is the integration of these thoughts, why do I advocate for a kind of Lovecraftian madness? Simply because Lovecraft denounced (at least fictionally) the cheery fideism or doxa where being alive is always alright or pessimism is always already a personal, or closed circuit, since it does not align itself with progressivity. A certain darkness or negativity then cuts the link between the anthrocentrically denoted innocuousness of the real and quotidian positivity. This is discussed quite wonderfully in the closing of Nihil Unbound…the husks of matter bit.
Duncan’s note above contains a kernel of critique of Speculative Realism which pops up again and again (it appears in Caputo’s first lecture here) in which SR is seen as not recognizing the difference between representation and nonrepresentation in others – ‘Of course Husserl knew about the pre-human (Gabriel Markus) or Caputo’s note that of course Foucault knew about the ancestral etc. But whether they did or not it certainly did not open their thinking! This is the epistemological circle – which might be seen as an affective accompaniment to the correlationist circle. This circle is a positive lacquer on the aforementioned collision of being and thinking. And both Deleuze and Land (according to Brassier) fall victim to this as well in terms of thought as endless materialist/machinc production.
My own attempt at a dark vitalism engages with the latter term carefully as the inorganic vitalism is a warping and hijacking of both traditional (pre-Bergsonian vitalism) and modern (Bergsonian-Deleuzian) vitalism as well as process. By de-organicizing vitalism and cracking its pre-thinkability it becomes a tumultuous force of decay and destruction codified in Michael’s ‘nature wins.’ This is against the dusty vitalism of Nietzsche which creeps about transmogrifying the mundane into lebenswelts, this is against the positive blur of being and thinking which, in his lectures on SR, Caputo buries under an anthrocentric synergy. If this energy is not thinkable, and the vital is energetic processes, then the problem because of how representation happens without falling into Hegelianism and how does vibrant matter slide into consciousness – what does it mean that nature thinks beyond epistemological limits?
In terms of the phenomenological field, I am interested in a phenomenology of horror which is an overflowing madness of things which in which I want to corrupt the phenomenology of thinkers such as Henry and Marion. I am particularly interested here in the Bergsonian madness of the image that Meillassoux discussses in Collapse 3 and how this contrasts with zero madness (or abyssal madness, or going to the edge of space and seeing nothing) as well as relates to a weird vibrancy of things (things look at me – Paul Klee) as in a perverse OOO or even Deleuze’s dark precursor if the stage of pre-thinkability of such darkness is wiped away.
Filed under: Brassier, Deleuze, ligotti, nature, ontology, Speculative Realism, transcendental materialism | 6 Comments